How DO we choose light?

So, I’ve been pondering something lately and I want to share it with you all. These thoughts aren’t fully-formed yet, and I’m not sure how clear they’ll be, but I sense that some of you might have a lot to say on some of these topics and I’d love your input.

I feel caught between following my dreams and being a Christian.

It’s not that I want something that’s even vaguely immoral or anything akin to that; more like, I’m afraid to believe in myself and my dreams because I know that sin gets in the way.

I love reading about women (and men, though I mostly hear about women) who believe in themselves, who’ve learned to say, “Fuck ’em!” to their detractors, who find deeply good things at the center of themselves and others. I love the lives these women live, with their art and creativity and ability to invest in themselves and their talents. I love knowing that at least a few people have children who will grow up knowing they’re loved and held, no matter what they choose to do or who they choose to be.

At the same time, I feel like I can’t quite enter in, like God says I have to stand in the doorway that leads to all of this beauty and say, “No, the center of us is bad. There is sin and emptiness in our middles, not goodness and light. I can’t trust what comes from there, because who knows what is influencing it.”

And there’s truth in that. Not everything that burbles up from the middle of me is good. Much of it is dark, confused, wrong, manipulative, tired, sad, angry, hurtful, resentful, frustrated, etc. I don’t want to live the rest of my life investing deeply in something that’s based on any of these things. I don’t want to be so dazzled by a beglittered facade that I miss the terrible shadow forming behind it. I don’t want to invest exclusively in myself and miss God.

In the end, I really think that the Bible says that every good thing comes from God: power, creativity, meaning, glory, beauty, etc. If I was just left as me, well, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of that.  But how do I know what I’ve been given? How do I know that these things I want are really from Him and not something I’m trying to take on because I’m deceived into thinking that it’s good?

I’m afraid that pursuing what I want would be self-focused and arrogant, because I would be doing what I wanted to do regardless of the money it brought in or Dave’s and my practical needs. I feel like pursuing these things would be giving in to a life of self-focused falsehoods. The word “debauchery” comes to mind here, like giving up what is safe and what makes sense financially and educationally and on every practical level imaginable would be indulging myself to the point of my soul’s destruction. I feel like I don’t have the right to ask Dave to let me pursue something that very well might not work out, might leave us poor and stretched and stressed. Our lives are tied together now, and ruin for me means ruin for him, too. I feel like I don’t have the right to be wild, heedless, or to take big risks. I need to be steady, focused, patient, practical and solid. I need to hold on to the status quo until it makes sense to follow my dreams. I need to follow the path I’m on, not see what’s beyond the glade.

And I feel like all of this comes from God. The God I know wants me to take care of practical matters first. He puts duty over desire, every single time. Practical responsibility trumps responsibility to myself in almost every circumstance. He is skeptical of my heart’s motives, wanting me to examine them over and over and over again before I do anything, so that I know whether or not they’re pure. The God I know didn’t make me particularly special; sure, I’m unique, but I’m not going to change the world. I’m not special enough to get to do anything out of the ordinary, like for a job or something. My God wants me to always put others first, to do what feels like betraying my own soul, if I have to, so that they can get what’s good for them (is this the “dying to self” that Christ practiced? I don’t know.) He tells me that it’s selfish to ask for resources for training, or to risk resources on something that might pan out. I think he wants me to not need to pursue the things I want to be happy. I should be detached and content, not chomping at the bit to get the hell out of Dodge.

Needless to say, God and I are on some pretty strange (I almost wrote “strained”) terms right now.

In the end, I think that some of what I come to this dilemma believing is true, while some of it is false. I think that some of the messages I’m hearing from the outside are true, while parts of those messages are also false. I want to sift the truth from the falsehood, pick it up and let the rest fly away. Letting go of lies is harder than that, though, whether they’re long-and-closely held or new-and-alluringly-attractive. It’s a fight inside, and at the moment I don’t feel like I can see anything beyond the dust and confusion of the clash

*****

I just read over this and I’m afraid I’ve revealed too much here. And yet…well, maybe not. Thus, the longing to say these things, to make this heart-struggle real, has a better hand than the one that says people shouldn’t know these things about me, and I post.

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26 Comments

Filed under My Days

26 responses to “How DO we choose light?

  1. Sarah Grace Remember your last name is what brought Christ to the cross. God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense=Grace.
    I too have similar feelings. While not committing something that the world “sees” I still commit sin. I am too caught in between the fantasy of the self and the serving of a God who loves me.
    The devil deceives us and acts as an angel of light masquerading in the darkness. It is good that you have a resident on board to help you and keep you in check.
    Thanks for being honest. in the Psalms, king David was honest before God for his murders, his adultery and his times of being chased by Saul.

