Saturday, August 22, 2015

Like a Bride

Joy. Anticipation. Happiness. Excitement. Love.

These were among my top emotions on my wedding day and the days and months leading up to it. Sure, stress was mixed in there every once in awhile along with some tears of frustration during the planning process, but mainly the emotions listed above. I remember my trip to the post office to buy stamps to send out invitations vividly. I told the woman helping me that I was buying them for my wedding, and I'll never forget her response:

"You don't looked stressed at all! Wow! I'm surprised."

I jokingly responded with, "My mom and nanny have got that part covered," but I still laugh when I think about my initial internal response. Oh no! Am I doing something wrong? Am I suppose to be stressed? What do I need to be stressed about? Does it count if I'm stressed about not being stressed?!

After I got to the car and attempted to sort my thoughts, it finally dawned on me to ask the Lord about it. I prayed, "Lord, I just love Brandon so much and I can't wait to marry him. The planning process can be a bit tedious, but when that happens I remind myself how wonderful it will be to be married to him and I get caught up in thinking about that. I've had multiple people now comment on stress, as if I'm not doing this whole 'prep for marriage thing' right if I'm not stressed about it. Are they right? Should I be stressed?"

Faithful and true to His word, the Holy Spirit reminded me, "Do not be anxious about anything, but with prayer and petition present your request to the Lord." Then, I was reminded of all the wonderful qualities of Brandon, all the ways he points me to Jesus, and that the purpose two believers' marriage is to show the world how Christ loves the church and how the church freely and joyfully serves Christ. So I breathed a huge sigh of relief and determined it was in fact O.K. that I was surprising people by my unstressed face.

It had been awhile since I thought about this (now funny, but in the moment very confusing) little encounter. Then I heard the song "Even So Come" by the Passion band with the words:

"Like a bride waiting for her groom, we'll be a church ready for You."

I couldn't sing along. I felt a knot in my throat. And I couldn't sing along. Because I know what it's like to be a bride waiting for her groom. I know the emotions you feel when you are excitingly anticipating that day. I know how you some days you almost seem to float, you are so full of joy. I know how you start holding your receipts and everything else you have to sign with your whole hand so someone will let you talk about the fact you are engaged and about to be married. I know what it's like to be consumed with thoughts only of marriage bliss.

I know all of these things, so I have a sinking feeling in my stomach and tears collecting ready to spill at any moment when I heard the words "we'll be a church ready for You."  

Recently, I have been getting very stressed very easily. If you looked at my thoughts, my words, my actions, my heart, my time, my money, my life, it would not look at all like a bride waiting for her groom. It would not look at all like I was ready for Jesus to come. Honestly, I've been longing for just about everything accept my King. And it is breaking my heart. 

So as I sit here with my stomach in knots, a knot in my throat, and a heart that feels like it is too hard and self consumed to ever long for Jesus, I can feel my Savior's love fall over. I can hear Jesus say, "I'm here. I love you. It's going to be O.K. You got distracted for a little while, but I never left you. I'm so glad I saved you. You won't even believe how we are going to advance My Father's kingdom together. His will on earth, as it is in heaven."

My prayer for you and me is that we may be filled with the Holy Spirit each day. May our hearts long for our king. May we be just like a bride waiting for her groom. May we be a church ready for Jesus.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

I'm a reader. Always have been.

In 4th grade I had 200 AR points by Christmas. If you don't know what this means, just know this is a very impressive feat of reading all the time instead of doing other important things. Like homework, cleaning up my room, minding my mother, the list could go on. (Now would be an appropriate time to apologize to my mom for hiding in a corner and reading instead of cleaning my room. I'm truly sorry... kind of. I really enjoyed those books.)

As if getting that many AR points by Christmas wasn't hard enough, (never hurts to toot your own horn when talking about your childhood, right?) what truly makes this amazing is how picky of a reader I was. My mom always said, "You can't judge a book by it's cover," but my superior 10 year old mind knew that was just plain silly. Of course you can judge a book by the aesthetic appeal, or lack there of, and decide immediately whether the story that went along with it was worth getting emotionally invested in or not. (Although I'm not sure I had those exact thoughts as a 10 year old. It was probably more like "That looks ugly. The story is boring. Moving on.") 

So, as I sit here at Panera Bread in Phoenix and think about how thankful I am I outgrew judging a book by it's cover, I am humbled to my core by the realization that I no longer judge books like this. I judge people like this. In my 23 young years I have accumulated a set of assumptions to go along with certain "covers." Very rarely do I ever think about the "story" that goes along with these "covers."

I see the beautiful girl sitting opposite of me in the bleachers at a Spring Training game with the designer purse, the sunglasses, perfect skin, fit body and perfect mani/pedi and immediately assume I know her "story" based on a quick glance at her "cover."  In this way I have placed her into a category (which in my opinion is a form of dehumanizing) and have therefore relieved myself of feeling obligated to go share my life with her and find out about her's. 

Because since I think I know her story, I assume we have nothing in common besides baseball. Since I am assuming, based on her "cover," that nothing is wrong in her life I decide it is unnecessary for me to share about my Jesus who binds the brokenhearted with her. Besides, I have trouble trusting Jesus with Brandon's career. How am I suppose to share truth and hope with this girl?

"My strength will be made known through your weakness." - Jesus

I see the man (or boy - it's often hard to tell from afar) sleeping in the shade at the park with a dirty backpack on and a few layers of ragged clothing on. With a quick glance at his "cover" I assume I know his "story."  In this way I have placed him into a category (which in my opinion is a form of dehumanizing) and have therefore relieved myself of feeling obligated to go share my life with him and find out about his. 

Because I think I know his "story," I assume we have nothing in common. Then, I assume based off of his "cover" that there are so many things wrong in his life that it is unnecessary for me to share about or show Jesus to him because he appears almost too broken. Besides, I don't have the time or resources to meet any of his physical needs. How am I suppose to share truth and hope with this guy?

"And the first shall be last, and the last shall be first." - Jesus

So just like that, twice in the same day, I have judged a book by its cover. But now the consequence is not just missing out on reading a good story. No, the consequences now are much heavier. It is missing out on being a part of someone's God story. Because of the categories I placed each person in based on their "cover" I forgot that a each has a story. 

Maybe the girl dreamed of this kind of life as child but now that she has it realizes that it can not fulfill her and is more confused and hurt than ever before. Maybe the guy never dreamed he would be the guy without a home but with a nasty addiction and has realized that it can not fulfill him but doesn't know there is hope. 

The last job I have is judging whether or not people need or deserve to hear about the hope of Jesus's love. The first (and I would argue only important) job I have is listening to the Holy Spirit and telling people about Jesus's love and showing them Jesus's love - even if that looks different to each different person. 

May we seek to be a part of people's story today, not judge it by their cover.