We Are Okay

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There have been critics.  It’s a challenge for me to go on and write anyway.  I know I’m flawed, but Christ has declared me free.  I admire the female authors whose works I’ve been reading recently.  They are brutally honest and allow others to see their struggle, women who think outside the box but might not be accepted because they are too “out there.” Yet they are part of the body of Christ, and they reach people who would never be reached otherwise.  These women encourage me to continue asking questions, to search the heart of God and drink from His infinite well of truth, to think and to reason with the good mind God has given me.  So I pick myself up, dust myself off, and begin again.

When the Holy Spirit led me to write “Closing the Rule Book,” I immediately felt lighter, as if chains were broken off.  I felt free to become a lover of people and not their judge, according to the greatest commandments of loving the Lord and loving others as yourself.  Yet putting legs to it and walking it out—that’s the hard part.  I often joke with Mark as I’m waiting for him to make my latte each morning (yes, I’m spoiled!) that I’m going to my quiet time “to talk myself off the ledge.”  It’s wonderful having a husband who understands what that means!  The question that puts me on the ledge, though until now I didn’t have words for, is “How do I make myself acceptable today?”  

Here are some questions to ponder honestly—do we say what we are feeling, or do we say what we’re supposed to feel?  How much of our behavior is actually self-protection, but we’ve become so good at it that it seems normal to us?  Yet there is that undercurrent…a persistent though faint hum in the background that says “You are not okay.”  How do we make this interference in our thinking go away?  Only by the Holy Spirit and only by complete honesty with ourselves.  Do we have the courage to believe “I am okay just as I am?”  To believe “I don’t have to perform to be acceptable to God or people-please to be loved?”  The courage to take His nail-scarred hand and hold onto it for dear life, to believe He is always enough?  This is the first step—awareness.

You and I are acceptable just as we are.  Are there imperfections? Yes.  Are there areas that need growth?  Of course.  Mindsets that need to be changed?  Definitely.  Wounds that need to be healed?  Absolutely.  But is it in our power to “clean ourselves up”?  NO.  Coming to the realization and embracing the truth that we are loved just as we are frees us to hear His voice, to know Him, to walk with Him, the Righteous One.  And by the power of the Spirit working within us, we become a little bit more like Him day by day.  As long as we try to do it on our own, the more defeated we feel.

Religion said to me “You are not okay.”  Jesus said to me, “It is for freedom that I have come to set you free.”  Just for freedom’s sake—God gave us that.  If we had to clean ourselves up before we entered a church, the pews would be empty.  And if we had to clean ourselves up before we prayed and sought the presence of the Lord, we would never encounter Him.  How sad it must make God to see His Son hanging on that cross and then so many of His children walking away because they don’t feel worthy.  Once we embrace that He died for us because we are valuable to Him, we will see others as valuable too.  When that truth sinks into our hearts, we can “stay off the ledge,” whatever that looks like for you.  I’m leaving judging to the One who is perfectly just, merciful, and good.  And I’m asking Him again today, “Lord, help me love myself just as I am so I can love others the same way.” 

Color Wheel

My place at the table was reserved just for me.  The Lord knew exactly when I’d be ready to stop striving and come in and rest.  In my eyes I’m late, but in His eyes, I’m right on time.  Change isn’t automatic, even when you know you’ve been set free.  But the new wine is beginning to flow, a few drops at a time.  I feel a shift—more peace.  I don’t seem to be carrying around the I should list in my brain and am able to be present in the moment more often.  

As the homeschool volunteer art teacher for my daughter, I had my little grands—Emma, 7, Ethan, 5, and Myla Grace, almost 2, at my house for art and some play time.  We learned about the color wheel, painting the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow on paper plates.  I gave Myla Grace markers to use instead of paint, and of course, she colored on her paper plate…and the table…and her little belly.  Luckily, they were washable!

Next I let them mix the primary colors, and presto!  The secondary colors appeared—orange, purple, and green.  After teaching them about which colors are warm and which are cool, the lesson was over.  Then we had cookies and hot chocolate, half milk and half whipped cream, followed by play time in the toy room.  As they joyfully laughed and played, I was content just to sit on the floor with them and savor the moment, fully present.

I was thinking about those primary colors this morning, the three colors from which all other colors are created. And I wondered, since everything in creation reflects attributes of God, do the three primary colors represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  These three colors blend uniquely to produce an infinite number of reflections of their source, all containing nothing but pieces of the original colors. I thought of the imagery that Mark has written about, that we each uniquely reflect a piece of God’s heart.  And the color wheel with its infinite shades is another way of looking at how each of us express our Creator with our own special hue that was given to us when He designed us.

