One morning, I was in a funk. I was tired, and I had a busy day coming up. On top of those everyday complaints, a snowstorm had blown another few inches of snow into my town, and I was not feelin it anymore. While I ate breakfast and got dressed, I brooded on all the things I had to do and how un-excited I was. By the time I sat down with my Bible, I felt pretty indifferent to whatever the day had in store.
I happened to have a little study about gratitude from a Cru retreat I had recently gone to. The bulk of it simply gave prompts to inspire you to give thanks for different categories of things. And so, I started. Sitting with my disgruntled-ness about the world and the snow and my sleepy eyes, I cracked open my journal to give thanks.
The prompts surprised me. It didn’t result in your run-of-the-mill list. There were three prompts for the area of faith: salvation, sanctification, and glorification. I wrote down specific things I love about my faith story. Then, there was a prompt for each of the five senses. It inspired me to write about my favorite little things in life. The last prompt was my favorite, though. It had me write detailed things I appreciate about the people I love.
After half an hour of soaking up all the good things in life and thanking God for them, I felt way more peaceful and prepared to look for the good in the day.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, that’s great. You did gratitude and it worked. How cute.”
And I get it. When I’m in a bad mood or bad situation and I’m told to count my blessings, it’s irritating. Gratitude can feel like a band-aid prescribed to cover up all your worries. I'd rather either 1) figure out what to do to fix the situation or 2) just stew in my bad mood.
But giving thanks does something unexpected: it draws you out of yourself. When you take a wide-angled look at your life and all the good in it past and present, it’s hard to feel entitled to complaining. And on top of that, we don’t have to feel vaguely grateful to the ‘universe,’ but we get to pray to our Creator and thank him specifically for every good thing!
One cautionary, though. Even in gratitude, we can feel a bit proud. “Look at all the good stuff God’s given me!” We can start to feel that we deserve the good life we have. I got a little giddy just looking over my long list. Let’s humbly remember that even our breath is an unearned gift! This is the whole point of gratitude: to realize that God has been good to us in ways we don’t deserve. He blesses us out of his love, but his love isn’t any smaller for someone with less money, friends, or education.
More than a list
In the end, giving thanks is about so much more than scribbling down a list and feeling better. For gratitude to really shape our thinking and our lives, we have to re-program our brains. We strive to go from complaints and worries to awe and joy at the smallest things.
Gratitude should transform our prayers, too. Instead of running to God with a list of requests, we can take a few minutes to just sit in his presence, admire him, and thank him. For years now, I’ve started my morning prayer with “Dear God, thank you for this day.” Even when it feels repetitive, it does remind me that the day is a gift. It reminds me to be humble. Prayer is the first step to any kind of transformation!
So, all that to say, giving thanks is powerful. Even if you feel like it’s a cliché or you’d rather not take the pause it requires, I recommend it in any and every situation. Let’s recognize the graces the Lord has given us!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
I’ve been dating Brian long-distance for more than 2 ½ years. Before college, I lived in South Dakota and he lived in Illinois. Now, I live in Minnesota and he lives in Arizona. (Read the story of how we met here). It has been quite the journey and has taught me a lot about him and life. Because he’s moving to my city this May, we get to close the distance soon! It’s actually crazy to think about.
So, as that day approaches, I wanted to reflect on everything that’s happened so far. There are many faces and aspects to long-distance dating, so here are a few: the good, bad, and ugly.
The bad & ugly:
So, there you have it! There are so many highs and lows in a long-distance relationship. If you know someone who’s doing long-distance, show them some love. But if you think it’s impossible, it really isn’t. There are many good things about this season, and it's become a huge part of my story!
It was 2016. A sweltering July afternoon whisked by the windows of my family’s van. The heaviness in the air intensified every color: the grass a screaming green, the cloudy sky a pensive shade of blue-gray. Tiny groups of raindrops formed on the windshield while we bumped down a messily-paved country road. I tried hard to breathe easy. I glanced at my mom in the driver’s seat, wanting her to say something. Her hands gripped the steering wheel, her unreadable gaze straight ahead. “No need to worry already,” she advised. “We’re still three hours away.”
“I knowwwww.” I dragged the word out, hanging onto the anticipation in my stomach.
