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.

 

 

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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?!

May I Starve

Well, the near year has begun.  Yes, I realize how belated I am on this realization, and I don’t even have a busy schedule to blame for just now contemplating what I want to be different in 2015 than 2014.

Just tonight, I realized that I’m sick of this.  I’m horrifically disgusted at myself.

I feel weighed down.

I want to vomit up 90% of the Me of the last 4 months here at college.

I desire for the very essence of Annika to be extracted once again, to have the beautiful terrain of my soul, every valley and every mountain, illuminated by the light of the Son.

I’M SICK OF MY SOUL SIZZLING SLOWLY IN THE SULFURIC ACID OF BEING DISINGENUOUS.

Yes, I realize that I have been told 890901903850981 times that I am one of the most genuine people that people have ever met.

But how come I still put on a facade about my faith– not so much to other people, but to MYSELF?

Do I really have the right to identify myself as a “strong Christian” whose “faith means more than anything to [her]” who believes herself to possess the spiritual gift of martyrdom?

My stomach is literally churning as I write this sentence (yes, literally literally– I know that every good writer out there knows exactly why I inserted this clarification).  Do I really think that the life that I am living reflects my claims to be a sold out follower of CHRIST, the CREATOR of the whole entire universe who has “CHOSEN ME BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD TO BE HOLY AND BLAMELESS IN HIS SIGHT” (Eph 1:4)?!

Today, I confessed all of this disgust to the LORD.  And HE gave me a solution.

Actually, let me clarify for a moment.  If I am committed to being genuine with myself about my faith, then I must admit that I came up with this solution without consulting HIM.  I am actually so far from the LORD that I feel as though I cannot hear HIM (something that I have never really struggled with).

Therefore, I am praying that this plan works, although it may not be straight from the LORD.

Every day this week, I will write in my prayer journal and BE HONEST with myself about what I am going through spiritually.  In the meantime, I will not read my Bible once as I wait.  Hopefully, this will show me how empty my life is.  I am praying that it will force me to assess my spiritual life genuinely while I starve my soul spiritually.

May starving myself give me an uncontrollable desire for HIM again this new year.

Today’s a Good Day for Sunsets

sunset

Today is one of those days that I walk around in a daze thinking about just about anything and everything you could imagine while simultaneously pondering absolutely nothing.  Yes, that made no sense.  Welcome to the world of an INTJ brain.  Days like this refresh me by catapulting me away from daily worries like homework and getting the “W” next weekend to seal us as the #5 seed in the NSIC conference tournament.  They throw me into a world in which I’m not a college volleyball player or a student-athlete (that’s classic NCAA lingo for you) and rather just an average 18-year-old woman whose life revolves around something other than a constant, unrelenting pursuit of excellence in one transitory area of this futile life.

Okay, not to say that I don’t love my life here.  Don’t think for a second that I would ever trade the privileges I have for just about anything (although ending sex trafficking might be worth it), but days like this give me the opportunity to breathe in what it means to have a blissful life which possesses more than one axis of rotation.

Sometimes, these days occur on the day of a huge exam or a match we HAVE to win (although, to be real here, we HAVE to win every match).  When that happens, these days pile on the stress because I can’t let my brain loose from the electrical fence-bound pasture of school and volleyball.  I see a sunset just beyond the sizzling wire, but running through it would mean leaving behind grass that needs grazing in order to grow.

And my job is to graze that grass.  It’s what I’m called to in this era of my life, so I have to ignore the beauty and chew on.

But today is Sunday.  Sundays equal no volleyball and only as much homework as I need to do in order to feel “set” for the week.  Considering I had 22 hours of bus rides in the last week to crank out pesky homework, today was the perfect day to notice the sunset and frolic through the fields beyond my fenced-in pasture.

Well, if it shows the state my brain is in right now, my structured life was not what this blog was supposed to be about when I started.  But, on days like today, why not take the random path that my neurons provide me with?

SEEING, not Looking

UR

Last night, I plopped down on the floor, closed my eyes, and asked God, “Show me where You want me to read tonight.”  I flipped open my Bible to Matthew 5 and the Beattitudes seemed to pop out at me, so I decided to get past the familiarity of the words and look for deeper meaning.  Sure, I know that those who are merciful will receive mercy, but what does this truly mean?  What exactly IS mercy?  WHY will they receive mercy?  How do you BECOME merciful?

And then this verse jumped out at me:

“Blessed are the PURE IN HEART, for they shall SEE GOD.”

~Matthew 5:8

Yes, these words are already circled and underlined and boxed in a series of coded colors in my Bible, indicating that I have read this and supposedly understand it fully since I have analyzed it several times before.  Well, obviously I am an arrogant, presumptuous Bible-reader, because I almost glazed over it altogether even though GOD was practically screaming at me, “There’s more for you to understand in this!”

But, hey, I finally hunkered down and analyzed it, letting GOD speak to me again about what it truly means, or else I would not be writing this right now.

Is it horrible that I’ve never before noticed the magnitude of what “SEE GOD” means?  Well, looking at someone is far different than seeing them.  Looking is more intentional.  It is literally turning and deliberately viewing someone.  Yet, isn’t it less powerful?  For you can look at someone and FAIL TO SEE what someone truly is.

I truly believe that we can only experience GOD when strivings cease.  For as long as we are “trying” to experience GOD, we are failing to understand the fact that GOD is too big to not be experienced.  GOD comes to us.  If we had any sort of contribution to this, we would be saved by works and not by faith alone.

Therefore, I think that the fact that this verse uses the verb “SEE” rather than “look” is significant; “look” refers to a direct action, while “see” indicates that HE placing HIMSELF right in front of us in a way that we cannot turn away from, for one glace of HIM is too magnificent to walk away from.

