Monday, May 12, 2014

Part I: Independently Wicked

Life can be funny sometimes - funny in the "this is so great and unexpected" kind of way, and funny in the "I honestly have no idea what just happened or how I got here" kind of way that leaves you feeling lost and blindsided. I've been experiencing the latter lately.

Reading some of my previous posts on this blog, where my faith seemed to be soaring and my desire to serve God and His children was being acted upon with great joy, is a little disconcerting. I feel like I am reading the blog of some other  human being, notwithstanding that those are the very words that I have written myself! In those words during those times of my life, it seemed unthinkable that I could step away from God or that I could ever think that I didn't need God in my life again. I had been there before, and thought I had finally learned that life without God is empty and unfulfilling. Sure, I still struggled with doubt in some areas and sin in others, but I knew that despite the struggle, and indeed because of it, I needed God more than anything. I desired Him and His presence brought me great joy.  "All I need is Jesus" was something that I clung to desperately, and with great hope, though never with perfect understanding.

Yet between then and now, I somehow chose to let go of that hope in Jesus in the hope of attaining something far more  subtlety seductive and far less good and true. In many ways, this was a slow and secret turning of my heart towards man-made idols that didn't overtly manifest itself in outward signs at first - but it certainly did change the way I related to God, to others, and to the church that I had begun to serve with. For those that were close to me and paying enough attention, I'm sure I wasn't fooling you at all. And there were a select few to whom I confessed this struggle to; my confusion, my hardheartedness and my struggle to understand why I was feeling and thinking the way that I was in the hopes of  receiving guidance and the motivation/inspiration/whateveritwas to get me 'back on track'. But despite some blessed moments of clarity and what felt like steps forward, I remained in this place of what I can only now define as - chosen independence from God. 

I truly hated the internal war I was feeling - especially because it seemed to be that  my sin, the devil, or whathaveyou was winning and I was spiralling further and further away from God. I was not desiring to be close to God (but at the same time wanted to be), I was not desiring to serve others or alongside my church (though I knew that I should), I was not willing to go out of my comfort zone to trust God (though I knew He was trustworthy) and I was focusing more and more on 'bettering' myself and preparing myself for my future career while simultaneously sliding back into sinful patterns that I thought were done and dealt with. This produced bitterness and envy in me towards those Christians who seemed to be doing the very things I was struggling to do - indeed that I didn't even want to do though I knew I should be doing them! God is gracious and still met me in various ways during this period - but my heart was closed to Him.

I relate so much to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Tempted by the serpents twisted 'wisdom' and subtle lies - you can be like God, you don't need to depend on God, you can rule your own life and make independent choices away from Him - you can have a happy future without God!
Though I would never state these things explicitly, for all intensive purposes, this was the way I was living even while trying to live for God! Going back and forth from 'Jesus is Lord' to "I am Lord." How messed up is that? It's the height of arrogance.

But believing that lie, however awful it is on its own - brought with it a bunch of other lies that kept me from turning back to God wholeheartedly. Once "I am Lord," everything falls apart and sin is master and the serpent gains a foothold. I began to despair of my hardheartedness towards God - I began to think that I had gone too far - sinned too much, done the same things too many times, and now I was cut from God and unworthy to call myself a Christian.  How can I abandon God for my own sinful desires and call myself a Christian? I need to pray, I need to read my bible, I need to serve my community, I need to stop doing things for myself and focus on others. I've never even led someone to Jesus. What is wrong with me?! If I'm not doing these things, then I am just a total failure of a Christian. I  am just a total selfish, failure. Maybe I am not even a Christian - maybe I've just been deceived into thinking I am. Thats honestly where I landed.

"He boasts about the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. His ways are always prosperous; your laws are rejected by him; he sneers at all his enemies. He says to himself, "Nothing will ever shake me." He swears, "no one will ever do me harm."  - Psalm 10: 3-6

I read this and felt the truth of it like a dagger in my heart - I am the wicked man. 

There is  this part of me, still believing the aforementioned lies, that wants to say, "Well then, that's that. I'm wicked, I'm prideful, and there's no way I can change that. I guess I'm just not cut out for this. Time to throw in the towel and ...." I'm not sure what would come after that, although in some ways I think I have already lived it and it has been decidedly not good. And that's not what I want at all.

But this struggle is real for me, and for others, and leads to some crucial questions.

Where do I go from here? Is this the end of my faith? Should I just give up on following God and do what I want because I am never going to live up to.. live up to.. live up to what exactly? What is it that I am not understanding about this? How do I orient myself towards God in the midst of this?!


 The truth is that the process that I outlined above, going from joy in the Lord - to making independent choices apart from God, to hardheartedness, believing more lies, and despair at my sinfulness and doubt is a process that doesn't just happen in the macro - a big arching plot across my life,  but begins in the micro of everyday decisions and thought-patterns. I either choose dependence on God, or independence from God - with every choice. And they both have consequences that spiral out and affect everything. I guess the punchline is that I often feel like I am completely incapable of choosing dependence on God consistently.

As this is such a lived experience for me, I am still struggling to understand this. But it would be untruthful to leave this scenario at this place of hopelessness. Because this is not where my faith ends, but where faith begins!!!!

That being said,  I think I need to let this 'marinate' some more in my brain and heart before I get to the good part. I need God's revelation and truth to rise up!

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