When the Curtains are Drawn

I have gone silent for a bit. Literally and figuratively.

I have withdrawn and I have shut the door. I have closed the curtains, the blinds, and forced closed the windows. I have drawn in within myself, within my mind. My soul is torn and battered. Much like the season after losing my parents, depression has clawed its way through and now rests squarely on my shoulders.

Unlike that previous season, I am fully aware of what this is. Although I do not always fully understand it, I know the triggers. I know their names. The enemies that taunt my soul. I know them, and I hate them. And, yet, here I am with darkness as my companion.

God has not been absent. In fact, He has gently and compassionately been waiting. As I wrestle through what I now know and recognize as anger and resentment towards Him-He waits compassionately. I question a lot of things about God’s sovereignty and His purposes, but I don’t question His kindness and compassion especially in our sorrow, anger, and sin.

The thoughts and doubts I wrestle with would be considered foes of a righteous God, and yet I know that in the greatness of who He is - He simply waits and continues to draw me.

He is not scared or overwhelmed by my doubt. He doesn’t get insecure and He does not lack any confidence. He doesn’t have to compensate for any sort of insecurity or lack of confidence. He doesn’t need to rush me or push me - He simply fights for me and He waits.

Yes, I am angry and I am resentful. In my surrender to His purposes and in my yes, I have found myself overwhelmed with inadequacy. Never before have I been living and working so outside of ability, temperament, or experience. Never before have been stretched and pulled and yanked to move in a foreign world that I don’t seem to fit in. And, yet, I am so certain this is where God led me. It wasn’t a mistake on my part. It wasn’t a misunderstanding. He took me out of my well manicured garden and threw me into a field of wild flowers.

This phrase was spoken to me by someone who does not know me and is not really aware of what is fully happening in my life. Her words were, God wants to tell you. I have turned that phrase over and over in mind. In the moment, I knew exactly what she meant. And, yet, in my wounded soul - I said no. Even though I have always believed that God can speak through people this way - I said no. Simply because doubts are big. And because I just didn’t want to hear it.

Do not tell me that this is part of God’s great purpose. His sovereign plan for my life. The struggle is so powerful. And I am tired. He is asking for too much. He has always asked for more than I could give. He up’d the anti and He begin to ask for more and more.

I’m tired. So very tired. Everything in me wants to be like the prodigal son - leave everything - forge my own path.

And, yet, one thing stops me. For the longest time I believed it was because I like to play it safe, be the rule follower. I could never really leave my faith in God. I could never fully walk away.

And maybe that is a little part of it, but I’m beginning to realize the fullness of my hesitance.

It’s because of the characteristics of the God I have served my entire life. The one I have given everything for...I have seen Him and known Him.

And, although, sometimes I hate His purposes and His plans. His compassion, love, and kindness brings me to repentance and trust. It moves me to surrender every time. It moves me to comfort and solace. And when nothing can assuage the wounds in my soul - when no one understands or “gets me” - He has and He does.

I am so angry and I stubbornly refuse to let go of this anger. But I am fully aware that in my anger, He is patient. And He is fighting to break through, to tear down every lie, to kick down every wall - to storm through the anger and resentment to draw me back to Him.

This Pastor, this leader, this broken and normal person reminds you today that God is greater and can fully handle your mess, your sin, and your brokenness. I am reminding you He is slow to anger, rich in love, compassionate in all He does. He is fighting for you and with you. Don’t walk away, don’t run, and don’t give up. He will continue to as long as it takes for you to wrestle and fight through all of that mess and brokenness. He is and always will be fighting for you, and patiently waiting with open arms.

 

IMG_9184.JPG

A Broken Christmas

We have had this beautiful pre-lit tree for 8 years now, and the last two Christmas’ the lights have gone out. I keep working hard to keep it beautifully lit, and it insists on not cooperating. I get one section working or replaced, and another section goes out. I want to give up.

That’s often how Christmas is for me. A fight to keep it beautiful and okay. And I want to give up.

Christmas comes with such a tension for me. It’s paradoxical ways leave me feeling most perplexed and even frustrated.

Ever since I was a child I loved Christmas. Not just the gifts, lights, and music. I loved the sense of hope. As a young child, I remember never really believing in Santa Clause, but desperately wishing it was true. Because he seemed so good, and things would be so good if he were real.

