The YouVersion verse of the day is Zephaniah 3:17. While the quick message they featured focused on the celebration/singing part of the verse… I was encouraged to focus on God’s delight in us.
The idea that God takes joy in us brought me joy. In their featured devotional, the author compares God comforting us with song to a parent comforting their child in the same manor.
It was no coincidence that merely 30 minutes prior I was using that same method to comfort my son. Singing him a song that brings him joy whenever it escapes my lips.
This led me to think even more on the idea of God as our Father:
As I’ve grown closer to God I have utilized the phrase Abba Father (Galatians 4:6) quite often in my prayers because He has been that to me. It was one of our first steps in true worship. So to now be a parent and once again be prompted in scripture of who God is to us, but from a completely different perspective, it just made everything hit different.
And this made me think of how we, as parents, emulate some of the ways in which God cares/parents us:
How when we delight in our children, it’s despite them doing much. In fact, it’s in large part because we see ourselves in them.
We delight in how they look, and talk, and can be stubborn at times like us.
We find joy in their learning and progress and curiosity. We feel at peace knowing that they are comforted by us when they seek it and that they seek guidance and comfort from us at all.
We live in an overhyped society. Hyper-sexualized, hyper-politicized, hypersensitive, and in many ways, hyper-Christian.
It’s all so overly abundant that we miss the mark completely.
But yet and still, God delights in us.
He, who did not sin, who loved us so greatly that He sent His OWN son to save us… Looks at us and feels joy.
Despite our sinful nature. Despite our errors and ignorance. Despite forgetting to seek Him…
2018 was a pretty rough year for me. Besides the realities of having to move 3 times, losing my car, and moments of feeling like I’d lost my mind, I was also dealt some pretty heavy blows regarding both of my parents.
The complexities that 2018 yielded left me in a constant state of… confusion and wonder.
I was sad but hopeful.
I was hurt but could literally feel my healing at times.
I was broken but could see each and every piece
that resulted from the breaks.
That was how 2018 was playing out for me.
I was left with SO many questions almost daily.
But then, between the months of August and October (my birthday month) with the weight of all that 2018 had brought upon my shoulders; with more than 2/3 of the year done, I began to find the answers I had been looking for. As I yielded to God and started to take that wonderful gift, called time, to listen and Hear what God was telling me and what He was showing me…. I began to understand the pieces. The pieces that were left after God so purposefully allowed my life, well what I had tried to make of it, to fall apart. After God methodically pulled out every single weed that existed in my life and showed them to me one-by-one… I saw what He was doing. I understood what He had done.
I remember a time during the summer while I reflected on this bamboo palm tree that I had. As I looked at it in my room. It’s leaves sparse, but growing, and it’s twin having been uprooted because of my initial ignorance and neglect… I reflected on my life. And how my life mirrored that palm…
How I too had slowly but surely neglected myself. How I had been unsure of how to feel rejuvenated. How I was confused about what I needed during my growing season and my stagnant seasons. How when things started to fall away, I saw the urgency of the matter but still remained uneasy about what steps were necessary to heal.
Did I need more water?
More soil (or of the Word)?
A different soil?
And as things started to die. I had to be brave enough to let them and pull those things out from their very root as not to harm what was left.
God did that part though. As I prayed for the ability to start over. As I prayed and wept and wrote and didn’t write… as I lamented and pushed through…
He saw me.
He saw what was hurting me.
He saw what was falling away and was wise enough to call it Good.
He saw what was dying and what could cause harm to me… and was strong enough to pull it out from it’s very root.
He was kind and gentle enough to wait until I was listening and showed me each and every weed and dying thing that was set up to cause me harm.
That was set up and planted in my life, to cause His Kingdom harm.
He showed me those things… and was Sovereign enough to call it Mercy and Grace.
So as I reflected on that small tree with so much potential… I knew what God was doing in me and I submitted to it.
It hurt y’all… so much. And as that last weed was picked and exposed…. I cried so much…. for my faith (or the lack there of).
For that child who was SO hurt and confused by life but didn’t know it. For my body that I had unknowingly taught to live a life of gluttony… and I cried for every mistake and seed of evil and sin that had ever and will ever be planted or grown in my life….
