another face of humility

imageThere’s a lot to be learned about humility. Right when I think that maybe I’m starting to get it…BAM. Pride smacks me in the face. Am I the only one who feels like trying to understand humility is like grasping for the wind?

But God has been teaching me humility in rather surprising ways. He’s been showing me that one face of humility is opening wide your hands and accepting with gratitude whatever God chooses to give. Not just the good things, but the hard, painful and disappointing things too.

Without going into all the ups and downs of life’s circumstances this year, I’ll just say this: I haven’t liked all of the things God has chosen to give me. I’ve thrown up a few fists and shouted “Why, God?” because deep down I’ve bought into the idea that I deserve better. I deserve to succeed, to live life pain-free, to be happy. I become the center and it’s here, here that ingratitude and pride squelches out joy.

Wasn’t ingratitude the problem from the beginning, from the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve had everything and yet they let themselves believe that it wasn’t enough. They thought that they deserved better, and because they chose ingratitude, they were banished from the garden and broken off from communion with their Source of eternal joy and happiness.

Ingratitude. Pride. Fists in the air. “I deserve better.” This has been our story ever since that fateful day in the garden.

Thousands of years later, a better and more perfect Adam came, and it was He (Jesus) who lived the perfect life of gratitude to His Father, gave thanks over the Last Supper, and accepted the path of suffering that His Father had willed Him to endure. If anyone deserved better, it was Jesus. He wept, grieved, and He even asked “Why?” but then we see Him doing what Adam, Eve, and everyone since have failed to do. He completely trusted His Father’s love for Him and accepted the cup that was before Him, even though it meant losing His very life. He opened wide His hands to receive and because He did, we can now live and be restored to the only source that will bring us true joy.

Humility is opening our hands and accepting with thanksgiving whatever God chooses to give. Pride clutches it’s fist at troubles and let downs and says “I deserve better!” but humility sees everything – the good, the bad, and the painful – as given from an infinitely good and loving Father, Who loves better and more fully than we could ever imagine, and who uses even our troubles to prepare us “for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” [2 Corinthians 4:7]

Growing Pains


I recently started a new job as a teacher at a developmental center for children and their parents. After two years of teaching in Taiwan, I figured this job would be pretty easy. But after just two weeks of enduring some pretty rigorous training, I’ve been having second thoughts. Every day, I have to surrender my old ways of teaching in order to adopt all new methods and lesson plans. My trainers give me loads of grace as I’m figuring it all out, but at the same time, they’re seriously invested in seeing me change into the teacher that they want me to be. Turns out that this process feels anything but “normal”! It actually feels really uncomfortable at times. But, they keep telling me it will get better, because soon enough I won’t even think about the involved lesson plans once all these things grow into me as a teacher. Apparently, all the things that I’m rigorously learning will simply become a part of who I am.

Well, I’m not there yet, but slowly, day after day, mistake after mistake, I’m learning what it means to change. I’m becoming a different kind of teacher, and growth – as uncomfortable and hard as it is at times – is the vehicle that’s getting me there.

As I was sitting in trainng the other day, it hit me that growing into a new position isn’t just for new jobs. The Bible tells us that the gospel is the good news that Jesus’ death on the cross secures for us a new position. We, who once were enemies of God, have now been called daughters and sons and co-heirs with Christ. Redeemed, restored, and forgiven are  all a part of our new identity. As we come to more fully understand who we now are, there should be a very real change that is working it’s way out in our lives. Will that growth always feel comfortable? Probably not. Will it happen overnight? I wish! The older I get, the more I see just how sinful and far away from God my heart truly is. But God’s not giving up, and the redemptive work that He’s begun, He will complete…no matter how hard the process may be.

What’s God using to grow you today? Does it feel uncomfortable and hard? Let the growing pains remind you that God is at work at your life, because He loves you too much to simply leave you where you are.

Lay it Aside

“Why do I have SO much stuff?” b88bb_equipaje-pesado

I angrily asked myself this question last week as I walked down the street in Taipei, pulling my very overpacked suitcase while simultaneously carrying an extremely heavy backpack and two smalls bags that were bursting at the seams. My back hurt and my fingers were swollen. But that wasn’t all. I still had two large additional suitcases waiting for me down the street, all filled with my belongings from a year of living in Taiwan. I started to panic as I tried to think about how I was going to get everything from downtown Taipei to the airport. Was this really all my stuff? Why was it so heavy? Why did I need it all? Why was I so attached to it?

