I Want To Be A Fearless Warrior

I’m sure that somewhere on this site, at some point I have talked about my love for Ruth. But here I am talking about her again. Because here’s the thing, Ruth was one of the most fearless women to walk this earth, and that’s a fact.

Think about it:
-Her husband dies, and when she’s given the opportunity to leave her mother-in-law and restart her life she doesn’t. She decides to stay where things are uncertain, with a woman whose loved ones keep dying. Not exactly what I would call a reassuring position to take.
-When she goes to this completely new country where customs are different from everything she has always known she doesn’t focus on how different everything is. She doesn’t focus on all the adjustments she will have to make. She focuses on her mother-in-law. She focuses on caring for the loved ones in her life. That being said, she goes to a completely foreign field where there are strange men everywhere and she is a vulnerable sole woman in order to provide for Naomi.
-When Naomi directs Ruth to go to Boaz, Ruth doesn’t question her. She obeys Naomi, against all the social customs, and goes into Boaz’s threshing floor and lays herself at his feet and at his mercy. Please try to remember how utterly scandalous this would be in the day and age this is all taking place. What if he decided that what she did was so inappropriate or impure that he would rebuke or shame her or make some sort of example out of her? Or what if that other random relative just decided he was going to marry her instead for the inheritance? So many things could have gone wrong.

Ruth was a warrior. She didn’t just give up when things were difficult or when life didn’t make sense. Instead she decided to pick herself up and follow after a new God and make a new life for herself. She must have seen something in Naomi that convicted her to leave everything she ever knew to follow this widow and her deity. And the moment she put her faith in this conviction, God provided more than she probably imagined.

Clearly Ruth wasn’t just focused on finding a new husband and having a comfortable, “normal” life. She wasn’t focused on living a life like the one she had. She wanted something else, something more, and she fought the norms and fought worldly logic to get it. She followed a widow to a strange land probably with the thought that she would live out her life serving her–what part of worldly logic would say that this was a spectacular idea?

How often are we hyperfocused on X, Y, or Z that we forget that there is Someone else providing blessings more than we have in mind? How often do we look around us at what everyone else seems to have and we think we need? How often are we Orpah, going back to the familiar, the ordinary, instead of going down the road less traveled in order to obtain the extraordinary?

I have been unbelievably jetlagged this entire week, waking up around 4 am every morning–something I usually don’t have issues with when I’m traveling–and I 100% believe this has been God trying to speak these words to me. After an hour of tossing and turning I finally decided to get up, open my Bible, and just read anything. As I pulled open my Bible, I don’t know why but I thought, I really want to read about Ruth right now, and with that God gave me the following reminder: no matter what my circumstance, no matter where I am or how uncertain I feel like things are, when I leave behind all my notions of what makes sense logically and hold onto the certainty of His love for me, He will fulfill every desire in my heart, often in an unexpected way.

fearless-warriorLet’s be fearless warriors like Ruth. Let’s not look back. Let’s not hold out for what the world is trying to offer. Let’s embrace the winding road before us with the certainty of God’s grace rather than the uncertainty of the turns ahead. Just look up, and what you will get from above will be worth so much more than what you thought you wanted.

Justified

The last few months of my life have been an adjustment to say the least. I moved to a different state. I started a new job. Everything I had left behind and was coming back to was different. At one point it seemed that I was “finding myself” as they say. I was trying new things, meeting new people. I was gaining all this life experience that I had no interest in during medical school. But in all this “finding myself” all I found was that I lost my identity. I lost who I was, and I had no idea how to get back.
Over the last few months I have had wonderful, beautiful experiences, but I also got caught up in the whirlwind until I no longer had a leg to stand on. I compromised some of my standards. I made choices that I’m less than proud of. For the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t just not right with God, but I was all wrong. I felt like I couldn’t even show Him my face. I knew that I had let Him down, but this time was worse than all the others. For the first time I couldn’t even talk with Him as I went about my day. I felt guilty asking Him for favors or sending up a little prayer. I avoided church on my one Sunday off because all I could think was that I didn’t deserve to be there.

All of these notions were wrong.

