Dead Dreams but a Living Jesus

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

I made my way down the dorm building stairs; it was a weekday evening and Bible survey class was on the agenda for the evening. With my Bible and notebook in hand, I walked past the campus lake’s delightful deep blue haze, expectant to learn a lot and take many notes.

I took a seat next to a friend as our teacher expounded on the passage of the evening. I was around three weeks from completing the on-campus portion of the missions program and was mentally planning all I hoped to accomplish when I arrived home. Work, family life, and a million to-dos seemed to spin around in my mind; I knew much was ahead.

As the class wrapped up, I was approached by one of the school’s staff members. It was a conversation that would echo in my mind for months after I left.

“Knowing all this [ministry] stands for, [I need to tell you something].”

When the words had been spoken and our conversation wrapped up, I quickly approached the chapel door, with my heart racing in my chest. I felt like a thin piece of paper floating down to the ground; I deeply hoped no one would see or talk to me for the rest of the evening.

It was clear. I had not met the standard of the school and was not considered to be a very godly woman; my word choices in an attempt to encourage a staff member had not been ok. It was communicated to me that I was seen as a flatterer and not one who uplifts others, despite the fact that it had been my hope to point to the work Jesus had done in her life.

Later in the evening, I rushed into the dorm bathroom and sobbed. I felt like there was nothing left; strength seemed to flee and my heart felt as though it had been broken in a million pieces.

I hadn’t shared the hope with a single soul on the campus, but secretly, I wondered if one day I might work for this ministry. Maybe I would get to walk with other women through the valleys of their life and be able to point them to Jesus and how He would triumph gloriously in their existence. Maybe I would contribute to their renowned Christian women’s magazine. Maybe I would move nearby and go to college in the area, thousands of miles from my home in Michigan. So many hopes and dream surrounded the little missions school.

Suddenly those dreams seemed far away and impossible. The hopes were dashed.

An ocean of tears seemed to flow as I thought through the heartrending evening. I was not their desired alum. I wasn’t someone they would want influencing other women. I wasn’t fitting the mold.

“Cassidy.” The tap on the shoulder came. It was a few weeks later, and the day had come to return home. It was 3am and I was down to my last half hour on the campus. Life was about to change. I tried not to think back on what had happened just a few weeks previously so I could end my last bit of time on campus without going “there.” It wasn’t my roomates or friends fault that I had messed up, so I reasoned that I needed to hold it in. Don’t burst out in tears. Don’t whine about how things ended so roughly. Just smile.

I got in the car and took a final glance at the campus. I was sad to be ending this season of life and to probably not see many of my classmates again, while simultaneously feeling that I maybe shouldn’t have come in the first place.

I eventually arrived home, got back to work, and the flow of regular life began once again.

Yet my heart seemed affected. I couldn’t just fly away from the things that had happened; like a broken record, my mind replayed the mistakes I made, what I should have done, and how everything could be so different if I had not said this, and done that.

Some deep dreams had died, but even then Jesus was at work.

Amidst personal failure, Jesus had not failed for one moment. He was ready and willing to take even one such as me--one who did not reach the bar--and heal me and give me new vision and hopes for the future. He reminded my soul of ways He had been burdening me for the vulnerable. He gave me new hope for ministering to the women around me. He stirred the desire to keep writing for my own blog, even if my feeble words would never make it around the world. It could reach one hurting soul who follows me on Facebook who might never even hear of the magazine publication I previously dreamed of contributing to.

Life was not over.

It seems like an obvious statement, but at that time in my life it was a new revelation. It was possible for deep hopes, the secret ones you only tell Jesus about, to die but then be used in the way He intended.

A grain of wheat must die and fall to the ground if it will bring forth its crop. I was seeing that truth play out in my personal life. When I freshly surrendered and laid my dreams down at the foot of His Cross, they could finally be used.

