Lord, Weep With Me

Hello there again, grief. A foe that seems to be never too far away. So much loss. Where is He in the midst of it? I mean, we know where He is supposed to be. Yet, why does it feel He is simply not there.

For me, that familiar ache has returned. The ache that takes your breath away giving you only moments of reprieve. I knew this day would come. Saying goodbye to my grandma isn’t just saying goodbye to a beautiful woman who impacted my life. It is another piece of my heritage, of who I am and where I come from, being pulled away. This is a gentle pull, much different then snatching that occurred with my parents. Yanking and tearing away the foundation of family in my world. It’s like saying goodbye to them all over again. Nonetheless, it hurts. And I’m sad.

I am more than aware that these family ties are not necessary to an abundant life. And, yet, they are important and so when it is not there it feels a little more empty. I can feel the gaps and the missing pieces deep in my soul. Every single day. Not just in the moments when I’m thinking of them all and missing their smiles, voices and hugs. Every day the missing pieces affect my world, my heart, and my relationships. It’s inevitable and it is necessary that I am aware of that.

We all have missing pieces. Like me, you know pain and loss. Those people who are supposed to be there and are simply not. The relationships forever severed for one reason or another. The brokenness of this world interrupting our world in the most despairingly unwelcome way.

When we act as though it’s inconsequential or just a part of life - we are deceiving ourselves - most often to avoid the pain of calling out lack in our lives.

We do not like the lack. It causes pain, confusion, uncertainty even. Navigating the world and our hearts with these missing pieces - it hurts but it is necessary.

We cannot avoid the losses that occur, the pain that takes our breath away. In this moment, I’m staring it in the face and I’m overwhelmed by all of the thoughts and feelings I have. I can shut it off and distract myself with well meaning things like my children, activities, work, and such. I could do that. Oh boy, I really know how to do that. I have learned if I do, the pain will remain hidden - disguise itself - and will wreak havoc on my soul, Spirit, and body.

I can say nice words and cliche statements that will help me or you feel better in a moment. And, yet, how will that change us and draw us into a deeper place of dependence on Jesus?

I can give whatever words to my avoidance, but it doesn’t change that it is just that - avoidance. Pain is a part of this broken world as is loss. Pain and loss avoided, though, will produce a deeply broken soul and spirit. So, call out the loss - name the pain. Sit in it for a bit. Recognize the depths of its complexity and harm. And, wait. As Jesus gently comes in, His light will pierce through the darkness and there will be relief.

Yes, there is purpose to deeply experiencing the pain. Despite our desire to hide, avoid, run - there is freedom in just wrestling with the pain. Lament. Cry out and grieve. Why? Because He weeps with us. In our belief, in our unbelief - in our pain - He weeps alongside.

When I fight and push against Him, He never lets go. I can kick and wrestle with His purposes, but the compassion of His character holds me steadfast. I rage against the unfairness of the world, of sadness that fills every crevice, but in the quiet of the night - I collapse into His tenderness and care.

Even in the darkness, His goodness still exists. It exists as He gathers us in His arms and He simply sits with us in our pain. He won’t push and pull and insist. He will gently and tenderly be present. A day will dawn in the distant or not so distant future when the sun shines again and our hearts don’t feel so weary. He will pick us up as we move on. But in the meantime, go ahead with the Savior’s hand in yours - weep.

 

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.”

—Isaiah 42:3

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

—Isaiah 54:10

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

—Romans 8:26

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Forever in my heart, grandma. 

Justice Calls

When we first started the church planting journey about two years ago, I learned a hard important truth.

It was very simple and incredibly painful to find surrender in it.

Surrender, obey, release the outcome. We hear and sense God leading us - we obey - and almost immediately we start determining or controlling the outcome of that obedience.

So, God, if I do this or that - then this or that will happen. And once that happens, I will do this. And once I do this, I will see these results. And when I see these results, I will know...

I think you get the point.

