...you take my hand and drag me head-first, fearless." Fearless by Taylor Swift.
First of all, thank you SO MUCH, everyone who voted on our Love and Commitment video! The final count, so far as we can tell, is 230, which was an outrageously generous response by everyone! As for as I know, that means we're in the running to be judged along with the other top-ten vote-getters, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll win! You guys are the best.
Happy Valentine's Day! This is the first Valentine's Day ever that I got to see my sweetheart at some point during the day--albeit today it was at 4:45am as he left to go to training for work. Have I mentioned lately that he is my favorite?
Cutest story ever: Ry knows that I love surprises, and so he planned a big ol' trip to one of my favorite destinations and set up a whole two-day surprise for me for Valentine's day, cuz he's sweet like that. But then work scheduled this training day (for Valentine's--who thought of that!?!?) and so he told me that whatever I'd planned I should hold off for a week and we'd just have a week-late Valentine's (Which made me say, "Oh, right--I'll just tuck everything away for you until next week"...right after I think of something and get it for you...). I don't have a lot of experience with Valentine's day as anything other than Singleness Awareness Day.
So this is where the cuteness comes in. I guess he started getting antsy that maybe he hadn't planned the perfect surprise, and maybe there was something else I'd rather do, and maybe he wasn't picking the right options...and so he began by asking me veiled questions like, "so do you like fish better, or horses?" "So, you like the Titanic, right? I mean the story?" "So, how do you feel about outlet malls?" (He's subtle, this one.)
Finally he couldn't stand it any more. He sits me down, really serious-like, and tells me the whole, entire plan. He explains every detail of how he was going to trick me into it. How much of a surprise it was going to be...but he just wasn't sure if I'd prefer dinner and an aquarium visit at the end, or dinner and a show. I laughed a marathon--I mean, how precious is that? If he hadn't asked I wouldn't have ever even thought about it--I am completely happy with either. I don't even know which one we ended up choosing, but I just thought, how sweet is that, that he wants it to be SO PERFECT. So much for the surprise, lol.
Meanwhiles, I bought him a box of Oreos along with other V-day surprises. It turned out perfectly, because we've sworn off cookies and chips for a few months and he just the other day talked about pining for "the love of our life, Oreos. Without them, the magic is gone," he said sadly. Well, the magic is comin' back, double-stuffed!
But believe it or not, that's not why I'm blogging this fine morning. (I don't know if it's fine yet, actually--it's too soon to tell. It's still pitch black. Why am I up so early again? Oh yeah, I remember, because Ry's work scheduled a training week to start on VALENTINE'S DAY.
Whoa, get this train back on the rails. That's still not why I'm blogging.
I had a revelation about faith this morning that I wanted to share with the general blogosphere, and my loyal readers specifically.
Since I started this blog, I've spent a lot of time wondering what I am supposed to DO with my life. I like to think that I'm bursting with capabilities, and every day is a new day, and I'm so charming and talented that there is no mountain too high, no river to wide, etc. And of course various things have come along (like marriage) that do give a certain direction to life. And here we are, in Kentucky (which was not initially received with grace by me) and life goes on.
Through the various struggles and pressures that have made up my life challenges to date, I've learned to pray, and pray hard. Especially since getting married and being lonely while waiting for Ryan to finish his training, and then moving and not having a home, and now as he works every day and I pray for him all the time, because with each story he tells, each adventure he has, I realize he may not come home next time. So I pray.
I've learned a lot about prayer.
I've learned that a praying life is not a life where you write up a wish-list, send it up to God, and He checks off the ones He's ok with, then tells you to just live without the others. It's not a deal where I give so many hours to worship or praise or study each day and He answers accordingly. It's not even if I believe hard enough, then He'll answer me.
Living a praying life, a life of faith, is ultimately living a life of relinquishment. It makes so much sense, yet it's also surprising to realize that my deepest desire has to be to fulfill my purpose as a human--which is, as the catechism tells us, "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
As a Christian and a child of God, glory to God is primarily obedience to God. Prayer is not just me asking God for what I want, it's asking God for what He wants, and for me to accomplish His ends.
To do this, I have to genuinely have faith (that is, live a life showing that I believe this to be true) that God does not have a single thought or plan or ideal that is anything other than the highest possible good. Literally, I have to give every wish, stress, desire, need, or plan to God saying, "Not my will, but Yours be done." I have to "die to flesh," as we say in Christianese.
Once my sinful self is out of the way, along with my self-centered demands and earth-and-time-bound outlook, then God's power can flow freely. My prayers can become a conduit for God's power only if I pray in faith that God's will is best. And why wouldn't it be best? God is not bound by sin or selfishness--He's not confused by time--He's not blinded by uncertainty or fear--He doesn't have to wonder what the outcome will be, if. He knows--He Is--He can. God is Perfect, Holy, Righteous, Good, Loving, Just, Merciful, Faithful...
So if God's will is best and I pray in line with that anyhow, what is the point? Doesn't God just do His will regardless? Ah, that's where we need good, solid theology. I am not a theologian, and I'm not even a terribly good Bible student, but I've been working hard to understand this, because it's integral to comprehending my worth as an person and a Christian.
The best word to describe it, I think, is intercessor. All of Scripture points towards this, but my favorite examples are discussed by Jennifer Kennedy Dean in Living a Praying Life. I'll try to break it down as she did.
Take two passages--Exodus 32 and Ezekiel 22. In both of them, God's people break covenant with God--they sinned big (in Exodus it is Israel, and in Ezekiel it is Judah). Obviously, sin deserves judgement, so both of them are now in line for a whupping. But in both cases, God desires mercy for the people--instead of wiping out Israel, God wants to preserve the Messiah's tribe (Genesis 49:10) and God asks if there is no one to intercede on behalf of Judah (Ezekiel 22:30). In the one case, Exodus, Moses responds and intercedes for Israel. In the other, no one responds when God calls for intercession. Israel receives mercy; Judah receives judgement. Prayer made the difference.
It is not a matter of changing God's mind, or reasoning God into a different action--it's a matter of standing in the gap--being a part of the system God has created to accomplish His purposes. Dean describes it as "releasing the power of God" through prayer. It's not that He can't do it without us--it's that like in all of the Christian life, God desires a relationship, and part of building that relationship is working together with Him, letting Him tell us what He wants, and trusting in who He is. He's created the universe to work this way, just like He created gravity to keep us attached to earth. God has a system, gravity, we drop something, it falls. God has a system, prayer, we intercede, God answers.
Prayer makes a difference, but it is crucial that we pray with that relationship to God in place--not just shoving up prayer-quarters to the God-bubble-gum-dispenser. It's a matter of asking your loving Father to give you bread, and knowing that because He loves you, He will bring you a delicious meal to satisfy your hunger. The wait time is all part of His preparation--perhaps to make you hungry enough to really enjoy it--perhaps because it simply takes that long to bake a cake--perhaps because another hungry little child needs to arrive home to eat also--but any way, it is His joy to have you come to Him, tired and muddy and hungry, and ask Him to make you warm and clean and satisfied, and to allow Him to fully answer your needs, beyond anything we can ask or think.
A broken heart and a contrite spirit, God has yet to deny.
So that was my Valentine's Day revelation. :) Have a wonderful day, ya'll!