My Bible was across the room on my bedroom table, closed. I have a journaling Bible for all the notes that I had planned to take on the blanks in the margins, yet there it laid, the leather tie securely wrapped around the leather cover, a barricade between those blanks and my heart.
Someone once said that “a Bible that is falling apart is a sure sign of a Christian who is not.”
If that’s true, then my perfectly whole Bible was evidence to my perfectly wrecked life. My Bible wasn’t falling apart, and I was.
My GPA is higher than it has been in the past four years of college; my boyfriend and I are talking about getting engaged; I’m surrounded by an awesome community of believers; God has given me an awesome job that I love; the Bible study that I help lead is flourishing.
But I was falling apart.
I hadn’t had quality time with God in over a month; my prayer life was almost non-existent; I didn’t want to go to worship services; I had struggled with sin that I hadn’t struggled with in years; I was cynical about the roles and the life that God had given me.
Night after night, I would lie in my bed and stare at my ceiling, feeling the weight of my discontent on my chest. As tears rolled out of the corner of my eyes, I would wonder how I got to this point. I would question God and His presence in my life. So I would go through the facts:
God is here.
His love for me is unconditional.
I am made righteous through the blood of Jesus.
Every day, in some way, I am being sanctified.
God is here.
The next day, I would wake up and recite the same script. I would go through my checklist:
I’ve read my Bible.
I’ve said a prayer.
I’ve guarded my thoughts.
I’ve listened to worship music while I got ready for the day.
I’ve fulfilled my responsibilities.
Yet, I would still feel so empty and alone. What else do I have to do to feel your presence, God?
What do you want from me?
The prophet Joel ministered in Judah to the Israelites who are just like me. In chapter two of his book in the Old Testament, Joel takes a break from his call to repentance to the Israelites and exhorts them to return to the Lord with fasting and weeping and mourning. But then he makes a statement that changed everything:
“Rend your hearts, and not your garments.”
When I read that verse for the first time, I realized the root of my problem: I have been doing nothing but rending my garments lately. Just like the Israelites, I’ve been going through the motions and being a pretty notable religious person. On paper, I looked pretty good. But my soul was withered and dying.
I wanted God, but I wanted to get Him by means of religion, not the way that He wants me to get Him.
About 700 years before Joel made his petition to the Israelites, the prophet Isaiah made a similar appeal to them. At the beginning of the book, Isaiah speaks for God to these people and tells them that God is tired of their sacrifices. He is weary of their “trampling His courts” and bringing Him “vain offerings.” He even says that He hates their feasts, and that they have become a burden to Him.
However, he reminds them of what has been done for them:
Though your sins are like scarlet,
They will be white as snow;
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land.
“If you are willing and obedient.”
God never wanted my goodness or my works. He grows so tired of my deeds performed out of a need to fulfill religion. He only wants my willingness and my obedience out of a heart of love.
So yes. I am falling apart. But instead of falling into pieces on the hard, unforgiving ground, I’ll fall apart into the loving hands of my God, because it’s only when I stop trying to hold myself together that He can take my brokenness and make me truly whole.