I had a conversation a few months ago with a Christian friend of mine. She came to me because she felt wounded or as we, millennials, like to say “She felt some type of way” about the passages she had been reading in the Bible. I knew exactly what she meant. The rape passages, the drunk and inappropriate dad stories, the juicy and salacious stories, oh and let’s not forget the whole God striking people dead where they stand part. I remember distinctly saying “Try a devotional, Don’t just go wandering around aimlessly in the Bible.” It’s true. There will be misunderstandings and all sorts of emotions that present themselves. Like that part about how God struck down someone who was just trying to make sure the Arc of Covenant didn’t fall. Like how someone raped and murdered a girl and only had to pay a fine. I cannot tell you the amount of stories I’ve read that I missed the whole point of because I felt some type of way.
As like a two year old in christianity, I try to stick to the New Testament ( its like Gerber baby food). I just don’t have enough teeth to truly eat Broccoli or real food. I try the soft pieces of chicken from time to time with the help of a friend I can ask questions about it. Like My church’s devotional on Genesis, I have a whole list of questions I know I’m going to have to ask at some point because my brain is reeling trying to connect dots. However, what helps me digest the trial pieces of the Old Testament is that I look for the revelation of God’s character and I look for the presence of Jesus. Sometimes it’s not easy to find. The Arc of Covenant story just feels unfair. He was being helpful but maybe the story was really about the importance of obedience or holiness. But I’m focusing on the fact that this dude lost his life just because he touched an object.
There are places in the OT where it’s pretty easy to find Jesus. They mention him in prophecy. They call him different names like the Second Adam or the Messiah. You have to keep an open mind, just not so open your brain falls out. But for now, I think I’ll spend most of my time in the NT.
This advent season, my church is focusing their time on Genesis. We began with Genesis 1 and the beginning. There were a ton of good points made. I especially liked the notable quotes from Robert Madu: “Willpower is not real power”, “God can create something out of nothing” and“When God speaks, it has to come to pass.”
I’ve been really struggling with my dreams because of physical and mental illness. Let me rephrase that. I have been struggling with my thoughts and feelings about dreams. I feel like I have lost the will to actually have desires because I felt incapable of accomplishing goals. So a month ago, I had my first seizure. I quit my second job the next day. I spiraled into a deep depression. I have had several dreams. I want to be a bestselling author. I want to be a lawyer. People have gone out of their way to let me know how impossible that is. When I had the seizure, it felt like a confirmation of my doubts.
However, listening to the story of the beginning of the world. The origin story. How we came to be. I realized that where there is light, darkness cannot live. One point I had never realized was that God didn’t actually create the sun until like day 4. The light that shone for three days was in existence only because of his word. I’ve never ever thought about the word of God being inalterable and that powerful.
When God speaks to my heart, it has to come to pass. Physical and Psychological sickness aside, I didn’t come to the idea of being a lawyer all willy-nilly. I didn’t even consider it until someone in juvie who had been trafficked suggested it to me. And I was absolutely against the idea. It sounded like too much work. But “God can create something out of nothing”. Right now, I have a part time job and a volunteer job. I am financially supported by my parents. I am not where I want to be, but far from where I was. Maybe its emotionalism that has led me to believe that my dreams matter and that God called me. Perhaps its faith. But I’m not going to sit around waiting for something to happen. I’m not going to let illness make me take a step back. Apparently, if God spoke it, IT HAS TO COME TO PASS.
I have a lack of impulse control and some patience issues. These are made even more evident during the Christmas season. For example: I go buy one gift and end up with five per person. It’s a problem. And don’t get me started on waiting on lines. I will not be bad-mouthing the commercialism of Christmas or anything like that. I want to talk about Jesus.
I grew up “Seventh-day Adventist”. I’m also not going to say anything about that per say. I mention it only to say that I am very familiar with the various definitions of the word advent. The latin etc. If you don’t know what it means, basically it means ” coming”. My entire childhood and young adulthood I was waiting on the second coming. I truly believed it would happen before I hit twenty. I felt an impending sense of “LORD JESUS COME”. As a seventh-day I never did celebrate Christmas because of its pagan origins.
However, when I started to explore other traditions within the Christian faith, I noticed that the advent season is a bigger deal than I thought it was. Catholics and Lutherans etc have rituals, readings and prayers for this time. I thought it was a YAY here’s Christmas Day. It’s Jesus’ birthday! Turns out, there’s some preparation that happens in your heart. There’s a posture of worship and adoration that comes with the arrival of the Messiah. There’s also a sense of waiting. It is supposed to be a period of reflection.
You know how I feel about waiting for anything, as a millennial and New York. I get so annoyed at Bodegas and restaurants when they don’t acknowledge my presence immediately. Waiting on God is not really something I would sign up to do. Remember that story in the Bible where there are ten virgins waiting on a Bridegroom ( Matthew 25). I would’ve definitely been the one who didn’t have any oil left because I would’ve expected the bridegroom to come quicker.
Most Christian blogs when they discuss waiting, there are usually discussing dating or waiting on God to do something. I am talking about something completely different. I’m taking about the heart. Jesus coming into the world wasn’t a run of the mill thing. The Christmas story is filled with shocking details and what would have been scandalous and fodder for gossip. I mean seriously : Mary’s spontaneous pregnancy, Poverty, random star leading people to his location ( I don’t know about you but I don’t know that I would travel on a hope that the star was leading me somewhere to see someone who may or not be a king) However, the people that came had perhaps been waiting on him their whole lives. Imagine a child meeting their father after a war. There was much rejoicing.
