“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” Brennan Manning

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jesus in the Struggle

We sat in a circle. I felt uneasy with only one familiar face, weighed down by a heaviness in the room - but maybe it was just my own. I was sitting among the hurting and broken, the lost and forsaken, the messy and struggling, young and old alike. All in different places and stages of recovery. Sitting there, with my heavy baggage on my lap, I listened. When my turn to share approached, I was freaking out inside. I passed - I could barely breathe, let alone put two thoughts together. All my walls went up to guard and protect myself - but those are the very walls that keep me alone - untouchable. “Oh God, please help me.”

I listened to the real stories, of lives and hearts shattered. I felt some compassion, but my inner Pharisee rose up in me - I didn’t want to be in this group. I didn’t want to be associated with the messy, struggling - I am strong, free from all of the hurts and pains of the world - and I wanted to put my mask on and say "all is well." I didn’t want to hear about all the struggles - I wanted redemption stories - and yes, they were there, but still with struggles. In my heart, I asked God, “really?! Is THIS what you have for us? Oh God, how long? Does the pain last forever? When do the struggles end? I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m scared.”

My ungrateful, proud, too good for this, ugly all came out. And I just said, “God, I’m sorry. Help me be honest and not think I’m too good for You, cause You are right HERE in the midst of us - in the faces of all of these beautiful women. And my turn came back around, and I shared exactly where I was - my desire to pretend and look good on the outside, the mask I struggle to remove, the walls that surround me, my shame for needing help, like it's all my fault and I'm not good enough, and my difficulty to even admit that I struggle. And from there, I shared my heart with the courage God provided - bringing darkness to light.

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible - and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:13

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:6-8

I left with that gut-wrenching, uneasy feeling. “God, why? Why’s my life such a wreck? Why does everything come the hard way for me?” He answered - with only His Presence, His embrace, and that’s enough for me. “I wish You, Jesus, could just hold me all day long. I just want to hear Your heartbeat and never leave Your chest. May my heart beat with Yours. Change me and give me Your tenderness and compassion. Heal my broken heart and please never let me go.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hold your head up, You are His delight.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:8-13

I'd read this verse, "It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret." and I'd hear, "You are disobedient, out of control. If people really knew who you are - how you turn to food for comfort and throw up, how you get frustrated at your kids, how you don't REALLY love people - they would reject you and God rejects you. You can't get to God because you'll never get it right and God isn't fooled." I would sink in a pit - feeling condemned, unworthy, and hopeless. Shame kept me in hiding, terrified of punishment. I begged God for help and forgiveness, feeling so guilty that I kept disappointing Him. I didn't know His love, thinking I was too messed up to receive it. I tried so hard to do "what pleases the Lord" in my own strength, but I would fall again and again and be so ashamed. I could never measure up.

As I was listening to 'Worthy is the Lamb', the line "bearing all my sin & SHAME, in love He came..." rung loud and clear in my ears and my heart. Jesus took my shame! God knew that I would never be good enough - I had no hope of ever even being close. So He provided a way, because He wants to be close to ME! Because of Him, I am whole and 'enough as I am'. So I never have to fear the Light again. When I am afraid and want to hide, Jesus whispers softly in my ear, "Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt 11:28-30

I just say, "Yes, Lord Jesus, take me with You. I want to walk with You. I want to be close to You" And we walk together. He watches as I skip and dance and fall and totally look a fool, but He just smiles and helps me up again and again. When I lose my way, He brings me back. He never scolds me, just gently leads me. He is pleased with my company and looks at me with delight, I'm His girl!

His Voice is gentle and kind, unlike the Enemy's. So when Scripture is twisted to make me feel guilty and hopeless, I know that is NOT My Savior, My Redeemer. That is the Enemy and I don't have to play his blame/shame game. I just come boldly into the Light and Darkness flees. The Light removes my shame and guilt, it heals and redeems, and makes me new, alive, and radiant. So even when I fall, I do not have to live under the weight of shame, all I have to do is come into the Light to be healed and loved again. Truly, "What pleases the Lord", is an honest, open heart.

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame."
Psalm 34:4,5

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just crumbs

Before I type even one word, I feel like I need a big disclaimer on the whole thing saying, "Sorry, I'm not a good writer. Please pretend I'm in third grade." And this has been my mindset for everything - NEVER GOOD ENOUGH. And it paralyzes me, inhibiting me from just being ME and believing that I AM ENOUGH. I have lived under the weight of shame for so long, and it's kept me a slave. Afraid to speak, to move, to just be - ME - unedited, as I am.

While I may only have a few messy crumbs to share, I can only give what I have - and I'm willing to do that. The first thought that came to mind when I actually entertained the possibility of ME - writing something - to share on 'bread' was "Do not eat the bread of idleness." Because I have based my life on 'do more, try harder', be a winner, always give 110%, be sold-out. And so when I would learn a 'better, healthier, more economical, fail-proof' way, I'd go head-long to implement it. I felt like I 'should' do whatever it takes to be the best mom, wife, friend, person I could be - all in the guise of 'being whole-hearted for God.' But really I was just trying to prove to myself that I was worth it - that my life was valuable. And all I really wanted was to be loved - so I tried so hard to earn approval from people and God.

My checklist just kept growing as I found the so-called best way to live:
Make bread from fresh-ground wheat berries to obtain all the health benefits - check.
Cloth diapers to save money and avoid all those chemicals on my precious baby's bottoms - check.
Have lots of babies so to not refuse any of God's gifts and trust Him completely - check.
Have a garden and grow my own food - check.
Home-school and train up my kids just right - check.
Eat healthy and avoid all processed foods with additives and chemicals - check.
Make everything by scratch - check.
Workout and have a good body for my man - check.
Read the Bible and pray everyday - check.
Serve people - check.

While for a time I was able to somehow 'do' my list, it became more and more impossible with four small children, a husband drowning in work, and a support system lost. I hit the wall - and I hit it hard. I was left with nothing but the bread of exhaustion. And I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. I was a failure. I was out of control. I was unworthy of love. Life was too hard - I just didn't have what it takes to make it.

Getting up in the morning became hard, and the thought of another day dreadful. I could barely do the minimum. Though I maintained a somewhat normal appearance, I knew I was dying and my hope had failed. I wanted to disappear - wishing my life away. Why did God make me anyways? Why did He give me impossible commands? Why did He allow me to get hurt and leave me? Where was He? I was mad at Him and blamed myself too.

But somewhere in that pit, He reached down and touched me. He didn't scold me for failing, in fact He didn't even see me as a failure. He called me beloved, daughter, fully loved JUST AS I AM. I didn't have to prove my worth - He proved it already by sending His Son to die for ME. He wants me even when my life is a crumbled mess. I don't have to earn it, I am loved as I am, not as I 'should' be - and I belong. As I learn to walk in Him, He gently leads me - not to 'do more, try harder', but to rest in what He already did. And I let Him make me who He created me to be.