I have been at my gap year program/college thing for a month and a half now ! It’s been pretty amazing overall so far, but it hasn’t been easy. I already have learned so much that has shifted my whole perspective on certain major life choices. I’ve had lots of “ah ha” moments. While this has been awesome to experience this type of clarity, it can also bring with it a sense of regret and shame about my past and the choices I have made. It’s tough because when a good thing is happening, like those “ah ha” moments, it’s still painful and even a little embarrassing sometimes to see the light being shined on the hazy moments that I would do differently now. I made pursuing things and people more important than pursuing God and more important than valuing myself. In the moment, some of the things I was doing didn’t seem so terrible, but I see now where acting impulsive and being too trusting cost me. So the reason I am writing this is to maybe shine some light to help you have some clarity in your life in the areas you may not realize will hurt you later on, so you won’t have to look back and say “crap why did I do that?”  God has a way of making bad things into good things by turning them into lessons that not only personally benefit us, but that can help others who are also struggling.

Okay so let me start off with this: in my blog I have talked about things that I have done that I wish I could take back or do differently but I know that by the grace of God I’m forgiven and truly changed. And one thing I want to make clear is that I will not betray confidences or ever talk down on someone in this blog or to others no matter how much I felt hurt in certain situations. I’m learning to look at it from the perspective that if someone has been placed in my life, there’s a reason for it, whether it’s to stay for the long haul as someone I can trust or just for a season to teach me patience, self control, forgiveness,  or not to obsess over making sure I’m accepted, and this list goes on. I don’t ever mean to sound like I’m pointing fingers at all or playing victim; I only share my part in these friendships/relationships because just like in my last blog post, if we all focused on taking care of our own problems instead of worrying about other people’s motives and issues, there wouldn’t be so much unresolved conflict.

But now on to the point of this post! So the program I am attending this year has a strict rule for all of the participants called “The No Dating Policy”. Now some of you may hear this and have the reaction of “sign me up!” while others are going “no way!”….both are very common reactions when I tell people. It’s actually pretty great and makes day-to-day life a lot less distracting. This policy is also changing the way I view male relationships, I look to them and they look to me for friendship and nothing more. It is such a beautiful thing. There is no pressure, nobody is trying to impress or win over one another, I have the freedom to just be me. Even though I still have a long way to go, I’ve found out a lot about myself since getting here, and some of it is truth that I have been suffocating for years, trying to pretend like it wasn’t there, but just like when you hid your clothes under the bed to make your room look clean during room checks, the clothes will still need to be unpacked and put away at some point, and let’s say just like in real life, I have wayyy too many clothes. 😉

In this post I am going to be vulnerable, so I am asking you to read this without a spirit of judgment. I hope many of you can try to relate. And when I talk about idols, I’m referring to anything or anyone in our lives that is more important than God. And you may think that God isn’t really that big of a deal now in your everyday life so who cares if we don’t make Him our first priority as long as He’s somewhere in the top ten? But I promise you, we weren’t created to have anyone or anything else in that top spot. Our lives will eventually feel lost and our hearts broken if we keep trying to put other people and things in God’s place, which is what this post is about.

If you would have told me a year ago what the last 12 months of my life would have looked like, I wouldn’t have believed it. The people who came in and out, the highs and lows walking with the Lord, the experiences, how I  put band-aids on wounds that weren’t healed, and even the place I am at with the people I am with now, I would’ve been shocked. Life changed up fast at different times and while some things were amazing experiences, there have been a few important lessons I learned.

One “ah-ha” moment I’ve had was about how insecure I really was even though I thought I was confident in my identity. I would tell so many other people not to be insecure and than there I would find myself doubting any good thing I ever did half the time and comparing myself to everyone else smarter, prettier, and cooler then me. Then during my senior year, I went against my own “no dating” rule and dated a guy (lesson #1 – when you and God make a deal you aren’t going to do something, DON’T do it!).  I was caught off guard and things just happened so fast, I didn’t give myself much time to pray and see if this was part of His plan, plus it felt nice to have a Christian guy show that much interest in me so I assumed that had to be God, right? While I won’t go into details, we broke up over the summer before heading off to college and that break-up was eye-opening. I realized without even noticing that I became very dependent on him for my self-worth. Sure, I have fun memories, but I lost myself in that relationship. I was warned about the way it was changing me but to me it wasn’t evident. I made excuses that sounded good at the time, but now I see things very differently. I learned it’s so important to listen to the people closest to us when they see things in us we don’t. When we are so close up in certain situations, it can be very hard to see the big picture. Just like horses that race, they have blinders on to just look straight ahead and in some situations we tend to put the same kind of blinders on to just focus on what we put right in front of us instead of seeing the reality all around us. Once I learned to take off the blinders, I decided I didn’t want to limit what God has planned for me and I don’t have to chase what He’s got for me either; I’m just going to try my best now to rest in His promises without forcing anything.