This day felt unreal. I was about to meet my boyfriend. What had started as a “hello” on social media in February had quickly grown into a cross-country friendship. Through drawn-out phone and Skype calls, I realized Brian was unlike any guy I knew. He was witty and hilarious, and planned to become a youth pastor. He asked me the most random questions about myself and actually cared about my answers. All the things that made me stand out awkwardly in high school were suddenly being accepted, welcomed, and enjoyed. I was finally comfortable with telling the whole truth about myself. We found out we were similar in many ways: we liked the same music, desired to be serious about our faith, and loved laughing about bizarre made-up scenarios.
I collected every detail he shared about himself, building a mental picture of his life: his character and friends, his house, his past. Every night I would talk to him on the phone, lying on my bed and staring at my ceiling. We would go on for two to three hours at a time, never running out of things to ask and tell. I began to feel like I knew him better than some of my classmates.
The night before his high school graduation, we made it official. We were ‘dating,’ although not at all in the traditional sense. We were exclusive; that’s what it meant to me. I was giddy.
My parents were understandably skeptical, which put up frustrating roadblocks. We wanted to meet before August, when we’d both be starting college. Earlier summer plans hadn’t worked, but finally we figured it out: we’d meet at Sonshine music festival, an almost-halfway point between our Illinois and South Dakota homes. The only catch? It would be a family affair for both of us.
I glanced at the backseat, where my two-year-old brother and preteen sister sat, engrossed in their own worlds. Samuel with a book, Rachel with her MP3 player. I was more thankful than I’d admit that they were coming. This was the strangest thing I’d ever done. An anxious heaviness was settling in my stomach. This was about to become a whole lot more real.
The drive felt agonizingly long, my mom and I taking turns at the wheel. Finally, around 5 pm, I pulled the van into our hotel parking lot. A wave of nervousness convinced me I’d throw up, even though Brian wouldn’t be there for another half hour. I shifted into park, chattering excitedly about how nervous I was.
We checked in to our hotel room and re-parked near a side door, which we propped open with a rock. We loaded our arms with luggage and ushered Samuel up the steps to our second-floor room.
Then. . . we waited. Every few minutes I texted Brian the same question. “Where are you?” Closer. Closer. I busied myself in the bathroom mirror. I flipped my head upside down and sprayed my curls with hair spray. I touched up my makeup, adding mascara and dabbing foundation over my pimples. This was a long-awaited moment. I wanted to look perfect. I adjusted my tank top, tugged on my jean shorts. Maybe I should change--
“Anna! I see him!” Rachel’s words shot through me, exploding in my head. I bolted out of the bathroom and looked out the window where she was pointing. Sure enough, a tan car was pulling into the lot. My first real-life glimpse of Brian. I stared long and hard at his dark features and bright blue shirt, then jumped up and down with Rachel, squealing and freaking out and laughing for the fun of it. Within a few long minutes, he texted me.
“We’re in the second-floor hallway.”
I fluttered around the room, forgetting to breathe while I wrestled on my sandals. I hesitantly poked my head out the door, looking down the long hallway. There they were, ten doors down. With every step down that loudly carpeted hallway, I concentrated on not tripping over my sandals.
Holy moly, this is actually happening.
“Hi!” I forced the word out as I walked.
He was just standing there with his mom. He gave a quick, stiff wave and a sideways smile. He was taller than I’d thought. His bright blue t-shirt stood out against his tanned skin.
“Hi.” “Hi.” The uncertain word filled the room, first from his mom, then him.
We were just feet apart.
And then, in the very moment I’d dreamed of and played out in my mind for months: maybe flowers? Maybe a well-spoken declaration of love?
Nope. A side hug: intercepted by his mom, standing too close.
“That was awkward,” This was the first sentence that left his lips in my presence.
All expectations of this prized moment drained out of my mind as my family approached behind me.
“Hi.” “Hi!” The uncertain word filled the hallway again as everyone introduced themselves. Nervous, choppy laughs. We stood in a cringe-worthy half-circle, no one knowing what to say. Comments about the drive, the hotel, the weather. Everyone focused on Samuel, of course, and Brian’s mom gave him a fist bump, followed by more forced laughter.
I kept glancing at Brian, standing right beside me. He was fully distracted by the trivial conversation between our mothers. We hadn’t even talked to each other yet! Plans were made to meet at a Culvers across the street, then head to the music festival. I walked back to the hotel room feeling like a trick had just been played on me. How in the world would we get through the next three days together?
