In the Hand of God
We were awakened from our restful sleep by the violent shaking of an earthquake. Without warning tragedy had struck while most of us lay sleeping completely unaware that our lives would soon change forever. Stephen ran to the door of our hotel room to open it and see what was going on. When he opened the door he realized that part of the hotel had broken away and was laying in waste at the foot of the hotel. The rooms right across the hall no longer existed and were now part of the rubble seven stories below on the ground. The sounds of sirens came from everywhere. By now the kids were up and were scared. Stephen instructed us all to get on our shoes, grab what we could, and prepare to escape down what was left of the hallway. A portion of the hallway was missing that would grant access to the part of the building still standing. Stephen saw a ladder leaned up against the wall that a painter had been using the night before. He decided that it would make a bridge to access the other part of the building. He went out first to make sure that it was secure enough for the rest of us to walk on. He motioned for Kristen to come behind him. She was afraid, but I encouraged her to follow her daddy. When she had safely reached the other part of the building, Chris followed behind her. Finally it was my turn. I was nervous, but I wanted to be with my family. As I reached the ladder, an aftershock caused it to fall to the ground. Stephen reached his hand out to me, but it was no use. I couldn’t reach him. I begged him to take our kids out of the building and to safety. He could send help for me later.
They were all in tears as they left me to escape the building. I eased my way back to the doorway of our room. All I can do at this point was to wait in our room and hope that it was secure. Minutes later I heard a voice call my name from outside the door. I grabbed my bag and rushed to the door and threw it open. There wasn’t anyone there. I closed the door in disappointment and I went back to sit on the bed praying for help to come soon. Only a few seconds passed before I heard my name again. This time I opened the door and looked more carefully. I still couldn’t see anybody. As I turned to re-enter my room, I heard the voice again. It was familiar. It was the way it spoke my name
I put the bag down and gripped the sides of the doorway with my hands. I cautiously leaned forward seeing only the rubble below me. No one was there. But then He spoke again and I realized who it was. It was God. In a trembling voice, I told him that I was afraid. He reassured me that he had heard me calling Him and that He had come to get me. I told him that I wanted to be with Stephen and my kids. He told me that was why He was here. As I started to pick up my bag expecting Him to take me in His hand, He told me that all I had to do was to jump. Jump? Surely He wasn’t serious. Jump from a door of a seventh story room to chaos and rubble below? That was suicide. Before I could ask any more questions, He spoke again. In a firm but gentle tone, He told me that the only way that I would survive the chaos would be to jump. Tears ran down my face. Freefall? Surely he knew I was terrified of freefall. Me, the girl who couldn’t ride anything that involves freefall at a theme park? Surely He knew that I could not possibly think of jumping. I mean who would jump from a seventh story? He calmly asked me to lean forward and look below so that I could see a single mattress directly below me on the ground. According to Him, that mattress is what would catch me. With a flood of tears streaming down my face, I begged Him for another way. He gently reassured me that He knew I was afraid, but this was the only way and I had to make a choice. As I stood there in the doorway, knuckles white from clenching the frame, my soul could feel Him pulling me towards Him. It wanted to jump. My heart ached to be with my family. Once again He spoke gently telling me that there was no other way except for me to choose to jump. White knuckled clenched fists holding the frame of a doorway showed that I did not want to jump. Pictures of times when He had shown up before flashed in front of me. Had I not always found Him to be faithful? And so in a trembling voice, I whispered the words that I was ready to jump. A gentle quiet voice whispered back that He would catch me. After falling for what seemed like an eternity, I did not land on a mattress, but in the palm of the hand of the Almighty God. And then I woke up. It was only a dream, but my life would never be the same again.
I went to bed the night of March 17, 2013 just like any other night. I hadn’t watched anything on TV or read anything that would cause me to dream. But that night I would have a dream that would change the rest of my life. I don’t remember the girl who went to bed that night. I do remember that she thought that she had a deep personal relationship with Jesus. I remember that she thought she had grown close to God in her 41 years. But that night, that dream was her invitation to enter into a free-fall relying on him who is faithful to catch her. A week later she would find herself writing her grandfather’s eulogy, preparing to speak in front of a crowd which terrified her, waiting on results to see if her daughter had bone cancer, and more than anything facing an uncertain future. It was only the beginning. The next seven years would be a continuous training session of being asked to jump when she was afraid, to swim in deep dark waters, and to climb blindly out of the blackest of pits. She would learn that His hand always found her before she hit the ground, that He too swims in the deep never leaving her alone, and that after climbing her way up part of the pit wall she would always find His hand reaching to pull her to safety.
