On dating [why I hate it and how it makes me better]

I don’t understand dating. I don’t think I ever have.

Something just doesn’t compute in my brain. As free-spirited as I am, I’m also one who really loves to follow formulas and rules. [you know…because that’s the easiest way to achieve perceived self-perfection]

And it would seem that the only rule when it comes to Christian dating is this:

Make up your own rules and listen to the Holy Spirit.

Great, that’s helpful [she says while ordering 50 relationship books off Amazon].

So, be vulnerable. But not too vulnerable. Have similar vision, but don’t worry about being the same (it’s expected that you’ll disagree.) It’s okay to argue but not too much. Grow together with God. But not too soon! Don’t move so fast. Make sure your community approves of him or her…but wait–don’t base all of your choices on what your friends think. Unless, you know…they really really don’t think it’s right. Let the guy lead. But what exactly does that mean? Be best friends. But what if your current best friend is a female and has known you since you were two and has witnessed every single big event in your life? How can that compare? should it even compare? Different relationships bring you different things. Listen to your heart. But also listen to your head. You shouldn’t be able to live without them. But actually, that feels a little co-dependent and unhealthy….

Some get engaged after three months. Some, three years. Some hear clearly from God and others make a choice to choose God and make Him a part of their decision to be together. Is your head spinning? Yeah, mine too. Someone just give me a formula!

The fact is, I sort of hate it. Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t perfect it. And more than that, more than anything else in my life right now–it shows me how very imperfect I am.

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Two years ago today, I went on a date with a kind and intelligent guy. I had just returned from India and I was positive I would be going back. I was also positive that I had no interest in a long distance relationship. We talked about education reform and international relief and somewhere in the mix, my hair got stuck in my Thai food and I accidentally ate it. He didn’t say anything at the time because he is kind. But I was red with embarrassment.  He ended our date by asking me a big, theological question and playing some jazz musician I’d never heard of. I was swooning a little bit but that translated into, “Um, I have to go I guess, BYE.” Because obviously I don’t know what to do when my HEART IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE.

And so began the trend of me leaving the dude confused and bewildered. Bless him.

Not long into our dating relationship, he looked at me and said, “You’re not perfect you know. And I’m not going to act like you are. You’re going to make mistakes and there’s grace for that.”

Woah. Wait. What? Excuse me… but aren’t you supposed to bring me flowers and tell me how beautiful I am and not ever mention when I very obviously am being self-righteous and critical and stubborn and argumentative and judgmental and lacking an intense amount of faith?

“I’m not, huh?” I chuckled in a sort of “clearly you haven’t looked at my resume and my accolades” way. He grinned. “Nope. you’re not.”

And he’s right [obviously]. I’m far, far from it. And most of the time, I’m really good at hiding that. Most people don’t see my impatience. You don’t see my quick temper. How quickly I can judge. How often I want things done MY way. [Because, you know…there’s a right way to make eggs and drive a car]. How big of a control freak I am.

You might see me raising my hands at church or teaching the kids a lesson, but you don’t hear my doubts on the phone that night. My confusion at the things that are going on in my life. How I blatantly choose to watch Netflix instead of pray.

And that’s why dating Geoff makes me better. It shows me the areas of my heart that need to be given to God. It shows me the ways my character needs to be refined– how so much of me has to be laid down over and over and over again. Some days it feels like a constant, “Will you forgive me?” “I’m sorry.” Some days it feels like no matter what I learned the day before, I just can’t get it right. 

And then the Holy Spirit is like, “Okay, we need to chat again.” Sigh. Again?

Turns out, the thing I hate most about intimate and transparent relationship is the very thing that makes me a better person. And 730 days later, I’m most certainly a better person than I was the day I walked into that empty Thai restaurant. My imperfection points me to HIS perfection. 

