Sunday morning I felt awful. It was a hangover from self. Let me explain… Saturday I decided to go to a soccer game. No big deal.The first problem is that I bought a new shirt because I was nervous about going to a new place with a new person, and I thought that having a new item from JCrew would make me feel more confident. (It didn’t work. It never does.) So, at the restaurant before the game I had some craft beer. I mention that they were “craft” beers because this makes it sound like a foodie experience rather than calling it what it was: I wanted to take the edge off. See, normally on Saturday nights I go to church at 6:00pm. I knew that I could go to the 4:00 service instead, but I didn’t. I planned on going to the 9am service on Sunday. So when I got to dinner at 6pm, I already felt weird about not being at church. Being outside of my normal routine with God didn’t feel right. When I got to the game, I had a little more “craft” beer because I knew that if I let myself think about it too much, I would probably want to go home.
I had a good time, and after the game I even went to the Chattanooga Brewing Company to meet up with some friends. One more craft beer. No, I didn’t get drunk – not even close, but I don’t think I handled the gray area well this time. I was enjoying adult beverages so that I wouldn’t be so uncomfortable about being outside of where I normally am on a Saturday night. I realized that the reason I felt so terrible on Sunday is because that night I didn’t trust God. I felt weird about going, but I went anyway. The Holy Spirit was saying, “Natalie… if you’re uncomfortable, there might be a reason…” Honestly, I went because in the back of my mind (or maybe in the middle) I thought, “You never meet anyone at church. Maybe you’ll meet someone if you’re out being social.” I wasn’t trusting that everything happens in God’s time. (And really, the thought of dating usually makes me nervous, but because my ex-husband just got engaged, my emotions are doing their own thing.) Instead of turning my feelings over to God on Saturday, I decided to “put myself out there.” I know better! Because I was uncomfortable, I had some beers. Instead of listening to the still small voice, I tried to quieten it. Maybe I just wanted to forget for one evening that I’ve been stressed about things beyond my control. Maybe I wanted to see what it’s like out in the world on a Saturday night. I don’t have hang-ups about beers, or games, or going out on a Saturday…. but something didn’t feel quite right and I did it all anyway. I put me before God, again.
To most people, I probably appear to be overthinking it. This transparency may be too much. But Sunday morning I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had somehow disappointed God. My sin was not listening to the Holy Spirit who was giving me that nudge. “Why are you even drinking? Are you honoring me? What are you hoping to accomplish here tonight? Is this how you think it should be? Why are you waiting on something to happen to make you feel alive? Am I not enough?” I’m just confessing that I don’t always get it right. I try to make something happen in my own way and my own time, and I end up feeling terrible. I let insecurity, doubt, stress, loneliness, and impatience have too much ground sometimes. It wasn’t the beer or the people I talked to or the staying out late or anything tangible that was the sin… My sin was simply not listening to God trying to comfort my heart. My heart was put through the ringer last week in more than one event, and God just wanted me to draw close to him, away from the noise and numbing.
I finally did go to the 1pm service on Sunday afternoon and this is what I heard: God is passionate about sinners. He loves us so much. He pursues sinners (even sometimes with discipline). He is patient with sinners. (Naomi in the book of Ruth wandered away from God for 10 years!) God calls sinners “sinners” because he calls it like it is. BUT, he pardons sinners when they call on Him.
Suffering in the middle of God’s will in surely better than suffering outside of it. That’s totally true. I don’t know what God had in store for me Saturday night, but I’ll never know because I chose to be in MY will, not his. I pray that he will use my mess-up for a greater good as I continue to learn to listen to his voice. Hope and grace draw us back to God in his loving kindness, and it is there that I know I find rest, peace, and comfort from all the worries of the world. Too much of me leaves me with a hangover, and I never want to be there again.
(Photo Credit: Freja Bjerring)