Like so many of you, 2016 has been a whirlwind. I’ve felt pain, shame, heartache… and also unimaginable strength, joy, hope, and freedom. Fear has played a prominent role in this year’s script, but more than any year before, so has courage.

When I first started this year, my only resolution was to do something that scared me EVERY DAY in 2016. I had completely different expectations than what actually happened. I planned to do some epic things like skydive and maybe backpack to some remote spot. I hoped I’d finally feel comfortable performing in front of big crowds by getting on bigger and bigger stages.

Well, my plans to skydive fell through and I have yet to reschedule them. I spent most of this year performing more—and on bigger stages—hoping that for once what other singers promised me would come true: “The more you do it, the less scary it is.” I kept facing my fears, but I got sickly nervous every time.

Early on in the year, I kept a record of each day’s fear I conquered. But after about a month I realized my “fears” just weren’t that impressive. Much of what scared me were things so simple, not even I would enjoy reading about it at the end of the year. So I stopped keeping track, but I made sure to do something each day.

It became a habit to do things because I was afraid. My inner dialogue began to look something like this: I don’t want to do _____ because I’m scared. Great! That’s exactly what I need to do! At first it was about checking off my fear for the day, but it soon became about living. I started going straight towards the things that made me want to crawl out of my skin, knowing they were the very things I had to face in order to keep fear from ruling me.

I’ve had some very real “conqueror” moments this year—some that many of you have witnessed, some I can’t wait to share with you in the New Year, and some that only my closest friends and family get to celebrate with me. In 2016, I did amazing and horribly frightening things like:

  • Having incredibly uncomfortable yet necessary conversations with friends
  • Owning up to embarrassing mistakes and offering sincere apologies for my poor behavior
  • Sending emails I feared would result in “no’s”
  • Posting videos I knew weren’t perfect
  • Reaching out to people I was afraid would reject me
  • Choosing honesty and vulnerability with trusted people
  • Taking on work I was afraid yet fully capable to do
  • Performing on stages big and small throughout Orange County

At first, the voice of fear was just as loud as when I started. Sometimes I gave in to it. Most days I chose courage at least once. By the end of the year, I started noticing most of my fears didn’t happen. Even when my fears came true, it didn’t feel nearly as bad as playing it safe. Giving into fear only forfeits the chance to truly feel alive. The voice of fear just didn’t carry the same weight after a while–I knew the promises of safety were not only empty, but debilitating.

By far I gained so much more than I lost by taking chances. My friendships developed from good friends to bonded sisters. I got some “no’s” and a decent amount of rejection, but I also got some yeses that resulted in amazing opportunities. I learned as I went on some jobs, and my clients were happy—I even got paid!

The greatest takeaway was finally noticed in the last couple of weeks. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t nervous to perform! It wasn’t because I finally had performed enough. It was a total shift in my perspective.

Through choosing courage in my personal life, I gained the paradigm shift I needed to face “bigger” obstacles head on. All those sent emails and persevering through uncomfortable situations helped me learn I am far more capable than I typically give myself credit. I realized that if I can have an incredibly difficult conversation and deal with the aftermath of those emotions in a healthy way, I can easily show up the next day and play a few of my favorite songs. I also began to see myself as someone who has something really special to offer.

I never could’ve anticipated this kind of result, that I would feel more like myself rather than have a cool list of things I’ve accomplished. To loosen the grip between fear-based living and who I really am truly is the greatest gift of freedom.

Not every day went perfectly, but because I chose courage more times than not in 2016,

It is my plan to do the same in 2017—and for the rest of my life.

I can’t encourage you enough to kick fear’s butt and truly live! Send the dreaded emails, have the scary conversations, and try new things you’re afraid of!

May you have a wonderful and FREE 2017! Happy New Year!

