It has been a crazy weekend for us with moving. We are now in my parents house and there is something nice about throwing all our stuff in storage and not having to unpack. Sure this is not our ideal situation, but I am glad we have somewhere to go at all in this hard time.
I have been thinking some in my old way, trying to "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ", those thoughts that people are sitting quietly behind their computer screens judging why this must be happening to us, what fault it is of ours that this must have happened. Like that Anna Nalick song I like to quote "cause I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd, cause this is my diary screaming out loud, and you can use it however you want to". But the lessons I have been learning about being myself over these past four years is outweighing any of that. That, yep, I am like Peter, a bit in your face, a bit of an over sharer at times, a bit passionate about most everything. I know those people are probably few and far between, and I also know that I am far harder on myself than others are. You can only give as much grace as you have been able to receive yourself, and this is the process I am in. Giving myself grace.
Our pastor has been working his way through Matthew and two weeks ago he spoke about the disciples, why they were chosen, etc. He wanted us to know their qualifications for being chosen....they didn't have any. What Jesus saw in them was their heart and maybe a little bit of tenacious craziness that just might keep them trusting and following when things weren't easy. They were incredibly rough around the edges, far from prepared, totally missing the point, but they were still chosen and here we are years later still learning from them.
We are the same, all a little off in our own way, taking steps of obedience while God refines us and sanctifies our bumpy personalities to make them useful to His kingdom, to make us that little bit more like Jesus. It was their hearts that He saw, that He chose. And He is speaking to me about all this in the middle of this hard time. To be free to be myself, flaws and all, about the power of vulnerability and being real in the middle of things that don't make sense, make me scared, upset, ask questions.
During this time I feel like the Lord has given me the verse Exodus 14:14
I wrote it out on our chalkboard at home. That there are many times when God has asked me to fight with everything that I have, with all my strength involved, but this time, it's about letting God move and I watch Him fight for me, for us.
Even moving this weekend, although I tend to get overwhelmed with things like that, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It went fairly smoothly and quickly and although we still have more to do, it was much easier than I anticipated. Carried.
I also found a small group at my church for women on Friday mornings that I decided to get involved in. I have been so hungry for community, it has been so long, but it really felt as though as hard as I ever tried to get into something it never worked out. Finally I was able to. It was like a breath of fresh air and I walked away knowing and feeling two things; I am changed, and I am loved.
I know I am changed because it has been over a year since interacting with other Christians in that kind of learning environment. As I listened to the discussion and participated I think I was even shocked myself the kinds of things that were coming out of my mouth. This bubbling passion for the Lord and feeling so much more freedom than I ever have. This deep knowing that I am loved and accepted by Him and that He has a plan and He sees me and He validates me, it removes the necessity to grasp after anyone else's approval of me. That I know that I can do nothing without the Lord, that anything that is good about me is because of the Lord, not because I have tried so hard and checked all the appropriate boxes.
This deep knowing that I am the needy one, I am the weak one, and I will boast in my weakness because then He will be shown strong. There is no need in pretending to have it all together, that we are one step closer to the Lord because we have all the right answers, when in reality we are all beggars before a Holy God. We come empty handed, anything good about us is Him and from Him. We are all in great debt to the one who has paid for our freedom, and as Steven Furtick said in a recent sermon "Passion dies when debtors become collectors". And yet, in this time of vulnerable weakness and not knowing where we will live next or any of the answers I would like to control, I feel His strength in me. This idea of making my theology a reality in my life, not something I talk about and know about but the Spirit beginning to work it out in me. That Biblical knowledge without practical application in every day life is quite pointless, He gave us His word to help change us to become more like Christ and show other people the same.
And I am realizing that it is in this hard times that the rubber meets the road. Like "Ashley, am I good or not? You say you believe I am good, you say that I am your provider, you say all these things and so I need you to trust what you say believe, I need you to trust Me".
And this other aspect of knowing I am loved. He has shown me and been so near and intimate with me. Speaking to me so tenderly, literally getting me from day to day, filling me with a joy and hope that could only be coming from Him. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths, and do not be anxious about anything but in everything with prayer and petition present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. All these things, they are my reality right now.
Maybe I have a million reasons not to understand what is going on, and I still don't, and I don't know what will happen next. But I do know that God is doing something, that He has changed me and that I am so loved.
, by Ashley Jackson