Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 12)

Dynamic Living (FB)“First, there have always been desperate times in our world.  By the time you and I die, we too will have a story like Don Paulson’s; we will have lived through wave after wave of spiritual upheaval and national and global uncertainty and unrest.  Hopefully this thought brings comfort rather than despair.  Granted, it can be disconcerting to think that there will always be tough times in our world, but it is also helpful to know that human history has always occurred against the backdrop of such times.  Indeed, it is in the context of those times that truly great lives emerge.”

“Where were you when you learned Princess Diana died?”

“How did you do research before the internet?”

“Did you have a pager?”

“Do you remember preparing for Y2K?”

“What were you doing when the planes hit the twin towers?”

“Do you remember Napster?”

“Did you buy your house before or after the bubble burst?”

Usually the number of pivotal, historical moments a person has lived through can be summed up by how many answers they have to questions that begin with some variation of, “Where were you when….?”  Some of my pivotal moments are above – many are humorous, but others are very somber.

As you reflect back, the moments that stand out are usually the ones that are filled with emotion – positive or negative – and became formative in some way.

In this final chapter, Chris talks about how critical it is to be aware of the context we are living in, particularly, in that it is a post-Christian era.  This is very accurate, and I’ve heard many people bemoan this fact, or blame it for declining church attendance, or lower enrollment at Christian universities.  Usually, it is said with a nostalgic longing for the “good old days” and wishing our culture resembled that of another time.

Maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist, but frankly, I’m glad I was born when I was.  If I rolled the dice and wished to be transported to another era, I’m afraid it would be under Nero, during the Crusades, or some other dangerous and turbulent time in history.  The truth is, every point in history has its challenges.  Ours is living in this post-Christian era, when even my friends who don’t attend church know something about Jesus, can easily identify a cross or a rosary as a religious symbol and celebrate Christian holidays.  Our culture is steeped in knowledge about Jesus.  But what is sometimes lacking, is authentic Christian living that points people to the real character of Jesus.  Not just knowing who He was, or calling Him a great Teacher, but knowing why He matters and what He has done for them.

It is a unique challenge, to strip away the pretense, the expensive church building, and any form of self-centered prosperity gospel, and go back to a Christ-centered message – but that is what will ultimately draw people to God.

“Although the apparent demise of Christendom in today’s Western world is cause for great alarm and dismay among many Christians and church leaders, Murray sees it as a strategic opportunity for the church to rediscover its ancient, relational, Christ-oriented posture in the world.”

As Chris points out, the cornerstone of this approach is relationship – both our authentic relationship with God and the relationships we build with others.  Focusing on these two connections also allows us to remember that whatever our context is, we are not defined by it.  Whatever we are going through, abiding in Him and reaching out to others can remain constant.  It isn’t dependent on wealth, traditional education or a certain cultural context.  It transcends all of that.  And it allows us to focus on the things that matter – the things that will last.

Guest Post by Rebekah Arias

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Dynamic Living in Desparate Times (Chapter 11)

Dynamic Living (FB)“God uniquely wired you for a cause – and when you identify it and embrace it the flame in your bones burns brighter.”

By now I think that most of us can admit before Jeremiah was born, God had given him a purpose to fulfill in his life. If we believe this to be true, why is it we have such a difficult time believing it’s also true for us?

Are you someone who tends to listen to what others say versus what God says about you?

At a very early age, I was told I should become a doctor or a dentist. Others said I should be an architect or designer. Still, others would chime in and say I had a weird way of memorizing numbers and statistics. My life was certainly filled with competing voices of influence; good and bad.

It wasn’t until I began walking in faith with Jesus that I heard something about purpose. Upon surrendering my life to Him, I began this journey of discovering how God had uniquely wired me and how He purposed me.

Each and every human being has been given an incredibly unique set of gifts and talents, and God has purposed those to be used by us for reasons he set forth before we were even born. When you take a second to think about that it causes you to wonder, “Am I that special?”

The answer to this pondering is an emphatic, “YES!” You’re special because you’ve been made in God’s image. No other created thing possesses God’s image. But what does that really mean? It means God intrinsically placed an immeasurable value upon humanity so that we might embrace that which burns bright, deep within.

What could that be?

I’m not sure what it is for you, but according to Chris, when our hearts are inflamed with passion for a great cause (or purpose) it is much easier to maintain. In other words, our purpose becomes easier to see and our resolve is stronger to continue pursuing that which God has called us to do.