With the pressure building through this crazy and complicated year, I’m finding it’s a good time for me to go back to the basics, the simple truths that have always sustained me.  The Lord knows that for years I’ve chased simplicity only to find it elusive.  But with a new perspective from my view at the table, I see it’s not elusive.  Christ is offering it, arms wide open.  There is time for finding my truth and expressing it, my “color.”  But I know I will only find it when I am resting in Him.  

In “Late to the Table” I asked the question, Is it easier to follow rules than to walk in freedom? To be honest, I think we have to admit that in some ways, it is.  It’s often easier to do something than it is to be someone.  I believe that my true “color” has been hiding in plain sight all along.  I just haven’t been listening to the right Person.  Jesus is the only One who can tell us who we are and enable us to live our own truth. It’s time just to sit at God’s table and be with Him, the triune God, the Great I Am, to listen and to receive from the One who knows me best.

Late to the Table

The journey to full freedom can be gut-wrenchingly hard.  “Deconstruction” has been unsettling as I leave behind long-held mindsets of what is and isn’t acceptable.  What is happening is that everything that has “propped me up” no longer works.  Lord, you know I love you.  I just want to understand.  As painful as it is, going back to where I was before I started this process is unthinkable.  As I’m beginning to know and live my own truth, I’m happier in the midst of the confusion because this is real, and it is an answer to my prayer to love Him and know Him more intimately. 

Part of living my own truth is understanding that I’m an introvert and a highly sensitive person with a need for much solitude and peace, and along with that, greatly affected by overwhelm and overstimulation.  This is the way God designed me, and for most of my life, I haven’t respected it.  I’m looking at Romans 12:1-2 from The Passion Translation on my little chalkboard in my office, my Scripture for this year, and I see progress.  I have stopped imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around me, and I’m in process with the Spirit of a total reformation of how I think.  Finally, I’m beginning, a little at a time, to discern God’s will and live this beautiful life.

I know I’m not alone in the way I feel.  So many others have gone before me, but I am late to the table at age 65, late for my own feast.  Being “wired for compliance,” I didn’t ask many questions—well, some big ones I did.  Looking back, my questions were always about judgmentalism and “the rules,” my sense of justice kicking in.  But staying on board and drinking the Kool-Aid limited me.  Most importantly, it limited using my amazing mind to think and to reason, to come out of the box of false identityAs a result, I’ve been nibbling, scarfing down a bite or two or three at a time, but never feasting.

Why does religiosity (legalism) continue to rear its ugly head and stuff believers into old wineskins? This only divides the Church when Christ has called us to unity.  In Jesus’s own words, you cannot put new wine into old wineskins because the fermentation of the new wine will cause it to burst—it just doesn’t work anymore (Luke 5:36-38).  And look at verse 39: “And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”  Are we uncomfortable with freedom?  They say there is a high recidivism rate when an inmate is released from prison because he can’t acclimate to the world as a free person.  Is it possible that it’s easier for us obey the law than to step out into freedom?

There is nothing to fulfill when we come to Christ because He fulfilled the Law.  It really is that simple. The Lord has prepared a table for all of us in a spacious place.  I know He is calling me to come sit down with Him and taste and see that He is good, that He is for me, and that I am His beloved.  I never want to settle again for “the old is good enough,” because that leaves Christ out of the picture. He is always calling us up higher into His ways and His love.  It may have taken me a while to get to the table, but there is a seat open for me. There is one for you also. Let’s go and feast together!

Closing the Rule Book

Last week I wrote about being “wired for compliance” and the “deconstruction-reconstruction” process that I’m in.  I’ve been meditating on Mark’s words, “Previous roots of emotional security have to be torn down, deconstructed.  Only then can you reconstruct with your truth according to what God is showing you to be truly yours.”  I’m hopeful that uprooting the things that have given me false security and letting God replace them with my truth as He gives it to me means freedom at last!  

Sitting with the Lord and inquiring what this looks like for me, I heard the familiar passage from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” I know I’m God’s child, but I won’t resemble Him unless I love like He does.