For the Broken Soul

To any friend who has stumbled upon this post amid personal pain and hurt, may I remind you that our God is gracious and He loves to meet us where we are at. His love has never hinged on what you can offer Him (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 3:23), so when we feel empty and don’t think we bring anything of value to the table, it’s great to remember that it’s all about Jesus and His sufficiency (Col. 1:18). It isn’t about all the times I have failed, all the ways I don’t measure up, or all the things I cannot seem to do well. It’s about Him. We know that He so graciously works even the worst of the worst together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).

If you are in Christ, then absolutely nothing in all creation can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:35-39)! Your God loves you and desires you; He does not quit pursuing our souls when we mess up. He provides grace for us in the exact measure we need it. When we feel like nothing, Jesus remains everything. He lovingly holds us in the hollow of His hands, and attentively watches over us.

If your dreams have died at a measure or even entirely, may I remind you, sweet friend, that your God has not! When our future is confusing and we don’t know what’s next, He always does. Place your soul’s confidence in the One who has taken your place and stood in the gap for your soul. He values you so much that He shed His very life’s blood to set you free and make you His own.

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16a).

The utmost display of love was made to us; ultimately to place every eye upon Jesus, who is worthy of all the glory. Jesus pursues His bride and calls us ever deeper in knowing Him, even though we are imperfect and unworthy; yet He loves us entirely and draws us closer to Himself.

In this broken world, sadness and mistakes are bound to happen; but our hope does not die then. Hope is not a mere feeling or experience, but a Person named Jesus. Keep your eyes on your capital h Hope, who never fails, never slumbers, and always cares for you.

When our hearts feel dead for the weight of failure and pain, what freedom there is in running to the Saviour who has never failed us and ever lives and intercedes for us (He. 7:23-28).

As Corrie ten Boom has said, “If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest.”

Lift up your heart to the One who knows your every weakness and simultaneously loves you more than you could ever comprehend. Our past, our brokenness, and our lack do not intimidate our God. He delights to redeem from the dust; no matter how much you may feel that you fall short, you are not beyond the reaches of His perfect grace.

Run to Him with expectancy that He longs for you to come away with Him.

In Isaiah, there is a beautiful passage that gives us a glimpse into the work of redemption God was working in Israel, as He shared with them through the prophet Isaiah:

“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel” (Is. 44:21-23).

In the verses leading up to this passage, the Lord exposes the folly of idolatry. Would they have dead, meaningless idols or the Living God?

“Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago? You are my witnesses--is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock--not one!" (Is. 44:8).

Even so we must offer up our dreams, plans, and desires to the God who knows all things. Even the desire for good things can become an idol if we do not relinquish our grip in surrender to our Sovereign King who knows all things and will never fail to lead us.

As Lilias Trotter has so eloquently put it:

"The fair, new petals must fall and for no visible reason; no one seems enriched by the stripping. And the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender. Not man-ward but God-ward; an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped its true meaning. That is not worthy of the name, for no polluted thing can be offered.”

As we place our everything at His feet, with the prayer of the Psalmist on our lips: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Ps. 115:1), our hearts find meaning and healing.

HE is the reason we exist. Because He is worthy, and because He loves us. When our lives are all about Him and are utterly dependent upon His grace, life changes. No longer is it a constant cycle of meaningless and suffering, but of knowing Jesus and experiencing His sufficiency, amidst our great lack. We have been pursued and redeemed by the one who lacks absolutely nothing!

Place your soul’s confidence in the One for whom nothing is too hard. He will triumph wondrously in your life, even amid brokenness, as you keep Him first. It may not appear that way to every on-looker, but what matters is having our focus on Him.

When our dreams seem dead, our God is alive. He will never fail, and He will always be glorified; therefore I have confidence that the most heartrending things I may ever face can and will be used to magnify Him more fully. Because of His grace, I am free in Christ. He is my Healer and He is my Provider; never will I lack what is needful.

May our hearts trust Him in the deepest place, no matter what tomorrow may bring.

The Social Media Exception

Monday, July 2, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I post a wide array of things on social media; pictures of my cat, an article about at-risk children in the womb, random thoughts, an encouragement to a coworker, some favorite Lilias Trotter quotes….

