Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I Don't Live For Myself Anymore

The past couple months have been crazy. Bad crazy or good crazy? That answer would depend on the day you asked me. There have been some days where I can easily remain hopeful and even some days where I am filled to the brim with joy and bubbling over with gratitude for all that God is doing. In the midst of that, though, there have been hard days- I mean really difficult days where just getting out of bed is a challenge. I've had some days where I just feel completely and totally bogged down and overwhelmed, crying out in desperation. My anxiety has been through the roof on other days, altogether plagued with negativity and helplessness. My husband lost his job, I had mono and a whole host of other sicknesses, was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and began letting anxiety overtake me all within a matter of a few weeks.

In the recent months I have been met square in the face with illness and health concerns I've never experienced before, financial instability, relationship issues, self-image lies, and the list goes on. I felt like I was being hit in the face with baseballs and there was no way to dodge them. In this season I have many responsibilities and many tasks I have been entrusted with and trying to navigate those things while battling physical and emotional afflictions was exhausting to say the least.

This whole experience has been humbling, cleansing, and renewing.

Until recently, I had never really struggled with any health concerns. And honestly, I didn't truly know what it was like to struggle financially either. I recognize, though, that it could have been and still could be far worse, but experiencing these new challenges still changed me to the core and allowed me to understand that without complete dependence on God, I am literally incapable of absolutely everything. I am not somehow immune to going through hard situations, but God is right there to carry me through. If glorifying Him is the only thing that matters, even in the middle of chaos, that changes everything...

Eventually I realized that I had some important decisions to make. I could continue allowing emotions and circumstances to determine who I was and what my life was worth-or I could fall on my knees and earnestly seek God, desperately yearning for Him to fill me in all the places I felt isolated, scared, and confused. I could choose to let these hurdles weigh me down or I could boldly choose to say, "You know what? No. I don't live for myself anymore. I live to see God lifted high." God doesn't promise stability or pain-free living; He isn't a vending machine that spits out alluring things for me to grab. How shallow-minded to think that His intention for my life is constant comfort. I shouldn't be shocked that I've had to endure some unpleasant circumstances, but I should be humbled, speechless, and thankful that I do not have to endure them alone- and in complete awe of the fact that in the middle of my broken, pitiful mess God can transform my heart and point me towards Him.

My heart is black and yucky. I'm selfish and I want everything to go my way and line up perfectly. I believe that I shouldn't have to go through sickness and that I have the right to know 100% all the bills are going to be paid. But that's just what I think. My greed and grumbling and self-worship will always get in the way and speak lies. But guess what? I don't live for myself anymore. That takes the pressure way off. The burden is lifted. Trying to please yourself is exhausting and honestly, it can never be achieved. Once you realize that you are living for God and God alone, the way you think things should go is thrown out the window. It doesn't matter anymore. I want to worship God with my whole life. Instead of letting my blackened, cold heart rule over me I want God's grace, mercy, justice, and truth to define everything that I do. Shedding the ugly skin of self is agonizing and not natural. Jesus died on the cross to save me from the sin of living for myself. God is my healer and my provider; He fills me with His everlasting life and I never have to thirst again. He helps me to seek Him, love as He loves, serve as He served, and stand for the things He stands for.

I'm not living to ensure safety and security. I'm not living to ensure I have a steady cash-flow, a five-figure income, infinite savings, and a retirement plan. I'm not living for the perfect house with a view, the most qualified resume, or the most pristine wardrobe. I'm not living for a collection of social-media worthy snapshots and cool adventures. I'm not even living to retrieve the "good health" that I think I deserve. My life is more than a collection of earnings, accomplishments, and 5-year-plans. I could keep trying and trying and trying to build my perfect little kingdom here on earth. I could continue trying to meticulously plan and envision how my life should look and brainwash myself into thinking I am entitled certain luxuries, when in reality I'm not. 

I want to wake up each day and live for God. I want to lay completely open for Him to mold, make, and use. I want to take all of my expectations, all of my false Gods and comforts and tear them to shreds, because they only get in the way of God's plan. Living for God changes everything. Truly diving in head-first in pursuit of Him changes every interaction, every conversation, every decision, every relationship, every responsibility- it's all done for His glory and not your own. I'm not interested in sprinkling just a little bit of God in my life because it makes me feel good sometimes. It's all or nothing. Either you let Him take over or you don't. Either you live for Him or you live for yourself.

If I don't live for myself than I can go through struggles and still worship Him. I can be so filled with His joy and radiating with His life that circumstances do not control me. If the son of God could lay down His life, than who am I to hold onto mine?  I am free. I am free to let Him capture my whole heart and free to live radically for Him. When I let go of the expectation that I am somehow in control I release my life to fully let God move. In fact, this opens the floodgates of gratitude and blessing; the pain is no longer the focal point.
It's funny, because even though so many baseballs have been thrown my way the past couple of months- they have not knocked me out. I have literally felt God collect up all of those baseballs and toss them aside and speak to my heart and say, "Yeah, those things are here- but I don't want you to look at them. Look at this instead.." And he fixates my attention instead on what's important. I have seen Him move like never before in this season, opening new doors, new relationships, new purpose- so much new. God has ushered in so much hope; more hope than I can hold. He has helped me to open my eyes to the beauty that's going on around me and allowed me to be a part of it instead of being plagued by darkness and disease.

I'm still navigating this. I forever will be. I constantly have to say, "Okay God, I am a mess. My instinct is to live for comfort, pleasure, and stability- but please help me to recklessly abandon all that I want, throw out all that I've planned and to stop living for myself. Help me, God, to live only for you; to live to see you lifted high and worship you in awesome times and undesirable times. Make my words, your words. Make my thoughts, your thoughts. Make the way I love, the way you love."

*I encourage you to listen to "I Don't Live For Myself Anymore" by Isla Vista Worship. This song has effected me greatly and helped to inspire this post.