When we cleaned the garage last weekend I found lots of interesting things.
Some I wondered why I even kept, some made me laugh (like my Super Nintendo), and still others made me incredibly reminiscent.
The reminiscent stuff is what I want to talk about today.
Do you have some time and some coffee?
Go get some and come back.
We found lots of “treasures,” but a few stand out:
A giant picture frame someone gave us, full of pictures of us with youth at the church where we served,
A couple pictures that used to hang in my bedroom before I got married,
And a journal I wrote in my first few months in Kuwait.
All are distinctive, yet united under the same feelings evoked when I saw them.
Depending on how long you’ve read my blog, you may not know that Will was a youth minister when I met him.
Here we are serving as camp counselors together way back in 2003!
It was perfect. I surrendered my life to ministry as a youth, and our marriage and ability to help serve alongside Will at our church was a dream come true.
Only, no one ever really told us just how difficult our time there would be.
It didn’t come easy like the places where we were before.
The youth were so very different than we were used to. No more squeaky clean preppy kids with parents who were involved.
Every week Will would drive the church bus to pick up almost every single one of those kids in some of the worst neighborhoods in town.
Only a few had parents that went to church, and only a couple helped out.
The biggest struggle was that the church was wrought in pain from the past. There was much division, and the church had never really recovered.
A few months into Will’s service, the pastor was asked to leave, and we faced so many new challenges.
Talk about a heavy load for two kids in their early 20s.
It was hard, and Will hated it. It wasn’t exactly the dream I envisioned.
Then the chance to go to Kuwait surfaced.
What initially seemed like something so outlandish, became an attractive opportunity.
We prayed about it and it seemed like everything lined up to go, and so we went. (Perhaps this will be a future post?)
If you read the archives from waaaay back in 2005, you’ll see lots of adjustments to the new life.
I didn’t work for my first four months there, which felt like torture at the time but in hindsight was such a huge blessing.
It gave me time alone with God. To seek Him and draw close to Him.
When I look back on my journal, I could still see a lot of immaturity and want to tell myself, “Oh Brittny, if you could only see how God was doing a work!” However, I also saw growth and my desire to really pursue a relationship with Jesus. I had loved Him all my life.
When I looked at people seemingly very close to God who had fallen away, I could never understand it.
How could you be so close to God, and so deeply pursuing Him, and then all of a sudden completely fall face first and turn away from His goodness?
Well, sadly I can tell you how it happens.
Listen up, and be mindful my friends. It pains me to be able to share these lessons, but I sincerely hope it somehow serves as a lesson to some of you who may be going through something similar.
The truth is, when I would see people who were formerly strong in their faith who had fallen, I was only seeing the end result of much more.
Do not be deceived friends, the enemy is all around and wants us to stumble. The Bible says he looks for someone to devour.
It’s very true. The enemy was very patient with me, as I suspect he is with many believers.
It was years of slow erosion. Slowly chipping away in such tiny increments that I barely noticed. He’s crafty that way.
Oh friends, I allowed myself to step out from God’s umbrella of protection and became so vulnerable to deception.
How did it happen?
1.Lack of Community
Moving to a Muslim country made it difficult to openly pursue a relationship with the Church.
Thankfully, someone we knew hosted a Bible study which allowed us the opportunity to meet with other Christians and fellowship and study the Bible.
Unfortunately, soon after our arrival, conflicting schedules prevented the leader from hosting and things dissolved.
Will and I were on our own.
The Bible stresses the importance of relationships with believers.
I needed that community of like minded people in my life to encourage, to get encouragement, and to have a support group as we collectively pursued God together as a unit.
It was hard doing life on our own, but we managed to adjust.
Of course we did.
If you’re a Christian not attending church, you’re missing out and vulnerable. I would encourage you to find a church that preaches God’s word and get plugged in.
2.Compromise & Complacency
In addition to lack of community, small compromises here and there primed my heart for falling away.
Seriously- like minuscule things that didn’t seem like a big deal.
However, that small wearing away allowed my heart to become vulnerable to attack. The more “small” sins I determined to be acceptable, the more I was on a slippery slope.