In my (albeit short) lifetime I’ve never seen the U.S. so divided. It’s not just a split between two parties; it’s egocentrism for many people on differing sides. It’s a complete disregard for the thought processes, values, and everyday realities of others. It’s the absolute refusal to admit that you may be wrong in your conclusions, or that someone else may be equally right in a different way. I’m seeing people threaten each other, put people down, and “unfriend” people because they’re voting for someone with different convictions.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s frustrating to hear rhetoric I disagree with, read news stories that are clearly spun (at least in my opinion), and not judge people who seem to lack basic critical thinking skills. But it’s equally important to try to understand where people are getting their information, why they think the way they do, and look for their heart and soul in it all.

What I’ve found is that the majority of people on any side want similar things; they just have very different ideas on how to accomplish them. I don’t think we need to be so divided.

Everyone thinks they’re right. But obviously it’s impossible for everyone to actually be right. Odds are, you’re probably wrong about at least one voting point. I suspect I am. I think leaving room for the possibility of error even in our own thought process is key to uniting as Americans and people. I know this is a very “threatening” opinion to people who feel so passionately about issues in this election, whose livelihood and freedom seem directly left in the hands of the winning candidate. 

I completely support voting for what’s best for YOU and YOUR values, but try to understand other people are doing the same. (My favorite example of this is how many of my Christian friends and family members are praying for opposite candidates to win the election. Both have extremely “Christian” and “biblical” convictions to support their personal choice, and yet overall it seems to be split.)

The golden rule is “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Don’t you want people to hear you, consider your perspective, and respect you even if they disagree? Don’t you wish more people would admit that maybe their ideas won’t be as beneficial to society as they imagine? I believe we have to first practice that ourselves.

At the end of the day, I’m choosing to love people by respecting their values and understanding that what’s most important to me isn’t always as important to everyone else.  Certain policies which negatively affect me may benefit someone else, and vice versa. Maybe I’m wrong about the effects of the very policies I firmly support and oppose.

We will never all unite on policy, but we can unite as humans. I’m trying as hard as I can to understand where others are coming from and to maintain a loving perspective. After all, isn’t love what life is all about?

So here’s my attempt at accepting my propensity for error. Here’s my commitment to search for the perspectives of people I don’t agree with so I can truly hear them—not try to convert them. I encourage y’all to try it too. I’m pretty sure I’m right about this, but—hey—I could be wrong. 🙂

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, often referred to as “Single Awareness Day” by fellow singles, and I mean… I guess that’s one way to look at. But the word “single” doesn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth like I feel it’s expected to.

I’m sure other single women can relate to the shock expressed when people find out “someone as _____ as me” isn’t in a relationship. I smile and say things like “I travel too much” and “I’m not not dating, I just haven’t found someone I’m super impressed with yet.” Then I watch friends, family, acquaintances—and their moms—try to set me up with every 20-to-35-year-old man they know so I won’t have to cling to such sad consolations.

But really, I’m ok.

I actually love my life. I get to do things like host impromptu sleepovers with my friends, travel and not even know when I’ll return, and switch careers without my decisions affecting anyone else. And I would totally give that freedom up for a man I felt was worth the commitment, but I’m not disappointed we haven’t met yet.

A few years ago I let go of waiting for “the one” to come and make sense of all my years of singleness. I released the mantra I was taught as a pre-teen: “Save yourself for marriage so that God can bring the perfect match.”* I gave up on the implied culture of, “If you find a way to be content in your singleness, then God will bring the right one.”

*(I’ve known God long enough to understand that He is beyond gracious and gives good gifts regardless of our often terrible behavior. So I can choose to obey Him because I love Him and not because I’m expecting Him to give me a treat for “being good.” And actually, obeying Him usually is a reward in-and-of-itself because it means experiencing His best.)

So anyway, I scrapped all those fantasies of how to become the perfect Proverbs 31 wife for some “Boaz” husband that is prayerfully out there and waiting for me… and I just embraced life as an adventure.

I’m not promised a boyfriend or husband; I’m not even promised tomorrow! But I do have today, and I’m pretty sure God wants me to enjoy it (John 10:10).

I’m not waiting to “really live” once I find my soul-mate. In fact, I’m thoroughly convinced no person will ever love me perfectly the way my soul craves to be loved. And I’ve already found the One who does. (Really. That’s not a consolation. I know it to be true in the depth of my soul. God touches parts of my heart that no person could ever see to reach, parts of me that I don’t even know are there until He speaks to them.)

