Dear Heart: A Summer in Europe

I recently spent some time in France with some great friends and Christian family. This trip might have been last minute, but it was the most wonderful experience of my life.

Let me start from the beginning. None of you will ever understand the grace of God in my life. You cannot even begin to fathom the amount of grace and forgiveness that has been lavished upon me. I deserve the worst death. I do not deserve God. I do not deserve love. And that is exactly what I have been given.

I did not expect to encounter God on a vacation to France. Anyone who has been on a mission trip before knows the spiritual preparation that one puts in before going on one of these trips. We prepare ourselves for an encounter with God. We are then overwhelmed with emotion, and we truly feel God’s presence. I didn’t expect or prepare for what happened to me on this trip. Going to France, I felt none of this. I did not have some emotional encounter with God. However, while on this trip, God spoke to me more clearly than I have ever experienced.

I felt God tugging at my heart. I felt God truly calling me out of the place I was in, and into into his presence. I cannot explain this. I just felt like I had no choice but to be obedient. I ended a major relationship in my life. I decided that obedience to God was worth more than my comfort. This decision is already more difficult than any other decision I have ever made, but I have never felt more peace with a decision.

During this trip, one of my great friends said to me something that truly changed my life. He said, “You can wake up tomorrow morning and choose to make better decisions. You can choose that.” And I realized for the first time in my life that I did not have to make decisions based on how I felt. I realized that all of the emotional ties I have to things do not matter near as much as obeying God. Often we have to make decisions that actually go against how we feel.

Maybe I am just behind the curve, but I cannot remember a time that I made a decision that was not based on pure emotion. For the first time in my life, I realized how enslaving that is. Emotions are a great expression, but we cannot base our lives around them. They will fail us.

I am a very stubborn person. That’s an obvious statement if you know me at all. Once I make decisions, I stick with them, even in my error. I reached a point on this trip in which I was so disgusted with my sin and so enraged over the person I had become, that I couldn’t help but to cry out to God. I knew I couldn’t even begin to change on my own.

This same friend also encouraged me to ask God to move me if I couldn’t move myself. I began praying, “God, I am too stubborn to want what you want. If you want me to change, you’re going to have to move me yourself. I can’t do this.” And from that moment on, I have felt a peace unlike any other. Obedience truly leads to abundance of life.

God really pushed this on me during my time in France. It felt like every church service, every sunday school class, and every conversation was geared around this concept of obedience. It was eating away at me for weeks, months, and I would say even years before I finally gave in to God’s will for my life. I have said this before, but I will say it again; Christianity all starts with changing the way we think (Romans 12:1-2). I had to really change the way I viewed freedom. Freedom is not found in my selfishness. Freedom is only found in the grace and forgiveness of and obedience to God.

I have learned more lessons than I can write out in this post. We must be in a regular habit of confessing our sins, not only to God but to our brothers and sisters in Christ as well. We need the community. However, we do not need each other as much as we need God. I am a people-pleaser and extrovert by nature. I love company. I love being loved. I love affirmation. I have made a decision to change that in my life. I have made the decision to really seek God wholeheartedly and truly experience the grace I tell all of my friends about. It’s a beautiful thing to love each other and to be loved, but it is far more beautiful to love God and to be loved by God.

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