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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Designed for Connection - Not Loneliness

“Please don’t leave me,” I think. I want to be close, I want to show you my heart, but what if it’s not good? What if you don’t approve? My heart has been broken - again and again. My life has been hard, and I’ve tried so hard to be strong, but I just can’t be strong anymore. I am a broken person in a broken world in need of grace and mercy.

I ask, “is it my fault that I am where I am? Have I made too many bad choices that got me HERE? Is God punishing me or disappointed with me? Oh God, show me Your heart for me and this broken world.”

Oh, and He has - in His Son, “for God so loved the world…” For God so loved me…

God created us for connection - we’re not designed to walk alone. God saw Adam’s loneliness, and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” He gave Adam a companion, and his union with Eve was to mimic our union with our Creator. Children are placed in families where they can learn of love, security, and belonging. Where they can enjoy life, play, fall, and get back up again - under the blanket of acceptance as they are. Even Jesus, being God, had companions to walk with Him while He was here on earth. God’s design for Church is to be His body, each part connected - to be nourished together in Love and care for each other like a family.

But, because this world is a broken, hurting place, many of us haven’t experienced life the way God designed it to be. Our pain and brokenness make it a struggle to believe that God really meant all this for good - that He doesn’t leave us to suffer alone. We didn't get to experience the security of a happy childhood with the safety and belonging we always longed for; thus, we had to survive on our own. We learned to pretend everything was good and perform for love. We learned to let other people tell us our worth. We learned that we would never be enough.

Searching for love and belonging, we go to other things that just can’t fill or sustain us. Oh, maybe if I marry a guy that’s really in to me - then, I’ll be worth something. When that crumbles, we look to kids to be our savior - to give us worth. But they can’t do that either. Then, we follow a preacher that has all the answers and do everything ‘right’ or at least try to. But, that can’t save us either. All the while, God loves us with an everlasting love, longing to show us who we really are - His beloved children.

When our worlds crash, and we are left in the ashes, He is there. In our emptiness, with bleeding hearts, desperate, He doesn't condemn or despise, He comforts us. We let Him in. We ask Him to mend and make us whole. He promises to rebuild from the ashes - to create beauty. To redeem.

But the process is hard. It hurts. It’s scary - we have to become vulnerable. We have to learn to open up our hearts again, even after they have been hurt so many times. We have to trust - little by little. He is in no hurry for us to ‘get it right’ - He knows the right pace for me - and for you. Step by step, inch by inch.

He promises to never leave us - we never have to walk alone. He sends aid and encouragement through His Spirit and His people. He stays with us through the pain. When we can’t see any progress and we cry out again and again, “Oh God, please heal me.” He responds gently, ‘I AM.” And we snuggle up under His embrace and let Him hold us, His heartbeat calming our fears. For His Love for us is boundless - we will never reach the limit - for it stretches further still.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Strengthened in Resting

Driving, I am struck with the realization that I have tried to take control - again! Frustrated at myself, I ask God to help me to let go - to loosen my grasp and open my hands and heart to Him. Surrender. Why is it so hard? I have tried so hard to please God - carefully choosing my words and doing all the 'right' things - hoping He would approve. I never rested, always trying harder and doing more until I collapsed - exhausted, disillusioned, and burnt out. In my brokenness, Jesus comes and comforts me saying, "Rest, my Child, the work is done." His scars prove "It is finished."

What Good News! I don't have to keep straining to make God happy with me, living afraid that I won't be good enough. I am accepted as a Beloved daughter as I am! I am secure and safe in Him - free to live life ALIVE. I can rest. Jesus will complete the work He started in me. He proved my worth with His life - His Love is my foundation.

But anything new takes time to sink in - and I am so quick to perform for God, rather than trust in His work and His timing. Change takes time - it's a process, His process.

I reach my destination, still asking God to help me surrender. I load my bar - heavier than usual knowing my frustration - and anticipate the buzzer signaling to start. I lift hard and my Spirit is lifted.

