Sunday, September 14, 2008

Awakened.

*Before I start, I'd just like to say,
I made it onto the Motion writing team.

It's an empowering feeling to be able
to use a gift the way that God intended me to,
for his glory.*



My church set this week aside to focus all of our attention on God so that we'd be open to hearing what he had to say about the coming ministry year for our church and for ourselves.

There were many spiritual disciplines that we were going to practice, none of which I had experienced before. But I went all in. Here's what my week looked like.

  • Wake up at 4:45am.
  • Be at church by 6am for contemplative prayer and quiet time.
  • Leave at 7am for home, pray, journal, read, and get ready for work.
  • Work 9:30am to 6pm. Use lunch break to study the bible. (I also wrote down any verses that stuck out to me, which as I write this entry and read over them, I realize how closely they correlate with the events of the week. I've included a few.)
  • Drive straight to church for evening service.
  • Worship/pray from 7pm to 10pm.
  • Drive home. Journal or read, pray.
  • Sleep around 11pm.
(Repeat)

I was also fasting. I have been reading a lot about and have been wanting to experience it for myself. I'd planned to fast only lunch, and to use that half hour a day to read and focus and pray, but I felt called to push myself further than that. I can't say I was completely consistent though, there were two nights after church that I really needed to eat something. I also fasted from the things that normally capture all of my attention: internet, TV, etc. I really spent all of my time (minus work) devoting my energy to God.
It was intense, to say the least.

I went into it with expectations, or at least hopes, that I would get a clear message from him; a word, a phrase, an image. I wanted to know if I'm in the right place, doing the right things. I wanted to know what was up ahead. I thought I could ask God for what I wanted to hear and I would get the answer I was looking for. But that wasn't what God was calling me for.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
Proverbs 19:21


They said a lot about how we were there to be ministered to, but also to minister to other people. I didn't know how I'd fit into that. I had never prayed out loud, either in a group or for someone. I didn't see how I was fit to minister to anyone. Who am I to do that?

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness
through our knowledge of him who called us
by his own glory and goodness."
2 Peter 3:11


There were a lot of moments where God pushed me beyond my comfort zone. I had honestly never vocalized a prayer, not even by myself. And the first time was in a group with people I didn't know, and my assigned prayer was for the last few months of George W.'s presidency (which, if you know me, was pretty ironic), and I have to say, I was so worried about if I was saying the right things that I don't think it was much of a prayer to God but to the people in my group. It got easier each night, as we were led to pray in groups over different things and I became a lot more comfortable. Another first was praying for someone out loud. Thursday it was for healing of a girl with cystic fibrosis, and it was a strong experience of loving a complete stranger.

To be completely honest, I spent the first few days in self-serving expectancy, praying that he would speak to me, please! God, where are you!? All I can hear is my voice echoing back at me! The leaders kept talking about how if we couldn't feel anything or hear anything, it was probably because there was something standing in our way. And I knew this must be true, but all the self-analysis in the world couldn't have gotten me there. My prayers turned to a longing to know what was in my heart that I didn't see.

"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you."
Matthew 7:7


When I finally started to just be still and quiet, God uprooted some significant truths about myself that I hadn't even been aware of. It took one sentence in one prayer I received from a girl I'd never seen before to reveal a lot of pain I had so hidden away I couldn't find it. I felt like I'd been broken in half.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed."
2 Corinthians 4:7


I ran across the hall to talk to someone in the prayer room and my story came spilling out, along with all of my worries and fears and doubts about God's love and about ever finding someone to love me like that. Things I had never been honest about, not even with myself. The girl I was talking to sat listening and didn't seem to know quite what to say, but I just felt like I needed to get everything on my heart out. When the service ended, I sat on one of the couches and wrote in a journal they had for people to write in. In a jumbled mess I tried to recount all the things that had come up. I prayed for God's help in keeping that wall broken down so that it could be healed, and not concealed again.

Of all the things that resurfaced, one major theme was how much emphasis I put on what people think of me. I spend more energy and thought on earning people's admiration than I had any idea, because deep down I'm afraid that people will leave me. I can say a million times that it's God's opinion that matters and no one else's, but in reality, I am incredibly self-conscious. The more I thought on it, the more I realized how many years worth of bricks I had laid down in an attempt to build up a person that people would like and respect and stick with; so much so that I don't even begin to know myself. One of the most painful things about it was the fact that I have never truly worshipped God, because I've always been so concerned about what people will think of me. It's never been from the heart; it's just been singing.

I'm still far from letting go of the concern about what people think, but realizing how much it affects the way I live is the first step to releasing it. It was on Thursday night that I truly worshipped from my heart for the first time and wasn't thinking about who was watching. It was the first night that I've been filled by the spirit in months.

It took God all week to answer my prayers that he break down the barrier keeping me distant, but he did, and I am so thankful for it. As intense of an experience as it was, I couldn't have asked for anything more.

As an end to the week, we spent Friday night recounting all that God had done in our church. They had a few people get up and read excerpts from the journals people had been writing in, and it felt like the floor beneath me dropped away when they read my journal aloud to a packed room. I wanted to cry and hide and smile all at the same time. After my journal entry, they read one written by a girl on Thursday who had been prayed over; she wrote about how thankful she was for prayer for her cystic fibrosis and how she was reawakened to the joy and comfort that only God can provide.

Not only did my Heavenly Father remind me how much his love doesn't need to be earned but is given freely and without limit, but he showed me how he is using me to love and comfort and minister to others, even when I don't believe I'm capable of that myself.

"Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:38


The most peaceful truth I can sink into is knowing that the most powerful, mighty creator of the universe who knows and sees all, loves me more than I will ever be able to comprehend, and is eternally faithful.

I wear my 'Awakened' dog-tag (which ROCKHARBOR had imprinted and gave out) now as a reminder to keep my eyes not only fixed on him, but wide open always.

I ended this week tonight, in a celebration service with all of my new team members, and when they asked if anyone had anything to share about this past week I got up in front of my church (wow, you really don't realize how many people are there until you're standing in front of them holding a microphone) and described everything that happened. And after the service I had all kinds of people come up and thank me for sharing my story. I continue to be in awe of the fact that I would be able to minister to anyone at all, being so new in my faith. Then again, God doesn't really have a track record of only choosing the most mature, sinless, righteous people for his works.



"Do not comform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Romans 12

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