The Spacious Place

Featured

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

Aside

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, cool 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 (see previous post), 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