Safe Harbor

The words “safe harbor” keep coming to mind, that Christ is our safe harbor during all the storms of life. Sometimes the water is smooth, and we sail through easily with the praise of God on our lips. Sometimes the water is choppy, and we can manage okay if we send out a few prayer requests and dig a little deeper into the Word. Sometimes the seas are downright rough, but still we manage with the help of our prayer warriors and seeking godly counsel.

Then sometimes we are completely cast overboard.  So we look for someone to throw us a life preserver, something we can hold onto and stay afloat, and sometimes someone does.  We can climb back in the boat, praise God for our narrow escape, and go back to living life as usual.  But sometimes there is no life preserver.  You thrash around in the water as best you can, but panic seizes you. You realize that there is nothing or no one that can put you back in the boat. This is how I felt when my former husband died very suddenly.

Just as you are flailing around in the darkness in the water, you look up, and across the waves, you can see a dancing sliver of light. You frantically dog-paddle toward the light, and it becomes a teeny little brighter.  You think, “This is too hard.  I’m not that good of a swimmer.  I thought I was, but I don’t have the strength.”  But the light is beckoning.  And each time you bravely take a lunge toward that light, a wind seems to come up and push you a little closer.

“I am the light of the world.”  The words come from someplace deep inside of you. “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”  “I have come so that they might have life and have it to the full.”  “For I know the plans I have for you….to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.”  The words keep coming…“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Spirit continues to bring the Word from your inner being and gives you the courage to keep slowly moving forward as the light gets brighter and shows you the way. You know those words and you know who the Word is. “Where can I go from your spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  You stop struggling and let the wind of the Spirit carry you home.

As a light from a lighthouse, He beckons us on until we make it safely back to harbor, safely in His arms. He will never leave us or forsake us. But sometimes he doesn’t allow us to get back into the boat because the boat is not what we need.  He lets us feel the panic or the ache or the longing so that we will struggle our way to Him and know that He is enough. No matter how many times we are cast into stormy seas, He will always show us the way to safety because He is the light.  Just like Peter in his fear of sinking while walking on the water, we will find that we were never in danger. We were right where we were supposed to be, with Jesus at arm’s reach all along. And though we may lose our way for a time, in Christ we are never lost.

This post was written as an entry in my journal during my season of singleness after the death of my former husband in 2007.  Then, seven years later, Mark and I moved to Texas and away from family following the direction of the Lord.  It felt at times as though I had again been cast overboard as homesickness overtook me. Reading this post that I wrote so many years ago comforted me at that time because it reminded me He was with us and had a good plan for us.  Now, in 2020, we’ve been back in Arkansas with family for almost two years. Still, with all that is going on in the world and the angst that I feel, Jesus continues to be my safe place, the one who holds my heart.  He is your safe place too.  No matter what you are going through, look for Him.  Run to Him.  He is faithful.  He will carry you through.  And if you will say yes to His will, it will be an amazing ride.

God’s Original Design

(This was my original post in May of 2013 and is first in a series of three in which I process my mother’s death and its impact on my identity.)

Back in my early days of court reporting, some 25 years ago, there were no laser printers. The paper I printed on had two carbon copies attached. After the job was printed, I had to tear the pages apart and separate the copies. The original copy was crisp and legible, the next copy was fair, but the last copy would always be a little faint. I had to be careful not to smudge the copies with ink from the carbon paper as I separated the sheets.

God doesn’t make copies; he only makes originals. But I have tried and tried and prayed and prayed for God to make me into someone that I think I should be, someone that is acceptable to him, to my husband, to my family, and others. It has taken a lot of effort, and it hasn’t worked. I am tired, so tired.

One week ago, my mother passed away. Losing your mother is a profound experience, a life passage. It doesn’t matter that she had late-stage Alzheimer’s and was 82 years old. When I am still and quiet, I still see her taking her last breath. I’m afraid one day I will forget that, and I don’t ever want to forget it. It’s as though I will lose part of her if I lose that memory. It was a holy moment, a very humbling moment–holy because I know she was passing into the arms of Jesus; humbling because it was a reminder that I will be there too one day. Life on this earth really does come to an end.

So now I am evaluating my life. What do I really want? I know I want to be me, the one God thought up before the creation of the world, the one he knit together in my mother’s womb, the one he knows so intimately. I’m afraid life will take over too soon, and I’ll forget what this feels like, to have a choice. I do have a choice. I don’t want to be a smudged or faint copy of someone else or someone that I think I need to be. I want to be God’s original, and I know there is only one way to find out who the real “me” is.

Father, you say in your Word that we love because you first loved us (I John 4:19). Help me to receive your love and to love you with all that I am. I want to sit at your feet and listen. It is only then that I can know who I am, for you are the only one who can tell me.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

A Lesson from Baby Birds

There are baby birds on the feeder outside my window, the momma right below on the ground.  Yesterday I saw a momma robin hopping along with a worm in her mouth.  I’m seeing a picture, a metaphor.  When the baby birds are still helpless in the nest, momma bird brings them food and drops it into their gaping mouths.  Then when they are able, they venture out to find food on their own.  Two things stand out—when they are in the nest, they must have their mouths wide open in order to receive the nourishment that they need to grow.  And when they are strong enough, they must venture out to seek their own food or they will die. 

The Word tells us to seek God, that we will find him when we seek him with all of our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13).  Before we receive Christ, we are also in a helpless state.  Once we have found him and receive him into our hearts, we have to continue seeking him if we want to grow.  Jesus speaks in the parables of searching for him as treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44).  In every situation of life that I find myself in, I should ask, “Where can I find you in this moment, Lord, and how can I connect with you here?”  

In these uneasy days when we’re experiencing a global pandemic and racial unrest across the country because of the horror of a white police officer restraining a black man until he died, all caught on video for the world to see, it’s hard to know how to respond, to know what to do.  But it all begins with our intimacy with the Lord, for even Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).  We can talk about it and fret about it and even join protests, but without God, nothing will truly change.

I’m asking the question now, “Where are you in this and how do I align with you, Lord?”  What does “Christ in me” look like here?  Maybe the world is changed one life at a time.  “Change me, Lord, in how I think about this.  What do I need to know about myself in this situation in order to receive what I need from you?”  And ultimately, “What does love look like here?”

The Word says, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  It all starts with God.  Just like the baby bird will never be able to fly on its own unless it receives what it needs from its momma, we won’t be the light of the world unless we’re willing to humble ourselves and receive from the Lord.  Jesus is our model.  After he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on the cross, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:8-9).  First comes humility, then comes power. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that will change us.

Jesus, rescue me from my frenetic thoughts and my anxiety and help me to breathe.  I want to be changed.  I want to connect with you intimately in the sanctuary of your Holy Spirit, where you dwell, “Christ in me.”  Teach me your ways.  Help me to love as you love.  Amen.