In the Midst of Darkness






Shiny, life-filled eyes sparkled at me from the hospital bed, where my grandma lay a week and a half before she died.  From her wrinkled-filled face, she opened her mouth and sang in an off-key voice, 

He’s still working on me, to make me what He wants to be.”

The choice of song took me by complete surprise, how could He still have things to work on in you, at this age, my grandma, of course, being nothing less than perfect and precious in my eyes.  Yet the words of this song weren’t breathed out in despair over an imperfect spirit nor from a guilt-driven desire to be perfect.  Instead, they were words filled with a history of a real life lived out in love with her Creator and a desire for life to continue; to continue knowing Him and the adventure of His kingdom.  This scene is one of the last treasured memories that I have with my grandma.  Even over 9 years later, this holy moment brings me to tears; that is who I want to be at the end of this life – so in love with my Creator that I don’t want Him to stop working on me, creating me to be what He wants me to be.

----------------------------------------
Last week at church we covered the story of Lazarus being risen from the grave.  Our pastor truthfully spoke, 

Without the resurrection we are all just playing at religion.”

---------------------------------------
My mind often returns to another scene: being the second to last person standing at my niece’s graveside.  My heart waiting, as the sunshine cracked through the rainy clouds, hoping that these rays would bring healing; wanting so badly for this scene of the resurrection and the life to be reality now.  My heart still waits...
John 11: 33, 35, 38
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

“Jesus wept.”

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.”

----------------------------------------
Darkness filled my heart again this week.  Sometimes, I look at myself in shock, “Who are you and why do you act this way?” I have a temper and when I feel it bubbling up inside I often feel swept away on a rushing wave of emotion that I can’t control.  There is a separation between how I want to act and the way that I actually act.  Frustration that in the light I can sing praises with my whole heart about the love of God and truly mean it but then come these moments of darkness and I wonder and doubt who I truly am.

As I wrestled through this, this week, I felt a few questions challenge me:

Can you praise me in the darkness?”

“Can you believe that I am there with you in the darkness?”

“Can you believe that even the darkness doesn’t separate you from my love?”

 ---------------

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is an awe-inspiring story but if that was all there was, it wouldn’t be enough.  Yes, it touches on the power of God it shows He cares but within the story there is still a gap - between us and God.  However, the story doesn’t stop there, instead what follows is a very dark week.  A week where God, in human flesh, takes his compassion and His love and from that place directs the pain upon Himself.  He walks into the darkness, fully and completely.  He shows us through His life and example, that yes indeed God can and does know what it means to walk in the darkness and yes, even His love enters there.  He doesn’t skip over the darkness, He doesn’t pretend it isn’t hard or heart-wrenching, He doesn’t pretend it is easy. 
  
He lives it,
He breathes it,
He feels it, 
He aches it, 
He bleeds it.

--------------------------

I am glad that the Church walks us through Holy Week.  It asks us to remember the darkness, to feel the despair, to remember that Christ took on our darkness.  Why does this matter?  Because darkness still exists in the outside world, in my life and ultimately in my own heart.  To have to hold that darkness by myself – apart from Christ – it is too much for me.  But to hold it with Christ, to walk with Him through it that is what I need.  I know that Easter is coming, but this year I don’t want to rush there.  I don’t want to miss out knowing Christ in the darkness, weeping with Him over real life lost, crying over pains that humanity has caused, recognizing that He lives, walks and breathes with us through real life.  He’s not just there in the celebratory moments, He is also there in the darkness.

Psalm 139:10-11, 17-18
If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,
Even darkness is no darkness with you;
the night is as clear as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike."

"How deep are your counsels to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!

If I count them, they are more in number than the sand,
and at the end, 
I am still in your presence.

In Christ,
 




Learning to Live with Myself Part 4: Acceptance leads to freedom for others




Why I desperately needed help in this area, is that my dissatisfaction within my own heart bleeds into my relationships with others:
.

"Acceptance means that though there is need for growth I am not forced.  I do not have to be the person I am not.  Acceptance liberates everything that is in me.  Only when I am loved in that deep sense of complete acceptance can I become myself (Peter van Breemen)." pg. 45

The acceptance by Christ of me, in my present moment, frees me.  Yet it doesn't just free me, it frees those I am in relationship with as well.  Since I couldn't accept my own personal failures I often push others to move beyond their "failures."  As I attempted to push myself into a place of acceptance, I often tried to push others there, too.  Yet, in Christ, we are accepted in this gap between who we are and who we will be become.  This place of grace that I've accepted for myself, I have extended to others.  I know it won't be perfect, but that doesn't even bother me because that is not the point.  Remember the new foundation, the new home?  That is the point. 

"So the end is the same for all of us - that we shall find the way of God, building through His grace on our gifts and potential, being continually shaped into the full person whom we most long to become and whom God is calling us to be."  pg. 42

In Christ,



Image: Sunlight in Antarctica. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 20 Mar 2015. 
http://quest.eb.com/search/119_1781894/1/119_1781894/cite

Learning to Live with Myself Part 3: Humility

This is part 3 in a series about Learning to Live with Myself.  It is my reflective thoughts inspired by a chapter in the book Living With Contradiction by Esther de Waal.

 



"If I am appreciated for what I do, what I achieve, I am not in fact unique since someone else can do the same, and probably do it better than I." pg. 45

This was a phrase that really challenged my heart.  As I think about my many roles and my inability to pull off all roles well, the phrase above really humbled me.  But it didn't humble me in a shameful way rather it humbled me in a freeing way.  It released me from the need to do and perform.  It really woke me up to the fact that instead of trying to do everything perfectly (which I couldn't do anyway) to realize that wasn't the point at all.  If the things we do aren't the point, than what indeed is the point?
 
