Last night after working a shipment shift at Bath and Body Works, I came home, crawled in my bed and, cried myself to sleep.
Because here is hard.
Here is not what I pictured or imagined.
Here I am confused and overwhelmed by the messiness of my life.
Here I am lonely.
Here I am frustrated.
As the tears came, and I finally let them continue, I quietly choked out a few of those things to God. I managed to tell him that I was confused and frustrated and overwhelmed and that I am mad that he brought me here. Really mad.
I'm mad because I feel like He asked me to give up a lot of things that I loved to come to this place, and I feel like He isn't even here with me now. I'm mad because I keep asking to hear Him or see Him in a very tangible way and yet I continue to hear and see nothing.
Mostly I'm mad at myself because I am not responding to all of this like I should or like I want to.
But therein lies the first problem. A wise lady (and dear friend/mentor of mine) told me this summer, "You have got to stop using the words 'supposed to.' How am I supposed to feel? How am I supposed to pray? You have got to live and pray honestly."
Seems simple enough, but let me take you into my brain for just a moment.
I am an overachiever. There is no gentle way of saying that. I want to do my best, the best at everything I do. I want to figure out what is required of me and go for it with all I've got. I want to be the star student. I don't ever want to disappoint. Teachers, parents, friends, God.
Usually, I am a person that people expect to get things right. Not because I am perfect (not in the least) but because I am a perfectionist and I will usually do whatever it takes to get it right. I suppose I am harder on than myself than anyone else, and I create most of the pressure and expectations.
This is exactly what I have done with God.
I have this awful habit of taking my views from relationships with people and the way I function in them, and projecting them into my relationship with God. This is so, so backwards.
That being said. I am realizing that what I tend to do, is pray as the person I think I should be after a lesson is learned rather than praying as the person that I am right now in the midst of learning the lesson. In other words, something goes awry, and I realize right away that God is trying to teach me something. I have spent enough time in church and even in God's Word to have a pretty good idea (or at least think I have a pretty good idea) of what He is trying to get me to see in any given situation. So, whether or not I mean to, I start praying like I am supposed to once that lesson is learned. For example, when I realize God is trying to teach trust and reliance on Him, I start praying like I have learned to trust and rely on Him.
I get ahead of myself.
I am impatient.
Somehow I subconsciously think that if I skip ahead and start speaking as if I have learned the lesson, we will speed up the process. When what I should be doing, is praying honestly from where I am at the moment. But that star student in me just doesn't want to disappoint, and a lot of times I am sure the most raw and honest places in my heart would do just that.
I also realize that I don't like being vulnerable with God. In part because of the above reasons and in part because I am doing that thing where I treat God like a human. I have had a lot of experiences when vulnerability and showing a person the deep things in my heart leads to abandonment and hurt. This has left me wanting to avoid vulnerability in order to protect my heart. Even from Jesus.
So last night as I cried myself to sleep, disappointed in myself and how weak I felt and how awfully I was handling this season, I figured that if I was already crying I might as well get vulnerable with Him.
I am not even sure when I fell asleep or what all I said to Him before I did. When I woke up, I had that cry aftermath about me. You know when you are all sniffly and you sound like you have a cold when you talk and there are makeup and tear stains down your face and your hair is a little bit matted? No? Just me....? Anyways. I woke up to a text. A text from a dear college friend telling me that I had been on her heart for the past few days and she would like to know how she could pray with me today. I literally texted her one sentence, and she responded by saying that she would like to commit to praying with me in this season. (#weareCBC)
I didn't even know I had any left.
But in that moment. Even for just a moment, God was there. It was like He heard my little sobs and watched me fall asleep and thought, "I cannot let her forget who I am or how I feel about her. Not now." And so like He always does, He showed up. Not in the way I was expecting, though if I am honest I have no idea what I was expecting, but at any rate I knew that He was speaking and showing Himself to me. And that was enough to carry me into the next moment. Sometimes that's all we get, and we have to be okay with that.
Once I finally dragged myself out of bed and pulled myself together (slightly) I decided to put on my big girl panties and at least do my part. So, I opened up to Exodus where I have been studying as of late. And to my pleasant surprise, God continued to speak.
#1 Moses stayed in Midian (AKA the desert) for 40 years tending sheep.
Here I am complaining about my time in the "wilderness" and loathing it after just 3-ish months...#realitycheck. God brought Moses into the desert for 40 years just to train him and prepare him for when He called him out into the desert for ANOTHER 40 years. Of course God had to train Moses in the ways of the wilderness so that he would be able to lead others through the wilderness. And don't think it's an accident that Moses got his training with sheep (the stupidest most stubborn animals). Those Israelites weren't too far off.
My fire Bible commentary says it like this, "God did some of his most important work in Moses' life while he was in the desert."
#2 "When they turned to the Lord, He responded to them."
This sort of punched me in the gut. I keep being upset because I don't hear God or feel Him and I feel like He isn't speaking....but then I read this and a thought occurred to me. Time and time again in the Bible, God responds when His people come to Him...genuinely come to Him. Maybe my problem is not that God is not doing His part, but rather that I am not doing mine. Not really. Perhaps pride is stopping me from really seeking out God or really letting Him respond. Perhaps I am too busy trying to figure it all out on my own. #probably #soundslikeme
#3 When God did finally appear to Moses and reveal Himself in a very big way, it was on the "far side of the desert." (Exodus 3:2)
God did not show up or speak after Moses took just a few steps into the desert. Nope. He waited until Moses was thirsty and tired and starving and feeling defeated and doubting everything before He showed up. Because God needed Moses to be in a desperate, needy place in order to see Him. Of course that's where He has me now. He's got to bring me to that place, where I have no choice but to cry out to Him that He would show Himself and make Himself real to me. That place where I can no longer trust or rely on myself or anyone else to bring me through. (In my opinion we are approaching that place rather quickly. I am guessing He does not think so)
#4 "I am who I am" -God
This title has never really made sense to me and I have never fully grasped it, but when I read the explanation in my Fire Bible commentary yesterday, it spoke to my heart in such a deep and personal way.
"I want to be known as the God who is present and active. Yaweh reflects the promise of God's constant presence with His people."
#5 This wilderness/desert experience defined these people.
"These dramatic events would forever be proof that the Israelites were God's people."
Oh, God! Let that be my story! That these dramatic, hard, exhausting, confusing, overwhelming events would forever be evidence that I am yours!
#6 God turned evil to good
Just like He always does! But this time, God used something meant for evil and blessed it in a very literal way! The very river that Pharoh spoke death over, God brought life from it! The river that Moses should have been placed in to die, God used to bring him abundant life beyond what he ever could have imagined. This story is such a beautiful example to us. When we are willing to let go of the things that we love most dearly and want to cling to most tightly, and entrust them to God, He can bring them back to us and restore all that seems lost in ways we can't ever dream of or imagine! Not only did God spare Moses' life and place Him in royal care, he provided an opportunity for him to be reunited with his mother...his mother who expected to never see him again if he even survived!
I will leave you with this prayer. I know undoubtedly that it is Spirit given because I texted it to a friend in the midst of that mini meltdown I recounted above.
"That we won't waste these in-between places by groaning and rushing through them. But instead, we will walk at whatever pace God has knowing that he's brought us out here for a reason and there's much beauty and inspiration and opportunity to be alone and to take deep breaths with him. That He will show Himself and lead in the most miraculous ways. That we will be following behind pillars of clouds and of fire and seeing water come from rocks and allowing those moments to carry us in faith to the next. That we won't quickly forget tomorrow how He showed up in our lives today."