Show me what my truth is, Lord.  How do I love a broken self and a broken world?  We all stand equal at the foot of the cross, all completely dependent on His sacrifice for us.  Equally guilty, equally loved At the cross there is only One elevated, He who hung on the tree. I began to draw a picture in my journal, a cross with a stick man on it and a row of stick men under it.  Of course, the man on the cross is Jesus.  But then, without aforethought, I began to label the row of stick men with names: different Christian denominations, Republicans, Democrats, people of all races, LBGTs, and individuals with personalities that are opposite of mine.  

The Scripture floated up from my inner being:  Little children, love one another as I have loved you.  And then I wrote, “When you look at your brother, see him as I see him, equally loved, equally deserving of grace.”  I, too, am standing at the foot of the cross.  But as I look at the sin of someone else, I need only look up at Jesus and know that He died for that sin….and that sin….and my sin.  He who knew no sin became sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  How can I judge my brother when He has taken that sin upon Himself?  He died for the broken, and He told us that the way to reach them is by love.

So often men want to take the Bible and break it down into a “rule book” by which they can have some system of control, telling us who is one of us and who isn’t, who is right and who is wrong, and who fits the profile of a Christian according to their rules. Freedom means the ability to see God and encounter Him without human constraint. He is infinite and cannot be contained in the boxes that man has tried to put Him in. God’s Word is the story of a Father who loved His children so much that He sent Jesus to die for us all.  He died because we are valuable, not to make us valuable. That’s how He sees us and how He wants us to see each other. 

God gave us the gift of free will, and what a gift!  The gift to change our minds.  The gift to close up our rule books and find the way of love that Jesus deems as most important.  I’m feeling a huge burden lifted.  I’m no longer “playing by the rules” that constrain how I see myself and others.  And I’m falling in love with Jesus all over again.  I don’t know if this is the first step in my “reconstruction,” but I believe it’s the foundation for which all else with follow.

Wired for Compliance

Is it okay to question the things you have been taught your entire life?  The things you have accepted about yourself and the way you have structured your life around that perception?  I heard from the Lord last fall that 2020 was to be a sabbatical year for me.  I had no way of knowing that we would be in a pandemic and socially isolated, but that has made it easier to dig into this process, to read, to study, to just sit and listen for anything the Holy Spirit might want to say.  

My journey began before this year, my search for who God made me to be, the focus of my blog.  But this year, I have entered into a Spirit-led process of “deconstruction.”  I didn’t have a name for it at the time, but this is from a model often used in business called construction-deconstruction-reconstruction that can be applied to many phases of life.  I didn’t realize the deep issues of my heart that I would wrestle with as I started down this path.

I learned about spiritual seasons from a wonderful book by Alice Smith, Spiritual Intimacy with God.  In the springtime, you are hearing from God and coming to life in new ways.  In summer, you are grounded in these new revelations, and you are passionate and effective in living it out.  But then fall arrives, and you are confused that things aren’t working as well.  God is pruning so that you will bear greater fruit.  Next comes winter, and that’s when real discouragement sets in.  God is working in you at the root level, even though you may not be aware of it.  And when that work is accomplished, spring will come again.

Deconstruction is like the fall and winter seasons on steroids. I have been questioning, searching, trying to make sense of how I have responded to my world over my entire life.  And at my age, that’s a lot of years to process!  In a conversation recently, Mark pointed out to me that I was “wired for compliance.”  Being a peaceful phlegmatic personality type, that is true.  I’m wired to want peace and avoid confrontation.  

I was raised in a very strict home where I tiptoed on eggshells around my stepfather, trying to be very good so that attention was never drawn to me.  I was in a long marriage where I was often in the same mode of walking on eggshells, wanting peace at all costs.  I worked for 25 years in a career that was chosen for me.  And in every church where I have been a member, I truly tried to adhere to their doctrine, no questions asked, and felt guilty when I couldn’t.

Mark’s words “wired for compliance” shed more light on this journey to find out who I am.  I began to ask the questions, what does my heart really want?  What do I really love?  What do I really think?  And most of all, do I know the sound of my own voice?  I’m convinced that this deconstruction process I’m in is what the Lord meant when he gave me the vision that I wrote about in my post Merry-Go-Round, where the stones are removed so the vineyard can be planted. 

This is a painful process for my personality type.  Certainly, there are times and situations where complying is exactly the right thing to do.  But sometimes compliance is nothing but a form of self-protection.  It may be easier to forget myself rather than to be who I am, assuming I know who I am. I have included Mark’s words in the following paragraph because he described so well this deconstruction process.

