A Reminder For When You Feel Stagnant With God

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I have been referring to 2018 as my “Year of Honesty”. It started as a joke with some of my friends as we sat talking about how we wanted to start living with no shame about the way we feel. So, “year of honesty” became something to utter before you say something you have been too afraid to voice before: “year of honesty: I think ______ is really cute” or “year of honesty: I am so unprepared for this test”. What started as a lighthearted remark, has become strangely therapeutic in my life. I have been learning a lot about myself simply because I’m allowing myself to say things that I’ve always been afraid to admit. So, here goes nothing: 

Year of Honesty: I have not been content with where God has me in life.

If you asked me a week ago how my relationship with the LORD has been, I probably would have said something like “Oh, it’s fine” or “I think I’ve been growing a lot” and I’m going to be completely real right now and say that would have only been half-true. That’s scary for me to admit, but I’m tired of pushing those feelings down. 

In the past week, the topic of discontentment and trying to race through life has been popping up over and over again. I’ve decided that there must be a reason for that and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the state of my own heart and how I am letting Jesus be a part of that. For some context, I want to share a little snippet of my own story:

 When I was a freshman in high school, I decided to become a follower of Jesus. That decision changed everything about my life. It altered the relationships I had formed, it changed what I placed value on, and, most importantly, it transformed the way I wanted to walk through life. In my four years of high school, I experienced a lot of evident change in my life. My entire friend group sort of fell apart one year, causing me to truly put my trust in Jesus for, basically the first time ever. I also experienced the major season of transition that comes with preparing to graduate and go to college. All of the growth I had been experiencing compelled me to jump completely outside of my comfort zone and go to a school outside of Pennsylvania, 12 hours away from my home and everyone I knew. Not to mention that I only applied to that one school. When I reflect on those four years of my life, I see the growth. It was so apparent. You can ask my family or the spiritual mentors in my life, and they would probably tell you that they saw the change too. And I was so content in where Jesus was leading me, which was probably because I felt him leading me. 

Year of Honesty: this semester has been hard. Probably the hardest one in my college career so far. Lately, when I look at my life all I see is a crazy girl, running around who is frantically trying to balance school, her spiritual life, and her social life, all while trying to remember to get some sleep! Can anyone relate? Somehow I have just let myself get caught up in the hurry. I had a conversation with someone the other day and all I had to share was everything that I needed to do. That’s not good! I think the real issue is that I am constantly trying to hurry toward the next “big thing” in my life--the next evident change. I get antsy. I get bored. I feel stagnant in where I am so I try, frantically, to move onto what’s next. I am discontent with where God has me and that is preventing me from being present and simply enjoying where I am. 

For the past year, my small group has been reading this amazing book by James Bryan Smith called The Good and Beautiful God (and if you haven’t read it, you absolutely should). In the last chapter of the book, he talks about this idea of “hurry sickness” and how we all just try to rush through everything that we do. He brings up the story of Mary and Martha: 

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)

Yeah, reading that wrecked me. The rug was pulled out from under my feet and reality came crashing down on me: I need to give up all my efforts of distracting myself and just sit at his feet. I have been Martha for so long, and if I’m being honest, I have liked being Martha. I have enjoyed keeping myself busy and distracted from the fact that I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing in this season of my life. I’ve been craving that evident, tangible change that surrounded me a few years ago that I’ve allowed myself to just become swept up in the rush rather than just letting myself sit in the stillness. But I need to start being Mary. I need to slow down and rest and just be content. “Hurry is not part of a well-lived life,” Smith writes. And surely neither is trying to force a specific kind of change and growth. Some things simply take time. 

Smith writes, “...spiritual growth, in addition to being slow, is not uniform. Some years we may experience tremendous growth, and some we see very little change. An oak tree has only a couple months of actual growth each year in terms of measurable expansion...The rest of the year, the other ten months, are spent solidifying that growth”. 

Man, that’s humbling and also encouraging. Change is happening whether I feel it or not, even in seasons of my life that might feel stagnant, the LORD is moving. Some growth is rapid and some of it is slow, and all of it serves its purpose in the work that the LORD is doing in my life. I’ll leave you all with this Word: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). I have truly been faced with that beaming reality that God is moving in my life. I have felt so encouraged by that truth and I hope you all feel the same. God never starts something that He does not finish. So, we might as well just sit down at His feet and enjoy where He has us at the present moment because--year of honesty--that sounds like a much better plan. 

Sarah // @itssarahcullen