In Spite of the Thickets and the Thorns

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In the past two weeks, my devotions have been permeated by one main theme: In our trials and suffering, if we always remember to look up to the Lord, we will receive a reward that trumps the ugly of our situation.

That’s really the whole theme of this blog and I find it interesting that I am learning even more about what that really means – what it really means to look up in SPITE of all that clouds our vision here on earth. To look up in the face of intense opposition. To look up when our heads keep getting yanked back down. Just to keep looking UP.

But I don’t mean looking up in the way that the world does. The world tells us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get a good attitude. The world tells us to have a positive outlook and believe in ourselves so we can change our circumstances. The world tells us it’s  about mind over matter, motivation and willpower. The world tells us we can choose happiness and health no matter what.

The world tells us it all hinges upon US. The world tells us to look up to OURSELVES.

No. That’s not working for me – it never has. I have to seek Jesus and His face so HE can work all things together for my good. Only He can do that. My looking doesn’t even make that happen – it’s just the mere part that I play in it all.

Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.

  • To look up to HIM – the only One who offers clarity.
  • To look up to HIM – even when all we want to do or feel that we can do is to hang our heads low.
  • To keep our eyes wide open and seek Jesus in everything – because He’s there in the midst of it all if we only search after Him.

We don’t often find ourselves ardently searching for His face in times of joy and ease. Sure, we can praise Him through the beauty of a time unmarked by pain, suffering, or difficulty. But for me – I find that when I have to look  harder, and I finally can fix my eyes upon HIM – He cuts through the cloudy and the murky and the junk – He cuts through it like a sharp blade and emerges…..CLEAR.

He gives me a point of focus through all that is murky and beyond my ability to endure alone.

But it’s not easy.

  • It’s not easy for us to look to Him when we don’t feel like it.
  • It’s a daunting thing to search for His face in what can seem like a forest of obstacle courses that have been set up with the intent to not only derail us, but maybe even wound us beyond repair.

And when it gets really hard for me – I focus upon Jesus and the many times He looked up in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

In the Garden of Gethsemane…

In the dark….

Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.

Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…

And He still looked up.

He looked up in the midst of an excruciating pain and blunt and brutal knowledge of the cup He was about to have to drink of in a mere few hours.

And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…

When not only gravity and the relentless pain and torture inflicted upon His body was pulling Him down…down….down, but also the spiritual pain and torture He must have endured that screamed out to him relentlessly….”give up already – they aren’t worth it.

And He still looked up.

Jesus looks up while upon that cross and He cries out!!!

He looks to the Father even in the face of having all the sin of the world resting on Him.

In that moment and in every moment, Jesus always looks up.

So can we.

Is there something in your life right now that makes you feel like all you can do is hang your head low? Do you find yourself seeking after the Lord, but unable to find Him? Would you please keep looking up in spite of it all? Would you have faith that He will show up, even if it’s not in the way that always feels good or removes your trial or thorn from your life? He is our Almighty and Loving Father, friends.

He wants what is best for us. Even if we don’t always understand it, He will work all things together for our good in the midst of our challenges, sufferings, even our sin. Our “job” is only to seek Him in the middle of it all. And obey if He asks something of us.

Just like Jesus did that day on the cross and every day – every. single. day.

No – The cup was not removed from Jesus, friends. But oh! What happens now for an eternity by far surpasses that horrific suffering that He endured.

For us.

Jesus looked up for us.

And He yearns for us to look up and seek His beautiful face. Every day.

Sometimes the days feel like weeks when we go through them living with these thorns that we cannot remove. Sometimes we wonder when it will all end or if we will ever have an answer as to exactly why it all had to happen in the first place. But we can trust in Him that He has us right where He wants us. We can work through our anger, our disdain, our confusion as we look up to Him for His peace, His comfort and His joy in the middle of it all.

Sometimes it’s the only way to embrace beauty in the midst of the ugly anyway.

  • He is always beautiful.
  • He is always faithful.
  • And He promises if we set our eyes upon Him, it will always be better than hanging our heads down low or resorting to our own inadequate devices.