“Being wired for compliance means that the things which you have agreed with are deeply rooted within you. Finding peace with your world through compliance creates at best a false sense of security, and at worst, a false identity. Uprooting those beliefs means a painful and sometimes confusing process of searching for a more honest sense of self. New growth can come only after previous roots of emotional security are torn down, deconstructed. Only then can you reconstruct with your truth according to what God is showing you to be truly yours.”

Yes, I am all in.  If you are at this place also, take heart!  Give yourself permission to journey through the “unknown.”  Jesus wants us to see ourselves as He sees us, the much-loved ones He created and uniquely designed.  Each person’s uniqueness is a part of His glory. He wants that to blossom, and for that to happen, we can’t define ourselves by compliance to others. It is always worth the struggle when Jesus is leading us to greater truth.

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice—
though the whole house began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug at your ankles, 
“Mend my life!” each voice cried.  But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do,
determined to save the only life that you could save.

The Journey, Mary Oliver

The Spacious Place

It takes faith to enjoy your life wholeheartedly.  I recently read those words in one of my devotional books.  Wow.  It’s true.  I had never thought of that.  We know the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  And one of the things he wants to steal is our happiness.  Often, even when things are going well, we’re waiting for “the other shoe to drop.”  We may be having a great day but still have a nagging thought in the back of our minds of “What if…” or “I should…”

This underlying angst can originate in childhood.  My stepfather drank for most of my growing-up years, and my mother as a codependent was controlling.  Fun was “meted out.”  If I was allowed to have a playdate with friends, I learned not to ask again for a certain period of time because I had had enough fun.  I received this message from early childhood until the wounded part in me that coped with this assumed the guilt.  In other words, I didn’t have to be made to feel guilty for having too much fun; the guilt came from within me.

This was reinforced in my first marriage.  My former husband was an alcoholic, and his moods varied greatly.  During the seasons of active drinking, I walked on eggshells to not set anything off when he was in one of his darker moods, just as I did in childhood with my stepfather.  I had learned to stay “hidden” and subdue my own desires and opinions about life so as not to upset the apple cart.  Although the Lord met me where I was and I continued to grow spiritually, I was not at the place where I could let my guard down and truly live freely.

I just celebrated ten years of marriage with Mark.  When I was widowed, I told the Lord if he had someone for me, that he would have to bring him to me.  I asked for someone that together we would be better for his kingdom than we could be apart.  And he answered me.  I have “become myself” in ways that I never dreamed were possible with this man who has made it safe for me and helped me with encouragement and unconditional love.  Those deep places of pain, the broken parts, are for the Lord alone to heal.  But I finally have had the safety for them to come forward, one by one, for healing.  

Psalm 18:19 says, He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  The Hebrew word for spacious is ravach, and it means to breathe freely, to be revived, refreshed.  This is the place where the Lord wants his children to live.  The Lord has since given me Galatians 5:1 for my life verse:  It is for freedom that I have come to set you free.  Stand firm, then, and don’t let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  The spacious place is freedom.  

I’m still in process.  Aren’t we all?  But I’m determined with God’s help to let go and trust him to wholeheartedly live my life.  We don’t have to keep carrying our baggage as if we have to pay to earn the right to be happy.  Jesus paid for that right.  All we have to do is receive his grace and be willing to let him heal the inner children in us who are still in pain.  

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10.

Learning to Love Myself, Even the Broken Parts

I have a big birthday coming up next month, and I’ve had a lot of angst anticipating this birthday.  I think what the Lord is showing me is that I have an unrealistic view of what “this age” looks like.  I’ve set up a standard that I should have it all together, my life figured out by now, and I’ve been panicking because I don’t.  The truth is that it’s never going to happen on this earth.  Perfection comes after this life, when I’m revealed in Christ to be fully myself, the one he created me to be.  That’s what sanctification is, and on this earth I’m still in process.

The last couple of days I was struggling to get out of a pit, lamenting the fact that here I was again.  In my time with the Lord, I sensed him tell me, “I love you whether you’re healed or not.”  I’m thinking if Jesus loves me just as I am, shouldn’t I love myself that way too?  If I place a higher standard on myself than the Lord does, is that not idolatry?  Because it’s saying, “I know better than you, God.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t desire to be healed and seek Christ for it.  The truth is that because of those wounded places in my heart, I’m driven to seek him more earnestly, and my intimacy with him grows.  Our broken places are where we often have the strongest encounters with the Lord.  And then out of those places where I’ve been broken and experienced healing, he can use me to be a vessel of compassion and understanding, offering hope to those with similar struggles.

