Let’s Make This About You

One day I volunteered to drive some friends to the airport at four in the morning. I did it so another friend wouldn’t have to because she had been working long hours and hadn’t been feeling well, and I thought she deserved to sleep in on that particular Saturday morning. Now, I know you’re thinking about what a nice, considerate person I am and that I’m going to lose my reward in heaven for announcing that good deed in such a public manner. Well, you’re probably right about the heavenly reward, but you’d be wrong to assume that I’m considerate.

Because thinking of others first certainly does not come naturally to me.

Generally, I’m happy to help out… if you ask me to. Give me clear instructions and I’m all over the task—with a smile on my face, even. Just don’t expect me to go around looking for ways to serve, because I am often oblivious to the fact that there are dishes to be done and laundry to be folded and hey, it would be nice if someone would clear the table, hint, hint. Because most of the time, I’m not thinking about any of those things. I’m thinking about me.

I’m thinking about what I want and what I need and how I feel and a dozen other things that revolve around me, me, me.

That’s what’s wrong with our world. Well, not me. (At least, not always me, though I’ve certainly added to the load of problems on numerous occasions and there are several people who will probably tell you, “Yes, Rebekah is the problem.”) But the real problem with our world is its billions of inhabitants with their inherent human natures that are all screaming, “Me, me, me!”

And I should know better. I should remember that the most satisfying moments of my life have been the ones in which I served others. And yet, for too long, my life (My life–see, there I go again with the “me” thing) has been all about me.

Let’s make this about your hopes and your dreams and your struggles.

I want to know how I can love you.
Pray for you.
Lift you up.

I want to know the kind of love letter you need from me.

So be honest with me in the comments or shoot me an email at beyondwaiting@yahoo.com.

Because I really do want to break this selfishness habit. And I really do want this post—this blog, this life—to be

Some Questions Are Better Left Unanswered

It seems like every time I turn around, someone within my online community has been debating the goodness of God. Is He good or is He not? Does God really love the world, or is He spiteful and vindictive? Because how could a God who claims to be Love allow so many things to go wrong? Why does He stand back as we endure suffering and pain?

I nearly lost my family on Easter Sunday. They were driving home from my grandma’s house when a car came flying across the interstate and nearly crushed the family minivan. Except, somehow, miraculously, it didn’t. And my family is alive. You can bet I was praising Jesus so hard I was weeping when I heard that news.

Last week, my young friend Mackenzie lost her dad to cancer. How can it be that a mere six weeks after I praise Jesus for sparing my father, Mackenzie loses hers? Is it fair? Is it just? Can I call that the work of a loving God? And if I can, would I still be saying the same thing if I had lost half of my family in a horrific car accident and Mackenzie’s dad was miraculously healed of cancer? Would I still believe in a God who loves if everything had been ripped away from me?

I’d like to say I would. In fact, I honestly believe that I could. I honestly feel that, under all the hurt and anger and confusion, I would still hear that still, small voice saying, “Rebekah, my child, I love you.” And I’m 98% convinced that I would believe it. Because I’ve believed it for twenty-one years.

Because I have lost people I love before. And yes, it was hard (and still is hard some days). Yes, I was angry and asked questions that haven’t fully been answered up to ten years later.

But you know what I’ve realized in the midst of the pain? Sometimes Love does things that don’t make sense to the beloved. Sometimes bad things happen so better things can come. Sometimes the losses we experience make room in our hearts for greater joys. And beauty really does come from ashes… eventually.

In case you were wondering, these aren’t the words I would tell Mackenzie, because they aren’t the kind of words that heal so fresh a wound. Because, deep down in her heart of hearts, Mackenzie knows what I know. She knows that God loves her. She knows that everything happens for a reason. But right now, those answers aren’t what she needs to hear.

Maybe the reason that God elects to leave so many questions unanswered is because He knows that what our hearts truly seek isn’t answers after all.

God’s silence in the times that we are hurting isn’t a sign of His indifference; it’s His way of standing alongside us in the midst of a myriad of empty platitudes. Maybe He doesn’t offer answers because He knows what we really desire is to be understood in a world that can only try at understanding. Maybe He holds back the words because He knows that what we truly need is simply to be held amidst the awkward shoulder pats and sympathetic smiles of the people who don’t know how to handle our grief.

Knowing the answers doesn’t take the pain away. It won’t give our loved ones back or miraculously heal our broken hearts. But knowing that God is there to carry us through when we don’t have the strength to carry ourselves… Well, sometimes that’s the only thing that drags me out of bed in the mornings.

