Saturday, July 1, 2017

And Ten Years Later, He's Still the Same

I can remember like it was yesterday—the chaos of twenty all packed into one house. The late night games, laughing til I couldn’t breathe, photos on the beach, dressed in white and khaki that still hang in my room all these years later. The longest and hottest bike ride of my life to Ft. Pickens, where they’d made so many memories in the years prior. I remember sitting between my brothers having a fruity drink at the restaurant they held dear. The swing. Oh the porch swing! It was my favorite place to think and journal and talk late into the night with my sisters.

Ten years later, we’re back here and we drove past that little house on our way into town. Our family has grown over these years. We've walked through the darkness of great loss, as well as celebrated new covenants made, and new lives birthed. Kids have grown into adults and life just keeps on going.

There is something so special about this place. This time with my people. Recalling the miraculous ways God has seen fit to continue His good work in my life over these past ten years has in itself, been life-giving in many ways. And yet I’m reminded today, that even this place itself isn’t lasting. That little house with its swing, fades in color and even the waves come and go. This long-awaited family time is so wonderful, yet imperfect as well.

Life has changed so much, I’ve changed so much. But in the midst of it all, you know what is most amazing? He hasn’t changed!

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? (Ps. 18:31)

He is the same God who saw fit to take a 16 year-old little girl with so much pain, fear, and pride and show her that she simply couldn’t live like that any longer, self-sufficient and self-consumed. Ten years ago, He plopped her down in the middle of that beach one evening and she came face to face with Him, recognizing Him as Creator and Father. She looked out over those waves, music in her ears and she understood for the first time in her life that God was actually real and that maybe, just maybe, He had a plan for her life. Maybe there was more than this? 

Over the months prior and in the months to follow, He continued to draw me to Himself through the faithful witness of my siblings. When they had come into my life when I was sixteen, I knew immediately something was different about them. Even in some of my darkest moments, they were there. They were the first tangible picture of the love of Christ in my life. My brother and sis-in-love continued to share the Gospel with me and live it out in front of me. 

Somewhere along the way, my story has become His story. The ways I’ve changed over these years highlight the ways He has NOT. That’s the best news in all of this!

He is still the same, in the ugly and the beautiful. In this season right now, even ten years into this thing, I often find myself so frustrated by this perpetual bent towards sin and myself. These patterns are so deeply knit into me and they continue waging war. The ways in which I grasp on again and again for control and worth, sinking my feet deep into things that just can’t bear up beneath me.

Fitting into a smaller dress size, decorating a house which would far exceed the standards of Chip and JoJo, becoming an expert in my field of work, the hours spent pondering what others thought about that dumb thing I said last week or the way I handled this situation. Even the way I use hospitality or binge-watch yet another show on Netflix can become an idol. The inticing draw of the next thing, the next season. Dare I mention, that Pinterest wedding I’ve already got planned while still awaiting the groom…the list goes on and on, but it’s all just sinking sand. 

Sometimes it’s so hard to watch ourselves battle over and over with those same dang sin patterns, that perpetual bent towards self, whatever that is for you. Some seasons have felt lighter, easier if you will. Many even joy-filled and free. Others have led me to the depths of darkness and seemingly without escape. And sometimes it all sort of just lingers, for a reason unknown. For years I’ve thought that once this pattern is broken, once I stop doing that for a year, or stop thinking those thoughts for a month—well then I’ve arrived. THEN, I’m really a faithful follower of Jesus. At that point, He can finally use me for Kingdom purposes.  

But this week, He’s given such a needed glimpse into how much He has done both in and through my life when I recall where this all began, with that little girl sitting on this beach. When I’m frustrated about giving in yet again to a past sin or thought pattern, I’m reminded of how far He has brought me. I'm reminded to be a little more gracious towards myself, a little more patient. 

“He draws me from the past back to the present with an assurance that sanctification is slowly doing its work TODAY. " (Jen Wilkin) Today is all I can worry about. Tomorrow has enough worry for itself.

And we’re limited, right? From day one, our limitations are by design. Whether we spend the remainder of our lives denying or embracing this basic truth makes all the difference in how we will love God and others. We get the joy of bearing His image as we were intended to, ONLY when we embrace our limits. Our limits teach us to fear Him. To remain dependent. (Jen Wilkin)

A constant reminder, that we cannot do it all—and I don’t know about you, but I’m learning that sometimes, the most “spiritual” thing I can do is take a deep breath and chill out!

Whether He sees fit to deliver me now from certain sin battles or later, the anchor for my ever-wondering heart is simply that He promises He WILL. And I trust that promise because He IS. He was. And He will be. He is limitless and I am His!

"I AM who I am," He says.  Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. "For I the Lord do not change," (Mal. 3:6).

My hope is in the reality that I will see Him face to face and He will redeem and restore FULLY on that day, if not before. This will not last forever. My hope is no longer in how I felt ten years ago or in how I feel today, but in the promises He gives in His Word that are balm to the brokenness we all know far too well on this side of things. He is forever. But our brokenness is not!

Looking back over the past ten years, one thing I know now far more than I ever could have imagined then is Him. These years have changed me, and I’m grateful. But how amazing is it that He has not changed?! The same God who drew that little girl into intimate relationship with Himself all those years ago, has proven true over and over and over again.

He has never left her or forsaken her. He has wounded and bound her up. He has broken bondage in some areas and He has asked her to wait and trust in others. He’s allowed pain and been her only source of healing. He’s used hard things to teach her what it means to depend on Him for strength and value. He’s provided in ways that are nothing less than miraculous. He’s offered grace upon grace. He abounds in steadfast love.

It is His grace alone that has carried me and sustained me through these past ten years. I had no clue then, how much I would love Him now, how different my life be in Him. And He will be the one who continues the good work that HE began. Praise Jesus! 

He is forever. 

And a decade ago, these siblings began to speak of THIS God, this Christ--the one who is my hope today. Ya'll, speak of the hope that you have in Christ--only He can bring a dead heart to life! 




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