So the challenge that I’m taking up and offering to you is to thank God for every struggle and see it as not just a place that needs to be “fixed,” but a place where we can encounter Jesus.  Sometimes it’s very hard to connect in those places because the pain is too great.  But we can whisper, “Jesus, come and get me.  Be with me here,” and he’s right there.  He always has been.  He was with us when we were first wounded in that place.  

Let’s recognize that there are little girls in us that have been broken, and when they are triggered, they hurt.  They cry.  They are “stuck” in the space and time where the original wounding took place.  We should ask Jesus to minister to them, yes, but we can also minister to them ourselves, from our core soul.  We do that by loving them and treating them as very valuable parts of ourselves because they are.  When we stop and recognize that the pain that put us in a pit is coming from a different part of ourselves, we are on the path to healing.

I’m now excited about my upcoming birthday and what God has in store for me in this new chapter.  And I am at peace knowing all I ever have to be is who he made me to be.  These are words from an old Amy Grant song that speaks to my heart, and I’ll leave them with you:

When the weight of all my dreams is resting heavy on my head 
And the thoughtful words of help and hope have all been nicely said
But I’m still hurting, wondering if I’ll ever be the one
I think I am…I think I am.  
Then you gently re-remind me that you made me from the first 
And the more I try to be the best, the more I get the worse.  
And I realize the good in me
Is only there because of who you are…who you are
And all I ever have to be is what you’ve made me 
Any more or less would be a step out of your plan  
As you daily recreate me, let me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find  
And all I ever have to be…all I have to be
All I ever have to be is what you’ve made me.  
(“All I Ever Have to Be,” Amy Grant)

Living Outside of the Box

The Box
I cannot find me.
And I don’t want to look inside the box anymore,
For I know now that I don’t belong there.
But I’ve tried so long to fit in it.
Sometimes stuffed in it.
Sometimes very small in it.
What if I walked away from it for good?

I’m thinking about how our miniature schnauzer Calvin steps out of his crate every morning so slowly, yawning, stretching his cramped hind legs that have been tucked under him all night. And I realize this is how I am coming out of the box. It’s like I’ve been asleep, on autopilot for a very long time. So when I come out, I have to stretch myself as I try something new, like saying no or responding differently or giving myself permission to do the things I really long to do—giving myself permission to be me, but not sure exactly how to go about it.

Calvin hesitates. Does he go to the door, ready to go outside and do his business, or does he jump on the chair and go back to sleep? On a rainy morning like today, the effort was too much, so he went back to sleep on the chair. That’s me. Many days the newness in living outside the box seems like too much, so I find a place mentally to curl up and numb out. But other times I rush out to meet the day, welcoming life and eager to discover more about who I am and what God has for me. I know this is a process. In getting off the merry-go-round, I’m doing a lot of floundering. But I know in time my weak legs will get stronger.

When I wrote the poem “The Box,” I didn’t have a label for it, but Mark clarified it for me. The box is false identity, not living as God created me to be, using the unique gifts he put in my hands to fulfill my purpose and bring his light to the world. Inside the box, I was governed by expectations others had put on me, or more often that I had put on myself—needing to please people in order to feel loved, self-protecting mindsets to avoid pain, believing lies about myself that are rooted in wounds. 

The enemy wants to keep us in a place of captivity, where we’re afraid to move from status quo. Life with the Lord is lived in a spacious place where we are free to breathe and move around, freedom to live as God designed us. Why has it taken me so long to get to this place, Lord? But God sanctifies time, and he is faithful. I’m making the choice to not look back and to stay out of the box. I know it’s okay if I stumble and fall and even occasionally go back to sleep. But by his grace, I will get back up! 

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
 Psalm 18:19.

Merry-Go-Round

I am seeing a merry-go-round as I pray. It starts slowly and then goes faster and faster. It reminds me of when I rode one recently with my three-year-old grandson, Benjamin. I had to hang on for dear life trying to keep myself balanced while holding his body weight as he was half off his horse, clinging to me. I have always been one to shun rides at the fair. Even as a teenager, I was terrified. I remember riding the Ferris wheel with two friends in high school. I sat in the middle in the fetal position while they were on each side of me whooping and hollering with glee. It doesn’t thrill me to feel out of control and at the mercy of who’s operating the machine. But yet I got on because it was expected of me…and so it goes in life.