Sometimes God uses other people, relationships, and circumstances to demonstrate His love for me. If God uses a man to further reveal His heart for me, that’s wonderful. If He uses a dating or marriage relationship to help sharpen me into a better woman, great! If He uses our connection as a team to powerfully impact our community, I’m game.

If I do decide to marry someday, it will be a precious gift. But I’m not waiting on that gift any more than I’m waiting for God to sign me a record deal or give me the kind of finances to fly to Peru to see my niece every month. I am so thankful for the gifts I already have. (And trust me—singleness is a gift! If you don’t believe me, talk honestly with people who have been married for more than 10 years. Extra points if they have children!)

I have a handful of close friends who happen to be married. They’ve shown me both the beauty and incredible difficulty that make up marriage. It’s A LOT of work. I’m not blind to the fact that relationships require giving of yourself and thinking of another person’s needs in addition to your own. I respect marriage as something sacred—full of sacrifice and selfless love for another person. That’s not something I ever intend to walk into lightly.

Regardless of what commitment I may decide to make someday, I’m not single and waiting for the right one to come along; I’m living! For the most part, I feel deeply loved and cherished by the relationships in my life. First and foremost by my Creator, but also by some of my favorite humans who stand by my side through thick and thin. On any given day I am a phone call away from being encouraged, supported, and hugged.

No, I’m not opposed to seeing pictures of your sons, nephews, and single friends who just graduated from college… I’m open. But I’m not looking for anyone to complete me; I am whole. And I hope that everyone—in a relationship or not—experiences that wholeness.

I still love Valentine’s Day! I love that many of my friends are in happy, healthy relationships. I love that some of my friends are married and having kids. And I love that I have single friends who want to celebrate our sweet friendship by decorating heart cookies with Rom Coms in the background.

I just love love. Healthy, 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.

Wherever you fall in the spectrum of relationships this Valentine’s Day, I hope it is a beautiful celebration of the ones you cherish deeply.

And don’t you worry about me.

Really, I’m ok. 🙂

Happy New Year!

2015 was a year full of blessings, difficulties, and A LOT of growth. I believe there are far better things ahead than what we leave behind, and I’m planning for 2016 to be even greater.

But I’ve realized there’s one enemy that has and will continue to rob me of fully living if I remain paralyzed by its power—FEAR. That sucker has messed with me my whole life! I’m tired of my fears inter-fear-ing! (I know that was painful for some of you to read, and I’m sorry I had to do it anyway.)

Fear has inhibited me from the things I love most, the things that make me me Sharing songs I’ve written. Talking to strangers. Exploring new stores and restaurants alone.

Fear has also been an entryway for shame to beat me up when I cave to it, which in turn completely freezes me from making any sort of progress in the future, resulting in me feeling pretty miserable.

So today and this year I’ve decided that I’m done. My only New Year’s resolution is to do something that scares me every day.

I can’t make fear disappear, but I can decide that it will no longer rule my life. Fear may roar louder than ever this year—I almost expect it to. I plan on choosing courage anyway. In 2016 I’m going to be intentional about noticing fears when they’re out of place and conquering them.

I hope that a year from now I can say I’m braver, but even if I’m just as afraid of silly little things 366 days from today, at least I’ll have tasted freedom from the ice cold grasp of fear. At least I’ll be able to say, “I lived.”

So when misplaced fear shows up uninvited in 2016, I will do my thing anyway… at least once a day! 😉

And if you’re even half as fed up with fear dictating the course of your life as I am, I encourage you to do the same. Let’s live!

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -John 10:10b

Yesterday was my “first” Thanksgiving with my wonderful brother-in-law and my brand new niece. We took picture after picture and posted them online. They fit perfectly between many other friends and family who shared their exciting “first” holiday as well. Baby’s “first,” newlywed’s “first,” “first” in a new home…

Honestly, yesterday was full of joy and family and consideration of all the good in my life. But even as I celebrated with new traditions, an aching truth kept surfacing: I’ve never known Thanksgiving without my grandma, and this is the “first” of many holidays of which her absence will be felt.

