Heaven and Hell

In marriage there are glimpses of heaven. I once described my honeymoon week as “Eden.” It was a time for discovery, for us to adventure together, for uninhibited intimacy, and for us to block out the rest of the world. My one focus was on the person I loved most and on making him happy. And I was so completely fulfilled to do just that. I call it Eden because the joy was overwhelming, any pain or frustration washed away, and I could focus solely on loving and being loved. It was beautiful. I think that’s what God intended our lives to be like, before evil crept in.

But in marriage there is also a bit of hell. There are fights and tears of frustration and pain. There are yelling matches and silent treatments. There are times where my sharp tongue whispers biting words, leaving my husband feeling unloved and disrespected. I wrestle daily with ungratefulness and selfishness as a result of my surmounting pride. I don’t love my husband as well as I should. My husband is patient and tender and the hardest worker I know. He is a man of integrity and honor, and he protects me and our home well. My husband is God’s greatest gift to me. Our marriage, while still blossoming, has taught me more about love, heaven, grace, and God than I ever could have imagined. But while we have the same ability to make each other the happiest, we have the capacity to hurt each other the most and deepest.

A woman once told me, “It’s better to be alone and lonely than married and lonely.” Her words encouraged me when I was single but haunt me now. There are times where, despite our best efforts, my husband and I feel more apart than we do united. In those moments, I know exactly what those words meant and how she felt the moment she said them. When evil creeps into a marriage and pulls partners apart, the resulting moments are deathly lonely.

I write about this topic because I struggled with loneliness as a single. And frankly, I expected my husband to solve that. I look around at my peers, and we’re all in a state of transition. Some of us are adjusting to married life. Some of us are preparing to make that commitment. Some of us are struggling with what it means to be single when everyone seems to be coupling up. Truth is, we’re all struggling, looking for the same things in different circumstances. We all want to be loved. We all want to feel special. We don’t want to be alone. And thus, we fear rejection and isolation. We fear being left out. We fear losing the love we have. We are all feeling the same things.

But loneliness is a heart issue, and one that can only be filled with perfect love… the perfect love of someone who knows each step and each breath.  Jesus came, and died, so we could feel that love to our core. That was what Eden was like, and I think it’s what heaven will be like: we’ll be wooed by the true lover of our souls, Christ, and share that adoration with Him only. We will keep looking for perfect and complete love wherever we go until we find rest in communing with the only one who can love us enough to make us beautiful again.

Church of No Saints

WestboroI’ve never seen such evil as I’ve seen in the church. It’s a sad truth, but looking at my own experiences and the stories featured in the media, I’m amazed at just how much corruption, hatred, and arrogance people in the church put out.

No wonder we live in a society that believes God doesn’t exist while pointing fingers at the hypocrites who can be found in church buildings every Sunday morning. Who would choose to believe in a God whose followers say they love, but spew hate, and whose religious leaders are known more for their corruption and two-faced ways than most political leaders? When I talk to anyone about Jesus these days, I always hear this response: “I don’t need Jesus to be good. I know Christians who are far worse than I am.” And frankly, I see their point.

The church is supposed to be this tender, beautiful thing. Almost like a heaven on earth, where people could go to be accepted, loved, encouraged, and instructed on how to fulfill their ultimate purpose. Everyone in the group is supposed to help each other out. That’s how Jesus lived with his followers, and that’s what he’d dreamed the church to be. But honestly, when I think of those characteristics, I don’t think of the church. Or most Christians.

But there-in lies the beauty of Christ. He forgives us. He loves us despite us not being good. The church is ridiculously messed up, and we have to take responsibility for that. We have to own up to our issues (We’re arrogant! We think we know it all! Our leaders sometimes get big heads and do really horrible stuff! There I said it.) But the church groups that realize how disastrously ill-equipped to be good they are, those are the places where you can see God doing some really cool things.

The whole story of the Bible is love and redemption. It’s God loving some really screwed-up people… people who keep screwing up and apologizing and screwing up again. Jesus doesn’t teach us that we have to be good. Jesus came to show us how incredibly loved we were, despite how good we are, not because of it. And when the magnitude of that kind of love (most people haven’t experienced it in this world) seeps into my life, it helps soften my heart towards other people, making it easier to be good.

So on behalf of the church, I’m sorry. We’re pretty screwed up, I know. But there’s this pretty cool guy, Jesus, who got things right. Please don’t judge him based on the disaster that the church is. Judge him based on who HE is.