So on this day seven years later, may I say that I have never found myself alone. He has been faithful in the darkest of waters. He has been unshakable when I find myself shaking. There has never been a pit so deep that His love was not deeper still. So in a time when our world seems in chaos, may I reassure you that the one who made the stars, formed the universe, and made our very beings, He isn’t taken by surprise. He is still in control. Empty grocery shelves are nothing for the One who feeds the sparrow.The Bible is filled with verses telling us not to be afraid. If you belong to God, your heart should rest in peace that passes all understanding. Nothing can touch us unless he allows it to pass through His fingers to get to us. And if you don’t know Him, please allow me to introduce you to the One who is waiting for you. He who can still the ocean waves can calm your worried soul. This girl has learned that it’s okay to jump because the hand that will catch you holds it all.
I laid in bed last night listening to the sounds of my son and daughter playing video games together in my son's bedroom. As I quietly laid there listening to their laughter, I tried to soak in the sound of it. All these years I have taken that beautiful sound for granted. I never stopped to think that one day I might not hear it anymore.
We do that as parents. We take things for granted. We celebrate the firsts - the first laugh, first word, first tooth, first step. But we miss the lasts. We don't think about the last time he sleeps in a crib, the last time we rock her to sleep, the last time we tie his shoes, or the last night they stay up late playing video games. As my son prepares to leave the nest and begin a new life of firsts with his future bride, I find myself trying to celebrate each "last". Our last vacation as a family of four. Our last trip to the cabin with just the four of us. I wonder will I know when it's the last time he will sit at my breakfast table? Will I know when we are eating our last dinner with him as a single man? Why is it that we focus on firsts and neglect lasts? Because the truth is, we don't know when something will be our last.
We live our lives in such a hurry. We rush on from day to day under the assumption that nothing will change. We don't consider that when our child leaves for school that he might not come home. We leave for work without thinking we might never hear our spouse's voice again. No thought is given to the fact that this day could be our last. No one dreams that tomorrow might bring news of cancer or death. We just move from day to day numbly assuming that nothing will change.
Although I don't always see it, God has spent the last couple of years teaching me that life is about change. If I was honest, I would tell you that I am broken. The picture I had of what I thought my life would look like is shattered in a million pieces. Nothing in my life looks like what I thought it would. I have lost who I thought I was, what I thought I wanted, and where I thought I was headed.
But sitting in the middle of these shattered pieces, sifting through the ashes left behind from fiery trials, I find what I never expected - beauty. It's funny that even though that beautiful picture of what I thought my life would be like is gone, I can see a different image emerging from the pieces, not a picture that I would have made, but a picture being painted by an Artist with a different perspective.
Broken pieces in the hand of a divine Artist come together in beautiful tapestries of light and life. So God has been hard at work rearranging the picture that I created in my head, so that I can see the picture that He has in mind. Honestly, I liked my picture better, but that picture doesn't reflect who I really am. It's not who I'm wired to be.
For two months I haven't picked up a pen and journal to write. I failed to listen to the voice of the Artist. I listened to the voices of others who caused me to question my calling and fear what might come as a result of it. I listened to Satan whispering in my ear that no one would be interested in hearing my story. What could a woman offer to others when she didn't have her own answers?
But in the noise, I hear another voice that beckons me to walk into the light with Him. He arranges the broken pieces in such a way that they catch the light and reflect beauty. He beckons me to walk with Him along the shore even though the threatening waves are never far away. He teaches me to look at them differently, see the beauty in the depths of the unknown, and trust Him.
And so even though I am learning to celebrate some lasts, I am also looking ahead to some firsts. I have learned that although I was in love with the picture that I created, my Creator is in love with me and wants to show me His picture for my life. And so I leave the remnants of my broken dreams in pieces on the floor and I start to walk over to where He is. I can see Him picking up the pieces and rearranging them in ways I never would have dreamed. And even though the new picture has missing pieces, making it appear to be broken, it is those broken places where His light shines through.
