Tuesday, September 13, 2011

renewed, refreshed, refocused


Do you ever have those days when you feel like you're just going through the motions?  Where you find yourself questioning your own motivations, wondering if what you hold so strongly as your beliefs are truth or are maybe founded on something wrong?  I know I have those days...sometimes those weeks, but today, for some reason, I started assessing what founds that initial questioning.  What makes me look around and wonder, "Is this real?".  I'm sure there is more than one answer to that, and yet I think...actually no, I know there is really only one answer to it - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

There are a lot of things we do - as Christians, as humans, as friends, as lovers, as brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers...you name it, and there is generally something associated with that role.  For me, being raised in a Christian home and accepting Christ as a small child, I felt I was 'expected' to act/live a certain way.  You know, the 'good girl' thing.  It's not that my parents forced this on me, it was just my understanding of being a Christian at that time in my life.  It took me 'growing up' and going to college to realize that my faith couldn't exist just because my parents said it did.  As much as I respect them and look up to them as pillars of faith in my life, I knew I couldn't rely on their beliefs as if it were my own and call it good.  I had to accept my faith as personal; a relationship between Jesus and I.  Recognizing that, I found myself growing in leaps and bounds as I became saturated in His word and spent time with Him in prayer.  I stopped looking to others to gain my faith from and instead turned to God to establish His word in my heart and to answer my questions through scripture.

Years later, I can look back on those initial growth spurts and smile - completely seeing the hand of God through all of those times!  But, I also see times where I struggled.  It wasn't always easy to believe and I didn't always find the answers to my questions right away.  I did notice that in the times where I was struggling the most, there was one thing I overlooked every time.

I forgot who I was.  And, unfortunately, I still have times where forget who I am.

Maybe that sounds a little existential, but what I mean by that is the minute I start looking to myself to try and make sense of life, I forget Who is really in control.  It's so easy to think that the life I'm living is just all a performance when you conveniently forget what the purpose of life really is.  Based solely on a human understanding, life could be about making yourself happy and doing things so that you live your life 'satisfied'.  But then I think of all of the things in my life that are supposed to make me happy and remember that they don't - not completely.  Friends are great and money is nice and relationships can make you feel happy and fulfilled for a time, but what happens when those things don't work out?  When your friends can't hang out with you and your pay check doesn't quite stretch far enough and when your boyfriend dumps you?  Then what?

Then you're left to yourself and your own thoughts and that's a scary place.  No matter the amount of time I could take to 'make myself' be a better person, there is no way that I could actually accomplish anything worth noticing.  Sure, I could give money away, feed the poor, help an elderly neighbor get her cat out of a tree... you name a good thing and I could do it, but doing all of those things would get to be so tiring!  I know I couldn't keep it up for long and then I would be right back where I started - feeling purposeless and hopeless.

The beautiful thing in the midst of all of this is a simple word: grace.  Getting to the place where you recognize that you can't do anything to be good is exactly the place where Jesus meets you and says you don't have to do anything!  In fact, all you have to do is accept that He already did it all.

Maybe it's just me, but this always seems too good to be true.

But it's not!  In the midst of those times of questions and wondering if my life is headed in the right direction the answer to all of this is as simple as reminding myself of the gospel.  It answers every question I may have.  It puts me in the right place - recognizing that I am a sinner and don't deserve to be saved, but then comes along side me and lifts me up saying that I don't have to deserve anything.  And then, at the end of it all, it promises that Christ will always be with me, helping me, strengthening me, and guiding me through all of my life.  Through the good and through the bad.  I'm not alone and I'm not purposeless.

The gospel has renewed me.  It has refreshed me.  It has (and will always) drawn me near to the Lord and that is the best, most peace-filled place to be.  It's what I choose to focus on.

Check out James 4:1-10