The God with Dirty Feet

God is always much kinder and gentler with me than I expect.
For one reason or another, whether it’s because I was preconditioned in a half Christian home to believe God needed the blood of his only son to forgive my sins, or if its because I have heard grace and truth be preached as if they are two separate things rather than one. I expect wrath from God first, and then maybe mercy.

As if grace is an afterthought to God rather than who God is.

Yet in my own walk with the Lord and in the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life I see none of that.

I see a God who gets on the same level, even physically, as the woman who is about to be stoned to death by religious leaders. A physical posture that says, “Look at me, I am in this with you and it is going to be okay”.

I see a God who sees the person with leprosy instead of the sores on his skin or the reaction of the crowd.

I see a God who always picks the side of grace.

I see Jesus strung up on the cross, withstanding the worst humanity has to offer and still crying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

Thankfully, I see a church that is beginning to operate in this way as well.

As a millennial, we get a pretty bad rep. Lazy, judgmental, sensitive, and close-minded while claiming to be open-minded. Naïve to the state of our world and wishy-washy on matters of absolute truth.

I would argue Jesus probably got a very similar reputation in his day.

As John Eldredge puts it, Jesus was a “Beautiful outlaw”. He did not gain the favor of religious leaders or political figures.

He was murdered by his own kind and accused of being possessed by the devil.

He hung out with people he wasn’t supposed to and questioned political agendas.

He was seen as radical. Unpredictable. Too concerned with people and not concerned enough with law or “truth”. He spoke to the poor and the sick. He offered them a hope that was seen as unrealistic (living water? Bread of life? Eternal life?)

He reinterpreted ancient laws, he redefined truth and what matters most (Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself).

The Bible is very political. More so, the gospel is incredibly political. Everything from the statement “Jesus is Lord” to apocalyptic literature found in the book of Revelation.

Politics are everywhere.

Thus it is impossible to say, “I am a Christian but I am not concerned with politics”. Friend, if you are a Christian then you are required to be concerned with politics whether you like it or not. Whether you are aware of it or not. This is because loving the “least of these” is in direct opposition to the way American economics work. The least of these are what some people in political power might call “losers”.

I am not ignorant to the fact many of my brothers and sisters stopped tracking with me during the last few lines. Being called a liberal heretic is nothing new, but I pray the gospel and its transformative power at least opens our minds to the possibility God is always bigger, dirtier, more present and more understanding than we might first believe.

We serve a God with dirty feet.

One who is not scared away by sin or the depths of the human soul. But one who sees the whole person and their whole story.

One who is on the forefront of fighting for justice through love and understanding. One who is not scared to flip tables and ideologies.

One who sees himself in every human-being and calls them son and daughter rather than broken or sinner.

This is the God I am becoming more and more aware exists and I am thankful for it every single day.

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They Don’t Know What They’re Doing -Part 1

They Don’t Know What They’re Doing -Part 1

Like a scene from a low budget indie film, I found myself dropped to my knees sobbing in the pouring, cold rain a few weeks back.
One of my best friends stood with her jacket stretched out to me unsure of what else she could offer me at that point.
He’s never going to call again. He’s never going to call again. I’m never going to talk to him again. He’s never going to call… He’s never going to call…
I repeated this over and over the same way Christian monks chant the psalms every morning-Desperately, rhythmically, and repetitively.
I had finally allowed the truth that I had already known set in.
The man who raised me since I was eight had closed the curtain and taken his final bow out of my life.
He no longer wanted to fill his role as “dad” to me because he had filled a new role as “boyfriend” to someone who is not my mom.
Here’s the thing about being human. Sometimes we just know even when we don’t want to know.
So we try to numb that instinct with their pretty words and their lies that we want so desperately to be true.
We tell ourselves it really is going to be different this time. They aren’t going to hurt us like they did before because they said they wouldn’t.
He’s not actually cheating despite every nerve in your body telling you something different because he promised he wasn’t.
She really was in love with you, you really did mean something to her because well, she said you did.
You try to convince yourself, you try to convince your heart even though you know better.

It’s not always fun to be right; sometimes we want so desperately to be wrong.
That night I finally allowed myself to be right. I couldn’t deny the truth anymore. Trying to believe the lies were no longer comforting, in fact they were beginning to hurt me more than the truth.
So I let reality overcome me. Well, more accurately, I let it run me over like a semi truck and sucker-punch me in the gut.
I disarmed myself from all my defense mechanisms and I allowed myself to stare the truth in the face and call it by name:

He’s never going to call again. He’s never going to call again. I’m never going to talk to him again. He’s never going to call… He’s never going to call.

The Way I loved You.

I loved you with all of me. And when I say all of me I mean there wasn’t a section in my heart that you did not occupy. You filled the whole thing, babe.

You were my first thought when I woke up and my last thought before I fell asleep.

You consumed my dreams as I slept and all of my dreams about the future.

