If God is real then...
I've struggled with this question since I first read about the IF: Gathering. The ability to answer the question for myself eluded me. By no means was it the intention of the leaders to create a question that would spark doubt, but for me, deep in my guts I questioned my own motives, years, purpose. All of the sudden I wondered. Too much.
The wondering birthed some unwelcomed cynicism in my heart. Several of my closest friends agreed together to engage with IF and to host a small group through Second Mile. As time grew closer to the event, I felt more and more unsettled. I blamed it on the ambiguity of the conference, the gathering, the whatever it was/is, but it was only today that I finally put my finger on the spot in my heart that birthed the cynicism.
Before I reveal that spot, I want to say I really loved IF. In the moments of each speaker, each song, each story, engaging with 20 or so dear women whom I greatly value, we were refreshed, refilled, reunified. We sang loud. We got on our knees together. We laughed. We shared deep parts of our hearts. I was continually reminded throughout the weekend that we are part of an extraordinary church that challenges one another, that retreats together, that shares life together, that longs for Tucson to know Jesus together. We often take for granted our courageous church. It was not lost on me that only a few short weeks earlier many of the women who gathered for IF had gone without food for an entire week in order to seek Jesus together as a community. These things have become normal to us. Refreshed from the week of prayer and fasting led beautifully into refreshment from the IF leaders who were used by God to speak to our hearts. Beautiful.
For me, God is real. Was I supposed to still doubt? If I can believe he is more real, then will it change my life more? Will it help me do more? Will I have more insight? Will I then be able to do some crazy humongous thing that will receive Christian world-wide acclaim?
Cynicism. Darkness. Smallness.
It seemed to hide its identity from me until the first discussion time. I drew my question out of the pile available. "What is holding you back?" I asked my group to come back to me because I wasn't sure of the answer. As each woman answered her own question it became so very clear. I was cynical. I confessed to my friends, and said a prayer of repentance to Jesus, but oddly enough, the understanding of it all only became clear today.
When I was 18 I came to the place of realizing I didn't want to live my life without Jesus. The teenage years worked me over like a rag doll. Opting out of floppy limbs, a floppy heart, and a floppy mind, I went straight into battle mode. Praying, reading, learning, and growing in knowing and loving Jesus became an obsession. I wanted to do big things for God!
I went on trips, met with any leader who would talk to me, talked to strangers with passion while standing on tippy toes and smiling about how much he loves us, married a crazy, yet level-headed, passionate guy who also wanted to change the world. We went to another country, shared our love for God, met God-fearing people who showed us God was much bigger than the American God I had created in my mind, studied a language, adopted an amazing kid... all before I turned 25.
We returned to the States telling God we would serve him in specific ways, yet he took us on a completely different path, we had more kids, lived in other states, discipled college students, decided we should start a church with ten amazing friends... all before I was 30.
We began a church called Second Mile, labored with sweat and tears, we've given around 1500 gifts to strippers, parented eight kids, partnered with people who love Tucson, walked with women towards freedom...all before I was 40.
Doesn't it sound braggy? Oh, but I don't mean it to. I'm reminded of the passage that Paul shares all his accomplishments and then so beautifully says, "If I must boast, I boast in the things that show my weakness." In Galatians he says, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yes. Boast in Jesus.
The cynicism was birthed out of my own soul boasting. How could they ask me, a 40 year woman who has been trying to bust her butt to serve Jesus If God is real then...? Come on, people! Look what I've been doing the last twenty years? Who are you to ask me IF I am living as IF God is real? I. Am. Trying. Can't you see that?
Defeated. Disheartened to think I haven't been doing enough. Too exhausted to consider doing more. Unable to answer the questions of those I lead about what God would have us do.
The truth is I do believe God is real. I see his activity all around me. Sometimes by his grace I get up and join him. Sometimes because of my fear, or stubbornness, or ignorance I watch the marching go by without me.
If God is real then I will press into him in order to be more like him when I'm 41, when I'm 48, when I'm 50, when I'm 67, when I'm 70, when I'm nearing my finish line.
If God is real then he knows my cynicism and wants to right my heart towards his statutes and not toward selfish gain.
If God is real then I will not demand to be used by him, and I will get on my face and dwell his holy presence, delight in him as he sings over me, allow myself to just be.
If God is real then I will realize that Jesus didn't start his public ministry until he was 30 which means he waited 30. long. years to go big for his Father. We've only been in Tucson for not quite 10 years. Easter marks our tenth year of taking gifts to dancers in men's showclubs. Ten short years. Am I willing to wait for 30? If God is real then I will stay the course.
If God is real then my faith must believe that God is who he says he is! Faithful, merciful, kind, just, loving, good, unrelenting, pursuant, almighty, jealous, with us, I Am.
If God is real then I must believe I am who God says I am! Daughter, redeemed, beloved, forgiven, worshipper, entrusted with talents, co-heir, laborer, door holder for his kingdom.
If God is real then I must run my own race and not look towards other leaders and assume they don't know the trenches. My gaze must be fixed on the cross. Run my own race. Run my own race. Run my own race! Run well with my community, cheering one another on, sharpening each other as we go, carrying each other as we need, pointing each friend to Jesus.
Through the week of prayer, through IF, through so much soul searching this week, I've surrendered my cynicism. It is an ugly recurring theme in my heart. I'm asking God to remove it from my stoney heart through his kindness and grace and give me a heart of flesh that fully believes Him. He has mapped out a trail run for me that I fear has twists and turns, drops and rocks, and peaks and pits. As I keep my gaze on him I know he will make my path feel straight and narrow, secure, and enable me to keep both feet on the ground, rooted deep into the Rock that is higher than I.
Will you run with me? If God is real then he gave us to each other. He doesn't want us to run alone. I need you.
What is your If God is real then statement? Let's share together so that we may fix our gaze on Jesus, and together, boast in nothing but the cross.