As I grew, that wishful hope transferred into my relationship with Christ. My little heart worried and fretted about the cares of this world, just as my adult heart takes them on. But as I learned more about Jesus, I began to learn He held the key to my wishful hope that all would be and feel well.

Christmas was not neat and tidy as a child. It reeked of grief and sadness, stress and strife. Whether dysfunctional family dynamics or the sorrowful loss that caused pain in the missing-Christmas was not all joy.

Now years later as an adult with children myself, I find moments that grossly mimic those of my childhood and I hate myself for it. I desperately want to protect my children from my own pain, from the stress of this life. And, yet, I fail. My husband fails, and Christmas becomes messy.

And the messier it becomes, the angrier I feel. The angrier I feel, the more I resent the Christ I serve. Hope, you say. What hope? I feel anything but hopeful. Light? All I see and feel is darkness. This particular year, it’s the pain of missing. Missing loved ones, missing comfort and stability. Missing stable finances. Missing family members and friends that live else where. Missing hope.

And, then, at some point, I get angry enough that I find a way to color the hope of Christ with my anger. Scribbling away peace and light, and all that comes with the promise of Christmas in this advent season.

That’s a lot of pressure placed on one holiday season. And, we should always remember what Christmas represents-the coming of this Christ-child, the One who was sent and came to be WITH us, Emmanuel. But, I have always wanted Christmas to be a re-centering, a reorientation of sorts. And, yet, Christmas fails me - or better yet - I fail Christmas. I humorously realize this is why I identify so much with Cindy Lou Who on The Grinch,.

Some years the messiness and strife comes because I’m working too hard - trying to make a perfect, Hallmark holiday. Most years, it’s the grief that fully never goes away from loss. And always, it’s the loneliness.

This year, I haven’t even been able to breathe between work and ministry and family, let alone worry about all of the “trappings” of the holidays. And, while good things are happening, we are still struggling with transitions, changes, and other emotions in this season.

If I’m honest, I find myself angry and slightly apathetic. Emmanuel, God with us, in fact, feels very far away. I’m tired and weary, and I just feel all sacrificed out. I feel abandoned by God and while I am fully aware this is not true, this is how I FEEL.

This year has been hard and difficult, and it has been messy. There was nothing that ever promised this would be an easy journey, and I fully anticipated the hard. And, yet, there was no way I could fully anticipate the grief. Grief that looks and feels eerily similar. And, I hated that grief. It’s the deep dark of grieving the loss of something so dear.

In the crudeness of my heart, a heart that feels wounded and abandoned, a heart that struggles to feel at all hopeful, a heart that just seems very broken in all of the ways it’s failed - I just think - it’s not fitting for a King. In all of His beauty and glory, this heart is just too messy to house the King of the World.

He may not be able to handle the questions, the confusion, and doubt that seems to sneak in and set camp. Can this God-this Savior of the World really make a home alongside of my mess?

I realize, in these struggles so great, I must think it’s not a place for Him. It’s in these moments, I push and pull away. I somehow find myself, inadvertently, saying this is no place for you. This darkness, it’s too dark for you. I build up a wall of protection, seemingly afraid that He just won’t be able to handle the intensity of the feelings that seem to battle in my soul. It’s as though I am saying, Jesus-you are just too good-too hopeful to be at home here, I’m just sorry. Or maybe I am not sorry, because I am just angry at you too, and there is certainly no place for that anger.

And, yet, Christmas. The Word was light and was made flesh and came to dwell among us. He came to dwell. In the midst of my brokenness? Is it possible? The first breaths of life, crying into the stillness of the night - in a crude stable, air thick with the most unpleasant of smells. Filthy grime of dirty animals and hay. Cold and lonely. Messy. Rejected, unwanted, and ignored. It seems the Messiah came to specialize in this sort of condition.

Is it possible that He specializes in brokenness - so much so that He can make a home in the midst of mine? If I can give Him just a little room-will He come to dwell even in the darkness of my soul?

And then, there is a little flicker of hope...but God...

He did come in the messy. Dirty streets and smells, he humbly lay. It was planned and foretold, he would not come in glorious riches and splendor. He would come in the quiet, the dark, and the dirty.