I find that this is what makes His picture the most beautiful. My picture might have looked perfect, but it might have blocked the Light. This new picture lets the Light shine through it, creating rays of color that are capable of catching the attention of others with whom I can share my story of Light. Life is about change. It's also about changing lives...and that creates the most beautiful picture of all.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7 NKJV
A few days ago a friend sent me this verse in a text. As I read those words, I find myself longing to be that person they describe. Someone who is never shaken, not afraid of evil tidings, with a steadfast heart, trusting in the Lord. But I am not her, but I am growing.
Today marks one year since I started this blog. I looked back today at some of my earlier posts, beginning with my grandfather's eulogy. I look back at that girl who started this endeavor last September, and honestly I barely recognize her. I look at her with a mixture of envy and pity. In some ways I envy where she was last September, the naivety of what was transpiring around her. Still filled with an element of trust and joy that she would learn to lose as time went on. In many ways I pity her, knowing what lay ahead of her.
As I read through my posts, I relived so many milestones of the past year. When I started last September 1, I was officially without a church. It was the Sunday between leaving White Oak and starting Pleasant Ridge. As I read on, I traveled the road of letting go of one church home, and becoming part of a new one. I relived the pain of giving up the drive through nativity, and the beginning of the journey to a new job. I also saw glimpses of another struggle that is beyond words.
This year has taught me many things, but there are two that stand above the rest. The first is that you really do not know anyone as well as you think you do. So many of our relationships are superficial, even when we don't think that they are. I have always found such comfort in knowing that I have some of the greatest friends and family members that anyone could ask to have. I never feared dealing with anything alone, yet this year has taught me that there is a place where no one else can join you. I understand the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I understand the need Jesus experienced to bring the small group of disciples with him farther into the garden to pray. He needed them to be close and to support Him in His final hours before facing the cross. Yet there came a point where He had to withdraw alone to be with God. I have found this year that there are places that you must go alone. There isn't anyone who can go with you. You find yourself alone with God. The other thing that I learned this year stems from the first. When you reach the point that you realize there is no one else to cling to, you find that God really is enough...more than enough. Even when you find yourself so very angry with Him for leaving nothing in your life untouched. Even then, in the pain you find He is all you need. And at some point, you realize that He is all you have.
I look in the mirror now, and I don't look the same. I am not the same. I think God had me begin this blog so that I could go back and read between the lines, and remember where I was, where I went, and where I am today. That girl from last September had a rough year. She was broken more than once in more than one way. She stands stronger, but she bears scars. Some of the broken places are healing, and have grown back stronger and more secure. Some of the broken places bear deep scars, but they tell a story of faith in an amazing God. And some of the broken places are raw and open, and truthfully may never really heal.
So on this one year anniversary of tiptoeing into accepting a much bigger calling, I can smile. I can count it al joy, because in the darkest places I found a Light. Sometimes it was hidden and dim, but it was always there. I am glad He did not show me where this year would take me, because I couldn't have made the journey. There is something to be said for not knowing where the road will go. I am at a new place with God. A place I have never been before. I am in my early forties, and I have found that God has more plans for me than I would have ever began to dream for myself. A God-sized dream for a broken girl. There's a years worth of blog posts here that outline the story...His story for me.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2 NKJV
Sometimes He lets you sit in it for awhile. Sometimes you find yourself wandering around in the wilderness crying out to God, and wondering how long it will last. Sometimes He lets it hurt. Sometimes He lets you feel the strength of the storm, the wind, the rain, and the hail. Sometimes He prunes you, and the cuts are so deep they are almost unbearable. Sometimes He allows others to hurt you, and He waits until you think you can bear it no longer. You find yourself in the darkness feeling alone and defeated.
And then suddenly there is a light. Faint at first, and then almost so bright you cannot remember the darkness you just were experiencing. You look up into the face of your Father, and you know everything will be okay now.
There are times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed. We don't know what to do next, and it seems like there is nowhere else to turn. It is in those times that we must find ourselves being led to the Rock that is higher than we are. So many people have this perception that God is too big to involve Himself in the everyday lives of people, but they couldn't be more wrong. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation and feel that God has deserted us. Rest assured that the Rock is there, unshakable and unmovable.
You must maintain your trust in the Rock. That is the key. You must hold on to your faith even in the darkness of the deepest pit. You must hold on even when it seems like the storms never end. Eventually you will find that your Father will step in and stop the storms.
