My roommate Kacie and I both love to write. We often send each other half finished blogs that need some editing, some direction or just a word of encouragement. Kacie sent this to me last week and I begged her to let me post it. She captured something that I’ve been feeling for the last several weeks absolutely perfectly. I hope that you find encouragement and freedom in her wisdom. I know I do!
Empty. Angry. Full without eating, tired no matter how much I slept. Irritated often. Satisfied by nothing. Lonely. Missing laughter, wholeness, romance. Missing Jesus. You know what I mean.
“Desert seasons,” if that’s what you want to call them. Those days (or weeks) when everything close to you feels empty and worthless, you feel empty and worthless in it, and Jesus has never felt further away. It only infuriates you to be reminded that ‘he’s never far from us.’ That just means you’re doing something else wrong.
I spent most of November and December feeling that way.
The twinkle lights on my Christmas tree weren’t magical, my peppermint mocha coffee creamer was no longer a treat, and I felt like it was my fault that the world had suddenly turned dull and grey.
If you spend long enough in that, you start feeling like God isn’t even accessible to you anymore – hopeless.
What do you do then? How do you get Jesus and magic and wonder back?
I learned the hard way that it isn’t through routine. I tried that. I just got bored, and that made me feel worse. I went to coffee shops and sat down with my Bible, stayed home and sat down with my laptop (‘journal’). I went to bed early, determined to get up and spend time with the Lord…but ended up discouraged before falling back asleep. I grabbed my guitar, determined to sing freely to the Lord. That just left me with calloused fingers; feeling badly about my elementary guitar skills. I even fasted very briefly until I realized that I was just trying to control something else, and that made me feel worse than before.
Reluctantly, I went to the OneThing conference in Kansas City over New Years, though the last thing I thought I could handle was four days of worship and lecture-style teachings.
I made it through one session before I decided to spend the last days of 2012 gallivanting around Kansas City instead. Alone in an unfamiliar city, I found myself stuck with just Jesus. I’d sit and people-watch until I was no longer interested, then I’d crack open my Bible just to see something new. It still bored me, but it’s all I had. By day three I was in ‘the prayer room’ – the International House of Prayer in Kansas City has been worshiping the Lord through music, dance, and intercessory prayer all day – every day – for thirteen years. That’s 113,880 hours of prayer and counting…
Which is commendable, but honestly bores me to tears if I really think about it.
I like worship!
…Mostly. I like worship when I’m being impacted emotionally.
But there I was in the prayer room convinced that my “too cool for school” attitude stuck out like a sore thumb.
About an hour after I got there, that attitude started to crumble; and what it revealed underneath was a heart so, so thirsty for the presence of the Lord. And I hated it. It was uncomfortable. I knelt on the ground – not out of devotion, but in an attempt to hide my desperation-muddled-with-apprehension from the other more legitimate Christians in the room.
I stood slowly several minutes later.
Soon, I found my arms raised as I sang prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord.
Finally, I was dancing the way I’ve done so many times before – a little girl unashamed before her Father, just wanting to bask in His joy and to feel His proud eyes gazing at her. Freedom inched its way into my heart by no effort of my own. It burrowed deep, pushing out the lies, doubt, and loneliness that had taken its place. I kept thanking God through the rest of my time in Kansas City. I thanked Him for big things and little things – safety and provision, lattes and snowflakes.
In my thankfulness, I started to feel lighter and more full; but the dull and grey still lingered.
I got home to my empty Georgia apartment at 3am and stood before my piano. I asked Jesus for a new song, and started to sing. Thanksgiving turned to desperate confession: “I don’t want to strive anymore.” I gave Him my attention and my time. I asked for it to be on His terms, for as long as He wanted – no matter what it looked like – and I came to life again.
It’s not that God wouldn’t have honored the time I spent in routine. It’s not that I couldn’t have found Him in those coffee shops, or that I wouldn’t have grown through that fast. It’s just that everything I tried, I tried out of strife, and striving is the fruit of a lie.
The way God wants to be involved in my life can’t be squeezed into an hour in the morning or a single conversation before bed. He just wants to do life with me – to be invited into it. He wants me to rest with Him, laugh with Him, be with Him. His yoke is easy. He’s interested in my heart.
I wanted to feel Jesus close again. But the same way God never asked me to fix my sin before I came to Him, He isn’t asking me to perfect or maintain my relationship with Him of my own strength.
I tried to manipulate it, rush it, dictate it. By the time I had exhausted myself and just sat in His presence, it was uncomfortable…because it was uncomfortable to be out of control. It was uncomfortable to surrender. It was uncomfortable to be still. So He took me halfway across the country and stranded me where I’d have no choice other than to sit with Him.
That’s our God. The God who is never far from each of us; the God who sent His son to die for us. That’s our God who – put simply, and in the best words possible – is love.
Jesus is relentless. His pursuit of us is perfect, and it never ends. He knows what we need better than we do.
If you want to be hungry for God’s presence, go sit in it. Don’t place expectations on it – just rest.
“What do you want to crave? Go eat it.” – Ryan Hall, Olympic long distance runner.