The more satan can get you to dip your toe in sin, the easier it can be to get dragged into the depths of the sea.
Sin is sin in God’s eyes, friends, no matter how we weight it here on earth.
The Bible says God has “honest scales.”
Sin separates us from God.
If we allow what we believe to be “small” sins in our lives, we are sinning plain and simple.
We are opening our hearts up for more and more compromise. I know because I did it myself!
Before long, compromise was followed with complacency.
Being totally fine with those “small” sins. In reality though, they were totally hardening my heart more and more.
Want to fall away from God?
Start making compromises and allowing sin in your life under the justification that “it’s not that bad.”
Inevitably, compromise and complacency give way to apathy.
You just slowly stop caring about the things of God.
You might say you do, but the heart doesn’t lie.
When we first moved back, we halfheartedly visited churches and kept on the outskirts or things.
Having spent three years without attending made us sort of accustomed to not going.
The first few years home weren’t our best. As I’ve shared so many times, my heart was so different than the one I knew so well as a youth and young adult.
As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t feel like me.
I felt like some other person, so unlike the Brittny I knew my whole life.
Living a sinful life far from God.
I stopped praying and reading the Bible.
Apathy will do that to you.
Apathy is such a dangerous place to be for professing Christians.
In fact, I’d venture to say it is nearly impossible to come back from a place of not caring unless the merciful Lord intervenes.
Thank God He is slow to anger and bountiful in love.
4.Fear and Doubt
I started to feel Jesus’ gentle pull back to himself a couple years ago, but I believed I had gone too far. That He couldn’t take me back.
After all, I was the “perfect one” all my life. The youth leader, and the one who went on mission trips and truly loved God with every fiber in my being.
How could I go from that, to what I had become?
And how could God forgive me after I had already known his love so well and yet still fell away?
Apathy turns to fear and doubt.
And fear and doubt can often keep people from repentance.
It’s one of satan’s worst lies of all.
I was paralyzed in this fear, and yet slowly and continually, piece by piece, God reassured me of His love.
He reassured me that He could scatter what I had become as far as the east was from the west if I truly came with a broken and repentant spirit.
That he could restore me and bring me to an entirely new level of knowing Him.
Oh friends, this is but a glimpse into the story. However, I felt compelled to share it with you because we must be on our guard against the devil’s schemes.
They’re much more insidious than we think.
That’s what makes them so dangerous and painful.
If you want to fall away from God, you do the foolish things I did above.
Saturday night, as I tried to go to bed, I thought about the things I discovered in the garage and hot tears began to stream down my face.
The streams turned to quiet sobs, and I did my best not to wake Will.
Sooo, I crept into the bathroom and sat on the toilet seat.
God and I had been in this place many times before (well, maybe not plonked down on the toilet seat per say, but in this very same situation).
I needed a lot of reassurance from Him along the way.
I found myself at His feet once more apologizing for wasting such a huge portion of my adult life living selfishly. Thanking Him for His mercy, and pouring my heart out to Him.
Telling Him how I want to get to the same level of intimacy we were before, yet in some strange way feeling as though I was more raw and intimate with Him recently than in my entire life.
I ended up reading exactly what I needed at that moment. This post about how God can make beauty from ashes.
In fact, the Bible days that things meant to harm us can even be used for good.
We serve a big God.
Bigger than our failures.
A God big enough to help us pick up the pieces and create a masterpiece that could only be used for His glory.
Perhaps you’re caught in one of these situations?
Maybe you’re on a similar path to falling away that I shared?
Oh friend, turn to Jesus.
I know the trappings of this world and “doing as thou wilt” sure seems great sometimes, but it pales in comparison to the freedom of living a life centered in Jesus.
I can say it because, unfortunately, I’ve lived on both sides.
Commit to Him and His plan, friends.
To wrap things up, I decided to hang a couple of those pictures.
And who knows, maybe I’ll even hang the collage I once deemed “hideous” as a simple reminder of the impact a life devoted to Christ can make.
Thanks for listening, and know I’m here to listen too!