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Monday, June 5, 2017

Grace: Set Apart

Have you ever been so lonely, you just wanted to be left alone to wallow in your loneliness? Call it a pity party, call it laziness, call it antisocial - whatever you deem it, it's miserable and not of God. And yet, that's where I've been. Perhaps it's still where I am, to some extent, although admitting it and dwelling on it in prayer these past few weeks is the first step to pulling out of it. Let me back up a bit and explain before you get the "abandon hope all ye who enter here" vibe. 

I've had a cutesy post about Christian community percolating for weeks now. I've written and rewritten it. I've sat down to do final edits and post, only to ditch the whole thing and walk away in frustration. I've tried to post it for almost six weeks now. Something held me back every time, sometimes with my finger literally hovering over the return key. 

I wanted to talk about how I just finished a Bible study with a women's group at my church entitled, "Believing Jesus: A Journey Through the Book of Acts," by Lisa Harper and Annie Downs. I'll be honest - I've never studied Acts in-depth, so I was curious to see what it contains and how it would change my walk with God. If you're not familiar with Acts, it was written by "Doctor Luke" (as Lisa calls him), the same man who wrote the Gospel of Luke. It is an action-packed account of the early days of the Christian church immediately following the ascension of Christ. The book is wonderful and really hit home for me. The longest I have ever lived in one place was four years, and I have been privileged to live and travel all over the world. Everywhere I've been, I've managed to find a wonderful church home that became as dear to me as extended family. And within that family, there were always those select few women who became dear sisters.

You know the type - the kind of women who hold you accountable but also hold you as you sob; the kind of women who encourage you, strengthen you, but also tell you when you're being selfish. These are the women to whom you bare your soul, second only to your husband (and God of course). Everywhere I've lived, I've been blessed to find at least one such woman and I still keep in touch with most of them today. They know my heart, they've loved me as only sisters in Christ can love. 

For some reason, five years ago this part of my life just froze in place. I had just moved to a new location, excited to be in a serious relationship and growing what seemed to be the beginning of a successful career. The next year was the single most miserable year of my life. There were certainly some very bright moments, such as when the man who is now my husband proposed and we were legally married a month later. But we didn't live in the same state, let alone the same house. I was miserable at work. I moved again within a year and had a beautiful wedding. But I almost immediately deployed for six months, thereby missing out on the opportunity once gain to develop any deep friendships. We moved again less than a year after my return. I was eight months pregnant, in a new state, freshly separated from the military (read: unemployed by choice to be a stay-at-home mom), and still practically newlywed. I was desperate for connections. 

Since then I've joined several Bible studies, toddler groups, spouse groups...I've reached out, volunteered, prayed earnestly...nothing. For the first time in years, I recently had time to sit down and really take stock of my life and the tremendous changes we had endured in just a few short years. Please don't misunderstand me - I adore my husband and trust him implicitly. No one knows me like he does. But I craved that deep, sisterly, Christian fellowship like I'd had in the past. It still hasn't materialized and I've implored God, in tears at times. The days drag on as I do my best to balance our now two children, my husband's frequent absences (due to work), finishing my Master's, staying involved in our church and community...I've been drowning in the everyday stresses of the mundane.

But just in the last few days, God has started to gently reveal to me the reason for this perceived loneliness. I've always thrown myself into every relationship, priding myself on being a "people person" and an "extrovert." I always refused to ever say no to anyone and relied on others at the cost of my personal relationship with God. I was putting others above God. It was putting a strain not only on my relationship with God, but also my home life. My husband, and even my mother, have always been quick to point out my seeming inability to tell anyone no. But I still didn't see how I was basically relegating God to the backseat. 

So this is a tremendously painful moment of grace in my life - God's grace in revealing this to me and forgiving me for my selfishness and pride; grace from my husband and family for not focusing on them as much as I should; and finally, grace in allowing myself time to pray, grow, and persevere. "Grace" is my word for 2017. I never could have known in January just how fitting that would be. It is even more amazing to me that God chose a book called Glimpses of Grace, by Gloria Furman, to show this to me. I wrote a review of this book on Goodreads and posted it to the blog in May. It has completely changed my life and the way I see my role in my family. I have a new focus now - learning to live the Gospel out in my home and allow God to work through me. As I do this, everything else will fall into place. And my loneliness will subside as I fill my heart and my home with the grace and love of Christ. I know it sounds idealistic, but it's the overarching truth that should be (WILL be) the focal point of our home. I also know it won't be easy and making such a commitment puts us directly in the crosshairs spiritually. Despite the inherent threat and effort involved, I need to put extra effort into ensuring God is at the center of my life and my home, at all costs. This is the only way we will have peace and live within the grace of God. 

Lysa Terkeurst mentions three encouraging thoughts about spiritual loneliness that really resonated with me:

  1. Look for the gift of being humbled - look for the opportunities for God to humble your heart and prepare you for life.
  2. Look for the gift of being lonely - chances are you aren't alone; use this opportunity to reach out to others who may be struggling in similar ways.
  3. Look for the gift of silence - it is often in the moments of silence that we hear God's voice. Lysa says: "I’m trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, 'God what might You want to say to me right now? I’m listening.'"

Being lonely may be painful at times, but it give me ample opportunities to grow closer to God. Instead of praying for God to provide a confidant, I now pray for God to help me feel satisfied in Him.

I've been learning a lot of other things as well as God has given me the time, desire, and resources to read voraciously. I'll be sharing these other lessons in the coming weeks as I continue to heal and learn to delight in the Lord. 

Won't you join me? 

Hapless but hopeful,

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