And He made sure to show me that.

You know how God protects you when you’re in tune with Him? You know that extra guarding you get when you run under His wing? Well, somehow I still felt that protection, even after running away from Him and betraying Him and disappointing Him. He was trying to make it clear that even though I ended up down this weird path that wasn’t consistent with who I am or who He intends for me to be, He wasn’t just going to give up and let me go. He made it abundantly clear that my mistakes don’t discount His love for me, and they don’t erase the fact that I am His daughter.

So finally I started to get the message, and I made my way to church, where I do belong, because I am a sinner. And that’s where He sealed the deal with the message from Acts that day: 

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (13:38-39)

He has justified me through His love and through His blood. Nothing I try to do on my own can do that. No law gives me that. Only the blood and the love of the Savior can justify me, can purify me, can give me redemption, can make me new once more.

I walked into church that day beaten down, broken, ashamed. I walked out ready to be renewed. And with that I ended up in Abouna’s office pouring out my heart, pouring out my shame and my mistakes. And I walked out redeemed. The thoughts of my shortcomings, the images of my sin, the voice in my head telling me I am worthless and terrible were finally gone. All that was left was the knowledge that I truly had been made pure again.


So here I am, once again, in a coffee shop, trying to put into words my experiences with the hope that maybe one person will read my thoughts and realize that you are royalty. Your Father won’t just leave you when you’re down for the count. He didn’t for me, and I guarantee He won’t for you.

Just remember, no matter what you do He could not love you any more or any less.

I Am Great

 

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
– James 4:10

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to think about the meaning of this verse. I’ve been singing it for years in churches, at conventions, in my cousins’ basement (ah, memories). But not once have I taken the time to think about what it is I’m singing.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord…” The definition of humble means “to lower (someone) in dignity or importance.” This means I am to lower myself. This is what James is telling us to do: in the presence of God (which, with Him being present inside me should be all the time), I am to lower myself in importance. It’s like in the movies when one guy is trying to be the hero, the hotshot, but then the true hero or the “big boss” shows up. What does the hotshot do? He quiets down; he realizes his place, and he offers the respect and importance the boss man deserves.

I am perpetually trying to be a hotshot, but do I really offer God, the true Hero, the honor and importance and dignity He deserves?

It isn’t always easy stepping back and giving someone else the glory, but it’s not like that’s the end of it. Look at what God does when I finally give Him the glory: “…and He will lift you up.”

That is not nothing. That is a big deal! It’s one thing for me to talk a big game and toot my own horn, but when God, Creator of all things, King of kings, Lord of lords, lifts me up in His glory, that’s a whole other ball game. Take Joseph for example. If he just decided one day, in his position as a servant or a prisoner, to start talking up how he was this awesome guy who could interpret dreams and should be Pharaoh’s right hand man, would that count for anything? No! Because he was a servant and later a prisoner. But when Pharaoh lifted him up to be his second hand, everyone respected Joseph, and it meant everything.

Illustration-of-Pharaoh-giving-kneeling-OCI0000374

So it is with me. When I lift myself up and puff myself up, it means nothing, and in fact it leads to my destruction because “God resists the proud” (James 4:6). But when I humble myself before God, and let the glory be to Him, He will lift me up, and I will share in His glory which is far greater than anything I could have done for myself!

So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
– 1 Kings 19:10

Walking this road, living this life, I am meant to be set apart from others in this world. I am not meant to be like everybody else. And sometimes this path will be filled with loneliness. Even Elijah – Elijah! – felt lonely. The man who raised a young man from the dead, the man who brought fire down from heaven, felt lonely, and scared. It’s clearly not unusual, clearly not something I alone struggle with. Being in a land where it seems that “I alone am left”, I find myself feeling lonely. I feel like no one is here to support me or protect me or at least be here for me. But what I sometimes fail to realize is that God is aware. And He is near.

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
– v. 9

God was there. God knew that Elijah was going into the cave and was about to let the self-pity settle in, and instead of leaving Elijah to mope God’s word came to him, offered an ear to listen, offered comfort where he could find none.

