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Myself When I Am Real

This blog post is perhaps going to be the longest and most honest post I have made yet.  Not that the others weren’t honest; however, this one is going to share some things that perhaps I have never shared before.  I’m going to be pretty blunt about how I feel sometimes, and some things may come as a shock.  I welcome any questions this might raise about what I believe or how I feel about certain things.
There are some things that really frustrate me about factory-made Christians, one of which is the lack of honesty in them.  It seems like you could take their pictures and put them on those life-sized cardboard cut-outs, and it would be about the same thing.  Hair perfect, pasty smile, and nice clothes to match.  You know how I feel when I walk into a church full of people like that?  Really out of place.  And I’ve been doing this “church thing” my whole life.
You see, my life’s not perfect, and some days are really rough.  Yeah, I want people to respect and admire me, but I’m tired of the masks that I and a lot of people I know constantly hide behind.  It’s scary putting your heart out there.  The thing that I’m most afraid of?  This thought:  once this person really gets to know me, they will turn and run in the other direction.  What is it about me that I am afraid they will find out?  Maybe that I struggle, I have a history, and there are things in my life that I am ashamed of.  However, here’s the part about this whole thing that gets me, this nagging question in the back of my mind:  if we all carry the weight of these 3 things I mentioned, then why are we so afraid to share them?
Honestly, I have a hard time going to church sometimes.  I love the music, and the words from my pastor really help and give me things to think about.  However, I don’t feel like I connect with the people there.  I work at church, and there are maybe 2 or 3 people I really feel like I can talk to, but when I think about church, I feel more like an observer than a participant.  This bothers me.
I have a restaurant that I go to most evenings to study and spend time getting to know the employees.  Some days even when I am not feeling well, I will fight to get there because I feel more a part of a family there.  They make no bones about it:  this is my life, here are my mistakes, but I’m still here.  I love that.  I love the honesty, and that is something that I don’t see in Christians as much.  Why is that?  Don’t we have the greatest story to tell?  If God has really come in and transformed our lives and given us hope, then why are we keeping that candle under a bowl?
Maybe we all live under the illusion that when we accept Jesus that all of a sudden we become super people who do everything right and have all the answers to all the questions.  The answer to every question is Jesus, right?  Why is the sky blue?  Jesus.  Well, that doesn’t make any sense.  The truth is, some questions are a little more complex to answer because life is complicated and God is a whole lot bigger than we can ever understand.  We spend our whole lives on this journey trying to figure it out, and our little clichés that we often use thinking they are a display of faith don’t really cut it sometimes.  Like the factory-made cardboard people, there’s a difference between simple answers and a simple faith.
Maybe it’s my personality, but I don’t want to be content with a surface level faith.  Notice I didn’t use the word Christianity?  Well, I’m still working on how I feel about that, but I’m a little sick of labels.  Labels have feelings attached to them.  When I say that I’m a Christian, that can give a lot of different impressions to people who have histories with other “Christians.”  You know what I want to say to people?  “I am so in love with Jesus.  He is my best friend.  He has literally saved my life, and as you get to know me, I hope that you can see how He is saving me more every day.”  That’s my faith.
I want to know and love God deeply.  I want to explore the mansions of who He is.  I want to know His heart.  I want Him to be my everything.  Every day I dive deeper in my understanding of who He is.  He is showing me more of who I am, and as I become more and more honest in His presence, He reveals Himself more and more in my life.  Have I used the word “more” enough?  That’s what I want:  more of Him.
For years I kept my struggles basically to myself.  Yeah, I’m sick and in pain, but it’s ok.  God is good.  To me, that statement was a fact that I held onto.  Was God good?  Well, I hoped so.  It wasn’t until I reached the end of my rope and in my desperation cried out to Him that I discovered the truth.  Every day I lay myself bare before Him, crying to Him about all that I feel and hate and the things that are tearing me up inside.  And you know what I have found?  GOD IS SO GOOD.  Now I get it.
Sometimes people share struggles that make them look good.  I think that a lot of it is real, but it can appear like this:  look at what God has saved me from and now I have reached a platform higher than everyone else because of my faith.  It seems that those people focus on pulling others up to the “paradise” they are in.  I think I used to be in that mindset as well, except secretly my life wasn’t paradise.  It was fulfilling and meaningful since Jesus stepped in, but if that was the final step to glory, then I was slightly disappointed.
The truth is, just like in every relationship, things are always fighting to take higher priority in our lives.  There is no point where we reach perfection.  We are always learning and growing and changing, or at least we should be.  I think this is the point where a lot of marriages fall apart, when life becomes routine and they stop growing and learning together.  I never want that to happen in my relationship with God.  I want every day, through good times and bad times, to be a part of this great adventure into the secrets of God.