Lately I have been pondering the difference between person-to-person communication and what we do on social media. In person, we’re using eye contact, other senses, reading non-verbals, and we generally build up the relationships we already have, and get acquainted with those we do not yet know. Right?

Well…. Then there’s this awkward thing about social media.

I’m currently on break from social media because it has been too hostile for me.

Though we might attempt to be winsome, respectful, listen well, and show over all kindness to those we interact with in person (even when we don’t see eye to eye), that is not a trend I most often see on Facebook.

Things I’ve observed….Need to rant about how horrible your family is? Post it in your status update on Facebook. Tired of life? Post a selfie on Instagram and tell people you need compliments. Angry with a stupid politician? Then just tweet about in in 280 characters, and you’ll definitely feel better. Bored? Scroll through Pinterest for an hour; you’ll start planning your non-existent wedding before you know it!

I appreciate that we have a way to communicate with people out of our vicinity and are able to discuss a vast array of things, but in my personal experience, social media can sometimes become a space where people will voice criticisms against one another they might put more graciously in person, react angrily whenever they disagree, take sides and shun friends, and in many cases treat others like they are less valuable if they do not agree with them.

Facebook has their cute little add where everyone smiles and shares pictures of cute babies, and it’s just such a nice little place with happiness, encouraging posts, adorable kids…

Um. Such things are posted at times, but I more regularly see frustration, disdain, disapproval, and venting on our personal opinions on everything. And it is not refreshing to our souls.

This morning, I woke up and checked social media. Before I hit the “notifications” button, I was a lot less discouraged. When I did hit it, a nice long comment of disapproval was waiting for me.

Maybe I’d have the experience with social media that Facebook describes if I wasn’t so politically incorrect…I don’t know?

It’s one thing when those who do not know Jesus get angry with us. In such cases, we know that they do not have grace for dealing with people because they are not in Christ!

It’s quite a different thing when those who profess to love and worship Jesus are quick to voice anger, unlovely comments, and try to pressure us into being different and not having the convictions that we have been given as we have pursued Him.

In the past week, I have gotten more of what one might term “flack” from other Christians and pro-life activists than entire months combined. It is exhausting.

I do not like that we use social media to pressure people. Yep, I’m the persuasive first-born type too, but our personalities do not justify ungracious choices.

Evaluating Social Media in Light of Scripture

I’ve been pondering this idea that everything the Word says about the tongue should also apply to our social media etiquette.

Life and Death are in the Power of the Tongue

“From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:20-21).

The words we use have the power to build others up and strengthen them, or to tear them down and hurt them. Do we think about this before we hit “post”? I’m a firm believer in sharing strong truth even if the world disagrees, but we must do so within the nature of our God. He understands all things, is the wisest of all, and yet treats us with such mercy and kindness.

I think of the verse from Jeremiah oft-quoted by Elisabeth Elliot: “The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness’” (31:3). When we speak with those who do not see eye-to-eye with us, it’s important to remember that when we were far off from Jesus--far away from capital t Truth--that He did not shun us and tell us how ridiculous we are, even though He is so worthy of our lives. He pursued us with lovingkindness! I want the way I interact with those who disagree with me to reflect the nature of heaven.

Presented with the Wisdom that is From Above

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17-18).

This passage in James points out some serious differences between earthly wisdom and wisdom that is from above. Are these words that describe our interactions on social media?

Are our words marked by bitter envying and strife (vs.14)? James describes this kind of motive as “...earthly, sensual, and devilish” (15). In the following verse he says, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (16).

Are our social media words pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, and sown in peace? If so, I do believe social media will become quite a different place.

This morning, as I evaluated these passages, I also took time to pray and ask for an extra measure of grace for the way I interact with others on Facebook, Instagram, etc.. I want even my online demeanor to be one of grace, abundant kindness, and joy, even when we have hard conversations. Jesus is worthy of our everything; He is worthy of worship in the way I treat others.

May our interactions with one another on social media show forth His glory.