If you know my story, God has used me in ways that did not make any sense at first. Prior to knowing Jesus, I was never musical. Yet God chose to reveal to me later how He would use something He placed in me long ago to lead others in worship. Prior to knowing Jesus, I was a pretty shy kid. I never wanted to stand or speak in front of anyone let alone teach. Yet God has chosen and still chooses, to place me in a position to exercise a gift I never knew I had prior to following Jesus.

I don’t know what burns deep within you, but I know it’s there simply because you were made in the image of God, and that’s just what He does with his children. He’s wired you in such a way for some sort of cause in this life. Never doubt that for a second! Learn to embrace the fact you may not know what that is just yet, and keep asking God to reveal that to you. Speak to others you know and trust who will share their observations and insights. Just know, that whatever is in you, God placed it there for a reason. He has a plan for you and someday you will not be able to contain it.

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 10)

Dynamic Living (FB)“I think it is remarkable that Edeb-Melek – out of everyone in the palace – was willing to reach out to someone else in pain.

Or maybe it wasn’t that remarkable after all. When I think about it, it seems perfectly logical that Edeb-Melek would be the one to help Jeremiah. People who have lived through the most pain are often the most concerned about other people’s pain. As I professionally observe and interact with people, I notice that the people who have gone through significantly difficult times are rarely ever the ones who lack compassion. The people who lack compassion are the ones who really haven’t hurt that much.” 

Whenever I was going through a hard time when I was younger, I was always anxious to find the reason for it. Somehow, I felt that knowing the purpose would help. It wouldn’t change the level of pain, but it would give me a greater pain tolerance knowing that it was worth it.

When I was a kid, those problems would be small: a fight with a friend (infrequent), a fight with my brother (frequent), bombing a test, my own internal anxiety.

But as they say, ‘little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems.’ And as I grew, so did the complexity of my issues: a breakup, bullying, betrayal, rejection, surgery and again, more anxiety.

I remember many times coming to my Mom, searching for answers to whatever pain was ailing me at the time.  And she would always say, “Perhaps you’re going through this, so that one day, you can help someone else who will go through the very same thing. And I always responded, “Well that sucks. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot better if neither me or the other person had to experience this in the first place??” Needless to say, my Mom was never a big fan of that response (at least it was honest). Also, needless to say, Mom was right. Of course, it would be better in theory, if there were no painful experiences at all. And that leads to the philosophical question about the reason for suffering. Much time can be spent in debating this question, but until we get to Heaven, we will not have complete answers. However, even without full answers, we have truth:

  • Some suffering is a natural consequence for sinful actions, but a lot of it is just part of living in a broken, imperfect world.
  • All humans experience suffering, most importantly, that includes Jesus in his time on Earth who could have exempted Himself from it but chose not to.

It is natural for us to search for answers to suffering. We may even search for answers to other people’s suffering that don’t apply to us, thereby distancing us from the other person, lest that suffering be contagious.

But it is infinitely more powerful to let our common experiences of pain draw us together and give us empathy for each other. My mother also gave me the sage counsel, “God doesn’t waste anything.” And this has also proven to be true. As I moved past the teenage experiences and into adulthood, my pain became even more complex and personal. But every painful experience has been used to help me comfort someone else.  Because I’ve been there, I know what they need to hear, and what they don’t need to hear. Most of the time, people just want a listening ear and prayer.

So when you are encountering pain, ask for the help you need from others, and don’t worry about the why. Worry about the how – wait and see how God will use it to build compassion in you to help others. You may be the only one to see the pain they’re trying to hide. It will give you a greater dose of strength in the moment to know one day you’ll be someone’s hero.

Guest Post by Rebekah Arias

 

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 9)

Dynamic Living (FB)“No matter where you have been, no matter what you have done, and no matter what you have lost along the way, the Master Potter can still shape you into a vessel of honor “holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). The simple key to this re-shaping is to respond.”

I once had a supervisor who was intentionally working with me on my ability to withstand work conflict. It was an unfortunate reality of our office, and she and I had regular discussions about that week’s interactions.

At first, I became quite impressed with my ability to return a biting insult without missing a beat in the conversation. I felt a lot like Meg Ryan from “You’ve Got Mail” in one particular moment. When she says the perfect comeback to Tom Hanks, she is suddenly very impressed with herself: “For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I said it!” And then later on, she reflects, “And, of course, afterward, I felt terrible, just as you said I would.”