So, as for all the dating advice, I’ve learned to be careful who I listen to. And I’m certainly not going to offer any. I don’t think there is a formula. Every story is different–just like every walk with God is different. But I do think that your relationship with Sally or Sue or Bob or Jim should make you a better person. It should both refine you and uplift you. Challenge you and encourage you. 

And if you feel like you can’t get it right some days and it feels like it’s really hard, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe God is trying to show you that He is the only one who can. 

 [also. Because I value transparency. That picture of us is real cute right? Ten minutes before we were disagreeing about standing in line for a fair ride. So if you’re worried you’re the only one who argues over dumb stuff. You’re not]

 

Maybe what you want is what God wants too

What do you want?

She asked me, this new sweet friend I’ve made. Her voice was soft and kind and confident. And her eyes let me know that she was once where I am. Sitting there—wandering around under the stars—wondering about the one who created them. Wondering which way is true north.

What. Do. I. Want. 

It sounded like a drum–a steady rhythm in my brain.

What. Do. I. Want.

I sat there, a bit bewildered. Was it even okay to be asking myself that question? Was it not contrary to the self-sacrificing, intentional life of a believer?

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I’m 26 years old and I’m not sure that anyone has ever asked me that question. And if they have, it’s been a really long time.

Throughout college, I spent my summers rowing little boys and girls in canoes. The sun would beat down on my bare arms and darken the muscles that always grew stronger throughout the long days of pulling canoes and belaying ropes and stroking heads full of wet hair.

And day in and day out, I’d ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A firefighter. A teacher. An artist. A doctor.

Their words painted the bright sky—made it bluer somehow–as if the entire world was their canvas and they could paint anything on it. And Each of them used a different brush and stroke and color.

They knew no “but” or “what if.”  They knew nothing about job markets or financial statements or tuition. They knew no pressure from parents or teachers. No standards that they must reach.

They especially didn’t know the man-made expectations of their creator.

They only knew what they, in that moment, wanted. And oh goodness was it fun for them to dream. Not only was it fun—it was simple.

Somewhere along the way, I think we stop asking each other what we want. We’re taught that it’s selfish to think that way. That we aren’t supposed to think about ourselves. That we need to pray and see where we are led. That God will tell us what He wants us to be. Where He wants us to go.

But what if He doesn’t always tell us? What if He doesn’t tell you what job to take or who to marry or whether you should go back to school? What if you pray and you seek and you spend hours down on your knees but don’t see that burning bush?

And What if you never do?

Maybe we will rarely see the burning bush or hear the audible voice because most of the time we aren’t the Moses in the story. We’re the wandering Israelite– living out the day-to-day and seeking God in it.

 And maybe, just maybe, what you want is also what God wants.

This statement—this question—has been rocking my paralyzed, fearful self. The self that wants to check off all the right lists and get the A+ and wait quietly for the teacher to give me instructions. The self who likes to color in the lines and make sure everyone [including God] is happy with me.

But maybe the song inside me is a song that He wrote. Maybe he’s conducting the music for it. Maybe he’s prompting me to listen. And maybe He’s prompting you too. Perhaps he wants us to trust Him enough to just live into who He made us to be. To create—in whatever way shape or form you’re able—because he’s ultimately a creator.

Trust the beating of your own heart. The littlest, youngest version of you who used to say, “I want to be THAT when I grow up.” Trust that if you are seeking God’s heart—He’s working in you and through you and shaping your heart to be more like His.

Get really still. Quiet yourself. Listen to the rain falling down from the sky. It’s slow and steady.

What is it that you want? Maybe God wants it too.

Listen for your song. Your huge canvas is waiting for you.

What to do when your story isn’t the one you want [and the YET in every story]

I’m drawn to the quiet lately. To the song of nature’s choir. The sermon of the moving trees.

The early morning air of October touches my bare feet, and I pull them in closer beneath the quilt that covers the rest of me. My coffee steams and burns the already raw skin on the roof of my mouth.

