For three years, God and I have been wrestling. The main point of contention… at least on the surface…
When I arrived in Austin the August of 2011, I was a shell of myself. Broken down and confused, the last thing I wanted was to be somewhere familiar. I wanted a fresh start. As cheesy as it sounds, I truly wanted a place where nobody knew my name. Where I could flee the previous 12 months and never have to think about it again.
But, God sent me to Austin. A place where a lot of people knew my name. A place where I would have to confront my shame and hurt and what I really believed about God face-to-face. Three years later, He’s still using Austin to do just that.
My default is to escape. It’s been how I cope with life for as long as I can remember. When I was 9, it was an emotional escape. I built a strong wall, and wouldn’t let anyone in. In high school, I physically escaped to my Young Life leader’s apartment and emotionally escaped to boys that didn’t have my best interest in mind. In college, I took any opportunity I could to go. I spent summers working at Young Life camps or traveling to other countries.
This August marks 7 total years of being in Austin, 3 years of being back here after living in Puerto Rico, and I haven’t been able to escape. So naturally, when flight doesn’t work, I turned to fight and begin bargaining with God. I alternate between being angry that I’m still in Austin, and hopeful in all the wrong circumstantial things that I believe will make the tightness in my chest go away.
And now, the possibility of Taylor and I being in Austin for the immediate long term has been set before us.
Let’s just say, things got real. Fast.
I felt like a wild stallion tied down to a boulder, bucking, struggling with all my might, just wanting to bolt, getting more and more frustrated with each passing moment that I couldn’t.
But the Rock held me there.
And in the middle of trying to move the Rock, to get it to cooperate with what I want, I open up to the day’s passage of Acts and read:
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. – Acts 20:24
And then, on one particularly raw morning, as the ache in my chest is real from wounds re-opening and I’m trying to process, I open up to Acts again and the first thing I see is:
I do not seek to escape death. – Acts 25: 11
It hits me over the head like a ton of bricks. Paul spoke those words while on trial before Felix. He’s on trial for his faith. He was arrested in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit led him back there. That’s correct: the Holy Spirit led him to a place where he would almost surely face death. And Paul didn’t try to run. Because he values the gospel of grace as precious over his life.
A few days later, I decided to start reading Restless after a few months of convincing myself that word wasn’t exactly how I was feeling. The first few chapters confirmed my fear:
The kind of life you want is on the other side of death.
Complete and total surrender is what God requires of us. He does not share his glory… and I’ve been asking him to. I’ve been running away from the very thing that will bring me true life: death. I’ve seen my life as more precious than the ministry of the gospel of grace. I have been tight-fisted, gripping on my dreams, trying to protect them from the One who builds dreams. He’s asking for a total surrender of my dreams, my fears, my opinions and thoughts about what my life should look like. Austin is a place where I’ve experienced spiritual death. I saw more coming and tried to escape, asking God, “Haven’t I given you enough?” And he gently answered, “No. Unclench your fists. I need what you’re holding in there, no bargaining, no competing, no conditions. Trust me with it. Give it to me.”
It’s as if he’s saying, “It’s been a rough 3 years. I’ve been waiting for you. Are you ready to do this for real now?”
I am. Even a fighter gets tired of fighting for the wrong thing. And so I surrender open-handed. Instead of seeking to escape death, I’m asking God to help me trust where His Spirit leads me. I’m asking Him to help me lean in to the death that I see coming, and to help me believe His words that true life is right on the other side.
What are you gripping that could be keeping you from true life?
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