The Courage to be Ordinary

Full disclaimer: I know the impact that work in Christian ministry has. I know that God is using my work to touch people’s lives in ways that I will never truly be able to understand.  I know that I’ll never be able to understand the impact I have on others through my conversations and presence in the workplace. I don’t want to diminish what I and others do at ALL because I fully know its eternal worth. But let’s set that aside for just a moment.

I’ve spent my whole life settled in the fact that God was going to do something amazing in my life. Based on the encouragement of my parents, I knew I was smart and could do anything in the world I wanted to do. And from my Bible knowledge, I knew there was nothing that God and I couldn’t do.

When I decided to go into the film industry, I told God that I was going to do amazing things for Him as long as He helped me along the way. I’d be “a light” to my coworkers if God would help me get the job, find merit with my superviser and coworkers, and work up the ranks in Corporate America. And after I’d secured the job at Sony Pictures, I knew my plan was right on track. God seemed to be blessing me as my aspirations turned into reality. Accepting the job and walking in on the first day was daunting, as was learning the ropes of the position and trying to integrate into the corporate culture, but spurred on by my confidence and self-esteem, it was an easy transition. I’d secured a job that 4,000 other people had applied for. I was special, and my presence at Sony Pictures reminded me of that, so I knew that I could tackle anything else that came my way.

But when God called me out of that industry and into full-time ministry at my church, I faced my toughest decision. I had dreams and visions for my life that wouldn’t be possible if I changed careers. I knew the repercussions. Money would be tight, and I’d be working a job that, by any sane person’s standards, was ordinary. I didn’t have ordinary dreams. I hadn’t had an ordinary education. I hadn’t worked so hard in all of my internships to be ordinary.

My father was the first to remind me of this: “I don’t think you needed a $160,000 education to work that job. I don’t think this job was an upgrade.” I knew he meant well. He wanted the best for me, and he still does. His love for me is apparent, and I don’t take it for granted, but each word reminded me that the life I was choosing would be plain. But I took the job.

In a world where bigger and better is glamorized, even in Christianity, it’s hard to lead the simple life talked about in Thessalonians 4:11:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands…”

Many pastors encourage their congregations to do huge things for God, calling them to move past their fears and get out of their comfort zone. God’s been leading me on a journey to overcome my fears, so I know there’s something to the whole “defy your fear and trust God” thing, and I’m not demeaning that in any way. But personally speaking, one of my greatest fears is of being ordinary, plain, unseen, and unrecognized. And if other people were honest, I think most of us share this fear in some way. We all want to matter. We all want to prove exactly how much we can do.

So maybe, sometimes, it takes more courage to be ordinary than amazing. It took more courage for me to use my abilities in a church than in a internationally-known film studio. It’s taking more courage for me to live a life of financial struggles and dependence on God rather than financial ease and independence. It is definitely taking more courage for me to battle my feelings of insignificance than being able to take pride in what I’ve achieved. It’s taken a lot of courage for me to work on changing my standard of success to what God sees my potential being rather than how my dad, professors, and friends, measure success.

I’m 22, and right now my biggest dream is be able to afford car repairs. Then, I want to move into a place of my own… someplace where my actions aren’t dictated by the person who owns the house or apartment. And then I want to get married. Big dreams, huh? No, they’re actually quite plain and ordinary. Simple. But right now they are so far out of reach that they seem like HUGE dreams. It takes a lot of courage to have hope that the impossible will happen despite the circumstances.

So my encouragement to you is this:

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

Muster up the courage to do whatever God is calling you to do, whether it’s to be extraordinary or to be ordinary.

A Friend

Three years ago God began revealing something to me: Love Him, others, then myself. Everywhere I turned, the message was clear. I was pretty bad at loving people, and He was doing a pretty good job of showing me that. But I was too calloused and stubborn to really see and love people, so He had some work to do.

At the moment when things started to shift in my life, I quickly formed a couple deep friendships quickly. The Lord had brought people into my life that hadn’t really been there before, and friendships rose out of crisis. These relationships weren’t out of mutual respect or admiration but rather out of needs that needed to be filled. These friends needed a shoulder to cry on, and as I would find out later, I really needed to be needed. And I wasn’t afraid to manipulate, push, or deceive to fill that need, and all-the-while I was convinced that I was being selfless in my  actions because I was caring for them. As quickly as the friendships arose, they crumbled. There came a time when I no longer felt needed, so I became desperate, and the relationships, which didn’t have a stable foundation to begin with, died as a result of my actions.

