One of the first birthdays I spent with my husband Touré happened when he was just my boyfriend. Because I was still living in Texas and only visiting him in California, I knew few people in the area, but being as smitten as I was (and still am), I knew that I could not go wrong spending my birthday with him. He managed to gather the handful of people I was acquainted with and some of his close friends to a surprise birthday party for me at a restaurant right by the beach. I was so blown away at the thoughtful gesture. I felt loved and happy.
The following year my birthday fell on a day when we were a few days from moving. I planned to stop the pace long enough to enjoy a nice dinner, but most of my family and friends were still in Texas so I didn’t expect much hoopla. Then I looked on the calen- dar and realized that my birthday was on a Sunday. My husband and I lead an incredible community of believers in the Los Angeles area. Each Sunday we have three powerful worship services. The energy and investment that goes into facilitating those three ser- vices can be both powerful and exhausting. I knew that anything we managed to do for my birthday would be secondary to the mission we have for Sunday. To be honest I wasn’t upset about that either. You could have never told me that I would come to a place where I did not mind being at church for three services on my birthday. Talk about a transformation! I went from not feeling very special to God to spending one of my most special days in church.
My husband, on the other hand, was not content with the idea of us having a low-key celebration. Touré decided that instead of trying to celebrate on Sunday when we would be tired, we would dedicate the weekend to our celebration. It all began on Friday with an early-morning boating trip. While we were on the water, we witnessed a school of dolphins swimming directly toward us. It was as if he’d convinced the universe to come together to celebrate my existence. We went to see a movie I’d really been wanting to check out, and then our celebration concluded with a good ol’ fashioned nap. Saturday I made breakfast for our children, then Touré took me to do some damage at one of my favorite stores because they were having a sale. After dinner with the kids that evening, I was feeling completely celebrated beyond measure. When Sunday rolled around, I was grateful to be in the presence of God and surrounded by believers. I knew that Touré might mention my birthday, but I wasn’t prepared for the surprise video tribute he presented. Somehow he’d been working behind the scenes to put together clips from my family, friends, and members of the church all wishing me a happy birthday. I was in tears when my parents’ faces appeared on the screen and in a full ugly cry when my son finished sharing his tribute.
To say the least, I was completely and utterly amazed at all the thought and secrecy that must have taken place for Touré to have planned such an incredible moment. I was completely satisfied with the full weekend we’d already experienced, but the video truly put the icing on the cake. Just when I thought things were over after Sunday’s services, Touré and I piled our six children into one car and headed for what I thought would be a quiet dinner. When the maître d’ walked us to our table, I was greeted by “Surprise!” Our closest friends and family were there. Even my parents had flown in!
Just between us, I was not completely caught off guard. Earlier in the day our sons were arguing over who would get to sit in the front row. One of them mentioned that he would have fair opportunity because of dinner that evening. I continued buckling our infant daughter Ella into the car seat as if I did not hear him spill the beans. Later on in the day one of our teenage daughters hugged us after service then confirmed the time of the dinner within my earshot. Once again, I pretended not to hear because I knew my husband’s intentions were for me to be surprised. What I could not have anticipated was that the room would be full of people who I would have never expected. This wasn’t a milestone birthday or anything worth doing something extravagant, but for some reason my husband decided to go all out.
Later that night when all the festivities concluded and I was resting my head comfortably on the pillow that is cloud-nine euphoria, I rolled over and asked my husband why he’d made the day so special. His answer was simple: “Because you deserve it,” he said softly while falling asleep.
As I replayed the day’s events in my head, I was hit with the deep revelation that perhaps I truly did deserve this special treatment. Much like the mental barricade that hindered my ability to fully receive the love of God, I had to realize that my previous experiences with life and love had kept me from fully seeing my own worth. My husband’s desire to celebrate my life was not based on criteria. There was no quota that determined whether I would be celebrated. His answer could have been because I did this or that, but it ended simply with “because you.” In his eyes my existence commanded the type of celebration that was difficult for even me to receive.
I am reminded how God sees us in moments like that.
We might believe that love should be based on conditions or behavior, but He decides to bless us because of who we are in His eyes.
I had to make a conscious decision in the middle of my husband honoring me to receive the love that he was giving me. I think a part of me had been afraid that if I received his love, then I would come to need it or trust it. When you’ve spent a lifetime guarded and hoping to stay in control, placing yourself in a position where another person becomes a permanent fixture in your life is scary. But that’s exactly what we must do if we’re going to be in relationship with God.