Fast forward to today and, surprisingly enough, we’ve been dating for two and a half years and taken 14 additional trips to spend time together. Brian is moving to my town this May, and we’re planning to get married next year!
You’ll be relieved to hear that the awkwardness wore off throughout that first evening. We slowly started having fun together; laughing and talking just like on the phone. It’s hard to describe what it felt like to get to know someone I already knew a ton about. It’s like a layer of unfamiliarity had to wear off, but afterwards it was the most natural thing to be together.
To this day I cringe when someone asks how I met Brian. I’ve gotten a wide range of reactions to the whole ‘online dating’ thing. But through the many times I’ve told the story, I’ve realized this: it doesn’t matter so much how you meet your loved one, but what you do with the knowledge that they exist. People put so much emphasis on that one moment, but what builds a relationship is everything that happens after it.
For Brian and me, it meant that two very real people met on social media and have been learning how to serve and love each other ever since. Our story is unique and weird and loads of awkward: just like us. I honestly can’t believe I’m posting this on my blog for everyone to read. It’s not the love story I ever thought I’d have, but it’s mine, and I am incredibly thankful for it. God’s plan is always the best, even when it’s unexpected or just plain unbelievable.
Next week I’ll be posting about what it’s like to be in a long-distance relationship, because that’s been my life for the past 2 ½ years! There are so many good and hard aspects to it, and I have so much to share. You’ll also learn more about the middle part of our relationship: between the most awkward day of my life and today. . . so that’s a bonus! Thanks so much for reading and keeping up with my life! 😊
I’ve been told that any situation in my life can bring God glory: even the most painful things. His glory is also one of the Bible’s main themes. In every storyline, no matter how brutal or joyful, his fame is a goal.
So, does this make him selfish? I’ve confronted this question multiple times. On one hand, I love that I get to bring him glory, because he truly deserves it. I love him so dearly, and I know that I need him.
But sometimes the phrase rubs me the wrong way, just a little bit. Instead of being filled with joy at the idea, I sometimes feel. . . annoyed?
Here’s an example: lately, I’ve been reading the book of Ezekiel. I honestly expected to snore through its 48 chapters, but it’s quite an exciting read! So please don’t start snoring just yet.
This book focuses on judgment and restoration, yet God’s glory is woven throughout the entire thing.
Judgment for God’s glory?
In the first chunk, God proclaims judgments on his people (the Israelites) for turning away from him. They have disobeyed him horribly and turned to the world’s way. Because of that, they’ve already been attacked by another nation and brought into exile. It is here that God also declares things like famine, violence, destruction, and desolation on them.
And even in these terrifying words, God’s glory consistently shows up. “And you will know that I am the Lord.” This phrase, in some form, appears 50 times in the book! Even this pain will help them see God for who he is.
Blessing for God’s glory
After the judgment, God speaks of restoration and renewal. He says he will become his peoples’ shepherd: bringing them back into their land and caring tenderly for them. He promises prosperity, strength, and peace.
And once again, it’s 100% for his glory. These verses really surprised me:
Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. -Ezekiel 36:22
Not for their sake
It's not for their sake? At first glance, that seems to take away the beauty of these blessings. The people have already suffered so much. Why couldn’t God just restore them for their good, because he loved them? Dare I say, it did seem selfish. . .
A few years ago, I head a short piece on the radio about this issue. The speaker told us to imagine God looking down on us. He sees all our problems, longings, and mess, and he knows that he is the only solution to it all. He knows that nothing else can fill us: not even good things! We need him far more than we need money, friends, security, education, comfort, or anything! He is the loving Creator. He is all-knowing. And he is the ultimate good.
So, how and why would he point us to anything but himself? That would be a cruel trick, simply a dead end.
A kind decision
It reminds me of the phrase “for God’s glory and my good.” That’s the concept here: that letting our lives bring God glory is the best thing for us. And he lets us know it. He’s not the friend who will agree with anything you say or do. Instead, he’s the Father who knows you best and points you to what you really need. . . in this case, himself!
So, when he restored the Israelites, it was for his glory, yes. But it was also for their good, and because he loved them! It’s a beautiful picture when we can see the whole thing.
Let’s also remember that God deserves all glory. He has created everything in this beautiful universe. He has shown us endless grace in sending Jesus to die for us. He is all-powerful. Everything good in life is from him! We really can’t do or be anything on our own. We are simply vessels of his glory.
