Friday, February 26, 2016

Vulnerability and Seeking

I haven't really posted on here, save a line from Amazing Grace a few months ago

Again and again, that refrain played in my head through the month of August and I've seen it come true. 

A few days ago, I came back to this blog, reading back through a few old posts and seeing a few major trends. 

I push myself, I'm crazy productive, I get super sick. 

Each instance builds and builds.

I have a difficult time knowing my boundaries and when I've reached my exhaustion limit. I always feel that I'm not enough, forgetting that I'm not called to be enough, but that Christ is enough. Again and again, I have seen this trend. I can only hope that each time I do learn something new about myself and there's some upward progress as I run in circles. 

But so everyone is up-to-date (if you still follow this at all) 

The past year... has been...

I can't succinctly explain it all, I wish I could wrap it up with a pretty bow and have a perfect outline as I sort through the ups and downs, the beauties and pain I've experienced since last year this time.

Trying to take a step back (which I'm terrible at) and looking at the overall big picture, I have clearly seen God at work. I have seen how He has used circumstances to all work together for my good. 

When I last posted in June, I was fighting for freedom. I felt like I was being held back by stagnation, apathy, and blatant ignorance of what I knew was not good for me. I was seeking a reset button and clean slate, but it wasn't instantaneous. 

The semester before I had been attending a church that was about 40 minutes from home with my then-boyfriend. After a painful breakup, I wasn't eager to return there to see him. Suffice to say, that relationship carried a lot of baggage with it. (Lots has been processed, I wish him all the best!)

Over the summer I dwelled on freedom in Christ and seeking personal growth, not wanting to be tied down to any denomination or any person. I craved genuine. The word was my goal. Whatever I was, I wanted to be an authentic one. 

Growing up in the Bible Belt, it's easy to be fake christian-y. I knew exactly how to act to be perceived as a good christian girl. I was good at fronting, but I hated it. I wanted to be seen as I was, not as a dime-a-dozen girl who fit a certain stereotype.

Throughout college I have visited several churches in the area. So many flavors of christianity but each didn't feel like a good fit. I didn't feel spiritual connection to these places, I felt my attempts to connect met with forms to fill out so someone could say hi to me (like I was a number), or worse, I was greeted with nothing but being ignored. Cliques seemed well-established, and I wasn't invited. 
I had visited so many churches. Again and again, I extended my hand, I put myself out there, I sought to be part of a group only to be faced with awkwardness at best and rejection at worst. 

I was reaching a point where I thought that churches (little c) as a corporation were all the same. I knew I was part of the Church (big C) that is the body of Christ, but maybe I wasn't intended to be part of the corporate church, but rather to seek community in other venues. I prayed long and hard about it. I eventually stopped "trying out" churches. I was exhausted and burnt out from so many awkward and uncomfortable first time experiences. 

If nothing else, I would grow on my own, I began reading my Bible with more regularity and praying more frequently, and bought many theological books to strengthen my apologetics skills. 

Maybe God could work some sort of miracle? Maybe, somehow, I would have peers who shared my theological views? I felt like I didn't fit in any church I had tried. I was weary and discouraged. 

The semester started, I was craving christian community but surrendering it to God, my attempts to make it happen had been met with awkwardness.

On Tuesday, I ran into a friend from high school on campus at the start of the semester. "Are you in a church?" was one of his first questions. I sheepishly said no, trying to hold back some of the building resentment I felt at feeling burned. "You should try providence, I know some of the people there are awesome" 
I turned over trying one more time. 

On Saturday I volunteered at a local concert. There I ran into one of my acquaintances from the radio station where I work, WKNC (tune in, crazy musics to be heard!) 

Side note: He had trained me on the operations of the station a year before, and when he had, he was definitively atheistic. I remember asking God if someone like this guy was too far from being saved, but that his heart might be softened towards God.

He came up to me and said, "Hey, so I became a Christian this summer. I'm getting baptized tomorrow, and it'd be cool if you came." 
That story made me so giddy. I had nothing to do with his decision to be a Christian, except for a little prayer I had lifted up a year ago. GOD WAS DOING STUFF WITH PEOPLE I KNEW. Was this the christian community I craved? 
...guess which church he was going to? 
PROVIDENCE, the same church that my friend from Tuesday had mentioned. 

I agreed to go to church with him the next day, though when I got up that sunday morning, I was having strong second thoughts. 
One last all-out attempt to connect, I remember praying as I got in the car. God, I don't want to bargain, but I am weary of trying churches and being met with indifference. I'm doing this in faith. Please don't let me be discouraged again, but I trust you. 

I was welcomed. I felt like people cared. 

That's such a small thing, but people were genuinely interested in talking to me. It felt like family. 

One of my dad's good friends went there and I met his daughter before knowing the connection. Our parents had been trying to get us to hang out for a few years but it never had worked out. What a great confirmation! She and I have built a solid sister-ship together, encouraging one another. 

God has answered my prayer for genuine community and opened a door for me to continue the train to others who come through the doors. 

Fighting for being genuine and transparent is difficult. Sometimes I feel like slipping into my "church person" mask and allowing that front to be what people see. But when I have let my guard down and trusted God, I've seen so much real connection. There are many times of experiencing those moments of friendship as C.S. Lewis says, 
“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” 
In order to have the connection of friendship, one must be vulnerable

Sunday I decided to commit to Providence as a member, I agreed that I'm on board with what they're doing. 

As I have been in this church environment, I've been hit with a few thoughts.

Christ above all else. Self-doubt and insecurities stem from self. I'm in process of realizing that I have to intentionally put Jesus on the top of my thoughts and I have to intentionally test my motives against the beauty of the gospel. 

Three words have been where I've dwelled: Surrender, Vulnerability, Intentionality. 

I'll expand more on where I've been with those in future posts (if I have time to post). God has been so good to me and given me a clear directive for the next two years (EXCITING NEWS) 

I hope this post can encourage you, wherever you may be in your journey.  

I was in a dark place last year this time. I was stagnant in my faith and my soul wasn't peaceful. The journey to light hasn't been easy, and my prayers weren't instantly answered, but I know that Psalm 34 was true when it was written and even today (Psalm 34:4-9, NIV): 
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.  
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and he delivers them. 
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  
Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
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