And perhaps, in this season, this is also church. Perhaps this is my communion.

I sit, soaking in the sun, a voice ringing over and over in the back of my head—a metronome by which my own heart has kept time.

“I don’t want this to be my story.”

Her voice sent pains to my heart,
haunting me as I’ve scrambled eggs or put in loads of laundry. As my hands have scrubbed the shower and shredded papers.

Me either, I’ve thought.

But what do we do with that? What do we do when this story—OUR story—the one we wake up every day and live isn’t what we thought it would be? What we dreamed of as little girls under starry skies? As little boys in the treetops.

When we haven’t yet come out on top. When the chapter seems to drag on. When we haven’t been healed or the depression still lingers or we haven’t accomplished what we thought we would. When that relationship still hasn’t mended or that job still hasn’t come around or the person we were sure we’d end up with hasn’t yet entered the picture.

When we don’t feel like the hero and our lows feel so very low.

What do we do when we look around and we want to be the leading character in someone else’s life?

I see the contrast of pain and joy all throughout the Bible. The dichotomy of good and evil. The theme of light and dark. Highs and lows.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.1

 And oh, God saw the light was good. And don’t we know it inside of us? That good exists? Don’t we long to look at our circumstances—at ourselves—at our story and see that good?

But in the good of what he’d just created he was also hovering over the waters in the darkness. He was there when the earth was empty. He was there in the messy and unformed. And since he created good, we know that He IS good.

Even in the darkness, there was goodness.

On the cross that day—Jesus hung there—arms spread out. Heart wrenched. Mocked. Yet, still, separating light from dark. Tearing the curtain.

 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”2

The words rolled off his lips and mixed with the sweat and tears and blood.

But those words—they first were mixed with David’s tears.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning. Oh my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

YET you are enthroned as you Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.3

 That YET is key.

Lament. Praise. Lament. Praise. The pattern of the Psalms. The pattern of David’s writing. And perhaps what Jesus is pointing us to.

Perhaps in the separating of light and dark—perhaps in the definition of suffering and pain—Jesus is showing us what to do when we are in the midst of a story we don’t want to be ours. A plot line that seems wearisome. A role that seems so far outside what we ever wanted.

Lament. But still praise. In whatever way you know how.

That in every story, there is still a YET.

Perhaps he is reminding us that God is in the light. But that He is also in the dark. In the story that seems formless and void of anything good. That he’s there—hovering over all of it.

 Lament. And praise. Lament. And Praise. Reminding us that there’s room for both in our lives.That both are part of our story. And that he’s hovering over us in all of it.

So, I say, Sing on, choir master. Sing on, little Sparrow. Fill the October air with your goodness.

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1. Genesis 1
2. Matthew 27:46

3. Psalm 22

FOMO [and taking one month to buy sheets]

FOMO. Fear of missing out. It’s an acronym those in my grandmothers’ generation never knew. And yet, a phrase that didn’t exist 30 years ago is defining my generation.

In the past two weeks, I’ve probably heard it used at least a dozen times. Fear of missing out if I don’t go to the party. Fear of missing out if I move away. Fear of missing out if I join a different small group. Fear of missing out on the chicken if I order the beef.

Fear. Fear Fear.

of something missing.

Our culture is saturated with the idea that we are going to miss out. And I believe the constant “in your face” MORE is creating an unhealthy mindset about more than just parties and small groups and menu selections.

It’s molding us into a dissatisfied generation, always looking for the greener grass and always wondering if what we have is the best and brightest and shiniest version of what life can be. 

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And this is where I found myself months back, as I purchased new sheets. Sheets are sheets right? Oh ye of little bedding knowledge. If you google ‘bedsheets comparison’, you will literally find numerous links and a chart that compares different thread counts, materials, prices, brands, colors, styles. You name it and you can probably compare it.

