God will bring you out of your places and pace of perceived comfort to make you be in comfort with Her, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Visibly.
I recently wrote about my voluntary removal from all things God and God’s people and how I’m failing thanks to the Holy Spirit advocating for my best self even when I rather be at my worst. Why I’m super angry but still do a daily Lenten devotional and haven’t caved to what I gave up for this season is beyond comprehension. No sense made here, none.
I’ve been in this self-imposed wilderness for so long that I started to confuse my thoughts echoing off of the trees as God’s voice. I’m only here for my own thoughts because that’s all I hear. So when no one is around to contest my brainwaves, I take them as fact. As an ex- journalism major, that doesn’t sit well with me. That’s antithetical to what I know.
So in this major moment of me, I’ve avoided Bible Study like it’s the plague. I’ve wanted no parts. And while that brought me some semblance of twisted joy, it does cause collateral damage. As someone who God LOVES to wake up at night to let her know and thing or two about herself, that side effect to my behavior makes my skin crawl.
So when I saw the email about Bible Study, 96 percent of me — voluntary removal Ciara — made up her mind that Thursday night was for watching Weekend Update (my obsession with Colin Jost and Michael Che is all the way real right now) and wallowing in my own shit. The remaining four percent of me — Holy Spirit-advocating me — really wanted to be at Bible Study, not sure of the why and the ability to be there.
So as I belabored through that devotional I’ve started for Lent for reasons I can’t explain, I landed on that day’s verse, 1 Corinthians 1:9–15:
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.
Most of me lives in a world of disunity and single-mindedness. But some of me always wants to be a part of something bigger than myself. For once. So as I grappled how I wanted to feel versus should do, that day’s verse lead me to my answer.
I wrote in my journal what I felt God told me through his Word:
“You should be present in that space — for it to not be about you.” “I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial.” (I Corinthians 6:13).
As a Christian, you’ve been called into fellowship that harbors no divisions amongst you. Yes you may subscribe to varying thoughts and ideas, political or otherwise but in that space of fellowship, it doesn’t matter.
So as I labored myself up the street to Bible Study, I told God off. Respectfully. There better be a point to all this, I thought.
The sounds of joyful Christians made my blood curdle. I distanced myself physically but was in close proximity to hear. And though I wanted to leave, it would have been in disobedience to what God called me to do. And while I’m in this state of IDGAF, I didn’t want God’s smoke. Not on that.
As I walked through that space looking as if I wanted to punch someone in the chest, no one said, “What’s wrong with you?” or “You look upset.” Confirmation of what I was told: be present in the space — for it to not be about you. The lack of acknowledgment to your emotions is not an indictment towards you. It’s just not why I brought you here. To be obedient is to listen and do, not fight and resist.
So when I heard “just because you can doesn’t mean that you should,” I had to acknowledge my internal temper tantrum: sometimes it ain’t about you, Sis.
I had to hear and see what God needed for me to know. That’s the danger of our own thoughts: they speak to us what we want to hear, what assuages our guilt and what puts us at ease.
Being in that space feeling as if you rather poke your eyes out than be around is sometimes where you must be in order to receive what you’ve been avoiding to hear.
God will bring you out of your places and pace of perceived comfort to make you be in comfort with Her, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Visibly. Wading in a pool of “I really don’t want to be here” but credit to obedience, you make your way through. Even as you rather just continue your perpetual state of I-don’t-give-a-ness in painfully-awesome glee. As many temper tantrum took place internally, it wasn’t about me. It never is.
(Note: This is completely different than YOU choosing to be present even though GOD told you through the way God speaks to you that it’s okay to not be there. That’s not obeying God, that’s obeying pride. It’s easy to conflate the two because often you and I believe that presence equates care. If I leave, then he or she is going to think that I don’t care/love/like them. But you do more damage by being near them as your worst self than — by your absence — protecting them FROM your worst self.)
There’s a prevailing joke amongst Christians about non-Denominational, “new gen” churches and their hidden tagline, “We’re guilt-free!” While I do believe that some churches play politics with guilt and shame, so-called “devoid of conviction” churches do more harm than good. It’s not God’s job to appease us. Jesus told his disciples that this life would not be full of rainbows and moonbeams. Jesus’ death on the cross taught us that road to glory is paved with pain, anguish and sacrifice.
Conviction leads to acknowledgement which leads to acceptance that ultimately finds us in repentance and on the way towards grace. You can’t fix what you don’t accept as broken and often we don’t know what to fix until we are made aware of the problem. The “check engine” light of our lives is God’s conviction. Now it’s acceptance or ignorance.
As we all do with that vaunted orange light behind the steering wheel, we do choose to ignore it, when it becomes comfortable after time passes and nothing happens. But as the check engine light does so well, it stares back at you, becoming this constant reminder that something must be wrong and deserved of a look. And then that voice hits you, “if I go to the mechanic, they’ll make up a problem and then I’ll have to pay for something that didn’t need to be fixed.” So you rather just ride out on faith than to address the problem, which might not be as daunting as you believe.
But after countless moments of ignorance, it catches up to you. You find yourself on the side of the road, waiting for AAA. As you wait at the shop, the mechanic delivers the bad news: misfiring engine, estimated cost of repair close to $700, a price feasible when you first noticed your check engine light but refused.
That’s us and God is painfully aware.
So as I sat there visibly and emotionally miserable, I had to recognize the moment for what it was: God’s constant reminder to get out of my feelings. God doesn’t coddle us when it’s against what God has called us to do. And God will often lead you into a place where you need to hear what you’ve been avoiding the most.