    It was no picnic for him. He had lots of ants in his pants for sure.

    Remember you are going to change this world post to post. With the family that God will be building from within and without you.

    May you experience His grace every day.

    for my adventures, check out http://www.scottrdavis.blogspot.com
    and http://www.thefleshfight.blogspot.com

    In His grace, scott

    Scott

  2. dear sarah,
    you are always so much braver than i am!! i read that “fuck ’em!!” post too; i feel the same admiration, and even feel a twinge (okay, more than a twinge) of jealousy at the empowerment i sense in that: looking at these women who are fiercely themselves, creative, vulnerable, & finding their own ways in the world: i love seeing that. i want to say yes, yes, yes!! to that.

    but then as you articulate so well, there’s the whole seeing ourselves through the eyes of our faith: we know that goodness & creativity & beauty doesn’t spring up from ourselves (blech!!), but it is given. it never came from ourselves. i’m finding these days that less & less of what i thought was mine actually is mine — it’s a gift, & though i know God is not cruel, i’m really at His mercy in terms of keeping those things.

    it hurts my heart to hear you describe the profound strain you feel between the practical concerns of life & the dreams (however far-fetched you might feel they are) you have for your life. this is where i could spout some pithy christian-ese, where i could try and tell you that dying to yourself is freedom, that life abundant is found when you pursue Christ’s plans for you.

    but i can see the tension here of not being able to distinguish truth from lies, to know exactly what it is you might be hanging onto, to know what you’re hearing from outside & within & whether it can be filed under the category of “true” or “false”.

    sarah, i want to get this, i want to fix it. but i know there’s nothing for this confusion & this strain but to live it, to walk through it, to wait for God to reveal Himself in the midst of it. and that’s hard and it hurts.

    i know it won’t end the fight for you, but let me just be one who says that i am confident that the desires we have for ourselves are God-given too; they inevitably get tangled up with the untruths from without and within every day to be sure … they get hung up on the selfish parts of ourselves. but i believe that at the center of that melange of confusion and messy tangledness lies something so holy & pure that we would be blinded by the beauty of it.

    sigh. i want so badly to sit with you in this. to hear your heart, hold your hand, wrap my arms around you.

    love you, girl.

  3. Kirsten said it.
    We are a new creation. Being Christian means being restored to being truly human–which means being both responsible and creative and free and beautiful and magical.
    As part of this new creation, I want to come around you and tell you that God loves you and that I love you and that there are so many people in this world who love and treasure you.
    And I know the struggle of being ordinary–God knows I’ve blogged about it enough myself. In fact, my prayer this year is to be insignificant because I was afraid that my dreams were becoming more about me than God. That’s a balance I’ll always struggle with, I fear. (Celebrating others helps this!)
    No, I may not change the world. Highly unlikely, in fact. But I know I’ve been called to follow Him and allow Him to do what He will with me and the gifts He’s given me.
    Sometimes I wonder if He’ll ever do anything with these gifts!
    But maybe He is and I can’t see it. Or maybe the work He’s doing is more in my life than with my life (which in itself feels selfish to me!).
    I’m not sure that this side of the resurrection we’ll ever have completely pure motives. Not that that means we shouldn’t strive toward it, shouldn’t ask the Holy Spirit to dig, shouldn’t offer our bodies as living sacrifices every day. Because as we offer our bodies, than we’ll know what God’s will is.
    I think I do the opposite a lot. Okay, God–tell me your will, and I’ll offer myself. Sure, that sounds good, but I’m supposed to offer myself first.
    Wow–leaving this comment is preaching to me! I need to go pray…

  4. Tammy

    Sarah
    Nate was here last night and I read him your blog. The reason i read it to him was that i knew he would hear my voice in that blog. You actually wrote exactly how i feel lately. I certainly don’t have any answers for ya, cuz if i did i wouldn’t be asking them so often myself.

    I can so relate to this war and struggle. Questions that you have that you can’t seem to resolve within yourself. That is an on-going battle. I live everyday feeling………”what if i am on some dark path so far away from the truth that i am being deceived and don’t know it?”

    I am almost always reasoning out my motives for things too and all the psychoanalyzing myself seems to be more exhausting than profitable. There seems to be such a war with living this humanness and reconciling it to our Spiritual life.