And you would think that Target wouldn’t have that many types to choose from right? Wrong again. So, there I am, reading labels. Comparing prices. Feeling materials. Should I get Egyptian cotton? Should I go with a cheaper option and spend that money on nicer pillows? This and that and what if this and what if that. Probably for a good hour.

And eventually I left because I just couldn’t decide and I didn’t want to pay for something that wasn’t the best choice. A few weeks later, I went back. I made a purchase. Only to decide two days later that I should have gone with a different color and a different thread count. And the cycle continued.

While you may walk away from this thinking nothing more than, “Oh man, Audrey’s crazy and needs to work on being more assertive and decisive” [both of which are true], I also hope it gets you thinking about how the fear of missing out on something “better” is molding us into a people who are never satisfied with the perfectly wonderful right in front of us.

Fear of missing out affects my relationships. My career choices. The way I spend my time. The way I spend my money.

It affects my relationship with God.

If I’m constantly walking around wondering if I have chosen the “best” option or made the “best” decision or that I will miss out on some great and wild adventure God has for me but instead I “settled,” it’s going to be pretty hard to experience contentment, joy, and peace.

Because the fact of the matter is that our media and our culture shoves “more” in our face because there’s “more” to shove.

There will always be more that makes the grass seem greener. There will always be a job that seems to be a better fit on paper. A career that falls in line with more of your passions. With more flexibility. There will always be a prettier girl to date. A funnier guy. Someone that seems “more compatible.”

And so I think we have to retrain our minds and our hearts to quit wondering about the “What ifs.” To quit wondering about what could be over THERE or what will happen if you chose THAT. It’s not inherently bad to assess and consider your options. Often, it’s wise. But if it’s filling your chest with panic and your mind with anxiety and your heart with dissatisfaction–it’s an issue.

I’m finding that when I’m fearful of whether or not I’m making the right choices, it robs me of the place God has me right now. In those choices. In that job. In those relationships. 

And in that fear, there IS something better. There’s right here. This moment. My current choice. There’s the comfort of knowing that no matter what choice I make, God will work in it.

And I think if I can remember that, then maybe the fear won’t dominate so many of my decisions. I won’t be worried about what I’ll miss out on. I’ll only be able to recognize the good He’s working in all things.

 

On bowing down [and year 26]

Last night, I spent a good twenty minutes with my face down to the floor upstairs in the music venue where our church meets. The floor smelled funky [The kind of funky that makes you question what you’re actually putting your face against] and blood started rushing to my head and my tears started running up my nose and at first, I had a really hard time not thinking about what I must look like, body hunched over in the middle of the room while everyone else broke into small groups to pray.

It was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. 

But I’m discovering that bowing down before the Lord makes me a little uncomfortable. Because if I’m bowing down, everything is laid down with me. My strength. My control.  And some days, laying down my fears and worries and insecurities feels harder than trying to figure them out by myself.

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I’m about to enter year 26 and for a good week now, I’ve been having random moments of panic. Call it a birthday crisis, if you will.

Am I doing what I’m supposed to? Is this the path I’m supposed to be on? Is this part of my life healthy? Is this right?

Maybe you know the kind of fear and panic I’m talking about–the kind that makes you have the actual thought to jump in the car and run away and start driving out West. [I obviously handle fear in an emotionally healthy way].

But more than anything, I’ve been questioning how so many scenarios [hard and heavy and bizarre scenarios] are going to play out. Is God actually going to provide for me? How am I going to pay these medical bills? I feel like God is healing me. Is he really? What if my depression comes back? What if I’m not capable of being an emotionally healthy person? What’s going to happen to my brothers? Are they going to be OKAY? Are their bodies and hearts and minds going to be taken care of? And this…And this…And this….

until…BOOM. I wind up crying in a bathroom or in the car or on the front porch of my parent’s house. ALL because trying to figure it out on my own is too much to handle.

My mind is an ever spinning machine, fueled by more and more “what if” and “how” and “why” questions. And the more I question, the more the machine is fueled and the more afraid I get of today and tomorrow and next month and next year.

