Thursday, April 24, 2014

You will not always be forgotten.

Yesterday I talked to J. I am always laughing with her, crying with her - the depth of emotions that I finally let out when I am in the safety of her presence, as we are both in the safety of Jesus' presence. It allows me to let go of so much, to say so much, to be even be silent so much. Sometimes I sit and listen, absorbing so much that I don't even remember it all. But it comes out in words and prayers and little things, under stars, and in moments with friends. 

And yesterday it finally came out: at times I feel lonely. For years as a child everything I did was by myself. (Does anyone even get that?) For years I have felt that I was lagging behind every other person around me. Everyone is moving forward and racing ahead, but I am here, I am here slowly bending and moving, and sitting and wishing and sighing and holding back the tears of a thousand years. I struggled, God knows I struggled to just be alive, to just out of the dark frozen ground one leaf at a time, the whole time the Enemy pushes me deeper into the ground. Yet even when the darkness closed in and I gave up for three years out of despair, somehow Holy Spirit moved me to life again, and I ran fast and far. I grew. I wasn't this small seed in dark dirt. I was suddenly springing forth after long hard winter, under soft warm Light from Him. 

And that is a lie, that I am somehow forgotten, lost, alone, and outside it all. Because I do not know others' lives, their stories. I only know what I can see from the outside. I can only know what people tell me and show me. What if their lives are a struggle, full of unseen and spoken hardships? What if they are sitting there, comparing themselves to me? Perhaps they are rushing ahead, wishing life to slow down, seasons to change slower. Perhaps they don't even care and are busy living their lives each day as its given to them.

I don't know (how can I?) I don't know. (Only God does.)

And in the very next sentence it came out: loneliness. It came out of hiding. It was there a lot. I felt it pressing me at times. But I never noticed it until now. I had always observed my childhood with small glimpses of nostalgia. But then I looked back... The little girl reading books alone under the tree. The chubby teenager with big glasses and fuzzy hair, who sat alone most of the time, and felt alone all of the time. And did anyone care? And I felt alone. So much anger, so much sadness. I was so frustrated because they did not love me and I wanted to be loved. My mother was my best friend. I adore her and she I. But who else loved me? And so I kept everything hidden. And you all thought I was happy. I was, in my own safe little world, with my books, and my imagination running wild, dreaming of the day I would be free with joy and life, no longer hiding behind smiles that were half real, half fake.  And I was told yesterday that loneliness that I've felt, observed in me for so many years -- the smiling mask that I hide behind so artfully, because people don't know I feel lonely at times, or that I'm scared of my future -- that loneliness, it's a lie. Because Jesus Christ dwells inside me. I am never alone.

And that is truth. And I must embrace it to displace this lie that has haunted me for me years. And it is strange to me, in this time when I am finally free, filled with joy, and have been blessed with a season of abundance, where I'm enjoying nearly everything I could want (we all have nearly everything we could want, it's just always one or a few things we can't have at that time, and so we wait for another seasons for those things to come spilling out), that these wounds would suddenly surface, oozing pain, seeping bloody memories I thought had been stitched together. Just like our old Enemy to try ruining the joy God has so suddenly blessed me with - to try to remind me of the hard Winter when Spring is dawning in warm, liquid, golden moments. 

And if you think I'm crazy, I do have joy. I have many moments of peace. Sometimes I go weeks without feeling the dry sting of old scars, where the childhood loneliness is far from me, and the pain is completely obscured by Jesus holding me close to him. The beauty of it drives out the pain, and creates new pains, for I see who I am in Him and cannot fathom it. 

I guess it's time for healing, the letting go to hold onto something better. The loneliness isn't just loneliness. It is forgottenness. This place where you're not just a person shoved to the side, but you're left there while everyone else moves ahead and forgets they even left you there.

