For the past year, I have felt held back from having the relationship with Christ that I know he wants to have with me. I have felt on the cusp of something more, but haven’t been able to reach it.
About two months ago, I came to a crossroads and realized that something needed to change. I wanted so much more for my life, something deeper. At that time, I felt I needed to commit to reading Psalm 63. I can’t even remember now how I stumbled upon that passage, but the way that David writes about longing for God in the desert truly inspired me. I wanted God the way that David did. So I chose to read Psalm 63 every day until I believed it to be true for me.
It’s day 50.
The past 50 days I have learned that coming to a crossroads isn’t something that happens just once. For me, I’m at a crossroads every single day. Each day I have the decision to be the kind of person God has called me to be or not. I’m almost 26, and there is no one forcing those decisions for me; it simply has to be what I desire.
I’m finally starting to accept that faith in Jesus Christ is not easy. It’s not. There are days where I don’t get it; I simply don’t understand both the wrath of Old Testament God and the grace of New Testament Jesus. There are days when I don’t understand why God allows disease, poverty, or corruption. I don’t know why he doesn’t just put a stop to it all.
But what I do know is that God has called me to a certain kind of life, a life of action. He has called me to step out in faith, trusting in him, and believe that my choices make a difference. Every day, when I find myself at the crossroads, my decisions matter. I can either choose to have the kind of real, deep faith that I believe will wreck my world, or I can sit back and wonder why it isn’t happening. The choice is mine.
Shortly after college, I read a book where the author described how he “longed for heaven.” At that time, it had never occurred to me to be excited about heaven. It never occurred to me that eternity was going to be better than life right now. Things were good.
But in the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic twice for work. I spent my days meeting with men and women who were living in the kind of poverty where electricity was a luxury enjoyed only a few hours a week, holes riddled tin rooftops, and children played on dirt floors.
However, the more time I spent walking through these communities, the more I was overwhelmed with one recurring thought:
This is not how it’s supposed to be.
This is not how God intended it, for his sons and daughters to be barely surviving. And in that moment, I couldn’t help but long for heaven. Standing on dirt roads, surrounded by the sights and smells of extreme poverty, I couldn’t help but long for the day when these beautiful men, women, and children would no longer experience such brokenness.
Last week, as the Chick-fil-A debacle unfolded, I read a blog by Pastor Perry Noble where he said:
…for too long the church has seemed to be obsessed with the sins that we do not struggle with; after all, if I am pointing out the sins of others I don’t have to deal with my own.
The rest of the week, I couldn’t stop thinking about why Christians are so hung up on homosexuality. Why are we so focused on controlling the rights of these individuals? Why this sin?
So, I brought it up to a friend, and he argued that Christians should be fighting for what is Biblical, not necessarily what is politically correct. As a believer, I agree with that.
But here is my problem: What about porn? Where are all of the Christians fighting to stop the pornography industry? Where are all of the Christians who want to see laws in place that don’t allow sexually explicit material on the internet, where it is so easily accessible to anyone? Where are the Christians arguing that the government put regulations on what types of sexual content is shown in advertisements, films, and on public television?
Where are the Christians fighting to make premarital sex illegal? What about affairs and sexual impurity? God speaks clearly on these sexual issues, but I don’t see very many Christians working hard to control these sins that have destroyed countless marriages, relationships, families, and friendships.
As Christians, let’s not be so focused on the sins we don’t struggle with, that we fail to see and correct the sin in our own lives.
No really, what would he do? It’s not just a bracelet, even though it might have started that way. It’s a way of doing life.
Some dude just pulled out in front of you. What would Jesus do? Grace.
Your boss just called you out in front of your team. What would Jesus do? Mercy.
A lady from church just spread a rumor about you. What would Jesus do? Forgive.
What would Jesus do? Probably 100% the opposite of our natural, human reaction. This month I’m being reminded that when something doesn’t go my way, my immediate reaction is not to act like Jesus.
So maybe I need to stop having knee-jerk reactions and start thinking about Jesus and how he did life.
Over the last two months, I’ve been asking God to show me clearly how to move forward with a pending decision. I repeatedly asked him for an open door; I wanted a clear yes or no.
I wanted God to tell me what to do.
What I really wanted was for God to give me a sign, a way for me to know that I was making the right choice. Then it dawned on me: God doesn’t always give us a yes or no. Period.
He doesn’t always give us a clear path or open door. Instead, he has equipped us with brains and the ability to problem solve. I’ve been learning that sometimes, instead of clearing that path for us, he puts information in it and let’s us figure it out. And he doesn’t always give us all the information, or the best information, or the clearest information. But he wants me to use my hand-crafted-by-the-creator-brain to make the best decision with the information I have available.
