A Year in IF:Gatherings

It was a prayer I prayed for years, whether I gave it words or not. I knew I felt it. “You can have everything, God, unless you call me to be single forever. I’ll do whatever you say, but if it comes to choosing between you and marriage…” I knew that I’d choose to follow Him, but I also knew I’d resent Him all the while.

The Holy Spirit is God’s power and presence on earth. He is the goosebumps and words sinking deep, words whispering in the quiet, carrying out impossible signs and wonders. I have seen the signs and wonders. The Spirit is real. It’s not just the stuff of the early church. The Holy Spirit is such a joyful part of God, and I experienced Him worshipping at church during that time, and I experienced Him at home. But the minute I stopped worship in the evening, grief crept in.

I experienced the deep longing to know what my story would contain. I made following God conditional. I thought if I gave Him everything else, that would be enough.

But what do you do when Sunday is the hardest day of the week? What do you do when you make an idol out of something the church seems to idolize? What do you do with the desire to be a mom? What do you do when you’re tired of the clichés and dismissal in sermons from people who haven’t had many soul-level friendships from Christian singles–instead of practical advice from someone with empathy.

The answer is, you wait until you can bear it no longer. You can’t bear swinging between the joy of God’s presence on Sunday morning and your anger Sunday night, so you cry-shout it out from a raw place: “Do what you want, God. Do what you want. If you want me to be single forever, I accept it. Just take away the pain.”

And just like the tide in a gentle receding, He did. He did what I couldn’t do in my own strength.

God honored my surrender. I’ve encountered so much tenderness from God–Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It was little things this year. Wrestling through what Jesus really means to me in a spoken word piece. Understanding that as a bridegroom rejoices over His bride, so he rejoices over me. Feeling Him tell me to “sit with it” when I protested that it felt “wrong” to have my head on His chest listening to His heart beat on some more challenging nights. One (of three ever…doesn’t happen often) vision of Jesus. There were times when it felt like all I had was Jesus. When things were on the rocks with people I was closest to because of Jesus. And He held me close. And I followed His example, and told Satan to get behind me while curled fetal.

Last week, it finally hit me. This past year, between IF:Gathering 2016 and 2017, was all about me learning to be the Bride of Christ. This was the year of learning about Jesus coming, Jesus staying, Jesus choosing me each day. I’ve learned that while I’d like other hands to help me through life, His scarred hands are the only ones I need to lead me through life. I learned how to be the Bride of Christ in a way that I might not have gotten to otherwise.

“Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the LORD.

2Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.

3“For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.
And your descendants will possess nations
And will resettle the desolate cities.

4“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

5For your husband is your Maker,
            Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
            And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth.

6For the LORD has called you,
Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,”
Says your God.

7“For a brief moment I forsook you,
But with great compassion I will gather you.”   Isaiah 54

“…for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. 5As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

As I walk into this new IF: year, I know what God is asking me to learn. He wants me to learn at a deep level what it means to be a Daughter of God. He wants me to learn what it means to be guided through wilderness, to have an identity and a name that are unshakeable, and an eternal inheritance. I need to learn what freedom looks like from an idol of anyone else’s approval if God calls me to some unconventional things. I need to learn how to be steadfast in loving and trusting a Father over anyone or anything else.

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