Others’ Expectations

For years, I sort of felt like the girl who everyone expected to know everything.  If I walked into Sunday School in the middle of a lesson, it was sometimes assumed that I already knew what was going on and probably a little bit of what was coming.  In school, I was one of those “honors kids” who played an instrument, took advanced classes, did who knows how many clubs, and was generally an overachiever.

That all crashed around me one day when I didn’t make it into an advanced musical group.  I had auditioned for the third or fourth year in a row, but this was the first year I didn’t make it.  The band teacher read aloud the names of everyone who had made it in.  I knew already that I hadn’t (My audition was horrible.  It was like I’d forgotten how to play, even though I’d practiced for weeks beforehand and mostly mastered the pieces.), but not hearing my name cemented that truth.

One of my friends was so shocked that he turned to me and said, rather loudly, actually, “You didn’t make it?!”

I felt like the whole room was staring (though they probably weren’t), and simply said, “No.  I’m not perfect,” or something along those lines.  I don’t really remember everything thoroughly because I was trying really hard not to cry.

It seemed as though I had just ruined everything that everyone had expected of me.  I wasn’t the super smart girl.  I wasn’t the talented musician.  I wasn’t the one who always got everything right.  I was the one who had let everyone down (or so it seemed), and I couldn’t even pretend that I was especially talented anymore.  My failure was exposed.

I felt the same way my freshman year of college- like the whole world had such high, high expectations of me, and I was perilously close to letting them down.

It is through such experiences that I’ve realized how twisted my self-perception can be.  As I (may have) told my friend that one day in band class, I’m not perfect.  The one person who knows this best is the same One, and only One, who has every right to judge this deficiency.

And yet, He is the most forgiving.  I wouldn’t doubt that He allowed, if not facilitated, my complete destruction of that audition.  I don’t always enjoy auditions, but they don’t typically unnerve me to the point that I forget a scale that I could have played with my eyes closed.  As I recall, I messed that scale up so badly that the instructor listening to my audition actually stopped me and asked me to move on to the next part of the audition.

But God, who actually has every right to demand perfection of me, and of all of us, comforted me when I cried that I didn’t feel special anymore.  I felt a deep sense of peace as I was reminded that He loves me, His child, no matter how badly I mess up.  I am first and foremost His child.  Before I’m a student, writer, musician, friend, sister, daughter, expert… I’m His.

“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses,” announces Acts 13:38-39.  The phrase “the law of Moses” can be replaced with whatever expectations you try to satisfy that are not from God.

God literally has the highest expectation and demand of us: perfection in all things.  “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” a verse in Matthew 5 says.  But He also is the most forgiving and loving, and takes our hands as we press on to become more like Him in His perfection and glory.

We shouldn’t ever, ever forget that we are His.  We are His!!  The only one that we might ever need to prove ourselves to already sees us as righteous and stainless because He sent His Son to die and take the place of our messes, failures, and crushed expectations, no matter how small or huge they are.

“In this life, I know what I’ve been, but here in Your arms, I know what I am: I’m forgiven!  I’m forgiven!!  And I don’t have to carry the weight of who I’ve been ‘cause I’m forgiven!” cheers a Sanctus Real song.  Sometimes when I sing that song, I just spin around with joy.  I’m forgiven!  I’m loved!

I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by intelligence, by talent, by attractiveness, by friendships, by popularity, by your attempt at perfection.

I want you to know.

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LIFE: The Musical

One of the greatest ways that God uses other people to minister to me is through music.  I completely believe that life can be viewed as a musical- if you’re inside my head, anyway.

You know how in musicals, people suddenly just burst into song about their feelings, singing loudly to no one?  Or sometimes singing loudly at the most inopportune times?  So what if we’re being chased by the Phantom?  When you need to sing as high as possible about your feelings, it needs to be done!  Is that an empty golf course over there?  Well, pardon me, but I need to go over there, do an epic dance, and let out some stuff that’s been bottled inside.

The only difference with my life-musical, however, is that most of the songs I sing didn’t just pop into my head. I have sung a few impromptu songs about how it’s a pretty day and I’m on my way, or something like that.  But a lot of the times, the songs I sing are songs that I’ve listened to over and over, songs that have encouraged me or at the very least, related to me.

I remember that in high school, I used to always sing “More than Useless” (by Relient K)  in my head during Pre-Calc tests.  “I’m a little more than useless, and when I think that I can’t do this, You promise me that I’ll get through this…”

Sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated and I’m opening up my Bible to find encouragement, I’ll pray/sing, “speak to me, and tell me all the things I need to know.  I want to hear You now.  Can You speak to me?  I’ve opened up Your word to free me.  I want to hear You now.  Make Your wisdom clear…” from “Speak to Me” by Audio Adrenaline.

And so, life becomes something of a musical what with all these worship songs and deep songs and Bible-verses-turned-into-songs jumping into my head at just the right moment (which, I’m sure, is no coincidence).  But I had to hear the song from someone else first.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

So today, instead of writing a post the way I typically do, I’m going to post a few of the songs that really comfort and encourage me in hopes that they can, in turn, encourage you.

I encourage you to first read the lyrics, then listen to the song.  I know that not everyone is into the same type of music, but lyrics by themselves can often be very moving.

Savior, Please // Josh Wilson

Lyrics: http://www.rhapsody.com/josh-wilson/trying-to-fit-the-ocean-in-a-cup/savior-please/lyrics.html

Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aP_H5EJLUc

By Thy Mercy // Indelible Grace Music

Lyrics (and a story with them): http://www.igracemusic.com/indeliblog/?p=130

Song: http://www.reverbnation.com/controller/audio_player/detachable_player/artist_539029?autoPlay=true

For the Moments I Feel Faint // Relient K

Lyrics: http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/lyrics/new/track.asp?track_id=1199

Song: Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a legal Internet source for this song, but I had to include it because it’s my favorite song by one of my most favorite bands.

