Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Follow the Leader

I actually wrote these thoughts down a week ago, but for some reason did not feel led to publish them at the time. God pushed me in a different direction that night covering an entirely different subject, and since then these words have been hanging out patiently in the "Draft" portion of my Entries Box. I hadn't given them much thought until today at my Bible study, when the very hymn I speak of in this entry was the one chosen for us to sing. I strongly felt the Holy Spirit nudging me and telling me it would be a good time to post this, and as you will see as you continue to read, I had no choice but to obey.
I never knew it could be so simple. I have heard the hymn hundreds of times since I was little, have sung it on multiple occasions myself, yet never really let the words sink in. Maybe you know which one I'm talking about.

"Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey."

Looking back I can see that for the majority of my life I had opted to do the one, without the addition of the other. I never had trouble with the trusting, it was the obeying that really didn't appeal to me. Sure, I believed that Christ died on the cross to save me from my sins. And, yes, I trusted that He had a perfect plan for my life if only I would just hand it over to Him. And I very much admired my father, and my mother, and numerous other people in my sphere of influence who seemed to have the whole package down pat. I even went so far as to be envious of their close walk with the Lord and the obvious fulfillment it brought to them. But was I willing to let go and give God control? Not on your life. To me, it seemed much more simple to worship God from a distance. To believe in the stories, but not internalize and practice the truths that came along with them. To appreciate what Christ did for me, and to love that He had such a strong, positive influence on the people close to me, but not take that extra step to see what He could possibly do with my own future. And I just kind of hoped that maybe by doing and saying the right things God wouldn't notice if I wasn't really 100% committed to Him.

And boy, was I good at it. If they would have handed out medals for people who could talk the talk without having to walk the walk, I'd have taken the gold every time. "Spiritual Idol"? "Praying With the Stars"? "The Biggest Liar"? Those trophies would have been mine, all mine.

I was not ready to completely hand myself over to Him, not when I was sure that I could do just fine living this life on my own terms. (You know what? Now that I think about it, maybe I wasn't so good at the trust thing after all.)

Well, He noticed. Turns out He can very easily distinguish between someone thinking He's a pretty cool idea, and someone who is experiencing flat on their face, tears pouring down their cheeks, soul giving worship. He saw right through my surface Christianity, convicted me of my award-winning fence-sitting, and felt it was time to call me out on it. I'm sure He would have let me stay wishy-washy if that's what I desired to do (He's never been one to force Himself on anyone), but He sensed my emptiness. He saw me searching for something more. He heard me call out to Him and question His ability to lead me out of the gray area I had called home for so long. And He answered me. He came down. He met me right where I was.

And then He had some questions for me as well.

Was I really ready to follow Him? Was I ready to let Him lead me into the unknown? Was I willing to make myself vulnerable to the loneliness, ridicule, and sacrifice that can often accompany such a decision? Did I fully understand the lifelong commitment that becoming His disciple would demand of me?

And with my forehead to the floor, my knees to the ground, I answered him back.

"Yes, Lord. I am Yours. Now please help me to live like it."

And this time I knew it was for real. No more shallow commitment, no more deciding to follow Him one day and then the next day opting to go it alone. No, He wanted all of me. And for the first time, I was ready to give it.

And some awesome things started happening over here. I started learning what it meant to trust the Lord with every part of me. And not only that, but I also started learning the joy (the joy! Who would have thought?) that goes hand in hand with obeying God's calling. And since then He has shown me blessing beyond measure. Even through the pain that accompanied my Dad's battle with cancer and his death six weeks ago, and through the grief that still follows me through every single day, I can say with certainty that God has been good to me. I have been faithful in responding to His call, and He has blessed me.

Sitting here today, writing to all of you, I have never been more excited and more confident about where I am in life. It has taken me a long time to get here, and I know that I still have a lifetime of learning in store for me, but God has shown me repeatedly that I need not fear the future. I do not have to harbor any anxiety over where I will be in one year, or five years, or twenty years, because I know my God goes before me. He has seen all of my tomorrow's, has them planned to perfection, and is just waiting for me to get there so He can continue to reveal His story and His purpose for me.

And the beauty of it is that all it took was for me to say, "Here I am, Lord. Send me". Be careful when you tell Him that it's okay to do this, because He will do it! He threw me right into this world of writing a year and a half ago when I had no idea where I was headed, what I was doing, or even what my next sentence would be. But I went on with complete assurance that I did not need to know, because He was holding the reins. All I needed to do was obey His direction, and trust that He would be the One to speak through me to the people He loves.

To be honest, I do get scared sometimes. I wonder if a time will come when I will just run out of words, or ideas, or inspiration. But then I remember Who it is that brought me here. He made a promise to me (and to you) in Philippians 1:6, a promise that declares we can go on "being confident of this. That He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". I plan to hold Him to His word on this one, and He would (and could) have it no other way.

He will always provide, He will always be here, and He will always see to it that His perfect plan comes to fruition. We just need to trust, and obey.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day thankful that my life is out of my hands. Never has being blindly led sounded so appealing. I thank You again, Lord, for this chance You have given me to reach others for You. The beauty of that opportunity remains beyond anything words could ever convey. I thank You for allowing me to see the freedom and the pure joy that comes along with following You. I look forward to tomorrow with excitement, just wondering what You have in store for me.
I pray for all of Your people reading these words right now, that they will somehow be moved to take the next step, to trust You, and obey whatever calling it is You have for their life. Give them a glimpse of the good stuff, Lord, the total fulfillment that accompanies knowing that they have found themselves in the center of Your will.
I pray for myself, too, Lord, that I can continue to trust that this site does not belong to me, but that it is of Your making, and You will carry it out to completion. Help me to not get in my own way with my own ideas of what should be said here, but may this place be used only for Your glory, and Your praise.
Thank You for the privilege of obeying You, and the gifts of Your presence and blessing that come hand in hand with it.
In Your Mighty Grip,

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