Monday, February 24, 2014

One week of Surrender - day #1

The sound of contracting metal from the heat register on the floor next to me pulled me from my shallow slumber. My right-side shoulder and hip bone told me loudly that I really shouldn't put them through this sleeping-on-hard-ground ordeal, but hey, the bathroom floor was warmer that the carpeted living-room, and I knew I needed to add at least another hour to my sleep schedule, which was at about 3.5 hours. This is where I found myself at 6am this morning, satisfying my insomnia in an empty house with my coat on and blanket encompassing me and a small floor register in a 50 degree fahrenheit bathroom. Before you feel too sorry for me, let me explain that this was by my own doing, through not exactly by my choosing.
 Since last year, a lot has changed for me. Nothing terribly major, I suppose, though sometimes it feels that way. At 18 years of age (I'm 19 now) my parents added three young children to the family through adoption. I couldn't be more thrilled, but of course that does require a little more effort on my part. Going from a family of 4 to a family of 7 exacts time and effort. That's most definitely the most life-changing of the curve balls as of late, though working nearly full-time does add to the load. Not to mention online college, which I hope to finish in 3 years with a Bachelors in Psychology.
 But I've been through worse before, and with a much worse attitude, to be sure. Yeah, I was stressed, but I knew I was strong enough. After all, I knew exactly where my future was heading, and I was in control. I felt good, looked good, and had some accomplishments under my belt. This kid is going places!
 This summer we got a call. A call from a family friend of ours, informing us that the property next to his - just 4 miles out of town, was up for sale, and would be just perfect for our family. A large, cabin-style home with a sunny kitchen, 6 bedrooms, land for growing children to play on, and a huge garage for dad. We all laughed, of course. Our house was, well, big enough, or at least we made do, and we certainly had enough on our plates already. But God has a way of testing us show us if we really trust Him. We bought the house and moved. Just like that. I was not looking forward to another adventure. My juggling act was wobbly at times, and I had dropped the ball on spending quality time with God. After all, it wasn't required, and I seemed to be just as close to Him as before. I was still passionate about His Word, I was still living in righteousness, and I was still making a difference for His kingdom. Notice the common denominator in all of those statements? The key pronoun is "I"; me myself and I. Including God, but he was farther down on the list. Like I said, this kid is going places! Slowly, I started to find out what was really important to me: Status at my job. Again, the dominant word there is "mine!" But was it really my job? I remember burning with jealousy and hurt after the former manager was rehired to "help" me with all my responsibilities. Hadn't I
proven myself? I was good enough. They didn't need her. But was I really good enough? This went far deeper that the title of manger, and "right-hand man." I was trying to make myself - my life - in my own strength, for my own self; religious rebellion.
 Meanwhile, back at the homestead in the country, I was letting things slide. My room was a mess, through I used the excuse that I had just moved all my earthly belongings. I consistently slacked on my chores, although I told myself that the average American teen would probably faint at my workload. I was too tired at the end of the day to properly study for my tests, and I woke up in the morning still exhausted as I was before my 9:30 bedtime.
 Knowing my heart that I couldn't stay in control much longer, I started turning to other things for satisfaction. A friend's reassurance, my boss's praise, desert after supper, and replacing much school time with social media. I was afraid of whatever seemed to control me, so I tried to control it - whatever that was - first. The thing is, it was my own self I had set as an idol in my heart. Trying to control myself - and my idol controlling me - were the same exact thing.
 Surrender is a scary thing to do, and I was already frightened with the uncertainly of life.
 Still, I continued to go through the motions of religion. Though there were times of honesty and connection between me and my Creator, apathy had become my new outlook on life. Running on adrenaline tends to deplete one's emotional reserve. Sitting through an adult's Sunday School class called God's at War, by Kyle Idleman, I knew God was not the driving factor in my life at the time. But my complacency and fatigue drove me to unrighteous laziness. "If I promise God I'd try again, I'll only disappoint Him again. And again... and again." Legitimate concern, but still unacceptable.
 These things I pondered as I lay on the chipped tile in our old bathroom, trying to stretch my coat from my head to my feet  by scrunching into a fetal position. Had it occurred to me then that I was more than just a selfish and tired individual? That spiritual warfare was being waged to make me ineffective and discontent in God's kingdom? Had it not crossed my mind, or did I really not care? Whatever the reason, I cared now.
