A Little Self Perspective; A Little Bit of Faith

I have found a surprising amount of truth in this little book as of late (pictured: My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers). It was given to me about four years ago and I rejected it outright; completely refusing to read it but still unable to get rid of it. This devotional meant a lot to the person who gave it to me, so I couldn’t bring myself to donate it when it came time to eliminate some of my books. It’s managed to stay through yearly donations, no matter how much I did not want to read this dang book.

I think I rejected it so much equally because I don’t talk to the person who gave me the book anymore and because the book seems so…fluffy? I can’t stand when Christians speak/write in “Christian-ese,” or like they’re not real people. You know – using outdated words they read in the Bible that no one actually uses nowadays. Not only is it completely unnecessary and impossible to relate to, I find it distracting from the message they are trying to convey. It also comes across as a little high and mighty, and that in turn comes across to me as putting religion over actual faith…which is a big no-no. Anyway, from the one time I tried to read this book that’s the impression I got and, I’ll admit, I was way too quick to judge it.

It wasn’t until August of this year when my boyfriend and I were doing a Bible study together and, on a whim, I decided to take it off my bookshelf and put it with the rest of the study books I had laid out for us. Surprisingly, it was the first book he picked up. Rolling my eyes immediately – which, thankfully, he didn’t catch – he began to read from the page with the current date (August 26th).

Lo and behold, that devotion was centered around his all-time favorite verse: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…” (John 14:27). He has mentioned this verse countless times since we started dating – call it a coincidence or not, but I thought that was pretty crazy. So, I thought, alright I’ll give it this one shot. 

Man it was hard to read. No, not because the devotion read like what I had been expecting, but because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

To put things in context, this past year has been a year of learning how to manage stress and to worry less. I’ve slowly been returning to myself, but at the time of reading that passage I was a complete mess of worry and stress. I underlined the question “Have you left no stone of your faith unturned, yet still not found any well of peace, joy, or comfort?” because that was how I felt to a tee. I wanted to cry, it was so accurate. I felt the farthest from God I think I have felt since I was saved, and no matter what I tried to accomplish I was failing left and right. Failure after failure left me with faith that meant nothing to me anymore because even though I still wanted others to know about God, I wasn’t so sure that He actually had my back.

I think the best response to my attitude at the time can be answered with a line from the same passage: “But if you only try to worry your way out of the problem, you destroy His effectiveness in you, and you deserve whatever you get.” Sounds harsh, I know. I felt the same way, especially considering the fact that before I read it myself it was my boyfriend who read it to me. Hearing “you deserve what you get” from a loved one isn’t in any way easy, but there is a lot of truth in the statement because if I was not willing to let go of worry I couldn’t expect to receive any help…the basis of faith in God is exactly that: faith. Worry is the opposite of faith – of trust.

I’m not going to claim that I never worry or stress out about anything. Obviously that would be ridiculous; I’m still me. I’m still a human with a natural inclination to fear inevitably failing again. However, I’ve learned to be more aware of it and catch myself when I get caught up in anxiety.

Jesus doesn’t make you perfect – you’re still going to be human and flawed – that’s how it works – but He does help you out when you ask for it and have a little faith to go along with it. He’s there to prep you for the next life and make the best/most use of this one. While there is better yet to come, this life doesn’t exist solely to be difficult all the time. Some things happen that are completely out of our own control, but most of our problems can be helped with a little change in our attitudes. As difficult of a reality as that is to face, it’s a reality nonetheless and a lesson I am still learning.

Anyway, I completely forgot about that story until I opened the devotional to that particular page and thought it was worth sharing. God is great, self perspective is good, and life doesn’t have to be filled with constant worry. That is all.

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Semi-Introverted Dilemma

At nine a.m. yesterday I woke to my mother peering anxiously in my doorway. I checked my phone: she had called me seconds prior. Considering I’ve slept through fire alarms and almost break-ins, I imagined she began walking up the stairs as she hit the call button, knowing that the gentle buzz of my phone under my pillow wouldn’t have much of an effect on this eternally heavy sleeper, try as she might. She made her way toward my curtains as I let out a disgruntled mumble of indecipherable words. Pulling them tightly together, she alerted me with gentle haste that there were men climbing their way to my windows to work on them. I didn’t know what “working on my windows” specifically entailed, but as I recognized the clatter of an extending ladder and gravelly voices yelling back and forth, I wrenched myself out of the comfort of my bed. I’d wanted to sleep in. I shouldn’t have stayed up so late, but I’ve been thinking that particular string of words for most of my life.

Today, the clatter and yelling escalated with the addition of what I’m assuming is some sort of very obnoxious drilling. I haven’t paid enough attention to think about it, just gotten through this time with my headphones on at near-full volume. My curtains are still closed now, giving my room a constant early morning vibe.

