That's been my heart's prayer for the last 3-4 months. Empty me. Empty me of EVERYTHING that is not YOU.
This prayer was based out of a song that God used greatly in my life by a group called Tenth Avenue North. The song is called "Empty My Hands." One verse of the lyrics really hit me:
But if I let these dreams die
If I lay down all my wounded pride
If I let these dreams die
Will I find that letting go lets me come alive?
Empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with YOU.
God has been showing me how tightly I've been gripping onto things in my life. My time, my possessions, my friends, my education, my church, my mentors, my goals....have you noticed all of the "my's" in that list? Truth is, there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with any of those things, or the value I have placed on them. What's wrong is that I often find my self valuing them more than I value God & His plans for my life. Of course I wouldn't go around proclaiming "I love/value _____ more than I love God." I would get a lot of frowns from that. But the way I spend my time & thought life betrays what I value most. But one of our great comforts & encouragement in our Christian life is the promise God has made to us in Philippians 1:6 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
I've heard it said many times, God loves us as we are, but too much to leave us that way. And God has definitely been changing me in some pretty, well, unexpected ways. In the midst of everything that was going on about a week ago, I had typed out a blog post entitled "A Series of Unfortunate Events." No, I wasn't retelling the story of 3 little orphaned children who get into all sorts of mishaps orchestrated by a mysterious & creepy Count Olaf. But it was the tale of the past 2 weeks of my life. I decided not to post it because of everything that God has taught me through the events, my other post had a tone of dissatisfaction & complaint. God has taught me so much through it though, I would still like to share. I will forgo giving all of the details, but I'll give you a brief overview of a few of the events.
The first shock was finding out our Pastor of 15 years had decided to resign & would be leaving at the beginning of this month. Since this is really the only church I have ever gone to, Pastor Schmidt is the only pastor I have ever known & he & his wife have had an immense impact in my life, our church family, & the entire community. It was a difficult, but also an exciting goodbye. I know that the Lord has great plans for them & I am anxious to hear how they'll be used in the lives of others.
The day I said a tearful goodbye to them, me & one of my best friends, Krystle, drove back to school to begin another semester. Got all unpacked &...sprained my finger! Ok, for people who are normal, this isn't a big deal, but as a piano major with the daunting task of learning, memorizing, & performing a movement of a Beethoven sonata in a mere 12 weeks, this was a BIG problem....cue frustration. Lol.
Thankfully, my finger was mostly healed by that weekend, just in time to get the flu. I was stuck in bed with a high fever & unrelenting cough for 2 full days. Being the stubborn person I am, I insisted on trying to go to church on Sunday; no, not because I'm super spiritual, but because I was bored of being stuck in the dorm...greeeeaaat reason, huh? Yeah...anyways, I got about 15 minutes in & had to leave. On the way back to school, my car broke down. Oh yes, in the middle of winter, me & the 2 girls with me were clueless as to what to do. Thankfully, a very nice couple came to the rescue. I had no voice, so it was very difficult to try to explain everything to my dad & the guy helping me, but it worked out nonetheless. Unfortunately, that little escapade put me in bed again the next day...all day. So I had to take class cuts for the whole day. I was still stuck in the room when I received the news that my favorite music professor would not be back after this semester. Later that day, I also found out that my personal piano instructor made the difficult decision that God was leading her to another ministry. Again, it is exciting to see God working & leading in the lives of others, but it is difficult to say goodbye. Especially with professors with whom I have spent so much time one-on-one. I called my mom just sobbing. My voice still sounded like a frog that had spent too much time around bonfire smoke, so I'm sure it was an interesting sounding conversation. But I was heartbroken. In the past week, I felt like I had lost my pastor, my ability to play the piano, my voice, my car, & now my two most beloved mentors at school. I really didn't know what to do.
But God wasn't far away. He truly drew near to me & revealed His purpose in allowing those things to happen. I can't explain it, but I was filled with such a deep, sweet peace. And then joy! God had answered my prayer to empty me of those things that I so often held above Him. He had also answered a major & specific request that I had been praying about since my time in Haiti last August. (More about that later...it's too soon now, but I PROMISE you'll know ASAP =). Thankfully, we also had Heart Conference last week. It was an incredible blessing! If you have never heard Phil Hunt & Will Galkin speak, you are missing out. Will Galkin taught about reclaiming the purpose God has for us that has been overshadowed by our pursuit of "The American Dream." That one pierced me deeply. Although my idea of what is truly important has changed A LOT over the past couple of years, I still identified with many of the points. I pursue comfort; I'm afraid of getting out of my box & witnessing to others; I have a hard time fully ministering to others because I constantly get pulled down by focusing on my own weaknesses & insecurities. I am ready to be who God desires me to be. I am ready to stop focusing on what I don't have & start focusing on the One who has me. God's strength is sufficient for anything He desires of me, so I need to stop making excuses. He has given me a clear burden for the next year & I'm anxious to share more with you when I know more =) I'm so thankful that Christ identifies with me in my weakness, but He still molds me & makes me more like Himself. Even when I am initially hurt & confused by "God's Chisel." I hope that you will also take a moment to pray & really consider what things you are holding onto that are preventing you from completely surrendering. It's never easy to give it up, but always worth it. Anyways, that's just what's been going on with me lately! If you stuck in there & read all of that, you must really be a great friend =) haha! But all of that just to say this; God truly is good ALL of the time. Even when we don't understand, and we are hurting & confused. He is there, & He loves us & is changing us for our good & His glory.
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life." 2 Corinthians 2:14-16