 I knew the deal. It was fair, and the terms weren't hard to understand. My parents made certain that I knew that if I did not complete my tasks at home on time, especially by the weekend, I was grounded from the car. Though I tend to be an independent, hard-working gal, I came up short one too many times. In a kind effort, I was given extra jobs, or paid for my mom's pedicure, in order to make up, but finally the lenience had to come to an end. Saturday afternoon I was informed grimly that I was indeed grounded from the car. For one whole week; 7 days, 10,080 minutes, and however many seconds that is. Although it was not the very first time it had happened. it was the first time for me in a location 5 miles from town, aka my job.
"I'll walk," I said, not defiantly, but in an effort to grasp at a workable option.
"That isn't safe!" Replied my mom. "The temperatures have been far too low, and the wind is bone-chilling."
 Riding my bike was out of the question, as the road shoulder was pure ice or snow. There was only choice left for me: get up at 4am, shower, pack my lunch, textbooks, laptop, clothes, and makeup, and ride into town with my dad on his way to work. He'd drop me off at our "town house," which we still owned, and I'd have to find something to do until noon when my shift started at work.
 I was close to my breaking point. I wasn't in control anymore. I didn't feel like an adult, much less a college freshman and retail manger. And certainly not a big sister to be looked up to as an example. The circus act had ended, and my many colorful balls were no longer up in the air, but rolling and bouncing away from me on the floor. And the worst thing was... it was all my fault. I had no one to blame.
 But I wasn't about to ask for help. Perhaps I thought that the little control I had left could be used to accept
my due consequences.
 Saturday night, lying agitated in my bed like so many other evenings, consumed with my shortcomings, I remembered I was supposed to meet my friend the next day after church for a coffee date. Every fiber left in my body said "No!" I certainly didn't need any questions asked about how I was doing, what God had been teaching me, or what my future plans were. She'd understand if I texted her now and said I just wanted some family time after a busy week, cancelling our outing together. After all, she was a busy individual herself, and would totally get needing a day of rest. But a familiar voice not my own whispered to me, "Go."
 I replied with an emphatic "NO!" The soft and persistent comeback, "Go." I realized my muscles were tensing, and it felt like a battle was surging through my veins. This was war! And I finally recognized it as
such. The enemy didn't want me in honest and transparent fellowship with another believer who cared about me. God did.
 Even the next morning, every possible effort was given to keep me from even going to church. I slept through my alarm, I needed to shower, I didn't feel good, etc. But through some miracle I got my brooding, reluctant into the rusty old family van by the time it pulled out of the driveway.
Arriving just in time for the conclusion video of Gods at War, I caught the title of this weeks subject: The idol of... Myself. Until now I had only mildly resonated with the testimonies given. Exploring the gods of power, money, sex, etc. This one struck home. It hurt. I knew I was living to further my own end, but God not only wanted my life and priorities, He wanted my heart, my desires, and my affection. I texted my friend and asked if she could pick me up on her way to the coffee shop since I didn't have a vehicle. As soon as I got into her car she asked how I was. I took a big breathe. "Stressed out," I said. The next two hours were filled with a mutual heart-to-heart conversation. Was I the only one struggling? To my surprise and relief, I was not alone. That day was a turning point. I wasn't loved because of anything good in myself. I wasn't even approved of by God because of anything good in me. It wasn't about me at all, but about Him. My Jehovah is the first and the last, and He consumes the in between. The only one thing I needed to do was give myself over to it, and even this task I was not able to do by myself and in my own strength. Brokenness is beautiful, and humbling brings relief. I have nothing to prove, as my righteousness and identity are in Christ alone.
 It isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be easy. But God is good.
 After an early morning, a dismal fight for warmth, and a chilling walk to the coffee shop before migrating to the library at 9am, I felt like I was coming down with the flu. My ribs ached, my head swam, and my stomach made me believe it was crawling up my esophagus. But the peace in my heart surpassed any fix I could try myself. The energy drinks, the chats with certain someones, the chocolate chips, the Netflix marathons, were all trivial. By the end of the day I was still exhausted, and had had a few anxious moments, but hope for the future filled me. But another 6 days await me, and new challenges to test me for sure, although I am determined that - through the Spirit - I will lay them down at the feet of God. So begins my week of surrender.