He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
Am I okay with that?
So the question becomes, “am I okay with that?” Am I okay with God allowing both pain and blessing into my life for his own glory? Can I see past my pride enough to believe that this really is the best way?
I was trying to process this earlier today and ended up making a list. I asked, “How has God shown me that ‘He is the Lord’ through the good and painful in my life?”
Naturally, I made ‘good’ and ‘painful’ columns, and the list really grew. I thought of the biggest things and the smallest things that have comprised my life and have pointed me to Christ. Here are some examples:
I encourage you to make a similar list. This exercise filled me with such thankfulness! God has been standing beside me in every situation saying, “And you will know that I am the Lord.” I’ve come to know his character and his greatness through every part of my life. And now I realize that it’s all been a blessing. “Painful” doesn’t always mean “bad.” And the good isn’t just for my enjoyment.
Ultimately, God is my only hope. I see nothing else that could fulfil me, and I praise him for that. He has sacrificed greatly to have a relationship with us, and I praise him for that. He is so far beyond me, yet he invites me into his presence daily, and I praise him for that. He gives me every breath and every day of life, and I praise him for that.
He deserves all the glory, and I cannot wait to grow older and see it displayed in even more of my life.
People are tired of being busy. We’ve been worn down by the “do-it-all” mentality and have experienced its negative effects. In response, the self-care movement has put itself forward: inspiring us to rest, take care of ourselves, and enjoy the little things in life.
Take care of yo’ self!
I really took hold of these ideas last summer. While working at a youth mission trip camp, I learned a lot about my limits. I realized I try to be self-sufficient and would rather work my tail off than ask for help. I learned very quickly that I had to rest: for my own good and for everyone else’s good!
The experience taught me a simple truth: Humans have limits. I think that’s partly why we need sleep, food, and water: these routines remind us that we aren’t self-sufficient! Taking care of ourselves is crucial, and we’ll talk more about that in a minute.
But I’ve also experienced the other side of self-care: the side that quickly becomes selfishness and laziness.
When I’ve practiced self-care in an unhealthy way, I’ve adopted a “me-first” mindset. And it makes sense, because the world is constantly telling us to indulge! We’re told to get a manicure, buy an over-priced coffee, or watch a season of Netflix, to escape our complicated, real lives for a few minutes. It’s easy to take things like these too far.
The anthem becomes “put your well-being above anyone else’s, because you deserve it, for goodness sakes!” There’s an overwhelming pull towards selfishness.
And I think that’s why Christians feel like they must resist self-care. In the fear of appearing lazy, we idolize busyness and effectiveness: even looking down on people who do take care of themselves. How many times have you heard someone laugh at the idea of sleeping enough or having an evening to themselves?
So, we see, there are two sides to self-care.
Why would a Christian do that?
All this information might feel overwhelming. You’re saying, “Great! One more thing for me to balance in my life.” I get it. But there is a healthy and Godly way to practice self-care, and I think it’s worth learning.
First, let’s review the “why.” Why do we need self-care? We have limits, but sometimes we try to become super-human: running about the world caring for others, doing our jobs, and serving God while ignoring basic needs and joys. That’s not a sustainable way to live or even to serve God, so we have to decide it’s not an option!
Even Jesus took care of himself. He rested, withdrew from the crowds, and most importantly, spent a lot of time in prayer.
Now, let’s establish the goal. There are a few things self-care should work towards: (1) a thriving relationship with God, (2) the capacity to serve others sustainably, and (3) our own physical health.
Jesus commands us to ‘love your neighbor as yourselves,’ which stems from the assumption that we do love and take care of ourselves! In obeying this, we are also showing love towards God. Self-care can work for the good of all three: God, others, and ourselves! This challenges the worldly anthem to simply do things for yourself and put yourself first.
It’s more about stewardship than indulgence.
How to actually do this thing
Now it’s time to make a self-care plan! This is where people will vary based on personality, season of life, and preferences, and that’s ok!
Start by thinking on this question: What do your soul and body need? Spending time with God (prayer + Bible reading) is our biggest need, so I’d encourage you to put that on your list first. Then, think of other healthy practices you need to prioritize. I prioritize getting 8 ½ hours of sleep, which may sound impossible, but I am seriously delirious the next day if I don’t. I also try my best to eat energizing meals and relax in some way in the evenings.