Remember the still small voice from last time: Christ.  Christ is the point.  Christ defines me, fills me, goes before me and behind me.  The journey is to know Him, that is the point.  I don't need to live in the fear and failure of not meeting my "roles" instead I am invited to know Him and walk with Him through my journey (the good, the bad and the ugly).

"Fear so often leads me into activity to prove my value.  But if productivity becomes my main way of overcoming self-doubt I lay myself open to rejection and criticism... My productivity really only reveals how much I am driven by fear of not being up to the standard and an insatiable desire to justify myself." pg. 45-46

"If I ask God to accept me as I am now, in the present, I am also able to receive whatever he has in store for me in the future." pg.48

I often find myself reflecting on the past or believing that the future will be "better" than today.  However, I know that the invitation from Him is to live in the present with Him.  I am realizing that in order to embrace the elusive future with open hands, I need to learn to live with and in the present (because indeed today was yesterday's future).  The ability to do this all comes down to where I rest my identity.  In response:

I quit my self-made production where I was the director, the producer, the actresses and the audience. You see I realized that I was the only critic who faithfully showed up night after night.  Rarely was a standing ovation given and the only voice that was continually heard came from only 1: I. Others that surrounded me often received short, snappy responses to innocent statements not knowing that I had placed them in an audience of a play they did not know they were attending.  Their statements being received by me as criticism, "Did they not know how hard I worked to perform this role?" "Did they not see my earlier performance where I aced it?"  Or their "interruptions" were being received in exasperation.  Again, "Did they not know that I was now preparing for my next role, where I needed to succeed?" You see they weren't looking at me as someone playing a role.  Instead, they just want me, to enjoy me, to be with me as I am for who I am.

Accepting that Christ accepts me for who I am, as I am, now not tomorrow, that is a place of freedom for me.
 
A mixture rom John 10 (MSG):

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
 
I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice.  
 

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

In Christ,


Image: Sunlight in Antarctica. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 20 Mar 2015. 
http://quest.eb.com/search/119_1781894/1/119_1781894/cite

Learning to Live with Myself Part 2: Foundation


This is part 2 in a series about Learning to Live with Myself.  The series is based on my reflective thoughts inspired by a chapter in the book Living With Contradiction by Esther de Waal.

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 
Last time, I talked about the conflict of being a woman who carries so many roles.  Frankly, at times it stresses me out and I end up not being the woman that I want to be.  I was praying about this issue and I asked the Lord to soften my heart of stone.  Immediately, as my prayer was rolling off of my mind, a rushing wave of a thought came right back at me, "I don't soften hearts of stones, I give new hearts, hearts of flesh."  Oh, what a relief that was to hear because that is what I need.  I don't want a new and improved self, I don't want to try any harder, I don't want to keep tripping up, falling down and getting up again.  So I knew that He wanted to teach me and that I just needed to listen.
  
That night I had a dream and three buildings were demolished before my eyes, they had once been homes.  I had no connection to these buildings, I was just walking by.  I kept walking past this site over several months and saw that there were people rummaging through the wreckage pulling out foundational stones one by one.  In the process, they were also contentedly digging a new basement and were using the stones from the former foundation to build a new foundation. As an onlooker, it seemed time consuming and a less efficient way to rebuild; there were machines standing idly by that could easily have done the same work in one day.  But on the other hand, the work was precisely and careful done with great attention to detail.  I knew that the new building that would be built would be solid with a good foundation and that there would not be any unnecessary waste.


These thoughts above reminded me that God gently cares and restores areas of destruction.  He never wastes anything.  Sometimes our lives feel like a jumbled mess but He sends His people and Spirit in to be His hands and to do the gentle, often monotonous work of starting over and rebuilding.  The invitation that I heard was to let go of what I was trying to build and start anew with a new foundation - the foundation being Christ and Christ alone.n hardly put words around what the name of Christ does to my heart.  It awes me, it silences me, it draws me, it frees me, it stills me, it quiets me.  This is the new foundation, the new heart that I feel being placed inside of me.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28-30‬ MSG)

In Christ,

Learning to Live with Myself Part 1: Roles



Four years ago, I attend a Women of Faith conference and saw a skit about the many hats that moms wear.  While this isn't the same exact sketch, it contains many of the same undertones:



Like the video above, I currently wear many hats and as a result I often feel I live a fragmented and contradictory life.  Sometimes, the hats that I wear stand in direct opposition to one another.  The part of the video that resonated with me the most was the transition from the wicked witch to the nun. Oh, that is the way that I feel sometimes.

I have been struggling to find a way to make all my hats fit on my head in a way that they do not interfere with one another.  But often times, by the end of the day, trying to do this leaves me defeated and confused.  Some of my roles I can really excel at while on the same exact day in the other roles I am a complete flop.  I haven't found a way to make these inconsistencies within my own self mesh together; to be 10 different things to 10 different people and in the end make everyone happy, including myself.  However, God's gentle Spirit has been undermining my goal of making all my hats fit and to find the ability to smoothly transition from one to the other.  Instead, He has challenged me to stop and start over from a whole different perspective.

I am currently reading through the book Living with Contradiction by Esther de Waal.  I am in the midst of working through the chapter, Learning to Live with Myself and it is really ministering to my heart.  For the next 3 posts, I want to look more closely at what I've been learning from Him as I work through these ideas.  I pray that the things that I am learning will also minister to your heart.

In Christ,



Image: Sunlight in Antarctica. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 20 Mar 2015. 
http://quest.eb.com/search/119_1781894/1/119_1781894/cite

Daily Prayer

Disqus for For His Glory Alone

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...