    Myself, i have always felt like i was called into the ministry, but i refuse to go because of some of my inner struggles, i keep thinking it would turn me into a hypocrite. Somebody asked me the other day, “when are you going to be RIGHTEOUS enough to do what is in your heart?” I don’t have the answer to that…………………….

    I did not offer any help here at all, probably just raised more questions, sorry about that i was just thinking out loud.

  5. Hi, guys 😉

    Scott–Thanks for your thoughts. Yeah, I guess, in the end, I’m wondering what of all of this IS sin and what isn’t. Is going after the things I want in the way I see sinful, or is it that I believe false things about God that make me think its sinful? Yeah, it’s twisted up inside me–I know that 😉

    Thanks for sharing a little about your journey. It sounds like you’ve done true battle with the devil, friend. I’m glad you’re here to tell about it.

    Kirsten–what you say reminds me of a quote by Rilke–“…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

    Live the questions…there’s a lot of wisdom in that. It’s just damn hard to do.

    And we to sit and talk soon…though not nearly soon enough, I’m afraid.

    Heather–wow…I love the fact that you’ve “made peace” with your creativity and with following it. I don’t know how solid that is for you, but it seems moreso for you than it is for me. It’s inspiring.

    Reading your words I had a fragment of a thought I’ve never thought before–what if giving myself means doing fully the work I was made to do (maybe even if it’s not the easiest or most direct way?), not setting my heart’s desires aside to do something else (like I’ve always thought). I don’t know if I can express how profound this seems to me…have you ever noticed that the insights that help us grow are the ones that seem so obvious after we have them that we want to smack our heads and scream, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this before??!!?!” Anyway…well, now I’m thinking.

    Tammy–Thanks so much for sharing…the quote I shared in response to Kirsten’s post comes up for me again here…live the questions. It’s so hard to know, sometimes, where God is…whether the ideas that come to my mind when I think of him are really him or if they’re lies I’ve learned about him.

    I know that the truth is out there (sheesh! now sound like Yoda I do)…and that it is knowable. It’s so hard when it’s mixed up with our stuff, though. That’s what other people are for…I know that’s what I can help some of the people I see in spiritual direction with…but it’s so much easier when it’s not me 😉

    Love you, Tammy…and the questions are good…thanks for sharing. Tell Nate hi, k?

  6. exactly–doing the work God prepared for you!

  7. “But how do I know what I’ve been given? How do I know that these things I want are really from Him and not something I’m trying to take on because I’m deceived into thinking that it’s good?”

    You shall know the answer by the fruits that they bear. What are the fruits that will come of what you are doing. Are they good, indifferent, or bad? Remember that God uses the desires of our heart for his purpose, our heart desires are not bad, it is the packaging that comes with it (the flesh)

    I suggest something I do, sometimes a lot. Find a mentor, someone outside your social circle and work circle, but who you know can keep your confidence…then let it rip. you have to be willing to put yourself out there a bit with them, but the rewards can be immense.

    Remember that God uses authority in our lives to confirm our ways or to put the breaks on.

    Proverbs 16:1 “People make plans in their hearts,. but the Lord controls what they do…Commit to the Lord everthing you do, then your plans will succeed. ”

    If you want my advise on an advisor, cant get much better the Kirsten and Christianne. In otherwards, you are aimed in the right direction…

    Hang in there.

  8. hi, sarah.

    i really appreciate your trusting us with all this honesty inside of you; it sound like that was a really scary step and that hitting “post” might have felt like jumping off a cliff. but i’m sorry for the struggle that is palpable in your words. i can understand the struggle too, in my own way, as i read those same blogs and fall in love with the beauty and creativity there and even see God in there somehow and wonder how all that intersects with him.

    everyone here has offered so many rich gifts in response. kirsten captured a whole lot with her words that had me nodding along the entire time, it sounds like you found a profound new insight through heather’s response that i really think is important to examine, and carl asked a really great question: what is the fruit that it bears? wow. all of these reflections offer great places to start.

    i’m not sure how much more i can offer, especially because my head’s been pretty foggy these days and i can’t seem to string together too many coherent thoughts. but i will say that i’ve wrestled with those questions, too, about duty and desire and that belief in duty over desire ruled my life without my knowing it for a really long time. it sounds like you’ve got some consciousness about it and are wrestling with its veracity, and i guess i want to say ‘bravo for you’ for asking the questions. they’re not easy ones. sometimes i really think they come from two perspectives on faith that are aimed directly against each other. one approach to faith is all duty over desire. another approach to faith says those desires in our hearts are given by God for his purposes and the building up of his church and his kingdom in this world, his work through our hands.

