To kick off the new year, my church is participating in 21 days of prayer and fasting that we call “So Fresh and So Clean”. The idea is that by turning down the noise of the world, we would all hear God speak. As someone who has just recently found success in my recovery from an eating disorder (praise God!) the word “fasting” sounds all to familiar to my vulnerable ears. I knew that fasting any type of food was a bad idea, and would defeat the purpose of starting off my new year growing closer to God. After some thought and prayer, I decided to fast my snooze button. I have always loved long, slow mornings. It is the time in my day when I find the most peace, and the energy of my morning is capable of setting the pace for the day. Chaotic mornings tend to lead to chaotic days. With that being said, I don’t always feel that way when my erupting alarm disrupts my peaceful sleep. I tend to overuse my snooze button in response to the weariness I feel each morning. Before I know it, the clock reads 10:00. So, fasting my snooze button seemed perfect for me. It was a sacrifice I could make (even when it’s really hard!!) to allow God to set my pace for the day, and God has shown up big time! I’m up between 5:00-7:00 am, and I immediately read my devotionals/Bible, listen to worship music, and then pray. The point of waking up early is to use that time to focus more on God. As the first week of So Fresh and So Clean comes to an end, I feel overflowing with God’s goodness. When God speaks to the heart, it demands to be repeated.
Day 1: Forgiveness
I have never participated in a fast, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I woke up, slightly motivated by the adrenaline of starting a new habit, eager to spend time with God. The intention of the day’s prayer was forgiveness. Each morning, I write in my prayer journal, expecting God to answer them throughout the day. Before starting the fast, the idea of living life one day at a time had been pressing heavily on my heart. In the Lord’s Prayer it prays, “Give us today our daily bread”. God is a moment-by-moment God. He equips us for each day, and He answers our prayers every single day. He may not answer every prayer, but He answers the prayers for today. On the first day of the fast, God reminded me of this.
One of my best friends (we’ll call her J), really struggles with the idea of accepting God’s forgiveness. Knowing that God has forgiven the world of sin, and truly feeling His personal forgiveness don’t come in the same package. As I went about my day, J called me with guilt in her voice. She explained to me that she was worried about losing a relationship over a mistake that she had made, and wasn’t sure what she should do. I listened as she explained a thousand reasons why she didn’t deserve forgiveness. She waffled between the idea of pushing the conflict under the rug, or admitting her wrong and asking for forgiveness. The tricky thing was that the only solution that could bring healing, also risked the complete opposite reaction: the destruction of a friendship. As I listened, I continued to reflect on the time I spent in the morning focused on God’s forgiveness. I had no doubt that He had equipped me for this exact moment; He had given me my daily bread. I was able to encourage because God had encouraged my heart earlier that morning.
After spending hours on the phone, J finally found the courage to confront the issue. By the end of the night, J had received full and loving forgiveness from the friend she had hurt. Not only did her friend forgive her, but her friend responded in a way that was rooted in the forgiveness God has for his children. God’s forgiveness is unconditional and doesn’t keep score of our wrongs. He forgives because He values our relationship more than anything else. God is not a father that responds with, “I’m not mad…I’m just disappointed” (because we all know we would rather see our parents angry than to let them down). His forgiveness celebrates with open arms when we walk into the truth.
Through this messy moment, God revealed so much to me about the purpose of this fast. First, I was reminded that sacrifice isn’t about what I can get out of it. I’m not denying myself of the luxury to sleep in for 21 days so God will bless my life. It’s not about me. God is equipping me to encourage and bring life to others. Through these moments, my heart is filled and my spirit refreshed. I went to bed feeling humbled by God’s perfect timing. I was also reminded that we don’t serve a “big-finale” kind of God. We don’t have to endure 21 days of sacrifice for Him to answer a prayer. God’s love and eternal invitation to be adopted into His family is a gift. He answers prayers every single day. Every day there are miracles. (Did I say every day?). We serve a moment-by-moment God.
Day 2: Salvation
After feeling so humbled by God’s goodness after day one, I woke up nearly dancing feeling eager to be apart of God’s plan for day two. The intention of my day: salvation. Truthfully, once I read what the focus for the day was, I felt a little uneasy. Salvation is a heavy word.
“anyone who wants to approach God must believe that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Do you ever read a verse and think, “Has that always been in there? How have I missed this!?” Because same.