I hope these songs encourage you as much as they’ve encouraged me.  And don’t hesitate to share your favorite songs!

Accumulation

The resident assistants in a building I once lived in warned all of the residents to be very wary of the sprinklers.  We were to avoid activating them unless absolutely necessary, because the water had apparently been sitting there for years, plus all of our belongings would likely be ruined.  We were similarly advised to keep valuables off of the floor if we left for a long period of time, just in case there was a flood.

It’s warnings like these, and hypothetical situations of houses catching fire and my being banished to a deserted island with only three items, that make me realize how much stuff I have.  Well, that and any time I pack to go anywhere.

It seems to me that whenever you move, things that you had completely forgot existed suddenly appear and you have to figure out how to deal with them.  When moving out of my freshman dorm, I got to a point where, if I found it on the floor when I was sweeping, it was going in the trash, because I was tired of finding places to pack things.

I was reading the book of Matthew recently, where Jesus tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”  Oops.

I’m not going to focus right now on how much we should or should not have, though I think it really just boils down to how you’re using what you have.  I may discuss that in more detail in a later post.

At this particular moment, however, I was focusing on the phrase “store up for yourselves,” and thinking about how we don’t only “store up” things physically- we store them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.

There are two different types of learning, which is basically gathering mental stores, and I think those two different types can apply to gathering other types of stores as well.  The first type is passive learning- you don’t really have to do anything to learn the information… it just happens.  For example, I certainly didn’t sit around studying commercial jingles, but I can definitely rattle off a number of catchy advertisements simply because I’ve heard them so often.  But with active learning, you have to put work into gathering the stores.  When I sit around studying choreography and can then do the dance, it’s because I watched someone else do it and practiced until I caught on myself.

There are some physical things that we acquire passively, like when people give us gifts or little surprises, and sometime less pleasant things that we didn’t ask for and didn’t make any effort to receive.  But other times, we go out and go shopping, we repeatedly hint to our parents that we’d really like such-and-such, and we actively pursue something.

What if every time we actively pursued something that was adding to our physical stores, we actively pursued something else that could add to our spiritual/mental stores?

What if, when I stood in line at the huge line in the college bookstore at the beginning of the semester, I meditated on God’s word?  What if, as I prepared a detailed explanation as to why my parents should buy me something I’d really like, I reminded myself of the gospel?  What if I prayed while clothes shopping?

First of all, if my physical stores are any indication, my so-called “spiritual stores” would increase somewhat more rapidly than I ever intended.  Second, my physical stores might even be a little altered since I was spending my time acquiring them focused on what’s going to last forever.

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal,” Jesus said. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Certain

Happy 2010 everyone! I hope everybody’s new year got off to a wonderful start.

One of the things I talked about last week was how we really have no idea of exactly what’s going to happen in the coming year, month, day, hour, minute, second… we have no clue.

The Bible calls us out several times on the way we try to make definite plans or act like we’ve got our lives planned out- we definitely do not (a lesson God thoroughly taught me by entirely upsetting plans I had confidently held for years), and as I said last week, those plans could change at any time.  The only thing that remains unchanging is God.

God is always going to be the same, and He’s always going to love us, and He’s always going to keep His promises.  We can tell ourselves these bits of information over and over again, but it’s not really going to do anything for us unless we actually believe that it’s true and trust Him.  That requires faith.

Hebrews 11 defines faith as “being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see.”

I think “faith” tends to be one of those words that we just throw around, so when we look at it in terms of that definition, its entirety is rather daunting.  Being absolutely certain of what you can’t even see?  Being sure of what you only hope for?

As a journalism major, I’m taught to be skeptical of everything.  Was that really their motive?  When he said “x,” was he actually talking about “y”?  I was introduced to a “journalism proverb” that says that “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” as early as my freshman year.

It’s not just journalists, either. We are a skeptical people! But perhaps it’s with good reason- sometimes we really can’t trust everyone out there.  Even the Bible calls us to be wary of false teachers and people who claim to be following Christ, but really aren’t.

So while I’ve learned to get to the bottom of things in my reporting, I’ve still maintained this faith, this certainty of something- more specifically, this certainty of God’s keeping His promises.

So if God says in the Bible that He loves me, that He’ll work things together for the good of those who love Him, that He won’t tempt me beyond what I can bear, that He is in control, being faithful means that I am 100% certain that this is true.  I can’t honestly say that I’ve maintained perfect faith all the time- I definitely doubt and struggle with my minimal control and limited view of the future.

But in those difficult times, Hebrews 11 is a wonderful place to refer to.  One of the commentaries in my Bible describes it as a “stirring record of what trust in God can do.”

I really encourage you to read all of Hebrews 11.  Reading it out loud helps- sometimes when we get into these Biblical histories and we just read it “inside our head,” we skip over parts because we’re so familiar with them.  What sometimes happens to me is that instead of reading, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received the promises…” I’ll read “By faith Abraham….” and then go off on a little mental tangent of my retelling of Abraham’s story and sort of blur past the actual wording in this section of the Bible.

It’s so much more powerful when you truly savor each and every word.  And it’s truly encouraging to see that we, too, can live “by faith,” being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we don’t see, and trusting in God’s promises.

p.s.  Don’t hesitate to look up any of the life stories referenced in Hebrews 11.  This is one of those passages that I especially recommend setting a good amount of quiet time aside for- maybe half an hour in an actually quiet place.