    i guess what i’m trying to say is that i grew up believing the first approach was correct, but i’ve come to now believe the second one is. and that’s based out of the crux of the things kirsten and heather and carl already offered. i think you’re on to something with your new revelation in heather’s comment, in other words, and i think it’s important to sit with that new thought and let it filter on in to the rest of the conversation already at work inside you concerning all this.

    one last thing i’ll add is that in christ, you are a new creation. God has given you a new heart. you have a new nature that is real. and while we still live in the flesh and it seeks to corrupt, at your core, your nature has been transformed. not to mention that you have the actual God of the universe, through the person of the holy spirit, actually living inside of you. these are two pretty powerful agents for good working in your favor to combat the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

    i don’t know what specific decisions you’re facing, what specific things you want to follow but feel disallowed to do . . . but i guess i come back to carl’s question and ask what is its fruit? does it serve the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life . . . or might it actualy be serving God’s purposes in you? i’m inclined to believe that rather than detached and cold, God is seeking to bring you more fully and freely alive.

  9. ah, yes living the questions. i’ve read that rilke quote enough times that you’d think it woult stick somewhere.

    maybe it’s because it’s one of those things that is beautiful in theory (in how it sounds & what it means), but when it comes to living in the thick of it, i just want to rip my hair out.

    i love the thought heather shared & it’s one i recently got hit over the head with. i think there is an intersection of the fulfillment our dreams & the design God has for us in the world — the whole idea of that surrender bringing us to our true selves, putting others first, & living out the dreams he put in us in the process.

    i hope that that is at least a little bit coherent. :o)

    i wonder sometimes too if what we perceive as chaos and disorder and mess and complete upside-downness actually makes complete sense with a God’s eye view: the intended unfolding of our stories, discovering those things that He hid in us. i’m willing to bed it makes good sense where God is concerned. :o)

  10. Heather–yeah…I’m still mostly in “wow” zone about the very thoughts. I know that doing what you’re made to do isn’t always fun, but I thought of giving up myself as a specifically painful process. Also, it’s amazing to me how much rearranging this could mean in my life…

    Carl–awesome, those words of yours. Yeah, I’m definitely going the right direction…somewhere…wherever that is. You know, I think that, even deeper than the beliefs I posted about, I believe that God doesn’t want me to enjoy life, that he doesn’t want me to be fulfilled, that he’s sort of the big killjoy in the sky. Now THERE’S something to ponder…

    Christianne–wow…for someone who didn’t think she had much to say, your words held so much for me. I think you’re definitely right about the two views of faith. And I’ve also always held the first one–God wants us to fulfill the responsibilities he gives us on this earth. Which is true, I think. But I can’t hold on to that the way I have, because I’m starting to see that one of the responsibilities he gives us is our selves, our lives and how we’re structured inside and our past, present, and future. Internal and external responsibility, I guess. And there’s got to be a balance between the two, I think…a place where we stop slaving for the sake of external responsibilities and start fulfilling some of the internal ones, and God is in the place where they meet…the place where fulfilling our internal responsibilities also helps us fulfill the external ones. I don’t know how comfortable I am with casting our dreams and desires in the language of “responsibility,” though…I’m thinking out loud here.

    I’m also inspired by your trust of what’s inside you…I think that’s another thing I learned not to do. I can’t quite SAY what I’m thinking, but the wheels are turning. If I get something I can say in words, I’ll post it back here.

  11. Kirsten–ooo, I like it–that surrender brings us to our true selves, etc. And it would be just like God to make something that sounds as wretched as surrender be as fun as doing what we’re created to do. Well…surrender itself isn’t so much fun, but what comes from us.

    I realized while reading your thoughts that I wonder if some of the things I want to do are “worthy” of being called “God’s calling.” They’re things I’ve always thought of as extra, as unnecessary, as less important than things I see other people doing. I don’t want to be frivolous, and so I don’t do them. Huh. Sheesh…more to think about.

