But something happened this past weekend and I feel as if my heart has finally changed or it finally reached a realization of some sorts. I had the privilege to go to the Young Life leader/committee weekend and enjoy the beauty of Rockbridge (which, unfortunately was a bit diminished by the peskiness of the gnats - dumb bugs) over this Labor Day weekend. I have to admit, I was not excited about having to "give up" my Labor Day weekend (one of the very few holidays that I get at my company) and go to this weekend, but being a leader, I felt obligated to go. And I am so glad that I did.
I did definitely feel like a sore thumb in the middle of our group - being the only single adult high school leader will do that for you :) - but it was worth it. The worship was amazing, the seminars were great (shout-out to Bob Wells for an awesome seminar by the way), the speaker - John Wagner - was encouraging, and the place was beautiful. I also got to have 4 to 5 hours to myself to just sit outside and read and talk to God, something which has been hard to do lately, because frankly I have been very angry, bitter, and hurt by God (more on that later). And then the whole time was closed by a Prayer Mosaic, one of the most beautiful things I have gotten to experience. There were all these different forms of prayer stations and you could go to whichever one you wanted to and it was amazing. What a way to close the weekend. It has carried me through into this week, a week that is now full of hope and resolutions.
I realized that I had been angry with God. Anger, hurt, and bitterness crept into my heart and I was mad at Him. Mad for shutting doors when I hoped for open ones, mad at Him for the way that my life looks right now, and just in general, hurt by all the longings in my heart that continuously go unmet. I couldn't understand what He was doing to me.
And then I read in John Eldredge's new book, Walking With God, that our unmet longings and desires are supposed to point us to God and not away. He says:
"Something I read years ago by C.S. Lewis in the The Weight of Glory has proven helpful to me time and time again, and may rescue us in the very moment of awakened desire I am describing. Lewis is trying to show us that what God uses to awaken desire is not necessarily what we long for. The things 'in which we we though the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things...are good images of what we desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself.' They are not what we are longing for."
And realizing that opened the floodgate of sunshine and understanding. The longings, the desires of my heart are supposed to point me to the heart of my Lord. The pain that they cause is supposed to serve as a reminder to turn to Him in order to find joy. It is an intangible joy that comes from this pain but I will take the peace that I feel now over the turmoil of last week, any day.
This realization coupled with the reminders from this weekend of walking with the Lord (daily morning quiet times, monthly "day aways", living in community, keeping a missional mindset no matter what I do or where I am), has really impacted my heart. I do feel renewed, though another long semester of clubs loom ahead. Not all of God's promises are happy and joyful - He does promise that there will be struggle and hardship along the way. But the pain of this struggle can bring joy - but only if it is surrendered along the way.
I put this verse up on my bulletin board a couple weeks ago, and only now do I think I understand it a little better:
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the Hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perservance, character; and character, hope. And HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."