But our bodies were not designed to handle all that worry. All that fear. All that questioning. I believe that’s why there are so many scriptures about taking our thoughts captive and casting our cares upon the Lord. 

And yesterday, my friend Amy looked at me and said, “You’ve just got to bow. It’s what we all have to do. And what we’re called to do. And I think you’ll find that as you bow, all the answers will come.”

So last night, I practiced bowing. And honestly, I didn’t love it so much. I wanted to stand up and fight my own battle–to figure it all out. But I think that the more I do it, the softer my heart will become. The less I’ll clench my fists, fighting for control.

Because there’s something about the actual, physical motion of bowing down–of placing my head down to my knees–that reminds me of how insignificant I am. That my worries are nothing in contrast to the goodness and greatness of Father God. 

Each year–each September–when another new year of life rolls around, I try and meditate on how I need to grow as a human and a follower of Jesus. Because life is too precious not to mark each year with intention. 

And this year, I need to learn how to bow. To get down on my hands and knees–unashamed and sometimes snotty and say, “I trust you. I give it all to you.”

I pray so many things for year 26. But more than anything, I pray that it is marked by a spirit of surrender. Of open hands. Open eyes. Open heart. And so so much love and joy. I pray that I will laugh during worship. That I will not worry about the days ahead. That I will not despair. That I will become strong. That I will hunger for His word. That I will believe instead of doubt. I pray for deep and authentic friendship. I pray for overwhelming rest and peace after a year of trial and unrest.

And for those of you walking the same road alongside me this year, I pray you join me in this. That your cup would also overflow. That we would SEE the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

That we would remember that all of HIS promises are yes and Amen.

 

 

On Soaking in the Current Season [and a summer of no social media]

It is 5:30 in the morning, and I’m wide-awake.

That statement in and of itself should tell you that God is trying to do something in me. Because in no normal situation would I willingly choose to be awake, alert, and coffee-less at such an hour.

There’s something about watching the sun come up in the sweltering summer months that allows peace to rest upon my heart. In many ways, I think it takes me back to a simpler and more restful season of life—those summers I spent living in the woods. One suitcase of belongings and no telephone and the silence of the trees and the water and the trails.

The silence allowed for the growth of the new. The whisper of the Father. The call to ministry. The shaping of an empathetic heart.

But I have forgotten how to appreciate the silence. How to breathe in deeply and exhale and truly let my mind and body and heart rest.

I am dissatisfied with much. Quickly irritated. Discontent.

I think many of us are. I look around in waiting rooms and grocery stores and at stop lights and our faces are mesmerized by a screen. We scroll through our Newsfeeds on Instagram and Facebook and twitter, looking to be a part of someone else’s current adventure. Over stimulated by ideas and words and photographs. I stare down at my phone when there are people I could be talking to and a vast sky to be staring at and ideas to be creating.

In the moments when my real-life, every day story isn’t going the way I want it to, I can control what I display. What others see. What filter to use. And scrolling through a hundred different narratives a day, I begin to forget what grand narrative I actually belong to. I begin to forget how to write a really good story. And that a good story isn’t the one where every day is a mountain top experience or even a really good day. It’s one where ordinary days and moments are appreciating and aren’t skipped over as insignificant. And I think that truly soaking in a moment can only come without distraction.

It’s almost scary really—how quickly our fingers find the app buttons on our phone. And how I will subconsciously find myself scrolling through my email when I had checked it only moments before.

 We are uncomfortable with the silence needed for true rest. And yet, our bodies and minds and souls know that we need it more than ever.

It’s been a long and tiring year. And there’s a heaviness that weighs on my body and mind and spirit that I can’t seem to shake. But for months now, I’ve felt the Lord telling me that a new thing is coming. That I will see and feel the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

I’ve felt Him telling me that this summer, I’m to learn what it means to rest. To say no to extra things and make time. Not so that I can fill it with more obligations or responsibilities. And not so that I can lie down like a sloth and give up on life. But so that there’s just that—time. Silence.