Sometimes that means taking a risk. Sometimes that means making a mistake. Sometimes that requires venturing into the unknown.
So really, it’s not about making the right decision, and it surely isn’t about waiting around until the right door opens.
What it’s really about, is taking the next step and pursuing him in the process.
A quote I saw on Twitter by a friend and colleague motivated me to write a brief entry in my journal. Below is what I wrote on June 5th.
Challenges prove that we can’t bear burdens alone, but instead must depend solely on God and connection with his people.
The challenges I’ve faced this year have definitely proven to me that my dependence on the Lord was not as strong as I thought. This year has really pushed and challenged me to rely more on God in seasons of difficulty, because I just can’t do it on my own.
I don’t know if I would’ve learned that without facing some major rock-bottom moments. Perhaps that is part of the bigger picture; why God allows us to endure painful seasons of life.
*Nikole Lim is a photographer, filmmaker, and advocate for social justice. Check out her website.
You can follower her on Twitter @Nikole_Lim
For me, it’s really easy to share ambiguous prayer requests. You know them because they sound like this: “I’m going through something very difficult right now” or “I’ve been struggling.” It’s usually followed up with “It would help if you could pray for me.”
What does that even mean?!
Why do I do that? Why do I even bother sharing a prayer request that is so incredibly vague?
I realized this week that being honest in my prayer requests requires extreme intentionality and vulnerability. I am hindering growth in my relationships by giving the sort-of truth.
Because let’s face it, the reason why I’m not telling you what’sreally going on is probably because I either don’t trust you, or I’m afraid. I’m scared to death that if I voice, out loud, what it really is that I need honest and earnest prayer for, then I am allowing myself to be held accountable for doing something about it.
Join me in being less confusing and vague and ambiguous in your prayer requests. Let people really pray for you. Be honest.
This week I was challenged by a blog about gossip, and it left me feeling convicted about my conversations with others. But while sharing this with my husband the other evening, I asked him if it was still gossip if you don’t mention the name of the person it’s about, and this is how he replied:
Even if you don’t mention the person’s name, the motive is still the same: you are trying to uplift yourself by sharing something negative about others.
Immediately I knew he was right, and I was amazed by my level of lameness. I was trying to get around the destructiveness of “gossip” by redefining it. But I was reminded that it’s not about what you call the sin in your life, it’s about the intentions of your heart. Sin is still sin, no matter what type of fancy definition you give it.
Ephesians 4: 29 says,
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.
Last week, I was on the cusp of making a really stupid decision in anger, when I remembered something I heard a pastor say recently,
When God is not part of the decision-making process, you’ll always do the wrong thing.
So I stopped. I realized I hadn’t even considered what God might want me to do; I was too blinded by my anger. I opened my Bible, not knowing where to turn, and flipped to 1 Timothy. I began to read about the Lord’s grace toward Paul. At first, it didn’t seem like the direction I was seeking. But read 1 Timothy 1: 14, 16 with me:
The grace of our Lord was poured on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus…. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him.
I didn’t hear Jesus’ audible voice telling me exactly what to do. I didn’t receive a sign, or see words written in the sky. But I opened my Bible, and God directed me to exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I was reminded that what I was about to do was act out in anger and frustration because I felt justified to do so. But after reading 1 Timothy, God spoke to me through those passages. He told me that he showed me mercy first, even while I was the worst of sinners. He showed me grace in my rebellion and sin so that he could be lifted up in my life. He showed me unlimited patience. Unlimited!
So I chose to show grace the way that Jesus shows it to me. I didn’t act out in anger. I didn’t send the text that would’ve made me feel powerful and in control. I didn’t let Satan win this battle; instead, I offered forgiveness and mercy.
And it felt awesome.
A few weeks ago, a friend called me out about something I said in frustration; I used Facebook to make a broad generalization that had the potential to offend others. My friend, in a very loving way, approached me about it and suggested that my comment was not wise.
I’ll admit that I was upset. I didn’t try to be offensive. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. I simply made a statement without thinking beyond the moment.
But I got upset because I knew that she was right. I knew that she was wiser than me, that she had experienced more of life and didn’t want to see me make foolish mistakes. She reminded me that there are people reading what I write on Facebook, many of which would never tell me if what I said offended them. Instead, they might tune me out, or worse, doubt my authenticity as a Christian. I could be ruining an opportunity to reach them with the good things I have to say.
So, I learned this: I can’t grow if I’m not open to criticism and if I don’t allow the sin and junk in my life to be challenged by someone I respect. I’m so thankful for my friend who decided to call me out and tell me I was doing something dumb.
Who’s calling you out?