May 2 is a significant day in my life. This year it marks two years since I graduated from California Baptist University, and it marks one year since I began working at Turning Point. Both of these events are so intertwined, and thinking about God’s providence in both events brings tears to my eyes. Why did God choose to look on me with favor? Why did He give me the gift of spending two years at CBU, where I would meet people and learn lessons, and even learn about myself and who God really is? Why did He give me the job I have? What makes me so special?
I think the basic, simple answer is nothing. Nothing makes me worthy to be so blessed. If anything, I deserve absolutely nothing from God. But rather than dwell on all the ways I am unworthy, I am going to cherish these blessings and learn as much as I can from both the happy times and the hard times.
Let me take this time to direct you to a simple question I have been asking myself over the last week: What can a person truly learn in just one year?
Here are a few things I have learned in the last 372 days (since it is May 8 as I write this).
1. Life, especially as an adult, is filled with decisions. There comes a point in every person’s life when they realize they must take responsibility for themselves and no longer rely on their parents or any other authority figure except God alone. Mine came just over a month ago.
I took a careful evaluation of my life—my time and how I spend it, what I do with my money, how I conduct myself in relationships, where I stand on ethical and moral issues, what my guide and my compass should be, and what my standards are for myself. After I evaluated, I have to admit I was more than a little disappointed in myself and also convicted for how I had been living. I felt weak. I felt ashamed. So I did the only thing I could: I confessed my lack of intentional living and asked God to redeem me. How could I turn from my bad habits of not caring about my time, not caring about my health, not caring about my money, not caring about my heart, in favor of forming better habits?
I ended up taking a couple of hours to write out what my standards and rules should be for myself. What I should do with my money, what efforts I should make to maintain a smart budget. What I should dedicate my time to. What I should maintain strong commitments to (example: I will not commit to something unless I am 100 percent sure about it). What decision I should make in these particular situations and what situations I need to steer completely clear of. What I should do about the apparent laziness in so many areas and choose to be more active. What I should do to be more proactive. I set a goal to become a woman of my word, a woman people can rely on, a woman people can respect and enjoy being around. A woman who loves those around her completely and unconditionally.
More than anything, I wanted to be able to look at my life years from now—five, 10, 20 years—and say that I did things God’s way, even if it took me a long time to figure out what God’s way really was.
2. Decisions can be difficult and can cause pain. But pain, just like everything else outside of eternity, is temporary. And God will meet me in those decisions and in that pain, and He will give grace, and grace more abundantly.
3. Jesus came so that I might have an abundant life. But the abundant life God desires for me is not going to come on its own. It will not be dropped in my lap, it will not be easy to attain, it will not be easy to maintain, it will not be easy to make the right decisions. But the end result—to be able to hear God tell me “Well done” when I come into His kingdom; to be able to say on my deathbed that I lived a life wholly devoted to my Savior and the furtherance of His Gospel; for my loved ones to be able to say that I lived in a way that brought people in and made them feel loved and showed them that God desires their hearts—is worth far more than the decision to lead a life less than.
Settling for less is never something God desires for me. He does not desire that choice for anyone. Because settling for less—a job I do not enjoy, an unhealthy relationship, a nonchalant attitude, a dream always relegated to the back of my mind never to be achieved—will not please God and will certainly not satisfy the desire He has for me to live abundantly.
4. A certain amount of being a responsible adult and a strong Christian relies heavily on how close I cling to my Savior, and how well I know His voice. Can I say that I know His voice? Can I say that I listen to Him? Can I say that I have good discernment when I cannot distinctly hear His voice? Is my faith growing strong? Living a responsible life is just as much of a decision as it is living a Spirit-filled life.
5. The Christian faith, the Christian life, is a constant balancing act. There is no lesson I can learn 100 percent and then never have to go back and take a refresher. When I learn to love someone, I have to keep learning; it is not a one-time lesson. When I learn to be the best copy editor I can be, I have to be willing to keep learning and keep growing. When I learn how to trust Christ with an area of my life and I surrender it to Him, I have to make sure I keep laying it down.
6. It is absolutely okay to be vulnerable. So often people run from being vulnerable because it is uncomfortable. They are exposed. Sometimes it can feel like they have set themselves on a small circular platform while people surround them on all sides sneering at them as they bear their hearts. It is scary to be vulnerable, but it is freeing. When vulnerability can be accomplished in any type of relationship, any type of setting, connections with people grow so much deeper.
And vulnerability does something else: it leads to love. Love is the one thing everyone in this world is viciously after. It is only four letters, yet it encompasses something so powerful that it is the very reason Jesus Christ went to the cross to die for the sins of the world. He gave His life not expecting anything in return, it was unconditional. And we as His followers, His children, are commanded to love as He has loved.
When it comes to love and vulnerability, I like to think of a quote from C. S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
On the surface this life is simple to live. It is only when I put my human hands in the mix that it begins to become grayer, more complicated, more difficult to understand. As much as I would love to say that the last year, even two years, has been super easy, I cannot say that. I can say I have learned quite a few valuable lessons, but I cannot say I am the same person I was a year ago. In many ways, I feel I went from being a child to being a woman. In the last year, I took more steps than I thought I ever would. I am working hard every single day to make sure I am pursuing the abundant life God has for me. Often I fail, yet God still loves me and picks me up, lovingly tells me to keep going. And I am trusting that I know His voice.
Regardless of how simultaneously difficult and joyful the last year has been, I can say with certainty that God was in control the entire time, and He remains in control. I never have a reason to doubt it. I never have a reason to doubt Him. So I will walk faithfully into the next year, and trust that He will forever remain in control of my life and my heart.