The Wedding

My best friend got married last week to the man of her dreams in the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen. I’m so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to stand beside her on such a wonderful, God-centered day.

Thinking back on that day, I can see all the tiny things coming together to make something amazingly huge, and I’m constantly reminded of our own journey toward the day Jesus comes back for The Bride (the church).

When James beautifully asked Kaitlyn to marry him, they started their journey. Their families and friends gathered around them to congratulate them, love them, and help them get ready for the big day – the wedding.

In that moment, the wedding seemed really far away, but, always together, the bride and groom joined together with like-minded people and started getting ready. It started out with just a few people – some family, some friends, and a wedding planner. As the bride and groom shared their love story, though, it expanded – more family, more friends, the wedding party, the caterers, the cake.

There were moments when the bride got distracted – when other things of life got in the way of the preparations like school, work, and friends. Sometimes the bride was just too tired to think about the wedding to come. But she was held up and gently pushed along by people who had been a bride before her, who knew what was going on, and who could encourage her on her journey.

There were moments when things just seemed to go wrong. The bride burned her face right before their engagement pictures. The straps fell off the dresses. Someone’s pants didn’t fit. Her brother got sick. But the bride pushed through, held up by her love, knowing that none of that really mattered as long as, in the end, she was there for the wedding day.

Slowly, and not without struggle, the work got done. As the bride and groom excitedly moved toward their big day, they shared their love story with everyone around them, and as more people heard, they got involved in the preparations.

Finally, the day came.

The bridegroom was coming for his bride.

There was soft music playing in the candle-lit room. There was a hush as a great cloud of witnesses waited for the right moment.

And then the doors opened.

The bride, in her pure white dress, began her long, slow walk down the aisle to the groom. With tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips, she looked only at him.

The groom took a half step forward like he was about to leap off the stage and run to her, but with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, he simply waited, and he looked only at her.

When she made it to the end, he took her hand in his, and they made promises of love everlasting.

In the end, the bride and groom were finally married, and there was a great feast. At the feast, everyone saw old and new friends, family, and loved ones. There was food and dancing and laughter and joy. There were tears and hugs and kisses and songs.

I can’t help remembering that and seeing a day that I know is coming that will be much like it.

I know that as a Christian, I’m moving with the rest of the church to the day when Jesus, the bridegroom, comes back. Along the way, we’re making the preparations and sharing our love story with everyone around us. We’re gathering together more and more people to join in our love story and prepare for our wedding day.

I can’t wait for the day when the doors open and The Church comes pouring through in her pure white dress, with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face and eyes only looking at The Savior who has tears in His eyes and a smile on His face and is only looking at her.

And then we’ll feast and be united with family and friends. We’ll dance and laugh and sing, and all together, we’ll praise the King who brought us all together in the first place.

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“Course He Isn’t Safe. But He’s Good.”

I don’t want your god of rainbows and butterflies, your god who dances in fields and makes daisy chains and takes you on picnics, or your god who always forgives, is never angry, is always gentle, and is always super positive. I don’t want your sheep, your bright ball of light, your grandfatherly figure, and your heavenly Santa Claus.

Sorry, lovely, the God of this universe is not a kindly, old, gray-haired, hippy grandfather. Yes, He romances us. Yes, He always, 100%-of-the-time, no-matter-what forgives us. Yes, He is gentle with us, even when He breaks us.

But please, please, don’t lose sight of the sword in the folds of his robe. Don’t lose sight of the fire in His eyes. Don’t forget that, when people see Him without protection, they die. Don’t forget that His angels cause warriors to fall to the ground and fear for their life. Don’t forget that this is the God who ripped His own heart out of His chest and put it on earth for us to trample on and abuse. Don’t forget that He has sacrificed everything and daily fights for us.

There are times in my life when I need the God who romances me, who paints sunsets and plants flowers, and who puts people in my life to say a gentle word, and He is always faithful to provide that. But mostly, if I’m really honest, I need the God who will stand over my curled up, incapacitated soul and fight away the darkness with His sword.

I need the God who pushes my boundaries. I need the God who chisels away painfully at my soul, working on me and convicting me to become more like Him. I need the God who is covered to His elbows in the blood of my enemies, who fights for me while I cower behind Him, who hands me a sword and pushes me into the fray when I don’t think I’m brave enough or strong enough.

I need the God who doesn’t cut me slack, who demands perfection, who is angry with a righteous anger when I walk away or hurt Him, who lets me face the consequences of my choices, and who is always waiting to take me back. I need the God who knows me better than I know myself. I need the God who molded my face with His fingers – the fingers that built up the mountains and leveled the plains and carved out the unfathomable, deep places for the oceans.

I need the God who is strong enough to carry me when I can’t walk on my own. I need the God who never tires, never sleeps, never fails, and never gives up on me. I need the God who is as desperate for me as I am for Him and will go to whatever lengths He must to win my heart and soul.

One of my most favorite quotes of all time is from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Susan is talking with Mr. Beaver about Aslan, and she says, “Is he – quite safe?” And Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The God I need, the God I serve, is not safe.

To be safe, He would have to be small enough to be understood. He would have to be something I could pull into tiny pieces and figure out. He would have to be small enough for me to wrap my head around. He would have to be predictable and quantifiable.

