I graduated from my DTS yesterday, and as I prepare to move into my next season, I’ve been thinking back on all the things I’ve done, experienced and learned in the last five months. I did a post like this in October (the last time I blogged. Yeesh) but I’ve obviously learned a lot since then, so I wanted to take some time to share.
Meditating on darkness doesn’t change it to light.
Self pity and/or acting the martyr is a trap I can fall into a lot, and one of the things I’ve learned here (again) is that that’s ultimately unhelpful. It’s not bad to feel what we’re feeling, to acknowledge when things are difficult, or be vulnerable and admit it to God and others (in appropriate and healthy ways), but sitting in it and not actually doing anything proactive to change the situation (or my attitude) does nothing. Basically, in general I need to get over myself and my problems and just do what needs to be done a lot more instead. Work in progress (thanks Jesus!).
Don’t chase suffering.
I think because the Bible talks so much about how suffering refines us and how we have to be willing to suffer for our faith, I’ve often assumed that it meant that God wants us to suffer, that the more suffering we put ourselves through, the more Christ-like we will be. Now I’m starting to see that simply isn’t true, or Biblical. Will we have suffering? Yes. Jesus promises this in John 16:33, and we see it time and time again in the Bible from David to Gideon to Job, the disciples and obviously Jesus himself. There are thousands of examples in life and the Bible of God’s people suffering for their faith, but that doesn’t mean we should actively seek it out. Paul didn’t ask to be stoned or ship-wrecked, Job didn’t ask for his livestock, family and health to be destroyed, and David didn’t ask to be hunted in caves either. Jesus didn’t walk up to the synagogue rulers and ask to be crucified; he even asked God if there was another way (Luke 22:42, God-willing of course). And yet, here I was, thinking if I loved God, I should pursue suffering, that I should stop enjoying the things He’s blessed me with because if I found satisfaction or enjoyment in them, I wasn’t finding it enough in God. That I was choosing them over God. Except, God loves to bless us and we should enjoy those blessings when we have them, just like Ecclesiastes tells us. And, our love for God should be so electrifying, so joyful and full that it overflows into loving other things and people even more (and in better ways), not less, even people that we normally wouldn’t love at all! Like C.S. Lewis discusses in The Great Divorce (I think, feel free to correct if I’m wrong), good branches into more good, love into more love. Evil narrows down. Again, thank you Jesus for making these things clear.
Don’t romanticize suffering.
Somewhat tying into the last two, for several reasons it’s always been fairly easy for me to romanticize suffering, both in my own life as some kind of silent sufferer for the Lord (leading to self-pity, pride, and entitlement) or something else equally ridiculous, and in my writing, where I’ve made the same attitudes in Cog seem right, justifiable or even good simply because he had suffered or been hurt enough in his past. God’s been showing me neither of those things are good or honoring to Him. Thank goodness He stopped Machine from getting too much farther and is/will turn it around.
In this life, imperfection is and will be my lot, and that’s okay.
In fighting pride, self-pity, perfectionism and entitlement, God’s been showing me how imperfect I am and how okay that is. I think I thought if I tried hard enough, if I suffered enough, eventually I would be good enough, would earn God’s love, or come to avoid his correction. Essentially, I would become so good at being a Christian/life in general that I wouldn’t really need God at all, which is both untrue and completely backwards to what either God or I actually want. God is about relationship. He loves spending time with His people, and His heart is always turned towards redemption, mercy, love and grace. That means that I don’t have to earn anything, and the greatest joy I can have is not in becoming good enough to no longer need Him, but to embrace how much I do, how faithful and loving He is. And it’s hard to admit how faulty I am, how often I get things wrong (part of why I’ve never wanted to admit it), but being willing to continually admit I’m not perfect also opens me up to the oceans and oceans of love, grace, and mercy, freely given by the creator of the universe that He and I both know I need. It frees me of things like pride, self-pity and entitlement because it helps me see myself as I really am, and, being free to be in progress myself, I am also free to grant the same grace and love to others. It lets me take risks, make mistakes, and admit them, something that honestly I’ve been afraid of doing for years. It’s so freeing and beautiful. It’s also yet another example of how merciful, faithful and patient God is. Thank you God for humbling me enough to see this. Please continue to do so!
My relationship with God is my own.
Because of various fears I’ve had in relation to approaching God directly, in the past I’ve relied a lot on others to tell me what I should do, how I should act, how God speaks, whether or not He thinks the things I’m passionate about are important or okay, and being here, I’ve seen just how futile that kind of thing is. God is personal, and He wants to have a relationship with me. Likewise, He has plans and dreams just for me, and I can’t rely on other people to either live them out or discern them. I can’t rely on others for the intimacy I have to have with God, and I can’t rely on them to do the work He has for me. I have to have it for myself, I have to read my Bible, I have to pray, I have to worship, and I have to have the discipline and faith to believe and follow. God will certainly help me to do all these things of course, but I have to choose to do them myself, neither He nor anyone else can force me, which is both a little scary, and amazing.
So yeah, God’s been showing me a lot of really important things. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to unpack when I get home, and that it’ll still take time and effort and grace and love to really solidify all of these things in my mind, but it’s good to write them down so I can know and acknowledge that I know them, and hopefully so you can see a bit more of what I’ve been learning and doing these last few months.
Thank you for reading. If you have comments or questions to share, please feel free!