Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sacrifices

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
(1 Peter 2:9)

I have never officially participated in Lent, the 40 days of fasting before Easter, but I have made spiritual decisions for my life that correspond with lent for the past two years. So far this year, God has been doing some amazingly awesome stuff, which has contributed to what I’m doing for a personal rendition of Lent.

For one, this past Thursday, God gave reconciliation to a friendship of mine. It was pretty much unexpected and surprising. I was convinced people could not change, but I was reminded that when God gets a hold of someone who is open, awesome things happen. That reconciliation was an answer to prayer and I know God is going to do great things with this friend’s life.

Friday, the next day, I went hiking and “swimming” with some awesome friends. After dinner, I went back to my room, but it was Friday, so I didn’t want to do any homework or hang out alone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to hang out with, but I began to sense that I needed and wanted to spend time with God. So, I grabbed my Bible, journal, and iPod and headed to the campus prayer room, where I turned up the worship music so loud the walls were shaking. That whole worship experience was amazing. It was almost two and a half hours of singing, Scripture reading, artsy-crafty worship, and dancing (yes, dancing can be worship, too!). It was good communion with God.

And then, out of the blue, some thoughts popped up. Not immoral thoughts, just a realization. I realized that guys who love Jesus are attractive. Not sure why it took me so long to get it... just kidding! Anyway, I was so taken aback by the suddenness of these thoughts I honestly did not know what to do with them; I immediately turned them over to God. Obviously, it’s not wrong for women to be attracted to Godly men, but this was worship time. I have come to understand that my focus should be always be on God over and above what God has created, even if it’s good.

This simple and somewhat na├»ve action this past Friday started an entire personal lent movement. When I went to God with the realization, he asked me make a sacrifice. He asked me to sacrifice my desire to date and get married. Almost immediately, Genesis chapter 22 (where Abraham attempts to sacrifice Isaac) came to mind and I knew that’s what God wanted me to do.

Even though I’m making this sacrifice, I believe I will still get married. Abraham knew and believed his descendents would come from Isaac, but he was still able and ready to obey God and sacrifice Isaac (see Hebrews 11:17-19). The point and meaning of this sacrifice is that I will make a conscious and intentional effort to focus on God and my relationship with Him instead of the worries, doubts, and fears that come with potentially entering the realm of dating. 

Believe me when I say that guys who obviously love Jesus are incredibly attractive to me. What a blessing from the Lord to feel that way! We are human beings after all. Yet I know God is calling me to singleness for this time. I know, because he has asked me to hold my relationship with him so close that a dating relationship cannot be in the picture yet.

Towards the end of my first semester of freshman year, God told me he wanted to do great and wonderful things in me and through me before he brought a guy into my life. I asked for those things, and slowly, God revealed them. Most of them were ministry opportunities or personal development opportunities that could be best taken as a single person. When I returned to school this January, I looked back over what I was doing and I realized none of those things were in my life anymore. Suddenly, I questioned God’s providence. Was he calling me to remain single or to date? Now, with this new revelation of sacrifice, I am convinced again of God’s purposes and providence. He has a plan for my life and he is doing great things. Awesome things.

The prayer team on my college’s campus has organized a 24/7 Bible Reading, in which students and staff of the college sign up to read from the Bible for 24 hours a day as many days as it takes to read the entire Bible, which is actually going to be less than seven days. We’ve done the same thing with prayer before. Last night, I went to listen to whomever was reading, but I ended up filling in for an hour for someone who missed their shift. I was reading Psalms and I kept breaking out in song every few chapters. It was raining, so I kept singing “And I believe You will come like the rain” from Jesus Culture, as well as any songs I thought of when I read the Psalms. It was pretty amazing. I left that hour, after reading, praying, and singing the Word, very fulfilled. I prayed for rain and for God to come like Hosea 6:3 says.

The funny thing is, we sang “You’ll Come” by Hillsong in chapel today. The chorus is about both rain and God coming to us, and I knew it was no coincidence that it lined up perfectly with what I prayed for last night. And it did rain today, it was just misty instead of drenching. I began to see that God’s pursuit of me is definitely not a coincidence, but that it is real and consistent, but more than that, it is gentle, like misty rain. I am reminded that God’s love is strong. How can something so often thought of as weak and mushy be strong? I think it’s in the same way that God’s pursuit of his bride is both furious and gentle at the same time.

My point is that in “giving up” the dating desire (and taking practical steps to reduce the temptation I encounter to worry about or lust over a potential relationship), I am making the effort to grow closer to God and to listen to him as he is pursuing me. So, yeah, in some way, this is what I’m giving up for Lent. And this semester. And this summer. And probably this entire year. And who knows how long. Because my relationship with the God of the universe matters so much than getting married and having kids. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately desire to get married and have kids one day, but that cannot be my focus. I can’t go to college to get my MRS degree, because that’s ridiculous. I must ask myself: who am I focusing on?

Maybe, if you’ve read this far, you’re wondering why I put 1 Peter 2:9 as the opening for this post. Honestly, I do not know. All I know is that within a couple hours on Monday night, I heard this verse twice from two different people in two completely different contexts. I am asking God to show me what he wants me to gather from this verse.  I know for sure that God is doing great things and, as his child, I am privileged to be a part of them. To be loved by the God of the universe so much that he calls you his holy priesthood is pretty amazing stuff. He loves you.
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City" or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride.
(Isaiah 62:4)

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