Dwelling Places | Lessons from 2014, Part II.

For part one, dance on over here.

Confession: I have spent way too much time worrying about places.

It’s like I have this vague vision of what I think my life should be. Like a dream that has nearly faded into the light of day, but I can still pull out certain details, an overall vibe.

That’s what it’s been like when I think of the future. I wasn't sure what it looked like but when I squinted really hard, I always knew this much: I’m not living here, I’m not doing this. It doesn’t look like this at all.

That’s what’s been going on in my head for the past several years. If this isn’t “it,” what is?

Do you know how exhausting it is to constantly try to figure that out?  I’m plagued by belonging. I always have been. I’m preoccupied with places. I just want a place to belong, a place I fit, a place I’m welcomed. I want my own space, independent of my family, a place to call my own. I want a place carved out of this creative industry, a place just for me and my giftings. A place in a community, among people I love and trust.

I want places.

It’s hard to do much of anything, or to want to do much of anything, when you don’t have a place to plant your feet, a place to put down some roots, a place to grow. Whether it’s a personal life, a social life, a community, a business.

For much of my life, I’ve felt this twinge: I just don’t have a place to be the person I want to be. It’s like I’m always waiting for the perfect space.

At the Pursuit conference last September, the amazing Mary Marantz was talking about the lies that the enemy tells us, the ones we wear around, the ones that eventually weigh us down and distract us from pursuing better things. She asked us to think about that one thing for ourselves and then sit in reflection over it.

I finally wrote down my lie:

I’m afraid I’ll never find my place.

That was the first time I fully looked it in the face, fully realized the thought that haunted every movement I made. I shut my eyes and tried to stop crying. And this is what I heard in my spirit.

“I am your place. And I’ve made you a place.”

Those words hit me deep, crashing into me like this giant wave saying, “Do you get it yet?”

I was so preoccupied with asking God to give me a place that I’d forgotten that He already had. And worse, I'd been using His place as a stepping stone into the place I really wanted, the one I was wishing and waiting for.

It's really easy to come to God with an agenda. It’s too easy to kneel before God only when we want something, when we need an answer. And it’s easy to put “know God better” on our list of steps to get to our destiny, our promised land.

I’ve been there. I’ve seen the process of developing a personal devotional time, a personal relationship with God, as just another thing to do before my purpose would be revealed to me. So I’d sit down with my Bible and then I’d pray. What do you want me to do God? Where do you want me to go? What should I do about this, this, and this? Please lead me. Give me direction.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think we’re missing the point if we pursue God only to get something from Him, if only to know His purpose for us.

Our purpose is to know Him.

I get really tangled up in all of my desires and dreams and questions. So much that I begin to confuse myself and I end up doing nothing.

But I heard this word. It was coming up everywhere. In devotionals. In verses I was led to. In blogs I read, in the most random happenings.

Dwell. Dwell. Dwell.

So I decided to do something radical.

I stopped telling God what I thought my life should look like.

I stopped telling God how He should be blessing me. I stopping pointing to things I wanted like I was giving Him a registry for my life. I stopped fighting against the things I already had.

Sometimes, even when we pray, “Your will, Your way,” we still have this tiny stipulation in the back of our minds. I wanted God’s will for my life, but underneath my breath, it’s like I was whispering, “ But of course, it’s going to look like this, right? It must.” And I’d nod to myself, convincing myself that God gives me the desires of my heart, so He must make all my dreams come true.

I think sometimes we have been duped into believing that God is sitting on a sparkly throne with a magical wand. And if we decide we want something, we will just flick his wrist and we get it.

The verse that talks about the desires of our heart?

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:3-4)

It's like He pushed me into the deep end of all this passage is. And this is what He showed me.

TRUST that He knows more and better than you do. That even if you think you know what you want, He knows what you need.

DO GOOD. Live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Ephesians 4:1). Sow good seeds. Bear fruit. Love on others. This is your calling, always, no matter what your specific purpose looks like. No matter where you are planted.

DWELL IN THE LAND. There it is. Dwell. Learn to dwell where you are, where God has you presently. There may be another land ahead of you. But dwell here. Dwell now. And dwell in the one thing that never changes even if everything else does. Him.

CULTIVATE FAITHFULNESS. Be faithful with what He’s given you. We all have passions and gifts and yet sometimes still wonder what God wants us to do with our lives. And I just think that we have a responsibility to be steward our gifts well. To be faithful to follow Him and obey with what He's given.

DELIGHT IN THE LORD. Delight means great pleasure or satisfaction. Be satisfied in Him. Alone. Be confident that if that dream doesn’t look like you thought it would or it’s timing doesn’t match yours, that He is still good and He has already satisfied you with Himself.

AND HE WILL GIVE YOU THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART.

I used to think that He would give us those things which we desire. But I’m starting to understand. If we are faithful and we dwell and we delight in Him, He places His desires in us. He directs our hearts toward what we should desire, which is first and foremost, Himself.

I started to realize that maybe the ideas I had for my life weren't bad necessarily, but the fact that I held on to them so tightly meant I couldn't hold on to anything else. I couldn't allow any space for God to breathe His life into my dreams. I realized that by being rigid and stubborn about what I thought I wanted and needed, I was missing out on a whole different element: the fact that anything God designs is immeasurably greater than anything I could imagine.

Do you know what has happened as I have started to intentionally dwell in Him?

I hear Him more. His Spirit leads mine.

There are things that come up, choices, opportunities. Before, I’d be distraught about which decision to make, but lately, I just know, somewhere deep down. And it’s still not easy. The selfish parts of me sometime want to do the complete opposite, the easy thing.

Sometimes, the decisions you make aren't going to be huge radical, world-changing decisions. You may not make a choice that will change your life tomorrow. But with each yes, each no, each time you follow the Spirit's leading, you are allowing God to mold you into the person He wants you to be, the person who will be ready for the place He has prepared. Sometimes it’s a little nudge inside that says, “Hey, do the dishes so someone else doesn’t have to.” And sometimes it’s, “So you want to be someone that helps others? Then be someone that helps others.”

When you stop seeking Him only for answers and start intentionally dwelling in Him, joy slowly begins to creep in, the kind that quiets the questions and gives rest to your soul, the kind that gently directs your focus to better things. It might not be an overflow and it might not be a flood, but it comes. And it changes everything.

Choose to see yourself wrapped up in Him as your dwelling place, the only place you occupy that matters.

Because when we make Him our place, He in turn makes us a place. A place for Himself to dwell, a place where He draws people in to see more of Him, a place where heaven meets earth.

And I think that's what it's all about. We abide in Him so He can dwell in us, so we can carry Him to the world, so we can become safe places for broken hearts to encounter His love.

We ask God to give us the thing we want and He answers by urging us to give ourselves. We ask God to change our circumstances and He answers by changing us. We ask God for answers and He says, "I'm turning you into one."