Angels celebrated, rejoiced and told of His coming. But He didn't come with His mother riding into town on a white horse - displaying Him as a King for all to see. No, they rode on a donkey, to Bethlehem, discovering not even an inn to house them. Just a mere, dirty stable.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1

He came out of a family line likened to stump, a root. A root, a line that was all but dried up and gone. But his coming, out of this dry root, promised life and hope. It would bear fruit, and not just a little fruit, but fruit that would multiply in abundance.

God could have chosen a better family line. A family line that held more promise and royalty. A line that was full of life and vitality.

Even as one who lives her life to tell the story of Jesus Christ, I fight the temptation to reject the goodness of Jesus. Because, most often, I just feel too broken - too faithless. My past and present struggles too big. And, yet, He came out of brokenness. He came through rejection. He knew temptation. He knew sacrifice. And He came FOR me and you. He came as light, and the darkness can not overcome it. Ever. Our darkness will never to be too dark.

He came to “pitch” His tent in the midst of the mess of this broken world. And He desires to make a home in the midst of the mess of my heart.

The level of my brokenness this past year as I have struggled to process, transition, and surrender is almost an embarrassment. I fight to not be overcome by the shame that the enemy of soul throws my way.

I guess this Christmas, I am reminded that there is no level of failure and brokenness that is too great. There is no amount of anger and fight that Jesus can’t forgive and speak peace over. There is no amount of mess that will cause Jesus to refuse to dwell. He lives intrinsically motivated to forgive, love, and restore.

And, maybe-just maybe, the knowledge of all of this is enough to stop running. Maybe, this Christmas, we can accept and celebrate that Jesus came in the messy for the messy. He is big enough, gracious enough, to make a home in the midst of the brokenness of my life. And in His patient kindness, He can lead me to repentance and peace. He can help me cease the fight, and eventually, lead me to surrender. And not just surrender in action, but surrender of the heart.

My Christmas season may be messy and a little broken, but I will find hope in the One who came to dwell among us. He purposed to come for our restoration and peace. And, for now, that will be enough.

IMG_8640.JPG

Illusions of Success

We all care what others think. Nobody sets out to fail or even would pretend that failure is an option they are content with. Yet, it becomes a major problem when comparison or fear of failure begins to prevent us from doing what we are called to do or simply living fully with God and others.

Caring so much about what others think becomes crippling to the mind and it interferes in God's purposes for our lives. Furthermore, determining our success or failure based off of people's response will only slow us down and could eventually completely handicap us. It's important to note positive regard, but it must not become the complete barometer of God's blessing in our life.

What is our measure of success? Do we spend more time comparing ourselves rather trusting in what God has given us? What exactly is our heart set on as we follow Christ? Are we withholding because of some perceived lack or fear of possible failure?

Peter sank when he focused on the storm rather than Christ.

David would never have become King had they considered only his appearance and talent of caring for sheep.

Joseph would have given up had he not trusted God had a bigger plan than his imprisonment and the betrayal of his brothers.

God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.

 "When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.””  Samuel 16:6-7 ESV

What seems like failure may very well be part of God's plan of purpose and success. Take caution when you are tempted to define something a success or failure based on its outward appearance.

Although this isn't my first rodeo with this issue, I am realizing that once again the battle that needs to be fought and won in my heart regarding this topic. 

I am living in a place of vulnerability like never before. I have willingly stepped into this season knowing this was where God was leading us. Yet, I still finding myself - at times - resisting embracing it fully. One main stumbling block is this battle of comparison or fear of failure. I will never allow myself to live fully wholeheartedly and vulnerably if it continues to wage war over my thoughts and feelings.  

God doesn't follow this world's rules when it comes to purpose, plan, and Kingdom work. The more we accept this, the more we will go all in even when failure might be an option. 

I am finding that the best thing I can do is to simply walk in obedience and walk bravely. And when I am scared to take that next big step, write those next words, speak the truth-I will trust in him for courage.

In fact, as we stop striving to be perfect and do more for God-we will fight to know God more. And it is in the knowing God where we find our peaceful place. The rest becomes less of a concern and God's heart for us becomes more clear. Comparison or even success no longer becomes necessary. We will have found and understood what matters most, and the overflow is a confidence that God's will is being accomplished through our lives. 

IMG_6153.JPG