Saturday, July 3, 2010

Not Simply Surviving, Thriving

I don't really have it all figured out... there's no step by step to healing... I did spend many months and even years spinning my wheels, going around in circles. My journey has been full of steep slopes, slips and falls, bumps and bruises, wallowing in the mud, cursing the enemy, cursing my Maker, repenting, rejoicing, hiding from God and from believers, being alone, being in a crowd of people and still being alone, feeling that hand of God as the only one who could hold me, feeling the hand of God through the Body, finding "The God Who Sees Me" and like the Woman at the Well, rejoicing that he knows "everything I ever did."

This one thing I know. I did not suffer in vain. All my trials had a purpose. God did not call me to the desert to punish me. He brought me out here to the wilderness to sing. And this is what I sing: There is a God who sees me and you (just as we are) and he LOVES us. I stand here today after being torn up, pushed down, and thrown away to tell you: There is hope. You may not see it. You may not know it yet but I stand in the blood of the Lamb and by the power of my testimony to tell you that Hope is real! Healing IS possible.

I still have bad days. Yes! I still struggle with sin and temptation but it does NOT rule me anymore. My fears do not drive my life as they used to. There is a band of believers who can testify to the goodness of God and you can no longer plug your ears and refuse to listen! Stop listening to the lies of the enemy and stand up and fight! Fight for your freedom by getting on your knees! Seek God in your desert. Find a true believer and tell them your struggle. It doesn’t have to be me.

When I did find things that helped I was advised to take note and remember when something worked. The more I took notes, the more I saw the hand of God on my life. Therefore, I will sing all the more! I have a journal, just as many of you do, it is the story of the goodness of God. One of the greatest discoveries was of my gifting. The gifting that (when not being used by the Lord) was being used to beat me up. Imagine that! I asked God why… why… for so long. I know this to be true: we are all going to be used. The question is: by whom? Then I asked God: What is my gift for? He told me through his word:

Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. (1Pe 4:10 CEV)

A body isn't really a body, unless there is more than one part. It takes many parts to make a single body. That's why the eyes cannot say they don't need the hands. That's also why the head cannot say it doesn't need the feet. In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest. (1Co 12:19-22 CEV)

But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important. (1Co 1:27-28 CEV)

Why did God make me “weak” (in the world’s eyes)? Why is it that world sees me as: worthless, useless… nothing? Because God’s world does not operate by the same standards! If I were a strong person and could do things all on my own, GOD would not get the glory! But I stand here to day telling you: I was cracked and broken, torn apart and I SURVIVED! And not just survived to tell the tale… I THRIVE! God has given me contentment and goodness and REST. God has cradled me in his loving arms and given me hands to hold. It was God! Nothing else. I did not accomplish this on my own! It was GOD!

Do I Look Like My Mom?

Last night I was told by a long time friend that I look like my mom. This was such a loaded statement and I noted that he hesitated to even say it. I know why. My mother was on the order of 50-80 pounds heavier than what she should have been. She struggled with physical and mental afflictions for years. And eventually she took her own life. For years I struggled with bitterness and anger toward my mom. Most of the time, we did not have a good relationship.

As I told this person, who knew me as a child, that God has birthed a ministry in my life and I have begun share the message of the Lord’s goodness, I felt the validity of my statement being questioned. My mom did have this habit of bragging about things. She wanted to be able to say that she was doing the Lord’s work. She refused to admit any failures on her part. She would readily admit other’s failures, but never her own. And, alas, her life reflected a spirit defeat, despite her claims. I will never know what my mother’s motives were. Did she make these claims out of pride and a need to make herself feel better? Or did she truly want to do the Lord’s work and she was trying to speak these things into existence?

This I do know. Mom loved the Lord so much. She had visions of doing great works for the Lord. She wanted to be used by him. She sang to the Lord in the quiet places. When mom was stressed out (and that was often) she would go and play piano and sing to the Lord. These times of distress were the things that she most wanted to hide from people. When you saw her at church, she spoke as if everything were fine. Why do we do that? Why do we pretend?