I could never worship Him, serve Him, give my life to Him, or follow Him if He were small enough to be safe.

So, please, throw away your safe God. Throw away the thing you’ve shrunk God into. Throw away your tiny, one-dimensional view of God. Throw away the PC, kind, loving, old man floating on a cloud in the sky. Remember that the Creator of the Universe and all its intricacies could never be small enough for you, the created, to truly grasp.

But always remember that He is good.

No matter how ferocious He is, no matter how angry He gets, no matter how powerful He is, no matter how strong He is, no matter how much control He has, no matter how much you run away, no matter how jealous He is for you, and no matter how much He longs for you, He will always be good. Always.

I rest in His hand, covered by the strength of His mighty right arm. I know that His unfathomable love for me is why He protects me. I know that He will always be there to bind up my wounds and carry me to safety.

Because I know the strength of my God, I know that there is nothing He cannot face, there is nothing He will shrink from, and there is nothing that can defeat Him. I know that, because He loves me as His own child, I am cherished with both the ferocity of a warrior and the gentleness of a father. I know that I am always cared for, always loved, and always safe when I rest in the palm of His hand.

I can rest knowing that I will always be protected. I have peace knowing that I will always be delivered. I have courage knowing that I will never fight alone. I have hope knowing that He will never stop fighting to make the world right again.

My Protector, my Father, my Savior, my Lord, and my God will never abandon me, never grow tired of me, never hurt me maliciously, and never forsake me. The Destroyer of my enemies is my Great Physician. The Pillar of Fire is my Calm Waters. I am never alone. I am never forsaken. I will never be abandoned. I am safe.

I’ll take that over your puny half-god any day.

Firm Foundation

Anyone who knows me well knows I struggle with depression and a bit of social anxiety. It’s a dark shadow that lurks somewhere in the back of my brain, waiting for the right moment to come and smother me.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t fight the depression. It consumed me. The shadows filled my soul and were the only thing supporting me. That was a bad time.

I don’t know how much you know about shadows, but I know quite a bit. They’re insubstantial. They don’t really support anything. They block the light. They leave you cold. They smother you. And, once they’ve taken over a place or person, it takes a really powerful light to get them to vanish.

Dear 6 Beautiful Readers, because you actually read what I write, I thought you might know me well enough to learn that about me.

Technically, I have Major Depressive Disorder. I know that the depression is the result of a neurotransmitter imbalance in my brain. My norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin levels can get really messed up. But I can’t leave it at that.

If I convince myself that I’m only struggling against a neurotransmitter disorder (something I can’t do anything about), I give up. And I can’t do that. I tell myself that it just can’t be helped, and that’s when I get myself into trouble.

I don’t take meds – I probably should, but it’s never really come up. Even if they were offered, I would probably refuse them. I always forget to take medicine, so it wouldn’t do any good, anyway.

I have learned, however, through my fight with this, what exactly I have to do to bring the light back into my life.

It got summed up so well for me today. It all comes down to your foundation. Today, at church, the preacher talked a lot about Luke 6:46-49. It goes like this:

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:
48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Basically, if you don’t have a strong foundation, when the bad things in life hit you, you’re going to collapse. But, if you put your strength in the Lord, if you make Him the Cornerstone, if you build your life on His Word, if you surround yourself with like-minded people, you can pull through.

My belief that my God is strong enough to handle absolutely anything keeps me going. I ground myself in The Word and His promises of protection, healing, love, compassion, mercy, and grace. I know that, when I take a flying leap into His arms, He’ll hold me close and shelter me from the storms. He is the ultimate light. There is nothing brighter than Him. The shadows flee at a hint of His presence.

For me, community is a major part of my foundation. This is made very difficult by my social anxiety. Depression, however, is something you can’t fight alone.

I’m really private about it, though. I have trouble telling my friends and the people who support me when I need help. That’s not a good thing. I know I can’t do it on my own, but, for some reason, I always try to.

Even when I don’t go to them and explain what’s going on, though, I can still draw strength from them. Surrounding myself with fellow Christians, people who can help me stay on the right track, is imperative for my survival.

Sometimes, though, the depression sneaks up on me. I get really stressed or exhausted or run smack dab into one of my triggers, and I’m in the middle of it before I know it. That’s why it’s so important to already know The Word – to have that foundation firmly in place.

At that point, I don’t have the strength or inclination to open up a Bible. I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to reach out to the people around me for help. I don’t want to leave my bed. I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to see anyone’s face.

I do, however, have a part of my soul, firmly rooted in The Word and God’s Truth, that absolutely refuses to give up. It sends whimpering, plaintive cries up to heaven. It knows I can’t stand on my own feet, so it begs my Father to pick me up and hold me close. It whispers the verses I’ve memorized in my ear so I start to remember who and Whose I am. I believe that’s the Holy Spirit, strengthened by the food I feed it.

This is my foundation. This is what I build my house on. It provides me with shelter, and, when the storms knock my house down, it’s what I rebuild on. This is my shield. This is my protection. This is how I fight the darkness in my life.

My depression is more than a neurotransmitter disorder. There is hope. It is something I can fight. I ground myself in the truth of my Savior, and the darkness cannot hold on. It vanishes.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”