But as the year ended… and we discovered my Dad’s cancer… I felt the oddest and most necessary sense of peace.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7 ESV
Not because I knew that my Dad would be okay… but because I understood, without a single second of wavering, what I needed to do and why.
I understood that it was time to go Home.
That God had not just pulled the weeds for the sake of revealing them to me (because 2018)… but he had meticulously shown me what good had grown. That, despite the enemy’s and sin’s and, honestly, my own, best efforts…
There was GOOD.
There was righteousness.
There was Faith and Hope and Wisdom.
There was His Spirit.
Fully formed and increasingly developing within me.
Rooted and Built Up.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Colossians 2:6-7 ESV
And that, because of what God has in store for me. That because of what He sent me to Arizona to do in the first place… it was time to take all that has grown (without the weeds) and give it back to where the first seeds were planted. It was time to give it back to MY Home.
And God, in all His beautiful Glory… whispered to me… that it was time.
“And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”
1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV
All of this so that I could understand when it was time to move… to go… to come back Home… and so I had nothing to hold me back. No tangled roots. No people that did not understand but would desire to keep me back. No questions about this decision.
Now, in true humanly Benita fashion, I tried, a few times, to pretend like what I knew, was not, in fact, Truth. That I was to stay in Arizona for at least another season… That it was not time. I tried my best to ignore the pulling away from the place I had done so much of my growing… tried to replant my own roots… but they failed to stick.
And I didn’t even want to follow-through with the care they required… eventually I had to accept what God had revealed to me. I had to leave…
So I did. After 8 years and 7 months of living in Arizona. On March 25, 2019 I packed up my entire life into an SUV and took a road trip across the country. Traveled through 7 different states over the course of 4 days… with just me and my dog (who, to this very day I believe was created just for me and my journey) and went home.
While I’m still figuring things out… I’m mindful that there is purpose here. There is light here… there is so much beauty that I’d missed…
And although it won’t be perfect… it WILL be Good.
God WILL be glorified.
It WILL be beautiful.
“and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
If I’ve learned one thing during my weight-loss journey it is the importance of having grace for myself.
I know this series usually focuses on my relationship with God, but for me, my weight-loss/fitness journey is my visual representation of my walk with Christ. For me, I can see no difference between how I take care of my body & how I worship God. After all, we are called to worship and honor God with our bodies [Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:20]. So it only makes since that I use this example when talking about grace.
Currently I am in this place in my weight-loss journey that I’ve seen before. Feeling a little hopeless. Hopeless because of countless attempts to eat better and exercise but I keep allowing myself to be distracted or unmotivated. I fail. And because I keep telling myself that I’m failing or I suck at this, I remain in this pattern of self-hate. And that’s unhealthy.
So, I had to step back (and really I have to do this often) and remind myself that I truly can start over at any time. And although I might be operating in fear right now, God has given me grace and victory over anything. I have to remind myself that every error I make is just that, an error. It’s a part of the journey and I can’t hold onto a false belief that I’m going to get everything right the first time I try. I spent 20+ years creating bad habits for myself. One day won’t immediately erase those habits.
You have to have grace and allow for mistakes because in all realness; You’re learning how to live again.
The same thing can be said for your Spiritual journey. You’re a new creation which means old things are officially in the past, but this doesn’t mean old habits just end. It doesn’t mean old beliefs that we held on to just go away. And this doesn’t mean you will automatically be able to do everything you’re supposed to do the first time you try. This is why I choose to emphasize this as a “journey”.
Ultimately God intends to work on us as individuals and as a Body until the day Jesus returns [ Philippians 1:6]. This means there will always be areas of growth and improvement. And this means that there will also be times where we fall short or even give up. That’s the human in us. The goal, however is that, eventually, we become completely Spirit led.
The thing about that is, we have to put in a lot of effort and time throughout our lives in order to know God’s will for us and in order to do His will. Again, this is where error is expected. And this is why God’s grace is sufficient. We just don’t want to become dependent on Grace when we can do better with His Spirit in us. God’s grace is what has frees us from having to live in sin [Galatians 5:13; Romans 6].
So… today, I’m going to walk in God’s grace and forgive myself for the mistakes I make along this journey to full health. I will proclaim victory over my entire life because God has graced me with it. And I will NEVER give up on myself because God chose me and adopted me. Because God needs me to help Glorify Him. And God loves me so much that he allowed Jesus to be crucified for me.
