Thoughts & Reflections

Hello friends, it’s so good to see you again! I’ve had many topics in which I’ve thought about writing about, and every time I sit down to write this annoyingly small creature perches upon my shoulder called writer’s block. Like every other block in my life it’s… um… frustrating! I’m not exactly sure what I have to say or how coherent or structured this piece is going to be, but I just want to share what’s been going on and be transparent about things. I ask that you take what you read with a grain of salt, because what I share is not necessarily the reality of things… rather what I am feeling.

If you do not know me, there’s a couple of things you should know about me that may help you have insight into what follows from here. I am a deeply internal processor. I feel things deeply. My emotions are felt strongly. I relate to the world based on how I feel. At the same time, I am a very literal and cerebral thinker. I process everything through the lens of what makes most logical sense. What is most effective or efficient. Thus, I have this (admittedly troublesome) ability to over-think things. In seeking efficiency, I tend to make things WAY more complicated than they need to be. I am, undoubtedly, my own worst enemy.

Moreover, I am also my biggest critic. The hubris of humility (at least as I analyze myself) is that I am completely unremarkable. I’m not the best writer, my photography is okay, I can come off too strong. Again, take what you read with a grain of salt… what I feel is not what is true. Perception is not always reality, especially when I know that my thoughts often betray me. At times, I feel relegated to my eleven foot by ten foot corner of the universe as though it’s a storage unit for me to reside in until a task requires my technical abilities rather than my presence actually being wanted. As if I’m known for what I do and less for who I am. I feel as though people depend on me to be strong, even though I feel as though I’m crumbling to pieces…

I have a hard time admitting these things to others. I have difficulty finding the right words, in the moment, to describe where I am at. It frustrates me to no end, because I know (although do not always recognize) that none of these things are inherently true in their nature. So why am I so insecure? What is it that these ideas seemingly reoccur time and time again when things are going so well? I have been and continue to be so undeserving of the blessings God has bestowed upon me in this life, and yet every blessing seems to be met with an ever increasing attack from the enemy. I do not always fall to the attacks of the enemy, but it has lingering heaviness upon my soul in the process nonetheless.

A couple months ago, I wrote about how difficult it is for me to pray for my own needs while incredibly easy to pray for others. I’m still working on that because I’m stubborn… but something that I’ve had to face recently goes back to the paraphrase of James 4:2-3. You have not, because you ask not. Apart from my pleading to God to take up the weight of my grief, I cannot remember the last time I told God what I wanted. Not as some petulant, obstinate, selfish child, but shared with God the deepest, intimate, sincerest desire of my heart. Who better to share with great confidence than God the desires of our hearts and souls?

Last year, when I was in Southeast Asia I was sitting outside of our hotel with a friend of mine. We had been talking for a little bit about our time over there, and how hospitable the people had been to us. One of the things that I got to experience was drinking coconut water straight from the coconut, but she had not. She confided to me, that she had prayed for a coconut as silly as that may be. I kid you not, the moment that she shared her prayer with me, we heard a dull thunk on the ground a few meter away. A coconut had fallen out a tree. You guys should have seen her smile as her request had been heard and met. As simple as it may seem, God is faithful to provide. He hears our requests and encourages our souls by His simple reminders.

Each of those things that I’ve described above appear when certain topics or desires begin pressing upon my heart. I probably would not describe myself as insecure, but as I lay all of these things out there… perhaps there are some deeply rooted insecurities that I need to address in my life. Self-doubt. Self-deprecation. There is always a hint of the truth behind humor, especially when it comes at our own expense. Ye

Normally, I try to have some teachable lesson from my experiences that may help others. Yet, in this instance, I believe (somewhat ironically) that greater self-reflection is necessary in order to really lay down these things at the feet of Jesus. Even more so, letting my closest peers in to help me work through some of these things. Learning to just speak plainly about the insecurity, doubt, and fears of my life. Beyond that, I do not know how to end this post apart from leaving it open-ended. A topic to revisit at some later date for writing and discussion.

