Tonight's topic is, as the subject line says, JOY. I have had more fun with my kids in these last two days than I have in a long time. I have laughed and played and just really, truly enjoyed and appreciated them. You know why? Because of JOY. Because of a kind of joy that only God can bring. For a long time I've been living my life away from God. Similar to Jonah, but worse. Jonah flat out ran away from God-physically. Me? I've been complacent.
And three days ago God rekindled a love in my heart that has been there since high school, that I somehow pushed down and let the worries and stress of daily life weigh down. I've let the burden of life and its problems trump over the joys that are there to see every day, in every moment. I used to dream about being a missionary. I wanted to focus on Latin America because I loved, and excelled in, Spanish in high school. As a sophomore in high school, thanks to the generous support of my parents, my extended family and my church, I was able to go to Panama for a week and it was one of the most incredible experiences in my life. It made me see that there was this HUGE world out there, just waiting to experience the love of God. I went to Show Low, AZ the next two years for mission trips on the Navajo Reservation there. Then, during my Freshman year of college for 'lab week' I went to New Mexico. Each of these experiences left me desiring to be on a mission field. My sophomore year of college I had another opportunity to go overseas, this time to Russia. While it was a memorable trip, it left me thinking God calls people to all kinds of places-but he is not calling ME to Russia! :) - The reason for sharing that in particular will be expounded upon at a later date.
Well, life happened. Kris and I got married. We had a child right away, and then another, and then another, oh and then another! ;) Kris was working. We tried living for six months down in the inner city, which is where God had been calling Kris. It was a short-term experience for us, one that honestly left me feeling 'less' called to the inner city (at least within the States since it was all I had experienced) and one that I still do not feel drawn to. I know that Kris still has a love and heart for those lost in the inner cities and perhaps someday God will place us in that setting, but for now, we are living, working and raising our family.
And somehow, in the midst of all of that, we really forgot about God. Not in the sense that he wasn't present in our lives. But in the sense that we stopped actively seeking him, personally. We taught the children about him, because it was important to us, and we went to church and we had some really GOOD times where we were on fire and living the way God wanted us to live. But for the most part, I think the majority of our last ten years we have lived in complacency. Let me just tell you, I really believe that is one of the worst places for a 'Christian' to be. And hypocritical at that! So I'm laying myself out there, right here, right now and admitting that I have not been the Christian that I should have been throughout most of my adult life. I have wanted to be that person. Many many times. I have tried to be that person, at different times in my life. But I never seem to get it right. I always seem to get in the way! You know that saying "It's not about me"? Well I have lived like it IS about me. And you can think you're doing the right thing, until God takes the veil away and you see yourself for the pathetic excuse for a Christian that you truly are.
This is what God showed me three nights ago. That it was time to step up and stop living in complacency. To start really engaging in a relationship with him-one that is two-sided. One that I am an active participant in. One that doesn't say "I don't have time for you right now." The parallels between our relationships with God and marriage are so profound. We wonder why our marriages experience lulls, or hard times. Usually, if you step back and look at it honestly, one or both of you have lost sight of what it really means to be in a relationship with God. I know that's been true for Kris and I. When we are constantly at each other, it is a mirror of what our relationship with God has become. When we are distant from one another, or discontent, we have actually truly been discontent with God and distanced ourselves from him. And maybe this is very obvious to most people. But it was eye opening for me.
Sometimes, like the "Prodigal Son", God gives us what we want. He gives us space. He gives us time. He lets us live for ourselves, squandering our lives away. He lets us run and play and pretend like we really have some sort of power in our own lives. And then, eventually, we will get so low that we realize how desperately we need him and we come running back. And he is ALWAYS ready to forgive. Always ready to sweep us up into his arms and hold us and welcome us back, as if we had never been gone at all. That's what REAL love is my friends.
BUT, sometimes, God puts a limit on how long he is going to just sit back and watch us waste our lives-sometimes he doesn't wait for us to come crawling back. That was the case for me, for Kris and I. Three nights ago I was awakened to what a pitiful, lost sinner that I am. God essentially grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me and said "LOOK! I'm tired of this. I'm tired of you just sitting there, pretending to love me. THIS is what I want you to do!" And so begins my journey. Some of you know about it already. I am going to actually start another blog to chronicle the new journey we are about to embark on. I was planning to start it tonight, but this particular blog took precedence and I really needed to get this down. So there it is. A sinner admitting her sin. A sinner admitting that she had to be jolted awake and is now ready to get up and run that race and serve the God she has always claimed to.