I’m really coming to understand that holidays are often full of both sorrow and joy, and I’m reminded that I’m not alone in this feeling. I remember the memorial services I’ve attended this year, some I even had the honor of singing at. I’m reminded that for a lot of people, yesterday was a “first” Thanksgiving that hurt, and that these upcoming “first” holidays may be accompanied by the searing pain of loss.

And I remember friends and family who struggle a bit more through each holiday this year because, for them, there is a looming element of “last” as their loved ones face terminal illnesses, threatening their chance of even celebrating the new year together.

Holidays are beautiful, but sometimes they hurt. Yes—we consider our blessings and are thankful for the bounty. Are we not also allowed to recognize when something is out of place, when someone is missing? I think the answer is yes, I just think sometimes we’re afraid to come out and say it. Like somehow we’ll ruin all the good things if we admit we’re missing someone dear to our hearts.

To my friends and family whose holiday season of “firsts” is more painful that pretty—it’s ok to notice. You are not expected to count your blessings and pretend there’s nothing else you long for. You are not required to dance through these holidays with a painted smile out of fear that your honesty will destroy all bliss. We can maintain perspective while admitting wherever we’re at—allowing room for both gratitude and grief.

I want to be part of a community that allows each other that freedom, supporting one another as we nestle into that space between happy and hurting throughout the holidays. Because truthfully, whether it’s your “first” without or “last” holiday with someone you love—or anything in between—I think we benefit from granting ourselves and each other permission to be… wherever and however that is.

Remember that one sleepless night I mentioned a few weeks ago? The one where I admitted just how crazy I am deep inside, and how I stayed up from midnight til dawn because I was housesitting alone and scared?

Well, I wanted to follow up…

The next morning I started blaming my very protective upbringing. I’ve been raised to fear. I wish I were like some of my other friends who were educated but given confidence. Now I’m stuck like this.

No. I felt God gently directing me. You are not going to blame your childhood anymore for the decisions you’re making as an adult.

He was right! I’ve spent so much of the last year searching for the root of my insecurities and it’s easy to point the finger and give up. But we don’t have to be the product of our childhoods; we can choose a different path as adults. We can choose to pursue healing and overcome the obstacles placed in our lives by circumstances and other people.

No more excuses.

I was determined to beat this. Later that day I enjoyed a light swim in the pool with my younger brother and felt complete tranquility.

What was I even thinking last night? I’m safe—I don’t know anywhere else I’d feel so relaxed. I’ll sleep just fine tonight.

Hours passed, my brother left, and the sun went down. As darkness crept in, so did my fear.

Are you serious!? Again? No…

But I could already feel it everywhere. My hope of overcoming lifelong “worst case scenario” fears was dwindling—and quickly. It was getting later and I was terrified of never sleeping again. I decided to try a friend who had sincerely encouraged me to call anytime. Because I’d noticed the 3 AM timestamps on her Facebook posts, I figured she meant it.

I gave her a call and fought the shame urging me to be silent. “I’m ok… this is really dumb… it’s nothing really… but I’m staying alone and I’m scared.There. I said it. The statement sounded ridiculous, but it was true.

Grace met me through the words of my dear friend on the other end. “That’s not dumb, that’s real.

She told me I wasn’t alone and that she had once learned how to sleep by herself in the midst of a crazy neighborhood with very dark nights. She encouraged me that this fear was a spiritual attack—this refreshing housesitting gig was a gift only God could grant me and the devil was trying to take it away. Satan can’t snatch what God has given someone, but he can try to scare them into forfeiting their gift.

My friend instructed me, “Anoint the doors of that home with oil and claim Psalm 92 over your situation. Blast praise and worship music, sleep with the light on—whatever you have to do to feel safe—and know that you are.”