  12. sarah said: “what if giving myself means doing fully the work I was made to do (maybe even if it’s not the easiest or most direct way?), not setting my heart’s desires aside to do something else (like I’ve always thought).”

    i went back and re-read this comment thread and found myself saying, “yes, yes, yes!!!” to this part. for what it’s worth, i just thought i’d camp out in this part and raise it up again.

    i’m with you that it’s not about setting aside responsibility but about finding a complementary relationship between living out what we were meant to live and living in the reality of our world. (well, i say that, but i also know that we live by the power and strength of an outside-this-world God who continues to confound my own notions of what this world seems to require of me to live.)

    sarah, i don’t know if this will help or is really the path God would have for you personally, but it might help you to hear the following story . . .

    kirk worked as a recruiter for full sail for 13 years. it was a high-profile position to hold at that institution, and he did very well in his performance standards. that place was also like a family to him, since he was surrounded by a team of people who had basically brought full sail into its glory days by the collective power of their good work.

    but about four years ago, he started to feel restless. like he wasn’t fulfilling all that he was created to do by recruiting creative people to this creative school, even as much as he loves the creative temperament and loves championing people to follow their dreams. simply put, he felt like he was helping other people follow their dreams without doing the same for himself. he knew he was created for more than recruiting people to full sail. (again, even though he loves that institution so much.)

    so after much thought and prayer, shortly after we met and started dating, he ended up resigning his position. people thought he was NUTS. i mean, if you’re a successful, veteran recruiter at full sail, you’ve got it made in the world’s eyes. but he couldn’t help feel that God was asking him to walk away from it all, to stop placing so much dependence in the financial security and blessings that the position brought and to really strike out into a new land to see what God had for him instead.

    he sold two houses and 90 percent of his possessions. this includes a truck, all his furnishings, and bucketloads of books. (for a bibliophile, that part was painful.) suddenly, he had nowhere to live and no transportion and no job.

    but do you know what happened? God provided. in amazing ways. in totally unexpected ways. and he has continued to do so. it has been three years since kirk left full sail and one year since i left my job, but God has continued to provide a way for us to live humbly but totally blessedly. we share one car. we live in a 1,000 square foot house. we don’t have a lot of furniture. we don’t buy many new clothes. but we love our house. we love our cats. we’re provided for. we get special treats every now and again that are like celebrations for us, ways that God is lavish.

    all that to say . . . God’s ways are not the world’s ways. sometimes we define responsibility by a standard that our american eyes can see. God doesn’t define things in an american way, though. he does things his own way, and he’s out to accomplish his own purposes in each of our lives. and the thing is, he created each of us with a kernel of unique joy that synergistically aligns with him to do all of that.

    again, i’m not writing this story to tell you to quit your job and just “trust God.” kirk felt specifically asked by God to do some pretty crazy things that were unique to his story. i tell you that story to tell you that God can blow the roof off our own expectations and ideas, and he can also provide in some crazy, God-fangled ways. and for that, blessed be the name of the Lord.

  13. True. Our hearts are always suspect. Then again, we’ve gotta live. And love. And move.

    Sometimes when I am in the middle of pursuing my writing dream (like I am right now, with working on my next book), I get all gummed up. Paralyzed. I know my heart isn’t what it needs to be. I get tempted to stop writing. Heck, I DO stop writing.

    Then I remember. I will never be what I need to be. I need to live. And love. And move.

    I sincerely hope you find your way in what seems overwhelmingly confusing. I pray you’ll live, love, move.

  14. Christianne–what an awesome story! Thanks for sharing it with me. Right now, I honestly don’t quite know what choices I’m facing, but I’m realizing that I (and Dave, too, since he’s definitely part of this) have some serious discerning ahead of us. I’m realizing how often I’ve followed the status quo and how hard it would be to leave that.

    As to hearing God…well, he seems pretty quiet right now. Maybe he’s speaking in ways I haven’t learned to hear yet. I don’t know. But I’m thinking.

    L.L.–live, love, and move. I like it. I think “move” is what I have the most trouble with.

    I’ve also stopped writing recently…I think I’m afraid of it 😉

  15. Yeah, I have battled with the enemy. been on the front lines. receiving the barbs yet also knowing firsthand that Jesus and His spirits are there at numerous times to “catch this falling star at times” which has made me grateful. sin is when we miss the mark. God wants our very best . In Psalm 37;4 it says to delight yourself in the Lord. As long as we try to follow Him the best, we will do fine. It is the devil who twists our minds up. We will do our best since we are conquerers in Him..

  16. Scott–I love Psalm 37. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I suppose there’s not a much better way of discerning than taking my delight in him and seeing where that leads my heart. Like “live the questions” it’s easier said than done, but still, a direction from here. Thanks, Scott.