Paul and Silas were in jail. They had been beaten and imprisoned for their teaching. They were in stocks, and yet they sang praise to God. They had been preaching the word of God, and yet they found themselves in pain and in prison. Why would they sing and praise God when He allowed this to happen to them? They knew that their work was for Him and that He was in charge. They knew a relationship with the Almighty that was personal. Yes, He had allowed them to suffer, but in the middle of the night amidst their singing and praise, there was an earthquake that loosened their chains and set them free.
We are no different than Paul and Silas. I can testify that if you continually go to the Rock that He will take care of you. It is rarely early, but never too late when He shows up. Sometimes it seems like the forces around you are continually knocking you down. Sometimes it seems as if there is no hope of the situation getting any better. Sometimes you just climb in His arms and tell Him that you are okay with whatever comes as long as He is there. And after the storm beats so long that you can hardly stand, you will find that your Daddy will show up and say, "That's enough. She is Mine." Suddenly you will find that the winds have ceased, the thundering is quieted, and the sun is shining. Even though you are still soaked from the storms, you will find warmth in the love of your Father. You will look up to the Rock that is higher, and He will look down at you and smile.
Tomorrow is the first day of March. The majority of events that have proved themselves to be life-changing for me have occurred in the month of March. When I was fifteen, my uncle passed away in March at the age of 33. My life was never the same. Years later my aunt, his sister, passed away as well. Last March was no different. Last March my life changed forever. On March 27, 2013, I lost my grandfather. He loved me unlike anyone else. I wasn't prepared for the hole that his absence would leave in my heart.
But perhaps the biggest change in my life occurred on March 18. 2013. I have heard God speak to me in many different ways, but never really audibly in a dream. I dreamed I was with Stephen and the kids in a tall building and there had been an earthquake. Most of the building had fallen away and we were on an upper floor with only a small section of a hallway to walk on or you would fall to your death. All the doors were locked, but there was a hallway a few feet away that led to safety. We found a ladder to stretch across a missing section of hallway and put a board on it, and Stephen got across and then I sent the kids. They ran ahead to get help and I told them I would follow. As they went out of sight, the ladder fell. I was left standing in a locked doorway clinging to the door facing and was praying. In my dream, God told me to let go of the door facing. I was crying and told Him I would fall. He answered, "Yes, for a few minutes, but then I will catch you." I reminded Him that I can ride any roller coaster, but that I hate free fall. He simply stated, " I know that. That's why I need you to trust Me enough to let go." I let go of the door facing and could feel myself falling and then I stopped in midair landing on a mattress. I woke up and my heart was beating out of my chest.
At the time I thought the dream was to tell me not to worry about some issues we were having with some real estate. Little did I know, but that wasn't it at all. God was getting me ready to learn how to let go and trust Him completely. The year that has followed that dream has been more life-changing for me that any other time of my life. God set me on a path to learning that loving Him wasn't safe and following Him wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it. In the last twelve months, I have faced many things. I'm not talking about normal everyday issues like family squabbles and finances. I faced mountains and heart breaking moments that made me forget how to breathe. In the last year, I went from clinging in desperation to door facings, like my positions and my personal strengths to holding absolutely nothing and falling helplessly and fearfully into the hand of God.
As March returns tomorrow, I find myself a new creation. I no longer bother to reach for the door facing or any other person or thing. I have learned not only to let go, but to willingly jump when God calls me to do so. The experiences of the last year brought me pain, sorrow, and extraordinary loss. But let me assure you that the experiences of the last year also brought me unspeakable joy and a stronger desire to truly surrender my life to God. There is no joy that compares to when you find yourself in the deepest darkest of pits surrounded by your worst fears having become your reality, and quietly you hear His voice whispering in the darkness that He hasn't left you, and to lift your head for your Father is waiting to hold your heart and dry your tears.
And so I prepare to march boldly into this month of March, knowing that the God who created everything knows my heart and wishes to heal the broken places. I believe that the experiences that left me broken in the last twelve months, will be the very experiences that prepare me for something beautiful in the next twelve months. God had a lesson for me. He wanted to teach me to free fall. Now that I have learned to trust His hand, I truly believe my next lesson will not be how to fall, but how to soar.
Eventually it has to stop doesn't it? He has to know how tired I am doesn't He? And yet the burdens pile higher and not just imcreasing in steps anymore, but coming in multiple in the same day. It isn't like this is new really. The burdens have become my normal, but just not this overwhelming.
