Last month my friend turned thirty, and a small group of us got together to celebrate her life and friendship. After a lovely dinner in an idyllic outdoor garden, we drove to the local civic theatre to watch the play LesMiserables.
Even though I’m familiar with the story, it wasn’t until I watched the play that I realized Eponine and I have something big in common.
Chapter six (“The Relationship in My Head”) is where I admit to the imaginary relationship I had for years with Caleb. Oh, for the longest time I didn’t realize it was in my head. But like Eponine, there came a moment of truth when I saw that my relationship with Caleb had never been anything more than a fantasy.
See what I mean as you read these excerpts from Eponine’s song. I’ve italicized the lines that especially point to her “imaginary relationship.”
On My Own
. . . now the night is near Now I can make believe he’s here
Sometimes I walk alone at night
When everybody else is sleeping I think of him and then I’m happy
With the company I’m keeping
The city goes to bed
And I can live inside my head
On my own Pretending he’s beside me
All alone I walk with him till morning
Without him I feel his arms around me
And when I lose my way I close my eyes
And he has found me . . .
And all I see is him and me forever and forever
And I know it’s only in my mind
That I’m talking to myself and not to him
And although I know that he is blind
Still I say, there’s a way for us
. . . every day I’m learning
All my life
I’ve only been pretending . . .
How about you? Can you relate? Are you counting on a relationship that’s only in your head? Here’s a short true/false quiz from my book to help you find out:
The “Is It in Your Head?” Quiz
I talk about my crush more than I talk to him. (true/false)
He’s never actually told me he likes me, but I have good reason to believe he does. (true/false)
I constantly “collect evidence” to convince myself he likes me—smiles, laughter, words, and looks. (true/false)
If you answered true to some or all of these questions, you’re in danger of counting on a relationship that’s only in your head.
To read all about my relationship with Caleb—and also discover what a girl’s to do when she realizes (like Eponine and me) that a relationship is only in her head—order a copy of my book here.
Every August our staff gets together for one week (“Seek Week”) to refocus on Jesus before we launch into a new year of ministry. With just three weeks ’til my book releases, this Seek Week found me cranking out “book” work (book marketing, book website, book interviews, book, book, book) . . . and cold-hearted. I was working for Jesus, but I sure wasn’t enjoying Him.
When Pastor Walter Price told us he’d be preaching on Judas Iscariot, my ears perked up. I’d never heard a sermon preached about the disciple who betrayed Jesus. (Have you?)
Walter didn’t disappoint. And boy, did he sober me up when he said,
Judas knew the blessings of proximity to the things of God, he did a lot of great things for God, but he didn’t know God.
I’ve never thought about all the great things Judas got to do. Here’s just a peek from Matthew 10:
He [Jesus] called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction (v. 1).
Just to be sure we don’t miss it, Matthew lists all twelve names of the men Jesus sent out, ending with
. . . and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him (v. 4).
Judas was there! Check out the mind-blowing miracles Judas performed:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them . . . “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (vv. 5, 8).
Not only did Judas do miracles, he saw miracles right and left. In Mark 6:43, Judas ate ’til he was stuffed—and then he brought home a whole basket of bread and fish—after Jesus fed 5,000 people with a skimpy five loaves and two fish.
And yet . . . Jesus hadn’t captured Judas’ heart; money had. Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver—enough silver, at least, to buy a field (Matt. 27:3–10).
Judas’ story puts skin to Matthew 7:21–23, the most sobering words of Jesus in the Bible—at least in my opinion:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”
So I need to ask, are you busy doing things for Jesus without really loving Him? Are you telling others about Jesus but not truly delighting in His beauty?
If so, let me help you out by giving you a glimpse of Jesus’ beauty. Just before His death, Jesus tells the same twelve men that one of them is going to betray Him. He then leans over to Judas and says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” The passage continues,
“Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him” (John 13:27-28).
Did you catch that? None of the other eleven disciples suspected Judas. Jesus had never treated Judas any differently than the rest of His disciples. All along Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart, how Judas would betray Him, but Jesus loved Judas all the same. I don’t know about you, but I find that just beautiful.
My prayer for you—and me—is that we would never be too busy working “for” Jesus that we miss “drinking from the river of His delights” (Ps. 36:8).