I will rebuke any thoughts that attempt to keep me trapped in my old ways and rebuke myself if needed.
I pray that in all things… we ALL experience and dwell in God’s grace & glory.
Not in relationships… well, I guess in relationships, but not the kind you’re probably thinking of.
You see, I have a problem with committing to myself.
With committing to changing myself fully; with committing to accepting my purpose; and really, with committing to my personal relationship with God.
I’m a faster… as in, I fast, kind of often… well, at least I try to.
In 2012, when I did my first fast, I must say, although it was a challenge, once I got the hang of it & made it a habit with purpose, I was good. At one point I fasted for 40-days. I’m not bragging, because the circumstance kind of required it, but I’m just saying…that was me over a year ago.
But then…2013 came. Last March I wrote a piece on “No Compromising Season”… that was the season I was in. During that time, it was my intent to fast again because I’d noticed a few things and I felt my flesh getting too strong. I had started to lose control.
Before I move on, I feel that it’s necessary to reiterate that when it comes to my relationship with God; my physical health is pretty much my visual indicator of how I’m doing. (And on a funnier note, I’ve kind of used my natural hair journey as an indicator too).
So last March when I noticed my weight gain + my hair breakage I was perplexed. I had felt that I was doing the right things in my walk to at least maintain a healthy weight (and healthy hair), but my body said otherwise. So when I wrote “No Compromising Season” I had a few revelations. The biggest one being… I was allowing myself to be content with mediocre efforts.
The reality was, although my eating wasn’t horrible, I was inconsistent. And didn’t go to the gym. And when it came to my relationship with God, I went to church, but had stopped meditating on God’s Word as soon as I felt that His Spirit was no longer responding to the effort.
I had become lax… I had started comprising during the process. RIGHT when I had to start making a little more effort, I fell off. And that is how I became vulnerable. The minute I let go of what worked was the minute the enemy crept in and presented me with opportunity after opportunity to forget where I was going and why. And with some of the smallest of thing. God had continued to tell me I was in a season where I couldn’t compromise within the journey, but the longer I ignored that voice the easier it was to give in and indulge in things that weren’t good for me. I, in essence, started cheating on God. I couldn’t see it though because it was nothing “major”. I still attended church & served, & listened to Christian music every morning. I just listened to my secular music the rest of the day and had stopped making efforts to improve my service or even make sure I did it to glorify Him instead of myself.
As a result… eventually I couldn’t even tell whose voice I was hearing; who I was really devoting myself to; whose spirit I was really walking in.
And I’m still in the struggle. It’s better, but after a year of compromises, I’ve found that the things that I used to do, like fasting, take 4x as much effort a day than it did that first time. And that’s a scary place to be.
I said a while ago that I will never give up on my fitness journey and this goes for maturing in Christ as well.
He didn’t create me to be mediocre. He created me to glorify Him. He created me to be His child. He created me to be set apart. And for a God that loved me so much that He died for me… I can never give up allowing my flesh to die for Him. And for the God who rose from the dead for me… I will always take each day to rise out of my failures for Him.
It won’t be easy, and that’s ok. Because I am His I receive victory. Because of His Spirit in me & His grace, I have strength & wisdom. Because of His Word I have all the weapons I need to be an overcomer.
And the same goes for you! Today you may not be the best “Christian” you can be or life may generally suck; that doesn’t mean you can just do the “fade away” with God. One, He’s good for chasing after you. Lol. And, Two, He deserves better.
How can you get re-committed?
Seek His face… get to know who God is; how he operates; for yourself. Take a little time (5 minutes never hurt anyone). Read His Word & pray. Keep a verse in your head for the day. Learn who He is.
I personally love Psalms 119… longest book in the Bible, but probably contains something for everyone. One verse from that can reveal your heart. Give it a try… you have to start somewhere.
And trusting God will only come when you forgive Him…
Being in a relationship with Christ isn’t always easy.
People tend to have this perception that once you get Saved or reborn or whatever that life is grand from there… but the reality is… it’s tough. Maturing in Christ is probably the epitome of “The Struggle Life”.