Hebrews 11 recalls times in history that people showed faith. It lists Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. One thing that all of these people had in common, was that their faith was represented through action. Faith is action. They didn’t just believe in God, but they believed that God believed in them. Wow. One of my biggest struggles is believing that I am usable. I believe that God can do the impossible around me, but struggle to believe that God can do the impossible through me. That morning, I prayed to have the same passion that my 7th grade self had after I was saved. Two names were placed on my heart that morning, and by the end of day I had extended encouragement to both. There weren’t tears or major revelations; however, seeds were planted and I was able to feel God’s unwavering belief in my imperfect ability a little deeper. I am learning to squash my self-doubt with the belief that despite how small my gifts and talents are, I am capable of achieving the impossible by the power of God who lives in me.
Day 3: Mercy
Maybe it’s the fogginess of waking up at 5am, but again I woke up unclear on what to think about the day’s focus. What does mercy even mean?
“but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself” (Luke 18:14).
I find so much relief in this promise. I spent years of my life so NOT content with who I was. I thought I was the exception to God’s perfection… he had created me full of mistakes. One of the clearest messages I have felt God place on my heart is the idea of wrecking my image. I feel so obsessed and passionate with this idea: Wrecking my Image to Embrace my Identity. God has planted a message on my heart and called me to encourage by sharing my story. Day three was a reminder of this.
That Wednesday night I had bible study at my church. As my sisters, best friend, and I left, the weather had become quite icky. I pulled out of my parking space to leave, and totally (and I mean TOTALLY) ran over the curb that separated the parking spot from the street. It was hard to see outside, and I forgot how close the curb was. The car was completely fine, and the only thing damaged was my pride. Immediately, I felt the need to defend myself. My sisters and friend had just witnessed me make an embarrassing mistake, so I quickly reminded them of my “flawless” driving record. I have never been in an accident or received a ticket. (Truthfully, that should read, “I have gotten lucky on numerous occasions and have never been caught speeding.”.) That day God gave me a deeper understand of His mercy. Mercy is accepting that despite my mistakes as a driver, God still trusts me to drive. When I follow my own path and ability, I tend to run into a lot of curbs; however, when I let God be my guide and I give him control of the direction of my life, I find myself on a beautiful journey. Mercy is accepting His embrace even when I fall. It’s living in constant awe that God chose me, and He can use my imperfect self.
I think there is this misconception that when we become Christians we let “Jesus take the wheel” (cue music). I disagree. Being a Christian is very active. We still have free will, and can choose what path we take each day. If Jesus was at the wheel, life would be MUCH easier and a lot less bumpy. He’s a perfect driver. Instead, being a Christian is about letting the Holy Spirit be your GPS (sorry for the cheesy comparison but analogies and metaphors are kind of my guilty pleasure). Being a Christian sounds a lot like this:
GPS (aka Jesus): Turn left in 800 ft.
Driver (aka Abbey): I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong way. I’m not suppose to turn this soon. That can’t be right.
GPS: Turn left in 400ft….100 ft….50 ft…turn le-
Driver: Do you even know where we are? Maybe this is outdated. You probably didn’t see that they recently added a round-about. I’m going straight.
No matter how many times the GPS has to recalculate because I choose to go the wrong direction, I am reassured by God’s mercy that despite my many mistakes God’s destination for me never changes. He always recalculates. I don’t have to know where I am going because God’s guidance is enough. The destination is set.
Day 4: Faith
“‘How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?… You’re not taking God seriously,’ said Jesus. ‘The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle'” (Matthew 17: 17,20).
Ouch. I can feel the annoyed eye roll as Jesus speaks. The crazy thing is that Jesus isn’t annoyed that people are coming to him for miracles. He’s annoyed because his disciples don’t understand that they have the authority to preform the same miracles through the Holy Spirit. I felt God convicting me about my prayer life…again (my prayer life clearly needs some work and that’s okay). First off, I need to believe that God can do the impossible through me! Not only can God move mountains, but God can use ME to move mountains. I think sometimes I fall into this category I like to call “prayticipating” when I should be participating. “Prayticipating” is when we like to solve problems and pains by responding with, “I’ll pray for you/the situation/etc”…and then waiting for God to do the real healing without our active participation. We wait for God. Participating is when we take authority over our individual part to move mountains. Prayer is a great gift, and we should always bring our troubles and triumphs to God; however, when it comes to the promises of God, we have the authority to declare them over our mountains.
