Have you ever stared up at the ceiling during a night that felt endless? Nights can feel the loneliest. Typically, whatever negative emotion we’re feeling during the day feels heightened at night. The anxiety that we were able to keep at bay during the day by staying busy unleashes in full force at night. The loneliness that we were able to keep just below the surface during the day blankets us at night. The lust that we were able to shove down during the day consumes our thoughts at night.
The worst is when your ‘night’ is many more nights than a single night. I’d say I’m almost three-quarters of the way out of what felt like a full season of nights. It’s not dawn yet, but for this first time in what feels like a long time I have hope that light is coming.
I had the real honor of getting to work at a church in Chicago that my heart truly loves for the past few years. But one thing that’s easy for me to forget is that churches are made up of people, and because we’re people and not Jesus, we don’t always know what we’re doing. I am the prime example. So for lack of a better word- it’s tough, you know, when Church and Jesus and work and people overlap. It just gets messy, even when everyone’s trying their best and doing what we think is wisest.
Eventually, I noticed this pattern where I would find myself in conversations at work or in meetings & I would have this moment of wondering: ‘I don’t think that this is what Jesus has called me to value. I don’t know if this thing is what Jesus has called me to build. I don’t think that the way I’ve been created to love people fits the mold here.’
So I found myself walking through some days that just hurt. That’s all I know to say, my heart just hurt. I began to question everything about myself. Whether or not God had called me to be a pastor, which I’d always been really sure of. Whether or not being relationally driven was a good thing. Whether I loved people or if I just wanted to build something impressive and to be completely honest- I got to a point where I just didn’t know if I wanted to keep following Jesus.
I felt like this razor-edged thing trying to fit into a perfect circle, and the more I tried to smooth down the hard edges of me, the more I hated the way that fit on me. The more I saw that how Jesus has invited me to care for people looked differently than how I needed to do that where I was, and I still do not have the words to explain how difficult it was to arrive at that realization. I had moved my life from Nashville to Chicago to do what I felt like God was calling me to do. But that experience crushed part of who God made me to be.
I still struggle so much with how to talk about that season, because I don’t want to paint my whole time there as bad because it wasn’t- it wasn’t all bad. But it was a season of many nights that felt crushing. I would never have imagined that something I loved so much could be the same thing that would ravage my heart.
You might be in a season of nights, and maybe it feels like it’s never going to end. It might feel like dawn is never coming- that you’ll never be on the other side of this circumstance that has a death grip on you. You might even be questioning if following Jesus is truly worth it.
I get that.
But here’s what has helped me turn back around to Jesus a few times when I’ve been certain I was done.
I find it fascinating & I think further proof of the quality of God’s care for our hearts, that it’s the night that Jesus first comes to us. He’s born in the night. God sends His only Son as an infant out into the night for our sake. He sends His Child to save us, and we turn around and arrest Him. Still, He goes on to hand His life over for our sake in the night.
I think that’s the most beautiful reminder because how often do we feel the most alone, the most forgotten and stuck with no way out at night? & how often are we so desperate to fill that ache inside of us that feels like it’s going to rip us apart that we choose to fill it with anything we can find during the night? Jesus takes the night and brings the dawn for us again and again and again. When my heart lets my brain think about that everything that feels huge and scary, like it will surely take me down begins to be right-sized in my vision. It’s helped me catch a glimpse of light in the dark. It’s helped me believe again that dawn is coming.
*This is an excerpt from a sermon preached at Center Church RVA. To hear this podcast and more, check out www.centerchurchrichmond.com