And I'm writing about this hole I once had, black and blue, rimmed in violet ashes, because you need to know: I was lonely once. He hadn't come yet to set me free. I was still waiting for air, light, and color. And then one day...he came and set me free. He just came. And my loneliness and forgottenness I thought was reality was...a lie.. He came out of nowhere and the light just spilled out of him. Goodness, kindness, joy, beauty, purity, truthfulness, humility, patience -- I was blinded by it.  

And so I bleed with you, the lonely, the forgotten. I weep tears over the hardness of fighting and struggling in silence-- alone. You fight a hard battle. And you do not fight alone. Christ fights for you. I fight for you, knowing that the One we love and serve has never forgotten you. He knew you before you were even conceived. You were his. He is yours. 

You may feel like the Hebrew Slaves: forgotten for 400 years. That's a long time. It's 10 generations. And so it may feel like it's been that long to you, Taskmaster Time beating you down even lower. 

But in this time of Passover, of Resurrection, we must remember though He is silent, He has not forgotten us. He sends forth his Rod and Staff, His Light and Truth, and we come marching out of our mud pit graves, filthy, starving, and unable to utter a word. He washes the mud off. He casts aside the ugliness of our sins, our rags, and our rage, and we become kings and queens. Newness. Remembered. Cherished. He'll take us to Promised Land, and we'll know his Kingdom Joy in our hearts forever.

This is what the Gospel came to do. It's just sometimes it doesn't always show on the outside of our lives, in circumstances. Sometimes (always?) he is using those circumstances to further his work in our hearts. So the circumstances change when they have accomplished the work in our hearts that he is doing. The pain, sorrow, fear -- he is using those to set us free, just like the plagues were used set the Israelites free from Pharaoh. It doesn't make sense. But he does use them, because it makes freedom that much sweeter, that much more anticipated. 

I cannot forget what he did in my heart. For he set this lonely, forgotten girl free to be alive. He remembered me. He came once, and he comes to me, to you, again and again. And the Light-Joy we seek...well, he is seeking us. We have only to take the small steps towards him that he asks. Sometimes that is simply praying "Lord Jesus, I don't know how to trust you. Help me to trust you."

ii. There are few more painful things than feeling forgotten and feeling disappointed. To those in such pain, God makes these wonderful promises; that they shall not always be forgotten, and their expectation will not perish.
·      You shall not always be forgotten at the mercy-seat; so keep praying.
·      You shall not always be forgotten in the Word; so keep reading.
·      You shall not always be forgotten from the pulpit; so keep hearing.
·      You shall not always be forgotten at the Lord’s Table; so keep receiving.
·      You shall not always be forgotten in your service; so keep serving.
·      You expected to have peace in Jesus; in Him you will have it.
·      You expected to triumph over sin; in Him you will triumph.
·      You expected to get out of trouble; in Him you will be delivered.
·      You expected to grow strong in faith; in Him you will be strengthened.
·      You expected to have spiritual joys and experiences, in Him you will have them.
iii. “The needy, and the poor, whose expectation is from the Lord, are never forgotten, though sometimes their deliverance is delayed for the greater confusion of their enemies, the greater manifestation of God's mercy, and the greater benefit to themselves.” (Clarke)

Because...I'm no longer a slave. I am not forgotten. That lonely girl is no longer who I am. I am Alive in Christ, and I am resolved to stay with the One who not only set me free, but gave me Joy and Life.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Laying out under the stars: trusting him when letting go is hard and writer's block has set in.

Note: I don't normally share anything this deep or personal with anyone. Despite being an extrovert, I remain deeply private about my feelings, thoughts, and prayers. Still this came to me. And here it is. 

Pain. During a season of immense joy that takes my breath away every morning and every evening, there it is: pain. Buried pain. Old pain. Creeping pain. Palpable pain.

I began questioning myself if the joy I was experiencing was false. But I stopped myself suddenly because I know that’s not true. Holy Spirit infusing me with joy cannot be some false moment in Life.

No, this pain is caused by what he is calling me to next: Himself.