Uninvited

Pulling out of the driveway of a rented beach house on a beautiful Saturday evening, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of loneliness and separation. There, within the confines of my vehicle, I felt as though I were a million miles away from the rest of the world and from myself. In the heaviest of traffic, I was seized and wretched by this unseen force with tears dammed just beneath the surface ready to breech. In an instant, the bottom dropped out and my heart plummeted into a depths of the abyss. How could this be? Where did this come from? Why do I feel so numb to everything? My world was flipped in one instantaneous moment and has continued to linger since.

My weekend leading up to this moment had been one of the best experiences I’ve had with my friends in a long time. Thursday night we packed into a theater ready to experience all that was Avengers: End Game. The following day was met with one of my favorite pastimes, baseball. Myself and three of my most favorite friends loaded up my car to head to the stadium. We had the most lovely of times watching the game, sharing in laughs over the heckler sitting a row behind us, and the well orchestrated fireworks that followed the game! We truly did have a wonderful evening together. Saturday brought with it a crawfish boil where even more of my friends gathered together to share in fellowship and fun. Yet, just mere hours later, I was struck by the cold, numb feeling of loneliness.

Loneliness is defined as “being without company, cut off from others, not frequented by human beings, sad from being alone, and producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation” by Merriam-Webster. Britannica states that loneliness “occurs when a person’s social relationships are perceived by that person to be less in quantity, and especially in quality, than desired” and highlights the highly subjective nature of loneliness. One may be alone, but not feel lonely whereas one may be surrounded by others and feel lonely. At this time, I fall in the second camp as I’m surrounded by many incredible people who I have strong relationships with, but I feel lonely. Outwardly, I may not appear as though I am hurting but that couldn’t be further from reality. I am not putting up a front or trying to hide my pain, which is, perhaps, why being under this particular mood or temperament is so difficult for me.

Pain comes in many forms, but, unlike physical pain, loneliness hurts without anything inflicting a wound. Loneliness attacks the heart and it’s fragile brokenness is only exaggerated by the spotlight that is isolation. The best way I can describe it for myself is an overarching feeling as if I am just a bystander to other people’s lives and successes. An inconsequential, obscure blur as the world passes by like the trees on the side of the road as your stare out of the car window. The reality is that loneliness hurts unlike any other pain one experiences, and is difficult to describe beyond general abstractions like the definitions given above. In my case, I am not without company, or cut off from others. I am frequently around human beings, and I am not sad from being alone. I may be down, I may feel sad, but my sadness does not stem from being away from others.

Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston seats 41,168 people, which is incredible considering the stadium does not feel as though it is as large as it actually is. Then again that’s what good stadium design is suppose to do. All things considered, being one face in a massive crowd reveals one of the more frustrating aspects of loneliness — just because you’re around people does not mean that you’re not lonely. You may feel fine and know that you’re on good terms with your circle of friends, but you can still feel distant and cold. For myself, I become frustrated by this because I am waging war between what is real and how I currently feel. Bemoaning the difficult navigation that I must take in order to remain rooted during such times of intense loneliness. However, this too shall pass.

The mind is a curious thing, and is not impervious from the affects of sin. We must be graceful and cautious in our approach to addressing these matters. While we may be well-intentioned in our words and actions, we may inadvertently provide ill-informed advice and care to those who are hurting. As someone who has, off and on, experienced loneliness and depression, I can speak to the illogical thoughts and feelings that appear when experiencing such matters. While we may know that the thoughts of loneliness and sadness are not true or unfounded, we are burdened by the weight the circumstances we find ourselves in. Loneliness and depression can go hand-in-hand with one another, and oft times come in relationship to one another. For myself, loneliness came first and then the mild depression. As I write this now, both have passed and been removed from their residences in my life. As unwelcome of guests as they may be, I have had to reflect upon myself and the tendencies I have in how I respond to changes in my emotional and mental well-being.