However, the following week during our discussion, the inevitable confrontation had once again ensued, but this time, she complimented me saying, “I saw that you did not react, you responded.”

At first, the difference seemed slight, but it was actually a profound statement. Reacting is simply impulse. It does not require any higher level thinking.  Responding however, requires a choice. It means controlling your automatic reaction and being intentional. In this chapter, Chris talks about responding to God’s touch, in terms of asking Him what He wants for our lives. The first step is setting our default response to “yes”. This can feel very intimidating until you consider the character of our Father. Remembering the nature and intention of the potter makes all of the difference.

If I were to imagine a distant and detached diety, to which I had to respond, “Yes” every time, it is downright panic-inducing. But to know that the potter is a loving Father, who cares for us with the far-reaching memory of our past and all the considerations of our future, I can rest easy.

I am lucky to have been born to very loving parents. For me, picturing God as a caring parent is a comforting association. But I know many others who have a conflicted reaction to God as a loving Father. And that is why the second step in responding is key: remember His unchanging nature. He is always pulling us up, pulling us towards him, never pushing us down. So whether you picture a Father, a Beloved Teacher, a Mentor, a Coach — He embodies that person who has always had your back and pushed you to be your best, but with a depth of love that we cannot fathom.

The final part of the response requires our action. It’s where the rubber meets the road with that default “yes”. I like the fact that Chris has always emphasized reaching out to your measure for two reasons. First, because it is edifying to know God has entrusted a portion of his ministry, his people, to me. Second, the boundaries remind me that I don’t have to put the weight of the world on my shoulders alone. The combination of reaching out to our own “assigned territory” and empowering a ministry that takes my effort and multiplies its effect, is what helps us take shape.

Let’s pray for the courage to take these steps and stick to the yes.

Guest post by Rebekah Arias

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 8)

Dynamic Living (FB)“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

This passage has so much meaning for me. It was probably the first verse besides John 3:16 I was able to memorize. Shortly after I discovered its overuse for almost every religious graduation card and its misuse in almost every religious merchandise. If you’ve frequented a Christian bookstore in the past (not sure if those are around anymore) you have most certainly seen a t-shirt, a bookmark, a coffee mug, a bumper sticker, an etched glass wall mirror, and a massive area rug with the words from Jeremiah 29:11 printed directly on it. It’s a fantastic verse that offers promise and hope, but unfortunately somewhere along the line the meaning has been lost.

As the book states, this passage was written to the Jewish exiles who were removed from their home and sent to live in Babylon against their will. Chris mentions that the Jewish people who were exiled weren’t too fond of Jeremiah since he was the one who had foretold of this inevitable captivity.

Jeremiah 29:11 has been used to encourage graduates, people struggling with their vocation, or those who are simply trying to figure out the will of God in their lives. Now, it’s not to say that God doesn’t have a plan for everyone, because He most certainly does! And it’s also not to say that God doesn’t want you to prosper, because you are His child, of course He wants this for you. God is good. He has no intention in harming you, but rather to speak hope and promise and life back into you.

The truth is God does want all these things for you. It’s just not what He is saying in this context. All it takes is a reading of verse 10 in the very same chapter and you will understand. Jeremiah 29:10 says, “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”

The context is simple: The Jewish people are in exile and Jeremiah sends word that God has a plan to prosper them once again, just not right now. In fact, it won’t be for another 70 years! When given the context of this verse it sort of changes the meaning so many cling to today. Jeremiah 29:11 is an extremely important part of Israel’s history, but it doesn’t happen before verse 10 takes place.

I believe so many of us want verse 11 without verse 10. I know I do! But if not for verse 10 all God would be is what Chris refers to as a “cosmic butler,” gift wrapping every one of our prayers and doing everything exactly we want. You might say, “What’s wrong with that?” And I’d say, well then He wouldn’t be God.

I’m sure the Jewish exiles wanted God to swoop in and fix everything. They made some really bad choices, but after making all those decisions and turning away from God, they had the audacity to want God to jump right in and make everything okay. But that has never been how God has worked. It’s also never been what God has promised. The promise from God has always been that He would be with us. The King of this world, the dread champion (as Chris calls him), will be with us always. He will be there when we make a great decision and when we make a bad one. He will be there when we’re having a good day and when we are having a bad decade. He’s there when our relationships aren’t working out. He’s present when our decisions aren’t so wise. He isn’t there to fix everything, but He’s there to remind you that there’s hope for the future. It may not happen tomorrow, but God has a plan for you and He’s will be with you the whole way through.