I don’t have to feel great about this stuff that makes my days feel like weeks and my weeks feel like years. I don’t have to love my pain or my suffering. But I can be thankful in the midst of it all that I know that one day – one glorious day – I will be with my Savior for all eternity. And there – in that blissful place – there will be no more suffering. 

And we will always see His face. We won’t have to look long and hard and search through the thickets and the thorns. All of this will be a blur by then.

And we shall walk in the light and the love of our Lord and Savior forever more.

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1

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Stormtrooper

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A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

I feel the anxiety rising up in the pit of my stomach. I try to run. I try to hide. Then I make my feeble attempts to move into a place of accepting it.

But the body fights – it fights for its rights.

All to no avail.

So I stop trying and just….exist. I just commit to exist in the midst of it. All expectations must be thrown out of the window – smashed. Except for one.

I won’t do this alone. I will NOT do it alone! And that’s not because of my own expectation, but because of a promise made by Christ Himself.

He will meet me here. He will draw near.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being. Not only does my heart cry, but real tears stream down my face throughout these last 24 hours. How much longer? How much longer, God?

These are the times.  These are the times that make me realize that the DAILY pain I have ALL THE TIME with Fibro, is nothing compared to the stuff that jumps off the scale when there’s a weather situation or an illness on top of it all that exacerbates it. I can live with that stuff (the day to day aches and pains), and still offer something of myself to others; experience a good mood even though it is a wicked little thorn in my side that never leaves.

But THIS.

“Don’t you know, Jesus – don’t you know that THIS is where I draw the line? I have to deal with the daily crud of Fibro and I don’t like it, but I’ve been a good girl and I suck it up. I seek you in the midst of it all. But why do I have to deal with THIS on top of it all. It’s not fair.”

Jesus didn’t draw a line with regard to how much suffering HE was willing to endure, now did He?

Ha Ha. Silly little girl.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

Practical paralyzation – just bad enough to make EVERY SECOND excruciating to get through, but not bad enough to be given a pass not to do life – work, tasks, chores. That little tidbit right there?  THAT is one of the WORST PARTS ABOUT FIBRO! Or – is it a blessing? Got me!

But then there’s this one too…..

Attacks from the ugly enemy.

“this is nothing compared to what Christ did for you. Why are you compaining? There are people out there suffering far worse than you. Why don’t you just pull yourself up from your bootstraps little girl and persevere for once? Geez. What a little baby.”

I long for rest. I want to run, but there’s no where to hide. It’s inside of me and I can’t get away from it, friends. I have no choice but to move through the pain. One ugly and long, drawn-out second at a time. Each hour seems like an entire day. Each day seems like a long, bad, drawn out week.

Where’s the end? Where’s the destination? Where’s the party, yo?

Vice grip, trapped in concrete. Unable to move to the left or the right. Even being still comes with its own level of crushing pain.

I want my mom! Oh yah – she’s in heaven with Jesus. I’m happy for her. I really am.

But what about ME!!!!

Are we at the peak yet? When will we move down the other side of this evil bell curve? I’m ready for the fall, because after its done, it spells a semblance of relief. Right?

We are going to get off the ride eventually, right?

Can Jesus just meet me here in the midst of it all? Do you think its possible that He would?

Will you, Lord? Will you bring me peace through the pain? Will you carry me through these excruciating moments, minutes, days in which this suffering wreaks havoc through my body? Will you massage my soul and my mind that is growing weary as I trudge through this? Will you pour Your grace out upon me – more of it, even though I am stamping my feet right about now?

A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

And a peace –

And a joy –

And a comfort provided by the only One who can offer it.

The Great Physician.

My Almighty Savior.

The One and Only Divine Healer of all our hurts, all our pain.

My Lord Jesus Christ – He shows up in the storm and through the rubble it leaves as we move through it. He clears the path.

And through this, I shall know Him better.

Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.

This I know.

I look to YOU, Lord. I see you clearly even when my eyes are closed. I can see you when I am in the middle of the darkness, inside the tunnel when it seems there’s no way out. I can see you even on the roller coaster ride that is spinning my head and blurring my vision. I can see you, Lord!!!