If I could sit down with you and share about who I am when I am real, I would tell you some things that might surprise you.  I constantly am frustrated with the way I look.  I can’t help how much I weigh right now because of my health status, but it really bothers me.  My clothes are always a little too small, but I can’t afford to go out and buy new clothes.  I am reminded of this every morning when I am getting ready.  And I hate my glasses, but I think I look far worse without them.  I don’t ever look good in pictures but for some reason I still keep trying anyway.  I’m just being honest.
You know what I really want to do right now?  I would love to go ride my bike or go join the kids playing basketball.  I want to go for a run around the lake or something cool like that.  But I can’t, because physically my muscles barely allow me to climb stairs.  More than once today at work I had to stop halfway up a flight of stairs to catch my breath and give my muscles a chance to calm down.  It’s so embarrassing when I am passed up by people more than 3 times my age on my way across the building.  Whether or not they look down on me, I do, because I feel that people see me as lazy.  So I work really hard and do a lot of things to prove to myself that I’m not lazy.  This is me when I am real.
And there are a lot of things that I have battled my whole life that I don’t talk about much.  There’s a darkness that has haunted me since I was small; an oppression of the soul.  I have had some terrifying experiences that I have only shared with a few, because most people in the world probably shouldn’t hear about it.  Is it a secret?  Yes.  Should it stay a secret?  Yes.  Does it impact my life?  Absolutely, but please bear with me.
You know, I have some really good days and some really bad days.  Yesterday was a really bad day.  I made it through work, though I felt terrible and then headed out to dinner with my 4-year-old cousin and my friend.  I ended up staying at the restaurant until 10 or so when I couldn’t take it anymore.  I felt so dizzy and sick.  Pushing through just wasn’t working.  My stomach has been swollen for about 2 weeks now, and it’s painful.  I haven’t usually been able to eat more than one big meal a day because my belly simply can’t handle it.  Go to the doctor?  Oh yeah, I’ve been doing that for 8 years, and once again I have them puzzled.  I have tried so many things:  mind over matter, positive attitude, thinking about other things, de-stressing my life…and all of this continues.  I try so hard to push through and live life with a smile, but some days it is really hard to do that.  Most people probably don’t know that I am dealing with this, and selfishly I’d rather they didn’t.  There are so many other ways I would prefer to spend my time than in doctors’ offices playing the game, “Now describe to me your pain one more time…”  The thing that I am most afraid of?  I’m trying to decide if that is:  other people thinking that I am a hypochondriac or actually being a hypochondriac.  This leads me to not take care of myself like I should, because I am always afraid that I am exaggerating things.  I don’t trust myself at all.
This is the kind of stuff that I would share with you if I could be real.  Sometimes I leave church crying because I want so much for what we talk about all the time but I never see:  a community.  We call ourselves a church family, but apparently I’m not trying hard enough or something, because I always find myself on the outside.
Please don’t get me wrong; I love my church and I love my Sunday School class.  The people are so great, but I don’t feel like I know the people there, and they definitely don’t know me.  I feel like I spend all day at work fighting for people, and I go to church on Sunday and reach out to others, but at the end of the day I go home exhausted because I have given so much.  You know what my deepest desire is?  To have someone fighting for me.  I feel so selfish saying that, but this is something that really hurts me deep inside.  I’m not sure if I have anyone (besides God) in my life that would fight for me.  And that’s a really lonely feeling.
I wonder what it would be like to be a part of a community that shared everything?  No one’s burdens would be theirs alone to carry and we could work through the good and bad together.  In my understanding of the Bible, this was Jesus’ dream for the church, but I don’t see that happening anywhere around me.  I just want so badly to be real and to be around others that are real, because honestly, life sucks sometimes.  Other times, it can be amazing.  Wouldn’t it be great to share that with someone?  Maybe I’m going crazy.
I guess maybe there is a difference between being real with God and being real with another person.  God and I have spent so many years together and have had each other’s back for so long that talking to Him (for me) is a lot easier than talking to someone else.  For one, even though sometimes I might struggle to believe He’ll come through on something that seems impossible to me or I may not understand what He’s doing or allowing in my life at the time, I know that He is faithful and will never let me go.  People, on the other hand, walk in and out, and I guess for good reason we have to guard our hearts.  Not everyone by far is worthy of our deepest secrets, and we have to be careful who we share them with.  However, if you’re like me, you end up sharing your secrets with nobody and then in desperation find random people and then they break your heart and it’s an endless cycle of building even higher walls inside.  It took me quite a while to discover that my life was a little out of balance.  I wasn’t choosing my confidants wisely, and therefore my life was filled with dysfunction.  I was always in search of someone to fill me.  The truth is, no person can.  Only God can fill me, but having healthy relationships with people is important for other reasons.
To be honest, God has taught me more these past 4 weeks than I have been willing to learn in years.  I am loving this and drinking it in.  I want to share a little bit with you, and perhaps I will write more about this in the future because I don’t want to write a book on this one blog.  However, I think it is important on the lines of “being real” that I share some of the positive things, because they really do outweigh the negative.