Additionally, think of small things that add both joy and rest to your days. Some of these things for me are reading, talking to my friends, doing creative stuff, and listening to podcasts. These small things present themselves as you go throughout a day. All we have to do is seize the opportunities!
So, that’s it! I’m glad to have learned about the many faces of self-care, and I hope this post hasn’t been too confusing. Honestly, no one will ever strike the perfect balance. Maybe some days you’ll be exhausted and busy and legitimately won’t have time for these practices. And maybe some days you’ll be able to rest and recharge for hours. That’s all okay! The most important thing is to follow God’s lead each day and seek his will and his rest wherever he takes us.
A few blog posts that helped me write this one :)
I hate driving on snowy and icy roads. That’s the popular opinion, I know, but I think I hate it more than the average Minnesotan.
Last week, I was confronted head on by this fear.
A giant snowstorm was predicted to hit the Midwest in the days after Christmas. Estimates of snowfall ranged between 12 and 17 inches, and, as you may know, the foreboding rumors only build on each other. The storm was expected to start on Wednesday and go through Friday morning. The kicker is, my boyfriend Brian was planning to take a rental car on an eleven-hour drive to my college town on Friday. I would then drive there, pick him up, and bring him to my house.
When I first heard about the storm, I knew I had to pray and try not to worry. I knew God was giving me a lesson in trust, no matter how much I didn’t want it. So I prayed, a lot. But I was still anxious: even in the days before the storm hit. While I usually would have loved to curl up with a book while it snowed, the fear of all this dangerous driving was driving me mad!
When the storm came on Wednesday, I realized the predictions were spot-on. All I could see out the window was whirling, blowing, falling snow, and the trees closest to the house. It felt like my house was trapped in a snow globe. . .It was actually really pretty. I tried not to worry.
Early on Friday morning, Brian started his drive. He had shared his location with me on Google maps, so I checked it many times throughout the day, along with the weather and road conditions. I was not having much fun waiting. I dreaded my little hour-long drive, too. I literally worried myself sick.
In the end, Brian claims there was only a short stretch of icy road on his drive, and my drive to pick him up was safe as well. I fell asleep at home that night exhausted and incredibly thankful. God was so gracious to keep us both safe. The whole thing got me thinking, though.
Why it all matters
The day before I found out about the snowstorm, I had journaled about how I wanted to trust God in 2019. This new year holds a lot of exciting changes: things like Brian moving cross-country to live in the same city as me for the first time ever, getting engaged, finding a summer job, and applying to a tough graduate school program.
These changes are all giant blessings that I’m thankful for, but they also require a lot of trust. My attitude towards life too often resembles white-knuckled driving in the snow, and I want that to change. In writing that journal entry, I tried to prepare to trust God in finances, relationships, my future schooling, friendships, and my career.
And the very next day, this storm gave me the perfect practice opportunity. It’s like God was saying, “you’re not going to wait until 2019 to put this into action.” Isn’t he great?!
Helping each other
Something I really love about Brian is that he’s awesome at trusting God and refusing worry. He simply looks at the facts, prays, and makes decisions. While I was brooding about the snow, he was carefully driving through it, actively depending on God. I’m not demeaning myself or saying that I don’t trust God at all, but Brian is a strong example in my life of how to do it better every day.
It’s great to have people in our lives who can encourage us and build us up! This is a huge part of God’s purpose in believers growing close (1 Thess. 5:11). I’d encourage you to look for inspiring qualities in your friends, and look for ways you can spur them on, too!
Trust: a recurring topic
So, this post is really just a reminder to trust God, from a girl who has a lot of trouble doing it. I was recently skimming through all my old posts and realized that I’ve written quite a few with the theme of trust. I guess it’s something God is constantly trying to teach me, and I hope it’s nudging you to the same end as well!
This year I’m planning to simply write about whatever he is teaching me through my life. Our God is bigger than any situation, worry, or plan, and he is always faithful. I’m going to try and trust him with it all.
My Christmas break has been pretty easygoing. I’ve been home for three days: spending time with family, baking like crazy, wrapping presents, going to my siblings’ basketball games, and reading. Almost 100% stress-free!
The thing is, the simplicity of home and the easy rhythms of a break quiet everything in me, even the spiritual. My need for God feels less obvious when I’m not busy. It’s easy to feel indifferent.
