When was the last time you laid down on the floor, head to the carpet in fetal position thanking and praising God in silence for rescuing you? Not that you have to be in that exact position - but that is always where I end up! I am ecstatic for being rescued! I know that I have been blessed with the most emotional of all personality types but I just feel overwhelmed with joy sometimes at what He has done for me and continues to do! I have always been an optimistic and 'happy', positive person but those are external personality traits. I was missing joy, I was missing fulfillment, behind those smiles and laughter, I wasn't okay with me.
To tell a little bit more about what He has been teaching recently and to share more of my journey, I'd like to do a "then and now" post. Much of this will probably be thoughts on 'the church' because that's been on my heart a lot recently...but anyway, here we go.
Randi's then and now:
Then: I have always felt like an outsider at church. I feel like I've always been spiritually "in" with God and feel like I've always had a relationship with Him, but I didn't "fit in" at church. To get involved, the church always tried to convince me to join the drama or choir - but I never felt(and still don't!) any nudge to either sing or act haha. Besides SOMEBODY has to be sitting in the pews. I never liked how people judged my relationship with Christ based on how involved I was at church...and I still don't like it.
Now: I KNOW I'm an insider because of Christ - even if I feel like an outsider in a church! Instead of getting upset because people in general don't have good people skills and make othesr feel like outsiders, I just have to get over that. The majority of people only want to talk about "me" "I" "what God is teaching ME" instead of asking about others and being a good listener and that's just the way it is. I just have to have some grace and realize that I am the most imperfect person I know so I can't condemn others. I know that it's not my job to grumble about it and instead it is my job to be the example. It IS my job to BE the change I want to see in the church. I have to continue to work on my spiritual growth and my relationship with Christ not caring what others think about my relationship with Him. And eventually I know that He will help me find my specific role to help serve the church - but my guess is it won't be in the drama or choir :) we'll see.
Then: During my valleys aka slumps aka stalls --- I would start to blame my situation on others - family, church, pastor, whatever... I would have a pathetic victim mentality - griping about my circle of influence, my situation, bla bla bla
Now: I know that *I* am responsible for my spiritual growth. *I* am responsible for my relationship with Christ. I should turn to my loved ones when needed in the valley to get encouragement but my spiritual growth is up to me.
And there's something I want to add in here but I'm not sure where to put it so I'm just going to throw it in........God spoke to me last night this saying..... "The church is not what connects you to God....God is what connects you to the church" ........ I don't get to God through the church.... I am part of the church because of my connection to God. He is central, not the church. Also, the church isn't just a spiritual growth incubator - it's not like a college for christians - it's one aspect of our spiritual journey. I still need to figure out exactly what the purpose of the church is and look up more scripture on this -- but I just have this feeling that the way we see 'church' now isn't what it was meant to be like.
Then: During my childhood I always believed in God and I remember always being extremely faithful.... but I didn't grow closer to Him - my relationship just stayed the same. When I look back at writings from that time - I see that I loved God, I had so much faith and optimism for my life and always believed that He was there protecting me.... but I didn't pursue Him. I just kept the focus on me and what He was doing for me and learned about Him a little bit through books which were always my best friends...and youth retreats I went to.
Now: I do whatever I can to keep the focus on Him and off of me. I make sure to pursue Him daily. One of the most frequent requests I have of Him is to check my motives, to make sure to keep my humble.... I do not want to ever be prideful or self focused again. I don't want to start taking credit for my spiritual growth, because yes it's my responsibility - but the only reason it happens is because God blesses me with transformation because I am connected to Him, He flows through me. I don't want it to be about me at all.
Then: I used to base my relationship with God on emotions and feelings. I am an extremely emotional person. My personality type (sanguine melancholy) is the most emotional of the bunch. I'm just really in tune with my emotions. So in my immaturity, I based God's love for me on how I felt - the experiences I encountered with Him.
Now: I allow Him to help me use my emotions to honor Him but never let them control me. I no longer base the strength of my relationship with Him on how I feel. I am learning to be spirit-lead and not emotion-lead.
Then: Along the same line, I always used to interpret God through my situations. (have to give Pastor Pete props again here and give him credit for these words - through his sermons he helps put into words what I have been learning) In the beginning it was immature like this: if I was being blessed - He loved me; when I was struggling - I was being punished, I would think oh now He is so disappionted in me that He will never love me as much as He did before I messed up. Then years later a little bit along in my maturity it turned into something like when I would mess up, I would think things like oh God has left me, He will come back when I change. He is that disgusted He doesn't want anything to do with me until I get over this sin.
Now: I realize that my life events in no way change the nature of God. He is what He is and I can't interpret Him solely through what He allows in my life (or what He doesn't allow). He is so much bigger than anything I can see or experience. He is doing so much more than I'll ever realize. He never gives up on me -- He is right there in my humiliation helping me get back up off the ground!!! He's always there!! When I sin the guilt of my sin pulls ME away from Him but HE is there!