I have recently come to know a woman who has lost her dear husband to cancer and, before his death, he publicly spoke of God’s goodness. She struggles with the whys. Why did God take him when he was doing God’s work here on earth? I struggled with the whys. Why did God take Mom (or allow her to take her own life) when she “could” have done so much good on the earth?

I cannot swallow it when people glorify the dead. My grandparents were strictly against the practice of it. They forbid their survivors to even have a funeral. I think I can see why. There are cultures in the world whose religion centers around ancestor worship and they even go as far as praying to their departed loved ones. I always hated it when I went to a funeral and I heard someone who cursed and hated the deceased person in life and then blessed and complimented them now that they were dead. But what about those people who were truly living for God’s glory in life? Is it ok to praise them in death?

This is what I think: There is a balance. On the one hand we (even Christians) can glorify the departed person and tell of their good deeds to the point where we see their goodness alone, instead of the goodness of God. Then there are those who refuse to allow the dead to be honored. My father-in-law was this way. He forbid anyone to even “speak any words” over his remains. The practice of no funeral (I believe), along with the practice of: refusing to speak of it, hinders the survivors from being allowed to grieve. Some people falsely assume that because I cry when talking about my dead mother that I am wallowing in despair and cannot see the great hand of God at work in this situation. When the enemy has torn apart and destroyed life, we have to, we must, look for the good in it. God created life and he was glorified in the death of his son. Everything that happens on this earth, happens for a reason. If we look at the death of our loved one and are unable to see the goodness of God, our despair is complete. We, as humans, have a desperate need to be able to see something good even in the darkest of things. I believe that was put in us by our creator so that we will see HIM.

I am not trying to be simply intellectual about the whole thing. I grieve my dead. I grieved her defeat before she took her own life. I fought to save her! And yet, she drove to a secluded place, away from her family. She got a hotel room and took a bottle of pills. She got in the tub because she thought drowning was a peaceful way to die and waited until death overtook her like a lion. She believed EVERY lie the enemy threw at her. She believed her family had abandoned her. She was so angry at me she threw my pictures and the Ebenezers I had given her away. I wanted her to hang on and get better. I tried talking to her and being with her. I tried tough love… I tried to save her but ultimately God had a plan for her life that was not my plan for her life. And that is a hard thing to admit.

I believe, I STILL believe, that God is in control. That means that God knew what she would do on April 8th 2009. He knew that a poor maid would find her dead naked body floating in a tub with a symbol of the ultimate gift of all (the cross) around her neck. God knew that she would reject his gift of hope for this life in exchange for the hope of eternal life. Mom could never see how the two were related. She believed the suffering would never truly stop until heaven. And I suppose she was right on that point. But she would not see that God’s will was for there to be joy and peace in this life as well.

So do I look like my mom? Well if that means that my heart is to serve my God… yes, I look like my mom. Oh yes, the physical resemblance is striking (although I am not as overweight as she.) But I stand here today and I openly confess my broken places. No hiding, no pride. The reason I confess this is that in my weakness, my God gets all the glory. The reason I can do work for him is that there is NOTHING, I mean nothing in me that thinks I can do this in my own strength. I KNOW I cannot. I do not confess the things, God is doing in my life to try and make ME look good. I want to make GOD look good… and he DOES look good! Because he IS good! In that respect, I do not look like my mom.

When I stand and tell people who are defeated and despairing that there IS hope, I am able to confess this from an intimate knowledge of what life is like without an all-powerful God in charge. When I stand and tell of the healing in my life, it is only a testimony of how great my God is. When I stand and say I am a new, transformed person, it is not to tell of my own accomplishments. Each Ebenezer is not trophy of the good things I have done, it is a remembrance of God’s goodness. It is a marker of God’s provision on journey. It is putting all the bad things that happened, in God’s light... showing the good things instead of the bad.

And again, I raise my Ebenezer in a place of heartache and pain; restoration and healing. I give respect to my mother, my mom whose image I resemble and I glorify the ONE in whose image I was created. And to him, my Lord Jesus, be all the honor and glory and praise for ever and ever.