I have a lot to be thankful for.
I mean, I know, I really know, that the reality of this is always true, but there are some days where it just hits you afresh.
All that you are thankful for.
I blogged a few weeks ago about what has been a painful part of my journey. I revisit my testimony semi-frequently because I think it’s important to be real about the mess and grittiness of life that Jesus can still use, redeem and bring beauty out of… (if you’re just tuning into this blog then you can read something of my testimony here -> https://beautifulsilliness.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/when-jesus-said-he-came-for-the-sick-he-also-meant-me/, or here -> https://beautifulsilliness.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/the-word-is-hope/, or here -> https://beautifulsilliness.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/私のストーリー/ in Japanese).
There’s something about knowing the rescue of God in a very real way that I think means you worship from a very real place.
You love much because you’ve been forgiven much.
One of my friends once asked me why I took so many pictures. Because I love pictures. I’m always taking pictures. I love memories. I love to remember all the joyful occasions that seem to daily unfold on this journey with Jesus.
I love pictures because after having lived through a season where times I wanted to remember were very few, it’s precious to me to have moments that I want to capture. (I’m going to share a whole lot of crazy photos at the end of this post from a recent time away with some of my favourite people).
And that’s where it gets real, right? I am thankful for the good days, because I remember what it was like to not have good days.
Because there’s something about choosing to live in the present and not in the regret or chains of the past. We have a living hope. A redeemed future.
But here’s the even more important thing… God doesn’t love me more now than He did then. My circumstances are not a reflection of the amount of love He has for me.
I don’t always understand God’s ways, but I can always trust them.
Sometimes we fall into this way of thinking that can be so destructive to our spiritual life, and it’s to do with filtering how we see the love of God through our own experience of pain.
I mean, I talk a lot about the love of God. A lot. It’s so vital, it’s so transformational, it’s so captivating… The way that God loves us with this undeserved, unmerited, gracious love.
But, do you know what?
This is important. This is an important reflection in every single season.
God also likes you.
He really does.
I know, I know, that sounds so simple that it’s almost-too-basic-for-words, but hear me out.
Because sometimes we can know and believe and hold onto the fact that God loves us. But not actually live as if He likes us.
We live in our reality of painful experience, and shattered hopes and unanswered prayers. Because it can sometimes feel like there’s this disconnect between this incredible love that we read about in the Bible, and believe in, and press into… And our daily reality.
And that disconnect can be called many things… But I think that often, it’s called offence.
Seriously, I think one of the main reasons we fall into this cycle of cynicism and internal bitterness in our thinking and our living is because we’re offended. At God.
It looks like this.
We might believe in God, and know the Word, and still be going through the motions of following Him, but inside, where no one sees, we’ve become offended. Life hasn’t worked out the way we wanted. God didn’t seem to answer us in the way we expected. It’s just been so incredibly long in such an incredibly hard place. God seems to be silent and on mute. We are comparing ourselves and our lives to everyone else. And God has allowed it to happen, or caused it to happen, or not stopped it from happening… Whatever His deal is. And we might still be praying and reading our Bibles and going to church (or maybe not)… But secretly, inside of our hearts where no one else sees, we’re offended at Him. Because surely if He was really God and really good, He would have done something? Wouldn’t He? I mean, He’s God?
Sound familiar at all?
I mean, you know God loves You. You know Jesus died for You. But… Well… Maybe it just doesn’t feel like He likes you so much.
In Matthew 11, Jesus says these words: ‘Blessed is he who is not offended because of me’.
And it comes right into this passage in a way that leaves me going, ‘What does this mean Jesus? Why is this here?’
Because Jesus is talking here to his disciples and to John’s disciples. He is talking to those who followed Him. Those who wanted to believe in Him. Those who had already left it all behind for Him. He is talking to a group who had followed John the Baptist, the forerunner, the man who is about to be put to death for his faith and his stand for righteousness. A group of people who are probably wondering why Jesus isn’t storming the prison and doing a miracle to get John set free. And a group of men who will soon have to cope with the reality that John has been killed. And left wondering why.
And I am left thinking that there’s something really important for us in those words.
