In striving to walk closer with Christ lately, Zack and I have opened ourselves up to searching for learning opportunities in things that we admittedly haven’t paid much attention to before. So I was SUPER excited when two sweet girlfriends posted and raved about Sacred Holidays’ He Is, a new Advent devotional they started last week, on social media.
I wanted more background as to what exactly Advent was before I began, so I did some research and found that it is much more than flipping calendar pages in expectation of Christmas. “Advent” is a variation of the Latin word meaning “coming” and it focuses on a balance between studying and celebrating Christ’s first visit as the Messiah, looking ahead and rejoicing in faith to the time He will come again, and fasting from distractions in order to give the season proper attention (much like Lent in Catholicism). This particular study was said to concentrate on the attributes of our Heavenly Father so as to better know Him and make Christmas more meaningful, which sounded exactly like what Zack and I have been searching for. So I printed out the digital copies of our workbooks and we plopped down on our couch, pens and highlighters in hand, excited for some effortless uplifting.
One page in and this study was already cracking me wide open.
The first activity it posed was Who do you say He is? Describe God with five attributes: , also advising us in the instructions to dig deeper into our thoughts than the knee-jerk Sunday School answers that we would be tempted to regurgitate. By the end of the lesson, these were my five:
Number one and number five, y’all. I could practically feel Jesus peering over my shoulder and hanging his head in disappointment. You can even see my prayers in the margins shamefully recognizing how wrong that I know I am.
I spent the next hour on the couch, huddled under a blanket, rambling on and on to Zack about all of the ways I felt it was being proven to me that I DIDN’T have the relationship with Christ that I thought I did. Because after all, who thinks those things of someone they love?! Zack held me tight for most of the discussion, finding wise ways to both prod my emotional outbursts further and gently encourage me, before he hit me with this golden nugget:
“Babe, why do you compare your walk with others’? And why do you feel He favors them more than He favors you?”
“I don’t know. Because when they post their faith through trials on social media, they don’t whine and gripe and complain that whatever they’re going through is hard. They’re positive and grateful and they seem so SURE. That’s not my initial reaction, so I must be doing it wrong.”
He scrunched up his nose at me and replied, “Maybe so, but how do you know what they’re doing behind closed doors before they clean it up for Facebook? And can you honestly say you haven’t done the same thing?”
Complete “duh” moment…But my mind was blown.
How many times have I taken to social media to praise God, even for the hardships in my life, openly and publicly for all to see? And I meant them with every ounce of my being. What you DIDN’T see were the hours of crying, bargaining and throwing a temper tantrum in my human frailty that eventually gave way to remembering His Sovereignty and that His ways will always work for my good.
Do I know this, every moment of every day, in the depths of my heart? Yes. Is recognizing this my immediate reaction? I hope to get there one day, but as of right now, not even close. BUT…It’s the only one you see.
So often in Christianity, there seems to be a front of perfectionism that’s expected to be maintained that, if we really want to get honest about it, is highly off-putting to those around us. EVEN OTHER BELIEVERS! I feel much more connected to fellow Christians who can be courageously self-aware, admit their screw-ups and encourage others by allowing Christ to be made known in their weaknesses than to those who pretend to have it all figured out. Because as long as we are here on Earth, we will never “arrive”, folks. But we CAN be better every day than we were the last if we allow Him to continuously work on molding our hearts.
So for those of you who go through a period of not having it all together before you do, please know that this Christian is right there with you.
I beat my fists against God’s chest when He doesn’t relieve my hurting. I let my doubt and fear and worry run so rampant some days that I have to go to bed early just to escape my own thoughts. I turn to food for comfort more often than I turn to Him. I cuss at the situation and, admittedly at times, Him. And every single time, I feel a tiny tug on my heart that reminds me that that was all flesh and no Father. And what we do with THAT, my friends, is what counts. THAT is where it becomes our choice to slough it off and make excuses for our behavior, or own up to it, genuinely apologize and ask for His help to be better next time. Because while it’s not OK to knowingly walk in sin with the safety net of grace underneath us, it IS OK to admit that we’re human and will sometimes still act accordingly.
And once that two-hour session of despair was over, I was able to thank Him for the honest look into where I stand on my hard days so I know when I need to lean into Him even more. And I was able to praise Him for the wisdom garnered from it that was necessary to write this message of encouragement to you, because I know you’re out there.
Progress. Every single day. Not perfection.