This weekend I was in Louisville, Kentucky for the New Attitude Conference. I went to see John Piper...and got so much more. After we returned from Na, our Pastor sent out an e-mail asking for testimonies. I wasn't going to send one in, but was convinced to do so anyway.
I will be sharing the testimony below at church this Sunday:
When Matt (the Pastor that went to the conference with us) first sent out his request for testimonies, I said (out loud and everything) "I can't do that." My coworker, then immediately began to sing (very loudly) "Hide it under a bushel...NO!" Which was her "subtle" way of encouraging me to share what the Lord showed me, and I believe began, at this year's New Attitude. It's not that I mind talking about my sin...typically, I don't. It's just that these specific issues tend to be ones that I share at Ladies meetings, not in mixed company. Talking about them, openly, in front of everyone makes me feel a bit vulnerable and uncomfortable. I'm not sure why, because they are things that are obvious, and known by anyone who meets me. It will come as no shock to anyone for me to say, "I'm overweight and unmarried and neither is my choice or preference." Duh, right?
What might not be as easily known is how these non-preferential issues effect my walk, or manifest as sin. Historically they feed off of each other, and in my mind, perpetuate each other.
But what does all of this have to do with New Attitude?
Well, to explain that, I'll have to work backwards a bit. In his message to us on Tuesday morning, CJ spoke on applying what we'd heard when we were back in "real life". In that talk, he mentioned recurring areas of struggle and sin, which he likened to "trick candles". Gluttony and discontentment (specifically in regards to singleness) are my "trick candle" issues. I feel conviction, repent, by God's grace walk in obedience and then, there they are, surprisingly burning brightly again. My desire to be married becomes a sinful craving...and sooner or later, I satisfy that craving with food, or other things that are not God.
It was that way for me when I went to my first Na back in 2004...and sadly, the weeks prior to this Na were also peppered with disappointment, discouragment and sin. So when Bob Kauflin began singing a spontaneous song on Sunday night about waiting and unbelief, I was undone. My grief over my discontentment was more than I could bear and I began to sob...and sob...and sob. "How did I get here again?" I asked. In the midst of emotionally berating myself, the Lord spoke very graciously to me and reminded me of all the way He'd led me since Na 04. I was discouraged, yes. I had sinned. But I was not at square one again. I was not blinded to my sin as I was then. The practice of repentance and obedience in the years that followed had softened my hard, hard heart to a point that the depths of despair and disobedience I knew then were not possible now. I had lost nearly 100lbs. I was now friends with a woman I then envied and resented...who was at that moment hugging me and praying for me. I was not the same...by His grace.
But I still needed to change. I needed to blow the candles out again and press on. And in that moment, more than I wanted to be thin, more than I wanted a husband and babies, I wanted those candles to stay out.
The first night of Na, Josh Harris spoke on discernment and encouraged us to do what we already know. That really resonated with me. I'm a planner and very goal oriented. I'm always thinking and living 12 steps ahead of where I actually am, working towards the goal, trying to envision the desired outcome. The only problem is, that my plans are not those guaranteed to be fulfilled or to work together for my good and His glory. My new schemes are more than likely doomed to failure...but His Word stands forever. He has promised that we can do all things through Christ who is our strength. He has promised that the good work He begins, He will also finish, and that in His Word, he has given us all we need for life and godliness. Mine is not to try to determine how today will effect tomorrow...how much weight I will lose this month...how this choice will put me nearer to marriage and babies (or further away). Mine is to do what I know...more to the point, to do what I know will please God right this moment and trust Him with the next one, if it comes.
Practically, what I think the Lord would have me do from here is to combine that to one of CJs suggestions, and apply one bit of scripture to one bit of life. Then do what I know, one grace-empowered step at a time, as John Piper said at Na.
At one point in CJ's talk on application, he asked us to pray about the bit of life the Lord would address and the corresponding scripture. The Lord gave me Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
"Not to harm you"...my response to my circumstances these past few months has not declared that as truth and that grieves me, more than I can say. John Piper reminded us that we are debtors. I am a debtor. I owe. I am not owed anything. My next breath is a gift I don't deserve...yet the Lord gives it...and so much more. Chief among the things I don't deserve is His faithful and patient love and care. He could have rightfully squashed me like a bug, but He didn't. He was kind and loving and merciful...as He has always been. And since He did not squash me, or leave me where I was, I am believing that, armed with the truth and the practical suggestions of some very godly men, I can walk one grace-empowered step at a time, applying one bit of scripture at a time, to do what pleases God the most one moment at a time, for His glory.
The Lord did an amazing work at for me after Na 04. I am trusting that He will do something equally amazing in the weeks and months following Na 07.