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 7)

Dynamic Living (FB)“In Greek, the word rest (anapauso) refers to an intermission or a cessation from work so that one can engage in recreation.  And please note that recreation is different from entertainment.  We can be entertained for hours and not be affected at all in our souls; however, true recreation does more than entertain or amuse us – it recreates us.  Recreation is activity that re-creates us on the inside so that our soul can discern life’s poetry again.”  

A few months ago, I had the rare an unexpected opportunity to accompany my husband on a business trip to Japan.  I was ecstatic to be taking an international trip, but I knew parts of the travel would be challenging, so I had some uneasiness going in.  After arriving and settling in, we had dinner with a few local friends, one of whom asked what I’d be doing alone all day while Jon was at meetings.  Yep.  This was going to be the challenging part.

I asked what sightseeing there was to do, and among many other options listed, she told me that there were nature walks near the ancient Meiji shrine, and also the colorful fashion district of Harajuku.  Ironically, these two sites (one for my peace-loving side, and one for my fashion loving side) were right next door to each other at the same subway station stop.  I had found my destination for the day.

Anyone who knows me might (rightly) assume I started with shopping at Harajuku or spent the majority of my time there.  But the truth was, I started, quite literally on an ancient path, and walked it alone.  Ignoring looks from various tourists who wondered what an obvious foreigner was doing there by herself, I spent the far majority of the afternoon walking through beautiful gardens.  There is a quietness in nature that you can’t find in an urban setting.

In reading this chapter, I felt it was that kind of recreation, one that allows the soul to rest that is truly good for us.  Shopping, binge-watching Netflix, many other activities may excite us and they have their time and place.  But you generally don’t come back from them feeling rejuvenated.

It is a common message to hear today that we need to practice self-care, and that is true.  But a good friend of mine pointed out an important distinction: there is a difference between self-comfort and self-care.  Self-comfort is the metaphorical shopping trip or bowl of ice cream.  It is not bad in itself, but it produces a self-numbing effect.

By contrast, self-care is intentionally choosing activities that allow us to quiet the daily stress, internal anxiety and simply be.  Which can actually feel very uncomfortable and unnatural in a world where we feel we need to be “doing” something constantly.  Sometimes self-care is taking a walk or reaching out to a friend who’s been on your heart.  Whatever form it takes, it produces a restorative effect.

Jeremiah 6:16 says, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  One of the parts I find most comforting about this is that ancient paths are known and they are unchanging.  We generally live with a great deal of uncertainty.  Not knowing how our kids will turn out, not knowing who will win the next election, not even knowing if the diet we’re following now will turn out to be bad for you next year.  (And on that last one, it probably will).

But the beauty of the ancient paths is that they are set.  The ways are known, our ancestors have walked them before, and unlike my trip, we don’t actually have to walk them alone.  We have the steady company of our church family.  Sometimes it may seem they are further down the path or ahead of us, but none of this matters.  We walk as a community together, all headed in the same direction.

Guest post by Rebekah Arias

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 6)

Dynamic Living (FB)Whose Jeremiah are you called to be – who in your sphere of influence needs to hear a springtime word?

Most of us would admit we don’t “feel” very prophetic in our everyday interactions with people. I don’t walk around Target asking God, “Is there a word of warning you’d like me to share with that guy purchasing that android phone?” I don’t make my way to the gas station to fill up my car in hopes of offering a timely word for my fellow patrons who are trying their best to avoid eye contact with me. It doesn’t mean that God won’t lead me to do that. It’s just that it’s more likely that God would lead me to speak into the sphere of influence around me.

If you’re like me it seems a little strange to think of yourself as prophetic. But as Chris writes, being prophetic is simply called to speak words of strength, encouragement, and comfort to people. Does that mean we need to prophesy over that guy at Target or that woman at the gas pump? I’d like to think that I would follow God’s prompting if He led me this way, but I’m not sure it needs to be this daunting. In fact, I believe it’s way more invitational than we think.

Think about the question Chris asks the reader: Who is in your sphere of influence? In other words, who are you around the most? Is it your family? Maybe some neighborhood friends? Possibly your coworkers? These are all types of influential spheres. Now the question is: Who in these spheres need a springtime word?

As we learned through this chapter, God used the vision of a branch from an almond tree as Jeremiah’s first vision. It may not be as significant to us at first hearing, but as we discovered, the vision of an almond tree branch is rich with meaning for those living in Palestine. In our reading, it is explained that the almond tree was one of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring giving residents a sign that the end of winter is near.