And I know that YOU see me.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. …1 Peter 4: 12-19

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Free Love

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We all have struggles. We all make mistakes. But some of us don’t realize until later in life that one of our root issues or problems that we’ve been carrying around since ummmm, FOREVER ~ is a big reason for all of those other trials we experience.

I’m one of those people. And it’s time to work on discarding the layers of gunk that don’t need to be there anymore.

There’s enough to contend with that causes us to be tempted or stumble in life without all this junk that we carry around that was never meant to be there in the first place. I’ve mentioned several times before that part of what I struggle with is how I handle conflict. If I told you why I think that is or what all has perpetuated this issue, I would be writing a book instead of a short little essay today. So we won’t go there.

Conflict is part of life. But if you are someone like me, you allow other layers of junk to get in there and add to the root issue. That stuff is not meant to remain with us. It is evil and needs to be completely discarded.

This is by no means easy to do.

So I just want to share today that the Lord is truly enlightening me in regard to one MAJOR AND DECEPTIVE culprit in my life when it comes to conflict problems –

Boundaries.

For most of my life (all of it) I really haven’t had or enforced many boundaries. And not only is dealing with conflict getting harder and harder for me now (almost unbearable), but I truly think a lot of my health issues are coming as a result from this as well – at the very least, they are being worsened by it.

Because of the lack of appropriate and Christ like boundaries in my life, I have opened the door to more sin. Resentment, bitterness, outbursts when I can’t take it any more…AND a perpetual cycle of trying harder, doing better, so as to avoid wrath or displeasure with those with whom I interact. I find myself having to withdraw more in order to regain composure. But the worst kind of withdrawal comes from inside of my heart.

I shut down.

Part of the need for withdrawal in the midst of conflict, in all fairness, is due to the issues that Fibromyalgia causes a person…you really have no choice when you get overwhelmed but to remove yourself for a while. And removing yourself from evil or situations that are becoming sinful is also a part of what God asks us to do, as long as it is due to the fact that you have chosen this as a boundary line that is healthy, rather than escape with no intention of resolution at a later time.

It gets blurry sometimes.

But sometimes we just flat out withdraw. Sometimes we build walls after realizing we  have no property or boundary lines. And that’s kind of like going from one extreme to another, don’t you think?

We are meant to have clear lines of demarcation (boundaries). When we have them, we don’t have to build walls very often. When we don’t, we end up having to go curl up into a fetal position alone or come out guns-a-blazing.

The book I am studying right now along with the passages in the Bible that talk about healthy conflict management and appropriate boundary lines focuses on how HAVING good boundaries is truly loving like God wants us to love and NOT HAVING them is NOT.

It’s eye opening, yet heartbreaking at the same time. You see, I asked God to  help me take the logs out of my own eyes so that I can work on how I deal with conflict (hence, relationships and love better as a result) and this is what keeps coming up for me.

  • Boundaries are crucial for living in the likeness of God.
  • Boundaries are imperative if we want to love like Christ.
  • Boundaries walk us into truly giving in freedom – from the heart – not from fear of retaliation or consequences we might reap in relationships that aren’t healthy.
  • Boundaries  help our relationships – IF those we are surrounded with respect them and IF we respect the boundaries of others.
  • Not having boundaries is NOT loving and leads to sin and evil. So does not respecting the boundaries of others.
  • Boundaries are NOT just physical. They are emotional, mental, spiritual, etc. We cannot take ownership for the feelings of others. We must take ownership for our own feelings.
  • Not having boundaries binds us up and prevents us from giving where God would have us give.