I remember hearing the phrase “God-fearing” Christian. I thought that it meant we should be afraid of what will happen if we disappoint God. I am now coming to the realization that we should be in such close relationship with Him that we’re afraid to do life without Him.
The mere thought of making life decisions or destiny-altering choices without first praying and hearing from Him should be scary.
When you reach that place of complete trust in Him, you begin to live with expectation. As genuinely surprised as I was that my husband went out of his way to make my birthday special, there were these clues all along the way that let me know something was taking place. I could not fully quantify it nor did I know the details, but I knew that as distracted as I was with living in the moment, there was already something taking place in the future that was far better than what I could see.
That’s how God is orchestrating our lives. He allows us to think things are going to go one way, but only so that He can get us properly positioned for what He has in mind. What overwhelmed me the most about what Touré did was less about how well he was able to secretly put everything together and more about how incredibly treasured I felt. I could not believe that he thought so much of me that he would allow me to believe my present joy of distractions would pale in comparison to what he was actually planning to do. Sometimes we can become so busy looking for reasons why we are loved that we fail to embrace the fact that we are loved.
My relationship with God has become less about me wondering why He loves me and more on enjoying the fact that He does love me.
When you begin to truly expect and trust the love of God, it significantly changes your paradigm. I want you to live in a place of expectation. You must begin to expect that everything in your life, good or bad, has been divinely assigned to help God manifest the divine purpose and intentions He has for you.
When you’ve experienced disappointment in the past, living with that level of expectation can be scary. We convince ourselves that it’s better to expect nothing at all than to expect something and be disappointed. This is where trusting God comes into play. You have to trust that even in your disappointment there is a bigger, better plan taking place behind the scenes that you cannot see. God has plans for your life so unfathomable that when you look back on how it all came together, you will know that it took divine resources to make it all work.
So where do you start?
Trusting God comes down to first making peace with your path. You can’t resent where you are or what you’ve been through and expect the best.
Bitterness and joy cannot dwell in the same home.
As we read in James 1:8,
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. — KJV
If you’re going to truly embrace the love that is constantly surrounding you, you’re going to have to become more honest and transparent in your life than you’ve ever been. God’s power is made strong in our lives when it is met with the frailty of our human experience. He wants to show us that He has been with us through every moment we’ve ever faced, but we’ll have to ask Him to give us the vulnerability required to see His hand on our lives. Beneath our tough exteriors and the stories we’ve had to tell ourselves to survive is the truth that many of us have been functioning while broken. God already has a plan to restore all that we feel we’ve lost, but we must be willing to cry out to Him first.
I want to share a prayer with you that helped me through my own reconciliation with God.
God, I’ve been searching for You my entire life. I’ve been hoping that I would hear Your voice in my darkest days. I have to ask for forgiveness because honestly I gave up on the idea that You had a plan for me. I’ve been so hurt by life and disappointed by my own actions that I learned to live a life that kept You at a distance. I didn’t want to come to trust You. I didn’t want to come to need You. I didn’t want to let You down. I’ve felt so unworthy of Your blessings, but also so envious of other people who seem to access them so easily. I’m ready to turn my life around and focus on You more diligently. Help me to look back on my life and see Your fingertips. Help me to see that even when I was in trouble You had a plan that allowed me to escape. I’ve been bruised and broken, but somehow I’ve still survived. I’ve been searching for a sign that You’ve heard my prayers, that You hear my cries, and that I matter to You. Please take away any part of my mind, heart, or soul that would threaten to rob me of the knowledge that You love me. Break any connections I have with negativity. Help me to protect the light You’ve placed inside of me so that I may shine again. My life has been so far from perfect. My journey has been so difficult, but I’m still here. I still believe that You have plans for me. Give me the patience to receive that revelation, the strength to live it, and the voice that declares Your love is not about perfection but about those willing to admit their brokenness so that You may fill them up. In Jesus’ name.
Excerpted with permission from Don’t Settle for Safe by Sarah Jakes Roberts, copyright Sarah Jakes Roberts.
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Has past hurt and relationship messes dinged up your view of how God Himself feels about you? Has mistreatment caused you to forget how beloved and precious you are? Today, cry out to Jesus and ask Him to fill those broken places and remind you of your value in Him! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full