As I thought through what to share with you today, I became overwhelmed, as a detail-oriented person, in thinking about attempting to summarize a year of my life of learning, growing, and changing. From the day I walked into VOH, it’s been like drinking from a fire hydrant! So I wonder, what direction do I take with the few minutes that I have, and how can I choose what’s important, because to me it was ALL important since it played a significant part in bringing me to where I am today.
God revealed A LOT about the heart to me, and showed me what a calloused, prideful, and completely selfish person I had become. He not only showed me what was in my heart, but because of what was in my heart was the reason my life looked the way that it did. When our focus becomes “out of alignment” so to speak, it affects every area of life.
One of the biggest things that hit me when I came to VOH, was that life is NOT ABOUT ME! I was on the throne of my heart rather than God, and I hadn’t even recognized it in that light. I was so focused on perfecting and preserving my outer appearance, that I’d become oblivious to what’s been in front of me all along. C.S. Lewis says “we are like an ignorant child who want to go on making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
My life became a repeated cycle of eating disorders and materialistic addictions, and from there things just kept snowballing. Relationships went nowhere because they weren’t centered around Christ, and friendships were for the most part superficial, being connected mainly by fun. Attitude problems, ungratefulness, manipulation, dishonestly, and rebellious behavior overflowed from what was going on in my heart—I wanted what I wanted. What I was doing was a result of what I wanted, and I wanted those things because I was deceived into believing they were giving me something I couldn’t live without, when in fact the ONLY thing the I can NOT live without is Christ.
My problem did not begin with poor eating habits, it began in my mind, when one little thought after another slipped by, unfiltered through truth, and began to plant themselves in my heart. From there, the roots grew, and bad fruit was produced from a bad tree. What we worship is the focal point of everything we do, and out of my selfishness, I was giving myself to idols. Being uprooted and totally cut off from many of my idols and my lifestyle, was exactly what I needed. God strips us of our worthless idols because they rob Him of his glory, they rob us of an abundant and fruitful life, and blind us to truth. I was afraid to completely let go because I thought I was somehow benefiting from them. I Samuel 12:21 “Do not turn away after USELESS idols. They can do you NO good, nor can they rescue you because they are USELESS.”
I found myself not really knowing how I got to the point that I was at, but knowing that who I was, was not who I was meant to be, and the lifestyle I’d created for myself just engulfed me. I realized that I’m not exactly making the best choices and I should think about my choice of lifestyle. It was time to actually DO something about it. I couldn’t continue the rest of my life on a downward spiral. Where would I be 5 years from now? I had to think about what I wanted my life to look like, what I’m really about, what defines me, what my life NEEDS to look like in order to glorify God. Once it hit me that God IS life, and that’s the only purpose as to why I’m here, it changes how I live life, how I handle life, and what I strive to obtain and achieve. I had been spiritually starved because of the things I was choosing for myself; when we stop trying to cram everything else inside and turn to him, he fills us to satisfaction and completion. Our hearts are naturally hard which is why it’s so important to daily immerse ourselves with truth. A need for God is a strength, not a weakness, because when you lean on the one who sustains all things, you become strong. I constantly need God in everything. I need him to heal me on the inside, to help me on the outside, and to make my life fruitful.
Everything apart from Christ leads to an empty life. Often, its takes us stumbling through the same lesson over and over and over again to really actually get it. My heart was deceived in believing that appearance gained approval, acceptance, and love—that’s what the world begs you to believe. But what happens when all of that fades? Looks don’t last forever…you can put all your time, energy, and money into trying to maintain or obtain a certain look and body type, but you’re just fighting against a never-ending battle, and losing against the process of time. Once you’re 80, you’re 80…you don’t want to be the same person you were when you were 18…the goal is to keep moving forward and growing on the inside, not preserving the outside, that cannot be preserved…and if that’s all you ever lived for, what type of investment will your life have been?—one that focused on and invested everything in something so temporary and superficial, or one that has been a journey of growth in the things that will last for eternity—that’s what matters to God… I Peter 3:3-4 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your INNER self, the UNFADING beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
My phase 3 didn’t go entirely the way I’d expected and more less hoped it would go…it was much harder than I anticipated. I think that I tried to intertwine my hypothetic perfect little world with reality, and reality reminded me of square one: its not about me! It’s not about getting everything to line up perfectly, or to fix and change people and make them who I want them to be; it’s not about even my own life being what I consider to be ideal.
I almost had forgotten, with being in such a filtered environment for 9 months, how hard the world presses and how many things life bombards you with, and all the distractions that are fighting for your heart. It’s not a game, and its not just the “busyness of life” that many refer to, it’s a very real, very present spiritual war. Satan is subtly deceptive and knows our vulnerabilities. I’m so thankful though, that my heart rests in the hands of a very powerful and sovereign God who loves and protects me, and wants only good for me. I desire to be fully committed to the Lord; in my humanity my heart will always be divided, but the Lord wants to be our help… in 2 Chronicles 16:9 it says “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…”
A need for God is a strength, not a weakness, because when you lean on the one who sustains all things, you become strong. I constantly need God in everything. I needed him to heal me on the inside, to help me on the outside, and to make my life fruitful.
All of this is exactly what God planned for me though. It’s been a daily battle of dying to self and living a life of humility as Christ did, embracing God’s infinite grace, and an on-going process of learning to have patience with God’s time table, trusting in his sovereignty, growing in faith, love, and wisdom. I wish life was easy and I wish I had the answers to all life’s questions and uncertainties, but I don’t, and therefore since I cant rely on myself, it’s been teaching me to rely on the one who does—the one who gave me life in the first place, who knows every detail and has something great in store—Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
So I never thought for a second that it’d be an emotional time when it came time for me to move on from this place, but it became my second familiar, and I developed friendships that are rooted and solidly grounded in our Savior. I learned what biblical friendships look like as well as the importance of them. There were times in the program when I was sure I would give up, but there were 3 things I told myself in those times:
1. Hard isn’t bad, its just hard (a quote from an intern at one point), and it’s the hard things in life that shape us and grow us. God knows exactly what it takes to draw us to himself and to make us more like his son. Rom. 5:3-5 “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” If we keep our eyes fixed on the cross rather than our circumstances, we will always be sure of God’s love for us and his purpose for our life.
2. WHAT am I committed to? My series of poor choices which became poor habits in my life led me to seek guidance and counsel, and not just any counsel, but counsel that was fastened tight to biblical truth. I was tired of spinning in circles, and being enslaved to the desires of my deceitful heart. God led me to VOH. It’s probably one of the biggest commitments I’ve ever made so far, and the hardest, but it was well worth it. The things in life that are the most worth it are also usually the hardest.
3. Giving up on the program meant missing out on finding true freedom, and it also meant not having the things in common with the people who mattered most to me.
Romans 6:21-22 “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
This program was so much more than I was aware that I was walking in to. My wrong perspective on Christianity skewed perspectives in other areas, but as my understanding of God and his love broadened, the gospel has become so much deeper. In all of his grace and love for me, He snatched me from the waves of life that were tossing me back and forth, and stood me on solid ground.