  17. Di

    now that I have more time to fix my typos and such I’m posting our side conversation here “in the light” of this community

    So, I’ve been pondering something lately and I want to share it with you all. These thoughts aren’t fully-formed yet, and I’m not sure how clear they’ll be, but I sense that some of you might have a lot to say on some of these topics and I’d love your input.
    I was struck by a a quote of Tim Russerts yesterday that frankly, I love. “My views are not important.” There is such humility and grace in those words, and understanding that whatever I am about to say are mine, and not necessarily yours to embrace. So with that in mind, I would love to share what I have to say on this topic of the heart.
    I feel caught between following my dreams and being a Christian.
    Hmmm…this presents an interesting dichotomy. First, I would start by saying I come from the presupposition “the heart of a Christian is good” and by Christian, I mean, a person who’s surrendered (daily) their life to Jesus. Not that they are perfect, God knows we continue to sin despite are strongest desires not to….Paul speaks about this often “that which I want to do I don’t do and that which I don’t want to do, I do….the battle of flesh and spirit. We are a new creation in Christ, the old has gone the new has come…something fundamental has shifted in us at “regeneration” yet we still carry with us our past hurts, memories, wounds, strategies to get life apart from our true identity in Christ.
    It’s not that I want something that’s even vaguely immoral or anything akin to that; more like, I’m afraid to believe in myself and my dreams because I know that sin gets in the way.
    It may…and you have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of you that will gently nudge or strongly convict you of those sinful patterns that need renewing. What would it mean to shift from fearing sin to having faith that God is working in you (energeo) to eradicate it from your heart. A gentle, loving gardener tilling the soil of your heart to bear good fruit rather than fearing that the soil is bad….no…the soil is good. It will still need nurturing, but its fundamental quality is goodness, not sinfulness. You are a new creation.
    I love reading about women (and men, though I mostly hear about women) who believe in themselves, who’ve learned to say, “Fuck ’em!” to their detractors,
    I’ll need to go read this link, I think. follow-up: I love mccabe, her art, her passion, I suspect she she has fought for the freedom she has to express herself, it is beautiful, and how she’s passing that along to these little girls is more effen awesome. I’m especially fond of her rocks!
    who find deeply good things at the center of themselves and others. I love the lives these women live, with their art and creativity and ability to invest in themselves and their talents. I love knowing that at least a few people have children who will grow up knowing they’re loved and held, no matter what they choose to do or who they choose to be.
    oh I love that too…for a child to know they are loved for who they BE not for what they DO. So crucial to really get this distinction.
    At the same time, I feel like I can’t quite enter in, like God says I have to stand in the doorway that leads to all of this beauty and say, “No, the center of us is bad. There is sin and emptiness in our middles, not goodness and light. I can’t trust what comes from there, because who knows what is influencing it.”
    that is a lie…a lie about who you truly are in the core of your being, created in the image of God, “I will give them a new heart and put my spirit within them” oh it is good in there. Yes, there are some residuals to contend with, but the core of your core is GOOD!
    And there’s truth in that. Not everything that burbles up from the middle of me is good.
    And it isn’t coming from that core, probably. Rather, an unregenerated neural net, pattern of doing life, that needs to be aligned with who you really are.
    Much of it is dark, confused, wrong, manipulative, tired, sad, angry, hurtful, resentful, frustrated, etc. I don’t want to live the rest of my life investing deeply in something that’s based on any of these things. I don’t want to be so dazzled by a beglittered facade that I miss the terrible shadow forming behind it. I don’t want to invest exclusively in myself and miss God.
    As long as you stay yielded to what God is doing in you, and extend grace to others knowing we are all in this “in between” place of already and not yet, you won’t invest in false things. Trust God to lead you and your good heart to follow. Stay tender. I know you know what I mean and will be responsive, adjustable.
    In the end, I really think that the Bible says that every good thing comes from God: power, creativity, meaning, glory, beauty, etc. If I was just left as me, well, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of that.
    And praise God he has not left us on our own. We are cooperating WITH God for a change. He puts his spirit in us … like a good friend of mine puts it, we’re like the flash light and can switch it on an off, and God is the battery. Without it, there is no light. We know our source. Yet, we must do our part, knowing He is always doing his.
    But how do I know what I’ve been given? How do I know that these things I want are really from Him and not something I’m trying to take on because I’m deceived into thinking that it’s good?
    You will know this by walking with God in true intimacy with Him, and by staying humble, and seeking input from trusted people who can speak into your life to help you with your blind spots (God knows we have them) so….you can know this; but honestly, being “tentative” and unassuming, balanced with confidence…..it’s not an easy thing to explain or accomplish, humility. That is the key, imho. Believe in who you are, and who others are in Christ…that their hearts are good, and FOR you (of course this isn’t always the case so you need discernment) but with those you choose “to do life” with, having this basic foundation for our relationships so necessary. We know sin gets in the way, and if we can extend grace, mercy, forgiveness….to others as well as ourself, do the necessary work to restore whenever things get broken, well, easier said than done, but better than anything or any lesser thing. Oh, and do the warfare against the enemy of our soul who is the deceiver, accuser, liar and thief. “You are passionately loved by the God of the Universe…you are passionately hated by his Enemy.” Captivating, p. 89-91 “It is a sacred romance–a great love story set in the midst of a life and death battle.” (The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge) the battle is for your heart.
    I’m afraid that pursuing what I want would be self-focused and arrogant,
    Would it be?
    because I would be doing what I wanted to do regardless of the money it brought in or Dave’s and my practical needs.
    Would you not care what Dave thinks or what you both need?
    I feel like pursuing these things would be giving in to a life of self-focused falsehoods.
    That does sound horrible. Not sure what “these things” are or how you are constructing them…meaning, are you just thinking of doing something beautiful for God … and that doing so means you would be swimming upstream, not conforming to the patterns of this world? Or what?
    The word “debauchery” comes to mind here, like giving up what is safe and what makes sense financially and educationally and on every practical level imaginable would be indulging myself to the point of my soul’s destruction.
    Are you narcissistic?
    I’m glad you got the facetiousness of this question 😉