For example, I would never have found freedom from my eating disorder if I just prayed for freedom and waited (I know this because I tried it many times). I wasn’t going to wake up one day suddenly feeling free because I prayed for it. Freedom is already a guaranteed gift and promise from God (John 8:36). It wasn’t until I declared my God-given freedom over my life that the mountain moved. I had to take authority over my part in moving the mountain, because God had already done his part.
Day 5: Temptation
Every morning when my alarm goes off, I am tempted to go back to sleep. In the moment, my thoughts are centered around the weight of my eye lids and the comfort of my pillows. I don’t push myself to get out of bed by telling myself I’m not sleepy. I roll out of bed each morning because 1) it’s my “fast” for the 21 days of prayer and fasting and 2) I am genuinely excited to spend time in God’s presence. Somehow, He knows how to turn my painful crawl out of bed into an energetic dance in the matter of minutes. Even when I wake up doubting that I’ll have the energy to read my devotionals without turning my book into a pillow, within 20 minutes I am surprised by my wide-eyed worship at 6am.
Day 5 reminded me that attacks from the enemy are not a matter of if but a matter of when. The enemy is crouched waiting for us to be vulnerable; however, we don’t defeat temptation by preparing for the battle. We overcome the enemy by declaring and preparing for victory. God is not sin-focused. So, it’s silly to try and defeat your temptations by putting your focus on the problem. Instead, our eyes must be fixed on God’s power over sin. When I’m tempted to hit snooze, I don’t focus on not falling asleep….I focus on waking up. Overcoming temptation is about running towards the promise and plans of God. As I enter into 2016, I’m equipping myself with the word and truth of God. I’m focusing on my inherited victory as a child of God.
Day 6: Fear
Day 6 is today! (The day I am writing this blog post). I wasn’t sure if I should include this day in part 1 just for the sake of trying to avoid writing too much; however, when God answers specific prayers…I cannot help but share His goodness!
This morning in my prayer journal I wrote, “God I pray for your spirit to speak through me this morning as I blog and write”. I had planned on going to Post Coffee to blog all week. I love coffee. I love blogging. Why not mix the two? As I was putting on my shoes to leave I felt God speak to my heart this message, “You don’t always have to be the bold initiator, but you are equipped to respond boldly.” I am not an initiator, and boldness is definitely not one of my strengths; however, God has given me a desire to build up my boldness. So my daily prayer is to be boldly confident and confidently bold. I feel a desire to lead and encourage others by sharing my story. Either way, I am a work in process. This morning God reminded me that He is with me through the process. He created me perfectly for TODAY. So, even though I desire to be someone who can boldly initiate conversations of encouragement…today I didn’t feel quite there. Now, I truly believe God can transform us in the moment, and loves when we step far out of our comfort zone; however, he also knows our heart and our spiritual gifts. God created me. He’s not surprised when I tell him boldness is not my strength.
Today at Post coffee while working on this blog (it has taken me three locations and a couple of hours to complete this), a girl slightly younger than me approached me just to appreciate and acknowledge the fact that we were both reading our Bibles. We should celebrate and feel united when we encounter other believers. We began talking and sharing a bit of our stories. We both found encouragement in hearing each other’s hearts, and exchanged numbers to stay in contact. Wow. The movement of God was undeniable. The reassurance He placed on my heart earlier that day was equipping me for this exact moment. When we go to God everyday for our daily bread, He’s there waiting to answer our prayers.
“I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown” (Isaiah 43:1).
We are not called to live fearless lives just because God is big, strong, and can win every battle. We are called to live fearless lives because God is personally equipping us for our specific battles. Jesus did not die on the cross just so He could have victory over the enemy. Jesus died on the cross for YOU! His love is personal. He equips us for each day specifically! His strategy is personalized to YOU! The enemy cannot create. He can only kill, steal, and destroy. His strategy never changes. Today I was reminded that God created me and knows more about me than I know about myself. He is personal, loving, caring, and protective. I live fearlessly not just because I know my God is strong, but I live fearlessly because I know my God is strong for and in ME!
The coolest thing about God is that his love is limitless. His goodness is limitless. It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, or how “mature” of a Christian you think you are (or are not)…You can always go deeper. I don’t know anything about what tomorrow brings, or if I will even be lucky enough to get a tomorrow. But I do know that God doesn’t hold back or save his best for our “best”. He’s a moment-by-moment God, eager to bring the best out of each and every moment.