Within two months, I went from having few friends to having two “best friends.” Six months later, I had royally messed up both relationships and distanced what friends I’d had before the whirlwind began. Crash and burn.

Somewhere in that messy process, God awakened my heart. He showed me my deep need for relationships, which I’d never known before. I think that’s part of the reason I went so crazy when I finally had people around me who I felt cared. I’d never really known that, outside of my family. I craved that feeling of companionship. I panicked when I wasn’t around someone. Even my poor roommate had to deal with my extreme neediness.

But as He’d planned, when I felt all was lost and I thought I’d lost my two closest friends, I turned back to God. He was all I had, and, as I remembered, all I needed. He showed me His grace and then humbled me by bringing in other friends, friends who’d I’d distanced through those few months, to love me and support me with no questions asked.

Both friends have opened their hearts back up to me. We’re building on new foundations now… a foundation of trust, boundaries, respect, and admiration. I don’t know how far or how long I’ll be blessed to have them in my life, but I’m still humbled by their forgiving hearts. The relationships are drastically different now, and that’s hard for me. I’m having to reshape how I think, how I behave, and how I respond to my feelings.

I want more than anything to have mature, Christ-seeking, young women in my life who can come alongside of me and pray WITH me, not just FOR me. I want mature friendships, but I know in order to have those, I must be mature. And I must learn how to LOVE. Easier said than done.

Moreover, I want to be known. I want to be understood by someone. I want inside jokes, and coffee dates, and shared favorite movies. I want someone to care about how my day went at work or if there was traffic on the way home. I want to be known for all my faults and loved anyway. Part of me says that if God would just hurry up and bring me the right man, that’d all be fixed.

But I know better. I know MYSELF better. This isn’t a physical need that deserves a practical solution. It’s a spiritual need that deserves a supernatural solution. I think about what King David wrote in Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! … Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether… You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

David was admired by his kingdom and loved deeply by his many wives. Surely he had enough companionship! But David’s search for love, more often than not, got him into trouble. But he knew how well God knew him, and I imagine that as he wrote those words down, it was an encouragement to him.

Like David, I deeply want to be known by someone. I don’t want to struggle with loneliness anymore. But I know it’s a battle that’s mine alone to fight, a battle of the heart as I seek to be nearer to Christ. I know He can fill that hunger I have. But truthfully, I don’t know how to let Him do that. I don’t know how to let Him be my friend and confidant. So that’s what I’m praying about. Tips are welcome.

That said, I’ve become all too aware of my own messiness and increasingly aware of Christ’s grace and patience with me. He loves me on the days I can’t stand to be around myself, and He makes it bearable. It’s that kind of love that I want to be the foundation of all my future friendships and relationships… love as an outpouring of what’s inside me for the glory of God, not demanding from others what I lack for my own fulfillment.

So I’m discovering what it’s like to have a real friend in Christ. He’s the best role model for everything else, so I guess that makes sense that He’d be good at this whole love and friendship thing too.

John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

 

The Way I See It: Spiritual Gifts

The way I see it… (open to argument!)…

When you let Christ come into your life, when you seriously commit to Him, the Holy Spirit comes into you and begins to work His magic as He transforms you from the inside out. The Bible gives a list of what the Holy Spirit begins to do inside of each person as a result of them surrendering their life (these are cryptically called the Fruit of the Spirit):

“But the fruit [result] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Then, as an added bonus, followers of Christ receive what the Bible calls Spiritual Gifts. Essentially they are God-given abilities that are only apparent when a person is following Christ. Not everyone receives the same gift(s), but everyone receives at least one. There are many more gifts mentioned throughout the Bible, but this verse includes quite a few:

“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

So here’s where my musings come into play.

IT’S LIKE WAR – A METAPHOR

The Fruit of the Spirit is God’s way of training us from the inside out. It’s like bootcamp, but instead of a drill sergeant drilling us to prepare us for battle, build our resiliency, learn to use our weapons, and get us whipped into shape, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in a quiet voice to try and do the same thing. He befriends us and slowly coaches us towards His ultimate goal: to make us loving, joyful, peaceful, steadfast, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Ultimately He’s preparing us for the spiritual battle that the Bible talks about. Even if you aren’t sold out for Christ or don’t go to church, I’m sure you’re familiar with the whole “devil on one shoulder, angel on the other” idea. It’s kind of like that, just not as simple.