The first book I am studying (aside from the Bible) is called Boundaries, and is written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Here is an excerpt that hit me like a ton of bricks:

  • “WE are responsible to others and for ourselves. ‘Carry each other’s burdens,‘ says  Galatians 6:2, ‘and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ This verse shows our responsibility to one another. Many times others have “burdens” that are too big to bear. They do not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need help. Denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. This is what Christ did for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves; he saved us. This is being responsible to “to.”
  • “On the other hand, verse 5 says that “each one should carry his own load.” Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular “load” that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can (or even sometimes should they) do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own “load.
  • “The Greek words for burden and load give us insight into the meaning of these texts. The Greek word for burden means “excess burdens,” or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down. These burdens are like boulders. They can crush us. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves! It would break our backs. We need help with the boulders – those times of crisis and tragedy in our lives.”
  • “In contrast, the Greek word for load means “cargo” or “the burden of daily toil.” This word describes the everyday things we all need to do. These loads are like knapsacks. We are expected to carry our own. We are expected to deal with our own feelings, attitudes and behaviors as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us.”
  • “Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.”
  • “Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” They help us keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt 7:6). “

All of this is biblical, friends. In fact, I was led to it from a couple of Pastors that truly teach from the Word and even Focus on the Family recommends this book throughout so many things they deal with in regard to conflict issues among Christians.

The whole point of this is that in order to even think of being a peacemaker, we  have to establish good boundaries. In order to even think of loving like Christ, we must follow his mandates in regard to loving from the heart, not because we fear loss of love, loss of acceptance, or anger that might come our way.

This Boundaries book also opened my eyes to the fact that the idea of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. I have gone to the Word to check this for myself, and it’s all throughout the Bible!

  • “God defines his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes and dislikes. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who he is and who  he is not. He limits what he will allow in his yard. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behavior. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. The “gates” of his boundaries open and close appropriately. In the same way, he gave us his “likeness”. He gave us personal responsibility within limits. We wants us to “rule and subdue” the earth and be responsible stewards over the life he has given us. To do that, we need to develop boundaries like God’s.”

The entire reason I started down this road and am embarking upon intensive (and biblical only) study of conflict management is because it has been made clear to me that the deepest desire of my heart is to love like Jesus wants for me to love. He desires “mercy, not sacrifice.” (Hos 6:6). I realize now that for most of my life, I  have missed the mark here. I  have allowed fear to dictate what I will do for others, rather than asking the Lord to tell me what is appropriate and right to do, and what is not.

I neither created nor implemented healthy boundaries.

And when we don’t, the bad stuff gets inside and distorts real love. It makes us sick.

I would covet your prayers regarding all of this, dear friends. You don’t reach the age of 50 and start learning how to create God-like boundaries and do it with ease. Not only do you have to learn, but as you implement, it may be hard on others in your life who aren’t used to you being this way. I need prayer that the Lord would guide me and lead me to have healthy boundaries and own them in love. I truly want this to be something that is beneficial not only to me and my own relationship with God and others, but that frees me to discern where there are true burdens I can lend support to, instead of carrying so many loads that take my eye off what really matters to God.

I need to own it and it’s not going to be easy.

But it is crucial. It is absolutely crucial that I learn what others’ boundaries are, as well as allow mine to be created (and implemented, even when it’s hard) with the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will help me to stick to them, regardless of how it feels – this I know. I just need a lot of prayer for wisdom, clarity and courage right now.

Everyone must work their “own salvation out with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). This is no different than that.

It’s high time.

We see a clear example of healthy boundaries right on the cross – it is seen between Jesus the two thieves hanging next to him.  One repented and opened his heart sincerely to Christ. The gates were flung open and Jesus invited him to enter into paradise with him. The other was not repentant or sincere, and Jesus drew a line – He wouldn’t even look at him. Boundaries are Christ like. Appropriate ones.

I don’t want to be that guy that Jesus wouldn’t look at. I want to be sincere, through and through. I want to truly repent. I want to love with compassion, not sacrifice. (Matt 9:13)

I would rather learn now to create healthy boundaries to be more responsible for what God has called me to, than continue down this path I have been on, especially when it comes to conflict.

Will you pray for me, friends? If you also find yourself struggling with having either inappropriate boundaries (too many, not enough) or not honoring someone else’s, would you go to the Lord about it all? If you even question whether or not you are doing things for others out of sacrifice or pure love, out of fear of a bad result, worry about withholding of love or acceptance, or fear of anger and retaliation, will you turn it over to God? If you find that instead of loving others by helping them carry their true burdens, you are too busy carrying the loads that don’t belong to you in the first place, will you consider asking Jesus to help you have clarity and power to change?