So, for now, I’m content to leave my questions unanswered and keep my God close by. Because I choose to believe that Jesus loves me… even when He doesn’t say it out loud.

To Tickle the World

Steven James, in his book Sailing Between the Stars, ponders the roles we play in the body of Christ. He compares a couple of friends to an earlobe and a fingernail before speculating that he might be a whisker on God’s cheek.

I laughed when I read that and wondered, “Why a whisker?” An earlobe I understand and fingernails are necessary, but a whisker? What good is that? I feel that if whiskers were truly important, all of humankind would have them, but as you may have noticed, most (but unfortunately not ALL) women do not. And the majority of men in our culture shave them off. So again I ask: “What good does a whisker do?”

I started wondering why Steven James would compare himself to something so seemingly useless. Then I began to wonder why the rest of us do the same. Why do we look at our lives and think that the gifts God has given us are too small? Why do we look at all the fingers and ears and even eyelashes of our world and think we are somehow less than them because we are whiskers?

And I wonder if our gifts were meant for more than meets the eye. Because I have a memory of whiskers that is as fresh as the air I breathe in this moment.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpa had a beard. A Big, Soft, Bushy Beard flecked with browns and reds and silvers. I remember chasing my cousins through my grandparents’ house when a pair of arms would reach out of nowhere and engulf me, drawing me into my grandfather’s lap. I would brace myself for the attack even before the warning left his lips:


As his chin burrowed into my neck, my little hands would reach up to pull on his hair and shove at his face in attempt to break free. “Stop,” I would squeal through the giggles, while secretly loving every moment of our familiar game.

And that’s the memory that gives me pause. That’s the memory that makes me swallow my laughter at Steven James’ words about whiskers. Because when I look through at it that way, I can see that being a whisker in God’s Kingdom isn’t as bad as it first appears. And when I close my eyes, I can’t picture my grandfather’s hands or ears or eyelashes. But although it has been more than ten years since I’ve seen that glorious beard, I still remember the scratchy feel of Grandpa’s whiskers on my neck.

Suddenly, I’m feeling that my gifts truly matter and that there are no small roles in the intricate story God is writing through our world. But mostly, I’m realizing that whiskers aren’t useless at all. In fact, if I could choose the role I was meant to play in this story, I think I’d walk right up to the Divine Director and say:

“You know, God, I’d really love to be a whisker on Your cheek. Yes, I think I’d like to spend the rest of my life leaning down to tickle the world with Your lavish, ludicrous love.”

The Gospel of Tolerance

Tolerance. I really hate that word. I’m sick of seeing it everywhere I turn. “If people just had more tolerance…” I’ll tell you that I don’t need “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from my own,” and I’m certainly not looking to develop my “act or capacity of enduring.”

It’s not tolerance that is going to change our world. It’s love. And maybe we shouldn’t “tolerate” everything going on in the world, but we should definitely approach others in love.

John 3:16 says that God so loved the world.

Not just the people who would come to repentance. Not just the people who do what He considered socially and morally right. God loved everybody. Even the people who spit in His face. Even the people who drove nails through His hands. He loved them; not tolerated them.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to preach tolerance; He came to lavish love upon a broken and dying world. As Christians, it’s not our job to judge. It’s not even our job to “tolerate.” It’s our job to follow Jesus’ example and love people to repentance. And if they don’t seem to be repenting? Love them anyway.

I’ve read through the Bible multiple times and never found the gospel of tolerance, but I have found the gospel of love. Because the Bible is all about God and God is love.

Learn to love like Jesus today.

Breaking Up With God

I’m a bit of a rebel. I like living on the edge. Once I stepped out of the box, there was no forcing me back in. So naturally, my curiosity was piqued by a book entitled Breaking Up With God: A Love Story. Upon picking it up, I quickly realized it wasn’t at all what I thought it was. See, my idea of a love story is when the couple gets back together in the end. In my mind, Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy… and so was Breaking Up With God.

But I guess the story isn’t all bad because, after spending an afternoon at Barnes and Noble, I came to the firm conclusion that Sarah Sentilles didn’t break up with God; she broke up with religion. And for that I commend her. In fact, if the God I serve resembled the cold, hard creature Sarah described in her memoir, I’d have dumped him too. Luckily for me, Jesus isn’t like that.

God doesn’t call us to follow tradition; He calls us to follow Him. He’s not cold, He’s not hard, He’s not far away, and He is not waiting for a reason to smite you. Yes, He’s just, and yes, He’s fair, and yes, He often lets us learn our lessons the hard way. But He is also love, and He is also mercy, and He is also waiting with outstretched arms for the day you come running home to Him.