Yet I don't dare ask why, because I know the answer. I was warned. I even wrote it down in October. "The day you step out in faith, put yourself out there, state your opinions, declare yourself for Christ...that day the enemy sets his sights on you with fervor." That's what I had done. I made a decision in August to step out in faith toward something I felt God calling me. Since that time the calling has become stronger and the attack has increased.
The temptation to throw up my hands is always present. I am completely aware of my own insecurities and weaknesses. I am perfectly aware of how impossible the call seems. I am aware of how difficult the journey will be for my family. I realize that the best thing to do seems to be to just try to forget about it....but I can't. The voice is getting louder. The beckoning within my soul is sometimes deafening. As much as I try to fight it, the more I find myself wanting it. Every time I find myself almost letting go, He sends confirmation and usually in a very big and undeniable way.
So I find myself standing on the edge of God's will and what seems realistic. I find myself torn between the dream of a call and the realism of the struggle. I know that choosing to deny the call is to deny a blessing....possibly my true God-given appointment. I hear the thunder, feel the rain, and see the lightning. I feel the doubt and fear start to creep inside. In the noise of the storm I can barely hear His voice saying, "If you want to follow and choose this path, don't be afraid of the battle . I will fight the battle for you. You must simply position yourself, stand still, and see what I will do." (2 Chronicles 20:17) And so I continue with renewed determination knowing that the God who calls me will make the way. . My only hope, my only peace, is that He is working in it all...I am broken and in the hands of the Potter. Even in the pain there is no better place to be.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!" Luke 15:17 NIV
I wake up to the blessing of a snow day, and reach to check for messages on my phone. I run across an article, and after reading just a couple of paragraphs I am struck by a truth. I cannot finish reading the article because I lay there almost paralyzed by its words. How does a person become so out of touch with everything and everyone around you that you forget the things or people who are most important? I know how that happens. You settle for the pigsty.
As a firstborn, I have never cared much for the story of the Prodigal Son because I understand how the brother felt. However, today I find myself identifying with the Prodigal himself. In Luke 15, the prodigal finds himself in a place where he is not happy, but must stay in order to survive...or so he thinks. Every morning he awakens only to realize that it is simply another day when he must go and work among the pigs.
Being forced to a level where he had to work with pigs was humiliating for this young man. Not only are pigs filthy animals who find pleasure in wallowing in their own feces mixed with mud, but he was a Jew and pigs to them were unclean in a religious sense as well. This young man who once experienced the luxury of living in his father's house, now found himself so hungry that he would have welcomed the chance to eat the slop alongside the pigs in an attempt to satisfy his hunger. The Bible doesn't say how long he remained in this state, but it is clear to say that one day he came to himself. One day he came to his senses and realized that there was a better life outside the pigsty.
This morning I came to myself. I realized that not unlike the Prodigal, I too am experiencing life in the pigsty. I have at some point accepted that existing in the pigsty is the only way I can survive. I have grown accustomed to life among pigs. Rather than avoid the muck and the smell, I find myself climbing daily into the pen with the pigs, mired up in feces and mud, and breathing in the scent of their filth. Day in and day out, I continue to live in this existence.
And then just as the ProdiIgal, I remember my Father. I remember what my life used to look like when I lived in His house. I remember what it was like to hear laughter and see a table filled with nutritious food. I remember what it was to be happy...I remember joy. I see myself deep in this mire, surrounded by pigs covered in layers and layers of dried feces and mud, and I remember that if I could just see my Father then life could be better.
And so I start the struggle of climbing out of the pigsty, gently raising my feet one step at a time from the mire in order to make my way to the fence. I had failed to notice just how far into the muck I had allowed myself to venture. The distance to the fence can seem so far that you almost decide it might be easier to stay with the pigs. But I cannot continue to stay here in the pigsty because I am hungry. I have grown so hungry that I was almost willing to eat the slop alongside the pigs. But this hunger cannot be satisfied with slop, this hunger can only be filled at the table of my Father.
And so I make my way out of the pigsty. I am on my way to feast at my Father's table. I know that the blessings awaiting me are more than I could imagine and that He is waiting. He has so much more planned for me than to toil among the pigs. I have waited much too long to partake of the blessings from His table, but I am on my way.
Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still. Psalm 107:28-29 NKJV
I woke up to the storm. I didn't realize that it had grown into a storm. I had seen the clouds, but clouds seem to always be present. Even the big fluffy cumulus clouds can temporarily hide the sun, but I have grown to accept that the clouds come and go. This year has been particularly cloudy.
I woke up to a tsunami. This wasn't the usual light rain and gray skies. This wasn't even like when I had experienced the earthquakes or tornadoes. This was a full blown tsunami. And as if that wasn't enough, I found that I had been relocated to a tiny island in the middle of an ocean waking up alone to a tsunami. I wasn't sure how or when I had gotten here, but I knew who had brought me. The island was incredibly small. There was no shelter anywhere on the island except for one tall, skinny palm tree that barely had any leaves and not a lot of girth. There are not a lot of things that I truly fear, but I found myself in a place where fear abounded. All I knew was to hold on to that tree.
I'm still here on my little island alone with this tree. At first it didn't look like that much to me. It seemed to be too skinny to hold up during a storm like I am finding around me. It wasn't a tree of great girth really, although it had grown to be quite tall. Turns out it's roots were deep and well grounded which surprised me with it growing on such a tiny island. Turns out that it was made just right for a storm. It could bend to the point of almost breaking, and yet it's roots and strength were able to bounce back meaning it could bend, but not break. And so I hold to the tree. It's size is just right for me to be able to wrap both my arms and legs around it. I have even found that sometimes my head can rest against it in such a way that I find some shelter from the wind and rain even though the leaves are few.
So who brought me to the island? His name is Satan. He knows me better than most. He knows where my strength resides, yet he knows the weak places and it is there that he works. He picked this island just for me. He knew what I feared the most. He left me here with no boat and what appeared to be no shelter. He saw the tree, but he didn't know what it was made of, or Who planted it. At face value, the tree doesn't look like much, but the Maker of the tree knew what He was doing.
The storm is rough and raging. The tree bends under the pressure of the wind and the tremendous waves that insist on beating it over and over. Sometimes as I hold on to the tree, it bends so close to the ground that I am sure it cannot withstand much longer. But it's roots are deep....apparently deep enough to hold on even in the biggest storm. And it's tall rather than having a large girth which seems like a weakness, but you see it reaches toward Heaven. That tree has grown toward the Light. Beyond the roots and the need for the Light, the Maker used something different when making this tree. Something that Satan couldn't see or understand. This tree that stood vulnerable alone on this island was what he could see, but he didn't understand that the tree isn't made of things that break very easily. The tree consists of years of love, commitment, and learning how to ride out a storm. And so I will continue to hold on to my tree....this tree of faith.
For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. 1 Peter 2:21-23 KJV
They hurt me again, God. I thought if I left then maybe I could start to heal.
God, this isn’t fair. It already hurts so much, why does it have to keep getting worse? And why does it have to be over something that meant so much to me?
And He answers me….,They hurt Me. They defiled My name. They rejected Me and I never did anything wrong. I was brought as a spotless lamb to the slaughter with no sin. If I was crucified, do you not think it is fitting for you to experience
suffering? You are merely a sinner, saved by grace.
I heard a speaker on the radio a few days ago, and he made a statement that has not left me for days. He said that God asks if we would rather have an easier road and bear less fruit, or a harder road and bear more fruit. What a thought. I found myself in the middle of my pain telling God that I would rather bear more fruit. There in the middle of the hurt, the rejection, and the pain, I found myself asking Him to let me bear more fruit even if the pruning process hurts.
In order for a fruit tree to bear better quality fruit and in greater quantities, it must be pruned. The limbs of the tree are severed in order to prepare them for growth. It is necessary to wound the tree in order to enable it to bear better
Sometimes God prunes us. It isn’t an enjoyable experience while it is happening. Sometimes we are wounded and it hurts, but God can use those wounds to grow our faith. He can use it to encourage our growth in Him just as pruning a tree can encourage its growth.
But what about the people who hurt us? And isn’t the hurt worse, when it comes from those who claim to be your brothers and sisters in Christ? A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi states a very sad truth for today’s church. Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Sadly sometimes that is so true. We Christians can be so unlike our Christ.
But still, it hurts. It is hard to let go of the pain, but when we choose to hold onto it, it leads us to bitterness. According to Anne Graham Lotz, when we hold onto bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, it is the same thing as drinking poison thinking the other person will die. God commands us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. This is our motivation to forgive.