Oh, I have been on many merry-go-rounds. One lasted 25 years, my career as a court reporter.  I was doing what was expected, taking on the persona of who I thought I should be, working and living on autopilot. Eventually, the plane crashed. I fell off the merry-go-round first through burnout, then work-related injuries, later through the death of my former husband, and more recently by fracturing my hip over a year ago. Those are times that the Lord gives us to stop and reflect and ask the hard questions—who am I anyway and why am I doing the things that I’m doing? There is a disorientation when life as we know it is altered. Mostly, as in my case, we work hard to try to get back to where we were without considering if that’s where we want to be, if that’s where God wants us to be.

The Lord has me in a process right now that has been painful. An uneasy angst has hovered over me for months, and I haven’t been able to pinpoint the source. As I pressed into prayer one morning, I heard such an odd verse, “There is a time to cast away stones and a time to gather them together,” Ecclesiastes 3:5. I knew there was no way I dreamed up that verse because I don’t even know what it means. I read a few different translations and a couple of commentaries and took a good guess at what the Lord was telling me. But it wasn’t until a few days ago that he clearly showed me from Isaiah 51 and 62: clear the field, remove the stones, so that he can plant the vineyard.  

The same morning that I received that word from the Lord, I was in worship at our church service, and I saw myself kneeling in an empty field with a fresh wind blowing over me. Then I saw the inside of my head filled with rows of stones that were being removed one by one. Next I saw a vine that began growing in my head, and it grew clear out of my head upwards toward heaven. The message was clear: remove the stones so the Lord can plant what he has for me for this season. The stones don’t represent necessarily bad things, just things like distractions, mindsets that don’t serve me well, some things that worked before but are no longer for this season, and some things that were never meant to be there.  

I have to trust God to show me first what is there and then what needs to go, stone by stone. Removing stones can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit, and it can’t be done without getting off the merry-go-round. When you first jump off, you feel disoriented, even uncomfortable that you’re not as busy. When the Lord clears a field, the new growth doesn’t spring up overnight.  It takes watering, lots of sunlight, and nurturing. It takes patience.  

My heart’s cry for years has been, “Don’t let me miss you, Lord.” But if I look at the world as my mirror and see myself through that lens, I’ll always be conforming to it, and I won’t be living in the beautiful design in which God has made me. So I’m taking the risk that I may not fit in and I may feel some loss, but I want that transformation. Lord, thank you for this process. Give me the courage and give me the grace to wait, to hear, to listen to you.  Oh, the sweet freedom that awaits!  

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.
Romans 12:2, The Passion Translation

Standing in the Temporary

(This post was written in 2017 when we lived in Waco, Texas.)

I see the crack in the wall of this 70-year-old house, and in my mind I can visualize the cracks on my face, the deepening crows’ feet around my eyes, and the wrinkles on my neck. And I think about the cracks in my soul, the parts of me that hold pain that had to break off so I could survive so long ago.

The pictures on the shelves of our grandchildren are dated soon after they are displayed. They grow so quickly. You think it will be a long time, the baby stages, but it’s temporary. Wasn’t it just yesterday that their parents were babies too?

The neighborhood where we live is old, with broken sidewalks and broken people, some of them living in rundown houses. They too are trying to survive. Once it was a great area, our subdivision, with remnants of its heyday still in place, but it too is temporary.

What if real life is standing in the broken places, the cracks, the temporary, instead of running to the new and shiny? Do we think if we run away from what is broken that we will somehow save ourselves? That if we ignore the pain that wells up in us and medicate it with the new and shiny, it will somehow go away? But to live in denial is to miss the beauty of living in what is real.

When I stand in my broken places, I can ask Jesus to come and stand with me. I can hear him speak life and truth and feel him suture up the wounds with his nail-scarred hands. I don’t have to search out the new and the shiny because his glory becomes my glory. Then it no longer hurts when that wound is touched because the scar tissue is pain-free and strong. My whole being gains strength because I’m not bleeding out of that place anymore. I can now actually love that part of me because Jesus filled it with his love.

I look again at the crack in the wall. “I won’t abandon you, old house. You are still good enough. You serve your purpose well.” I look at my aging face in the mirror and become soft.  “Thank you for serving me well. I love you just the way you are.”

All that has been is a part of who I am now, thousands of temporary moments that are stored in my being. They have been happy, joyous, sad, lonely, painful. Some have made me stronger.  All have ultimately led me closer to God. As I give him the broken parts that still feel pain and let him heal them one by one, they are reconciled back to the whole of me, and I can be fully present. Because they were meant to be temporary too.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18