I sat with a friend in a restaurant when he turned to me and said, “Tiffany, one day you will be in a place where you will need to stir your affections for the Lord.”
I stared at him appalled by this statement. How could I ever fall out of love with Jesus or need to try to manufacture my affections for Him? At this time, He’s the one who propelled me out of my bed every morning to spend cherished moments in His presence before taking on the rest of the day. Almost every waking moment my mind was fixated on how to love him and His people better and fulfill my purpose in the Kingdom.
Go ahead and say what you are already thinking. I was naive.
Having a relationship with Jesus is strikingly similar to any other relationship you have on this earth. You need to nurture it, cherish it, protect it, and intentionally work on it each day.
When I moved to Uganda, my life felt a lot like the intro in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song.
“Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down.”
Disoriented by all the instantaneous changes, I lost my footing in all areas of my life. The first to go was my time with the Lord. I started operating in survival mode, and in doing so, I omitted Jesus from being the focal point in my everyday life. Of course, I still shot up my ever-constant, “Help me, Lord,” prayers but I largely felt like the Lord had led me to Uganda and left me to fend for myself.
It’s hard for me to even admit this in writing because I feel like I failed the one person who has always been faithful. How could I dare neglect the one relationship that has changed the trajectory of my life?
At this risk of sounding completely insane, I blamed not having ‘my chair’ as a reason why I couldn’t be with God. In the US, every morning I would make a cup of coffee, curl up on my cushy butterfly chair with a blanket and a bible, and get lost in the word and journaling my prayers.
When I got to Uganda, I would alternate between our uncomfortable bed or our living room, but nothing felt right. I desperately missed having an intimate, private space in the mornings to start my day.
I would try to get back to the Lord, trying different ways to spice up my bible reading with podcasts or devotionals but nothing lasted for long. I grappled for familiarity and when I couldn’t find it, I gave up.
Instead, there appeared to be an invisible yet insurmountable barrier between Jesus and me.
And this has been the theme of my life for the last 3.5 years, but recently everything changed.
Now, I don’t want to blame a chair for my reason for not dedicating time to the Lord, but once I made a makeshift chair in my bedroom (and by makeshift I mean I stole two of our couch cushions and made a chair on the floor in our bedroom), everything changed.
I began to journal again daily. I began to dig into the Word of God and jot down how I felt the Holy Spirit was speaking to me. Verses came to life again, leaping off the pages, and diving straight into my heart and directly into my current circumstances.
I was spiritually starving myself and never fully noticed it until I received the nourishment I desperately needed.
In Uganda, I’ve witnessed malnourished children with sunken-in eyes and shrunken frames who are literally skin and bones. It’s quite the miraculously change when children begin to receive the nourishment they need to thrive and eventually look nothing like they did a few months before when they were completely malnourished and depleted of all necessary nutrients.
The same applies to our spiritual lives. We can starve ourselves and place ourselves in a self-inflicted famine when abundance is readily available.
In Haggai, the people are warned that they let their personal agenda take priority over the Lord’s plan.
“You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”Haggai 1:6 (NIV)
This verse stopped me in my tracks. I had uttered similar words to my husband when I defeatedly told him, “I feel like I’ve worked so hard the last three years but have nothing to show for it.”
The Lord gently reminded me through this passage that if I didn’t put Him first, all of my efforts would be futile.
As I continued to read, this verse compelled me to stop reading, clutch my Bible to my chest, and weep freely.
“So the LORD sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the enthusiasm of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the enthusiasm of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”Haggai 1:14 (NLT)
Being drawn and wooed back to the Lord is the sweetest of feelings, but also inspires repentance. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked for forgiveness for my silence, my apathy, my unwillingness to fight for my first love. I asked that the Lord would do the same that he did for Zerubbabel and spark my enthusiasm – or as my friend told me years ago – stir up my spirit and affections for the Lord.
Over the last few weeks, I can sense a sizeable shift in my spirit one of hope and joy that have been foreign feelings for far too long.
If you feel like you’ve lost your way or are drifting away from where you once were, please know that you can always head back home.
It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Though I am not advocating that you and Jesus go your separate ways, I am letting you know that it’s a sweet and tender experience when you allow your heart to fully return to Him.
My hope in sharing is that you won’t feel shame or guilt, but be instilled with the hope that Jesus is not out of reach for those who earnestly seek Him. Take a baby step today back to where you truly belong.