Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 268 - passion, love, and joy

Here's what I wrote a few days ago and what I shared with young adult fellowship on Thursday. It's pretty much a quickie overview of the main highlights. Sort of. There's just so much. Anyway... for those of you who've forgotten or who maybe just met me... this is for you.

I’ve been attending First Chinese Baptist Church - Walnut since I was 6 years old. I accepted Christ in the first grade at what was equivalent to the fall festival at that time. It was really only a costume parade and afterwards they sat us down and shared the gospel with us. I remember an auntie showing us a picture of hell and I decided I didn’t want to go there so I decided to accept Christ. That was my childhood conversion.

So I’ve been at FCBC ever since. That was 22 years ago. I don’t have that much time so I’m just going to skip ahead to high school.

I see now how my entire life… the sum of my choices… the circumstances that God orchestrated in my life… was all destined and designed by the Master to draw me into His arms. I don’t think I have the time to tell it all, but I’ll try to give the quick version about how God taught me how to love.

Passion, love… joy… these things were foreign to me growing up. I had heard of them. I read about them, but I don’t think I ever really felt it. I longed to be loved. And my choices led me to look for it in all the wrong places.

I made my choices the best I could. I tried my best at everything. I tried to do the right thing. And I always felt like I’d come up empty. I felt like a wallflower. Like no one ever noticed me. There was deep, intense disappointment in my heart and I’d built walls around myself to protect myself from getting hurt even further.

And then… came the guys. I don't think I can ever give a testimony without mentioning the role that guys have played in my life. It's like God knew that guys would be the freeway by which God can cut straight into the depths of my heart... so that I could find life and learn valuable lessons. Sometime senior year, after AP tests were done, I decided it was time to have a boyfriend. So, me, being the go-getter that I am… I went and got one. And for the first time in my life, I felt like someone saw me and someone loved me. It was a very shallow and imperfect love, but still. It was all I had back then. Obviously that didn’t work out, and I rebounded into another relationship. That one didn’t work out either. And then came Anderson.

I don’t even know how it happened, but it did. It really was God using my own weaknesses for His glory… and I am certain of this because Anderson wasn’t a Christian when we first started dating. I was SO WEAK I couldn’t break it off. And God was so gracious to me to bring Anderson into His family. Over the years of our relationship, God really used Anderson to purify me and my character. It was Anderson who truly began to show me what love really is… and in him I found the love that I had been waiting for my whole life.

I finally felt like somebody saw me. I finally felt like someone cared. It really was the best thing that ever happened to me and I had begun to let my walls down and I really thought that I was well on my way to having the life I always wanted. But God knew better and He wasn’t finished with me just yet.

Deep in my heart, I always wanted to draw closer to God. God always had a hold of me even when I didn’t know or understand it… and even when I wasn’t willing to do more to get it. Anderson and I had a rocky start to our relationship but by the 2nd year, we learned how to communicate and how to grow together. I think God waited for this to happen and then He knew that we were ready for the next step. The brain tumor.

This tumor… was the best thing that ever happened to us. Anderson was the better person out of the two of us and his journey with God was exactly what he needed. He was a slow mover. He was slow to make decisions and this brain tumor and the threat of a truncated life to make him move faster. I’m the one who’s quick to make decisions, quick to take on way too much, and this brain tumor made me slow down, simplify and enjoy life. When God brings us into the fiery furnace of trials… He knows the exact temperature and the exact length of time with which to fire us to bring us to the exact place that He wants us to be. With Anderson.... God did a miracle in his heart. And I’m so happy that he is where he is today. Sometimes I'm so jealous that God didn't choose me to go first. My time is coming tho… and I look forward to it… but God has different plans for me right now, which is why I’m still here.

It took this brain tumor for me to stop doing what I wanted to do and start living my life with others in mind. It took this tumor to get me to realize what was important in life… and that what I thought was important, really wasn’t at all. It took us going to Houston for me to leave behind ministries, my friends, my family, my home, all my "stuff", school… and potentially my career… for me to be where I needed to be before God. Just me, Anderson, and God’s Word.

Houston was simple times. I basically woke up, did devotions, went to the hospital almost everyday. Totally simplified life. And in those times… when it was just me and God… God revealed to me so much of Himself. I cried. Oh how I cried and I screamed and I pleaded with God… and you know what? God knows. He knew that I needed 3 years to say goodbye to Anderson. He knew that I couldn’t handle him leaving me quickly. He knew I needed this time to let go and He was so patient with me.

Later on… one of my friends told me about a conversation that a few ppl had about me. One person asked how do you think Tiff’s going to handle losing Anderson? Anderson is her life. They all agreed on that. And one person said… that they honestly didn’t know. They said that it could destroy me… or it might not. They really didn’t know… because it’s Tiff. They just had to wait and see. I can't remember when someone told me this. I think I never really thought about what life would be like if Anderson weren't there anymore. It was a reality that I didn't want to face until I was forced to.

After he was gone, I cried. I cried a lot. I opened my eyes and would just start sobbing. The first breath of everyday was a heart-wrenching, pain-inducing realization that the love of my life was no longer by my side. It was a deep vacuum of a dark and formless void... with sorrow and yearning that swirls and suffocates until it feels like all of you is being flushed down the toilet with it into some kind of endless abyss. And when I wasn’t crying on the outside… I was crying on the inside. Every time I exhaled… it was a silent scream of anguish. Every single time. Every minute of everyday.

And then one day… I opened my eyes and… it was like the clouds parted and I felt the warmth of sunshine. All of life… all the bits and pieces fell into place and I realized how much, how vast, how great is God’s love for me. It was breathtaking. It was that moment that I realized that it was Him all along... in control of everything. And I was filled with such joy. And it was a joy that I could not contain.

The more I read God’s Word, the more I realized His love for me. The more I learned about God’s heart and the more I wanted to please Him by obeying. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. It was like I couldn’t get enough. And I realized that all the ways that I had loved Anderson… all the ways I learned to sacrifice for him, to put him first… to give him all of me… it was training wheels… it was practice for me to learn how to love God. And I think God knew that I wouldn’t have realized this any other way. So all of my life…all the good, the bad, the victories and tragedies...God knew and God designed specifically… meticulously… down to very minute details… to bring me into His arms. And I’ve never been happier.

Life is beautiful and life is abundant. Those 3 things that I said I’d always wanted but never thought I’d have… passion, love, and joy… I realize that I've tasted them... I dare even say that I have them in abundance now. Life is everything that God said it would be… like living in the land flowing with milk and honey… it’s just … beauty everywhere. I have peace that I’ve never known, joy that I’ve never known… a heart that I’ve never had before… I always used to be stressed out all the time and now… I’m really not even though life hasn't gotten any easier. I have complete assurance and faith that God is in control and has everything worked out and planned out for His good. There's lots of peace in that.

I still struggle a lot, but it’s a struggle that I know will result in my sanctification so in many ways, I actually like it. I know that it’s so worth it. The momentary pain is fleeting and also inconsequential in light of the eternal worth of drawing closer to and being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

I don't know what's going to happen in the future but I know that it'll be good... and for my good. And I think that is so lovely. :)

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