And last night, I felt the final nudge that part of that would come with the surrendering of the things in my life that distract. And for me, that means giving up social media for the summer months and really digging into writing my own narrative again.

I want to read for hours in bed at the end of the day—really good books that make me think and cry and take me to other lands. I want to let my hands prepare good, clean food but with no hurry. I want to sit on the floor and play with my baby-friends and their mommies and not once look at my watch or my phone and worry about getting somewhere else. I want to swim and lay in the sun and chase fireflies. I want to write for the sole purpose of writing because it makes me happy. Not because anyone will read it. And not to achieve or prove anything.

I want to teach myself to dream again. I want to remember why I love the things I love. And I want to move really slow. And I think that’s OKAY.

So, I may miss out on some announcements or some funny photos or someone’s wedding photos. And that’s OKAY too. 

I am ready to soak in the season I am in. If I have learned anything the past 18 months, I have learned that we cannot predict or choose our circumstances but we can learn to appreciate the little things that bring light to the darkness. Because no story is without the little lights.

Happy Summer, friends. May it be filled with rest in unexpected ways.

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On Suffering and Depression [and the lies we believe when we’re in the midst of a battle]

It felt like I didn’t breathe for several minutes as I stood there, my head dripping suds of shampoo. I slipped to the floor of the shower, hot water running down the top of my head and forming into little droplets on my eyelashes and nose.

It mixed. The tears. The snot. The water.

I let it run down my cheeks as I leaned my head against the ceramic tub floor. I was glad no one was home—that no one could see the way I stumbled out of the bathroom and laid on my bedroom floor. That no one could hear the desperate sounding whispers mixed in with my cries.

I don’t want to live, Jesus. Take this from me. I don’t want to live anymore.

And I meant it. In the deepest, heaviest way. And I felt it for days and months. Sometimes I’d whisper it into the night when it felt like no one was listening—Not even God.

And in the morning, when the sun shed light on my weary face, I was glad I could hide it from everyone else.

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I’ve been hesitant to write this. Doubts and insecurities have kept my fingers from fleshing it out on paper. Will it seem too vulnerable? Will it feel like I’m looking for attention? Will it come across as more dramatic than it is? Will people wonder if I’m fit to be in ministry?

But these are just some of the many lies that the enemy has been whispering to me for nearly a year now. Lies that keep us isolated from community. From hope. From freedom. From experiencing the love of JESUS.

Standing under the shower-head this morning, I was reminded of it all again. Of the wrenching soul pain. Of the guilt. The shame. The loneliness.

And I was reminded of all the deeply beautiful and rich conversations that the past six months have led me to with deeply beautiful women who have also hidden their struggles.

And it made me angry. Angry with the enemy who whispers cowardly lies into my ears at night. Who had me convinced that I wasn’t fit to come before the Lord for comfort—That if I felt low and empty and anxious—that I must have done something wrong. Done something to deserve it.

And as the water trickled down my face, I felt Abba Father say, “None of you are alone, Audrey. Share your story. Because I’m all in it.”

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I’ve sat with young girls and women who didn’t want to live.

In camp cabins. In dorm rooms. In small little hallways with no air conditioning and mosquitos flying around our faces. I’ve gripped my fingers into dirty old carpets as I’ve listened to their stories. As I’ve looked up at heaven and silently sent up a, ‘Why, God?’

I never thought I’d be one of them. I guess none of us really do.

But pain is real. Anxiety attacks are real. Depression is real [and can be clinical and chemical]. And there is only so much our preciously formed bodies can carry before they go into survival mode. Before we crawl into little balls in our beds or on our floors or in the corner of our church worship gatherings.

