I went through old journals tonight. They date back to the beginning of my first semester away from CU. September 2015.
Let me just say that God has been so freaking faithful.
He softened my heart hardened by bitterness towards broken friendships and plans, lead me to an incredible church, placed and kept the right people in my life, and gave me the strength, courage, and endurance I needed to be able to check myself into Cedar Springs for a month, complete the program, and accept the help that I needed.
He closed doors when He knew they needed to be closed, delivered me from some serious demons, literally created a job for me out of nothing, brought me closer to my family, and taught me how to love who He’s made me to be.
He has worked out my entire summer, gave me an incredible vision for my future, and has allowed me to be a part of the INVST Program at CU.
9 months of journaling revealed those conclusions.
As I flipped through pages, though, I began to spot a theme in my writing. I noticed that I was constantly writing about this fear that I had: that God’s grace would give out on me and shortly after, His love would give up on me, too.
But if tonight’s reflecting has taught me anything, it’s this: His grace is always going to be enough. Of course, I’ve known that, because that idea is central to the Gospel which my faith rests on, but I think that I’m finally beginning to believe it, because not only did I live it, but I got to, in a way, live it again… grace… in full… played out in the journal pages of my story.
I sit in my room tonight in awe of my God. I don’t know how to explain it, but I could hear His voice in my writing as I sifted through and read off of crinkled, worn pages. In blurbs where I was encouraging and assuring myself that I could keep moving forward despite depression, shame, and guilt, the words making up those sentences were not my own. They couldn’t have been. I used to be awful at encouraging myself in my darkest moments – all I knew how to do was feed the flame. But somehow, the words below, and many like them, ended up in my journal:
“Thank you for my life and for my story. It is beyond beautiful. I know You still have amazing things to do in, with, and through me.” –Donaven on 10/16/15
By the grace of God, I’m now learning the joy that comes with encouraging myself in the Lord and His promises. No longer do I feed the Enemy’s flame.
Another thing I found myself wrestling with in my journals was this self-inflicted feeling that I wasn’t pursuing God. I wrote that, since I didn’t know what pursuing God looked like, I couldn’t do it well and I couldn’t do it “right.”
I say that the feeling was self-inflicted, because I knew exactly what pursuing God looked like. I was lying to myself, causing this awful feeling of apathy to arise. I knew what Jesus’ life looked like and I knew that it was a life dedicated to pursuing the Father. All I had to do was begin to follow His example.
It was all just an excuse I used to justify my sometimes half-ass effort in running after Him. I would take breaks from my sprint towards the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” to walk, enjoy the world’s scenery, and of course, whisper to myself, “You got this, Donaven. This pursuing Christ thing is easy!”
What’s crazy, is that despite my laziness and somewhat deliberate blows to God’s heart, He never stopped being faithful. He never held back His love.
I see now that when I finally decided to stop making excuses (sometime in February and this is something I still struggle with), I was actually pursuing Him. For the first time in my life, I was dedicated to running after His promises and His promises alone. I was chasing after Him by crying out in my brokenness. I wasn’t crying out thinking that I was crying out to no one. I was crying out with an expectant heart–a heart of faith–one that was ready to receive His love. That was true longing and that was pursuing God. I was pursuing Him when I would repent and I was pursuing Him when I wrote, “Jesus Christ, You are my everything.” That was surrender and that was pursuing God.
Not only do I see my pursuit of Him in my crying out and repentance, but more importantly, I see His wholehearted pursuit of me in His willingness to usher my straying heart back to Him and comfort me when I would scribble, “Lord, I can’t do this anymore. I need You.”
His Holy Spirit would convict me and His peace would wash over me, respectively.
His pursuit of me–this awful, sinner undeserving of redemption–may appear to simply be madness. Although I pursue Him, I still fall into sin. Why would He want me? I’m defective and malfunction frequently. It may appear to not make sense, but His unconditional love for me is what gives His mad pursuit of me a meaning. He created me, molded me, and acknowledges my worth as His beloved child. His pursuit of me is constant and unwavering, full of purpose, because I belong to Him. He craves me.
Have I failed Him? Do I fail Him? Am I worthy?
But I reiterate (not to be redundant, but just to rehearse this fact enough times so it becomes my concrete Truth) that it is by His unfailing grace that I am saved. No, I am not worthy to be called His, but through the blood of Christ my God sees me as blameless and He loves me regardless. That’s why He desires to see me as righteous, because He wants the best for me and only the righteous can inherit His best. Jesus had to die, because I am 100% incapable of obtaining righteousness on my own. By His stripes, I am healed and made whole.
Again, tonight has rid me of the irrational fear that His grace might give up on me. To say that is to say that His grace isn’t enough to blot out my sin and I just know that isn’t true. The God I serve created galaxies and DNA, dang it! He is more than enough.
I know that He is not going anywhere. He cherishes our relationship and He’s never going to let me go. Because of that, Hell cannot have me. Ever.
Since they scream hope, redemption, and surrender, my journal pages must really piss Satan off. He’d much rather have me believing that God’s grace is temporary, fleeting, and conditional and that all of my attempts to pursue Him are pointless, because He could never truly love a Donaven, anyway.
What a load of crap.
One phrase that I made a point of writing down and meditating on every few days is Lord, make me brave. Even in the most painful and sin-filled parts of my writings, the weeks in the last 9 months where I saw nothing but despair, those four words continued to leak out of my pen. Tonight, I echo that desire:
Lord, make me brave.
I ask for bravery, because I know that the Enemy doesn’t rest. It can be scary to think that he’s always on the prowl, waiting to steal, kill, and destroy anything that has the ability to worship. But fear cannot exist in love and if these 9 months have shown me anything, it’s that the Lord loves to love me. I ask for bravery, because I need divine courage and energy to continue to combat sin and I cannot fight well without Him.
Thankfully, I’ve got Him. And He’s got me.
And He’s constantly making me new, showering me with grace.
I’ve found confidence in my Lord.
I’m incredibly encouraged tonight, more so than I have been in quite some time. In retrospect, I see that God has done a mighty work in me these past 9 months. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been so worth it. I’m looking forward to see what He’s going to continue to do with my story, no matter how painful life may become. I’m learning to find joy in all circumstances. Pain has nothing on joy.
I started a new journal tonight and the first words I wrote in it were the lyrics to the bridge of Hillsong United’s, Oceans. Since my freshman year of college, I’ve been praying those lyrics over my life in this way:
Lord, continue to lead me where my trust is without borders. I will go wherever You call me. I will do anything You tell me. Take me deeper into Your love and Truth. Take me deeper into Your Word so that I can confidently fight sin. My desire is to always choose You over it. Challenge me in that. Put me to test so that my faith would be made stronger, but be gracious with me, God, because I cannot do this alone. I crave Your presence. I love You.
All the words that follow this page-1 in the months to come might collectively start to look like a mess, but I know that God’s got my future in His hands.
In the Lord, hindsight is proven to always be a beautiful 20/20.