You felt like my beginning and my end, but that job is only supposed to be held by one person. I replaced Him with you faster than I like to admit.

I loved every part of you. And when I say I loved every part of you I mean I loved the way you laughed. I loved the way your eyes lit up when you talked about all the people you loved or your dog. I loved the way you would look at me when I ranted about Augustine or Aristotle. I loved the way you learned my favorite kind of Slurpee and my favorite song and you thought both were important. I loved the way you looked at any obstacle as something that could be defeated. You believe you can do whatever you put your mind to and because of that you make others believe the same.

I loved you when you were vulnerable and real. I loved getting to know what made you so tough and guarded. I still count learning about all of those things as one of the biggest privileges I’ve ever had. I still don’t take it lightly and I never will.

Most of all, I loved being your best friend. I always will.

Like Abraham with Isaac you took up a place in my heart that was only meant for Christ. But unlike Abraham I could not willingly give you up on my own. God asked me to give Him back your heart and I kept it for myself instead.

That’s not the case any longer. It took about a year from when I first felt Him ask that of me, but I’m finally letting you go. I. Am. Letting. You. Go. And when I say I am letting you go I mean you are no longer my first thought when I wake up or my last thought before I sleep. My future is not composed of possibilities of you or us. I’ve handed your heart and my heart back over to ‘the hand that wrote it all.’ You are not mine any longer darling, and I’m starting to realize you never were mine to begin with. I’m letting you go to her, or whoever comes after her. I’m letting you go to chase boldly after your dreams and to keep conquering any obstacle that comes in your way. I know you will. I’m letting you go with the prayer that you chase after Jesus more fervently and passionately than you did with me. I have always said that’s what I wanted most for you, and that is still true. His goodness does not depend on our ability to recognize it, but I pray you recognize it.

There will always be a part of my heart that belongs to you; I don’t see that going away anytime soon. But this chapter of our life is over. So I will pray for you and cheer you on from afar. I’ll be genuinely happy when I hear through the grape vine you are doing well and I’ll forever cherish every moment God allowed us to be in each other’s lives.

Thats the way I loved you.

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Until Recently

Until recently, I didn’t know the sting of a broken heart.

Until recently, I didn’t know the darkness of depression and my own mind.

Until recently, I didn’t know the evilness of my heart and the magnitude of my selfishness.

Until recently, I didn’t know what it felt like to be the one who walks away.

Until recently, I didn’t know that when you break someone, I mean really shatter someone, you can see it in their eyes. That image will burn into your mind and it will replay every time you shut yours.

Until recently, I was always the friend that picked someone up from a random parking lot because they were sobbing so hard they couldn’t drive. It wasn’t ever me, until recently.

I guess the pro’s to getting your heart ripped out is that it allows you to take a good hard look at it. Then you get to decide if the condition of your heart is something you’re satisfied with.

It was ugly, it was tattered, It was broken. My heart was rotten in parts and covered with stretch marks and bruises. I held it in my hand like a rancid piece of flesh. disgusted, grossed out, and embarrassed. But it was still beating. It was weak, but this heart I had so obviously abused and hurt was still beating.

In my hands it was grey. In my hands it was hard. In my hands it was corrupt. In my hands it wouldn’t survive. 

Breaks that are that deep can’t be fixed by people, or more conversations, or busy schedules. Broken hearts that shake you to your core and make you unable to recognize your reflection in the mirror, those kinds of heart breaks can only be repaired by the Prince of Peace.

 

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I’ll be Your vessel

Until recently, I thought I could fix myself.

Until recently, I made other people into my gods.

Until recently, I didn’t know what it felt like to have a man look at me and see me or listen to me and stay.

Until recently, I didn’t know what it meant to worship God without any masks or lies. Turns out, He never stayed for the masks or believed the lies anyways. He patiently waits for us to take them off.

I took my warn and tired heart and I gave it up. I laid it back into the hands of its Creator. With repentance and remorse I begged God for forgiveness.

He stretched out His Holy hands, and cradled my broken, rotted, beating heart. And I watched as His embrace removed the decaying parts and brought it back to life.

In His hands my heart is becoming a healthy pink again. In His hands my heart is softening. In His hands it is being purified and renewed. In His hands my heart is being made new.

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18 Days

I leave in 18 days. 18 flippin days

5 hours-236 miles-away from comfort. Away from home.

18 daysAnd I’m not ready. I’m clawing and grabbing and pleading and resisting change. My lips told God I gave it all to Him. I’ve sang songs of surrender yet my heart is breaking and trying with all its might to hold on to this finite moment, hold on to now and make it forever.
18 days. And i don’t want to close the chapter I’m in even though I know it’s come to an end. You may be reading this and thinking “whit, you’re being so dramatic”. You’re probably right. I probably am. But man, this is tough stuff dude. This is growing up. 
And that’s the thing, no one told me it would be this hard. Maybe they did, but I was so sure life was going to be like Lizzie McGuire that I didn’t believe them. 
That’s what I’ve learned this last year. Heartbreak is real, friendship is important, life will bring you to your knees, no one is exempt from the temptation of this world and everything it has to offer us in place of Jesus, and even when we run and push him away, for some reason Christ still pursues us. 
I’m resisting, guys. I’m resisting change, I’m resisting surrender, I’m resisting God, yet in this moment I can feel Him draw near. 18 days, and despite my resistance and my fear, I’m begging Him to keep drawing near. In spite of me, He is a good, good father and I am His kid. 