Every follower of Christ received the above “training,” armor, and a weapon (see more on the armor of God). But not everyone has the same mission to accomplish, so we need some sort of special training and/or tools to accomplish that job. This is where spiritual gifts come into play. We can think of our gift(s) as a tool or weapon, like a homing missile or a sniper rifle, specially assigned to a niche group of people to accomplish a very specific mission.

So as a Christian, when I go into battle (which is each and every day as soon as my eyes open), I’m supposed to bring with me all of my training (fruits of the spirit), my armor and basic weapon (armor of God), and the special resource used for my specific mission (spiritual gift). If I go into my mission unprepared, you can bet I won’t succeed.

GOD GIVES US PIECES OF HIMSELF

Going back to the Fruit of the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts… something occurred to me this morning. God isn’t just the supplier of all these things, but he IS all these things to the fullest extent. He IS and HAS the qualities and abilities described in the verses above. So when you become a part of His family, He literally starts giving you pieces of Himself. Kind of a cool way to think about it 🙂

Low Self-Esteem – The Antidote?

Many people these days, myself included, battle with what we call “low self-esteem:” condemning thoughts about our abilities, gifts, appearance, and value.

As Christians, one of our reactions is usually to dismiss the battle all together by saying that it doesn’t matter and trying to shrug it off. But like anything that rests under the surface for a while, it manifests in other ways. We see it in diets, eating disorders, and people grasping at status objects to boost their worth.

Often our other approach is to go to God and the Bible to counteract those attacks with what we know to be true. But there tends to be a problem with that approach too: if I am so busy trying to tell myself I’m worth it and that God made me unique, even using scripture, I’m fighting fire with fire. The world will always be telling me that I’m not _____________ (pretty, smart, talented, fill in the blank…) enough. If I’m always running to other people, God, or the Bible to tell me I’m ___________ enough, I’m never going to win that battle, because I’d have to spend every waking moment building myself up to counteract the world that is always tearing me down. It’s never enough to satisfy long-term. Plus, even when I’m “winning” that battle and feeling pretty confident about who God made me to be, by placing my faith in the person God designed me as, I’m still being prideful, because I’m still placing my faith in ME and how God made ME. Then, as soon as I stumble, which God promises will happen to the prideful (“Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud,” Proverbs 18:12), I’m back to clamoring for encouragement from God and others. It’s a pendulum.

One of the above routes leads to addictions and disorders. The other leads to a crazy cycle of pride and low self-esteem. Basically, we’re screwed either way. So, what should our response to the battle with low self esteem be? Humility.

We know the opposite of pride is humility. But opposite of low self esteem is humility? I’m beginning to think so.

Pride is “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority…” (dictionary.com). A good amount of self esteem could be defined as an accurate opinion of one’s own dignity and importance. Low self esteem could be defined as a low opinion of one’s own dignity and importance. Herein lies the problem: either way, we are focussing on OUR own dignity, importance, etc, whether we feel good about it at the moment or not.

Some of you who have been around Christian churches a while have heard the old saying “Humility isn’t thinking LESS about yourself, it’s thinking less ABOUT yourself.” That seems consistent with humility being the antidote to self-esteem issues. But we always need to discover what the Bible says.

Let’s take a look at how Jesus lived His life, because I’m willing to bet He didn’t wrestle with low self-esteem at all. He knew who He was: the living bread, (John 6:51), the light of the world (John 8:12), the good shepherd (John 10:9), the Son of God (John 10:36), the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), and the list goes on. He knew that He was fulfilling prophesy from Isaiah. He was outspoken about who He was. But as Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-7, He didn’t take pride in the fact that He was God’s son; he humbled himself like a servant. He was the ultimate servant. Still, He fulfilled His purpose here on earth, and when someone asked Him who He was, He told them.

Most of know the connotations that humility brings: undervaluing yourself, soft-spokenness, and timidity. But there’s is power in humility.

In the Bible, humility is often correlated with exaltation: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”(1 Peter 5:6; see also Luke 14:11, Matt. 23:12, James 4:10). Exaltation isn’t the goal of humility, but if by seeking humility we seek to make ourselves less, isn’t that contrary to what God would like to do in us (exalt us) ultimately? So then humility isn’t tearing yourself down or downplaying your abilities.

