I'm not sure what I was expecting for orientation week, but it was beautiful and a bit tiring at once. This week was mainly about getting to know each other and to get an glimpse of what this summer will be like most specifically New York. We heard short sessions on the word, prayer, testimonies and community.
I didn't think community as something that could happen all at once, but I've already found myself praising God for the friendships that are already beginning to bloom. I can't wait to discover aspects of Gods character reflected in the many faces I will come to know better. My apartment mates in themselves are a blessing. We have already had multiple jam sessions and 1/4 of us conquered the rock at Eno river. Everyone has this delight to know the Lord and having that joy surrounding me every single day is just a true glimpse of heaven.
But, being surrounded by so many strong believers has been tough at the same time when the sin of comparison comes rushing in. I found myself internally trying to impress and please those around me instead of directing my focus to Christ. That is just the devil trying to shatter the unity we have by making us feel down when really were all different, but also fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who loves us.
On Friday we all were fasting and we went to Duke Gardens where Jesus took us on a date. This week I learned all about how Jesus is the one who takes the first move to reconcile with us. He reached out to us while we were still lost and repeatedly betraying him over and over again. He called my name and ran after me to save me. It was easy to get lost in the garden with all the different paths you could take, but even when I didn't know where I was exactly or where I was going it didn't matter because I was in the presence of God. The king of the universe was guiding me and the more lost I became the more I would discover hidden pockets of beautiful flowers.
While his presence always dwells around me, it was wonderful spending peace time with Jesus one on one for a few hours. We read through Psalm 73 and it really hit me in a new way than before. I often fall into the trap of keeping my own heart clean in self-righteousness. As if I can lift myself up by doing good. Jesus shatters that for me. Good things for the wrong reasons are equally sinful because there is always an ounce of pride. Luckily I have a Father that is so intimate to me that he lets me call him Daddy, He guides me to what is true and points me to the everlasting. It's easy to try and forget the sin you had before salvation, but remembering the debts you had is the essence of gratitude toward our Father for redeeming us of all that. Even being saved as a child before my salvation I was born dead in my trespasses and I can't forget what he saved me from.
It's tempting to look at the world and think we are missing out on something. The whole grass is greener on the other side. But what is greater than any grass is the evergreen land flowing of milk and honey in the one true promise land above. How can I turn my back on my savior thinking that He won't provide all things abundantly and more if He already gave up His Son for me! The only thing I am bringing to my salvation is my sin. Even in the few minutes in the word I would get distracted constantly. He loves me knowing I will fail on earth consistently and counts me blameless.He saved me despite my inability to focus on him alone for even an hour.
Isn't that mind blowing that I'm so tied to the world that I can't even focus all my energy and thoughts completely toward the Creator of the Universe!
I learned this week that Jesus was Plan A for God to redeem his children. I never would have thought that sending your son to die for the world would be Gods plan the whole time, I always thought of it as a last resort to our consistent disobedience that always fell short. But no, since the beginning of time He planned to send Jesus to unite all through his name, to be the ultimate savior. He planned to extend that love and sacrifice to bring his children to him the whole time.
I learned during fasting that the only nourishment I need is from his word. That hunger pains point be back to a God who satisfies more than food. He is the bread of life. This past year food has been one thing that enslaves me easily without my realization of it because it's a necessity, but it's not to be put before God. All good things can be abused when you put them in your thoughts above the one who deserves all your attention.
Finally at church I learned the power of prayer. Prayer is a blessing, it is direct correspondence to God that people who don't know him don't have. He also answers all prayer which I kind of knew, but I never really thought about expecting movement immediately from God. He promises that if we ask anything in Jesus' name he will do it. Answered prayer is the greatest testimony that is often overlooked. Prayer and connection to our Father is the most powerful tool we have above all else. And he always answers- giving us what we asked or what we would have asked for if we knew what he knew.
The gardens was a time of repentance, but also renewal. He restores me completely and he forgives me. The birds were singing his praises, the children's laughter lifted him on high and I couldn't help but join in relaxing in awe in his beauty.