After I wrote Confessions, I began to date an incredibly godly man . . . and then I broke up with him about a month ago. Since then, I’ve experienced a whole lot of shame and guilt for not being more “spiritual,” for not having been satisfied with a godly man. What more could a girl ask for?
The messages I’ve picked up from the Christian world have taunted me. Find a godly man and marry him is the message I’ve heard loud and clear. He won’t be perfect; you’re not perfect; just get married. I’ve nodded my head and begged God to help me value the things He values.
But at the end of the day there was no peace, no joy in moving forward—only heaviness and tears. And so I said goodbye, and then the shame came.
Last week I realized why, at least in part. I’ve grown up knowing that Jeremiah 17:9 is true:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
If I can’t trust my heart, if I can’t know my heart, how can I make good decisions?
Funny, for a long time I’d prayed, “Teach me to fear You,” but I certainly never expected God to answer my prayer this way.
It happened at the end of my week-long shopping marathon. My assignment that week was to find and purchase two killer outfits for a photo shoot for my upcoming book website.
Most women would kill to shop for an entire week, but I’d just about rather sign up for a week of boot camp. I only had ’til Friday, so every night that week found me searching the stores and racks.
Monday night was a smashing success only because of the help of a “shopper-iffic” friend.
Tuesday night I set out on my own and returned home with . . . one lone brown belt.
Wednesday my photographer instructed me to look for a third outfit. Bummer. But thanks to a cute boutique on the corner, I found an adorable maxi dress with a necklace heavy enough to require a chiropractor.
Thursday, the final night before the photo shoot, found me in town once again, frantically looking for a little sweater to wear over my maxi dress.
With ten minutes to spare before the mall locked its doors, I spotted it: a short, white, jean jacket. Never mind that it was $118 . . . the photo shoot was the next day, and it was perfect! Besides, I reasoned, I could keep the tags on it, wear it for a few minutes, and then return it.
Just to be sure, I checked very carefully with the clerk to be certain of the return policy. Once I was confident that I would be able to return it, I bought the jacket and dropped into my car with a sigh of relief. I had done it! I had found three outfits with not a day to spare.
But then the Holy Spirit chimed in. I hadn’t expected that, and I was not pleased. I mean, I was fine with wearing the jacket for a couple minutes and then returning it. Everyone does things like that. Besides, when would I find another jacket? The shoot was the next day. It wasn’t like I was hurting anyone or anything.
But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let up.
For a long time I’d prayed, “Teach me to fear You,” but I certainly never expected God to answer my prayer this way.
And then it hit me. This was a gift. It was the fear of the Lord I’d been asking for! At this moment, I was fully aware of His eyes on me. This decision just didn’t fit with the righteousness I’d been clothed with in Christ.
It sure didn’t feel like a gift in the moment, though. I tossed and turned on my bed, counting the cost of a fifth shopping trip. I’d have to miss work and make up my hours on the weekend. I’d have to go out into the humidity before the photo shoot, and my curls would be in danger of falling before I even arrived for pictures. I’d have to go in search of yet another jacket . . . and what if I didn’t find one?
Besides, wasn’t it enough that Jesus had died for my sins? Couldn’t He cover this little sin, too? Wouldn’t He forgive me?
But then, what would that do to our relationship? How long would I keep away from Him out of shame for intentionally ignoring His Spirit?
And did I really want my sin captured on film so I could be reminded of it every time I clicked on my website?
I knew what I had to do. Yes, Lord, I sighed, and fell asleep shortly after.
The next day I drove the familiar route to the mall. When the sales clerk asked what was wrong with the jacket, I confessed, “It’s not what’s wrong with the jacket . . . it’s what’s wrong with me.” Once the jacket was returned, I went in search of another one . . . and found it a few minutes later for $35! It was a bit too big, but it would do. With that, I was off to my shoot.
Miracle of miracles (and much thanks to Kenra Volume Spray), I am here to report that my curls withstood the humidity, I sported three new adorable outfits, and most of all, I smiled without a twinge of guilt, fully aware of the Lord’s kindness to me.
How about you? What have you been asking the Lord to teach you? Are you willing to let Him teach you through a life situation that costs you something?