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Imagine…

As I have been recognizing the amount of time that I spend thinking about what I don’t have, I’ve noticed something else that gets in my way of fully engaging in today…my imagination.

Let me clarify, there are two sides to imagination, there is the gift of imagination that spurs creativity, inspiration, discernment, wisdom, revelation, insight, compassion and dreams. This imagination causes me to reach higher, set goals, put myself in the shoes of others, it cause me to build up, it’s outcome is joy.

But there is also a side to imagination that works destruction in my life, it tears me down and wrecks my faith.  It’s this imagination that I’ve been thinking about lately.

I’ve had to remind myself my imagination is fiction – it is not my reality.  Yet, I often base my real feelings of who God is, and His faithfulness, His goodness, His love on my imagination and subsequent expectation.

This imagination can be about who I am as well.  I decide if I’m good or bad, doing well or failing, I build myself up or beat myself down based on what I imagine being a good person or a good Christian looks like.  I imagine myself to be less than what God declares me to be, or I imagine myself to be deserving of more or different than what He has deemed best for me.  Then, I base the measure of my faith, my trust and my confidence in how and when I imagine God should be fulfilling His promises.I come to trust that imagination and give it value, it becomes a counterfeit to the Holy Spirit, which is Truth, purely and wholly.

Lately, I’ve been reminded of dreams that I’ve had for my life.  My seventeen-year-old dream for my future was college, career, marriage, family. My dreams at 22, 23 and every year after that – imagining that each was the best year for me to fall in love and get married, that each year held promise of wealth and “ministry” or fame, I imagined countless ways to “bless” others, to show my value, to see my value, to believe my value.  I imagined conversations that never happened, I imagined conversations that did happen and all the ways they could have gone better.  I imagined countless scenarios based on my fears of how one’s action may impact their own life and the lives of those that love them.  I imagined things in people’s hearts and imagined that I knew what was best for their life.

My imagination has caused me to worry, to fret, to fear, to judge, to criticize, to slander, to accuse, to hope falsely, to speak out of time, to doubt in God’s care of me, to beg and plead for solutions that would be a flash in the pan – short-lived and of no consequence.  My imagination has gotten in the way of my growth, of my faith, of my hope.  It has caused my eyes to see dimly and has blocked my ears from hearing that which would be true and pure and right – that which I could firmly plant my feet on.  It has caused me to live so much of my life in a fictitious future instead of a full, and beautiful, glory-filled today.  My imagination has caused me to lean upon my own understanding – plotting routes through an alternate world when before me has always been a humble, narrow path that leads to a small gate, opening to a world so far beyond what I could ever, really, imagine.  Why is it that we so often trust our reasoning, fictional, self-based logic so much more than God’s constant, unchanging, rock solid, proven Word?

In it all I see those stories, those futures, those pictures that have filled my head, fed my fears, and consumed my time….none of them have come to pass.  What has really come to pass in my life has been drastically different.  It has truly been far outside of what my mind could have ever thought to dream up.  It has far exceeded my highest hope.  I have been given what I couldn’t have even known to pray for.  Despite my imagination, I’ve known with the deepest part of me, that God’s ways are higher than my ways, I know nothing and He knows everything.  What I see and feel is untrustworthy and He is steadfast.  In that, He gives me the ability to push aside my imagination and to see the truth, to love it, to pursue it, and to hold on to it regardless of what storms surround me.  In His love, He always gives me a passageway to freedom, and those paths have never looked like my imagination.

I’m learning to let go of tomorrow.  God has good plans for me, He knows what my dreams are, He knows what brings me joy, He knows what I need to overcome, He knows what He planted in me before I was ever born, He knows what I need, what I hope for, and how He is going to bring it about.  My imagination is only getting in the way, giving me unnecessary pain, causing me to feel entitled, trying to ebb away at my faith and diminish my trust.  It is keeping me from seeing today what He has for me, it is keeping me from hearing the still small voice that says, “This is the way; walk in it.”

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What I dont’ have….

“…The joy that is missing, that you want to have will come from thanking God for what you do have, don’t worry about thanking Him for what you don’t have yet.”

These words have been running through my mind for the last two months.  Joy is truly something I want more of.  I’m generally at peace with my life and when I’m not – I fight to regain peace. But I have to admit – Joy comes in spurts.  If I need a shift of perspective and the result is more joy, bring it on.

The first part of the statement that I really started pondering was where this person said, “don’t worry about thanking Him for what you don’t have yet.”  It wasn’t a reprimand.   In my life, part of building my faith has been recognizing that God keeps His promises, that He is trustworthy, and that He is good.  As Father, Provider, Comforter, and Healer – when I have needs or wants I go to Him and ask.  As hope sprouts up in my life – the hope that He actually wants to take care of my future – then faith is established that He will take care of all that pertains to me.  In that, I thank Him for the things that I don’t see yet in my life, based on His character and the assurance of His great love for me.