I love the warm rush of sunlight greeting my cool skin every morning. I love the way my room is transformed into a place full of life the moment the sun filters in. Like it’s ready for the day to begin, excited to start something. Anything. I love that both the daily grey sky and chilly air have finally given way to familiar warm breezes and the need for sunglasses until the sun goes to sleep.

But when the sun finally came out of hiding, I unintentionally dove into it. I don’t often  like keeping my curtains closed, that sad hermit-feeling of being closed off to the rest of civilization. I don’t like staying in one place for too long, the walls of my bedroom seeming to shrink by the second. I don’t like living in my own head for too long either, but that’s a little harder to get away from.

It’s frustrating being an introvert who can’t stand to be alone for too long. And being alone for two days, shut off from the world, has been a challenge I’m adjusting to.

I used to avoid social gatherings like the plague, but I’ve since taught myself how to turn on my outgoing switch when I need it. There was a time when I was addicted to that sort of thing: the way I could adapt to any social event. It was a game only I knew I was playing. My newfound party trick was actually talking to people instead of hiding in the corner or not going at all, and it wore me out like you wouldn’t believe. I was constantly drained, running on fumes 99% of the time, but I was tired of the version of myself who read books alone in her room or stared emptily at the walls. I spent my whole life being that person. The discovery that I could transform into whoever I wanted was a challenge I had never been brave enough to explore until, suddenly, I let go and just did it.

I was in a constant state of busyness, filling my schedule with friends and jobs and bible studies and any new thing I could possibly try. Every minute of every day was accounted for. That in and of itself isn’t exactly a bad thing, but I realized my intentions were wrong when I found myself in a situation with one particular unplanned evening all to myself. Somehow the night had gone unnoticed, left completely blank on my calendar. I sat in the breakroom at work that morning texting friend after friend after friend, fingers frantically asking for anybody to spend time with me. The panic of going back to who I had always been built up with every rejection and I didn’t know what to do with the sinking fear residing in the pit of my stomach. It was foreign to me, a deafening pounding in my ears that yearned for someone else to quiet down because I was tired of doing it myself.

Looking back I think I was afraid of getting addicted to being alone again. I wasn’t ready for the excitement of new people, new activities, new experiences to die down yet because if I spent too much time alone I thought I might have permanently retreated back into my turtle-shell state of living. I don’t like being closed off to the rest of the world, but it’s an easy trap to fall into.

That’s when I learned about the difference between wanting to be alone and hiding. Wanting to be alone and being lonely. Wanting to be alone and using my introvertedness as an excuse.

I’ve been realizing lately that when you put yourself in an unhealthy situation, sometimes God lets you live in it for a while to make you realize the importance of it. To remember it for longer than to get out of just one single situation. He also has a tendency to take away the things that you use as a crutch. Friendships and busyness quickly became a crutch for me so it came to a screeching halt out of nowhere, something beyond my control, and I was forced to reflect on myself.

So now I’m here, quite some time later and thankfully past that weird phase of life, but the confusing push and pull of whether or not to socialize still hangs over me from time to time.

I could have gone out last night with a group of new people I don’t know very well. Maybe after a day of going crazy from working at home all day, it would have been good for me. It wouldn’t have been a waste of time; I could have gotten something out of the experience. But lately I’ve realized that it isn’t just people (generally speaking) I like to spend time with; it’s certain people. It’s those who don’t so easily make me feel drained. The ones who I can spend hours upon hours with and still feel happy and full of life. That’s not to say I should only ever do that simply because it’s what I like, but I simultaneously feel like I get a lot more out of being in the presence of someone I am comfortable with and I feel like I have more to give in return.

I will likely never be the kind of person who helps people, who talks about God, who does anything very useful in the type of changing environment that requires talking to a lot of different people. I have an appreciation for the people who can connect with others in that way, but I know I thrive with deep personal one-on-one connections and that’s what I am seeking to make the most of. I will try new things, I will put myself in other environments, but I won’t try to be somebody I can’t be because that would be a waste of who God made me to be.

Life is a balancing act. Socialize, but make time for yourself so you have enough to give back when you are around people. Go where you are comfortable because you can thrive there, but don’t close yourself off to new possibilities.

This is starting to sound like a motivational speech, as many of my rants tend to do. My point is that sometimes God puts you in uncomfortable situations to teach you an important lesson, but we are living in a generation that tells you you have to constantly do things that scare you. Yes that’s true to a certain extent because trying new things and making connections and other things of the like can often lead to figuring out who you are, what you are good at, etc., but you don’t have to live every second of your life moving so quickly that you don’t take time to reflect on any of it.

Doing what scares you doesn’t mean wasting time in places you don’t think you belong. It doesn’t mean you have to do things you don’t take much of an interest in or that won’t add something to either your or someone else’s lives. Unless you believe there is a legitimate purpose for doing said things, “living life to the fullest” does not look exactly the same for any two people. Simply go where you believe you are lead to go.