That's how I felt as 2014 came to a close.
Looking back over the year, I feel like God lead me up a mountain. My eyes (and mostly, my heart) were opened to who God is and how He's not just a compartment of my life, but that He is my life. Most of the time, the journey was really fun and adventurous, with so many victories. Things happened that I never thought I would experience – friendships, projects, growth in every area of my life. God grabbed my heart in a way I never saw coming, and I feel like I've been living for the very first time. That is incredible.
But lately, when I look up at the mountain... I realize that I can't see the top. Living like this, with Christ leading the way, surrendering to His will... it never ends. This is the way He's called His people to live, and it has filled my heart in so many ways. But He's also constantly refining me and pulling up weeds I didn't realize were there. There are days when I want to pack up and head back down the mountain because it would be "easier." The terrain is rough and my feet are tired.
Looking ahead at this year, I see moving to a new city and going back to school. If you'd asked me back in November how I felt about that, I'd say I was beyond excited. Heck, if you'd asked me years ago, I would've loved it – I always wanted to live somewhere new and do something "different," something "not normal."
But if you were to ask me how I feel about these plans now, I'd tell you I'm afraid. Afraid to live in a whole new place, so far away from family and close friends. I'll be taking online classes, and I fear feeling lonely and trapped inside our apartment. I'm praying God provides the right opportunities for Chris and I to get plugged in. And I'm also afraid of going back to school – this feels both bizarre and backwards. Most of the time when you decide to get a degree, it's with the intention of pursuing a career. It's possible that seminary will lead me down that path, but I really have no idea. My main intention is to know the Lord better, but saying that out loud to people feels like an empty statement. It doesn't really "make sense" in worldly terms.
I've found myself craving comfort in ways that have felt surprising to me. Because going "back" to school feels backwards, I've begun to fantasize about things that feel "forward" to me – looking at houses. Settling down somewhere. Starting a family. This is so hard for me to share, because I despise how much I've craved these things in the past few weeks. How could I forsake such wonderful gifts for the next year – a great job opportunity for Chris, and wide open doors for me to attend seminary? I've found myself simultaneously ecstatic and heartbroken when I hear of friends' plans to purchase a house or have a baby. I feel so guilty for feeling this way. The joy I feel for them is completely genuine and fills my soul when I see them and talk to them... but when I get in my car or arrive back at home, the sadness starts to creep in. I want the safety and comfort that I picture with a home and family. I think to myself that I would rather have the challenge of parenthood over the challenge of seminary. And it pains me that my thoughts go there so easily.
I've been feeling these fantasies creep up for a few months now, and I kept asking God for protection from it – that He would help me keep my eyes on Him. I asked close friends to pray for me. I knew how easily it could entangle my heart. The hardest conversation I had was with Chris – I was afraid that by telling him how I was feeling, he would feel pressure from me to move "forward" along these paths. But, as always, honesty is so freeing. When I told him about what was going on and the guilt I was carrying with it, he was patient with me and reminded me of all of the ways God has made it clear that Austin and seminary are right for us. And when I've talked to God about it – well, He's made Himself pretty clear.
"It will be sweeter if you wait.
I need you to walk in some things first. If I gave it to you now, it wouldn't be as sweet.
I know you – I formed you, made you. I know what you desire, because I gave those desires to you. I hear your every cry. I am always near.
My timing is perfect because I am perfect. There is no imperfect timing with me.
You have no need to worry about tomorrow. Look at what's in front of you right now."
So... that's what I'm doing. Looking at what's right in front of me. I'm tired and praying God gives me strength. My mind and heart feel empty, and I'm calling out to Him to fill me with more of His truth. I know the dreams and comfort I desire are idols in my heart. I didn't even know they were there – they're deeply rooted weeds that I had mistaken for flowers. God is a good gardener. He's doing work in me and tilling the soil to make room for more of Him. I'm finding new ways to love on the people around me. Submitting to His will means I'm finding my freedom. Freedom from dreams and empty pursuits. Freedom from fear and wanting to hide in a corner. Freedom from expectations for myself, so that I can be refined in Him.
Last year, I gave myself a word for the year: purposeful. Looking back, I'm so humbled that God made that happen – He took every area of my life and gave it purpose in Him. Everything felt intentional and filled with growth. So this year, my word is one I'm a little afraid of: "wild." The whispers God has been putting on my heart have been to "love wildly and without abandon." Being the neat, type-A planner that I am, I'm hesitant about this, but it also means for me to be truly present in each moment. I know I need more of that. I've typed up a little list of how I'd like to live out 2015, and I'll share it with you tomorrow... praying it will be a blessing and encouragement to you as well.
This post was a tough one for me to write, but I know in the deepest corners of my heart that some of you reading have been there as well. I'd love to hear from you. Living the way God calls us to live is not always neat and pretty, and it's usually somewhat messy. But it is so vibrant and beautiful. Let's encourage one another, and as always... share joy.