Friday, July 2, 2010

Obedience Doesn't Guarantee a Result

Sometimes we have our own standards of how we are going to live our lives. They aren't necessarily a bad thing, but they are rules that we live by in order to protect us from something. Last summer, I felt the Lord leading me to put dreadlocks in my hair. I had them for about three months, but they didn't seem to want to stay in. So, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that maybe the dreads weren't meant to be permanent. Maybe they were just for a season. So, my friend combed them out. It was VERY painful, and after about 2 or 3 hours of tears, youtube videos, and torture, I decided that was something I would NEVER do again. I made a rule for myself.

There was a time when I was not walking with the Lord. I thought that I could make a great life for myself without His help, so I had my own kind of fun, and was looking for my own kind of romance (mostly with the wrong kind of men). In this season, I found myself being more and more bold- asking men out and pursuing them. I convinced myself I was just taking initiative and taking the bull by the horns, but I was hurting myself with several short relationships that had a longer recovery time than time spent actually dating the guy. When the dust settled, and I got back in a good place with the Lord, I decided that was not the kind of woman I wanted to be. I told myself that I would never initiate anything with men again- that I would remain silent until he figured things out for himself or the Lord told him to pursue me. I made another rule.

Neither of these things had anything to do with the Lord. I made these vows to protect myself from being hurt again. I didn't want to have to go through the physical pain of dreadlocks again, so I decided it wouldn't happen. I didn't want to get involved with the wrong men, so I told myself I wouldn't put myself out there anymore. But, these walls I try to build to protect me- they're made of salt. And, even though these walls look sturdy and I might feel safe inside, I fool myself into thinking it is possible to be my own protector. In these moments when I feel my safest, the waves of life come crashing against the walls and they dissolve. Life happens, and I am not prepared. I scramble around to fix everything, to put everything back in order, to heal myself. But the truth is, I cannot protect myself. I am weak and helpless against the darkness of the world.

In the past few months, God has been testing my walls. He has challenged my ways of thinking and shown me that He alone is my Protector. He is the Only One strong enough, mighty enough, sure enough, and faithful enough to keep me safe. Safe does not mean that life will be easy, but the safest place for me to be is in the center of His will. He first challenged my rules by softening my heart towards dreadlocks again. The topic started to come up during prayer, through friends, in movies, songs, on the internet, random people on the street. They were everywhere! It was enough to cause me to question this rule that I had made that I would never go down that path again. What God said to me was, "It is my job to close doors, not yours." He didn't promise results, He just said, "Try. Be open. Wait and see." So, I tried.

I stopped using hair product in my hair. I stopped using conditioner. Then, I stopped brushing it altogether and starting doing everything I could to damage it, in hopes that it would lock up. The cool thing was that my curls started knotting together, so I had these spiral dreads :). I experimented with putting three dreads in the back of my head, and they stayed and were kinda cool. Then, after three months of trying to get my hair to knot up, I was sitting on my living room floor. I hadn't felt well that morning, and ended up skipping church so that I could stay home and worship the Lord by myself. After about 30 or 40 minutes of prayer and singing, I felt great! My voice was back, and I felt like I had just slept for days! Right at the end of praying, I heard the Lord tell me, "Go brush your hair." My response? "Um, excuse me? Do You know how long it's been since I brushed it? This could take years! Are You sure?" He was sure.
So, I washed my hair, put conditioner in it, and hoped for the best. As I combed through it, I found that the comb slid pretty easily through the hair, which was really surprising. The dreads that I put in literally fell apart as the comb attempted to divide and conquer. After the shower, I took the brush and got to work. I was prepared to be in the bathroom brushing my hair all afternoon. How long did it take? About 5 minutes. It was amazing. After I straightened my hair, I looked in the mirror and God showed me something really cool. He gave me a glimpse of myself through His eyes. I didn't see a flawed girl with insecurity and crazy hair. I saw an obedient woman that is loved by her Father. It was a sweet moment with my Lord.

A few weeks ago, God also began to challenge me in my vow that I would never initate anything with a man again. I had actually spoken the phrase, "I will stand silent until he [whoever he may be] gets the guts to speak up and tell me how he feels." Silent is a strong word. I found myself in a position where I had developed romantic feelings (gag! I hate that phrase!) for one of my closer guy friends. It was something that I wrestled with, giving it over to the Lord consistantly.

The first time I prayed about these new feelings, I was in a book store. As far as I knew, God had strongly suggested that I not date until further notice. So, I didn't really welcome the feelings with open arms. I was looking at a book about Impressionism, reading here and there, but really praying and listening to what the Lord might say to me. I remember praying, "Lord, please, just tell me what You want me to do." And as I turned the page, a painting by Edouard Manet (the image seen above). In it, there is a young Parisan couple in a boat. Just by looking at the picture, you can tell that he is interested in her. But the girl? She is face forward, not looking at him at all. Through this, the Lord really spoke to me. He had been hammering on me Hebrews 12:1-4, that talks about throwing off the things that distract you and the sin in your life, running the race with perseverance, and fixing your eyes on Jesus. What He said to me was, "Lindsay, it doesn't matter. Don't let yourself be distracted by a man. It doesn't matter if he returns the feelings, keep your eyes on me. Give it to me everyday, and I will be faithful to you."
He was so faithful to me. My feelings for my friend only made me that much more desperate for the Lord, and made me even more jealous of my time with my Savior. Then the test came. Over a period of three and a half weeks, I prayed three main things. 1) Please take these feelings away. 2) Please burden my friend to make some indication either way if he returned my feelings. 3) If You want me to confess my feelings, You are going to have to make it abundantly clear. I prayed the third one not really thinking that would happen. I mean, the Lord knew that I made a vow never to initiate anything with a guy right? He would never ask me to do that, right? Wrong. He made it "abundantly clear" through dreams and words in my personal time with Him, and then through a random word from someone who had no idea the situation. So, I took a deep breath, and made it happen (or tried to).
The funny thing is, it was never about my feelings, or whether or not my friend returned them. God told me to open up about my feelings, not ask him out, or propose marriage. In fact, I knew that even if the feelings were returned, I didn't have a green light to date this guy. It was never about the possibility of starting a relationship. It was about trusting God enough to be scared out of my mind for a few days, and to be someone completely the opposite of who I thought I was. I was so focused on defining myself as the responder and not the initiator. But God showed me a better picture of who I am: His obedient daughter who will step out even if it doesn't make any sense.
The Lord never promised results. He only asked for obedience. He asked me to step out and trust that His ways are holier than mine. And through that, I found that my hair won't ruin if I don't brush it for a few months. I also found that I have a good guy friend that may not return my feelings, but is mature enough and respects me enough to be honest. And from this point, I move forward. God's timing doesn't always make sense to me, but it's the small victories in my walk with Him that keep me saying "Yes," when yesterday, I might have said, "I don't know, Lord. It's too scary." He knows me better than I do, and has a unique perspective of my life that keeps Him one step ahead of me.

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