That’s why I’m so glad that I read Colossians 1 yesterday. It startled me back to reality. Here’s an amazing section of it. Read it slowly, considering the meaning of each phrase:
This reality is crazy! Before Jesus, we were God’s enemies: alienated from him because of our sin-sickness. That’s terrifying. But He answered this spiritual problem with a physical rescue: God in the flesh! This is the perplexing, joyful reality we celebrate this time of the year. Anyone who puts their trust in Jesus’ work will be saved and changed. God now sees us as totally, entirely clean.
Free from accusation.
That’s a hard thing to wrap my mind around, because I often feel guilty: after consciously sinning, being selfish, comparing myself to ‘better’ Christians, or saying something harsh. . . The list could go on and on. Sin distances us from God.
But Christ came to bring peace.
And now, everything is radically changed. The children of God are fully redeemed! There is no such thing as ‘halfway-forgiven’ or ‘kind of okay with God.’ Jesus’ work in saving us is complete the second we trust him.
I’m trying to keep my eyes open to this amazing truth and battle indifference. Jesus came to earth as an externally ordinary baby but later brought breathtaking transformation. Every bit of glory, beauty, and wonder in this season should remind us: We are completely changed.
Last week, I had a breakdown in confidence. I was going through the motions my days, with meetings, classes, and work, but everything felt ‘off.’ Suddenly I was worried about how I looked. I was comparing myself to the people around me. Even when I was with people, all I could think about was me. There was a voice inside my head that mocked, “You’re not enough. You’re not doing enough. You’re not being enough.”
The result was a sad sight. I withdrew from people. I stayed holed up in my apartment as much as I could. I was not living life to the full as God wants us to. It was frustrating! I thought I had ‘gotten over’ self-image stuff since high school, but just like that I was plunged back in.
With prayer and God’s grace, I think I’ve come back to my normal self: and I am so thankful! We should never let satan’s lies and schemes against us prevail.
But it has me thinking. . . life will never feel 100% ‘right.’ Just when I think I’ve gotten back on top and have all my chicks in a row, a new obstacle will surface. Maybe I’ll struggle with control, or there will be tension in a friendship, or I’ll fail at something. I’m always going to feel a little misplaced in this world.
And somehow, that’s okay.
We live in a fallen world. Of course, there will be frustrations and feelings of inadequacy and mistakes. The thing that really upsets me is when I assume everything should go great, and it doesn’t. I shouldn’t be surprised when I see that stuff in myself, and you shouldn’t either.
What matters is what we do with it. Instead of getting frustrated and trying to cope on our own, we need to lean into God’s grace and ask him what his purpose is. The hardest thing to do is also the most necessary: to hand it over in prayer. God is extending an invitation. Will we let our hardships teach us and increase our dependence on him?
The things of this world are never going to fulfil us: only Jesus can. Maybe we should take the upsets and hardships as reminders of just that.
In the past few days, I’ve started an Advent reading plan which begins in Genesis. The beginning of mankind and the fall into sin sets the stage for our desperate need for Jesus.
After God created the earth and Adam and Eve, there was a perfection and contentedness we cannot really understand. Can you imagine what it would feel like to live on the earth exactly as God intended it to be? One thing Adam and Eve had no taste or even conception of was shame:
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. -Genesis 2:25
The shock of sin
But directly following this verse, satan enters the scene as a serpent. He brings with him a whole ugly load of his own attributes. His crafty discourse weaves temptation and confusion into Eve’s mind, distorting God’s clear directions to not eat the fruit of a certain tree.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” -Genesis 3:5
The second she and Adam give into satan and disobey God, their eyes are indeed opened: but not in the glorious way they were expecting. Rather, they’re opened to an entirely unfamiliar dimension. As promised, they now know good and evil. . . and I bet they wish they didn’t.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. -Genesis 3:8-9
Imagine the shock of these moments to the couple who has until now wholly obeyed and enjoyed God. This one act plunged them deep into wrongdoing, shame, and the alarming urge to run from their Creator. Hastily covered in leaves and cowering beneath the trees, they’re introduced to another new emotion: fear.
Let’s pause and consider a few other perspectives at this point. Satan, for one, is gloating. He thinks he’s brought a hasty downfall to God’s project of humanity. He knows that evil cannot exist anywhere near God (he’s experienced this firsthand), so he sits back smugly, anticipating their downfall.