In Olympic weight lifting, it's imperative to learn the correct technique before ever adding weight, and it takes practice. Once good form is established consistently, one is able to lift way more than ever thought possible. Thus, the only way to increase weight safely is by using good ergodynamics - always keeping the bar close to your core - where the power lies.

I remember my frustration with trying so hard to please God MY way, rather than resting in what Jesus did for me. Similar to trying to lift the weight by sheer effort, without good form, the lift just can't be completed. The risk for injury is also greater. When we try so hard to please God in our own strength, we end up burnt out. God's form is in trusting, not straining.

"Oh God, help me to trust in Your Love for me and surrender - again." I realize that He IS building a firm foundation for me in His Love so I can be free to live - not weighed down by heavy burdens. I can't handle the burdens of this life on my own - and I'm not meant to. So, I give them to Jesus and let Him carry them for me, and we walk together. This is His way. But, just like learning the proper form in weight lifting, learning to trust and surrender takes practice.

Building strength is a gradual process. To increase muscle mass, the body has to be under stress first, stimulating blood flow and nutrients to enter the muscle fibers. During this time the muscle doesn't get stronger, it's broken down. Then, while RESTING, the muscle becomes stronger.

Spiritually, our job is to REST in the work that Jesus already did. Trials come - leaving us broken down. In our brokenness, the Holy Spirit comforts and nurtures us in Truth, giving us rest, and making us stronger than we ever could have been on our own - for our strength is in Him.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Cor 12:9

Trust is a building process - so we have to give ourselves the same grace God gives us.

“To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:25-31

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I Need Help

I need help. Those are hard words to admit. I've worked so hard to be strong, show little weakness, always be positive - abounding. I was careful to not be a burden - neglecting my own needs in order to make sure everyone else was happy. If they were happy, then I was doing a good job - and they would like me, right? However, I never felt secure - who would like ME for ME? If I can please you or help you, then maybe you'll see me as worth it and you won’t leave me. But if I fail; then, what’s the point of me?

Living in this place kept me afraid - afraid of rejection and failure - never good enough. It kept me always straining, never attaining. My strength was a mirage - looking together on the outside. But hidden safely within was a little girl - longing to be seen and heard - loved. She wanted to be free to dance and sing, to create and play. Carefree. Without a thought of who’s looking. But, she was too afraid to come out - the risk was too great, still remembering the hurt she hides. So she settles in the safety of good behavior and performing for acceptance - squelching any creativity or expression of her real self.

Beneath her layers of pretense and blankets of denial, there was One who knew her. He knew her all along. He hadn't forgotten or abandoned her. She was never beyond His reach. Her Maker saw her - when no one else could. He heard the cries of her broken heart. He loved her - every piece. And He whispers, "My Child, you can come out now. You are safe. You are Mine. You are fully loved just as you are - I adopted you."

Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Psalm 139:12-16

Though now I know my Abba is very fond of me, I still struggle with the same old doubts and fears. Though my perceptions do not change the reality that I am free and loved, walking in this truth takes practice. When faced with obstacles, it's easy to retreat instead of taking another step. Falling is painful, and getting back up is hard. What I've realized is that I wasn't created to walk alone; I need help. But I don’t want to need help. I don’t want to take time. I don’t want to reach out and ask. I still struggle with the thought: Am I worth it? There’s so many pieces - how will I ever be put back together? Won’t people get sick of me - disappointed, lose patience, reject me? What if I take a lot of time? What if I keep falling again and again? What if I’m slow? Will you stay with me? Will you still love me? I’m afraid to let you see the real me, afraid you won't like what you see, and you'll leave. Please don’t leave me. I promise I’ll try. I need you.

In my desperation, my Sweet Jesus comes to me, and whispers gently, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not fret, I will not hurt you. I will provide for all of your needs. Rest, my precious Child, you are loved.” His Voice calms me and peace rushes through me like refreshing waters. I am comforted and strengthened in His embrace with courage to just be - unedited me - alive in My Redeemer.