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice [a delicate whispering voice].
– vv. 11-12

And so God took Elijah out of his cave of self-pity and woke the man up. Nothing wakes a person up quite like tearing winds, earthquakes, and fires. But then after all of that, He came quietly, delicately, speaking to Elijah.

Is this not so typical? How many times has God done this in my life? He takes me out of my slump, wakes me up, and just when I think I may fling myself from the proverbial mountain because of the quakes and fires, He speaks ever so delicately to my heart. I never noticed this translation before: “a delicate whispering voice”, but it makes perfect sense when you think of who God is and how He works.

I am about to give you a little insight to my past here in hopes that it will help make this message more tangible.

When I was in high school, I had a very teenage heartbreak. There were winds blowing and quakes shaking inside of me. I will never forget how hard I took it. I will never forget how I could not make myself stop crying even though I had been sobbing nonstop for hours, curled up on my bedroom floor. And then God asked me, “What are you doing here, Marina?” And I begged, I pleaded for Him to make it stop, to hold me and making the crying stop because I was just so tired. Then instantly, the winds quieted, the quaking stopped, the fire extinguished, and my crying finally ceased. He held me, and I could actually feel it. He spoke delicately to my heart and quieted the storm in my soul.
This is a night that I will never forget, even when I am 75 and the Alzheimer’s has kicked in.

brokenheart

More recently than that, God set me back up on that mountain. There was fighting, crying, hurting, all winds, quakes, and fires. I was experiencing weeks of unbearable tempests. And again, God spoke to me, this time through Abouna Bishoy, saying, “What are you doing here, Marina?” Things became clear. The storm quieted. And a delicate whisper eased my heart for the first time in a month.

God will not leave us to wallow in self-pity. He will not leave us to die of loneliness in a cave somewhere, but instead He will wake us up. He will shake us. Then He will delicately whisper words of comfort to us.

Sometimes we need to be woken up by blasting winds in order to be ready to hear the still small delicate whisper.

What Is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me

And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”…And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
(Judges 16:16-17, 20)

samson

There’s something I never understood about Samson: Delilah was so obviously against him! Every time he told her he might “lose his strength” she tried it! What kind of woman tries to weaken the man she loves?! What part of this situation could Samson justify? Bro! She’s trying to take your strength! Are you crazy? How could he not see that Delilah was conning him? It’s frustrating. It’s like watching a horror movie, and the girl decides to go out into the woods to figure out what the rustling noise is, and you’re yelling at her, “Stop! He’s going to kill you! Don’t go in the woods, and just call the cops already!” Samson is that stupid girl. For whatever reason he kept Delilah around despite her suspicious behavior. And she kept nagging him! Every day she “pestered him” until he was “vexed to death”! Why are you keeping her around, man?!

So frustrating, right?

And yet, sometimes I’m Samson. Sometimes I’m the stupid girl running into the woods. Going back earlier in the chapter it says, “Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (v. 4). How many times have I compromised my standards or my beliefs in the name of “love”? Emotions make things messy. Nothing is simple when emotions are involved. Sometimes I know that a relationship isn’t right or is harming me rather than edifying me as a good relationship should. But what do I do? I hold on to it because of “love”.

They say love is blind, but it really shouldn’t be.

If God is love, then love is light as He is light, and if I am being blinded by what I think is love, it really isn’t love. 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” So if there is no darkness in God, then there is no darkness in love. Love should shine bright in a relationship, keeping us accountable, so that we see our true selves and continually examine ourselves.

I need to stop being Samson because once I blind myself I begin to compromise who I am, and once that happens I will find myself far away from God before I even realize what happened. Just like Samson.

So it’s time now to look for the true, real love, the love that is pure and full of light.

You Don’t Need Jesus ‘Til You’re Here

Yesterday was meltdown number one in the series of meltdowns I am expecting in the next week. You see, I am taking Step 2 in a week; I am scrambling to find somewhere to do elective rotations; the residency application site has officially opened. And I am prepared for so little of it. So yesterday I found myself running across the city, trying to get some of my boxes checked off and trying to force some peace of mind. But the more I tried to “fix” what wasn’t going according to plan, the more my head buzzed. I was feeling helpless and freaked out, and I didn’t know where to turn, when I finally decided there really was only one thing that I could do in my situation: pray. So cliché, I know, but one hour, one WWI Memorial, and a couple Bible chapters later, my mind finally started to quiet down for the first time in a month.