    I feel like I don’t have the right to ask Dave to let me pursue something that very well might not work out, might leave us poor and stretched and stressed. Our lives are tied together now, and ruin for me means ruin for him, too.
    It does matter that you and Dave are united. What does he think about this?
    I feel like I don’t have the right to be wild, heedless, or to take big risks. I need to be steady, focused, patient, practical and solid. I need to hold on to the status quo until it makes sense to follow my dreams. I need to follow the path I’m on, not see what’s beyond the glade.
    Who says (is this your good heart talking, or some other “unaligned with the Spirit of God” part)?
    And I feel like all of this comes from God.
    Hmmm. Maybe this bumps up to a matter of theology…blueprint vs. warfare …. I don’t believe every thought and impulse comes from God. I do believe God can bring good out of everything…but that we have an enemy, and that there are freewills opposed to God in this world….not everything that happens, or everything we think, is from God, imho.
    The God I know wants me to take care of practical matters first. He puts duty over desire, every single time.
    Hmmm….who is the God you know? What is your picture of God? Is He passionate, wild, fiercely devoted, close, intimate? Or far off, concerned with duty?
    Practical responsibility trumps responsibility to myself in almost every circumstance.
    There is something to be said against being self-centered…but God has put His very spirit (his wild, passionate, spirit) in your heart. You have a unique calling on your life. You have an enemy that wants to keep you down. It doesn’t mean you become self-focused and f-everything and everyone else….no.
    He is skeptical of my heart’s motives, wanting me to examine them over and over and over again before I do anything, so that I know whether or not they’re pure.
    Hmmm.
    The God I know didn’t make me particularly special;
    yes he did!
    sure, I’m unique, but I’m not going to change the world.
    so what? what if you change the life of one person? would that be enough? maybe this is where you get stuck. What are your desires?
    I’m not special enough to get to do anything out of the ordinary, like for a job or something.
    You are special enough to do something extraordinary no matter what job you have.
    My God wants me to always put others first,
    Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength…and love others as yourself. GOD-OTHERS-SELF. Not sure what “order” that all has to come in…but Jesus-Others-Yourself works for me. None at the expense of the other…all in proper balance…a beautiful dance of give and receive.
    to do what feels like betraying my own soul, if I have to, so that they can get what’s good for them (is this the “dying to self” that Christ practiced? I don’t know.) He tells me that it’s selfish to ask for resources for training, or to risk resources on something that might pan out. I think he wants me to not need to pursue the things I want to be happy. I should be detached and content, not chomping at the bit to get the hell out of Dodge.
    there is something to be said about being content in all circumstances….but do not be deceived into thinking your heart and your passions and your calling doesn’t matter…it does!
    Needless to say, God and I are on some pretty strange (I almost wrote “strained”) terms right now.
    You need him now more than ever to help you sort out what is from Him and what is not. Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee.
    In the end, I think that some of what I come to this dilemma believing is true, while some of it is false. I think that some of the messages I’m hearing from the outside are true, while parts of those messages are also false.
    true.
    I want to sift the truth from the falsehood, pick it up and let the rest fly away. Letting go of lies is harder than that, though, whether they’re long-and-closely held or new-and-alluringly-attractive. It’s a fight inside, and at the moment I don’t feel like I can see anything beyond the dust and confusion of the clash
    Be still…and know. Know that he is there for you….no matter how deep you go, Jesus is deeper still. Invite him to speak truth into those long-an-closely held and new-and-alluringly-attractive lies.
    *****
    I just read over this and I’m afraid I’ve revealed too much here. And yet…well, maybe not. Thus, the longing to say these things, to make this heart-struggle real, has a better hand than the one that says people shouldn’t know these things about me, and I post.
    You go girl! Authentic, transparent, real. I trust your good heart to sort through all of this beautifully. I’ve read things you’ve posted and know that you will come through this beautifully. Our Father is especially fond of you, dear Sarah Grace.

