This devotion is rather long (is it still a devotional writing then?) but it’s sincere!
Set Apart in Praise (Or, How I am Not of This World)
Passage: Psalm 98
Liberation. Nine letters create such a freeing word.
I consider liberation and remember a spiritual breakthrough on a summer theatre excursion at University of Michigan fifteen years ago. The swelling of my heart’s joy when I performed a praise dance in celebration of my Grandmother’s sixtieth birthday. A black and white photo of a nude woman smiling in a field, just days after a mastectomy, with her arms outstretched in surrender, in total praise, for what God had delivered her from. These are moments that set us apart. These are moments that remind me that God’s children are not of this world.
Although I am a young adult, and hopeful for many more years, there are three things that God has done for me that stay on my mind, on my spirit, constantly. These three things are: He provided me with the gift of friendship, replaced my sorrow with a deeper passion for His will, and the faith to follow His will.
First, God has provided me with the gift of friendship. I spent some of my childhood in Houston, Texas and the remainder in Detroit, Michigan. I went from having all of my family within reasonable driving distance, to the closet family member being four hours away. It was an exciting and scary time, and I learned the importance of developing solid friendships. Many years later, when I left the family of friends I have in Michigan and relocated to Los Angeles, California as a newlywed, I had a difficult time adjusting to the pace of the city. I was even told by an acquaintance that, “You don’t come to L.A. to make friends, you come to network [for your career].” It honestly took two years to develop a group of friends who are now like sisters and brothers to me. I recognized God’s gift of friendship more than I ever have before in these past six months and don’t take it for granted. I cannot say that I was so swift to see His love when He took a true joy away from me, but now I see the forest for the trees.
Consequently, God replaced my sorrow with a deeper passion for His will. For most of my life, I was committed to dance. It was my healer, my purpose, my everything. I had made up my mind that I would be a professional choreographer and eventually own a respectable facility, where dance, music and performing arts were taught to students of all ages. I was well on my way to this goal, too, and secured a scholarship to study dance at a reputable school. However, in 2004, I was in a car accident that changed everything. I had already been told prior to this accident that I was not taking the best care of my young body and might not be able to ever dance again; but, youth and stubbornness would not allow me to listen. The accident was the final nail in the coffin. Not only could I no longer dance, I could barely walk. I spent my first summer as a college student in physical therapy, learning to mobilize myself again. For seven years, I was bitter.
For seven years, I could not understand why God took dance away from me. But seven is such a powerful number! Saint Thomas Aquinas stated that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Piety, Fortitude and Fear of God. All of these things have been restored! In my ignorance, I did not give Him the praise He rightfully deserved for gracing me with the gift of dance. In my pride, I was making an idol of the art. I lacked a real understanding of this sin. And what has God done to redeem my soul? He has provided me opportunities again to dance and possibly teach the art again. Most importantly, God has called me to teach the Bible.
Therefore, God has provided me with the faith to follow His will. I can honestly say that, even while focused on a career in the performing arts, I could sense God’s calling on my life to actively participate in a form of ministry. I resisted it with fear–I did not want to be a pastor. I did not want to be responsible for His flock! I come from a long line of ministers but I did not want it to be my calling. I did not understand that the calling to use your gift(s) is not up to you, but the absolute will of God. I also did not understand that “being called” did not mean I have to be a minister–there were other opportunities for Him to use me. I submitted, albeit with an attitude during 2010, so the action was not genuine. God made the mandate ever more clear in 2011 that I am to become a scholar and develop as an Apologist, and sent me on a hunt for a school to study at. I eventually arrived at the website for Southwestern Christian University; and, now that I am enrolled and working towards the first of many degrees within Biblical Studies, I am so glad that He did not lift His hand off of me. It all feels natural and I cannot believe I was arrogant enough to fight this for so long! I wake up with an understanding that life is not about me, but totally about Him and what He wants from His children, and it energizes me.
And so, I am liberated. Truly set apart with praise on my tongue. I tell people about Jesus. I collect religious swag, sing contemporary Christian songs and wear my NOTW apparel. It all feels so good, but not as great as His magnanimous gift of salvation. I’m not that far removed from sin–none of us are in this life. Ever so often, the smell of sulfur still whiffs through the air. But I know that Jesus is my light and I will never return to that darkness again.