As we hung up I felt a boost of courage. The fear was smaller, and an ember of faith was burning within me. Hope permeated my soul and for the first time in forever I had total confidence that I would destroy this fear—once and for all. I brought my frankincense oil, Bible, and phone to play “Christ be all around me” and approached the first door.

“Lord, this represents the protection You’ve already promised me.” As I smeared the oil on one doorpost after another, I thanked God for the faithfulness He’d proven my entire life. I expressed gratitude for the gift of this temporary home and His promise to keep me safe. After covering each door, frankincense was soaked in my fingertips and the home was filled with its royal scent.

Although peace and protection were always available to me, they finally seemed tangible. Inspired by this new awareness, I place the oil on my chest and prayed, “Lord, seal and protect my heart. Keep me from fear.”

The scent of frankincense had already become a calming reminder of protection, so I placed one small drop on my wrist and climbed into bed.

That night I slept with a tiny flashlight nearby and a worship playlist on repeat. I woke up twice a little panicked. Both times, like a child looking for comfort, I smelled the oil on my wrist and was immediately soothed. That simple smell triggered peace by reminding me that the house was surrounded by the God of Protection. I fell back into a deep sleep.

It’s been more than three weeks since that night, and I’ve been sleeping soundly. This blog post is a testament of victory Christ has claimed in my heart and mind. Never in my life have I felt so much peace, confidence, or security.

Sure, we’ve all been influenced by our upbringings. But I am finding increasing joy in being influenced by my Heavenly Father who never intended for us to live in fear. He created us for freedom, and by His grace I’m one step closer to that today.

I truthfully didn’t imagine resolution so quickly when I wrote the last post. I expected to reference that blog months or years down the line. Little did I know my Father wanted me free even more than I did! My natural response is praise and gratitude to the One who doesn’t leave us broken. Thank You, Jesus, for continuing to set me free!

I didn’t sleep last night. I’ve been housesitting for the past few days and I’m extra cautious when I’m staying alone. I’m pretty predictable: The first night I get used to the surroundings and sleep pretty lightly, the next night I settle in and sleep better, and by night three I’m completely out, dreaming I could stay forever.

Yesterday was night four, and I was significantly more scared than the other nights. It’s not that I feel particularly threatened in this neighborhood—it’s full of young families and gentle elderly folk. It’s not even that the house is unsafe—I have an alarm to set before bed which will immediately notify police should anyone enter.

But as I lay awake at about 2:30 AM last night I realized a funny pattern: In living situations where I’m probably the most secure, I often feel the most afraid.

Growing up I was instilled with a lot of fear masked as “caution.” While basic caution is wise, excessive caution is code for fear. I’m always on the lookout for something bad to happen, always trying to protect myself by staying one step ahead. It’s exhausting.

I think trying to protect yourself from everything you’re afraid of ultimately breeds more fear—threats are as endless as your imagination. Since I’m a creative writer, there are more things for me to worry about in one night than could ever happen in a lifetime.

So last night—even though I had locked all the doors and set the alarm—I had to worry about an intruder shutting off the power to the house and disabling the alarm and phone lines, a crazy cult leader and his wife who inevitably snuck in while I took the dog outside for her last potty break and were about to kidnap me as their newest bride, the murderer who wouldn’t mind the alarm because I’d be dead by the time police arrived… and many more.

I knew these fears were ridiculous, but I didn’t feel completely safe from them all. And the truth is, although highly unlikely, any one of those scenarios—technically—could happen.

But I’ve slept well alone in a home with just a simple lock, where the nearest house wasn’t for miles, and where the only “security” was a friendly Labrador who wouldn’t dream of attacking.

So how could I sleep peacefully in a situation like that and yet not at all in a quiet neighborhood with police on standby?

I believe it’s because I don’t rely on God to protect me in the relatively safe situations—I put my trust in the security system and go to bed. And then when it’s dark and I’m tired, my creative mind runs with all the ways that “security” could fail. There’s no stopping my imaginary threats.

Never mind that the God of the universe is watching over me. Never mind that He will never fail me.

