Growing up Christian, you always hear about “life verses.” You know what I mean, the people who like to quote Psalm 23:4 and Jeremiah 29:11 when they’re in need of encouragement. Scripture is full of great passages to provide us comfort and the like when we need it.
Over the years, I have learned life verses become very symbolic of our journey (or at least mine). As a teenager, my favorite verse was Psalm 118:8.
“It is better to trust in the Lord, than to have faith in man.”
This verse really spoke to me. I was young and trying to grow up fast at the time. The concept of “cultural Christianity” was becoming very prevalent around me. I felt the pressure and temptation to simply say I was a Christian because it was the right thing to do. But at the age of 13, God reminded me He had great things in store for my life. This required total surrender to Him.
So I began to let this verse become a basis for my life. I had it put on my high school letterman. You could find it written on my Facebook wall and bathroom mirror. I always used this verse to remind myself God is where my trust should remain.
Then disaster struck. At 19, the life I had changed overnight. For the first time, I didn’t know how to trust in the Lord. I also knew I couldn’t place my trust in man. Man had hurt me. Man told me it didn’t matter how perfect I tried to be, I could never be good enough. The pain and trauma of facing my biggest fears were realized and I fell apart.
In hindsight, it’s easy to look back and say “well if man caused all these problems, why didn’t I just place my trust in God?” After all, that’s what the verse says. I wanted to place my trust in God. I wanted SO badly to be able to say I trusted God, but in some of the darkest times I faced, I felt like I couldn’t find Him. I was walking in a desert I had never been in before. I turned to God to be my compass, yet I still felt lost. I struggled placing my trust in God when I felt as if couldn’t tell where He was, much less where He was sending me.
I kept telling God how I wanted him to intervene, fix things, and make them go back to normal. The problem with that entire statement though is I kept telling God what I wanted, but I never took the time to stop and ask God what He wanted from me. Instead of just assuming He would play with the world like we were all His little puppets, I needed to be asking Him what He wanted me to do, how He wanted me to respond, and who He wanted me to become.
I found both my comfort and answers in an unexpected place – a romance novel of some sorts. Except instead of it being the life of Fabio bound cover to cover, it was a fictional narrative set in the 1800’s about the love between a man of God and a prostitute. It was the retelling of the story of Hosea, called Redeeming Love, and it hit me like a truck.
The main character, Angel, is sold into prostitution as a child. The other main character, Michael, is a man who prayed fervently God would show him who should be his wife. One day, God pointed Michael toward Angel. Naturally, Michael’s response was “uh, really God? You do know what she does for a living, right?” Michael and God did a little back and forth before he surrenders to his Father’s will and fights for Angel. He buys her freedom from a brothel and she becomes his wife. While resistant at first, Michael never stopped praying for his wife and eventually she falls in love with him. Sounds like a happy ending, right?
Well this is where things get messy. The problem with Angel falling in love with Michael is she falls in love with everything about him and who she perceived him to be. Michael tried to teach her how to love God, but she loved Michael instead. Then she leaves him and Michael has to let her go.
Heartbroken, angry, and mostly confused, Michael turned to God and asked why (a question we all know we have asked). God told Michael he had to trust Him. Then one day amidst his tears and clouded mind, Michael asks God why and He tells Michael she had to leave. Angel worshipped her husband like a god when she should have been worshipping God Himself. God needed her separated from her husband so He could work in her life. He needed Angel to love Him first.
This was the part of the book where I had to put it down to have a crying session (and I mean “ugly cry” session). The conviction was surreal. Suddenly, all the pain in my life made sense. God did not allow certain things to happen in my life just so He could say “haha” and watch me lay in bed and cry myself to sleep every night for months straight. He orchestrated things to happen in my life because I worshipped them when I needed to be worshipping Him. I was stripped of the very things I used to find my identity in so I would find my identity in Christ and nothing else.
As the book continues, Angel and Michael live three years apart. Michael accepts his life without his wife, while Angel spent the time falling more and more in love with her Creator rather than the created. They do eventually meet up after the three years to have the Disney “and they lived happily ever after” ending.
However, it’s not necessarily the love story of the book that made it one of my favorite books. I will not deny, while I read the book I certainly prayed for a guy like Michael (quite opposite for all the girls wishing for a Christian Grey at the time), but more importantly I prayed that God would simply speak to me. I was broken and I needed the Spirit to fall on me more than I had ever experienced before. I just wanted answers. Like Michael, I just wanted to know why.
The book helped me make sense of things in my life. God didn’t just do a quick fix to the problems in my life because the root of the situation wasn’t my problems. It was my heart. The life I had was on track to be practically void of a true relationship with my Father. I couldn’t be the person God needed me to be when I loved his creation more than I loved Him.
Things began to change for me. I was no longer the person that mattered, but my Father. If I wasn’t bringing glory to His name, I was doing something wrong. I realized everything I am, and everything I am meant to be, is to point toward God. I was created for the simple task of bringing glory to His name.
And the simple verse of scripture that describes this experience so eloquently is found in John 3:30.
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
An easy verse to pass over in a daily bible reading, I read it again and again until I felt I was not only realizing, but experiencing, the true meaning of it.
My favorite song by Jeff Johnson is called “Ruin Me.” The powerful words of the chorus state:
Ruin my life, the plans that I’ve made. Ruin desires for my own selfish gain. Destroy the idols that have taken your place till it’s you alone I live for.
I love these words. I’ve sang this song in worship so many times, but rarely focused on the meaning of them. Then God elevated my mind. Everything I had was gone. My life, my plans, my desires, and my idols, all of it, were ruined. Yet my Father did not destroy these things because He hates me, but because He loves me.
These things were in His place. These things ruled my life while I proclaimed Him to be the Lord. He began the transformation and soon the process became a spiritual transfiguration. My words became action.
God undoubtedly became greater in my life, and still I continually strive to make myself less.
P.S. Guy or girl, I highly recommend this book to anyone. It does an awesome job at using fiction to wreck your ideas of relationships while learning what it means to love like Christ in the process.