I got a new tattoo because, well, ours was a whirlwind romance.
The week we got engaged started with me crying on a street corner in Rome and ended in an actual flood in Lubbock, Texas with a ring and a prayer.
Eight weeks later we walked the aisle.
Six months later in a crashed economy my husband sold ten homes and with it, our entire livelihood because we felt like the Lord wanted us back in his hometown. No job. Just some hope and prayer.
Six months later I held a positive pregnancy test in my hand.
A year after that, we sent in our application to adopt.
Six months, another positive pregnancy test. Another year, and an email with a picture of two little chocolate skinned boys. Three more days, another positive pregnancy test.
Year and half, a crowded flight to Uganda. Three months, a less-but-more crowded flight home.
Three more months, the call to leave our comfy big church to minister in our town.
I think it's safe to say for a really long time we were running on adrenaline and prayer. And really big feelings. So many feelings, in fact, that a couple of years ago when we settled in, the world got quiet.
Not literally, I have five kids.
But I couldn't figure out the next move. I prayed and I pleaded. I hoped it was book deal. I wanted it to be social justice. I needed it to be a big hit. Mostly because I needed a hit.
What I had believed was faithfulness had actually become a feeling addiction. I needed to feel God's presence to believe I was faithful. I needed to feel His presence to believe He was faithful. So I spent a year begging. Throwing a tantrum for attention and giving God the cold shoulder when He didn't respond. Trying to work myself up when Oceans had worn itself out on me. Trying to sing and shout when I needed to sit still and be.
Depressed and dragged down in the throws of addiction withdraw. Sure I couldn't live without, I battled really seriously between wether I should just give this whole following-Jesus thing up all together or resign myself to playing the game for the rest of my life.
Those were the only two options I could see.
Somewhere in the middle of my battle, that from the outside looked a whole lot like doing nothing, I got really quiet. All the Big Feelings had faded. The anger and frustration had left me spent and tired. I faced my palms up to the air and shrugged my shoulders.
I sat quietly. And I listened. I heard her say it on a podcast: You are not called to love God with all your heart. You are called to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
There is more to this faith thing than what I feel at any given moment. I don't always have to feel like God is there to follow him with my brain and with my physical body. When we were created we were given far more than a ticket on an emotional roller-coaster ride until we hopefully end up standing back on the platform with the pearly gates in front of us.
We were made in His image with will and mental capacity. We were formed from dirt into physical bodies. And then to top it off He breathed His breath into us and animated us with desires and hopes to connect them all.
Hear me say it: Feelings aren't bad, but feelings aren't your faith.
I have found myself learning to practice a whole faith that serves a whole God. I sit here with my palms facing up to the air and I can see it on my wrist. My triangle inside of His. All of me for all of Him.
Maybe your issue isn't that your heart craves all the big feelings. Maybe yours is that you can't get out of your own head, a thinker, who needs logic and reasonable input all the time. Or possibly a doer. You move and work, touching and feeling your way through your faith feeling disconnected with the ideas and feelings leading you to deeper faith.
We can only ride a unicycle for so long.
At some point our wheels stop spinning and the buzzing noise in our ears stops and God will seem deafeningly silent if we are not firmly settle ourselves on a three legged stool.
When I'm tempted to shrug at the silence from Heaven and go on my merry way, my palms turn up and it reminds me that God is here in more than one way. So, what then? A life of liturgy. A life of repetitive practices that remind me who God is.
Head. I engage with that ever miraculous brain God gave me. I open my Bible and study deep and hard. I find one place where He tells me who He is and then I say it until it seeps through my porous skull and becomes embedded in the actual belief systems of my brain. Imagine my surprise when I found that this practice has a name: Lectio Divina. It sounds so much more elegant in Latin.
Hands. I pick up a stale cracker and feel the grit of it washed down by the juice. He loves me. He has called and commissioned me. I take a day, sometimes a scant twelve hours, mostly I forget after two, but I try to refuse the food. To remind myself I am wholly dependent on a Holy God. Almost always, though, I make the bread. Literally and figuratively, I make and I serve the people around me. Maybe I'm not storming the world with the Kingdom of God, but then again, maybe I am.
Heart. My journal took a beating in the silent years. Poured out frustrations and feelings. Pages filled with pleading trying to find God in the feelings. I flood it now with gratitude, whether I feel like it or not. I find miracles in the everyday that sound like a rushing wind, and I know it now, the Spirit is here.
So tell me, is this a struggle for you too? Do you feel like God is showing you how to follow him more fully?