Have you ever thought being “faithful” looks like putting your feelings aside and proclaiming only the goodness of God? I’m pretty sure that way of living is promoted as holy in many Christian circles. I thought like that too, until I had a very real, personal encounter with the Lord. During an all-church fast, I believe God put it on my heart to bring everything to Him, even the stuff I thought of as unholy. “Just come,” He said. Since then, I have seen a huge increase of intimacy and loving trust as I bring everything to the Lord: my praise, my junk, my doubt, my delight, all of it.
For this season of Lent, my prayer for Redemption Church is that every person who desires deeper intimacy will respond to God’s open invitation to come. At the beginning of this process, I experienced a lot of fear about how imperfect my expressions of love were compared to the spotless, righteous love of God. In response to that fear, I felt like the Lord put the following poem in my heart.
Title: Keep Coming
Keep coming, love
Even when self-hatred pulls you back
Even when there’s snot mixed with your tears
And your hair might leave dirt smudges
On my feet
My feet don’t mind
So, keep coming, love
Even when condemnation weighs you down
Even when your “old ways” take over
And you think I’m like an ordinary man
I’ll turn your grime to gold
And your shame to praise
Just keep coming, love
I know you’re bruised
But I won’t break you
But I won’t quench you
I’m not afraid of your pain
Your urges, your doubts, your rage
My love, just keep coming.
Blessings on your Lenten reflections. And may you know the joy of deep intimacy with our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Naomi Wong is a writer whose permanent residence is in California. She spends her days writing novels and poetry and loves prayer ministry, too. She has attended Redemption Church since January 2019.
The video mentioned at the 39:06 mark is below:
The musical worship leaders are looking for electric guitar players. We practice twice a week, either Thursday night or Saturday morning and then again before the service on Sundays. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Also...do you play an instrument that we don't often see on stage (eg. strings, horns, woodwinds)? Please reveal your hidden talents to us at email@example.com We are working on a special project and need you! Thanks!
“For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.”” Ezekiel 34:11
Growing up, there was no reason to question my faith. In the family I grew up in, being a Christian didn’t just mean going to church, but rather an intense journey of faith, not knowing what each day would bring, facing an assortment of immigration, financial, and health issues that no amount of planning or preparation could resolve on its own, except through God’s grace and provision through miracles.
After working at the church, I felt like I had gained a greater depth of knowledge to my faith that I had lacked in evangelical churches growing up. I was a ‘good’ Christian who served in the church, had an intellectual understanding of my faith, prayed and heard from God. My faith was invincible, or so I thought.
However, in 2018, I started wrestling with the reason for my faith. Having witnessed the people closest to me experience a time of distance in their own faith amidst my own questioning led me to wonder what the point of it all was. My lifelong experiences of God could not save the amount of apathy I felt towards my faith nor my fear of burning in a pit of fire in hell (somebody please tell me I’m not the only one who grew up reading those terrifying Chick tract comics). I wanted absolutely nothing to do with God, the same God who I credited as having saved my life (literally) and having been with me through all of the pain and suffering I had experienced in my past.
This is where I wish I could tell you that I had a very mature way of working through all of this. However, I did not. I made distressed pleas and complaints to God, all of which ended something like this, “God, I really don’t care, and if you’re real and want me to come back to you, then you’re going to have to make it happen, because I have absolutely no interest in that right now, and can’t foresee myself making it happen.” In the following months, I experienced a strange sense of listlessness. Whenever I was not distracted by work, TV, or social activities, in the moments of quiet in my life, I would feel indescribable anxiety about something I couldn’t place my finger on and tiredness that wasn’t physical, emotional, or mental, something I did not attribute to being spiritual until much later.
I did not pray to God again, until later when I decided to pray about a few job prospects for my parents’ sake, as it would have affected them in some way. While I was at it, I figured I might as well try to reconnect with God, because I was so uneasy and I felt the need to do something meditative to ease the uneasiness. I would tell Him how tired I was; pray about my job prospects, and soon I ran out of things to say. All I could do was sit quietly and stare out into the distance from wherever I was, mind blank. In one of these moments, I decided to let myself rest and wait. If God wanted me to return to faith in Him, He would make it happen. I resigned myself to the fact that I had no means to go back on my own and I let go of the fear of it. I let myself do what I wanted, and to escape the anxious feeling that cropped up at times, I spent most of my free time reading the psalms, listening to quiet instrumentals, or sitting outside and journaling.
Somehow, in that time and space, I finally understood the grace of God. When I reached an all-time low in my lack of faith, I was disoriented, anxious, and had no interest or reason to seek God. How I even turned to God again is a mystery to me, and nothing I did out of my own volition. It is something I can only attribute to God, for having answered my desperate plea from months previous. He chose me, a person who wanted nothing to do with Him. I had no good deeds to give Him. The only thing I could give him was my own disinterested heart, and He took it, and made it His own.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit - fruit that will last - and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16
Having realized this, I finally felt free. He asked for us, empty-handed. It might seem like being subservient and weak, but to me, I finally knew what it meant to come to God with no agenda, no good responsible duties on hand to offer, but just me, as I am, like a friend. And life has never been more beautiful. For the first time, I felt incredibly grateful to be alive.
Of course, this is not a happy ending story. I am still regaining my step in life and recovering my energy. I still have not figured out my future. There are still things I struggle with and still many unanswered prayers that I am waiting on. There will be more hurdles down the road, and more I can learn about God. The thing that has changed is my perspective on God, which has changed my faith. Faith has seasons, and with each new season comes a renewal in faith and a new perspective gained. I hope that if your faith is dry, apathetic, non-existent, or exhausting, then you will receive a new faith in Christ that leads you to freedom and joy.
Sarah is a church attendee who has been at Redemption since she was an undergraduate student. She really loves cats (especially her parents’ cat), hiking, eating Asian food, and reading (A LOT). If you want a good book to read this lent season, she recommends “Til We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis. She is usually found hidden in the back of the church on Sundays. Come say ‘hi!’
Former Redemption members, Gord and Carol Taylor, are organizing a group of 12-16 volunteers ; including Will Suderman, his son, and Lani Morand to travel to/from Mexico for the Heart Ministries annual Baja House Build at Spring Break 16-23 March.
They will be holding a Taco Lunch fundraiser after the service at Redemption Church and you are invited!