Isn’t this the problem in my life right now?  For I LOOK at HIM every day.  I get up every morning and go through my monotonous routine of “looking” at HIM in HIS word.  But do I SEE HIM?  NO– or else I would be passionately serving HIM with my every breath!

Yet, how do we SEE HIM without striving?

Well, I think that Deuteronomy 6’s command to “love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” demonstrates that these four aspects of us are inherently interconnected..  These are the four entities are what comprise all of us— all of ME.  Therefore, I can relate the other three to the reference of the heart in Matthew 5:8.

What, therefore, does it mean to be “pure in heart”?

It means KNOWING GOD with my mind.

It means yearning for HIM only with all of my soul.

It means running to HIM out of habit with all of my strength.

Being “pure in heart” means passionately pursuing HIM not from obligation, but rather from OVERFLOW OF JOY, UNCONTAINABLE PLEASE, and MAGNANIMOUS SUFFERING.

LORD, may I SEE YOU ONCE AGAIN.

And may I never again think I already know everything there is to know about a verse.

What If I Desired HIM?

Kenai, AK

Ok, I suppose I must begin this post with a confession: I didn’t go to church today.

I know, I know, that wasn’t that bad.  But it’s not that I was up super late last night or that I didn’t feel well or even that I had a lot to do (I mean, really, we don’t do anything here in Aberdeen aside from watching Dr. Phil). 

I just didn’t want to go.

Yes, I realize that I’m not the first person ever to suffer from it’s-Sunday-but-I-just-want-to-do-anything-but-get-in-my-car-and-drive-to-church-itus, but I’m still disturbed at myself.

Why?

Because my choice to go back to sleep this morning instead of tossing my hair up in a nasty bun and embarking on the drive across town (those whole 8 minutes) is a symptom of a deeper issue— a heart issue. 

It’s an issue that John Piper, my favorite theologian and writer, has written several books on.  It’s an issue that I believe exists as the main reason humanity in general rebels from GOD– and why Christians suffer from a lack of commitment to fully follow JESUS.

Today, I did not desire GOD.

Yet, as I read Psalm 95 today, my heart overflowed with perspective— perspective on who GOD is and how crazy I am not to desire HIM every moment of every day:

“For HE is our GOD, and we are the people of HIS pasture, and the sheep of HIS hand” (v. 7).

What if I lived as if this were true?  Just let that sink in for a moment.

What if I BELIEVED this with all of my heart AND all of my mind AND all of my soul?

What if the TRUTH in this statement became the beat of my heart and the muscle behind my every step?

GOD, the CREATOR, has chosen me to worship HIM.  To live for HIM.  HE has given me the privilege of directing my every move.  THE PRIVILEGE TO KNOW HIM.

Yet, how easily I forget.  I allow the enemy to rob me of living life to the fullest, the way JESUS wants us to. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that you may HAVE LIFE and have it abundantly.” ~John 10:10

Nothing in life compares to the beauty of “knowing GOD and making HIM known” (YWAM motto).  GOD, make the desire to know you deeper be my all.  Make it the blood that flows through my veins.  The sweat that pours from my face as I play.  The very air I breathe. 

And, LORD, take me to a new level of commitment to YOU, that I may be able to truly say, “Search my heart and search my soul.  There’s nothing else that I want more.”

(Oh, and by the way, I took the picture at the top of the post on the beach in Kenai, AK, on my missions trip this summer.  How could we not desire a GOD who created this?!)

 

An “IN” Goes to College

Christ is ENOUGH

Well, I’ve decided to return to the universe of blogging (although one might note that I never really was a part of it, unless you count my 3 posts on this blog that I did nothing with and that killer blog I was required to write for Bible class senior year). I’m sitting at a crossroads of my life right now, in desperate, lonely limbo.

What a perfect time to find solace in electronic media.

I suppose I am living out a classic moment of life in America: beginning college. I’m caught in the shocks of moving to a new place (from a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a small town in South Dakota), making new friends (after having the same friends for 7 years), and suddenly having the weight of the expectations on my shoulders that come with having a volleyball scholarship.

Yes, I may have scored 98% Introvert on the Myers-Briggs personality test, but that does not mean that I do not crave communion with people. And I don’t just mean sitting around and chatting about nothing, but really TALKING to people. Like about our life story. Our background. Our hopes and dreams. Our love for the LORD.

Well, that isn’t going to happen automatically in college. That’s something that I must work towards. I must BUILD relationships again. I have to start from the bottom up.

Yet I am verbalizing the woes of nearly every person who begins college. Why do I feel as though I am alone in my alone-ness?

Maybe it has to do with my rare “IN” personality type (sorry for going all Myers-Briggs again, but, for real, this test practically described my life story, so I’ve got to give it some credit), which contributes to my need for constant DEPTH with people. Or maybe it’s how collaborative my faith walk has been thus far.

I suppose I can only speculate.

But, in my doubt this morning (another “IN” thing: we over think EVERYTHING and subsequently put ourselves into tizzies over nothing), the LORD reminded me of this: “The righteous has ENOUGH to SATISFY his appetite” (Proverbs 13:25a).

Isn’t that the core of the problem? Isn’t it that I’m not “satisfied” here yet (although, good grief, I’ve been here less than 48 hours)?

But of course I’m not satisfied if I’m not seeking the LORD every single moment that I doubt. That I wonder why I’m here. That I wonder how I handle not seeing my best friend until December. That I wonder how I will survive a whole month before I am reunited with my little brother again.

GOD doesn’t promise that life will be hard– especially the transitions. I’m experiencing one of the hardest, most drastic transitions that will ever occur in my life (although moving to Morocco to become a medical missionary will definitely top this). But where will I run in the midst of all this?

CHRIST IS ENOUGH. I can only be filled in HIM. Therefore, LORD, I run to you today.