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With You Always

It’s been a challenging, up-and-down, I-don’t-think-we-can-get-through-this sort of year.  As I read through my blog posts, notes, and emails my heart rate increases and a sense of apprehension settles over me.  remind myself–aloud–God has been with you through it all.

God was with me when I learned one child had been abused.

God was with me when another child was diagnosed with a life-long illness.

And before that?

God was with me when my husband was deployed in Afghanistan and I was raising four children at home.

God was with me when my daughter was born prematurely and then had to be resuscitated.

One heart wrenching, faith growing, I-don’t-like-this-plan-Lord sort of year.  Before that?  One year of struggle…another of joy.  Time kept moving, bringing with it moments of joy, celebration, grief, and sadness.  And through it all I was never alone.  

Maybe you are experiencing a challenging, up-and-down, I-don’t-think-I-can-get-through-this sort of year…or month…or moment.

Friend, remember!  “I (God) will never leave you nor forsake you, for (He) is with you always even unto the end of the age.  (Matthew 28:20)

 

Orate Mirror in the Corner of a Room

“For now we only see a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Cor. 13:12 MSG

Don’t we all long to be known and loved despite the knowing? That sort of love exists in the only God who is bigger than imagination…the God whose very thought of You and Me gave us life, form, breath.

Loved despite the knowing? Yes. That sort of love pointed up to heaven while rough shards of wood pressed into His back and words were uttered on behalf of those who were there and those who were yet to be…”Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Loved despite the knowing? Yes. That sort of love despite feelings of doubt…words spoken in anger …faith ebbing according to circumstance.

Loved despite the knowing? Yes. Regardless of Me–or You. He knows us fully, but loves Us ardently and completely–enough to be Our Savior…enough to be Our Soul Healer…enough to be raised triumphant that We might have hope that there is more than yesterday or today. There is Christ!

Identity in Him is more significant than identity of self.

Scripture for Reflection:

John 1:12 I am God’s child
John 15:15 I am God’s friend
Col. 3:3 I am hidden with Christ in God
Eph. 1:4 I am chosen
Eph. 1:9, 3:11 I have purpose
Eph. 3:13 I know there is a purpose in suffering
2 Cor. 5:17 I am a new creation
1 Cor. 6:19-20 I belong to God.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.

Exodus 3:14

images

It took her by surprise–this identity crisis.

One day she knew who she was and the next lacked any sense of a cohesive selfOne day she walked purposefully…with direction; next there was only the feeling of wandering in the dark.  One day her faith blossomed–sharing its fragrance willingly with others; then it suddenly withered to a dingy, lifeless brown hovering somewhere between life and death.

The woman wondered how she would keep moving on when so much of today was caught up in the shattered dreams of the past.  She laughed at the absurdity of looking in the mirror and being unsure of the reflection…like an insecure teenager who hadn’t yet discovered what substance lay beneath the surface.  She wept at the tragedy of losing who she might have become to the early years of abuse.  She even shook her fist at the God who had grieved at the sight of a child’s soul being stripped of hope while her little form was stripped of modesty.  And…the woman missed God the most.

The identity crisis…a personal place of loneliness, trepidation, discovery.  The woman wanders in her spiritual desert–climbing a mountain of doubt and confusion.  She yearns to meet God there and thinks of Moses’.  He had been called by God to lead…to trust…to obey.  Moses’ response?  Who am I?  Moses was experiencing an identity crisis.

“I am who I Am.”  The Lord didn’t address Moses’ insecurities with platitudes or pep talks.  The focus wasn’t on Moses, but on God and what He would accomplish through his servant.  And the woman realizes that those are the words of truth to which she must cling.  “I am who I Am.”  And she keeps climbing.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube+christian+songs+i+am&FORM=VIRE5#view=detail&mid=38AAD37AE046FD4DEED638AAD37AE046FD4DEED6

 

 

 

eaglefly

The moment I heard the words filter through the radio of our crumb-sprinkled family car, my heart responded with a question?  Am I that woman?  The message resounded and I’ve been considering it for more than a week–long enough for me to admit that this is one of my day-by-day, moment-by-moment struggles.  It may be yours, too.

What is this self-imposed, self-focused, self-degrading habit we battle each day?  Perfectionism.

It afflicts co-workers, Bible study leaders, young mothers, old mothers, neighbors, and friends.  Always striving…she is the woman never quite satisfied with self.  And deep in her empty places she has somehow mistaken the desire for acceptance…approval…love for a twisted version of if-then. 

If I can just lose five more pounds then he’ll respect me.

If I earn this degree then I’ll finally believe I’m smart.

If I keep my house clean enough then I’ll know I’m a good housewife.

If  my children are at the top of their class then I can trust myself as a mother.

If I join one more church committee then God will know I’m a committed Christian.

 

But all of the if’s just end up as not enough.  There is always another goal…something else to prove…a feeling of not quite meeting the mark.

Why?  Because we’ve forgotten the mercy of His love, acceptance, and approval.   With Christ, there is an abundance of all our heart seeks.   The one who is Perfection has released us from the need to prove our goodness or worth.

We can stop striving, dear Friend.  Just belonging to Perfection is enough.

 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  (Col. 3:23-24)

When my husband and I were dating, we hiked a rugged seven mile mountain trail to Phantom Lake–a remote body of water located at the peak of a glacial mountain.  Neither fond of prolonged hikes nor keen on tall ledges lacking stair rails, I relinquished any misgivings and trusted Dave to guide me to safety.

Mid-way across an intimidating scree field, my left leg tightened painfully.  Kneading the throbbing knot, I leaned against the slippery shale rock.  What was I doing?  Anything taller than a stepladder caused near panic attacks.  Now, I peered warily down the sloping earth and wondered how I could possibly catch up with my mountaineering boyfriend.