In Matthew 12:31 Jesus says to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He doesn’t say to love your neighbor more than yourself, or to love yourself less. He wants that love to be equal and proportionate. After all, He made us all equally and individually and delights in each of us (Psalms 139:13-15). So no one person is better than the other. And according to the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:6) “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” What is truth? It’s the entire Bible and what God says about His children… like that we’re all gifted in different areas and are responsible for using those gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11, Romans 12:6-7).

C.S. Lewis, in Screwtape Letters, says this: “…Thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools… [God] wants [man], in the end, to be free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as his neighbor’s talents–or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.”

I think it’s a fantastic summary of how we should view humility. If we rejoiced in our own talents as frankly and gratefully as our neighbor’s talents, we wouldn’t be prideful nor lack self esteem. It would be just the right balance.

So let me ask you (and myself) this: have you spent as much time and energy delighting in and being thankful for your, other people’s, and God’s abilities as you’ve spent trying to fight off those voices that are telling you “You aren’t ______________ (skinny, attractive, qualified, smart, etc.) enough.” Maybe that’s where the key lies.

Shut up, Martha

Today was day #1 of 3 at the Jesus Culture Worship Conference I’m attending this weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect walking in. I’d done my homework on Jesus Culture and Bethel Church, so I knew they tended to be quite charismatic in their worship and teachings. I went in today knowing that God was going to use this weekend to stretch me spiritually and move me out of my comfort zone, but I’m always hesitant to “drink the Kool-aid” and get sucked into “the experience” of it all. I’m just there to seek God and spend time with other people who are seeking Him too. But that’s a side-note to where I’m really going with this post.

As with most conferences, there are prayers-provoking songs, and teachings from passionate speakers. My prayers going into these types of events is this: “God, what do you want to show me? What about me needs to change? How do you want me to grow? What do I need to do as a result of these teachings?” And today’s event was no different. After a long time of worship and hearing a extremely emboldened charismatic speaker, I began tossing and turning the thoughts in my head. Revival. Bring God back to my city. Bring His passion and His power back to my church. Take hold of His power. Etc, etc, etc.

I prayed, “God, there were a lot of cool things said tonight… but I need you to show me what it means to ME… what I’m supposed to do about it.”

I didn’t really expect an answer until maybe later this weekend, but He wasn’t going to wait that long. “Hannah girl, stop thinking.” Yeah, it was that simple.

I’m a doer. I always have been and probably always will be. In Biblical terms, I’m a “Martha.” And with God, I always feel this need to do more, give up more, be more, confess more, worship more, volunteer more, speak out more, etc. In essence, I’d been asking Him, “God, what else do I need to do?” His reply? Shut up and just experience Me. Spend time with Me. Love Me.

Not-so-ironically enough, that’s exactly what I’ve been working with my Biblical counselors these past couple weeks. I think too much and push too hard, trying to become all I can be for God. Often that leaves me drained and frustrated because I’m failing to meet my own unrealistic expectations. Instead of always pushing to please God by always doing the right thing or being the right kind of person, I need to learn to just sit at His feet and soak Him in. And to maybe lose control of my thoughts for a few minutes and follow where my heart/spirit leads.

I know that if there’s one thing that gets in the way with my relationship with God, it’s my head. I’m praying that this weekend I’m able to get outside my head a bit more on focus on just God. Not my thoughts, or what my actions should be, but just focus on who He is and praise Him.

If you need me, I’ll be in LA on Friday and Saturday, practicing soaking up God’s presence. And who knows, He might decide to teach me something else along the way… we’ll see. And if you’re lucky, I might post about it 😛

Fear

I started attending Biblical Counseling a few weeks ago. I’ve never been in counseling before… it’s kind of a cool thing, but it’s also daunting as I’m sure you can imagine.

The best way I can describe Biblical Counseling is this: it’s like relationship counseling with God. They diagnose relationship issues: Do you really know Him? Do you trust Him? Do you REALLY trust Him? Do you spend time with Him? Do you know your identity in Him? Etc, etc, etc. They also look at every area in your life (struggles, habits, anxieties, experiences, relationships etc.) and determine if your responses and attitudes are godly in nature and correspond with the Bible.