Verse after verse came to me last night. Promises God was asking me to hold onto instead of my fear. I scribbled them in my journal:

I will fear no evil, for you are with me. -Psalm 23:4b

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and he delivers them. -Psalm 34:7

You hem me in, behind and before. You have laid your hand upon me. -Psalm 118:6

A horse [or alarm system] is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him. -Psalm 33:17 & 18

No wonder my heart is glad and I rejoice; my body rests secure. You will not abandon me to the grave. -Psalm 16:9

With each verse, God’s peace would comfort me for a moment; but fear came crawling back, striking a chord in my heart and ricocheting through my entire body until I was paralyzed. Some Christian I am—God is promising to protect me and I still can’t trust Him!

My fear of this alarm system not being enough to protect me seemed like a perfect opportunity to sow a seed of faith. So I did the last thing I wanted to do and disabled the alarm.

I jumped back into bed expecting to be rewarded with complete peace. Instead, I was more terrified than before, more in tune to every noise, feeling completely vulnerable. In my mind I walked the perimeter of the house over and over again, door by door, trying to remember if I’d locked them all.

15 minutes passed and I started to crumble. Lord, it’s not bad if I turn the alarm back on, right? It’s just wisdom. I mean, I trust you to do what you say, but you could totally use an alarm system to scare someone off…

He spoke to my heart: Sure, you can turn it back on; but you won’t be any safer than you already are.

I froze. I had permission to do what I believed would comfort me, but if I truly believed my good, protective Father, why would I need anything else? And if I set the alarm once more because I admitted I didn’t believe Him, what kind of daughter would that make me?

Ok, but You better have my back! I told God. I even tried to manipulate Him into protecting me. I wrote down all these verses in my journal, so if anything happens to me they will see that You promised to protect me tonight. For Your name’s sake You’ve got to keep me safe. Otherwise You’ll look bad. 

I honestly don’t know how God puts up with me. At 3:30 AM I tried my very best to fall asleep and laid down near my journal open to the Psalms I’d just written, repeating the words I could remember in my head.

After about 30 more minutes on this rollercoaster of anxiety and peace, God had another word: Staying up all night won’t protect you either.  

He really wanted me to rest in the fact that He alone is my Protector and Refuge! But I just couldn’t, and I felt horrible.

More mental exploration. What’s going on? I love God, I have hope of eternal joy with Him and therefore I’m not afraid to die. If I did survive some horrific event, I have already seen from experience that God is true to His promise and uses all things for good. So whether I’m annihilated or narrowly escape death with tons of battle wounds, I know I’d be ok.

So why was I so afraid?

When I really thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I’m afraid of being frightened. I’m terrified of how petrifying it would feel to be in any of those made up situations. Since I’m both creative and empathetic, simply by playing a scenario in my head I feel what it would be like to actually live it. (In case you were looking for proof creatives are crazy, allow me to be exhibit A, B, and C.)

Sure, it’s totally healthy to experience fear in terrifying instances. But taking on fear before it’s even happened is ridiculous, exhausting, and life-sucking.

I’d really hoped I would be able to wrap up last night’s fear fest with a pretty little bow (i.e. peaceful sleep!), but this fear of experiencing terror is much more deeply rooted than I’d realized. My head was wired and I never fell asleep after it all.

I’m committing to spend this groggy day in prayer about the fear that snatched my rest last night and will definitely do it again if it’s not dealt with.

I’m not sharing this post because I think anyone reading this struggles with fear as severely as I do—I learned a couple years ago that most people can’t relate to my deeply ingrained, fairly irrational fears. But I’m hoping this post will be something I can point back to later and say, “Look what God has rescued me from! Look how far we’ve come!” And if you’re on this journey with me, I hope you’ll be able to see the difference too.

And—man—do I pray I sleep tonight.

A while ago I diagnosed myself with being over the Gospel. How can I even admit such a thing!? I love Jesus and I’m a worship leader! Aren’t I supposed to be on some spiritual high at all times?

Well, here I was, God’s servant—dry, tired, and over it. I didn’t want to read—I had read it all before. Things the Lord has redeemed in my life were just filling my time, wasting my life away. Music, writing, working out, and connecting with people. All great things. All very empty apart from Jesus Christ.

