How to Really Live the Life You Signed Up For

I was twenty-six with a college degree and journals full of worn pages carrying dreams for my life. I’d led dozens towards Jesus in my decade of being a God-follower and somewhere in there managed to graduate magna cum laude. I rarely missed a “quiet time” — a lot like when I was plaid-clad in grammar school and could remember those three Sundays when I missed church (because there were only three of them). I kept pace with other Christians around me — they taught me by how they followed Him. I was in a Bible Study and planted myself in a church and read books about how to grow my faith in Jesus.

And my Bible would stay on my bed-stand, right where I left it the morning before.

Then, those pages of dreams and that college degree? They failed me. A barren womb and a rocky marriage and a messy church split when best of friends became like strangers to one another. And I didn’t know who the pacesetters were anymore. I was the first of my peers to become disillusioned with what I knew of Western Christianity — you see, I thought the system would continue to set pace for me.

The books didn’t tell me this might happen.

Scraps MJ

So I shelved the degree and took a break from actively telling others about this Jesus (for I was in need of figuring Him out anew) and found a part time job.

For months and well into a year, I spent my afternoons amid French-imported lavender and Italian pottery and table linens. I was instructed not to dust the porcelain Guinea Hens or stacks of plates — people feel at home in cottage dust, apparently — and sometimes I made five transactions in a day. Thus this little storefront in North Barracks shopping center became the place where I met with God.

I took my Bible from the home bed-stand, cracked it open behind the register, and sometimes circled the floors of this boutique that smelled of french-milled soap commingled with lavender, praying one passage at a time. As I worked, I talked through His Word with God and started to see the shape of the Person who was that Word I’d memorized and quoted for years.

Cherish Candles

He had eyes and a face. His life on the earth and in the pages held expression. Towards me. His life-sweat in the stories (ones I’d told others for years in an effort to bring conversion to souls) became a scent I was beginning to smell. Phrases from this Word became like poetry to me, shaping the thoughts that’d been buried deep in my heart into a fresh conversation. This age-old God was newly vibrant to me. I was moving from following Him to having His breath leave an imprint on my insides.

I was falling in love.

House MJ

But I was aware of the constraints of my 21st-century understanding of Christianity. How do I explain this hunger growing inside of me to others? It didn’t feel normal, even in circles where following Jesus was the norm.

I came to that boutique matched and sassy on the outside but unkempt in the places where no one could see. “Normal Christianity” had worked for me when all I thought I needed was a 30-minute quiet time. But my mess bled outside of 7am and in order to survive I just had to have a glimpse of that God, bent low for the disheveled. I wanted to sit with Him and study the lines in His face and have His Words shape more than just a few conversations here and there.

Cherish Boats

I was no longer unsticking the pages of my Bible out of obligation, I was clawing my way into what was life to me. How could I give just a quick look towards this God on Sunday morning, or before I taught Tuesday night Bible Study, or merely when the corners of my eyes were still half-stuck together with sleep in the morning and see it as a box to check?

I didn’t know what to do with this hunger for God in the face of these shouts from some in the church to change the world and make better strategies and attend more meetings — those shouts that didn’t feel all that different from shouts from the secular world to “make my mark” (and to fill my schedule).

Leave Your mark on Me, was the whisper I heard when the dust began to grow on Normal Christianity in the overflow of my work in that cottage-pottery shop. I’m worth all that you spend here, on Me.

Plant MJ

(I didn’t realize, then, that the Maker of time multiplies His work on the earth, through us, as we waste our lives and our degrees and our strategies for changing the world … at His feet. It didn’t register then that my greatest “waste” — sitting at His feet for unconventional-to-us amounts of time — is the one thing that He says is needed.)

I’d known since I was fifteen and fresh-in-God that He’d made me to pour out. I signed up to be spent, to die. I just didn’t know that it could be at His feet, when only His eyes were on me.

Rocking Chair

Dear twenty-year old (or thirty-three year-old or fifty-seven year-old), it’s not too late.

Our souls crave what our schedule and even our normal-Christian world can oppose: time spent at His feet, in His Word.

It doesn’t make sense, but He never called us to a life that makes sense. Who of you — when you first signed up to follow Him — wanted a life that made sense?

Impact and external investment and world-change are beautiful. But they’re secondary. They’re meant for the spilling over.

Let’s put the first thing back in first place. Let’s sign up again for a life that doesn’t make sense, but inhales and exhales the only thing that will give us life — Him. His Word. 

Let’s take our Bibles off of our bedside tables and expect to encounter Him at 11am and 3pm and 8 o’clock after the kids are in bed. Let’s refresh our approach, with arms wide-open to receive a God who meets the most unkempt parts of us and makes us radical. On the inside. First.

Doorknob

Let’s take prayer off our to-do list and pray like the God on the other side has eyes and a face and a scent. And a love, waiting to unlock us.

Let’s give ourselves permission to believe that the best thing we can do with our Christian life is to waste it, at His feet. First. (And then watch what He does as we do.)

DSC_0100

Let’s toss the confines of “normal” Christianity that make Him out to be boring, leave us bored, and make us think that the only real excitement in God is outward impact. 

Let’s fall in love at unconventional times — amid dried lavender and dusty pottery, amid lives that bleed beyond those thirty minutes in the morning.

It’s what we signed up for, isn’t it?

{To read a little more of the story …}

For Your Continued Pursuit: Psalm 27:4 | Luke 10:38-42 | Matthew 26:6-13 | Psalm 42:1-2 | Psalm 132:1-5 | Psalm 45:8 | Song of Solomon 5:10-16 | Matthew 22:37-40

Fourth photo compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography. The others are compliments of Mandie Joy.
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