God is good.
God is love.
God is constant.
God is divine.
God never gave up on this heart of mine.
"You are nothing without God; and you are never without God." --Brett Harris
God taught me a lot at National Convention.
To be flat-out honest, I've been struggling. Everything just felt so distant and out of reach.
I felt completely shaken in all my relationships. Like no one really cared. Like I was just going to have to do things on my own.
But God opened my eyes this last week at NC.
He pretty much smacked me up-side the head with reality. I know I use that analogy a lot, but it just fits. So many times, when God is trying to teach us a lesson, we don't pay attention to His gentle prodding. As we fall deeper into our sin, God's nudging becomes harder. And often--especially for stubborn people such as myself--He has to smack us with reality.
The "big smack" so to speak came at dinner one evening. One of my best friends was going in the line before me and said she would save me a seat. Preoccupied, I agreed to meet her and got distracted with other things. I ended up taking a long time before I actually officially got in line. By the time I got through, I found her table and--from a distance--it looked like she had given up on saving me a seat. To this day, I honestly don't even know whether or not all the seats were full. Shrugging, I went off and went and sat with another good friend who had gone through the line with me. I spent my dinner chatting and laughing with the group of people at my table. Towards the end of the meal, my best friend walked past my table, headed for session. She stopped, and I didn't see her until she said, "Well, I feel left out." and walked away.
I suddenly felt as if I had been punched. Solutions to the "no room at her table" situation began pouring through my mind.
I could've invited her over to the my table… there was an empty seat.
I could've pulled up another chair to her table.
I could've actually approached the table period.
Here I was, feeling as everyone was distant from me, when I was the one who was being distant. I was the one pushing everyone away, trying to do things on my own. I was the one at fault. No one else but me.
I walked to session, unsure what to do. I found my friend, and she and I, along with several others sat together. But to be honest, I was distracted during session. I was really excited about the speaker, as it was Mr. Tim Echols, the found of TeenPact. But I couldn't concentrate. I fiddled with my camera, deleting photos that I didn't need to clear up space on my memory card. The whole time, my mind was consumed with my attitude.
You're pushing everyone away. Everyone. Even God.
The words echoed through my mind over and over again.
Then, Mr. Echols announced we would be taking communion. My first communion in three years.
I looked down at my lap and twisted my hands together.
Even though it had been three years, I remembered communion very well. Communion is a time to get right with God. To confess your sins.
Pretty soon, I could feel hot tears slipping down my face. Soon, I was shaking with sobs. It was all starting to make sense. Why I felt so distant, why things weren't going for me how I wanted them to.
I was pushing everything that was good for me away.
My best friend in the whole wide world.
And even God.
Suddenly, I felt an arm around me. I leaned my head into the adjacent shoulder, glanced up, and nearly fell out of my chair in shock of who it was. My best friend. The girl who I had not an hour ago pushed away. Holding me as I cried. It was all I could to put my arm around her as well.
And I began talking to God.
Apologizing, asking Him to give me strength. Asking Him to help me to draw people in and not push them away.
But we didn't get into line just yet. I was stilling a sobbing mess, and she just completely understood me. How I just needed to cry for a little while.
After a little bit, she softly, cautiously asked me the question I'd been needing to hear all night:
"Do you have anything to apologize for?"
And with that, everything came rushing out. How I'd been pushing the best people in my life away, rejecting them, and refusing their love. And how so sorry I was that she had been one of those people I'd been pushing away.
And you know the best part?
She forgave me.
That right there is something I'll never forget. That's what love is: forgiving no matter what.
But God sure wasn't done with me yet.
On the last full day, the theme was humility. So naturally, this was the theme of our morning devotional (or "Bonjour") cards. As I read the verses, and wrote notes and answered questions, I found it harder and harder to really answer the questions.
All I could think about was my pride.
My horn-tooting, drum-beating, "it's all about me" pride. The biggest reason I was pushing people away. Because I was making everything all about me. When it really needed to be all about others.
I spent the rest of my Bonjour time and even the time it took to walk back to session talking with God about my pride, begging Him to help me overcome it.
You know, I have to stop right here and just say that God's timing is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Because if I had not admitted to myself about my pride during Bonjour, I highly doubt I would have admitted to myself something else later that morning.
Brett Harris was the speaker for that morning session. Truly, this was the session I'd been looking forward to all week. I had never heard one of the Harris's speak, but had always wanted to (bucket list, anyone?).
But as he began his talk, he said that he had originally been asked to talk on humility. He talked about how he had a really great talk on it prepared.
Up until Wednesday.
When God asked him to talk about something else.
So he got permission from the staff to change his topic, and then came to that session with a brand new topic.
And you know what his talk was about?
During that morning session, God began to convict me about my relationship with Him. About how I wasn't spending as much time with Him as I should have been.
About how, yes, I was born again, but wasn't taking full advantage of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
And how I needed to rededicate. To start fresh. And to let God have control of my life.
I don't remember much of the last several minutes of Brett's talk because God and I were having a serious talk at that point.
But when Brett Harris asked all those who had accepted Christ or recommitted to stand, and in front of all their peers, proclaim as loudly as they could…
JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!!!!
And just like that, it was like the whole deal had been sealed. I could not stop shaking and crying. Not because I was upset. But because I felt relief.
Like the burden was gone, and God was right there hugging me with His mighty arms. For the first time in at least a month, God didn't feel far away. He felt closer than ever before.
And then, suddenly, I wrapped in a real hug. A girl I don't know if I'd ever met before that moment, was hugging me and crying with me and telling me how happy God was with me. How happy He was that I'd come back to Him.
I don't remember a whole lot that happened in the next few minutes after that. I remember being engulfed in another hug from the friend I'd been sitting with. I remember reverently being dismissed to small group.
And small group.
We spent our entire small group time praying: for each other, for everyone at NC, for the SEVENTY-FIVE people who had accepted Christ for the first time that morning, and for whatever God laid on our hearts.
Rarely in my life have I felt so close to anyone as I did with the people in my small group. After we were done praying, it was all we could do to hug each other and rejoice in the miracle that had happened that day right before our eyes. As we walked to lunch together, I remember one particular person in my small group whom I had known before NC coming up behind me, giving me a hug, and saying,
"How ya doin', little sis?"
It was at that moment when I realized something. Even though Brett Harris had said it before we dismissed, it was then I really felt it. All of us here were all brothers and sisters in Christ. We were all connected through the blood of Jesus Christ, and nothing in the world could take that away.
I grinned and responded.
"Doin' simply amazing, big bro."
All glory to God.
For Jesus Christ is Lord of all.