Walking On Water

I’m not going to lie, life has been challenging for me recently. Especially in the past few weeks I have noticed a major shift in myself. December of 2019, I was feeling confident. I was confident in my faith and where it was heading. I was confident in my jobs. I was confident in my health and caring for myself. Overall I felt confident in life. I was keeping my focus on Jesus and the work He was doing.

As January rolled around, however, life began to pick up pace. I ended up getting caught up in my schedule and specific struggles that God was bringing to my attention. I got hyper-focused on the struggles and lost my focus on Jesus. Satan began attacking me and doubts, fears, depression and anxieties crept in… well, flooded in. I lost all confidence in myself, my health, my work, and my faith. I began to neglect my health. I stopped reading God’s word and praying for other people as much as I had been. In reality, I stopped caring. I just wanted to escape.

It’s no surprise that when my chronic illness hit me full force, my body got wiped out. Not only that, I put myself through so much anxiety and stress from focusing on those specific struggles, that my body began to fall apart…again. My muscles were aching, weak and sore, my digestion was all out of sorts, and my energy was nonexistent. While some of those symptoms are from my chronic illness, I know they were intensified by the stress I put myself under.

While I was in the upswing of my energy returning, after taking several days off of work, the story of Jesus walking on the water came to my mind through a song I had been playing on repeat. Let’s take a look at it below in Matthew 14:

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way[b] from the land,[c] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night[d] he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[e] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I resonate with Peter on so many levels. I too have felt the confidence of trusting in Jesus and stepping out in faith, as I was doing at the end of 2019 and early 2020. Like Peter, I focused on the storms around me and became fearful and anxious. I too lost sight of Jesus face, His glory, His power, and His love. I began to sink. And like Peter, when everything became too much for me to handle, when I was sinking in my health conditions, anxiety and depression, I cried out to Jesus. And He reached His hand out to me and blessed me with this story of Him and Peter.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this Bible story came to mind during this time in my life. I know the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me something here.

I see very clearly now what happens when I take my eyes off of Jesus. The second we take our eyes off of Jesus and our identity as a son or daughter of God, we begin to doubt. Fear and depression rolls in, we lose hope, and we sink. For me, personally, sinking comes in the form of uncontrollable anxiety, depression and physical pain. My mind and body literally fall apart when I lose sight of my savior for even a brief moment. For others it could be a bad attitude, snarky comments to those they love, falling back into addiction or making quick decisions. These things don’t creep in over time, they can flood in the second satan is able to get our eyes off of Jesus. It can happen just that quick.

The story of Peter above gives so much hope. I think it shows a wonderful picture of the love Jesus has for us. He didn’t yell at peter for doubting. He didn’t scold him, or punish him for losing sight of Him and sinking. It says, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Jesus immediately reaches his hand out to peter and holds him. Yeah, He says “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” But He doesn’t yell at Peter, He simply poses a question to get Peter thinking. What a beautiful picture of how He rescues us when we are sinking.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to beat myself up when I lose sight of Jesus and end up going through these painful, difficult periods. I often feel as though I should be punished or am being punished for losing sight of Him. But that’s not what Jesus wants for us. He wants to grab us, hold us, and calm the storm going on around or in us. What an amazing God I serve, that when I mess up, when I leave Him, or stop pursuing Him, He doesn’t give up on me, rather He reaches out to me. I take so much comfort in that mental picture of Jesus reaching out His hand to me and holding me as I am sinking in the struggles of this broken world.

I won’t lie, I’m still struggling and working on getting better physically and mentally after this rough patch. It will take time to fully bounce back so I still appreciate your prayers. I know the consequences of losing sight of Jesus, and I don’t want that to happen again. Will I mess up again? yes. I’m human. But what a comfort to know that God loves me enough to reach out to me and He wants to calm the storms even when I rebel or allow satan to take over my mind.

I hope this gives you some sort of peace and comfort, as it has to me. When I feel my anxiety boiling up, or my body is drained and exhausted down to the bone, I can imagine Jesus reaching His hand out to me and holding me through it all. I hope that you can too when you go through a rough patch or difficult season. Jesus isn’t leaving you to drown, He’s right there reaching out His hand to hold you.

The song that spurred the Spirit to remind me of this story is called “Safe” by neon Feather.

Thank you for reading my rambles.

One Month Off of Social Media

Well, we are officially one month into 2020 and it is already shaping up to be a wild ride. If you read my post at the beginning of January, you may remember that one of my biggest challenges I have given myself for this year, is to stay off of all social media, including: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’ve had several people ask me how this is going and if I really intend to stick it out the entire year. Before I get into my update with how I am doing with this challenge, I want to give a little context as to how and why this goal came to be.

Ever since I first got my facebook account back in 2009 at the age of 14, facebook has been an escape for me. When I was feeling sad, I’d scroll on facebook. When I was bored, I’d scroll on facebook. When I was tired, facebook. You get the picture. As I got older and more social media platforms came to be, that sense of escape only grew. I now had even more places online that could take up my time and help me to escape what was happening in my own world and within my mind.

I’ve been aware of how dangerous these apps can be for me since high school when I bought myself my very own laptop. Before this purchase, the only way I was able to waste my time on these sites was via the family desktop computer (what a time to be alive). Now that I had my own device, I could get on them basically as much as I desired. And so I did…

As I was growing in my faith in high school, I began to become aware of how toxic social media can be and how much time I was wasting on it. But, my world was also crashing in around me, repeatedly during that season. So even though I knew it was not a great place to turn, I continued to turn to it as my escape. Social media didn’t become my only form of escape that would grip hold of me, but it definitely has made rank as one of the strongest.

