Apostasy – a willful turning away from the truth of the Christian faith.
Our electricity in two of the rooms at our church office has been out for over a week now because the repairs on such an old building are taking awhile. It didn’t affect me much until Friday when I went in to work on our programs for Sunday because one of the rooms without electricity at the moment is our workroom…where we have all of our printers, our machine that folds the programs, our phone, our paper trimmer and much more. Thankfully, one of the awesome people I work with was kind enough to spend his time running an extension cord to the room from one of the rooms that still had electricity so that we could use our printer. As I was sitting in the dark at a desk in our workroom Friday printing out our programs, I found myself slowly getting frustrated with the darkness. Not just because I couldn’t see anything, but because I couldn’t find the things I needed easily, I had to move other equipment out of the room in order to fold the programs as well as cut the inserts for this week and in the middle of it all, other things were printing for other people and I was having a difficult time keeping everything separate in the dark. It didn’t take too long for God to turn around my thoughts and negativity. At Passion this year, John Piper said, “Our blindness is not because we are victims of the darkness but because we are lovers of the darkness.” I started to think about what he had said on an even deeper level then I already had at Passion in that moment. Lovers of the darkness; how true it was. I’m not one to admit my faults so openly; at least I didn’t use to be. And trust me, I have many! But here is a big one:
I’ve been a lover of the darkness.
More than once in my life, I’ve chosen the path without lighting, the path that caused me to trip and hurt myself in the dark, the path that led to darker paths; a path that was so incredibly difficult. Yet I kept walking. Those paths took me to nights I don’t remember and many nights I don’t want to remember. I can tell you right now, it wasn’t just about trying to escape reality. It was about being accepted and looking for approval. It was about trying to find happiness and fun when I was feeling miserable with where I was at in life. I wasn’t blind to the truth of my actions or blind to God’s truth, I knew exactly what I was doing and I continued it because each day was filled with a few short moments of happiness. And then I woke up the next day. Reality still intact, unchanged, and haunting me like it always seemed to. So once again I crawled out of bed and chased down the world’s version of a smile but it was a smile damaged by the night before. And still it hung on my face, held up by the numbness of alcohol. The further I walked down that path, the worse things became. More and more nights became nights I didn’t remember, my grades dropped, I lost sleep, I was ashamed to go to church each Sunday, I was no longer involved in a community group, I lost friends and those that stuck around were treated absolutely horrible by me; every part of my life had fallen to pieces. Why? Happiness isn’t joy, moments aren’t eternal and there is no happiness in living life selfishly.
Darkness is just that; darkness.
I was looking to gain something while living each day for my own selfish desires and the funny thing is that I gained absolutely nothing. I sure did lose a lot though. I lost money, friends, dignity, respect from others and for myself, and the ability to be a testimony for Christ. I wasn’t bringing glory to God in anything I was doing and that put me to tears on January 17th as Christine Caine talked about her surgery the previous year and how she asked God, “Am I bringing everyone home with me I’m supposed to bring?” If I died in that moment, I wasn’t bringing ANYONE with me. My life was all about me and in that moment, I realized something had to change. How many people had I already missed because I was swimming in sin, too selfish to step out of the nasty water and bathe in the clean? I told myself that day that each day after would be centered on bringing glory to God, through God. Each day is a new day to learn and continue striving for just that. Even on the days it’s a struggle, I want to wake up and strive to:
- Trust God with my life and trust His plan and timing above my own.
- Be content (Phil. 4:11 – “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”)
- Go to Him first in my decisions, good news, bad news, concerns, and all else.
- Read His word, not just for myself but also for those around me. So that I never doubt the truth, always speak the truth and am not led astray.
- Be an example in conduct, word, love, faith and purity.
- Not belong to the world but to God alone.
- Put God above all else.
- Pray for our leaders, those serving around the world, the men and women protecting us each day, my family and friends, the strangers I pass by each day, our church staff, those I have yet to meet, so many from my past, and endless others.
- Remember that He loves the people I love even more than I do and trust their lives in His hands.
- Recognize that alone I can do nothing. Without Christ I can do nothing.
- Use the gifts and passion for ministry God has given me to pursue His united purpose for us.
- Be the part of the body of Christ that He created me to be.
- Be a disciple for Christ.
- Find my joy and comfort in Him.
Never again do I want to mistake momentary, superficial and selfish happiness for eternal joy, nor do I want to trade anything for the eternal joy I’ve found in Christ. I look back now and realize how hard life was in the darkness. I see how difficult it was finding my way without the light, the harm I caused myself and others, all that I lost and the little that was left at the end. Those moments in the darkness don’t bring me joy now but God does and I’m not saying walking with God is easy. Satan is sure to make it hard. The difference is that there is endless joy, everlasting life, overwhelming love and a great purpose in each day. For so long I was ashamed to admit my faults because of the judgment I faced and because I didn’t want to seem imperfect to so many of the people I cared about and I knew cared about me but the reality is, that kind of thinking is also selfish because it isn’t about my glory, it’s about God’s. The truth is, God can use imperfections for impact. Have you ever driven down a road shaded by trees and noticed how they are planted? There is always a gap between any two trees. You see, every tree needs some space to grow properly and in that time of growth it needs the right amount of dirt, rain and light. Years after a tree is planted and it’s had its time to grow, it begins to bear life. At that point, its roots have found their place deep within the safety of the dirt. That tree didn’t make it to that point without first going through many storms and seasons however. It felt the heaviness of the summer sun, changed colors in the coolness of fall, lost a part of itself in winter’s freeze and rebuilt itself with May’s showers.
“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” – Psalms 1:3
We all must go through seasons that change us. In some seasons, life feels heavy and we change as a result of what we have been through and on occasion we may lose a part of ourselves but it’s the storms that bring life back stronger and more beautiful than ever because our roots have grown deeper and we can now harvest new life.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
So I’m not ashamed of my past any longer. Bring on the seasons because I don’t want to be just ankle deep. I don’t want my roots to barely clear the surface; I want to be rooted deeper in Him and His word more and more each day. I want to be tested each day so that my faith will continue to grow. After all…tetelestai. It is finished.
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” – Colossians 2:6-7
May you struggle well! Hayley