A few months ago during a sermon, one of our pastors shared the following quote that really resonated with me:
“The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” -Bruce Marshall, The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith
Tim shared this quote to support the idea that our deepest longings point us towards God, even though on this earth we oftentimes seek to fulfill those longings in foolish, temporary, unfulfilling ways.
That Sunday morning, it was almost as though something clicked into place for me that I’ve been coming to realize for a long time. Throughout most of my life, I have built my identity around other people–what they thought of me, trying to meet their expectations (whether stated or assumed), keeping the peace, helping others with their problems, etc. I also have used accomplishments and success, my ability to mother/friend/write/perform well, and my good works to give me a sense of worthiness or to attempt to fill holes in my heart. But the truth is, (and what Tim shared reminded me of this)—God is the only One who can fill those places. Everything else that I try to pack into those holes will come up short of His goodness.
After hearing that sermon, when I found myself running to anything in this world out of a place of desperate need (ie: calling a friend when I wanted to process something; using food, drink, Netflix, spending money on coffee or new stuff to lift my mood or numb feelings of sadness; keeping myself far too busy to slow down and take space for stillness), I stopped. I tried to peel back that layer of the onion and look a little further by asking myself, “What is the deeper thing I’m longing for right now?” And often times the answer pointed back to a desire for a sense of worth, a place of belonging, something to make me feel less sad/tired/alone, a feeling of being loved. And while sometimes the things of this world hint at being able to fill those desires and needs, I am now trying to run first to God.
Last night, I shared a spoken word piece at a Storytellers event at my church. This piece, entitled “Progression of a Heart,” has been rumbling around in my heart for the past few months and it felt really freeing and beautiful to share it yesterday with a group of supportive and encouraging people.
I want to share it here to encourage you– this “chapter” is where I currently am in my posture towards the Lord, but there were 4 prior chapters that I summarized in my journey. And as a good friend shared with me last night after my piece, I can’t wait to see how God unfolds chapters 6, 7, 8, 9… there is surely more work to be done as I journey on, but for now, here’s my heart.
Chapter 5- Fill Up My Empty
Hello, my Father. My best friend. My shelter. My anchor when my soul is untethered. My comfort when I ache. My husband in this single mother season. My source of Truth when lies start to creep in.
You. It’s always been You. You are the only one that can heal a heart that was once more holes than it was holy, or place a heart of flesh where there was stone. I no longer need to numb. Or hide. Or jam those puzzle pieces into place.
Lord, continue to fill up my empty.
When I want someone to tell me that I am worthy, You tell me that You fearfully and wonderfully created me in YOUR image.
When I am weak and vulnerable, You tell me that Your grace is sufficient for me…Your power is made perfect in my weakness.
When I desire intimacy, You remind me that You formed my inmost being and before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely Lord. There is no greater intimacy than to be known at that depth.
When I am weary, You take my yoke upon You and replace it with a lightness that I can shoulder for that moment.
When I am lost, You show me that You are the way. You help me put one foot in front of the other as I wait for You to show me the next right thing.
And when I want a love story and to have my heart fought for, Oh Lord, you remind me that You love me with the fiercest, greatest love. You’ve already fought for my heart, and you PURSUE me passionately.
I am in awe that the Creator of this universe is wrapped up in my universe and delights with me and grieves with me and shows me who I am.
I will go wherever You want me to go and be whoever You are making me to be. I am free. I am wide open. My heart is all Yours.
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” -John 4:13-14
Friend…if you find yourself running to things of this world, don’t be discouraged. I am praying that you would start to run to the source of Living Water that can heal wounds and fill up your empty, too.
My favorite part of the Bible is the Psalms– the gut-wrenching honesty, the beautiful images, the hope even in the midst of the psalmist’s questions and pain. Recently I was introduced to a Puritan Prayer book, and I was inspired to write out a collection of my prayers for you here on a weekly basis. Some of these are utterances I’ve poured out into journals before, and some may have been laid on my heart just for you. If you need more specific prayer, please let me know here.
Lord, sometimes I am a mess. I am unraveled, I am anxious, I am lost. I feel overwhelmed by the pieces- sometimes tangled up, sometimes scattered everywhere- and I scramble to put everything back together.