God finally asked me, How long do you want to pursue these empty things?

I wasn’t convinced I should give in just yet. I protested, “I know you deserve my everything, but the cross is losing its luster, your love is just a song I’ve heard on the radio too many times. Thank you for saving ‘a wretch like me,’ but I’m tired and can’t figure out how to get out of this rut. I kind of want to waste time. I’m just over it.”

God is so patient, so loving. He gently reminded me of the words of David:

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” -Psalm 119:103

I knew I couldn’t sincerely say that about God’s Word.

Christine, you’re missing out. You can choose to sit here convinced you are stuck, or you can let me teach you what this means.

So I opened my Bible to the book of Judges—I wanted something I hadn’t read a million times before. Mind you, I still didn’t really want to read. I still didn’t expect God to speak, but I disciplined myself because I knew everything else was empty.

I started soaking in the stories, at first not particularly caring and unconvinced God had anything to share with me. A few chapters into Judges I began noticing how many times the Israelites forsook the God who had saved them and their ancestors. Over and over again God delivered the Israelites from their enemies. They would praise Him for a while, but the next generation would forget all they had heard and turn away.

God would let them worship their pointless idols, and soon they’d be in trouble again. Once things got really bad and their lives were jeopardized, they’d turn back to God and beg for Him to save them.

The Israelites had heard so many times that God was faithful. They had sung plenty of songs declaring the greatness of their God who had delivered them from slavery. It seems the generations just got over it.

How many times have I experienced God’s grace only to return to my old ways? He has freed me from slavery, but sometimes I act as though I’m still in bondage. He has revealed truth, but I still dapple with emptiness as if I don’t know He’s the only One who will ever satisfy. Just like the Israelites, I’ve sung (and written) songs about His love, salvation, His holiness and my unworthiness. And yet I get over it.

I got to Judges 10. The Israelites are in trouble again, so they cry out to God. Instead of rescuing them right away, God lists all the people He has saved them from in the past. As I read the list of Egyptians, Amorites, Ammonites, and other people groups I can’t pronounce, God was listing things in my own heart like depression, confusion, bitterness, despair, blindness, and insecurity.

In an instant I had an image of who I was before God saved me and who I easily could have become without His intervention. If it weren’t for His grace, I wouldn’t truly be alive. In fact, I may not be alive at all.

God has been so good to the Israelites, and He’s been so good to me. “But you have forsaken me,” God says, “and served other gods…Let [the gods you have chosen] save you when you are in trouble!” (Judges 10:13 & 14).

For a moment the Israelites are left to experience firsthand what their other gods are capable of—nothing. I was sure that God had been allowing me to taste, again, how empty everything else is.

I read on. The Israelites plead with the Lord to rescue Him, and God does. Victory! And I realized He had rescued me once again from my complacency.

I was feeling optimistic for Israel’s future. Surely hearing God list everything He’s done for them would kick them back into shape. You’d think watching God save them again would be enough to straighten them for life.

But I got to Judges 13:1. “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.”

Will they ever learn? Will I?

I’m remarkably prone to wander off in search of other things that satisfy. Like Israel, I learn the same lessons again and again.

Next time I’m tempted to get over it and choose to put other things before Him, I pray I will I listen to God’s voice when He warns, This will leave you empty!

I’m fairly confident I will always be tempted to place something in front of God in my life, but I’m also recognizing an anecdote: I am incapable of staying over God when I recognize who He is. A cross can become an empty symbol, a song a pointless melody, but the reality of His character and relentless love for a rebel like me pierces through the emptiness. When I see who He is, I see myself more clearly, and I can’t remain unmoved.

I’m realizing you can’t discipline yourself to love God, but you can discipline yourself to spend time with God. And when you get to know Him, it’s hard not to fall in love.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

I hope I refuse to chase emptiness next time the opportunity comes—I know the truth! Yet I’m in awe of His incredible faithfulness to take me back each time I choose to learn the same lesson over again.