To God, We are the End and He is the Means

Typically, summer is not the season for me. Outside of the extra time spent with family and friends, in the sun, and not in class, the structure-less free time, lack of normal community, and a completely altered weekly routine do not excite me. The summer usually makes my relationship with the Lord feel unstable and I can’t help but feel a little purposeless, like I’m trudging through the time until school starts again.

However, thankfully and blessedly, this summer would be a little different than most.

God gave me the opportunity to live and work in Birmingham, Alabama, where most of my time would be gobbled up by this sweet job (check out the INCREDIBLE organization that is Breakthrough here) and by a couple of my closest and most favorite people that happen to live in Birmingham this summer, too. Even better, I got to live with one of them, so long as I kept the house and fed the dog while she and her mama went out of town periodically throughout the summer. An introvert at heart, I looked forward to the first weekend that both my friends and housemates would be out of town. At this point, I’d been working for a couple weeks already, and I sought refuge in the quiet solitude of a weekend at home alone with no one to talk to but Jesus.

For the sake of transparency, here’s how that first Friday evening went:

  • Arrive home from work after 45 minutes of traffic.
  • Cry for a little while because I’m actually sad my friends are gone and I’m alone in this big shadowy house and someone will probably try to break in while I’m asleep.

  • Watch several episodes of Parks and Recreation

  • Feast on a mango popsicle and popcorn for dinner

  • Drink a glass of wine

  • Cry a little bit more because SO ALONE

  • Go to sleep.

To say the least, it wasn’t quite the fulfilling, fruitful time with the Lord that I hoped it would be. Admittedly, I felt guilty for this. I usually do when I feel like I’ve wasted or misused the time I could have been giving to God for better purposes (if you didn’t understand why I said free time can be bad for me, now you know...). Anyway, by the next afternoon, deprived of human contact except for the three times I called my mom, I was ready to go spend time with Jesus. Why is he always the last resort?

That afternoon, God planted a seed in me that he would use to shape the rest of my summer and I hope my senior year of college. He put one word on my heart that had not previously been on my radar: fellowship. Fellowship of the Ring, maybe, but fellowship with Jesus? What I heard that day, and in the many to come, arrived as an attachment to what I already knew. Yes, Jesus wants to heal me from the brokenness I’ll experience in this tragic world. Yes, he wants to grow me in my love and desire for him. Yes, he wants to redeem me from my sin. Yes, he wants to make a better friend, a better sister, a better daughter, and a better believer out of me. But first and foremost, and perhaps more than all of this, he desires fellowship with me. He longs to be close to me. Many times I use him as a means to these ends I feel required to meet in order to please him. The truth? He cares nothing for them in comparison to being with me, knowing me, treasuring me. Even in the midst of my Parks and Rec marathons and popsicle wrappers.

The greatest part of this reality is that God has no reservations about his fellowship. All the things God wants for me that I listed previously are good, God-intended gifts that we should hope and aim for in our short lives.  He wants them and will lead us through them. But to him, they come as the fruit out of our fellowship with him. To him, our healing, sanctification, and growth are not his end goal, and our desire for him is certainly not the means. To God, we are the end, and the means was his death on the cross.

It’s funny that I tend to define periods of my life by how productive I am spiritually, relationally, or mentally. I feel good about a season and all the days in it if I feel like I’ve followed the Lord well enough and done all the right things. Thank God that he does not see things as I see them. Thank God that he desires me, not what I can give him. It’s out of our fellowship with the Lord that he will bring love, joy, healing, community, sacrifice, and redemption out of our lives. It’s out of our fellowship with him that others will come to know his loving arms. I could never achieve any of this good on my own. The more I understand this, the freer I am to believe in how much the Lord treasures me through every moment of every day, regardless of “how well” I’m following him or loving him. There is no “how well” for the Lord, but only the greatest joy that we get to live life together for the rest of eternity.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!
— Romans 7:24-25a