David had every reason to want to seek revenge on Saul for trying to kill him, yet he did not. Stephen forgave the ones stoning him and asked God to do the same. Jesus prayed from the cross for God’s forgiveness on those who crucified
Him. Who are we to do anything less than that, especially since the God who has forgiven us asks us to do so.
So do we just shut our mouths and let it go? Do we just let them get by with it? That’s hard. I find myself in a place where I have walked away from something dear to my heart and in the middle of that being painful enough, I find myself enduring ridicule and being lied about. I walked away from the situation trying to start to heal and am still being wounded even in my absence. Can I just let that go?
I have to. My big Brother has left me an example to follow. I Peter 2:21-23 tells me that I am to follow in His footsteps. He committed himself to the One who judges righteously, God. He stood before His accusers and remained silent, knowing that His Father who loved Him would set it all straight. He knew that it wasn’t His battle to fight for the battle belonged to His Father and He would make it right in time.
And so I surrender to the pruning. I am willing to suffer the pain of the cutting so that I can see growth and eventually the bearing of better fruit. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Sometimes it hurts so bad that you can barely breathe, but is it worth it? There is no greater joy than growing closer to God. There is no reward
like having a close and personal relationship with the One created the stars. And so I choose to forgive and to move forward. I refuse to drink the poison of my bitterness and be cheated out of whatever it is that my Father has planned for me to do. I can’t move forward by looking backward and it is time to move forward.
nor give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:27 NKJV
It's hard to even post the picture for his entry. It is the one thing I allow Satan to have a place. It is the one thing that I allow him to prod me with over and over. It is the one thing that no one understands completely, except for him and God. It is the one thing that he can hurt with me with the most...and he knows it.
Christmas....my absolute favorite time of the year. As a young girl, I fell in love with Christmas. I learned early how to hold Christmas in my heart and live it throughout the year. I spend hours thinking about that first Christmas night....about what it was like. About that young girl who had been chosen by God to carry His only Son. We don't always think about it, but how alone and afraid she must have felt. And Joseph, a man taking a wife who was pregnant knowing it wasn't his, just because God told him to go ahead. Those shepherds, the poorest of the poor, being the ones God chose to announce the birth of the Messiah. Wise Men traveling for months to worship a promised king....a baby in Bethlehem.
The miracle of Christmas...the story of God pausing for all of humankind. The story of God taking the time to wrap the most precious gift the world has ever been given and send it in the form of a baby.
The night when Love was born. That was the title for the drive through nativity last year. It came from one of the most beautiful Christmas songs I have ever heard. It was perfect heading for the telling of the story. The hours I spent trying to develop scenes that would show the world the story of that beautiful night. My personal offering to God. I would walk around just before it started and pray at each scene that God would use it, that He would let those people in those cars see the miracle of the first Christmas night. It wasn't just a Christmas program, it was my Christmas offering to a God who had shown me what it means to hold Christmas in your heart and I wanted to share it with everyone else.
This year brought changes and I am no longer directing a drive through nativity. Of all the changes in my life this year, it is the one that Satan helps me hold onto...the one thing I manage to let him use most. I know that God has other things in mind for me, for my family. I know that He is leading us. But there is this empty space...this part of my heart that craves the chance to share that story in a visual form. There is a part of me that aches to see a little boy so excited because he saw the Baby Jesus on the other side of the church and his parents are taking him around for the third time. There is a part of me that wants to see a church come together and do its very best to tell the greatest story ever told.
It came from somewhere this weekend...I can't find anywhere I would have read it, so maybe He told me. Sometimes you have to put something down so you can pick up something greater. God, I am trying to put it down, but it's almost November and these arms feel so empty. God, even as I sit here typing, the tears won't stop flowing. It is so hard to put something down that meant so much to so many. I know that if You gave me the ministry to start with, You can always give it to me again or maybe something different. God, help me to be grateful for the opportunity to witness the beauty of it while I held it. To be thankful that it was, even if it is no longer. And God, please never let me lose this childlike wonder of Christmas....the manger, the shepherds, the teenage girl and her husband, the singing of angels, and the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Let those pictures of that first Christmas forever remain in my mind and my heart. May I always close my eyes and see the night when Love was born.