I find myself in this same, all-too familiar, all-too frustrating position every week. I stare at a blank blog post, trying to find the right words to describe this person named God and this thing called faith. It's one of those Sundays when there's just too many thoughts in my head and just too many prayers in my heart that I can't accurately articulate even one of them. And it's Sundays like this one that I come to terms with the fact that God is just too big to be put into words, and my faith is too meaningful to me, too powerful, too filled to the brim with hope and promise and so much grace, that I simply can't even begin to comprehend it.
When it comes to our faith today, we often find ourselves at the intersection of freedom and restriction, unsure of a middle ground, choosing one distinct path or another. As I continue to grow in my faith, there's a certain feeling of freedom bubbling in my body, rising and rising until this feeling begins to overwhelm my whole being with a mixture of unbelievable joy and relentless satisfaction in the Lord, a kind of satisfaction that has yet to fade the more I pursue it each day of my life. Yet oftentimes when I hear from certain pastors or priests or seek advice from older, wiser Christians than I, I find the exact opposite of this freedom in their words. Instead, the words they speak are full of restriction, boiling with suffocating threats of do this, but not that, live this way, but don't live that way. This, that, yes, no, do, don't. Doesn't sound like much freedom to me.
Yet to some extent, restriction must have a role in our faith lives, if only for our best interest. This is especially true when it comes to the desires of the flesh, to put it in Biblical terms. For example, exploiting another human being for the purpose of satisfying your own physical desires is a tendency that is only human, but should be monitored and restricted as closely as possible. I'm not saying every girl has to cover herself from head to toe in clothing and join a convent. I'm simply saying that God knows the real desires burning in our hearts, and He knows the path that leads to life, and sometimes restricting ourselves from fleeting, worldly satisfactions will ultimately bring us one step closer to the freedom we truly desire.
So yes, restriction is necessary at times, but for the sake of freedom, not for the sake of this-that-yes-no-do-don't. Faith is not about rules and regulations; it is about falling in love with a God who is already so madly in love with you. I absolutely love the way the Bible puts it. In Paul's letter to the Galatians in the New Testament, he writes, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). Notice how Paul takes what I am saying one step further. Instead of simply stating, "Do not give into the desires of the flesh," Paul writes words of deep encouragement, gently reminding us as followers of Christ to set our eyes on Jesus, and watch how our earthy, fleshy desires begin to seem not so important anymore. As a young woman in love with God, I strive to live a life in accordance with His will not by restricting or suffocating or extinguishing every one of my sinful desires, but by focusing my thoughts and my heart so much on His glory and His grace, that nothing else seems to matter anymore in comparison to how much He has begun to matter to me.
The more I pursue Him, the less this world seems to matter. I find myself consumed with thoughts and dreams of Heaven, of praising His name for the rest of eternity, of living with Him and for Him, connected to Him in ways like never before. But I'm young, and I still (hopefully) have a long life ahead of me. So for now I will set my eyes upon Jesus and watch in amazement and complete and utter awe as everything I once considered so painfully important grows strangely dim in comparison to the grace I find in His eyes, the hope I find in His heart, and the redemption I find at His feet. How sweet, how sweet, how sweet He is.
Song of the Week:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of His glory and grace."
Pictured: Lauren Baskett
Photo credit: Raleigh Ward