I broke up with God once. I was young and I was angry because He didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to. I thought He had failed me. Turns out, He was weaving an even bigger miracle than the one I had asked for. Seven miserable months later, I came crawling back. Because the incredible God I know and love is impossible to stay away from.

I left religion long ago, abandoning forced habits that weren’t done out of love. But God… I’m too in love with Him to ever stray too far. If Sarah Sentilles ever met Him, she would know. Maybe one day she will find Him. Maybe one day her book will become the love story it claims to be.

Today I pray that you’ll be made increasingly aware of the God of the Fairytales and that you’ll dance in the freedom His love breathes into being.

Don’t Judge Me

“Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.” –Psalm 7:8b

I don’t know how those words struck you just now, but my mouth went slack-jawed at David’s boldness. I wouldn’t dare to pray such a prayer because I know the darkness of my heart. And while I believe that David was merely trying to convey that he was innocent in the certain situation that plagued him, I still found that his words haunted me.

A friend of mine once told me: “Compared to Jesus, we’re like a bunch of filthy rats in a gutter.” That’s what this verse makes me feel like – a filthy rat. Which is why I marvel at the words David penned. My prayer would look a little more like this: “Judge me, O Lord, according to Your love, according to Your unfathomable mercy, O Most High.”

See, if God were to judge me by my own righteousness, I would be cast out of the Kingdom. And I’m what most people would consider a good person. But God says that our righteous acts are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).

Our lives would be absolutely hopeless if it weren’t for the remarkable fact that God doesn’t judge us according to our righteousness; He judges us according to His great love. While we were still playing around in the gutter, God sent His Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

I think those of us who’ve been in the family of God for awhile tend to take His love for granted. We forget what a miracle it is that God would choose to love us. Once we clean up our acts and begin to walk an upright life, we tend to judge ourselves by comparing ourselves to other people, rather than our holy God. We think to ourselves, “Well, at least I’m better than so-and-so.” But the truth is that we can’t earn our way to heaven by doing good works because there is no good that is good enough for God. We’re just like a filthy gutter rat, completely undeserving of the King’s love and acceptance. And the miracle of the matter is that He loves us anyway.

So instead of focusing on your own righteousness, reflect on the marvelous wonder of God’s love. Thank Him for His sacrifice that freed you to be judged by love instead of deeds, and remember that it’s only by His mercy that there is anything remotely righteous in you at all.

The Beauty of Redemption

I returned to the United States with India temporarily tattooed on my hand, but permanently ingrained on my heart.

Meeting up with my brothers in Mumbai was definitely a highlight of my trip, but the real miracle happened when our team left the city. After spending a few days amidst the poverty and pain of Mumbai, the lush, green haven called Ashagram washed over me. I sensed immediately what one of the former street boys confirmed only a few hours later: “This is a healing place.”

I know that it’s a healing place for those who were rescued from the darkness of the streets of Mumbai, but I also believe that each one of my team members experienced that healing in one way or another.

The term “beauty from ashes” has never meant so much to me. The hungry street boys I saw in Mumbai… I met them at Ashagram. Their eyes were aglow with the saving power of Jesus’ love. The prostitutes I saw lingering outside the brothels… I met them too. They smiled, they laughed, they praised the God who rescued them from darkness. And as I entered into a beautiful night of worship while a young man named Sunil played his guitar,  I discovered the true meaning of the word redemption. How was it possible that this extravagant worshiper could be the drug addict he claimed he once was?

Just when I was wondering if the hand of God was so clearly seen in my own life, one of the boys slipped me a note that read:

Do you know that you are my very close friend i ever have. Friendship is like love. and love never end. an love not take record of rong. you are love.

Though I wished I could have stayed much longer, I’m content to leave on that note. I figure that if that was the conclusion Santosh came to after my nine-day stay at Ashagram, I did what I went there to do. And I experienced the beauty of redemption in a way I never knew that I could.

Five Years and Forever

Sometimes I think I’m the strangest young woman on the planet, or at least the most unusual. But here I am, nearly twenty years old, running from romantic relationships. Sometimes that fact makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Even those women who have accepted their single status seem to yearn for that special someone. Don’t get me wrong. I do yearn for that special someone.  Someday. But for now I have embraced the fact that it isn’t time for him yet, and I refuse to let him be the focus of my thoughts. (Except for certain occasions, like as I write this now.)

My coworkers don’t believe me when I insist that, should Prince Charming walk through the doors of my office today, I’d send him right back out. Perhaps if they knew my reasons, they’d be the first to shut the door in his face. What my coworkers don’t realize is that I made a covenant with God several years ago. And a covenant with God is not something to be taken lightly.