As people my age began to have smart phones, in which these social media sites could now be easily viewed anywhere, I knew in my heart that I shouldn’t have one. So I refrained and stuck with my old slide out keyboard cell phone all the way until I was a freshman in college. My reasoning for giving in was that I needed the navigation feature as I was going to school away from home.

Social media already had a hold on me, but once I introduced the smart phone into the mix, it only held on tighter. Life didn’t seem to slow down or ever get any easier and so I continued to use social media to escape. I continued to feel convicted time and time again about the foothold this had in my life, but I also continued to ignore it. It was, after-all, my security blanket.

It wasn’t until I took an addictions class for my degree, that I began to realize that this grip that social media had on me was actually an addiction. I still hesitate to use that word, but when I actually analyze the vice that it had (and still has), I can’t classify it any other way. According to Webster dictionary, an addiction is “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence the state of being addicted.”

In this class we were required to give something up that we use on a daily basis for a week’s time. We had to note anytime we felt the urge to engage in the thing we gave up, and then write a paper about how it went. This project was for us to get a tiny glimpse of what addiction is like for those who are addicted to substances, and it was so powerful. But as powerful as it was, I continued on with my social media use once the project was over.

As God continued to lay it on my heart over the next few years, I would make small changes to help ease that tension I felt. I’d go through periods of not allowing myself to have any of the apps on my phone, or I’d even take some time off here and there. But none of that did anything for me. Sure, I read more books and had less screen time, but I never allowed it to draw me closer to the one calling me to give it up in the first place. And in all reality, it wasn’t much of a challenge or sacrifice when I knew that I’d be able to get on in a week or month, whatever I had chosen to do.

Which leads me to my decision to take the entire year of 2020 off of all social media. This was purely by the work of God. As I mentioned, this is an issue that God has been trying to reveal to me for years now. It wasn’t until I began to fervently seek after Him towards the end of 2019, that I knew the reason He was calling me to give it up. Because the reality is that God doesn’t want just the leftover moments at the end of our day. He wants ALL of the moments of our day. He doesn’t want us to use other things as an escape from this troubling life because as is stated in Isaiah, He wants to help us in the midst of those troubles. Isaiah 41:10 states, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God didn’t and doesn’t want me to have or use a “security blanket”. He wants to BE my “security blanket”.

So as I began to process the year of 2019 and started to look forward to what I wanted 2020 to look like, I knew I wanted this new year to be full of Jesus in my life. I knew that if I wanted my life to be full of Jesus, I’d have to make some sacrifices. The Holy Spirit kept prompting me to take the year off of social media. It typically came in the form of the thought running across my mind every now and again. The more I tried to brush it off the more it would appear. So I had some conversations with God that typically went like this: “I hear you, but do I really have to take the WHOLE year off?”

I didn’t want to. My best friends just had their first child, friends are getting married or engaged, and let’s be honest, the best way to stay up to date with people we care about is by social media. I didn’t want to risk missing out on those things, and ultimately becoming a forgotten friend whose relationships vanished because I wasn’t kept in the loop of their lives. But the more I pushed back, the more He persisted.

So here I am, one month in to this year long social media fast. I’ll be honest, it has been way more challenging than I ever anticipated. I knew that going off of social media for the entire year would be hard, but I thought “I’ve gone a month off here and there and it wasn’t that bad, so I’ll be fine.” I was so wrong. You know how I gave the definition of addiction previously? Yeah, I never truly knew just how much power social media has had over my life until this past month. I truly am addicted to social media.

You might be wondering, “So, if you’re addicted, then you’re telling me you went through withdrawals?” And to that I would say, “Yes!” The first week was relatively okay. I took it day by day and that helped tremendously. But as the second week began, I started to become more negative, irritable, on edge, anxious, and even started to feel the negative lies of depression flooding my mind. You see, I had given up social media, but had done it reluctantly and the enemy had started planting bitterness, doubt and fear into my heart.

So I knew that I had to make a conscious effort to pursue God and to let this fast be used for His glory. I let my accountability partners know that I was struggling with these thoughts and attitudes and asked for prayer. And I began to ask God to move in me again. Things “clicked” at the second week mark, and I found my joy for life outside of social media.

I’m not saying I don’t struggle. I’ve definitely caved and given in to temptation more times than I care to admit. I’ve logged into facebook, scrolled a bit on my newsfeed and then quickly felt the guilt of not trusting God to meet my needs for connection. But that goes to show that this fast is doing it’s job so far in that it is drawing me closer to God and teaching me more about myself.

Through my journey so far, I have learned that I have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I hate not being in the loop of peoples lives that I care about so deeply. I fear that I will be forgotten or that my relationships will fade. It’s teaching me to be even more intentional about community and investing in the people I love so deeply. It’s also teaching me that I have a deep seated desire for attention and love from others that I tried to fill via likes, comments and follows (that one was a punch to the gut).

Most importantly, I’m learning, that even if those very fears do become reality amongst this process and season of fasting, it is in God’s perfect plan for my life. It would just mean that He would use it as a way to weed through the relationships that are hindering my growth rather than encouraging it. And even though that would be very painful, it would be worth it. So far this fast is teaching me to lean more on my savior, and THAT is the reason I’m going through with this challenge for the entire year of 2020.

I will update you all again on this topic when we hit the 3 month, 6 month and 12 month marks. Thank you for reading my rambles.