The mister and I arrived to Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago. After traveling across the country two times amounting up to over 80 hours in the car and living out of three houses, two apartments, and six hotel rooms in a 2-month time span, we were more than ready to be back home where we could do laundry regularly and sleep in our own bed. (Being able to find the bathroom in the in the dark is wonderful, too…it makes life easier, especially on my overly bruised legs which are sick of being hit by random things in the middle of the night.)
Since we have been here, I have been reflecting on this past year.
I remember one year ago when we first moved into our little place in Cambridge. I remember feeling so optimistic but also a bit nervous about what the year ahead would hold. I was excited to be back in Massachusetts, and prayed over our time here. I prayed that the Lord would grow the mister and I as individuals and that our marriage would be strengthened. I prayed that the Lord would use me, and that I would be willing to follow Him regardless of whether or not it seemed easy. I wondered about what our days would look like and who we would become friends with. I thought about being a student again and wondered what that would like like as a married woman. Last time I did the school thing, I was a single young adult.
Most of all, however, I wondered what people would think of me. Would they like me? Would I be accepted? I hoped so. I mean, I deeply hoped so. And this bothered me…continually…
Last year humbled me. I saw social anxiety and old insecurities resurface in ways that were both alarming and internally exhausting. Idols had taken a hold of my heart, and I was paralyzed by self-concern. At the same time, I wrestled with why I was struggling and tried everything I could to jump off of the people-pleasing, approval-needing, train I was on. I battled and I fought, but for some reason, I just couldn’t break free.
Today, as I sit here in the same place I sat one year ago, I can honestly say I am in a better place. Although I think my people-pleasing, perfectionistic, and approval-wanting desires might always be something I have to wrestle with, today I care less about what others think of me than I did a year ago. I am not struggling with anxiety, and I feel at peace about the year ahead. My thoughts do not continually go back to some image I am trying to maintain, and my heart feels more free.
So what happened?
As I reflect on the past year, I can vividly recall three events that the Lord used to dramatically reshape my thinking and reorient my heart. They were not things I sought out for change, but they were things the Lord knew I was going to come across – and I am thankful that He put them in my path.
CO711 – This random set of numbers and letters is the description number for the group process class I took this past school year. As part of the class, we had to split up into small groups and practice doing group therapy. The only premise was that we had to be the clients, and we had to be real with each other. (In case you don’t know, I’m studying to become a counselor…that’s why I take weird classes like this.) Anyways, in the group everyone opened up about their lives and the things they were struggling with, which means I opened up, too. Toward the end of the group, one of the group members encouraged me with something – and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
During our last session, one group member turned to me and said, “Lindsey, my hope for you and for me is that we would make God our glory instead of ourselves.” I was baffled. What did he mean? What does it mean to make God your glory? I spent the summer reflecting on the statement, and after many attempts to wrap my head around the meaning, I came across Psalm 62:7:
“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”
Making God my glory means making Him my security, my hope, and my strength. It means placing my identity in Him – as someone loved and cherished – and finding my purpose in Him and who He created me to be. It is the opposite of self-exaltation and fame for fame’s sake. It means banking on Him instead of myself. It means focusing on Him and his grace instead of my own achievements. It means laying down my own efforts to gain recognition and, instead, trusting Him when he says I do not have to earn self-worth. It means abandoning a life focused on self for a life focused on Him.
Although I knew that finding my identity in Christ was huge, this summer I engaged with the idea in a new way. I began to dream about what it might look like. I began to hope for it.
Alcoholics Anonymous – For my addictions class, I had to attend an AA meeting, and it was mind blowingly powerful. In a world that preaches self-reliance, AA seems to stand out. As I sat in the circle and listened to people vulnerably confess their inability to heal themselves, I was reminded of my own tendency to white-knuckle my way through life. I thought about my own disabilities – my inability to hold my tongue at times, my inability to calm down in certain moments when I get angry, and my inability to stop thinking about myself too much. I reflected upon my own powerlessness and my desperate need of the Lord. I left the meeting feeling encouraged but also challenged to seek God instead of myself (and my own idea of what goodness looks like). I felt motivated to stop chasing the world and what it wants of me and began praying that Lord would help me fix my mind and heart on Him. As the leader of the group blatantly said in his testimony, “[You] have to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and focus on [your] relationship with God.”
It was a stunning experience.
Full House Documentary – A couple of nights before the mister and I left for Boston we were watching a Full House documentary with my mom. I listened as the narrator covered each character one-by-one and explained what the different stars are known for and what they had become. When they got to Candace Cameron-Bure (DJ Tanner), they made one statement that caused me to reflect upon my own life. Some narrator who was wearing big glasses looked at the camera and said, “Candace is probably equally known for her faith as much as she is her career.” As we drove back to Massachusetts, I could not get the narrator’s words out of my mind. Although I can’t say that I know all of Candace’s stances on theology, and I’m sure we don’t agree on everything, I appreciate her. I appreciate the fact that she stands out in the midst of an industry that praises moral relativism and fame. I admire her boldness and honesty in the midst of people who disagree with her. I mean, it takes a lot of strength to stand up for what you believe in when what you believe is not popular. It’s a lot easier to sway for the sake of acceptance.
Candace reminds me that it is possible. It is possible to delight more in God’s never-ending love and less in the world’s temporary praise. And for someone who can struggle with seeking acceptance over God’s glory, this is both refreshing and challenging.
Last year was a whirlwind, but I’m thankful for it. Last year proved to me that I am so incapable of being the person I want to be alone. I desperately need the Lord’s help. I need his refinement, his gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) reminders, and his comfort. I need his help. I need his assistance if I ever hope to fix my thoughts on Him and the things that really matter in this life.
When I look back on where I was a year ago, I am thankful. I am thankful for a God who is powerful enough to change minds and hearts and for a God who is worthy of our praise. I am also thankful that He uses the weirdest things to shape us.
Cheers to another school year!
“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” – Psalm 105:3-4