Catabolism

Don’t you love when God takes verses that you have heard a million times and then has you reread them after He gives you a fresh pair of glasses?

I sure do.  And tonight, He gave me that– actually, he is still giving me that, even as I write, because writing has always been my primary mode of external processing.

What verses sent me into this mental tizzy?  Interestingly, it was a story found in Luke 18 that I have generally regarded as biblical cliche (I am a horrible person for labeling any verses as this now that I think about it…)– the story of Jesus talking to the rich young ruler.  This guy had everything in his present life, but he realized that there’s more to life than what is here on earth, so he asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life.  Jesus answered,

“One thing you still lack.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

~Luke 18:22

Ok, so I have heard this story, like, a thousand times in my lifelong career at church and 7 year career at Heritage Christian Academy.  Until tonight, I have glazed over them, thinking, “Of course, yes, we are supposed to give up everything we have for Jesus.”

Yes, God, I will sell my nice clothes and use the proceeds to sponsor an orphaned child.

Yes, God, I will donate my time every week to volunteer as a Sunday school teacher for adorable yet annoying kindergartners.

But wait…what about my expectations for my life?  No, God, those are mine!

I may not be monetarily wealthy (poor college student, you know), but I am extremely wealthy in how God has gifted me.  Now, before you call me cocky, I believe everyone is wealthy in their own way, whether it be in their ability to show compassion or their artsy-ness or how much weight squat.

For me, it’s my brain.  I feel like most people who know me recognize that, and that has caused me to put a lot of my value in its abilities.  Since it got me recognition from a young age, I learned early on to use it as a tool for my own glory.

So, naturally, as a Christian, I need to lay it down and use it to serve Jesus, right?

Yet, I have been through the whole “lay down your life plans for Jesus and do what He wants for your life” conundrum already back in high school.  I gave up my dream long ago to be a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and instead be a medical missionary in Morocco.

Isn’t that enough?  I already altered my whole freaking life plan for You, God.  That was a catabolic explosion in my life.  What more could you be asking for?

The kicker is that I have a lot of time until being a medical missionary will become a reality.  I still have to finish my undergrad AND go through medical school AND complete my residency.  So, in that period of time, I have a lot of opportunities to glorify myself.

Which, by the way, I love doing.

And, you know, my brain is the tool that gets me that glory.

I love when people talk about how smart they think I am.  I love when I win a research competition or submit a research publication that gets accepted.  I love when my boss at Caribou tells regulars that she has a smart volleyball girl who works for her and comes up with awesome trivia questions that people can’t answer (ok, I know, the fact that people can’t answer my trivia questions giving me pleasure is extremely nerdy…).

So I start to milk my brain’s abilities– and take the credit for the results, when credit is actually due to God.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have every intention of following God’s call to be a medical missionary in Morocco; however, I have run astray in the path towards that goal.

I have turned Morocco into something to brag about.  When I am with Christians and get asked what I want to do with my life, I highlight the fact that Morocco is a restricted nation for Christianity because it gets me the “Wow, you are so strong in your faith to love God enough to spread the Gospel when you could go to jail for it” reaction.  Then, when I’m around academics, I highlight that I desire to obtain an MD/PhD degree before I practice medicine in a third world country.  I talk about how my research this year’s success has led me to this decision to try to get a PhD degree, too– a great way to throw my research success into a conversation.

See, God, I am still following Your call for my life.  I’m just milking every moment of the journey until then for MY glory.

Remember when I mentioned the catabolic explosion of God telling me to go to Morocco and be a medical missionary and scratch all my life plans?

That’s what He is talking about when He says in Luke 18:22, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor…and come, follow me.”

First, let me define catabolism (side note: my spell check is trying to tell me that “catabolic” is not a word, and it definitely is…it’s driving me nuts…).  According to Bing dictionary, catabolism is “the breakdown of complex molecules in living organisms to form simpler ones, together with the release of energy” or “destructive metabolism.”  In biology, an example of a catabolic reaction is when the enzyme lactase breaks down lactose into glucose, a simpler sugar that can be easily metabolized (which my body cannot do– hence, lactose intolerance).