I have, without a shadow of a doubt, been called into ministry. Looking back through life, I see the path and opportunities God placed before me to bring me to where I am today. He has sought my heart and obedience so that I may want His will over my will. However, as I’ve gone deeper and deeper into this process, I have learned from my peers and friends who are in ministry of the dangers of this calling. One fact that I have seen in my life and in others, is that those who are called into ministry are attacked through different means. One of the more quiet, less visible means by which they are attacked is loneliness. In leading others, in serving others, and in creating a space for people to flourish, the illusion may appear that ministers/pastors/leaders are without suffering. Do not be fooled! We can easily forget that we are all broken, because of the way in which people carry themselves. Not that people are putting up a front or trying to wear a mask, but we carry ourselves in a manner based on who God says that we are. Our hope and trust in God dictates how we conduct ourselves in spite of whatever trial we may be facing.

Having said all that I have, I recognize that I have some areas which may feed these uninvited guests. Firstly, I tend to put other’s needs above my own. I favor lifting others up over speaking up that I am hurting. Secondly, I can fall into the trap of belief that because others do not show the same level or awareness of compassion that I do, that must mean that others do not care. We are all gifted very different and have different skill sets suited for different tasks. I happen to be called to and gifted in counseling which has very specific methods of execution. Much of my expectations in being cared for stem from my own background, which is not how most people are going to operate. Finally, I carry/conduct myself very particularly and as a leader among my church family, the perception seems to be that I have life figured out and that life is easy. None of us, in reality, believe that anyone else’s lives are perfect or easy or without their struggle. We do, however, sometimes forget that reality for any number of reasons. I’m guilty of this too.

As I finish writing this post, these feeling have since subsided and been subdued. Loneliness and depression are uninvited guests who can linger for some time or pass quickly. Fortunately, both have moved on quickly in realization that I am not going to wallow in self-pity and self-doubt. I have a community that is focused on transparency and accountability who I can rely upon to walk with me through whatever season I find myself in. I wish to encourage you, whomever may be reading this, to seek out a community who will serve you, love you, and walk through every season with you! If you are hurting and in despair, lean in to those around you! Surround yourself with other who love you and care for you and be willing to speak up about the difficult parts of your life. Be willing to let go of the bondage of loneliness, depression, and sin and find hope, freedom, and mercy in the hands of God! Be brave, not matter the fear or doubt you may have, to speak up when you are hurting. Rely upon those God has placed in your life and trust in His purposeful placement of those around you!

I AM

Just about once a month, I am brought down and told lies about my life. I’m told that I’m not worthy of being loved or finding loved. Told that I am not wanted, that I do not belong, that the people who I call friends only tolerate me and would rather be free of my presence… Lie after lie spoken to me in my own voice with words that are not my own. Even though I know that these words are false, I am weighed down and my spirit crushed. The enemy attacks very specifically, tactfully and I always know that it’s coming. The thing that makes all of this worse, is that I am dying on the inside and yet nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care (false).

I am partly to blame for people not realizing that I am suffering. I have a tendency to carry myself as if nothing is wrong and that I am well despite being suffocating. A few of my closer friends have begun to take notice and call me out when they can sense that I’m masking my struggle (thanks Madison!). I’ve also been more intentional of speaking up when I’m faltering. I’ve also come to learn that I am not alone in being attacked in this way. I and some of the other leaders of my college ministry are also attacked in this very similar way. Why? What is it that the enemy is seeking to do? Why does he seek to sow discord among us and our peers? I am baffled as to why we’re being attacked in very similar circumstances with almost identical statements of isolation. Yet my God is bigger. His word is clear.


After Moses killed a man and fled into the wilderness, he dwelled in Midian where he was met by God through a burning bush. “Moses, Moses,” God called out to him, “here I am… I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God makes it clear that Moses known who He is and proceeds to give Moses a seemingly impossible task: to lead Israel out of the land of Egypt. Moses, like many of us questions God, asking, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out Egypt?” In this moment, Moses doubted his capability to overcome what appears to be an insurmountable mission and God responds with, “I will be with you.” Moses again questions God how should he answer should the Israelites ask the name of God who has sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt. “I AM WHO I AM. Say to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”


God is immutably clear when He approaches us. He leaves no room for question or doubt. I am who I am. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. God states the relationship He has had with people with whom Moses as well as Israel would be familiar with. In doing this, God establishes a trustworthiness and gives Moses a reason to trust that God is going to work through Moses to fulfill His will. Moses’ encounter with God spurs a level of confidence that I find difficult to relate to. I do not know why I am so lacking. Why am I not confident in my faith? Why am I so timid about sharing my faith? Why do I find it so hard to believe that God is going to provide?