We see it in the scriptures, it hits painfully against us. We do NOT control the outcome of our obedience. The results are in His sovereign hands. Ours is a process oriented faith. It has to be. Full surrender requires it. Otherwise, we are disappointed because what WE wanted doesn’t pan out. Then we blame God, frustrated. Thinking we made a wrong decision or that He isn’t trustworthy.

Trust me, I am quite friendly with this whole thing.

For example, we say yes to church planting. Okay, let’s do this. And within a few months, we have an entire plan and strategy built to perfection. Except it didn’t go that way, and we had to slam on the brakes fast. We learned we take one step, and WAIT. Then He leads us to another.

Of course, plans, systems, strategies are important. And, yet, we must walk them sensitively - treading carefully between our expectations and His purposes. Regular surrender, daily obedience.

God is starting to show me - it’s in EVERY part of following Him. Our entire faith encompasses this truth of releasing the outcome, that its process oriented, that we have no control over the results, and that we are only responsible for our faithfulness and choices in the process.

In one way, it’s incredibly freeing. In another, it makes it painful. Especially when it is related to our “enemies” or related to the brokenness of this world.

There have been some things over the last several years that have happened to me, happened to friends and family that have broken my heart and crushed my spirit. They are all unrelated and yet, horribly related. Different offenses and disappointments, but related because they occur not just in the world but

in the Christian community.

Forgiveness has become an issue - and I have desperately wanted justice. I. Want. Justice. I feel the pain of my own offense. I walk with friends and family in the pain of their offenses. And I want justice.

Related, but unrelated - the stories of bias, abuse, prejudice, and more - it’s not some distant news story where you shake your head and say a prayer and move on. We can shut off the news, turn our heads, and try to pretend it doesn’t happen. We can give excuses, make up the reasons why to help ourselves not feel the pain of a broken world and sometimes Christian culture that looks nothing like Jesus. But it’s real, and it’s happening every day. I have encountered it on personal level, with friends, and have counseled fellow Christ followers through it.

God has called me to the most painful of positions. Really, he calls us all to this place of balance. Positioning of experience, positioning of opening my eyes to it-insisting that I don’t ignore it, calling me to speak to it, and finally, THE MOST DIFFICULT, to do all of this with the surrender of justice and healing to Him.

It IS possible for me to do all of the things I listed above while releasing the outcomes to Him. I know it is. Man, I have fought it though. I resent it. It makes me angry. I openly confess I have been so angry. Moments of hatred have filled my heart towards some of the offenses and the people or systems responsible.

And God has been so good and kind to let me work through this. My anger from offense has turned to anger towards Him. The ONE who can take care of all of it. And, yet, His mercy and compassion has been mine as He has graciously with the utmost patience awaited my surrender. Surrender to His sovereign purposes, surrender to His ways of justice - even when I don’t like it or understand it. 

And, He is entrusting me with something so sacred as He has tenderly placed the burden of this world’s brokenness on my shoulders. He has asked me to be a part of His process of loving humbly, walking justly, and showing mercy. He has called me to be a voice in the wilderness saying, this needs to stop.

But to walk this out in true grace and love, I have to surrender the need for justice. It has to be placed in His safe hands.

Since I was small, I wanted to change the world. I would see injustice, problems with systems, and more. I wanted to change it all, make a difference. There are two parts. One is mine and the other is His. And when I start trying to take over His, it gets messy. I’m realizing that when I can release the outcomes, justice and mercy, change of systems and people to Him, the anger settles in its rightful place of healthy anger. In my anger, I don’t sin because I’m trusting Jesus to deal with His part. I find I can speak to things when He requires it, and then I can release any result because my only responsibility was that - to speak.

I can see things and be called to simply watch and pray and not get in the middle of it, because for that particular minute I was called to do just that - watch and pray.

He didn’t call me to right all of the wrongs, but He did call me to build a bridge to Him. That means I have to get dirty and build. I have to sweat and experience the pain of hard, slow work. BUT, I can trust the finished product to Him. He has His part, and I have mine.