Lord, be my rest. Help me to sit with the pieces. Show me how to let You lead. I don’t want to rush to hodgepodge it back together, as I know that my solution will surely be confused, jumbled, and not the quality you desire for me.
Will You slow my mind?
steady my heart?
help still me?
Lord, one step at a time, one piece at a time, guide me. Show me the next right thing. Help me to put one foot in front of the other.
Help me to truly be okay with the painstakingly slow pace that may be required, like that of a young child learning to stumble and hobble along. Help me take those first steps, full of focus, energy, balance, and trust, instead of running ahead of You.
Cast out the fear I have of the unknowns ahead. Help me to trust that Your plan is good.
You tell me to “be still,” so I will be faithful in that today.
And tomorrow? Please help me again to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that YOU are God, You are sovereign, You are my refuge, You are powerful, You are peacemaker, You are strong when I am weak,
You are making all things new.
Verses to encourage you:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
This is the ceiling light in my living space. The room where I spend the most time, when I am actually home. I am constantly on the go, and I don’t leave much room for margin. My apartment, where I have lived for almost 3 years, has felt often times like a holding space for what I thought might be a temporary arrangement. The season has stretched on, and sometimes I neglect this little space because it’s easier to just keep moving than to sit… be still… to accept and call this home.
This holiday season was a bit of a hard one for me, and this particular light fixture needed its bulb changed for the past 2 months. I have let my fake Christmas tree and its tiny bulbs light my evenings, making frequent mental notes that I should put a new light in so that the room could feel a little brighter. But sometimes it felt better to sit in the cozy darkness, with just the corner lit up, my sweet little tree with my favorite ornaments looking back at me.
Today, I take my tree down. I made space today to write. I’m folding 5 loads of laundry that have been piling up. I’m prepping healthy foods for this week to be intentional about what I put in my body instead of eating for comfort or convenience as I have been the past few months. And I changed the light.
Because I’m making space in this season for more light, more hope, for establishing what it looks like to make this place actually “home.” I’m working on a gallery wall for the living room, finishing projects that have been in limbo for a while, and I’m letting light in, so that hopefully I have more to pour out.
“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” -Psalm 147:11
The past couple of years I’ve spent the weeks leading into January 1st asking God for a word to guide my next year. A word that I can press into-whether it becomes the umbrella for my goals, the anchor on the hard days, or something to set my eyes on that’s bigger than momentary trials.
️I loved how in 2016, I heard the word FREEDOM so clearly, and He was faithful in helping me find that in so many ways. I paid off a large amount of debt through an incredible side job. I let go of some unhealthy relationships, and found some pretty incredible new relationships that brought a sense of authentic community. I took control of my health, ate a more plant based diet, and even ran a half marathon! There was great freedom and joy in all of this. But God especially gave me freedom as I pressed into counseling and a recovery group for my people-pleasing codependence, and for the first time ever, I found my identity completely in Christ. That year was life-changing for me in stepping into that true sense of freedom.
️This past year, I claimed the word REDEMPTION. I learned that these words for my year are not necessarily a road map, they are a stepping into of trust. After divorce and single-motherhood, I think I imagined that “redemption” would mean God saving me from some of the burdens of my situation. I thought 2017 might bring greater financial redemption, a new home, a relationship that could fill the holes left by past wounds, and a greater sense of a traditional family for me and my son. The redemption God had in mind was different than what I imagined. He revealed to me how much work He is still doing to fill up my empty places. His healing touch has covered so many of my relationships and circumstances. I’m learning to step back and trust God to lead me on HIS own path of redemption for me. And that means releasing my control on my best-laid plans, laying them at the altar, and for once, not picking them back up again.
️Over the past two weeks, looking to 2018, I asked for a word again. Can I be honest? I almost felt frustrated by the word that continued to show up- HOPE. My hopes have been at times dashed and defeated, and I hate to say that hope hasn’t been coming super naturally for me lately. But maybe that’s why God is whispering it to me, nudging me to a place that feels a bit cliche and uncomfortable. He maybe knows I could use a year focused on hope and the goodness He has for me. This year, I will work on finding my hope for the future in the Lord- not in my striving, my expectations, my goals (whether I achieve them or not), the people around me, my financial situation, my relationship status. God is the source of hope I want to cling to.
This verse was one I used to focus during my half marathon training, and it’s been coming to mind a lot today again:
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40: 30-31