So often, we Christians only cling to the verses in the Bible that sound good – we take them and distort them without looking at the context in which they are written or without applying all of the other principles Christ has put forth for us in the rest of the Bible!

  • We can’t REALLY “do unto others as we would have others do unto us” if we don’t have good boundaries.
  • We can’t  REALLY “bear one another’s burdens” if we are carrying everyone else’s loads or asking them to carry all of our own.

But if we surrender this twisted stuff over to the Lord, He will empower us. He will enable us to learn more about how to walk in the freedom He has given us and love with freedom and from a pure place.

A God place.

This is part of what it means to walk the hard and narrow road as a Christian. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it”. Matthew 7:13

But I know, that I know, that I KNOW – He will be there with us every step of the way!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18

 

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Out of the Brown Box

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Sometimes ( a lot) the enemy attacks me inside for being completely honest with you, dear readers. I have things run through my head that I know are from the ugly enemy all the time – things like “no one wants to hear that stuff, you need to talk about the more beautiful things of life and help uplift others, Annie. You’re doing it wrong.”

And I know what that is: It’s the master of deceit’s attempt to get me to think of this little blog as something I do only for others and that I should tailor it to the things people might want to hear. The enemy tries to whisper that I should write only about that which makes me come across as strong and together and that I got it all going on just perfectly because I got Jesus. He says that something like this should not be something I do to bring about my own personal growth (spiritually) as I work through things with God – because that is….Just.So.Selfish.

The enemy tries to tell lots of pretty little lies, friends.

But I do write in order to work things out with the Lord, friends. I do, because He is the ONE and ONLY who can make us whole through the messy stuff in life. Writing this stuff out actually makes it more real and takes away the foothold the enemy likes to take advantage of when we keep it all inside. But he just keeps on whispering – that ugly minion. The enemy whispers that I should portray things as only being all glittery and shiny – like a beautiful treasure chest full of jewels – you can’t wait to open it to see what you will be rewarded with next.

But in so doing, I know that I would create a false prison of sorts. I know that I would be lying. The fact is that the Christian life is messy and ugly and beautiful and intentional all at the same time. So I write the way that I write for that reason. I share the way that I share for that reason. I share it ALL because it’s the TRUTH.

This blog was started as a form of worship of the Lord. Some people worship through music, or art. Some do it by serving in person at the church and expressing their love for Jesus in that way. I write. I write out my feelings and struggles and joy and everything I go through as a Christian far better than I speak it. I am a pretty sensitive person when it comes to things like the body language of others, tone of voice, etc. And I screw up all the time when it comes to my own peripheral forms of communication, so I know that by writing things out, the LORD knows my heart and He reveals things to me in that process. I know that by writing things out that He is working on within me, it takes power away from the enemy and enables me to have more clarity to see things that I need to turn over to the One who holds me tightly, in His mighty hands.

Not everyone who may read it does understand where I’m coming from. And that’s okay. Because another reason I share this stuff out here in cyber space is because I know that there are others who feel alone in their messy stuff right now. There are others who DO feel sort of the same way at times, and need to know they have company. There are many of you, dear friends who read this stuff from time to time who are isolated, and the only form of “fellowship” you may be able to have with other believers is through things like this.

So, I don’t have to share only the happy and shiny stuff here, friends. Because I truly believe that if the Lord would have something I write about help another person, He is God, and He will convey to that person what they might need from it. He will make it work together for our good. He will make it beautiful, in the midst of the messy. If He wants to use anything that I write in someone else’s life, then so be it. Whether it be to encourage, uplift, or just shine light on the fact that sometimes our less than pretty junk is part of the Christian life.

We are NOT perfect. Far from it.  But HE is.

So….I will continue to write the way that He has led me to. As mucky and weird as it may seem at times, I will continue. And it can be unpleasant stuff sometimes, I know.

I write a lot about angst – I write a lot about struggle – the struggles that come from sin, iniquities, and walking as imperfect beings who may have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, yet still sin. I am tempted at times not to write about such things. Yes, I am tempted beyond belief.