Suddenly, Dave appeared at my side.  His strength and reassurance imbued me with the will to continue–regardless of discomfort, fear, or doubt.  And when I finally cleared the mountaintop I beheld nature’s unmatched glory shimmering and winking in the glow of that day’s waning light.

The journey had been difficult.  My leg still ached and I was weary.  But, I could see God’s beauty on display.

Once again, I stand awkwardly on a precipice–anxious and alert.  But now I am hemmed in on one side by the shifting promises of an unreliable world while on the other I can feel the strong presence of the Rock–the unshakeable and steadfast One who continues to whisper, “You are secure in me.  Do not doubt, Child, because I will deliver you.”

Are you standing at the edge of a cliff, dear Friend?  Has your healing journey scratched at the hurts lying just beneath the surface and caused unwelcome discomfort?

Maybe you feel as if there is no way off the face of the mountain and you’ve been waiting for too long already.  You want to be restored now.

This is a time for your decision.  Do you remain where you are…shifting and uncertain?  Turn back toward the familiar, worn paths of unforgiveness, bitterness, or ill managed pain?

Or, do you follow Him–the one who has wept tears and blood for you–up to the mountaintop where you can see for yourself his plan for your life fully revealed, restored, and renewed?

The journey may be difficult.  You may ache and grow weary.  But, you will be His Beauty on display–as he had intended when he thought of you for the first time.

Scripture for Reflection–Psalm 18:2

The eerie revelation to self that isolates one in the face of an sacred community. What is revealed is a moral inferiority that makes one vulnerable to irresistible forces. As a state of feeling, shame is fearful, chaotic, holistic and humbling. -Definition of shame (Jack Katz)

Liberating hope…those two words caught my attention; my eyes drawn to the speaker.  Jesus gives us liberating hope.  Hope from shame…from the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something done by you, to you, or in association with you.  And my heart skipped a beat.  I knew I wasn’t the only woman shifting uneasily that morning…as if the pastor could peer into my heart and see the secrets I had buried there.

And he spoke of Mary Magdalene–the woman who had been hostess to seven demons.

Imagine her life…merely a lowly woman in that ancient culture, Mary would have been shunned; avoided; a topic of discussion but never compassion.   She was despised for the burden she carried within–the inescapable filth, fear, and fiendish vulnerability.  Mary understood deep, soul-searing shame.  Unacceptable…dirty…and filled to overflowing by the chaotic, controlling influence of her own personal demons.

And Jesus did something revolutionary.

 Instead of avoiding Mary, he invited her.  Rather than casting stones, he cast out demons.  Not willing to condemn with his words, Christ offered Mary a new name–“Daughter of the King”.  And in her newfound freedom a woman was re-born…transformed–from demoniac to disciple and unlovable to beloved.

Jesus gave Mary Magdalene liberating hope–true, lasting freedom from a past that might have destroyed her.  The road to freedom was a difficult one for Mary.  Her burdens were as real as yours.  Take just one step today, Dear Friend–one step toward the healing arms of Jesus.  Yes, sometimes this path that promises healing seems more like an insurmountable mountain, but Christ paved the way to wholeness with each step He made toward Golgotha.  Our freedom is a certainty because Jesus did something revolutionary for you and me–He died that we might be fully restored.

So today…take a step in faith toward the revolutionary Jesus.  Begin your walk to freedom by declaring–in all of your doubt, fear, or cynicism–that He is able to do a transformative work in your heart…your life…your ever-after.

Prayer for Today

Dear Lord,

I feel like a Mary–carrying my own personal demons around inside of me–and they haunt me as much as they did when I was a child.  Like Mary, I didn’t ask for these burdens.  They were thrust upon me by someone who should have loved and cared for me, but instead used me for personal satisfaction in ways that left me feeling isolated and ruled by fear.

But now, Lord, I’m calling out your name.  I’m desperate for deliverance…for a liberating freedom that breaks the chains of the past.  Give me a vision of the future where I have been transformed and made whole because I choose to believe and claim the power of your word which tells me “that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns”.  (Phil. 1:6)

In the name of the revolutionary Jesus Christ,

Amen.

 Response

Was there something you read today that prompted you to think about the shame you carry?  What one step can you take on the road to healing today?

When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him ,he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.

 -Chinua Achebe

Close-up of a teenaged girl suffering from depression

He wasn’t invited…this interloper.  But some guests don’t require invitations and, like this one, quickly navigate about the room infecting everyone with their undesirable influence.  This guest…like so many memories of adult survivors of child abuse…pushes its way into the beautiful, harmonious places that were meant to be sanctified…pure…redeemed.

And suddenly, the once-cherished visions of giving something better to the ones you love seems unclear–like an aged mirror that once reflected all that was beautiful, but now only offers a blurred image of what might truly exist.

And in the suffering, you wonder...is it true?  Has God abandoned me to suffer alone?  How can a Father…the Heavenly Father…allow calamity of the mind?  Does He care about the spirit wounds doubling His child over in pain?  

Searching for a thread of hope…a reminder of His promise…a thought of what is beautiful I read words penned by Bible teacher, Paul Tripp…

Suffering will tempt you to doubt God’s goodness and kindness. Suffering will tempt you to doubt His faithfulness and love. Even though you may never speak this aloud, your theology will bring God into the court of your judgment and accuse Him of being unloving and unfaithful to His promises.   In moments of suffering, don’t run away from God in doubt. If you do, you risk missing out on the wonderful blessings of grace that He has made available. Even if those blessings are uncomfortable or even excruciatingly painful, you can run to the Father.

So…let’s run, dear friends–in our doubt, our pain, our suffering–to the One who enters by invitation only.

The Message (MSG)

Scripture for Reflection

Rev. 3: 20-21 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!

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