It all started with my parents’ decision not to let me date until I was sixteen. Of course, by the time I actually turned sixteen, I had witnessed too many bad high school relationships. That wasn’t going to be my fate. I decided that my high school years must be meant for so much more than a dating relationship. With the encouragement of my mentor, I dedicated five years straight to seeking God alone. Five precious years to cultivate my relationship with Him without the distraction of any other.

Which is where I am today. I can’t believe how much time has passed, how much I’ve fallen in love with Jesus, and how much deeper I’m continuing to press into Him. It’s not like my time with Him is over. My five years are not yet up. But even when they end, though I will hopefully marry and raise a new generation of Jesus-lovers, I know that my covenant remains. I gave Jesus five years to prepare me to love Him forever.

It’s not because I’m unusual (though that’s up for debate); it’s because I’m called. Jesus has drawn me to Himself for such a time as this. For now He is my greatest love, and my greatest love He shall remain… Five years and forever.

My Little Phalanx

My dad has a name for my mom. He calls her his little phalanx. Now if you’re unschooled in the battle formations of ancient Greece, that may sound a little strange. In fact, even if you are schooled in Greek battle formations, that may sound like a pretty unusual thing for a man to call his wife. Nonetheless, it is my mother’s name and she loves it.

A phalanx is a tight battle formation that would prevent attacks from behind, allowing the warriors to focus all their energies on what lay directly ahead. They didn’t have to worry about who might be sneaking up from behind because they knew their fellow warriors had their back.

For those of you who are still wondering where I find romance in that statement, allow me to remind you that love is more than that “can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, world series kind of stuff.” Love is standing in the gap for someone when all your heart feels like doing is retreating. Life is a battle that we must fight to win, and when I think of spending that battle with someone at my side, I want him to be the kind of person who covers my back.

Who named Prince Charming? And what kind of knight can go through battle and emerge with shining armor? I’m telling you to give me a pirate, give me Rambo, give me the little boy who can’t seem to stay out of the mud. I’m looking for the guy in that famous Teddy Roosevelt quote – the one who strives valiantly in the arena, his face marred with dust and sweat and blood. I’m looking for the guy who knows what it is to sacrifice… and is still willing to sacrifice. I want to marry the kind of man who will call me his little phalanx.

He doesn’t have to be charming, and his armor doesn’t have to shine; he simply has to be the kind of man I can happily dedicate the rest of my life to fighting alongside.

Love is a Verb

I don’t believe in love at first sight. Attraction, yes. Infatuation, maybe. But love? Definitely not. Love isn’t something that can be developed on the spot. Love is displayed through sacrifice. There’s only one person in the world I would say that I truly loved the moment I laid eyes on him, and that’s only because I had spent the two years leading up to that moment praying for his salvation. So honestly, it wasn’t love at first sight after all; it was love before first sight.

When my brother was asked if he had ever fallen in love, he responded, “Um, love is a verb, not something you fall into.” While I know my amazingly spiritual little brother isn’t the original author of that statement, I loved the definition, and sometimes I need the reminder.

Love is not a feeling. It isn’t butterflies in your tummy or stars in your eyes. Love is a choice one must make every day. I firmly believe that the main reason for divorce is that someone stopped choosing to love. Maybe when the sunshine and rainbows have faded from view and reality sets in, someone realizes that marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And instead of fighting through the difficulties, they simply make the wrong choice and give up.

I’ll admit that I don’t always want to love my parents or my siblings or my coworkers, but instead of turning my back and shutting them out, I choose to love them through the difficulties. I choose to forgive their thoughtless actions or irritating habits because I remember there was some reason I started loving them in the first place. At one point in time, I deemed them worth loving. And when I get over my anger, I’m sure I’ll find that they’re worth loving still.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient and kind; not envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs, doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Never fails. And according to 1 Peter 4:8 it also covers over a multitude of sins.

That doesn’t sound to me like the definition of love I so often hear in our culture. According to the world, one loves until the feelings last, takes what one wants from a relationship, and walks away when satisfaction is no longer felt. To top it all off, we excuse this behavior with trite sayings such as, “It wasn’t meant to be.”

I’ll tell you what wasn’t meant to be. Love was not meant to be about us; it was meant to be about others. Love means giving until it hurts, sacrificing until you bleed. Love is sharing another’s joy, but also feeling their pain. Love has been known to spend endless nights crying itself to sleep because it is so broken for its beloved. Love doesn’t fade like a passing emotion because it’s not an emotion at all.

Love is a verb. Live like you believe it.