Another significant reason God used the vision of an almond tree branch was simply in its etymology. The Hebrew word for almond is a close derivative to the word watchful. This interpretation is helpful for us to fully comprehend Jeremiah’s vision, but it’s also useful to us in our own context. Chris offers three suggestions regarding how we can minister prophetically in our spheres of influence. In each suggestion he recommends we withhold from speaking first. In fact, the third suggestion he mentions is to be observant. He encourages us to listen; to pay attention. I would add – to be watchful.

Speaking prophetically doesn’t require the position of prophet or pastor or any other position you believe is “more gifted.” It simply requires you to be observant; to be watchful. Yes, Jeremiah was a prophet, but God’s vision for him was to be observantly prophetic. But this wasn’t just for Jeremiah. It’s what God has called all of us to do. Whether we feel like it or not, God has put us in a place of influence to be a Jeremiah to someone else. Not to fix them or their situation. Not to cast judgment upon their lives because of their actions or way of living. But to speak hope back into their context and call them back into the unconditional, redemptive love of God.

As you prayerfully consider your context and environment, would you also commit to being slow to speak and quick to listen to those around you?  We are all called to be carriers of hope, but we can’t carry that hope if we are so quick to judge with our words. The dynamic life is countercultural to a world that seeks self-interest. We are not called to be prophetic for our benefit, but for the benefit of the people God has uniquely placed in our lives.

Pray, weep, and be observant with those around you so that God may use your voice (and actions) to draw them closer to Him.

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 5)

Dynamic Living (FB)“Like Jeremiah before us, you and I have a two-fold word from God as well: one is a word for us to personally embrace and live; and the other is a word for us to carry to someone else. When we discover, embrace, and export our word, dynamic living begins in earnest.”

Do you have someone who speaks into your life? Is there someone who observes your life and offers his or her insight into your present or future matters? I’ve always had two kinds of people who would speak into my life: people who truly know my situation and offer a word that is healing, hopeful, and encouraging, and then there are people who mean well, but let’s just say they are not helping my situation.

I often wonder which of those two categories I fall under. I know I’ve shared some really encouraging words with people because they’ve told me so. But if I’m completely honest, I know I’ve spoken some words that really weren’t helpful at all. I just wanted to say something profound for the purposes of feeding my own ego. And who does that benefit? Absolutely no one.

I remember roughly six years ago I needed a word from God (I didn’t know it at the time). I was as low as I could possibly feel and was keeping it together on the outside for my family, but falling apart on the inside. It was then God brought a friend to me who has often been one of those voices of healing, hope, and encouragement. We were talking at length about life and the goings-on of family and work and then what felt like all of the sudden there was a long pause.

He looked me in the eyes and said, “How’s your soul?”

About ten seconds past as I fought an overwhelming wave of emotion flood inside of me. He had seen past all the outward appearance and fluff and spoke straight to my soul with a piercing question. I hadn’t asked how my soul was doing in a long time, and when those words speared my inmost being it was like a dam had broken and a surge of life came rushing through my internal barrier.

Instead of boring you with the rest of the story I will say that much healing came from the phrase: “How’s your soul?” Not because it’s so profound, but because of the person who carried and spoke those words to me. I’ve been forever grateful to this dear friend for asking me such a simple yet powerful question. It has been my mission ever since to carry the meaning behind those words to those in my life. Not for them to be devastated by the effects (although this was a good thing for me), but to be transformed, encouraged, seen, and valued despite the barriers they have built in their life.

You may not feel like a prophet, but God does want to use you. You may not feel like you have anything to offer right now and that’s okay. I don’t know if any prophet “felt” like the right person to share a word. Just know that God is still speaking to you, and never forget your purpose is to export that to others. Not to feed an ego, but to bring hope and life when it’s needed most.

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 4)

Dynamic Living (FB)“Return to Me. That is probably the most recurrent phrase in all of the prophetic messages of the Bible. Nearly all of the Old Testament prophecy books could be summarized this way: ‘Return to me, my people. The spring water you are looking for is here with me – come back from the puddle you have been lapping from and live.’”

Have you ever settled for something less only to regret you had? Maybe you opted for that slice of pizza at lunch instead of the kale salad? You know the pizza will taste amazing every time (which is why you ate four pieces), but then you always feel a little remorse as you ponder, “How many more slices would it take to actually stop my heart?”