I am tempted at times to share only the joy-filled, awesome and feel-good stuff that convinces others that I am filled with the joy of Jesus Christ. There is always that pull, no matter who we are or where we are at in life as a Christian, to pretend that everything’s okay. There’s something in there that the enemy has lodged quite deeply – waaaay deep down – that whispers…

“but you must be a good example of how GREAT it is to be a Christian, you little complainer! You are leading people astray by sharing all this hard stuff. You are coming across as a martyr or something. You are __________, __________, and _____.”

But I know. I know what led me to start this blog and I know that Jesus only gave me the ability to express the things He is doing inside of my own heart and mind as a form of worship, and a way of speaking His truth AND love.

Love doesn’t always look pretty. Neither does truth. But the result of Jesus’ love and truth is always B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

So I hold firm to the promise I made to the Lord – I will not cover up (as I write and I share) the ugly stuff.  We are still  imperfect humans –  And we still struggle – sometimes even more than we did before we were true followers of Christ. But HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I write about such things because they are the reality that most of us (we Christians) truly do grapple with, but are afraid to admit at times, for whatever reason. I write about such things because I feel the Lord calls me to do so – He calls me and it is loud and clear.

Share it, Annie. Share it. Share the stuff that everyone thinks or goes through but maybe feel they can’t say. Share the stuff that is ugly and twisted and messed up, so others may see that they are not the only Christian out there still struggling. Share the stuff Annie, so that through it all, others will be comforted and know that I, Your Mighty King, have the power to help you all overcome these struggles.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Yet He also whispers that I am to share the good stuff too. He tells me through my prayer and devotion time that what He really wants is to have others see that truly, beyond truly, He works all things together for our good.

  • He brings correction when there has been disobedience.
  • He brings restoration when everything seems to have been shattered.
  • He gives us peace during the most angst-riddled of circumstances or situation.
  • He grows our love when we feel like we’ve lost every last ounce of that loving feeling.

So as contradictory as it may seem, these things of beauty do come out of the ugly if we allow Christ to work in us. He is the Creator, the Great Physician, The Almighty and All-Powerful Lord and King. He can and does do it all.

So I shall also write about peace – peace that comes only from Jesus in the midst of these struggles, trials and temptations we face sometimes. And I shall write of love. The love of Jesus that is always there for us, trying to dominate our own hearts and spill forth in spite of the ugly stuff that tries to infiltrate. Most of all, I will share how God works through my own personal struggles and the lack of such things as joy, love and peace in my own little heart to draw me closer to Him and help me be more and more like Jesus through it all.

So often, the reason I can even see the need for greater love in my heart – the reason I see the need for more patience to be developed in my character- the reason I see the need to allow Him to correct me and grow me and help me change direction and take my hands BACK OFF THE WHEEL, is due to the absence of them. He shows me through writing things down that my heart and at times, my mind still need much work. He shows me how very much I struggle putting into practice what I know to be true under duress. He shows me that I am His child and that He loves me too much to leave me the way that I am.

He shows me my need for Him. More of Him.

He must become greater; I must become less.” 1 John 3:18

I hate how much of ME there still is. I want to be nailed to the cross once and for all, like Jesus was. But I struggle with signing up for stuff that’s painful. I don’t have the same kind of love that Jesus does, friends. I care about my own comfort too much. And that pains me in its own way….because I know this so well about myself. And it is hard not to walk in condemnation in the face of that.

That mirror is one I want to shatter sometimes.

But there’s good news in the face of all of that! It’s wonderful how the Lord knows each one of His children so well. He’s aware of every little nuance and quirk about me as a person. He knows what works with me and what doesn’t. He knows just how to get through to me.

He tailors His approach to me in a way that will work to pierce my ungrateful little heart. But He never changes His truth in order to do so.

He never stops loving me while administering the exact and perfect dose of truth that I need in order to stop being sick and return to good health.

One of the ways that He does this with me, in particular, is He has made me very aware when there is some form of toxic darkness in my own heart. I may hold on to it for a while, or I may try to trick myself into thinking it’s not there or denying its existence, and sometimes I have to regroup for a while to discern where it’s coming from, but after sitting still for a time, if I search after Him to reveal it to me, He does.