When I’m hurt or offended either by personal experience or by what I see and hear in this world - I CAN trust Him for justice. He makes all things new including the heart of the broken. He will pick up every broken piece. He will defend the crushed in Spirit. And one day, all will be made right. Until then, I will unapologetically do my part. That means I will insist on feeling the pain of injustice in this world (either my own or others), I will not ignore and I will say and do the hard things as He leads me.

He IS trustworthy and good and capable to hold the whole world in His hands. 

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The War of Obedience

 

I am sitting in New Hampshire about to speak at 1 of 5 women's conferences over the next 6-7 weeks. And, Sunday, we launch Essence Place. Pray for me. I am crazy. Others probably think I am crazy. But, God. Because I am deeply confident that this is where He has me even if it has thrown me worlds away from my little box of comfort. Even if I don't have a lot of confidence in myself to keep up - I have confidence in Him. I have learned to not put God in a box.

I keep having these moments where my breath catches, I close my eyes - giving a slight shake of my head, I realize the graciousness of God. 

My salvation has been worked out in new and hard ways this last year or so. 

Is it worth it? I have asked this question over and over again. 

When my parents died many years ago, I went through something similar. The heartbreaking question of - is this for real? This faith, this belief of mine. And if it is, is it worth the yes that I keep saying over and over. At that time, God came in like the most gentle and tender surgeon. Removing and cutting away these parts inside that contributed to a lack of overall spiritual health. I was forced into a storm of loss that proved to be the redemption of my soul. 

It changed me forever, those years of sorrow. The old cliche - what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger rang true as I said yes to God, and no to giving up. Here I am some years later, and the yes that He is asking for is not faith and trust in the midst of unexpected loss and tragedy. I was not forced into this season of yes.

I chose this. On my own accord, on my volition. He asked and I said yes. As much as I want to blame someone - my husband (no offense, Brad), friends, mentors, my faith...in reality I blame God and I blame myself. But I blamed God more.

You asked, and you knew my level of willingness to surrender. And you asked for the hard, the painful. You asked for the uncomfortable. You asked for sacrifice.

Yes, He did. And I said yes. 

My obedience in this season has not always been trusted or faith-filled obedience. There has been resentment. I have wrestled and fought - surrendering over and over as I question over and over. Is.it.worth.it?

The gentleness and tenderness of this surgeon has given way to a gracious precision that is targeting new places - places that need to desperately be cut away. And as much as I want to jump out and scream in distrust - sign myself out and run. His eyes still shine with the same tender love. A love of like a father. A father who deeply desires the best for His child. A father who desires that His child be filled with a greater capacity for love. A wider capacity for caring and serving others. 

In His love He disciplines. 

There are places inside of me that are so selfish. Places that wreak of my stubborn desires to have things my way. Unsurrendered parts of my soul that still are driven to perform - a drive to measure up and gain approval of not just the world around me-but gain the approval of my Father. Even though He insists grace and unmerited favor.

Obedience is so much more than a yes. And faith and trust is much more than “doing” the right thing. Our obedience and purpose lived out is most fruitful when it flows from a grace-filled willing heart. A willingness to lean into what God is doing through your life as His child, I believe, represents true obedience.

It’s all part of the journey, though. 2017 was a year of wrestling. Pushing, pulling, and finally settling. I had to. It was necessary for my journey. The pain, the wrestling, and even the anger are all parts of my story in this season that under the redemptive hand of my God are just beautiful. 

I am not ashamed. I don’t have regrets. Through all of the mess, through all of my frustrations, doubts, and questions - I am sitting a little closer to my Father. Confidence rises up within me as I experience for another time, His compassion and grace. His willingness to go with me to that broken place. 

I am walking out of that season of wrestling now, leaning into what God is doing. I am fully engaged in heart-willing obedience assured that He is with me. And I am reminded again - this why we allow ourselves to be vulnerable before God. This is why we open our heart to Him even when we might fear He will turn away. This is why reach into the pain, and we deal with it. Because waiting on the other side is redemption, and it’s another level of living and following wholehearted after my faithful God. 

Is it worth it? Yes. Emphatically yes.

Ps. Don't judge my mismatched socks.

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