With so many questions, my head feels like it’s about to explode. I’m learning so much so quickly that it’s hard to take it all in. And I’m being thrown so many challenging questions that I’m not sure which to answer first, nor which is most important. But in all of this TALKING (which drives me crazy), I’ve learned one key thing about myself: I am scared to death of being alone.

It was something my mom said to me during one of our casual conversations. She said it flippantly, but I’d never heard myself described that way, so it stoof out. “You are so afraid of being alone…” In counseling we are working on my anxiety levels. In response to that, one of my assignments was to write down my concerns as I began to stress out. My list looked like this: Did I say too much? Too little? Did I make him/her mad? How are people perceiving me? Am I a good enough leader/friend/employee/daughter? After reading that list to my counselor, she looked at me and said, “Hannah, the major thing I see in that list is fear.”

I sat there like a deer in the headlights. I’ve never considered myself a fearful person. I can be extremely adventurous, especially when there’s opposition telling me I can’t do it. I’m stubborn, and I’m often the first person in a group to go out on a limb and do something. I don’t stress over finances or my future. I’m a pretty level-headed person. But the more I think about what my mom and my counselor said, the more I see they are right. Most every bad thing in my life, whether it was a bad experience or something I struggle with in my head currently, is a result of fear. It runs my life. In some areas it is paralyzing. There are weeks where I physically cannot lead Bible study because I feel so weak and ill-equipped, and there are some days where I’m so scared of what other people are going to think of me that I refuse to talk to them or make eye contact. In other areas it’s motivating, like when I over-exert myself to make a friend of mine happy or when my primary reason behind working is to please my boss.

In talking with my mom, I realized that this fear goes all the way back to when I was a toddler. She told me that I would even insist on accompanying her to the bathroom until my sister was born (I was 2.5 years old at that time). My mom couldn’t get a single minute alone away from me, because I was always at her side. She never had to worry about me wandering off, because I was always there. I remember when I got older, there were times where my parents would tuck me into bed and then go on a walk around the block as the sun set. If I found out they’d left, I’d go running down the street after them in my pajamas, crying because they’d left me. I’m sure my years in middle school of being relatively alone didn’t help either.

It’s an obvious thing, but the reason I didn’t let anyone get close to me for so many years was because of fear, too. If they got close enough, they probably wouldn’t like me, and then I’d go from having a few good acquaintances to having no one.

So now I’m left with this new discovery, and I’m still trying to figure out what to do about it. The only thing I can think to do at the moment is learn what God has to say about fear, and pray against it. Knowing that this is something that’s a large part of me should help me overcome it.

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.
Proverbs 3:25-26

In God I trust and am not afraid.What can man do to me?
Psalm 56:11

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Psalm 56:11

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

A Whale Tale

Tuesday was a hard day for me. I woke up in time to get ready for class, like I usually do, and jumped in the shower. I got out and began getting ready, but I was so exhausted (emotionally) that I decided to skip class and go back to bed. I sat down and began praying, but I fell asleep half-way through. I woke up two hours later feeling like I’d been hit by a car. I was drained, had a headache, and just wanted to sleep, but I had so much to do. I knew what the problem was. I’d been trying to do everything on my own; I’d only been talking to God in passing and hadn’t taken my time to surrender my worries to Him. I knew I needed to have a good prayer session where I just sat and talked to Him for a while without any distractions. But I had a lot to do, so I picked up my computer and started working on homework.

But God has a funny way of letting us know what He wants us to do. I have a worship playlist I frequently listen to, and it was playing on my computer that afternoon. One of Kari Jobe’s songs started playing, and I began crying. I wasn’t thinking of anything other than the content of my essay, but my emotions were running wild. It was like my spirit said “Hannah, you may not be paying attention, but I need this, so it’s happening whether your head is engaged or not.”

I texted one of my friends to vent. I told there I was sitting there, typing my essay, and I had started crying and couldn’t stop. She told me to go to the beach and let it all out. I knew I needed to do something or I was going to implode, so I packed up my stuff and went to the beach.

As I sat there on the sand, I had a hard time getting started. I always have a hard time talking when I’m supposed to spill, even if it’s to God. But I started talking about my new job, graduation, finances, relationships, and everything else I’d been thinking or worrying about. I just started rambling. And soon enough, I got down to what some of the core issues were, just by talking it out. Tears streamed down my face for a half hour. I talked and talked and talked, praying for every item that came to mind.