When my life becomes difficult, as it currently is, and lies are being spoke about me God is clear. Here I am. I am. God is present all the time and is speaking against the enemy! He is making His presence known. Here I am. Furthermore, God wants to be the center of our lives! He wants us to be secure in His will and to know that He is our God. How can I give any credence to the lies that are drowning out reality and God could barely speak in a whisper and put the lies to silence? God has a purpose of my life and He wants me to trust Him. Who am I to doubt God? Who am I to question His timing?

Honestly, I don’t know where I’m going with this post. I lost. Wandering life in circles. I don’t get it… I’m conflicted because I know God and yet I do not blindly trust Him. I know He is leading me and yet I want to flee. I know God loves me but I question Him. I know God has a purpose for me and yet I do not believe it. Why am I so broken? Why am I failing? What is it that is keeping me from being fully invested in the work of God? Why do I believe the lies? Why do I speak negatively of myself? Why do I compare myself to others?

One thing is clear. My God is bigger than my shortcoming. My God is bigger than my doubts. My God is louder than the lies. My God loves me even when I don’t. My God has gone before me to prepare a way. My God has established why I can trust Him. My God has shown me why I can love Him. Why I can worship Him. Why I can know that He is who He is.

My God made a nation from Abraham, my God delivered His people out of the hands of Egypt, my God gave Israel a king in David, God made a new covenant through Christ. God fulfilled every promise He made. My God has followed through in every covenant He made. My God is alive and He is living in me! My God has told me who I am. Now I have to believe that I am who God says I am.

God has made a place for me in this life. God has given me a family to love. My God has given me friends to share in life with. My God has given me a savior who died for me. No matter the lies, the doubt, the fear, the rejection, My God is bigger! His word is clear! I can be bold. I can trust that I am His. I am God’s child and I have no need in fear. I have no need in doubt. I can. I am because of who I AM is.

The Unengaged Life: Finding Purpose

Last week, I wrote about a conversation I had with a friend of mine regarding the excitement she had in God answering her prayer for opportunity to share the gospel with her coworkers. In examining the nature of shame and confidence, I began to think about the nature of living fearlessly, as Paul described in Ephesians. In the same fashion that shame steals our confidence, so too does sin lead us to a place of isolation and of inaction. However, God did not design us to stagnant or isolated creatures. We were designed to be social creatures who lived a life in community with himself and with others. So, too, were we designed to be laborers of both the physical and the spiritual worlds. Why, then, is our generation so isolated and disengaged? What has driven us to a place of inaction?

To begin, let us look at God’s intentional design. Genesis presents the creation account of the universe and mankind. He created man with a purpose and a design which is laid out in Genesis 1:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground… God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give you every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…

-Genesis 1:26; 28-31 NIV

This passage reveals a few things about creation and about mankind. Firstly, God created a system by which life behaves. All the animals, plants fall under the dominion of Man. They are created for a particular reason, such as food, and as such have a purpose in existence. Secondly, Man has an authority over the creation God assigned. Subdue it, God commands Adam and Eve, and multiply in it. As God finished creating the world, he brought all the animals to Adam and told him to name them. During this time, God observed that Adam had no one to assist him. So, to bring about God’s purpose for man, created a helper for Adam out of his flesh. God created woman, for she taken out of man, and she was to be a helper to Adam. Genesis 2 gives the account of the first marriage, the unbreakable bond between man and woman. They were charged with what is known as the Dominion Mandate, in which mankind is charged with ruling over the earth, and to fill it with more of their kind. Thus, with the creation of Eve, Adam was no longer alone and they, Adam and Eve, existed in creation with God. They were in community with one another and with God.

