Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hope deferred and restored

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

At the beginning of 2015, this verse really resonated with me. There were days when my heart just felt sick. It was an odd feeling, to be honest. I had never wanted to move to Los Angeles. It was never a dream for me to be in the industry, to make it in Hollywood, to live a glamorous life. In reality, all I really wanted out of life was simple: to love my job, to travel the world for God, to have good friends who I could encourage in life, and to be married with kids. Yes, having a fun-filled life of adventure is awesome, but the deepest desire of my heart has always been to be married. I saw the awesome relationship my parents had and I wanted that for myself. Someone to encourage. Some one to love and be loved by. Some one to travel with and do missions with and have fun with.
 
Being heart sick was odd for multiple reasons. There was nothing I could complain about in life. I LOVE LOS ANGELES! I never wanted to move here, but once I got out here I fell head over heels for this crazy town. With the people. With the unusual contrast between lush ocean landscapes and barren dessert beauty. With the community and network of friends that adopted me I have a job that pays the bills with extreme flexibility to continue traveling for missions and coworkers that I love to hang out with outside of work. In a transient city where the average length of stay is less than 16 months because of high expenses and a grinding psychology to try to make it, I found myself thriving socially. Some of the most creative people I've ever met are rooted here. I was living in a great location with the most wonderful roommates ever (FELICIA AND SARAH!!!!) We would have girls nights, family dinners, and Bible studies out of our apartment on a weekly basis. And yet me heart was sick. I couldn't complain because life was too amazing. God has been so gracious to me over the past few years. But the one thing that I had always hoped for hadn't happened yet.
 
Some time in the winter of 2015, I really don't know when, God had to start talking to my heart about hope. Some where along the way I had lost hope that I would actually meet the right guy for me. I had put myself out there in the dating world of LA and it came up lacking. Hollywood glamorizes the dating scene out here. In pretty much any chick flick about dating, which is like every chick flick ever made, and especially in movies that actually take place in LA, they make dating look like this super fun activity full of interesting conversations over lattés, cocktails at exclusive clubs, and men buying you drinks whenever you go out. Let me tell you what; Hollywood lies. About itself. While that may be the case for slender models who like to stay out part my bedtime and frequent the Sunset strip, for us normal, hard working girls the dating scene is LA is just exhausting. Each time you have a first date or a dating event to go to, social etiquette dictates that you get all glammed up, heart open to possibilities, are on your best most cutest behavior, only to be disappointed by not even finding a flake of glitter let alone a spark with someone. Many of the men I met were interesting, but not at all what I was looking for.  Finally one night, after yet another first date that left me deflated, with my two closest girlfriend over to comfort me, I reached a breaking point. I literally laid face down on the carpet of my apartment and wept. God my hope has been deferred for too many years. My heart is sick. God I'm gonna need some Miracle Grow to revive this withered tree in my heart. Hope had died.
 
And yet the Lord is faithful. I have seen Him pull through over and over and over again. He has provided for me in every season of my life. So I decided to start focusing on the second half of the verse. A longing fulfilled is a tree of life. I asked God to revive my heart. He asked me to start dreaming again. Really? I need to do what? He literally asked me to dream with Him again. To dream about what I wanted in my marriage, what characteristics I wanted in a man, to really search my heart and see what my heart wanted. Anybody can pray for a man, but what kind of man would resonate with my heart? Who am I as a person and what do I have to offer to a man? What kind of man would want to be with the kind of woman that I am? This was all sounding familiar. A few years back when I moved home from the mission field, God taught me a lot about being specific in prayer. This was another area where I needed to be specific. But I needed to know what I wanted to begin with.

Here's what I came up with: loves Jesus above all, tall enough that I can wear heels and not feel self conscious, an adventurous and fun-loving MacGyver type with what I like to call the 3 M's: Music, Missions, and Ministry. These were the things that were most important to me in a relationship and things I felt I could give in return. Things that I felt would compliment me in what I felt my calling in life was. Plus it was more specific than just, "is a decent human being who pays his bills on time and isn't a psycho."


Now here's something I've been pondering for a long time. Why do we feel like in the church we can't ask God for specific things, or to ask for the dreams in our hearts? Do we feel it is selfish? Too much to ask? Will we irritate God with our petty petitions? Or are we so afraid that God doesn't want to give us the things that we desire we would rather not ask and risk it "not being His will for our life"? Where did we pick up this theology? This is the same God who heard Hannah's prayer and gave her a baby, heard Jabez's petition for more land and expanded his territory, heard Elijah's prayer that there would be no rain for years and then to start the rain again, heard Gideon's weird request for a sign of confirmation that God was on his side, and heard Moses' death-wish request to see His face. Were these requests selfish? Were they too big for God? Were they only answered because they were in God's will? This is the God of the impossible that says all things are possible and that He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, willing to do immeasurably more than we could ever hope or imagine.

I started thinking more about the Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of YOUR heart. The crazy emphasis is all mine. As we delight ourselves in the Lord, we start to see how good and faithful He is. However, this is a mutual relationship. In turn, He begins to give us the desires of our hearts. He cares about what is in our hearts and loves to fulfill those desires, mostly because He probably put them there in the first place. He wants more good for us than we could ever hope for or imagine could be possible.

Hebrews 11:1 is a very common and popular verse in the Christian faith. "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." I started to focus on this verse a little differently, on the hope part instead of the faith part. By definition, Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation". So in essence you have to have hope before you can have faith. To take it a step further, I'm starting to believe that you have to dream first. A dream is a wish your heart makes, something that you long for or desire. Hope comes along and gives you the optimistic belief that those dreams can become a reality. Only then can faith gives us the confidence to keep pressing in until he tangibly have what we're hoping for.  I felt like God was asking me to dream about the man I wanted to be with to give me something concrete for hope to land on. To be specific with what was in my heart and have hope revived that God actually had someone like that out there for me. And to have faith that some where out there a man was dreaming about a woman like me and having hope that I also existed.

So what dream have you lost hope for? What dreams do you need revived so you can have hope again? It's time to start dreaming with God again.
 

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