This semester, I have been more intentional about praying every night and getting in His Word than I have in a long time, and what’s frustrating is I’ve still never felt farther from Him. So, I increased my bible time. I increased the amount of worship services I go to. I lead worship at the BCM, just hoping that I’ll feel His Spirit again. And for a while, I haven’t. I didn’t know what was wrong. I thought I was sincere in everything, so I didn’t understand why I felt like His presence had left me.
I’ve been noticeably in this dry place for almost two months now. But those close to me probably didn’t know it. I still think that God has been faithful to use me and continue to speak to me through His Word, but I can’t really say that I have felt His presence.
Until Saturday night, when God finally took the scales from my eyes to show me what He had been teaching me through this time.
I love the lost… I can love non Christians all day. But I have to admit to you that some of the people in my life who annoy me the most are Christians. I thought I was doing a good job of keeping that to myself. Then, in two days’ time, multiple people confronted me about the way I had noticeably played a role in making them (or others) feel in a negative way.
The first person spoke to me Friday, and I didn’t respond too well. Honestly, I was pretty sure she was wrong. I really didn’t want to pursue a relationship there, and I was pretty sure she just needed to get her head on straight and realize how nice I am.
The second one though…. It was Saturday night and I got a huge slap in the face. Actually, no one really said anything to me when it hit me. I just had this feeling wash over me of shame, and guilt, and I really felt like I was too deep in to even fix it. I really just wanted to run away. I curled up in a ball, pulled my blankets over my head, buried my face in my hands, and wept.
I cried a lot, until I didn’t have any tears left, and I shouted to God, “Where have you been?? How did I even get here?” I really didn’t understand how I could love Him and love others so much, and be genuinely seeking His face and reading His word, and still have ended up in a place that did not glorify Him at all. And then God told me “Caitlin, I love you. But you aren’t loving all of your Christian brothers and you know it.”
Immediately I thought of a passage in my favorite book, 1st John:
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”
1 John 2:9-11
I can remember reading that verse a while back, and being like I don’t know about that… I’ve never really experienced where my relationship with other people can affect my relationship with God.
However, for the last two months (maybe even longer at this point who even knows) that is where I have been. But I was blinded. I didn’t even see where I was going or what I was doing because I was in the darkness (how scary is that?). I’m just thankful that He is faithful to forgive. So that we can forgive ourselves, and others can forgive us.
Up until this point, I’ve been keeping my relationship with God and my relationships with others separate, but that really is not how it is supposed to be. According to Ephesians 4, there is a very direct correlation between how we treat our Christian bothers and sisters (the body of Christ) and our maturity in faith.
15Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work…
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin:” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4: 15, 16, 25-32
Honestly, this has been huge for me. For a while, whenever I would read scriptures like these, or my closer friends and mentors would point out what I was doing, I would just blow them off. I knew the truth but the devil had a huge foothold in my life: annoyance. I allowed myself to blow people off because they were annoying me. I would say, “I love that person, I really do, but they just annoy me, I don’t know why.”
Do you know why they annoyed me? For no good reason at all except that I believed the lies that Satan told me about them. Lies such as:
- She thinks she’s better than you
- He isn’t worth your time
- He doesn’t speak to you, so he probably hates you
- She is too weird
- He just tries too hard
- She is too similar to you
Now all I want to do is apologize to everyone that I have hurt, and tell you that I love you so much. Genuinely, I do. God has given me that love because clearly it’s not a natural thing for me. But 1 John 4 clearly tells me that loving my Christian brothers and sisters is the most important thing, not only in my personal relationship with Christ, but in my ministry to non Christians.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:7-12
Thank you Lord for sending your Son to die for my sins. Thank you for loving me, and teaching me (the hard way) about how loving others effects my relationship with you. Thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for continuing to teach me and make me complete in You. Amen.