At one point I sat there with my eyes closed, listening to the water. I told Him, “God, I see you working all around me. And I’m grateful. But sometimes it just feels like you’re so far away. I miss you.” At that moment I opened my eyes to the wide expanse of cold, blue water that was in front of me. Right where my eyes were looking, there was a gray whale breaching. She came up ever so gracefully. I immediately looked around, wide-eyed, wondering if anyone else was around to see her. But I was the only one. Instantly my spirit knew that God had sent her. It sounds silly, but I know it was His was of telling me “Hey, Hannah. Hey, you! I’m here. It’s ok. I’m here. And I love you.”

I lost it. Whatever inhibitions I had before were now gone. I sat there amazed, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the God of the universe loved me. And He loved me enough to instruct a whale to swim up to the shore so I could see her and be reminded of God’s greatness. I love God’s grand, sweeping gestures, but I really love the little things He does. I’m about the details. I watched the whale come up, then dip below the water again, then come up. I kept telling God, “Wow, make her do it again. Please?! Can I see it again?” She breached four or five times… each and every time I asked. When I stopped asking, when I’d been convinced that I’d actually seen her and that I wasn’t making it up, she stayed under. I sat there stunned for a while, telling Him over and over, “She’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. Thank you.” It was so peaceful.

He reminded me that He loved me. I read it over and over in the Bible, and I’m shown His love by other believers constantly. But sometimes I just need a visual reminder, from Him, that He loves me. And when I needed it most, He sent it. God used a gray whale off the coast of Southern California to tell me He loves me. How cool is that?

Just thought I’d share 🙂

[Article Response] “God Saw My Rape and He Didn’t Stop It”

I’ve been coming across many good articles lately that I’d like to share with those of you who are interested. I figured this is as good of a platform as any for me to share my thoughts/responses to these articles while encouraging you to spend a few minutes reading them.

My first article response is title “God Saw My Rape and He Didn’t Stop It.” The title was designed to kick readers in the gut, I’m sure. But it summarizes the article well, and probably summarizes how a lot of people feel about how God was a silent witness to the bad things in their lives. The author tells about the crisis of faith that she had after realizing that God, in his all-powerful and all-knowing majesty, stood by idly and watched as a friend of a friend brutally raped her. She chronicles her immediate response to the rape, how she came about this realization, how she felt after realizing it, and how, when she immersed herself into the Word, she began to understand why God didn’t stop it.

The author says:

God knows pain. He knows what it feels to be rejected and abused and despairing, because Jesus felt those things first. This truth is difficult. It’s not as pretty or tidy or straightforward, but it’s real.

I find comfort in the reality that God was there, because the only thing worse than realizing He was there is thinking that He wasn’t.

I am comforted that by being there when I was raped, God saw it for how bad it was. He heard my cries and He hears them now. He sees. He knows. He understands.

I may never understand why God allowed rape to happen to me. But of this I am sure: God came to my rescue in the dark aftermath of my rape and he continues to come to my rescue on my up-and-down path of healing.

I never struggled with this concept of “Why didn’t God do anything?!” after my abuse. I’m not sure why I didn’t, but maybe it’s because I embraced the idea of free will early on in my life and knew that God, though He had the power, probably wouldn’t intervene to save me. He had a purpose for everything, even the bad things, and I had to trust that and see it through.

It’s the last parts of the article that I really resonate with, though. The author says:

I can proclaim that rape does not determine my identity or limit my potential… I’m opening up about rape and pain and hurt in full confidence that it’s a gift to be able to talk about it, and in hope that some woman, somewhere will hear in my words that she is not alone, and that our God is very good.

I’ve seen first-hand what ignoring pain and abuse does to a person. It’s not pretty. They shut down emotionally and spiritually. They put up walls so high that they don’t know they are there, and they don’t realize they are blind to the joy and fulfillment that is just on the other side. I’m one of those people, but I think I’m beginning to see my walls. And that’s the first step to tearing them down. I’m tired of people not talking about sexual abuse. It’s a nasty, horrid monster, but like with many things, when you shine a little light on it, it’s not nearly as scary. And the more a person talks about it, the less painful and traumatic the memories become. So I’m going to keep talking. I love what the author wrote: “I’m opening up about rape and pain and hurt in full confidence that it’s a gift to be able to talk about it.” I feel that’s so true. It’s a God thing that I’m able to type these things out.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Roman 8:38