I believe that at some points in my life, exactly when I needed it, He has pulled back a little bit --- but during those times, the Spirit reminds me He's there. Just because I can't feel Him doesn't mean He isn't there --- those times are when it's time to pursue. It gets me back on my toes.
My point is --- God is doign something much bigger than we see! We aren't just puppets that He sort of throws events at to see what happens -- He is orchestrating everything perfectly. I know now I can't interpret God through my circumstances. No matter what is going on - whatever my emotions, whatever my situation - I have to trust that He is at work and He has a plan for me and that even when it doesn't seem like it - His hand is controlling my life.
Then: I used to use anything to fill up my days so I wouldn't have to come face to face with my nothingness (see pastor Peter's sermon, previous post for more on this)--- sex, alcohol, entertainment (eating out, movies, TV), food, purchasing, instant gratification in whatever area of my life, hobbies, success, popularity, physical transformation and addiction to hurry
Now: God has shown me my value. He has allowed me to come face to face with my ugliness only to say - it's gone! He only uncovers my eyes to my sin when He knows it won't break me down for good. I know there is a lot of sin in me He hasn't revealed yet that I'm not ready for--- but He is little by little helping me shed away all the distractions and ugliness in my life. He is showing me how to allow Him to fill me up so I don't have fill myself up with whatever else, and I don't have to be ashamed of my nothingness. what's awesome is that He has given me back those things which used to fill me and which (most of them) are not inherently bad - but now He has helped me enjoy them in His way on His timing and I enjoy them so much more!! They are purely just for fun now and to get closer to Him - not just "things" trying to fill the void, not just things I do to experience temporary happiness and then that wicked heart and soul ache hangover when they're done.
Then: He made very clear for me a vision for my life in May 2007 when grandma went to heaven. I HAD to know Him like she did. I had to be Christ-focused, I was willing to do whatever it took. But I didn't have any idea how to get to that vision - so I just used the universal success principles I had learned in other areas and decided that the first step was just to do SOMETHING and to do it for Him! So I asked Him what it was, what was the first step?....and He told me to start somewhere! Take a small step to pursue Him. So I started doing things that a person who was Christ-focused would do. So I did the sort of "fake it till you make it" thing. I started going through the motions. Getting up before everybody to have quiet time with Him....reading my Bible all the way through in a year.
Now: It's amazing how doing those actions brought me to Him. I found Him in that quiet time....or rather I was finally quiet and still enough to hear the Spirit and I realized He was there always!! He helped me realize He has always been here and it's my job to pursue Him. Now I want to be with Him so much that I don't have to go through any motions (although when I start to go through a valley - I do know it's time to increase my time with Him or my Bible reading) - I have learned to "just be" with Him throughout my day. To be ever-aware of His presence. To realize and to remind myself constantly that the curtain is torn!!! I have full access anytime anywhere to the God of this universe and I need to take advantage of that! He wants to be a part of my life! for more --- see my post from January http://randijosjourney.blogspot.com/2008/01/curtain.html
It's time for Raymond and Lennox and I to go for our walk and then head to the beach as usual haha so that's it for now. I hope you all have a great day. I hope you reflect on your then and now and tell God how thankful you are for all the changes you've seen!
Thank God for my blog friends for once again helping me get back on track. I am realizing more than ever that nobody is responsible for my spiritual growth but me. Church is not a social networking tool to acquire popularity --- it's about reaching out to people and all of us helping each other be fully devoted to Christ. Who cares that nobody cares about my story. Who cares that nobody asks about me. Who cares that sometimes I feel like an outsider. Who cares that no church is perfect - I am not perfect and it's never my job to condemn criticize or complain --- it's MY job to grow me and let God work on others! It's MY job to encourage and lift up others! It's MY job to be the change I want to see in the church/world.
Sometimes the most important way to be involved in church is to be the connection to the church for others. Notice that somebody who usually sits by you hasn't been around? find out their number, call them. You be the connection to the church for them! Let them know they are missed and important! It isn't the pastor or leadership's job to keep tabs on everybody - we have to cling on to each other! Listen to people - let them talk about themselves - let them tell their story! If somebody chooses to come to Christ or get baptized or join the church - be ECSTATIC!
So anyway - that's all for now -- Reminder to self: I am not connected to God through the church.... I am connected to the church through God/Christ. I am an insider.
And I just wanted to make it known again that I *KNOW* I have SOOO far to go and I am just at the beginning of my journey. I know I am still very infantile in my spiritual maturity in so many areas so please continue to challenge me when I say things or believe things that aren't in line with the Word. I have SO far to go - but MAN do I love this journey!! :)