Recently, God has been talking to me a lot about control, surrender, submission, my heart, mountains, adventure, spontaneity, emotions, fear of the unknown, mustard seeds of faith, and taking up my cross. In hindsight, all of these things have come to me within the past week, and to be honest, they’ve all been a bit scary and overwhelming; a bit equivocal and questioning as to how one puzzle piece matches the other to form an overall picture. But you know what, I think that that uncertainty and foggy clearing is what God is trying to reveal to this spontaneously searching heart, trapped in the body and mind of a girl who loves to cling to perfectionism, order, and anything but chaos.
Relying on God to Carry Our Cross
On Wednesday of this week, I began to feel a strong presence of God’s Spirit prompting my heart. Attending a Theology talk at my college, the father of one of my beloved professors talked about the struggles we all go through when pain, heartache, and bad things happen to “good” people. Relating our experiences to how he and his now-deceased wife endured a long battle with cancer, he encouraged us to rely on two things to get us through these times:
1) To ask God every morning whose cross we can help bear that day but then remember to give it back to Him as the sun fades away.
2) Recognize that when God tells us we can move a mountain, we aren’t literally moving a mountain, more so, we are allowing our mustard seed of faith to chip away at that struggle we are facing.
Pondering those thoughts when I got home that night, I realized a few things not only about my faith but the battles I had been facing. As an incredibly empathetic person, the conclusion came to me that I have been so exhausted from pouring into others because I did not remember to give those crosses back to God at the end of the day. Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry His cross on the day of His crucifixion, but at the end of that long and hard road, he also remembered to give it back to Him, for only Him who would fully pay the price would bear the eternal weight of the cross (Matthew 27:32). And perhaps, we in our humanness need to take a lesson from that, realizing that we can only help those around us when we are in surplus of an overflow that comes from taking up our crosses daily.
If anyone would come after me, He must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23
Freedom in Surrendering
Surrender is a daily up and down of the cross, and this is where real freedom begins.
Thinking that these truths were all God had in-store for me for the week, I was surprised when God again began to prompt my heart in pursuit of what He wasn’t done telling me. Arriving at my 7:45 a.m. writing class, a daily writing activity asked us to write about our favorite place, and thinking back to the mustard seed of faith moving a mountain analogy shared the night before, I produced the following poem that did more than shock my mind, but it recollected my heart:
Spacious skies and wintergreen, the firs cry out to the Heavens.
Dancing in the wind like fragments of intangible thoughts and ideas,
my heart lurches at the sight of misty fogs and the highest heights.
Crunching over the leaves and branches at my feet, I stop at the edge of
on looking at nature surrounding me.
Deeply breathing in and out, I inhale serenity and exhale my fears.
Glistening at my reflection in the waters, I thank God for this beauty.
The beauty that lay around me and within me, but I so often fail to
recognize and value.
In their crisp size, sprinkled design and free spirits, this is the mountaintop,
the hills, and valleys- the forest and woods of my spontaneously searching Heart.
Zoning out for a few moments in class and looking at what I had just written, I realized that the truth of my heart that had been hiding came out in the rawness of my inability to contain the vulnerabilities any longer. Longing for someone to take me away on an adventure, to hike the mountains and appreciate the beauty of this world while soaking up God’s goodness, I let these thoughts quietly resonate in the interior of my mind. Not really understanding what was happening, my mind was pulled back to reality as those around me continued to talk in anticipation of the day’s assignment. Yet, in a daze, the next prompt was given, and my now exposed heart was lurching to be heard, writing the following in response to a free-write on a memory:
“I remember when I used to be a carefree person because for as long as I can remember, I’ve not been one. That being said, the last time I recall freedom was before the age of 14 before I started self-hate and obtained fear and anxiety. Before an OCD, perfectionistic, compulsive personality began to overtake me; I was a typical and happy pre-teen/teen. My eyes glittered with ambition as my heart pulsated with adventure, and my mind spontaneously sought beauty, joy, and optimism in everything. But sadly, I transformed into something I didn’t want to be, and though I appreciate who I am now in segments, I still long to go back in partiality to that which I used to be. A little bit more mature, a lot more thoughtful, and a pinch more sincere, still full of adventure and goals/dreams as high as the sky, but realistic and free of the perfectionism and planning that now haunts me.”
And don’t get me wrong, it has taken a very long time for me to grow and understand these things I’ve battled and I know that God has blessed me with an extreme gift for organization, planning events, and living life to the fullest, but I want to do so with freedom, spontaneity, and a lack of seriousness that I used to be, long to be, still want to go back to be.
Because perhaps, if I’m honest, I miss that childlike me, and though I am scared to go back, I long for that young girl’s joy. No, I don’t want to change myself, but I know that God wants me to be free of anxiety, worry, fear, and the future of anything holding me back, especially the vulnerabilities of my regrets and past that haunt me.
Newsflash self, God can do this in you, but that starts in a firm trust and reliance in Him who formed me. He created me to be free in the Spirit.