God, of course, isn’t surprised by any of it. But that doesn’t keep him from being deeply saddened. The epitome of his creation, the only ones to bear his image, have chosen to disown him. He sees the anguish in their hearts as they try to hide and feels the seriousness of the chasm opened between he and them. This will ultimately lead to much pain and the sacrifice of his own Son.
In this frozen moment, I can think of only one logical thing for God to do: wipe it all out. Just obliterate it all. Surely it wouldn’t have been too much effort for him to create another world, one in which people were required to love him and didn’t have the option of sin. Surely that would have been easier than letting this mess go on, culminating at the death of his only Son.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he graciously covered their newfound shame with animal skins, and let them live. Yes, their sin still brought about a whole host of natural consequences: much pain and toil, death, distance from God, and being cast out from the garden. But I am just amazed at the crazy grace he gave them in letting them live!
Why did he let them live?
Why did he do it? Well, just by inferencing, I can see quite a few reasons. First of all, he is a faithful Father. He promises to never leave or forsake us (Heb 13:5). He also refuses to be defeated by satan. This day, the serpent’s schemes were thwarted by grace. God’s plan and purpose has victory, always!
In Genesis 3:15, God tells satan that he may strike man’s heel, but ultimately man (Jesus!) will crush his head. Grace brings victory.
Another factor is free will. God had a plan for humanity’s relationship with him that just wouldn’t be the same without free choice. Instead of starting over with a world of forced love, he would rather have real followers: people who are faced with a whole host of choices, and still choose him. He would rather have a world of people who are either for him or against him: not lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16).
I love reading this creation and fall account with the knowledge of what happens next: after years of sacrificing animals and obeying strict codes to keep peace with God, Jesus came to earth as a baby to live the life we couldn’t and sacrificially die in our place. It is so beautiful! It’s what this season of Christmas is all about. And now, having this sweet assurance of salvation through him, I love looking ahead to heaven: knowing that ultimate victory over all the work of the devil will come! Glory to God.
Faithfulness in the small things matters:
How I talk to the kids I tutor.
How I study and work in college.
How I encourage my friends.
It matters for all of us, in every aspect of life. When we are faithful with even the smallest, simplest things, we prepare our hearts and hands for whatever God has laid out in the future.
It’s so true! The small stuff impacts the future in huge ways. Consider how even the slightest decisions, interactions, and words impact who you are as a whole. Picture a day where you speak kindly, make sacrifices for others’ good, and work hard at what you do. Even as splattered with sin and imperfection as that day would be, imagine the difference the good stuff would make on your tendencies and mind!
The verse above is taken from a parable Jesus told to illustrate the importance of faithfulness in small things. In the story, a man is hired to take care of his master’s money. When he is eventually accused of wasting the money, he hurriedly avoids his master’s wrath by enacting a shrewd, although dishonest, plan. If only he had been faithful in the first place! (Luke 16:1-15)
When I read this story, I think of all the things God has given me to faithfully care for: my friends, money, free time, classes, the people I see at work. . . I’m sure you can easily think of your own list: a list that speaks volumes about where your life is, who’s in it, and what God has given you.
I also think of how these things require faithfulness in the small stuff, to ever add up to something significant. For example, college requires many nights of studying, endless typing on a laptop, and hours sitting in class: but it all adds up to a degree. Friendships require taking the time to hang out, the care to have intentional conversations, and the sacrifice to help each other: but it all adds up to companionship and joy. Even my blog has required faithfulness in the small stuff. I’ve written here for more than two years: from weeks when barely thirty people saw the post to weeks where I’m amazed at how many people found my little website!
The point is, God calls us to be faithful to everything he’s given us: even when the tasks feel insignificant. Even when other people look like they’re having way more fun or way more impact. Even when progress is puny or invisible to the human eye.
We each have a duty to care for and use what God has given us. And oh, what a proud Father he is, grinning as he watches us seize opportunities, ask him for guidance, and pour our passions and energy into assignments from his very hands.
So, I want to fulfil his purposes with joy. Not with a frantic impulse to do more or be more, and not with any type of underlying grudge or competition against others. Rather, I want to do it with joy and gratitude for every breath and every movement of my muscles and every beat of my heart that allows me to be alive for the thing.
How about you?
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!