Jubilee: a year of emancipation and restoration. It is year of grace, peace, adventure, trust, joy, and love—Christ setting me free. I have it written on my wall. First words I read in the morning, last I read at night: a prayer I sing and a song I pray.

But he is also our Jubilee. He came to be our Great Joy and Freedom. 

But right now it doesn’t feel so free…because to be free he’s asking me to put him first. In everything.  To put him first before everything. “Put him first and the rest will fall into place.” I keep hearing it spoken to me, in me, unceasingly. It’s there. I cannot deny it.

Why pain? Fear. The fear that I’ll put him first and he’ll say, “Ah, see I’m enough. You don’t need anything else you’ve been praying for, desiring after, looking forward to. Give it all up, throw it all away. You have nothing now, no needs no desires, no wants, no dreams. I’m all you got.” My worst fear realized: shrinking into this quiet life, absorbed, never seen or heard again. Just. Alone.

(Did you lie to me? Or do I love my hopes and desires more than you? What is this about? I’m scared.)

Would he say that? Why would he though, when he’s already done so much good in me over the past year.   

Serpent’s voice, disguised as Truth, speaking Fear.

I know it isn’t Christ.

But still fear creeps in like fog, trying to find the hollows where desires for good things I kept hidden away – from everyone, from Him, from even myself because of the fear of my heart and life being shattered. These good things are now seeds planted in thawing winter ground, waiting to grow up into flowers, like sari silk quilts. Sun is coming. Spring is dawning. But fog pushes its way in, hiding, distorting. 

And so, here am I. He is waiting. He is gracious. He wants me to lay down the things I’ve held for so long, prayed for so long about, to take a rest with him.  It’s that painful chapter of the story we don’t want to read. It’s building tension in the most anticlimactic way imaginable. “You want me to come away with you? You want me to put You first and just drop these things I've been holding up for so long?”

So I put the pen down and give him the book. “You write it. My pen is out of ink, my heart out of words. I am scared. I cannot even tell you how afraid I am. Story dead-ended, right after jumping a cliff from Old Me to New-Me-in-Christ. “I cannot get past this chapter. So you write it. You sort it out. I can’t. I know what I want the story to look like, but I just can’t seem to get it there.”

He doesn’t take the pen and start writing like I expected. He places it on the desk. “Lets just start here: all those nights you love to lay under My stars, and be still with Me. That's all I'm asking for right now."

Don’t you want more from me than that? Shouldn’t I just be giving up all of these things with grief, weeping – a terror so unimaginable my heart wants to stop, because I'm so scared for this freedom and joy to end?

No. Put me first. If you focus on the giving up, it will hurt too deeply for you to understand. And then you will be confused. You will run. You will hide. You will go back to the familiar places of slavery. But you'll be more miserable than you were at first, having known freedom.

Just focus on me. Listen to me. You’re not doing this alone, remember? I’m doing this. You just have to let me do it. I will do it anyway. But let me do it. As you do, I’ll put it all-right-in-your-heart in bits and chunks, threads and spans. It’ll be new. You’ll see…bit by bit, the pain and fear will bleed out, Holy Spirit patching the holes they leave with Love and Joy and Peace. I’ll give you new words. I’ll give you a new name for the new heart I gave you. I’ll give you new names for Me. I’ll give you new chapters in your story.

So don’t stop singing, dancing, dreaming, praying, loving, and being free. Just come closer to me. I’ll be there. You can tell me you’re scared, I won’t laugh. Come out of that dusty corner you just ran to – I’m not here to beat the fear out of you. You’re small, you’re young. Sin stained you. Enemy lied to you. People hurt you. I’m here to save you, in the quiet and in the loud.

Just let go… trust me. Let me in. I’ll win your trust. You’ll see, I’m worth trusting and loving – because I already love you. Long, long ago before the world was created, I loved you. You don't have to win me. I'm winning you.