Out of the Box

“You know, I think it’s so hard for us to be real and authentic with each other because we put each other in boxes and we are scared that if all of a sudden we no longer fit into that box we won’t be loved.”

“Yeah” I said with tears in my eyes. 
“Jess, that’s what I’m scared of. My box doesn’t fit me any longer” 
See, honesty and authenticity have become so rare in our culture that when it happens its startling. When someone has an answer that is different than, “I’m doing great how are you?” Or “God is good”. We  find ourselves uncomfortable; caught off guard by human emotions and realities. 
But guys, real life is not always great. Sometimes real life sucks. And yes, God is always good and he is always faithful but read psalms, even David thought God had left him. 
There is nothing new about this game we play where the objective is to hide our imperfections. Adam and Eve used leaves, we use social media and pretty words. 
But God sees through it and sometimes, the ones we love most can see it too. 
As I sat on the phone with my best friend confessing that above anything else I wanted to be good enough for someone to stay. That I wanted to be chosen and found worthy and worthwhile, I felt myself losing that game. I felt naked. I felt exposed. 
I sat in silence because once you’ve literally poured your heart out there’s not much left to say. There’s no take backs. 
“I love you dude. Nothing changes the way I see you, you’re still Whit and you’re still His” 
You are known. You are loved. And I hope someone looks you hard in the eyes today and asks how you are. I hope when you try to answer with “I’m great” or “God is good” they doubt your pretty words and challenge you to take off the leaves and share your real life stuff. I hope they help you remove yourself from that box. 

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
– Tim Keller 

…and He will give you the desires of your heart

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

– Psalm 37:4

The bathroom floor at 2 am is the place I chose to finally quit running.

I sat there on our white tile, Bethel playing whatever song it is of theres that has the lyric “what other king leaves His glory to die?” in the background. That line never fails to be a punch to the gut.

God and I have had some things to talk about for awhile now. I’ve been the one avoiding the conversation, not Him.

Okay God I’m Listening but first I just have to tell you, I told you. I told you I could do this thats why I did it. I wanted to prove to you and everyone else that they were wrong and I could do this. I told you so, God”

When I signed my letter of intent to play college ball about 6 months ago I felt the gentle whisper of Christ, of my Jesus, all too loud. I have more for you. 

And for the first time in my life I said la la la and wrote over His will with my name on that dotted line that said “sign here”.

He said “go” when I wanted Him to say “stay”.

So I stayed, and honestly I’ve been running from Him every day since.

Why?

Ashamed? yeah.

stubborn? For sure.

Scared? Absolutely.

I remember the first time I heard John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

and my first thought was “watch me”.

So that is what this last year and a half has been. It’s been me saying “Watch me, God” in the most bratty, stubborn, teenage-angst way possible.

The bathroom floor at 2am is where I decided to face it.

It’s comical to me how often I feel like I have to explain myself to Him as if He hasn’t had a front row seat to my heart for my entire life and especially this last year.

After I finished throwing all of my “I told you so’s” at the one who made the stars, I got the opposite reaction I expected.

Like a proud dad watching their kid win the championship game I heard God whisper in his strong way,  “Whit, I KNEW you could. You didn’t have to prove that to me. I let you do it to show YOU you could, but I never doubted it”. 

I expected anger, frustration some kind of backlash for this. For my rebellion. Guys, I cannot explain to you just how much I have been tuning out God.

If sin is choosing something other than God and letting that something drive your life, control your heart and become the captain of your soul then sin is spitting in Gods face and saying, “You’re not enough”. 

At 2am on the white tiled bathroom floor the king that left His glory to Die, the King that has been begging to have my heart, leveled himself with a rebellious 18 year old, looked her in the eyes and said the words she had been searching for.

Your worth and ability is not something you have to prove to me. The extent of your talent and capability is something I delight in. It is something I have given you to enjoy and exalt me with. But it is not the end, it is not the beginning. That is me. Stop running, kid. Stop trying to impress me, I knew from the moment you decided this is what you wanted that you were capable of it, I just want more for you. Trust me.

Sometimes God gives us the desires of our hearts to show us that real fulfillment comes from Him, not his gifts. If the desires of my heart aren’t His desires I’m done with ’em, man. Chasing the wind and my own tale is not a sport I’m interested in.

What am I gunna do now?

Great question, I need to have a few more chats with my dad, with my Jesus. I don’t think He’s done talkin yet.