Today, I feel like I’m heard the Christmas story so much it’s hard to impress me. The shock and awe when I heard it the first time is gone. I also feel that way about the Occulus, The statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the great wonders of the world. I often wonder, Where is my sense of awe? If the Empire State building is deserving of feelings of wonder, surely the son of God is.
I know I jumped all over the place with my thoughts but I hope you followed along. May this season be one of reflection. Perhaps you would like to try the Ignatian Examen or a new ritual during this season. You don’t have to be a part of that Christian denomination to try things that may bring you closer to God. Maybe you want to focus your devotions on the seriously scandalous life of Jesus. To acknowledge why he came as a baby. To reengage with your identity in Christ. I would like to encourage you to do something other than just shopping and creating an atmosphere of love in your home, so that your love may flow from the source of all love.
So I’m reading one of the YouVersion Bible App’s plans (the one called Tailored Dreams), and Day 3 kicked me in the face. Not literally, of course. I cannot really accurately describe how it kicked me in the face so I will just paste the devotional content below in bold and my reactions, answers and questions in italics:
“I was designed for this!”
You created my inmost being. What a statement, what a concept, to think that even your innermost parts, thoughts, emotions, feelings, likes, and dislikes were all created by God, and all have a purpose. You were created to go through the things you go through. You were selected to be exactly who you are. God took his time in creating you, and he took care in making you. ( I was created to go through the things I go through. Um… physical and sexual abuse? severe mental illness? chronic physical illness? I’m pretty sure I’m misunderstanding this. Let me keep reading)
God considered everything you would encounter and equipped you with all you need to not just survive but to thrive. ( I have been told by others that if they went through even half of my life experiences they wouldn’t be here. Maybe God did know when he created me that I would experience all this stuff. But Wait. Aren’t some of the things I’ve been through negative consequences from choices I made. How does that make any sense?)He knit you together, stitched every part of your life together for his glory before you ever left your mother’s womb. ( Yadi-yah yeah I know Psalm 139:13) That sickness you have that no other young person has to deal with, that relative that did that horrible thing to you , that bully, or that heartbreak you suffered is not the end of your story. (Yeah , yeah, I’m still alive and He’s not finished with me yet, What are you Brandon Heath?)
It’s not even a climatic point. (Wow. Really?)
Your trials do not mean that God is punishing you. You will make it through this. You are loved ( I RECEIVE THAT) , you are capable (The jury is out on that one), and you will survive. God has faith in you. Yes, I said God has faith in you. ( I receive that too. God is for me)
He knows that as hard as this is, as difficult as it is to understand you are more than the sum total of your hard times, you are bigger than your mistakes, and you are NOT a mistake. You are an intentional being created by an intentional God, and every tear is watering an intended harvest. ( Wow. that’s crazy) Do not let circumstances make you believe that God has passed you by or that he has circumvented your purpose.
We may even at times get mad at God because it just doesn’t make sense. ( YES. I don’t get it and I’m a little upset)Why did this have to happen like this? Why did I have to endure this kind of pain? But there is a blessing in every storm. There is a lesson, something we learn—we begin to learn that it doesn’t have to make sense for God to make it alright.
To begin to create your design, close your eyes and answer these questions:
1. What parts of my life am I having trouble finding purpose in? The sexual trauma part
2. What am I mad at God about? Do you want the list? Injustice in the world, specifically Rape, Human trafficking, all the sexual stuff
3. What am I “faithing” and what am I fearing? I am “faithing”that there will be a better ending to my story than what I can think of or even conceive. I am fearing that I will just languish in PTSD and never heal.
Think through the “head, heart, and legs” for each item.
Head – What will I need to feed my mind in order to accomplish these tasks? I have no clue. I know that I am surrounding myself with friends who prophesy good things over me and help me limit crazy self talk. I also read the Bible daily ( corny I know), usually with Hillsong or Elevation Worship playing in the background ( Yes, I’m so cheesy)
Heart – How will I build up resilience to be able to maintain emotional strength? No idea.
Legs – What habits will I need to form in order to accomplish these tasks? Also, No clue.
I hope you’ve survived reading my inner monologue and now understand what I mean by kicked in the face. If you have any comments that may be helpful and NOT HARMFUL or suggestions for my spiritual growth and general wellness I would love to hear them. Also, Don’t worry I’m in therapy and attend church faithfully. I am really struggling with the ideas presented in this devotional and I read it three days ago. How could I be designed by a loving God for the shitshow ( excuse my language) that was my life?
The devotional ended with a prayer starter:
God, thank you for all that you have done for me. Thank you for predestining me to be conformed to the image of your son. Thank you for writing my ending before my beginning. I exalt you and believe that your design is flawless because it is impossible for you to fail. I decree and declare my freedom from insecurity.
God, I’m afraid. I think that a lot of people around me are waiting for me to fail. I have begun to doubt that I am capable of anything, including little things like providing for my sustenance. I know you said that the lilies of the field and whatever don’t worry about food and clothes but I’m worried. I am also worried about my ability to function as a normal person. I used to think I was half a person, that I was lacking in the things needed to survive in the world. Today I know that you created a whole person with all 64 crayons in her Crayon box. That I was created in your image. There is no lack. Please help me to remember this every single day. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.