  18. wow, di. all i can say is . . . this is ministry, right here and right now. dude.

    i think di did an awesome job walking with you along this thought path. the only thing i’ll add concerns the part about loving God, self, and others. i really think we can’t give to others what we don’t personally have. that’s why i think the love for others flows from a love for self we’ve learned to receive from a loving relationship with God. we are to love others “as ourselves,” which to me implies it comes from mirroring the way we love ourselves. we cannot love others in a way befitting or worthy of them if it doesn’t come from a love we already know ourselves. does that make sense?

  19. Di

    it makes perfect sense, christianne. and you said it beautifully. thank you.

  20. ok, i’m trying to be merciful to myself in the middle of my rushed life…i want to comment on what you’ve said here, but i don’t have time right now to carefully read what others have said. with that in mind, i’ll just give you my own response and trust that if it’s already been said here, you’ll forgive me for repeating it…

    all i really want to say is that i’m a big believer in the way God’s spirit in each of us is one of the primary ways we see God and experience his heart for us. The spirit in me was so affected by your honest sharing and i felt so much love and grace pouring out of me to you. so much aching and tenderness and affection. you’ve confessed an awareness that part of this is probably off in some ways, and i’m sure that’s true, but the more important thing here is that you’re laying these questions out in the presence of a God who is alive and loves you. i’m confident that God’s heart is being revealed to you even now in the middle of all of this pain.

  21. Thanks, Terri…and I totally understand about not reading everyone else’s comments…and there’s a TON here.

    The further I get into all of this, the more I realize that just how much is here for me, so yeah, asking the questions is important right now, and probably all I can do. I don’t have answers. I’m so encouraged that others do, but I can’t just appropriate those to myself. Right now, I’m just living with the questions, trying to just let them be there and see what happens.

    I’m a big believer in seeing what happens 😉

  22. Linni

    Have started typing 5 different messages in one sentence… and had to stop and start over. Would love to talk to you… Isn’t faith to trust in what we don’t know or cannot see? For that would be this big question – which way to go? To just trust the process.. to believe and to know in your heart that He already knows? That is the fun part of trusting in God… He already knows… and even if we should choose the ‘other’ one, that is happening to prepare us for whatever is coming in the future.

    I would think… at the end…. follow your heart! Follow that little voice telling you what to you… the one that makes your heart leap with joy! Makes it tinkle all over just with the thought of choosing…

    God are already there… let the Light fight for you! xx

  23. Pingback: Choosing Light, Part II « I am Sarah Grace

  24. Linni–I’d love to talk to you, too! Do you Skype? I totally see what you’re saying…and I love the fact that you seem to come from the opposite side of a problem than I do, every single time.

    Your last line reminds me of a verse I found in Exodus several weeks ago. God is telling Moses what Israel needs to do at the Red Sea (or Moses is telling Israel what God said?) and whoever is speaking says, “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be still.” WTF? Seriously, there are HOW MANY Egyptians bearing down and they’re supposed to BE STILL? But God is there…the Light fights for them already…before they’re still. Wow. So maybe if I am still, if I stay still and follow the process and stop flailing, he’ll go before me and make a way where I don’t see one. Maybe he already is.

  25. Linni

    Of course He is… He knows things about you you don’t even know… and it all is to do with LOVE! for you! about you! YOU.

    surrender… let go… and trust… sometimes it is like a treasure hunt… He leads us… gives us the clues AND the answers… but we wander off after the butterflies and the little rabbits hopping about! 🙂 xx

  26. But I LIKE butterflies… 😉

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