I’m no health nut. I have nothing against anyone who is conscious of his or her eating habits and choices. I think it’s great! It’s important to know what’s being put into your body. But just like the food you and I consume, we must be aware of ingesting things that are not life-giving. We don’t want to settle for a stagnate puddle when there’s an overflowing spring filled with nourishment and life available to us.

In the book, Chris concludes chapter 4 with a few discussion questions. He writes:

  • Have you ever tried to draw life from lifeless sources?
  • Are there any areas of your life where you are attempting to do that today? If so, how is that working out for you?

I think all of us could say that we have attempted to draw life from lifeless sources. We have all lapped from stagnate puddles of water instead of drinking from the wellspring available to us. Whether it is in unhealthy relationships or unhealthy eating/drinking habits, we have taken hold of the reigns of our life and tried to fill the void that’s longing for ultimate fulfillment. We’ve befriended things that were never meant to be our friends. We’ve become attached to that which was never suitable. We’ve settled.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Translated: we’ve settled for mud pies (lifeless sources) when the greatest of all life sources awaits us in Jesus.

Maybe you’re like me and have settled way too often for lifeless sources that only leave you feeling empty inside; longing for something more. First of all, you’re not alone. But secondly, there’s hope! The best way to make our way back to the source of life is to acknowledge the sources we’ve settled for and begin to detach ourselves from them. Maybe your lifeless source is money, or food, or popularity, or pornography, or success, or leisure. Whatever it is you need to call it out for what it is: lifeless. From there we can begin to reattach to the source of life Himself.

I love how Chris ends this chapter. He concludes, “You and I will never live towering, terrific lives if we are holding onto our inferior attachments. We need to shuwb; we need to return.”

The amazing thing about God is that He is always so patient. The love He has for His sons and daughters is constant and unfailing. He longs for His children stop settling for the inferior, lifeless, stagnate puddle, and to finally plunge into spring of life found only in Him.

 

 

 

Dynamic Living in Desperate Times (Chapter 3)

Dynamic Living (FB)“God created you to know you, to love you, and to give you away for the needs of the world. This is why self-centered living is the most unsatisfying way to live. In the short term, it can be fun to live a shallow, pleasure-oriented, self-consumed existence, but that kind of living eventually leaves a person bankrupt inside because we were not created to live only for ourselves – we were created to be a gift for someone else.”

Fully known. Fully loved.

Those two sentiments are difficult for me to grasp separately, and almost impossible when I put them together. I think most of us decide that since the two can’t coexist, we will choose to be loved rather than known. And we determine to keep the unlovable parts of ourselves unknown. This may work for awhile. It may even work long term if we can keep our relationships limited and shallow. But every now and then, that internal question peeks above the surface. “Would they really love you if they knew everything about you? Since they don’t, is this love even real?” These kinds of questions haunt the guarded relationships we keep.

But what happens when we find that someone – a parent, a spouse, a good friend – both really knows us and still loves us? It is such a deep relief! It means we don’t have to hide, and posture and guard anymore. And the way God knows us is on a different level than even our closest earthly relationships can. Our human love, by its nature, can only know our past through present day. God knows what we will do, and who we are meant to become – the whole picture, and loves us anyway. He knew every part of us that is weak, selfish, and prone to addiction. And yet He created us anyway. Because He sees beyond this to see that we are capable of deep love. Of being a gift to someone. Of loving a child the way He loves us. He sees and has already declared that knowing everything, we are still worth it.

Beyond this His call on our life and purpose is unique. As Chris remarks, it is far too easy to get caught up in the consumeristic, self-centered culture that surrounds us. We have to actively fight against it to not be drawn in and eventually lulled to sleep by the constant drone of being admired and acquiring more. But this is just the white noise in our cultural backdrop. Every culture has had its own unhealthy rhythm that has to be recognized and reckoned with. But that familiar hum is not the purpose we were created for. I know I’ve been guilty of getting caught up in it and missing my real purpose. Perhaps you know the feeling.  But God knew that too, still loved us, still chose us, and still provided a way for us to re-orient our hearts back to Him.

So what does this mean? It means the rush can stop. The chasing can stop. It means I don’t have anything to prove anymore. To myself or to anyone else. It means I only need to hear who He created me to be in the first place, and I can let the rest fall away.

And this lifts a great burden off of me. To be declared known, loved and worth it, by God Himself. I hope it also lifts the burden of the chase off of you.

Guest post by Rebekah Arias.