I need another spiritual catabolic reaction.  When God broke me down from the girl who believed she was all that and could do whatever huge thing she wanted with her life for her own glory, He made me into someone smaller– in a good way, in a way that made me put Him first.  And, the thing about catabolic reactions is that they release energy.  That energy that Him breaking me down from a self-absorbed dreamer to a God-obsessed strategic planner spread to others around me.  It fueled my entire life.

Here I am now, lacking that very energy.

God needs to break me down again, to work the wonders of spiritual catabolism on my life again.  I cannot keep wasting my life by using it to gain recognition for others until I have my MD/PhD and can finally go to Morocco.

God, I beg You, please do it.  Help me to “sell all that I have” and view it as nothing and realize I am small and insignificant without You.

And make that energy that is released from this reaction so explosive that it not only fuels my life but shakes everyone else’s worlds.

 

 

Spiritual Anorexia

Last night, God changed my life.

No, I am not exaggerating.  Perhaps no specific visible or chronological element of my life changed, but I had a major paradigm shift.

First, let me give you a little bit of background since I haven’t posted now since January of 2015.  My last post, titled “May I Starve,” described my life back then (the beginning of second semester of freshman year).  I hated how I had less fire for Jesus than I had my senior year of high school.  I felt like my every movement was futile because they did not have Jesus’ heartbeat behind them.  I wish I could say that my life turned around right when I posted about this in “May I Starve,” but it didn’t.

Ironically, I did starve– and I became used to it.  I have developed spiritual anorexia.

My senior year of high school, I became a theistic existentialist (kudos to Soren Kierkegaard for thinking up that philosophy and being so kind as to share it with the world, and thanks to Mr. Anleitner for forcing lazy seniors in Christian Thought to regurgitate it).  Essentially, this means that I believe that there is no point to anything in life without God, that the subjective rather than the objective points you to Him.  Due to this worldview, I used to ensure that everything in my life had Him behind it.  I am deathly afraid of a living futile life, so this focus was as intrinsic as my very breath.

Then, I developed spiritual anorexia.

For whatever reason, I began starving myself of God my freshman year of college.  At first, I noticed it daily because it made every step feel useless and vain.  Normally, my fear of this would drive me straight back to God, but, for some reason, I let it continue until it started to feel normal.

Without God, my life felt chronically pointless– & this started feeling like it was eternally true, like my life would always be futile.

This led to a snowball effect of caring less and less about my faith.  And now, here I am today.

BUT GOD…

Last night, I was struggling to pick up my Bible.  I forced myself to flip to the end of Philippians.  I have tried to reread Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible, in order to catalyze a fire for God again– these efforts have, until now, been in vain.

Then, I read Philippians 4:11-13, verses that I have read so many times in my life:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

These verses have never spoken much to me ever since I realized how everyone and their grandma takes Philippians 4:13 out of context (one of my major pet peeves now).  So why did these verses scream at my cerebral cortex tonight?  Likely because, in the last 2 years since graduating from an ultra-Christian high school, I have “lost my innocence,” per se.  I have stepped out into the real world and seen the darkness there firsthand– not just heard about it, but touched it with my own hands.  This reality check has been a major weight pulling my soul down, with its relationship with God plummeting first.

Just this last semester, I went through more than I have ever been through.  My life is not the certain path I once thought it was.

But “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”  I have hit rock bottom and experienced every emotion associated with that since coming to college, yet I have also had the best moments of my life occur– “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.”

This last week, I have felt this crazy peace that I have not felt in ages.  This makes almost no sense because my life is more uncertain right now than it has been since right before I chose to commit to Northern for volleyball.  Yet, I feel so at peace.  I feel “CONTENT.”

How?!  I thought I was so far from God?!  How could I have the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) that only HE provides?!

It’s so simpleIt’s because He was leading me through the darkness.  He never left my side.  I only stopped chewing on Him daily (spiritual anorexia!!) and became numb to His presence.

He never left.

And, ultimately, I never left Him because I don’t have the POWER to leave Him.

That paradigm shift just changed my life.  I serve a God who won’t let me leave His side, even as I wander through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 91:4).

How could I not want to gnaw on Him every day now that I realize that He never left?!