Trusting God in the Unknown Adventure
So, what does all of that have to do with what God has been revealing to me? Well, I suppose that in retrospect, it all connects to the following series of events that began to unfold from that day. Leaving my writing class to meet the professor and talk about the career crisis, I sat in his office as he let me vent about my problems. Gently listening and caring about my concerns, however, he surprised my mind when he said, “Amber, I took your email very seriously and I want to encourage you in your dreams, and what you want to do, but I also have prayed a lot and really feel like God wants me to tell you not to be afraid of the unknown, no matter what that may be or where it leads”. Quite frankly, freaking me and my comfort zone, plannerized mind out, I nodded as he then continued to share a poem with me entitled: Open Road: Adventure, with a picture of a mountain on the side.
Now obviously, my professor had no prior contact with the students in class, and their writing prompts, nor did he know that I had just written in my journal about mountains being my favorite place, seeking a heart of adventure, and learning to obtain a spirit of spontaneity. However, he did eagerly pray for me, so I knew that when he spoke each of these words, he was genuinely attempting to pour more of Christ and His truth into my life.
Reaching a level of “Amber is now highly freaked out with everything happening and God speaking,” I went to chapel to relieve my questioning and confused soul only to be met by a friend who had more words for me. Telling her about all of these weird rema (basically the Christian version of karma) events occurring, her face softened as she said, “Well, I wasn’t going to tell you this, but I don’t think God is done speaking to you yet. When I was praying for you last night, I felt like I should pray that you come to surrender those things that you have sought control over for so long”. Literally hitting me with like a third and final frying pan of reality, my soul was comforted by God’s ability to use so many different people to speak to me.
Choosing to study various Scriptures that night regarding the fear of the unknown, praying in His word, and talking to a few friends, I began to become very fearful of what God was telling me. Through Scriptures such as Isaiah 26:3 and Psalm 32:8, I cried and laughed as I realized what God was trying to tell me. As I prayed in solitude, I noticed a pattern in all of these signs: that I wanted control and I always have. I’ve never been the type just to let go entirely, and though my life has been surrendered to Christ since I got saved at the age of 8, I realized I needed to align them again.
You will keep in perfect peace Him whose mind is steadfast, because He trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3
That night, I decided to close my time of worship by listening to random worship songs on Spotify, and when the song “In-Control-Acoustic” by Hillsong Worship began to play, I couldn’t help but think of God’s love, laughter, and sense of humor looking down on me. He was speaking to me in monumental ways; I just had to take the time to really listen.
Awaking Friday morning to the support of my friends and family, I smiled as the devotional was focused on control and surrender. Talking to my dad that night and then doing an in-depth study on verses within that context such as Psalm 46:10, James 4:7, Job 11:3, I wrote a prayer laying it all down (not knowing what all God was asking for) and listened to those around me saying, “I feel like you need to surrender your heart… It sounds to me like God really wants you to give Him control…Just trust that while pursuing the act of ‘letting go’ and letting God have control, we as Christians have the privilege and comfort of knowing that our good God has control of the situation …Everyone struggles with wanting control over uncontrollable situations but start in little steps…God doesn’t want perfect results from us, as much as He wants our hearts to be turned towards Him.”
That night, and now into Saturday morning, I realize how all of these things interconnect and are just a small portion of my future life that He is revealing to me. I still am and probably always will want control, after all, I love planning and mapping out my life to the fullest. However, I have also concluded that by giving God complete control, I surrender and submit all I am to Him, especially within the depths of my heart that will align with His will for my life.
And in a final prayer, this is what my heart now fully knows and rests upon: “I relinquish every desire I have, even those I most want to cling to and ask that they are surrendered in alignment to your control. In asking for freedom, take these things of my heart and take control. Let me see you move in them through me, for it is never my power of spirit, but yours ALONE. How good it is to serve a God that loves me enough to put up with me but loves me for who I am and where I am amidst the struggles. I give you control of my anxiety, depression, fear, wanting to be in a relationship, craving love, finding substantial friendships, my future, my career, my ALL. As I continue to read and study Scripture and then end in prayer, let me be ever more thankful and in love with you. For who you are, what you are teaching me, and the JOY NOT fear in knowing that it is OKAY I AM NOT IN CONTROL because you are and you know exactly when I need what according to your will. Let the desires of my heart, mind, and emotions be flooded with more of you. Set my sights on you and like the chipping away of that mountain through the mustard seed of faith, chip away at the things that hold me back and replace them with full peace, comfort, adventure, and steadfast love in a heart that is now utterly loved and known and used completely by you.”
I do not know my future, but I know the one who holds it. Someday I will seek those mountains, and other days I will travel across them to tear them down. But one thing is for sure: in these moments of uncertainty, covered in the grace and love of things unknown, a known and loving God purses and runs after me, continually transforming me into who, what, when, where, and why I am meant to be them.
Remember, God speaks in the hills and valleys of unknown adventure.