So I really started to ask myself the hard questions in the last few months and maybe some of you can relate, too; why did I allow my identity to be so wrapped up to the point of changing who I was to make other people happy? Why was I trying so hard to prove my worth? And why do I allow other people to have so much control over my emotions (well technically my mom asked me that one)? So the big question I am trying to answer now is, how do we all avoid doing this same thing in the future?

I’ve found out the simple answer to that is to put ALL our faith, hope and joy in The Lord. I’ve actually known that for a long time but it was not easy for me to actually do. I would stop with the old behaviors and bad habits and I changed when I had a motive, but not because I had respect for myself or because I was admitting that what I was doing was bad. I tried to do it in my own strength with the wrong motives, never fully relying on God and not completely dealing with old wounds (the clothes I stuffed under the bed).  When my last break-up occurred and he wasn’t around anymore to be my comfort and “go to”, I finally thought to myself “What am I doing? Who am I living to please? A guy or the Man who died on the cross so that I could live in total freedom to live for Him?”

I was shocked as I unpacked some more “ah ha” moments realizing that my motives to live a Christian lifestyle were pretty messed up off and on throughout my life. How many times do we find ourselves striving for positive outcomes, but having the most negative or toxic motives? It’s like when some people work their butts off and get money for making Honor Roll. While that’s an awesome outcome, would they work that hard if there was no reward? Some people might, but many would only put the work in for the money at the end, not because working hard is the right thing to do.

So this was me off and on through the years, working hard on my relationship with The Lord but sometimes for the wrong reasons. I was making  something else my priority instead of God so even though there were times that things looked great on the surface, as you can imagine that unhealthy behavior showed, especially within my last relationship.  Looking back I can see now my motive from the start was to win his heart with my Godly girl self, but by doing that I made him an idol and put him before my relationship with The Lord. And listen, I loved prayer, worshiping and reading God’s Word much of this time, it didn’t feel like a burden or fake to me, I thought I was being sincere. It’s just that as this relationship was ending, God shined a light on my distraction and wrong motives in some of this stuff I was doing.  Over the summer, I realized a few things I hadn’t considered before, my heart was healed in that process and since then I started to genuinely deepen my relationship with The Lord because I wanted to, not because I was trying to impress anyone. I became more purposeful in who I chose to spend time with and I began to really see things differently.  And it makes sense why God wants us to put Him first, no human is created to fill that role. When trials came, I leaned into Him for everything and was so glad I did because of situations I’ve had to work through in this last season. And how awesome is it that we are loved by The Creator of the universe and we don’t have to live to please anyone but Him! It has really helped me to see myself differently and value myself more.

So here I am in this place now of not being pursued or pursing anyone. To be totally honest, there are times I struggle with that, I’m not the most patient person and that’s one thing God is teaching me big time. And there is also something so freeing in knowing I have no one to try to impress, I don’t have to keep checking my phone and my heart isn’t in danger of being broken because of a relationship I’m not ready for. Plus I want to be able to clearly hear from The Lord about my future plans next year without trying to figure out how a boyfriend works into all that. It’s not like I don’t want to have healthy connections and solid friendships, but I’m trusting God’s plans and timing in my life like I never have before.  And that leads me to part two of this blog…coming soon! 🙂

Since starting my program, I’m really pressing into The Lord and have found so much peace and comfort in His Fatherly and abundant love, even when I’ve had to deal with rejection. I choose to trust Him with everything. God knew what I needed as I started this program and He knows what’s best for you, too. Even when things don’t go the way we thought they would, He has a better plan for us. I have such overwhelming appreciation and love for the One who first loved me.

The second part of this post will come soon, but I just hope you’ll think about this stuff and look at your own life, and if there’s anything or anyone you have been putting before God as an idol. Have you been getting gut checks from God that your priorities are not super healthy? What’s your foundation and peace based on? I can promise you one thing for sure, if your foundation is not God, whatever it is instead of Him will not bring you joy and peace forever.

Praying for everyone who reads this, that you can have a few “ah ha” moments of your own and realize that God loves you a lot! xoxo