Every. Single. Time.

This is never a fun process, and I wonder ~ does the Lord ever get sick and tired of  having to discipline me for the same repeat offenses? Does He ever wonder, “will she ever learn?”

But He is my Father, and He knows this is how I operate. He knows that I try to continue moving forward in spite of the weed that is starting to grow in the garden of my heart. I get tired of pulling weeds, so sometimes I just pretend they aren’t there. Or I try to pull them, but if it proves too difficult for me, I just get exasperated and give up after a while.

I do this because I hate conflict that can’t seem to be resolved within reason. I do this because when things seem unreasonable or insurmountable, sometimes I want to flee. I do this because I still put how I think hard stuff should be handled in a little box of my own making.

And Jesus wants to blow out the box. Time for an explosion. The solace and protection we find under the Mighty wing of Jesus is far greater than a fake brown box of our own making. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We like the cocoon-like feeling of our own boxes and like our security blankets of our own choosing. But God knows.

So at the same time that I hate that I finally go and try to hide from the thorns in life, or can’t tell the difference between surrender and resignation, the Lord uses that escape artist tendency for good. He uses that time that I retreat from the ugly to shine a light on the part of the ugly that is in my own heart. He helps me to purge that crud right out of there. But oh, is it a process.

And here it comes – the need for yet another fruit of the spirit to grow stronger in my life….

Patience.

I struggle with patience, but the lack of it manifests itself inside of me in such deceptive ways. I believe there are times we must walk away and regroup with the Lord, but at the same time, I want the work He does during those times to move at MY PACE.

I realize now how very much I do the either/or thing in my own life. This holds true especially in regard to conflict. I get so worked up emotionally in the face of conflict that stretches out over a period of time, that I lose all clarity – to the point that I have to retreat completely and let God bring about some sense to it all.

Do you do any of this, friends? Let me give you a short list of examples of what I am talking about here.

  • Suck it up and let it go. You just have to worry about your own actions here. (this breeds bitterness over time).
  • Attack the ugly stuff with kindness in spite of the fact that you know there is still a big thorn growing larger all the time that you have to pluck out. Just ignore it since all of your attempts in the past to eradicate it failed. (not gonna work – it’s still growing)
  • Work on yourself and ignore the stuff that is wrong with others involved. You’re only responsible for you. (not loving – real love confronts)
  • Give up – you have been defeated. There’s nothing more that you can do. Build a wall. Build a TALL wall! (still giving the power away to the enemy – still a fake brown box)

For now, I am in a place of being still, even though it may have come about because of my “flee and withdraw” tendency. And God is using it for His glory.

I  have confidence that He will show me what He needs for me to see, and shatter the box. He is already doing it and it has only been a short while now.

I am struggling in these days of remaining still and allowing myself to face the reality (look in the ugly mirror) of what He wants to have me discard out of my heart and mind. I am going through turmoil as to what is to be surrendered, and what is to be held on to tightly.

But our God reveals.

Our God refines.

Our God restores.

And I trust in Him.

If you are struggling today because you are in a place in which you know God is working to help you tear down a wall or shatter a cocoon you have created for peace and comfort, will you let Him bring about the heart work and move you closer toward Him? If, on the other hand, God has asked you to surrender something and retreat for a while to spend time with Him alone, will you obey and let things move in His timing? If you realize you are inside of one, will you allow the Lord to help you venture out of the brown box when He says it is time and move underneath His protective wing instead? If you are having a hard time stepping, ask Him to carry you for a while, because He will. You may even be called to quite a treacherous journey, similar to the walk Christ made to calvary….bloody, even. But He will be with you every step of the way.

He is a loving parent, and our mighty protector. He will help us to walk in what seems like exposed vulnerability, with His protective hand around us the whole time. He knows you, His child. He knows how to make us better. 

We have only to open our mouths and allow the medicine to do its work. We have only to turn the burden over to Him. And we must listen when He tells us to pick up the cross. He will give us the ability and the power to carry it.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

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