When I was a senior in high school I was debating between two universities for most of the school year. One was closer to home, and for all intents and purposes a more "practical" choice. In April of that year, I finally recognized and submitted that God told me to go further away where I truly knew no one except the girl who would be my roommate, and our knowledge of each other was mostly through our parents' friendship.
That university, eight hours away from everyone I knew and who knew me, required me to leave my support system and start out in a place where no one knew a thing about me. Add to that that it is a Christian university, but being a Christian meant something dramatically different than anything I had known or experienced in all my life. I had grown up in the church, my parents are full of discernment and have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I accepted Christ very young, and had experienced an intimate relationship with Him from about the time I was 11/12. I knew God's voice, I had experienced following His will when it didn't make sense and seeing miracles happen, and my parents had lovingly guided me closer to Him.
But then I found myself in a place where everyone called themselves Christians, and there was definately something different about them, but they said that having a relationship with Christ included much more than what I was taught. It was scary to me. It was painful. "God why did you bring me here?" was my daily cry. I came to one conclusion - the answer had to be one of two options:
a. He brought me to this place to know what Christianity distorted looks like to show me how to hold my ground and recognize His truth from a lie
b. He brought me to this place to show me what my upbringing in the church was lacking. He brought me to show me what an intimate, powerful relationship with Him really looked like.
I think in my heart of hearts I knew that it was the second option, but that option was far to terrifying to really consider...it might mean that my parents had been wrong or that the people I had known and respected as Godly men and women had missed some major points...I was afraid, I felt alone, and I felt trapped. To be honest - I was almost afraid to pray, afraid of what God might be after all. I believed that accepting the things that were being taught meant I must reject all the things I had known before and all the people too, and I did not feel ready to do that.
So, I did what any intelligent person would do in that situation...I ran. All I needed was an "I'm not disappointed in you" from the people I trusted most, and I took that opportunity to run like hell!
I transfered universities to go back to a "comfortable Christianity", but instead I spiraled into a deeper darkness than I could have ever imagined. Perhaps it was even worse - Christianity reduced to academia and I no longer had the power God had given me to have a vivacious personality before. If you know me well, I am naturally a bit of a wallflower, introspective, etc, but in high school God had ignited a passion within me for His purposes that allowed me to be outgoing and joyful and touch others. I now had none of these qualities, I was barely hanging on, and the friends I had known before now no longer were interested in this rather dull, dark person I had become.
It took nearly a year before I saw what God wanted to bring me to when He first took me to a university far from home. Ironically I was in the darkest and lowest place when He started to reveal Himself to me, but unfortunately, I had still walked away from where He wanted me, and there was much collateral damage for my choice to run.
First of all, my choices had distorted the purpose and seasons of different relationships in my life...painful fallout that I am just now (at 25) finding myself able to dicifer the truth from lies in the rubble. I had hardly any life within me to pour out on others, and God was graceful to give me a few cool drinks in the dessert, but my choices left me scarred and without the grace of drive and completion I once knew. My support system was stripped from me, my sense of truth was so blurry, and I was burdened with an anxiety so strong it threatened to take my life.
I realize now that to some degree I have always been wound up a little tight, but when walking in God's purposes I could use that angst as almost a fuel like adrenaline. I found myself no longer able to utelize it, but rather consumed by it, drowning. At some point I found myself able to shove it down far enough to work and complete school, but it made its way out by wreaking havoc on my body - literally, I threw up 6-10 xs a day for weeks at a time before finally seeking medical attention (I was not pregnant ;)
Pastor Joe this morning spoke from the passage in Acts 9 where Saul (who persecuted Christians) has an enounter with God and has to walk literally blinded to the place He has for him to begin the ministry that God has prepared for him. Saul becomes the man we know as Paul - great man of God, incredible writer of His Word.
Pastor Joe talked about how "in the city" or the place where God told Paul to be there was awakening, a future, relationships, opportunities, providence and supplication. But the thing is, God did not tell Paul what He wanted him to do when he got there - He just told Him first to obey and move out in faith. It wasn't until he went by faith and stayed that Paul began to see God's plan working out.
He compared it to a game of hide and seek that we often play with kids. We do it with Laurelei too. Scott will hide in our closet and Laurelei will come looking for him. Scott will make little sounds for Laurelei to get an idea of his direction and he'll listen for where she goes. If she walks into our room but not finding him there or in our bathroom starts to walk out, Scott makes a sound again to draw her back in. When she finally opens our closet door to find Scott we all celebrate and there is much excitement. Then we do it again.
Proverbs 25:2 says, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings."
Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." I have thought a good deal about how women, by design, long to be pursued, and men, by design, are pursuers, but when this plan is thwarted or distorted the relationship is damaged. God created men and women in His image, male and female, and the need to be pursued is a uniquely feminine trait bestowed in the image of our most beautiful God.
I have known for a while now that many of the reasons of some of the struggle I am experiencing have to do with the moment I walked away from where God wanted me to be. Pastor Joe said this morning when we ask, "Why isn't your presence as rich as it used to be - why don't I have the same revelation from the Word I used to?" God's answer to us is simple, "Because you left where I told you to be."
How can we recognize the difference between self inflicted struggle by leaving God's place for us or struggle God allows in our life to shape us and grow us? The answer: life. Pastor Joe's first point this morning was "In the city is your awakening". Basically, whenever I am in the will of God I am alive - even if the situation is challenging. Every time we walk out of that will we sense death, burden, and we leave a trail of destruction, we walk out of protection.
I can say though, that when we recongize and admit to God that we have walked away, He is faithful to draw us back to Him. There are still consequences, but I can testify to the awesome grace of God shown daily to me through the incredible love of my husband and the blessing of my sweet daughter.
I'd also like to add, that in my situation, accepting the new things that God was showing me about Himself and relationship with Him did not require me to cast judgement on my upbringing in anyway. Instead, it was intended to show me that I needed to lean on Him and put me in uncharted waters where I had to follow only His voice.
God has kept my mouth largely closed about all of this for many years, and I can't say I fully understand why today is the day that He has opened my mouth (figuratively obviously) about some of this. Today, on a day when pregnancy has made me too sick and weary to actually step out of my home, so I had to watch church service on celebration livestream. Today, when my body is weary, when I feel little effective, little purpose other than to take care of my sweet girl and try to survive this pregnancy. Why today, for what end, I can only estimate that somehow by writing this God has given me the freedom and trust in Him to be totally honest about my struggle, and pray that in my sharing He will release other captives.
If you are in a similar season, take heart, dear one, our God is greater, our God is stronger. Lift up your eyes to the One who is so in love with You that He sacrificed His dear, perfect son. You are loved more than you can ever imagine, there is hope, there is future, and yes, God's grace is more than enough to cover all of your mistakes.