As a case manager a lot of the teams I work with get extra excited when I get assigned to them. Not because of me, but because of what I do. They have this idea in their head that life will be grand from that first meeting on…
And then… several months later when things are either the same or worse I have to have that conversation that “things will likely get worse before they get better”.
Coming to Christ is sometimes like that. At first the sheer thought of finally accepting Christ builds you up & holds you over for a few months. After all, the weight of un-forgiveness is heavy so being able to accept God’s forgiveness and having that load removed makes everything “feel” better.
But then… reality starts to set in. Change isn’t happening as fast as you thought it would. In fact, you find that you’re having to put in a little more effort just to feel peace. You start to see things within yourself that you never noticed before. You start noticing that some of the people in your life aren’t who you thought they were and you notice some of the hurt you either hadn’t remembered or hadn’t realized.
This is when forgiveness and trust start to become an issue. Not that you need to forgive people, but you have to forgive God (not because He did something wrong, but because we feel that He did).
In the midst of your hurt, you start to feel even greater hurt because God didn’t stop the pain or because God allowed you to experience a time in your life that you would have rather been omitted from your story.
And that causes some bitterness.
And… you hit a wall.
The moment I realized I had to put an effort into trusting God was after I hit this wall for the first time.
All my life I was taught to love God & worship Him and have faith, but no one ever taught me that these things aren’t instant. And trusting God will only come when you forgive Him…
And the easiest way to forgive is to understand His Word & KNOW that ALL things work together for the good to them that Love the Lord & are called according to His purpose.
And remember that OUR purpose is to Glorify God & bring people to Him.
So… even if you don’t know WHY that particular something happened. Know that it is in the benefit of you. Either simply to give you a reason to come to him or as complex as being a testimony for someone you may never meet.
I started a devotional today. I’m always starting devotionals… But since I finished one, I started another. It’s started off pretty good because it got me writing. I love devotionals that encourage mindfulness; especially ones that encourage you to write down answers to questions or thoughts…
This one did that.
It had me read scripture passages and write down what they revealed about God’s purpose for me.
Specifically: “As you read today’s verses, write down some of new perspectives of purpose for your life as seen from God’s view.”
I immediately wrote down the following:
For God desires me:
-to be free
-to be faithful/to be Faith-filled
-to follow His Word, His Will, His Ways
-to honor Him
-to have peace
-to be light
-to be bold
-to be strengthened by His Word
-to Love others
-to Love Him (with all my heart, all my soul, & all my mind)
-to grow in Faithfulness, & Love, & Patience, & Kindness, & Self-control, & Goodness, & Joy, & Gentleness, & Peace
(Fruits of the Spirit)
If you noticed, I didn’t say God’s purpose or my purpose is…
That’s because, honestly, I’ve been struggling with remembering my purpose. Or rather, with believing my purpose, the one specific to me. That’s one of the reasons I’ve taken to devotionals so hard (I read about 3 a day). I want to remember. I want to believe. And this helps guide me into scripture a little more consistently.
It’s helped a little. The general practice of spending time in God’s Word is really the key.
However, I’ve noticed a trend:
Oftentimes there’s this discussion (especially throughout these devotionals I have been reading), to “remember God’s promises to you”; “hold on to His promises”… But as I’ve been transforming, it has been difficult to remember or, really even discern, God’s promises that are specific to me vs the desires of my own heart that I just HOPE He has for me.
As such, I feel like I can’t ‘hold on’ to those things as assurance of anything…
God changes our hearts. Gradually but He does. So I’m feeling that the things I wanted aren’t things I necessarily need. And, ultimately, they have been weights in my relationship with Christ. Not that they were sinful, but just that they were becoming significant pieces in my resentment or indifference towards God.
Because I didn’t have what I wanted, I was starting to doubt Him. And me. And seeds were planted and became confusion and fear. So much fear.
So I can’t hold onto “promises”… I have to hold onto His Word. And God’s DESIRES for me.
There’s a difference. I’m not saying that being aware of God’s promises isn’t nice. They can bring assurance. But when you understand the ROOTS of those promises… When you understand that His promises are simply symptoms or results of His DESIRES for you… THEN you have something to hold on to.
God’s desires and plans for us are how we can truly experience confidence and peace in our purpose. Because they expose His heart. And there is NOTHING stronger or more dependable than the heart of God.