So from the beginning, mankind was designed for community. To be in the presence with others, to care for, to help, to build up one another, and as Proverbs would later say, to sharpen one another. When we isolate ourselves, we starve ourselves of the much needed correspondence that only come from others who are invested in our lives. We are separated from correction, form assistance, and from being a partner in the purpose God gave us. God called us into a place where we are interacting with others, to share in the lives of others. As believers, we are not to isolate ourselves, but to go out into the world and be examples of God’s love. Just as God charged mankind with dominion over creation, Jesus, too, commanded us to:

…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

– Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

Jesus charged us with a purpose, that like Adam and Eve, to continue the work that was presented to us. To make disciples. If and when we isolate ourselves, when we remove ourselves from others from the myriad of reasons that we seek to remove ourselves from people, we’re disobeying God. We’re rejecting the God given community that we’re designed to be apart of. Additionally, when we remove ourselves from society, we’re effectively denying the calling Christ gave us. Thanks to the fall, which is documented in Genesis 3, sin makes us seek isolation. Makes us seek a place to hide. Much like Adam and Eve, who before eating of the fruit we not ashamed to be naked (they did not know that they were naked), were ashamed to learn that they were naked and fled to clothe themselves.

Sin lies to us. Sin deceives us from finding community. Sin wants us to give it a place to find safe harbor. When we’re in community, specifically among other believers, sin seeks to make us uncomfortable. Sin attempts to silence our voices for when sin is revealed, its power and sway over us is weakened. This is why we must be engaged with others. Being an idol believer, we’re rejecting God. We’re disobeying the commands given to us. We’re selfishly hoarding the truth that we know to be true, and/or are harboring deep rooted sin that we’re unwilling to give up. It causes us to hide ourselves away, to denounce the important need of others, to reject correction, and to leads us to apathy.

The other aspect of the unengaged life is laziness. Laziness stirs within us and decouples ourselves from responsibilities. We don’t want to do anything. We don’t want to see anyone. And we don’t want to bear the breadth of responsibilities that are placed upon us. We sit idly by as the world continues to turn. Here, in this place of apathy, growth is stunted. Here responsibility is soured. Here we suffocate ourselves.

We were not designed to be lazy. We were made to rest. Rest that comes at the end of work. A time to recharge and be renewed for the days to come. However, laziness does not bring about a return to work. Laziness spins itself into a cycle of putting things off, delusions of things taking care of their own needs. God did not create us like that. Yet in this current age, there is more and more things to occupy our time for inconsequential, trivial laziness. We binge episode after episode of entertainment day after day after day. Whole weekends disappear with nothing being completed. Laziness breeds a lacking motivation. It removes the need to stir ourselves up into action. God designed us to need rest, but he gave us a responsibility to work.

The unengaged Christian is spiritually lazy. They don’t seek out God, they don’t seek out the Word, and they don’t seek to speak truth into the lives of others. I know I’ve been this kind of Christian in my life. I can attest to the destructive path this lifestyle takes. Yet I know that God sends people into our lives to spur us out of such patterns and calls us to do the work he called for us.

You see, when we’re not sure what our purpose is, we begin to slow down and wait. We wait until we’re somewhat interested in something before taking action. The truth, however, is that we have already been given a purpose. We’re to live a life in an worthy manner. A manner that reflects the perfect life of Christ. We’re to be a beacon on a hill to everyone around us that God had done something for us that the world will never be able to fill. We’ve been charged with making disciples, to work and labor for God’s people. To bring share his love with everyone that crosses our path. How can we do that if we’re not engaged? If we’re not actively seeking it?

There is much to be done, and we ought to run the race diligently, purposefully. We must, as believers, be actively engaged in pursuing the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. We must seek community that challenges us, spurs us out of sin, pushes us to be faithful servants, and builds a community that makes disciples. The engaged Christian life reflects the life of Christ and the disciples that wholeheartedly sought to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. Their zeal was challenged along the way, but no obstacles kept them from proclaiming truth to all that crossed their path.

I wonder how this generation would be different if every believer was boldly confident, as I wrote of last week, fearlessly proclaiming the gospel, and was actively in pursuit of God’s charge. How would the world look? How could our communities, colleges, and cities look if Christians stood up and fought for the expansion of the gospel like the disciples did? I believe the world would be a much better place, and that more people would find peace that can only be found in the arms of Christ!

Grace and peace, -Terren-It-Up