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad to carry all that stuff if I didn’t have to walk a mile. Or maybe it wouldn’t have been so horrible had the weather been pleasant and cool. But unfortunately, none of those things were in my favor, so as I trudged along in the unbearable morning heat, I found myself burdened from the weight that my stuff had brought. I was angry because I hated that I needed all this stuff. I hated the weight and exhaustion my need had created. I hated that I simply couldn’t live without it all, but had to carry it with me.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says “…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Paul is likening the Christian life to a race. In a race, no one thinks of carrying heavy stuff with them, no matter how beautiful or amazing the stuff is. Why? Because runners know that those things are only going to slow them down and make the race more difficult, especially when the race is long and filled with struggles. Often times, the weights we want to carry in our lives can be good things, just like all of those things in my bags that I told myself I couldn’t live without. But without a doubt, the stuff we choose to carry with us will slow us down. It will exhaust us and leave us angry. It will steal our joy because even though freedom is offered to us, we still choose to run burdened with cares and weights of this life that we tell ourselves we can’t live without.

I think the key to why we should and can lay aside every weight is at the beginning of verse 2: “Looking unto Jesus…” When we look to Him and behold the beauty and worth of Who He is and what He’s already secured for us, we realize that we don’t need the extra weights in our lives, because they’re so small and insignificant when compared with Christ.

Weights come in various sizes and packages. Sometimes we’re even blind to the weights that are burdening our lives. As we look to Jesus and follow Him, there may be things we simply have to let go of and lay aside, not because they’re bad, but because Jesus is just so much better.

When I don’t love my neighbor…

I’ve heard it said countless times, ‘Love God. Love others.’ Jesus Himself said that these two things are the greatest of all the commandments. But have you ever wondered what this looks like in every day life? I have. I tend to like concrete ideas instead of vague concepts, so I’ve often wrestled with what it means to love God – Who is an infinitely huge, eternal, and perfect Spirit- while at the same time loving my neighbor who is human, imperfect, and – I’ll admit – often frustrating.

I used to think that loving my neighbor was easy. But then I began to realize that Jesus wasn’t just talking about the people who were easy to love. He was talking about the needy person next to me. He was talking about the person who was different from me, who’s personality frustrated me. He was talking about the person who annoyed me most. And then I discovered something horrible about myself: I discovered that sometimes I just don’t feel like loving my neighbor, even though I know that I should.

My solution? Like any other problem’s solution. Try harder. Try harder to love people who annoy me. Try harder to show love to those who are hard to love. I’ve lived for YEARS thinking that if I just try hard enough, I’ll eventually overcome my problems. Eventually I’ll have enough love to give.

However, my solution started crumbling recently when I was approached by a few people who lovingly told me that – even though I was trying hard to love a particular person who annoyed me – my love didn’t appear genuine. Frustrated, I complained ‘But I’M TRYING.’ All of a sudden, I Corinthians 13 came to mind. ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.’ And that’s exactly what I had become. A clanging cymbal, because artificial ‘try harder’ love is no substitute for real, selfless, genuine love.

So then I did something crazy. I decided that I didn’t want to be a clanging cymbal. I wanted to love and to love genuinely, and that wasn’t happening through my own efforts. So, I gave up. I accepted my emptiness and inability to love and instead just cried out for God’s perfection and love to fill every crack and corner of my needy heart.

And then God did something crazy. He started giving me love for the person who annoyed me the most. Genuine, selfless, love that I honestly can’t explain on my own.  It was all Him. My emptiness was being exchanged for His fullness.

Jesus said that the world would know that we’re His disciples by our love. I want to be known as His disciple, but I’m never going to be able to love the way I should no matter how hard I try. It’s only when I give up on my own efforts, run to Him, and continually meditate on the gospel truth that God loves ME even when I’m annoying and frustrating and downright filthy, that I’m truly able to love my neighbor. Not a formula to be learned, but a relationship to be experienced.

Decisions, Decisions

I’ve always hated decisions. Mostly because I know that by choosing one thing, I’m automatically saying no to all the other choices in front of me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m choosing between outfits, food, or what color to paint my walls, I hate the pressure and responsibility of decisions. I’m always plagued with the thought of “But what if I choose the WRONG thing and end up tragically unhappy for the rest of my life all because of one bad choice?” I’m being dramatic, but you get the point. I hate making decisions. decision-1

Because I fear the consequences of choosing incorrectly, I tend to shy away from commitments and decision making of all kinds. When it comes to finding “God’s will” for my life, I often feel completely overwhelmed and burdened with having to choose what to do. 

A couple weeks ago, I faced a big decision as I was trying to decide whether to stay in America or go back to Taiwan for the year. While both were great options, the more I thought through them, prayed, and received counsel from my parents and friends, the more indecisive I became. Which one was God’s will for my life and how was I supposed to know when it seemed like either could be God’s will?