The thing is, I get really focused on the things that I feel are lacking in my life today.  When I feel like God needs to be reminded that I haven’t gotten my promise yet, I’ll thank Him nicely, in advance, for what He’s going to do for me.  Then I start imagining all the ways He’s going to do it.  It’s not a bad past time – but it still causes me to spend a lot (or most) of my time thinking about what is to come. In the meantime, I missing out on what is here today.

For the last couple of months, when I start thinking about what’s not in my life – yet, I’ve discovered that I really spend a lot of time in an imaginary world (that’s for a later post).  I’ve been missing the real live miracle of today.

So, I’ve been trying to stop thinking about what I don’t have. This has been freeing up a lot of my thinking time. As I’ve been determined to look at what I do have, I’m even more impressed with how good my life is.  I’m more grateful for how well God is taking care of me today.  I see that He knows what I really need way better than I do.  I don’t deserve this favor – but I’m thankful for it.  In light of the miracle of today, I see something else forming in my life that wasn’t there a couple of months ago….Joy.

Prelude

I grew up a Christian.  I loved God the best that I could understand as a child.  I reached my teenage years and I decided that following God’s rules were too constraining.  I was naive, I felt foolish, I was embarrassed all the time.  I walked away from what I was taught and tried to find the answers to my list of questions on my own.  Honestly, for me it was awful. I was even more embarrassed, more insecure, and on top of that I felt guilty all of the time, and I was afraid I was going to get caught.

When I recommitted my life to God at the age of 17, I was relieved.  I was so grateful to have the safety of boundaries set around me again, to have a scale to measure my life on, to put my relationships back in order, to have the potential for a “blessed” and happy life.

Then, my world was turned upside down and with it all of the things that I thought were important faded away and the things that were truly important remained.  Trauma – life and death experiences have a way of doing that.

One thing that stuck was that I knew God was good.  I knew that there was no way to get through the life that awaited me without His help.  He wasn’t the one that did this to me – He was the One that saved me.  That was basically all that I knew – everything else was just words.

The (encouraging?) words that I heard often:

You are a miracle
God loves you so much
God has a big purpose for your life
You are so beautiful on the inside

Fast-forward a few years. I sat in church and watched the people around me.  There were those that were happy, that seemed so in love with God and loved each other.  They seemed to know God in a way that I didn’t know Him, they heard Him differently, they prayed differently. They were…free.  I wanted that, I wanted to feel what it looked like they had.  I tried hard.  I prayed more, tried to read my Bible more (or tried to stay awake while reading it).  I listened to the sermons and left church determined to do what the pastor had preached.  I came back to church the next Sunday so mad at myself for all the ways that I had failed in the previous week, and left again determined to do better the following week.

This happened for years.  I decided that the closeness to God that the Pastor, the guest speaker, the pillars of the church had – wasn’t meant for me.  I decided that those people must have never rebelled like I did, they must have always made the right choices – that’s why their life was “blessed.” I decided that freedom and joy was for others, not for me – I blew my chance.

One day I was invited to a Bible study, by one of those people that I had observed – one of the celebrities of that church, one of the “happy” ones.  It was like nothing I ever experienced before in all of my Christian upbringing.  At that Bible study these people – the “blessed” ones told the raw truth.  They shared what they were really feeling, the thoughts that they struggled with – they sounded a lot like my thoughts.  They shared about who they were before, about the terrible things that happened to them and their determination to forgive – even when it was hard.  Then they shared what they were learning, they would talk about the things that God was saying to them, the things that they were repenting for, these people were real.  Their freedom and their joy was real.

Over time, their stories – their willingness to “testify” about what was going on in their life – helped me to see the truth in my own life, and to face them good or bad.  I began to overcome because of those testimonies.  My life transformed.  It no longer looked like occupying a church pew for the remainder of my days – I began to believe that my life had purpose.  I began to believe the words that were spoken to me over and over.

There are many hurting, broken people sitting in churches, going week after week, hoping for an answer that will transform their life.  They know that Jesus died for their sins.  They also know that He came to bring “life and life abundantly.” They are waiting to see that in their own life.  Those people go home determined to do better, and come back the following week defeated, feeling forgotten and alone in their struggle.

Often as Christians we put on our happy face and show everyone how “blessed” our life is.  We put our past in a closet.  The truth is that we are all messes, we are such a mess that God sent his Son to earth to provide a way for us to get cleaned up and to experience His incredible Love for us.  I am grateful for those in my life that are truthful and vulnerable enough to have let me see the mess that their life was, in it I see the daily miracles of God making beauty from the mess.  Their testimonies help me to know more of God’s perfect love and to overcome my own mess.  Their transparency encourages me to share my reality, in hopes that someone else will experience the miracle of God’s perfect love.   – Charity