I’m still detoxing from New York City.
For the two years I lived there, I tried to convince those still residing in my Midwestern hometown that the trees and grass of Central Park were all the nature I’d ever need. Cars were overrated. That all the weird smells and trash-lined streets only existed on the Lower East Side and – hey, you become immune to the honking of taxis after awhile. It’s all part of the City’s symphony, I’d say.
Three months after moving back to the Fort, I’m living in an apartment complex that looks like a state park. I’ve got a lake surrounded by huge sycamore trees outside my bedroom window. I’m driving a Jeep. I’m realizing that although some of what I said was true—the City is this sparkling, romantic jewel—much of it wasn’t entirely factual. I like cars—I like having a drink holder for my Starbucks on my morning commute. I LOVE looking out my back window over a quiet winter scene and taking in the fresh falling snow. I love being able to afford a full one-bedroom apartment now instead of crashing in a living room (as great as that was!).
But, there are still some nights I’ll never forget. Example:
It was the first summer I spent interning in New York. My mom and a few of our close girlfriends had come to the City for a weekend full of Broadway shows, Soho shops, & Brooklyn brunches. As much as we all wished that weekend would last forever, Sunday evening finally came & I went back upstairs to my apartment to shower while they ran out to grab crepes. The problem: I forgot to give them keys to get back into my building. I ran back downstairs to let them in, & we decided to sit on the steps and eat for a minute. As we talked and laughed, we saw a man wearing clear sunglasses and a black / gold velvet blazer walk out of the restaurant across the street. It was BONO.
As I tried to secretively snap a few photos, two more people came out surrounded by bouncers. The woman looked down at her pale yellow dress, as the man high-fived Bono and followed her to the car. As they got closer, we recognized them—Jay-Z and Beyonce.
It was my first celebrity experience in NYC. I told my mom the next day how absolutely incredible it was—Bono having dinner with J & Queen B?! WHAT. She chuckled a bit and said, “Kenz, I was praying for a fun & memorable thing to happen on our last night here. I felt like you could use it.”
…and God answered my mom’s prayer with Bono, Jay-Z, and Beyonce.
This is a true yet superficial example, but the point is: my mom prays prayers that God answers.
Two weeks ago, life was quite stressful, and I was facing pressure on a couple of fronts. My heart was like a soldier, weary from the fight and feeling quite beaten down and broken. I’d prayed all day for peace and calm, but my insides continued to feel unsettled. My mom came over in the evening, wrapped me up in her arms, and prayed for me—over me, over the external circumstances, and over my heart. She prayed with quiet, confident tone—and this overwhelming peace immediately settled over the room. God answered her prayer swiftly, immediately, and completely.
She and I were Christmas shopping last night and, as we searched for the perfect gifts for family and friends, I caught her up on the things I was currently praying for and about in my life. Standing in Target’s Christmas section, sifting through sparkling lights and reindeer ornaments, I jokingly asked her, “Mom, why does God answer your prayers? Even for the smallest, seemingly frivolous things? I could pray for the same things, but when you pray, He truly answers swiftly.”
She answered me with unexpected seriousness: “When you pray, do you believe Him to work?”
“Well, yes…” I said cautiously.
“Really? Truly? Or deep down, do you doubt that you can trust Him?”
She and I both knew the real answer.
You see, there are things I’ve been praying for over the span of years. The kind of desires that feel intertwined with your heart, which you only dare to pray for in those most personal moments as you nestle under the covers or as the day is breaking. Things that I’ve petitioned God for while lying face down on my living room floor, through strong words, and through tears. Things I’ve wrestled with God over. But when weeks, months, and years go by and those prayers aren’t answered—what then?
My “what then” became continuing to pray, while trying to craft contingency plans on my own. I allowed my misunderstanding of His intentions and disagreement with His timing to breed distrust. I held a sentiment where my prayers said, “God, I believe you to work this out” but I followed that up with actions that said, “I don’t think this is on Your radar, or I don’t trust that you’ll make it happen. So I’ll just take care of it because I know what I need.”
In retrospect, that perspective has only brought heartache. Robbed me of joy. Dampened my hope. I would continue to offer things in my life up to Him as a sacrifice, only to find days—even moments—later that my sacrifice had crawled off of the altar.
My heart has longed to hope, to trust, and to allow Him to bring about His best. But, doing that requires me to relinquish my grasp on my life—on these things I hold close to my heart. And that requires a complete vulnerability with God, an openness, a giving over of my entire being to Him.
To be entirely honest, I’ve wrestled with Him over this all weekend. Clearly, this is difficult. I’d actually hoped I’d dealt with these trust issues long ago.
I want to trust Him, but my heart still continues to ask if that’s safe. If He will protect my hope. If His plans are truly those that are best for me. If I can trust His heart.
His answer keeps coming to me in a gentle whisper: “Yes. I want you to live free.”
Because, actually, trusting Him with my life isn’t dangerous or risky. It’s the safest bet I can make. He wants to take the wheel – He’s dealt with my stresses, worries, and failures. He only looks ahead, and He wants to bring things into my life beyond my wildest dreams – things I would never have the power to make happen on my own. And that frees me to enjoy the ride.
It’s a giving of my entire being to Him, because only He is capable of bringing the things that will fulfill my deepest longings and allow me to live the life He has planned for me—the life I’ve always imagined. Living life with a Kingdom perspective, praying with confidence, trusting His will – and living free.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied. “if you have faith and do not doubt…even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask in prayer.” ~ Matthew 21:21-22
“Your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” ~ Matthew 6:32-34