Because they point to the fact that we have to sometimes trust Jesus’ leadership before we see the outcome of a situation. Or when the outcome of a situation isn’t what we expected. We have to run to Him and not away from Him, trusting that He is good. Still good. Still in control. Even when we can’t see clearly. Or understand fully.
It’s like when Lazarus died (John 11). And we see Mary, for the first time, not run to Jesus. She’s sent word to Him in the complete faith that He will come and heal her brother. She has this incredible history of sitting at the feet of Jesus. He has defended her as someone who understands the one thing that is needed.
But then… Jesus doesn’t come.
And her brother dies.
And we are left at this point in the story where you can almost feel her pain… And her offence. Because Jesus comes, but it’s too late. And Lazarus is dead. And Mary, the same Mary who you couldn’t drag away from the company of Jesus previously, doesn’t even go out to meet Him. Mary stays at home. Because she knows that He can heal. And she believes He’s the Messiah.
Which makes it all the more painful that He didn’t come and answer her prayers in the way she expected.
Finally, when Jesus asks for her by name, she goes to Him, but it’s with all her questions and all her doubts and all her not-understanding-the-purpose… ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’
Because now we’re getting to the cry of her heart and the pain of her question. ‘Jesus, I know You are Lord. So why weren’t You here when I needed You?’
And how does Jesus respond?
Because He loves Mary as her God… But He also loves her as her friend.
He connects with her in her brokenness.
He likes her. And in this moment, He weeps with her.
He takes her in her offence, and He doesn’t offer words of explanation. He just shares her pain.
It’s like everything within her might have been wanting to resist Him, but He just meets her in that place where her resistance is shattered.
And we know the end of the story. The greater miracle. Lazarus isn’t just healed, He’s raised from the dead. Jesus was never late. Mary’s weeping is turned into rejoicing. And she has learnt a lesson that propels her into the abandoned and sacrificial worship that we see follow as she pours her precious perfume on the feet of Jesus.
She has learnt that worship is about this unhindered connection between us and our Saviour. That in our pain and in our offence and in our reality, we make the choice to run to Him and not away, knowing that He meets us, knowing that we can trust Him always, and knowing that He has done everything to be close to us.
There’s this great quote that says, ‘You will either die in you sin and lose your way. Or you will die to yourself’… And that’s our choice. Because if we hold onto offence, and let it fester in the recesses of our hearts, then we will never be able to die completely to ourselves. We’ll hold back from God. And unless we die completely to ourselves, we will never have the unhindered connection of worship that He longs to have with us.
But in our surrender. Our surrender of our offence. Our surrender of our pride. Our surrender of our sin. It’s in that place where the real joy of being both completely loved and completely liked by God really kicks in. Because Holy Spirit is our friend. Our best friend. He who loves to dwell within us and to engage with us and to flow from us.
God loves me. He loves you. We are His beloved and the desire of His heart.
But He also likes us.
He likes me.
He wants to hang out with me, He wants to hold onto me, He wants my full heart and complete mind and my total strength. He enjoys spending time with me. He loves it when I sing to Him. He thinks it’s the best thing when I dance before Him. He likes my art. He laughs lovingly at my quirky clothes. He has a plan for me. He made me… Me. And yes, He wants me to keep changing and keep growing and keep running, but He loves me in the journey.
God likes us.
So, I am thankful. Right now, in this season.
I am thankful that I call home a city that I adore.
I am thankful to work in a job that I love.
I am thankful that I live in a beautiful apartment filled with art, and instruments, and books (and frequently, friends) that bring me closer to Jesus.
I am thankful for the best physical family in the world.
I am thankful for a church family who move my heart, and love me openly, and lead me to live a life more given over to God.
I am thankful for friends so faithful, so loving and so beautiful. In this city. In other places in the world. I. Am. So. Blessed. By. Your. Love.
I am thankful for health and energy and passion. For fun. So much fun. For laughter. For freedom. For joy.
I am thankful for the exquisite beauty of the most stunning night sky we were privileged to witness on Sunday night.
I am thankful.
For so much.
In every season.
And here are some photos of a particularly joyful weekend… 🙂