Eventually, I made the decision to come back to Taiwan. Why? As scandalous as it sounds, I came back because I wanted to come back and because I think God put that desire there for a reason. Surprisingly enough, what led me to that freedom was actually a clearer picture of how Christ, through the gospel, has already secured all of my satisfaction and success through His life and death; I could throw off my fear of failure or fear of making the wrong decision because everything that I needed or could ever want was already found completely in Christ. I was free to do what I wanted without looking for satisfaction from my choices. I was free…simply because Christ had made me free.    

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…” [Galatians 5:1]

This concept of freedom is still a lot for me to wrap my mind around, especially after living so long burdened in my indecisiveness. But I’m coming to find that freedom really does change everything. I don’t have to fear the consequences of making the wrong choice because in Christ it really doesn’t matter what decisions I make, if I’m walking in His ways, I’m free to choose what I want. I’m free to step out. I’m free to change my mind. I’m free from my own expectations and the expectations of those around me. Free. Simply because Christ has set me free.

Have You Forgotten the Truth?

lies-truthI recently read a book called Eyes Wide Open written by the Christian novelist, Ted Dekker.In this book, the two main characters – Austin and Christy – find themselves in a world where they’re struggling to find out the truth of who they really are despite the lies of what people are telling them. The longer they listen to the lies, the more the characters begin to believe that the lies actually are their reality. It’s only when they see their world through a mysterious pair of glasses, that their eyes are finally opened to see beyond the deception and into the light of truth. Finally, everything in their lives make sense. However, these glasses are quickly torn from their eyes and they’re again forced back into their old reality. The challenge that they then face is remembering the truth in a world that seeks to deceive them. One line that jumped off of the page at me was this:

“Life is a cycle of remembering and forgetting.” 

Maybe it’s an overly simplistic concept, but think about it: we’re prone to forget the truth, only to be reminded again, only to forget again. This is the cycle and struggle that, towards the end of the book, Ted Dekker does a fantastic job of portraying.

I wish I could say that I don’t understand this cycle of forgetting. But actually, I do. Because this story isn’t just about Christy and Austin…it’s also about me.

This past year, I did a lot of forgetting. Even though I’ve known and experienced the truth of God’s faithfulness in my life, I went through times in the past year where God felt distant and far removed from my circumstances. From where I was standing, life didn’t make sense. I wanted God to prove Himself and silence my doubt like He’d done for His people all throughout the pages of scripture. But He didn’t. Or at least not in the way I was hoping for. I started to believe the lies that God was distant to my pain, elusive, and silent to all of my questions.

However, when I needed it most, God brought people into my life who reminded me of truths that I’d known in the past, but had forgotten when the skies of doubt had clouded my horizon. It was the remembrance of God’s faithfulness, promises, and love that eventually gave me the eyes to see the truth that God’s goodness and ways don’t always fit into my way of understanding the world. And that’s okay. Because He’s God and I’m not.

I think we all have gone through or will go through periods where we wonder what in the world God is doing. We may question God’s plans and start to believe the lie that He’s not truly good if He allows pain and trials in our lives. However, we have to remind ourselves that no matter what our circumstances or emotions tell us, God never fails or makes mistakes. When we choose to open our eyes wide to the reality of truth, every lie of unbelief will come crumbling down.

Embracing Our Identity

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His [own] image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

What’s the purpose of a reflection? Certainly not to point to the reflection itself. If you’ve ever seen a reflection, you know that it’s single purpose is to point to the thing that it’s reflecting. If we’ve been made in God’s image, we know that we reflect a part of Who God is and therefore were made to point back to Him.

I’m convinced that so often we shy away from who God has made us to be instead of rejoicing in our identity as His image bearers. So what makes you….you? What do you love? What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy? For example, I love music, adventures, perfection, and laughing. All of these qualities about me reflect Who God is. Just think about all the people in the world, past and present. Think about how diverse and incredibly unique each one is, each one made to reflect the image of God in varying ways. 

However, because of sin, our purpose of glorifying God has been turned upside down. Instead of using our qualities to point to God, we point to ourselves by either taking pride in who we are on our own or wallowing in self-pity because we’re not as good as we think we should be. However, through the gospel, Jesus has provided the way to restore us back to the joy of fulfilling our original purpose. By surrendering to Christ, He gives us new life. In Him, we find not the extinguishing of ourselves, but rather the awakening of ourselves as we see our lives and the qualities that make us unique as part of a greater purpose: to point others to the glory of God. When we see ourselves through this perspective, we can’t look down on ourselves or puff ourselves up in pride. All we can do is rejoice in the wonder of our Creator Who made us in His very image! 

So let’s take who we are and live vibrantly. Let’s use everything about ourselves (our gifts, talents, personality, passions, ideas, and dreams) to love Jesus more and to point others to Him. WE are God’s image bearers, created to reflect a part of Who He is–that’s an incredible truth worth rejoicing in!