God has taught me how to allow Him to pursue me as my lover.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I joined eHarmony a couple months ago (for reasons that I don’t want to share on a public site), and I was the last person I thought would ever join eHarmony.  Through that experience, God has really been working on my heart in how I view relationships and how I view Him.  I realized that I had been living the majority of my life ahead of God, waiting for Him to catch up.  Then suddenly I would realize that He took a turn back yonder, and oh my goodness, my plans have completely changed.  There is a whole different way of being in relationship with God than I had been allowing myself to enjoy:  living in response to Him.  I’m not much of a dancer (except the occasional break-dance in my room, ask my neighbor), but I do know that it’s really hard to dance when both people are trying to take the lead and decide the next move to take.  I have discovered a much richer faith in trusting that God will make the next move and I can simply respond to the slightest twist of His hand or syncopated rhythm in His feet.  It definitely takes practice, and I am trying to tune in and learn His style, cues, and mannerisms.  That’s what I’ve been spending so much time doing these past few weeks, and I am fascinated.  He is truly captivating, and I am falling in love with Him.
I have also learned the value of allowing myself to be a child in His presence.  As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of things about me that I am frustrated with and that bother me about myself.  This used to consume my thoughts every day, and I lived in response to my insecurity.  However, I am starting to pay attention more to my little 4-year-old cousin.  There are things that I have really learned from her, especially on the subject of honesty (because, believe me, there is never a question as to what she is thinking or feeling at any given time).  It is also amazing to me when we have dance parties in my kitchen.  We go all out (Miley Cyrus and Brit Nicole mostly) and she just dances away.  I have always wondered about the saying “dance like nobody’s watching.”  My cousin dances because somebody’s watching.  The book Captivating had a section that I will never forget about dancing on the table for daddy.  To truly be a kid, dancing must have an audience.  Do I feel secure enough to dance before God?  He has also shown me how to live life with amazement and dreams.  I’m working on a book of pictures of things I want to do in my life, and I’m coloring the pictures with sharpies.  Three months ago, that would have been a total waste of time, but I am discovering how meaningful it is to just enjoy life in the presence of God.  He created play, and as we grow up, sometimes we forget how to do that.
Along these same lines, I am learning that being a witness in the world doesn’t necessarily mean that I am busy all day long serving food at the homeless shelter and organizing fund drives for every good organization in the world.  God has caused me to evaluate where He has placed me and the passions He has put in my heart.  I go to a restaurant almost every day, and I have started to really get to know the employees.  There, I am a light, just by being who I am and showing an interest in who they are.  God has placed a huge passion on my heart for orphan care, and I am getting involved in an organization that does just that.  I am no longer involved in a million different things.  I am focusing my energy on a couple things, and letting God take care of the changing.  I realized that neither I nor anybody else can “change the world.”  However, God inspires and works in the lives of those around us by the light He places in us.  As they see how He is working in our lives, they are drawn to Him.
I am learning how to be thankful in everything.  We don’t naturally understand “good.”  However, in tough times God often sends the biggest blessings. 
Probably the biggest thing that I have been able to grasp lately is the concept of joy.  I have always said that there is a difference between joy and happiness, but I don’t think I understood what I was talking about until recently.  As I have started to share about my struggle with my health, I have gone through a real emotional battle over all this.  These last 8 years have been extremely difficult, but almost a year ago I decided that I was done with this.  However, one can’t just decide to stop being sick if the pain is real, and it has been hard to come to terms with the fact that this journey might be longer than I want it to be.  You see, someday I really desire to do missions.  More than anything, I want to be able to serve God without these obstacles, and I can’t move to another country right now because my health isn’t stable enough yet.  It has been hard to understand why God would call me to something and then not allow me to follow through because of something so major.  Trusting that things will be ok someday has been hard when I sit in my doctor’s office as he shakes his head, explaining how he doesn’t understand why things don’t add up.  However, through all of this, and I can’t really explain it, God has given me such an incredible joy.  He has taught me so much in the suffering that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  It’s also amazing to me how in the midst of extreme pain, God lays His hand on me and I have peace.  You remember how I mentioned earlier that yesterday did not go well?  When I laid down to sleep that night, I physically felt His presence surround me and cover me.  I slept for 11 hours without waking up and it was probably the deepest sleep I have had in a very long time.  When Paul talks about the “peace that surpasses all understanding”, he described it pretty well.  I’m going to stop trying to explain it.  It’s just pretty much amazing.  God doesn’t always work like we want Him to, but even when we don’t get it (and I’m not trying to be cliché here), we can trust His heart.  Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child (as Scott Krippayne puts it).  All in His time.
I could keep going on, but this is a very long blog, so we will continue these thoughts at a later date.  Thanks for your patience and time in reading all of this!
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