As you all know we moved out here last fall and we are still trying to get to know people…making friends. I was blessed to cross paths with my new friend, Alicia. She has the most hospitable heart! The first time we met I told her about Lost Without Him. Then she told me about a women’s fellowship that she started with some ladies in town. She loved to make a meal for them and just have a ladies night with no kids. But she wanted to give them more than that. Not just food for their bodies but food for their soul. I suggested that maybe I could come to her gatherings and introduce a topic centered on some biblical issue applicable to marriage, mothering and life. She loved it! So we set the dates and began to plan.
We just had our first gathering last night. Our topic was titled When You’ve Ignored God. I shared vulnerably from my own Christian experience the struggle to keep God a priority in my life. That awkward feeling of opening your bible after months or years of neglect. How strange our words feel as we bow to pray for the first time in ages. We look at our dusty bibles. With heavy hearts burdened with more than we were meant to carry, we say, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll be better. Tomorrow I’ll open my bible.” What if we didn’t wait till tomorrow? What if we just reached out to Him now?
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. -2 Corinthians 6:2
We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty. We come hungry for what only He can give. After we have tried to find it in so many other places, we return. Like the prodigal son we come back empty. Nothing to offer but a flickering torch. And as the scriptures show…there is no shame in your returning.
Why did I stop praying?
Why did I stop opening my bible?
It most likely happened very subtly. Some overindulging in mindless entertainment here…a miss-placed priority there. Before you realize it, it’s been a while since you thought about God. A spiritual laziness sets in.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” –Hebrews 4:7
I missed God so much. I really had to fight back my hesitation to just put Him on the shelf again. Many doubting thoughts and shameful accusations kept me from showing my face to God. Like the desperate father in Mark 9:22 says to Jesus “…if you can do anything…help us.”
Jesus answers him, “If you can? Everything is possible to Him who believes.”
The man exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
And that was the cry of my heart…help me overcome my unbelief!
At that point I asked myself a really important question.
“Bri, do you believe that Jesus died on the cross?”
(How silly, of course I believe Jesus died on the cross.)
“Then why do you pull away when he reaches out? Why do you recoil? Why are you hiding? Because if you believe that Jesus died on the cross then you believe that…
– the shame you feel is the reason he died.
– He accepts you. All of your mess.
– He is perfect so you don’t have to be.
– life apart from Him is no life at all.
(Oh ya, that last one? Ya, I believe that one. I’ve experienced how empty my full life feels when I leave Jesus out.)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” -Ezekiel 36:26-27
So I began to read my bible. And it did feel awkward to open my bible and pray when it had been so long. Like seeing someone that you have brushed off for a long time and you just don’t even know what to ask them about. It felt a little forced. But the more I read my bible the more we had to talk about in prayer. The more I prayed the closer I felt to him. I no longer felt so far away; far away from my husband or distant to my kids. I began to initiate life again, not just react to it.
One thing I have to guard against everyday is thinking too much of myself and too little of God. Everyday I need to “get over myself” so I can truly follow Jesus. Because when I look to him…Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never coved with shame. Psalm 34:5
What ever it is that has kept you from seeking God, you can always return. We don’t need to clean our selves up before we approach Him.
He washes our feet,
He covers our faults,
He forgives our wrongs.
This is why He came. He didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive. And I can certainly attest to feeling dead inside. We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty. We come hungry for what only He can give. After we have tried to find it in so many other places soon He tracks us down and carries us home. And there is no shame in your returning.
(I prepared a 4-day devotional for all the ladies who came to our dessert night last night so I’ll be chiming in on those this week. A little more traffic than usual 🙂