Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lessons learned, part 2.

(Here's part two of my list of lessons learned in 2011! If you missed the first half, check it out here.)

7. Hope: Even if He does not.
Hope is tricky. It's such a good thing, yet it is so easy to place it in the wrong things. For months, I've had to ask myself: is my hope in God Himself or in what He can do for me? It's a very fine line to walk. I've had to come to a place where I can say, "Yes, this is what I want to happen, and I believe that You can do it, but my hope is in You. Even if You don't, I'm still going to trust You and follow You as if nothing has changed." That's something I have to convince myself of every single day.

8. Certain joy found only in pain.
Every season of life has its good and bad sides. The happy times are wonderful, of course, but they bring certain challenges that aren't found at other times. In the same way, the hardest times bring certain joys that are found only there. I've had to learn to be thankful, not in spite of the bad times, but because of them. It's not always about pushing through to the other side; I've had to learn to see the beauty in the moment I'm in right now--even if it's painful.

9. Letting go.
This has probably been one of the most excruciating lessons I've ever learned, but one I am unbelievably relieved to have finally gotten through my head (well, still working on it, anyway. Like I said before, this is definitely all a process)! I never realized how much of a control freak I am, not to mention how much damage it can cause! Following God is all about surrender. He has to have control of every area of my life. I've found that I have to be very careful, because I have a tendency to try and regain control of things without even realizing it.

I want to always be able to say, "God, my hands are open. You are free to give and free to take away. And even when You do give--my hands will stay open." It's my natural tendency to cling to the things that I love, but I've discovered that it's a surefire way to get them taken away. Living with your hands open (so to speak) is a really vulnerable place to be, and it can be really hard sometimes, but at the same time, it has been the most freeing experience I've ever had.

10. Be present.
Waiting. It's something that I seem to constantly be doing, but something I'm really bad at! I have a tendency to see the big picture first, then fill in all the details later. That can be a really good quality, but it can also get me into trouble. Sometimes (most of the time), I am so focused on the end result that I forget that the detail work of right now is what it takes to get there. Once again, I've had to learn to make a conscious effort to just be present. Right now matters. (Being thankful really comes into play here!)

11. Faith.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
- Hebrews 11:1
I've heard that verse so many times, but I have never had to come to terms with what it really means as much as I have over the past few months. All of these lessons come down to faith in one way or another. It has definitely always been a part of my life in some way, but not like this. I say I believe in God. I say that I trust Him. I say that I believe He's good, and that His plan is best. And I really thought that I did believe those things. But when it all came down to it, did I really? Enough to actually act on it? It took me a long time to finally let go enough to be able to honestly say yes. It's still hard sometimes.

12. Freedom.
"It's easy for our thoughts to be dominated by a craving.... It takes ahold of us. We are not free…. If I want something to the point that I can't conceive of being content without it, then it owns me.... What started out as freedom can quickly become slavery.... Freedom is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it."
- Rob Bell in Sex God
I honestly cannot explain how profound that one quote has been for me. I wish I didn't understand it as perfectly as I do, but it has been my life for so long. But after months and months of digging deep and letting God do some major work on my heart, for the first time in a long, long time…I'm finally free. And freedom is incredible.

That isn't to say that it's easily kept.
"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
- Genesis 4:7
Going back to the idea of perseverance: it definitely applies here. It's cliche to say, but freedom is not free. I've had to fight for it, and I'm still having to fight to keep it. Still, I'm not losing it this time.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
- Galatians 5:1

I just want to let you know, I love you all so much! (Even those of you I don't know personally--your comments and messages have been so encouraging, and I really, really do appreciate it more than you know!). Thanks for being awesome. I hope you all have an amazing new year!

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