For months, it felt like I was walking around yelling for help but no one could hear me. I walked around with no makeup and tired eyes and I would randomly burst into tears. I felt like no one understood the gravity of what I felt. And day after day, I began to believe lies about who I was to God.

Maybe you have too. And if you have, I hope you read this and are able to call them out for what they are—cowardly stabs of the enemy in a battle that has already been won for us.

Lie #1: My pain and my suffering will burden my community.

Truth: We were never meant to carry our burdens by ourselves. I tried. We think it will make us braver and stronger—that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We believe that no one has time to listen or take care of us. But the body of Christ is here to lift up our arms when we can’t lift them ourselves. Your pain will not burden them. It will give them the opportunity to live out the Gospel.

Lie #2: My suffering is a result of God’s Disapproval with me.

 Truth: Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. You are not anxious or depressed or sick or experiencing pain as a result of God’s disapproval. In fact, He’s actually pretty enthralled by you. And regardless of any choice you make—this will never change. [If you’re ever curious about how God sees you—go through this worksheet!]

Lie #3: My suffering and Anxiety is a result of me being outside of God’s Will.

 Truth: God’s will is for us to righteously follow Him. So if you’re sitting there like I was/sometimes still am, wondering if you’re struggling because maybe you should have taken this job or dated that person or not dated that person, take a deep breath and trust that GOD’S WILL IS MEANT TO BE FREE AND FUN. Someone said that to me recently. And it rocked my world. Don’t get me wrong; there ARE certain choices outside the will of God. And we have to deal with consequences of those sinful choices. But God’s will is not for us to constantly fear and wonder if we are on the right path. If you are seeking the Lord and growing and love him, then you are on the right path. And He will keep guiding you. God is not going to inflict anxiety or suffering upon you because you made the wrong choice by choosing to work at Publix over Kroger. In fact, God doesn’t inflict anxiety or suffering period.

Lie #4: All suffering is related to my spiritual walk.

Truth: Our bodies are complex entities with souls in them. And I 100% believe in the spiritual realm and spiritual attacks. But as complex systems, our bodies sometimes get out of whack. Hormone imbalances exist. Chemicals in our brains can get off balance. Fatigue and sickness and mental illness are real. Sometimes as Christians, I think we have the tendency to over spiritualize things. So, if you’re struggling and someone has just told you to pray more or read your Bible more, I want to say I’m sorry. A thousand times over, I’m sorry. Those things will help you, no doubt. But your struggle is not the result of you NOT doing those things enough. God doesn’t work that way. It’s okay to go to the doctor. To be on medication. To seek counseling and to change your diet. To get more sleep and say no to things that are good so that you can practice self-care. Hear me loud and clear: You are not struggling because you’re a bad Christian. Satan wants to convince you of that because he wants us to feel guilty before the Lord. My advice? Kick him where it hurts.

Lie #5: No one can understand what I’m going through.

Truth: No one can understand exactly what you’re struggling with because your story is your own. But there are so many people that have struggled in similar ways. We have sat in closets and cried at our office desks. We have stayed in bed for days and lost our appetites and had panic attacks at restaurant tables. And we would love to talk with you over a cup of coffee. I would love to sit down with you and say, “Me too” and “It’s going to be OKAY” and “You are so not alone.”

Maybe for you, it’s something else. Addiction. Self-hatred. Guilt. Shame. Whatever it is, I pray you find community. I pray that your eyes and your ears and your hearts would be opened to the truth of God’s character. I pray you would feel the hand of others in your own, walking with you. And I pray that you would feel wholly loved, fully seen, completely understood, and shameless before this friend we call Jesus. And oh, what a friend we have in Him.

 [If you’d like to hear more of my story, please reach out to me at audreyjackson@ethoschurch.org. I’d love to share more of my journey with anxiety and depression. I’d love to talk with you about my journey with God and church and being in ministry in the midst of it. I’d love to laugh and cry with you over a cup of coffee.]