How familiar does this sound? For me, it’s a story I’ve lived over and over.

We run to God when things are going crazy. We look for a Problem-solver when we find ourselves in desperation. But what about when things are going well? What about when everything finally seems to be in place? It is incredibly easy to forget about God when things in life are running smoothly, and to only look for Him when there’s a hitch in our plans.

I spoke to you in your prosperity,
But you said, ‘I will not hear.’
This has been your manner from your youth,
That you did not obey My voice.

(Jeremiah 22:21)

How many of us does this sound like?

It’s great that we run to God when things aren’t going well. It’s a step in the right direction when we recognize our own weakness and where our strength comes from. The problem is when we forget all this because of how well things are going.

Our relationship with God is just that: a relationship. You know that saying, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”? Who came up with that? Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who only hangs around when he needs something? Who would put up with that friend? Not many of us do. And yet we are that friend constantly. We show up at church or finally open our Bibles when something isn’t going according to plan in our lives, and the moment the problem is solved, the Bible goes back on the shelf. Can you imagine how much that has to hurt? The one Person who has been present in all parts of our lives, the One who was beat up, spat upon, wounded and killed out of His incredible love for us, watches as we decide we no longer need Him because “I can handle life on my own.”

But here’s the good news. Jesus tells us, “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). We have left. We have betrayed. But just as God accepted Israel after Israel played the harlot, He will accept us.

I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD.

(Hosea 2:19-20)

Here is one of the many examples of when we betray, and He forgives. No matter how many times we have run away, no matter how many times we depended on ourselves or sought after someone else, when we come back we will be accepted.

It’s time to stop being a friend in need and to start being a friend indeed.

Why Am I Awake?

Restless night. Sleepless night. It’s 1:30 in the morning, and I can’t seem to fall asleep. I need to be awake in 4 hours to catch a flight, and yet my mind refuses to shut down.
Dealing with my restless self is like dealing with an infant who won’t stop crying despite all your efforts, and you just can’t figure out what it wants. The absolute worst.

Why am I so restless? Why is my mind filled with so many things? Why am I feeling so unsettled?

In a conversation with my mom earlier this evening, I realized that I’m falling back into a pattern I unfortunately know too well. I am trusting in myself. I am forgetting about where my trust is supposed to lie. I have Step 2 coming up. I have life-altering decisions to make. I have people demanding my attention. I have distractions pulling my heart every which way. And through all of this I am relying on myself to sort through the mess. No wonder I’m struggling to find peace. No wonder I can’t sleep.

There are so many things I am feeling and wanting to express, but I don’t know how to deal with it. No words seem to suffice. No emotion seems to encompass the struggle inside my heart. And maybe it’s because what is happening isn’t something I can fully understand.

Romans 8 talks about the Holy Spirit making “intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” and how He “helps us in our weaknesses” (v. 26). I can’t put my finger on what is bothering me, but I know I don’t feel right. But the Holy Spirit inside of me knows, and He is ready to intercede on my behalf, if I would just let Him. I am too focused on checking off my boxes and completing all my tasks. I am too dependent on myself that He doesn’t have a chance to speak on my behalf and give me the rest I need.

We all know the classic “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) and “Cast your burden on the LordAnd He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).
But really how easy is it for us to just let go? How many of us are truly willing to lay down our burdens, to cast all our cares on Someone else? When it comes down to it, I like to cling as tight as I can to my burdens because in my own psychotic way I think I have control over them when, in fact, they are controlling me.

It isn’t easy to hand over the reigns, to pass on the torch, to lose “control”. But if we don’t let go, where will we end up? We will be burnt out. We will be anxious and depressed. We will be lost and scared drowning in all the cares we refused to give to the One who can help us be found and refreshed and full of peace.

So I think it’s about time I lose control. How about you?