Eyes and Eagles, A Reflection

I love how God surprises us with His Word. It’s so full of life and truth and His very breath. Not long ago, I spent an entire day studying Deuteronomy 32, of all things. It’s as if the passage was drawing me in and I could not pull away.

"In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft." (Deuteronomy 32: 10-11) 

Wandering in a desert like the Israelites, living what feels like a wasted life, howling because I have forsaken God, He finds me, cares for me, guards me, and carries me.

The phrase, ‘apple of my eye’, refers to something cherished above all other things. It represents the pupil of the eye, which is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. We can usually tough it out when we have an eyelash on the white of our eye but try to focus on anything else next time you have an eyelash touching your pupil. The sensitivity makes it nearly impossible. The original Hebrew literally translated this phrase as “Little Man of the Eye”, referring to the reflection of yourself seen in other people’s pupils (deseretnews.com).

Is this not one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever heard? God guards us occasional wanderers as the apple of his eye, the most sensitive part of Himself, and His own reflection. He allows Himself to be affected by us, to care for us, and to long for us (Isaiah 30:18, Matthew 23:37). I love this quote that references the stories of Hosea and the prodigal son, “God’s longing and love could leave some embarrassed for Him, saying, ‘I don’t want God to make a fool of Himself over Gomer or a delinquent young man. I don’t want to see Him standing there with red, swollen eyes, or an aching lump in His throat.’ And then He turns those red eyes toward us. He puts the robe around our shoulders. And slips the ring on our fingers. And turns us toward home” (eagleflight.org). The God of the universe loves us, allows Himself to be tender toward us, and welcomes us home to Him. And He made us tender so that we could reflect Him, so that He could be the Protector of our sensitivity, and so that He could provide for us (vs. 13-14). If we were not wired with sensitivity, we wouldn’t need God, and if He had no affection, He wouldn’t be jealous when we wander (vs. 16).

In verse 11, God describes Himself using an eagle metaphor. An eagle lines the bottom of its nest with its own feathers to protect and comfort its young until they are ready to fly. Then the eagle loosens the comfortable feathers and stirs the nest with its wings so the feathers fly away and the nest is no longer pleasant. If that doesn’t work to make the young leave the nest, the eagle will knock them out of the nest and fly next to them, catching them until they learn to fly on their own (eagleflight.org).

God’s metaphors are stunning! Just like an eagle stirs its nest so the young don’t get too comfortable, God stirs up our comfortable lives so that we learn to thrive. And He catches us and carries us if we have some trouble learning right away. I got too comfortable for awhile so God stirred up my nest. And because I have been refusing to learn how to fly, this thorny nest is even more uncomfortable on my sensitive flesh. It’s the security I have always known but now God wants me to fly, to be the person He created me to be. But I’m afraid to fall so I sit in uncomfortable misery. God promises that if I spread my wings and jump, He will catch me when I don’t soar the heights right away.

At first I wasn’t sure I believed the truth in this because I have jumped and I have regretted it. I’ve done what I thought God wanted me to do and seemed to fall pretty hard. But I’m starting to wonder if that’s not really the case. I think maybe when I tried to fly, I got scared. Instead of trusting God to catch me, I flew back to the nest to sit in misery. I fear that if I, as the sensitive apple of God’s eye, were to jump out of my comfort zone and allow myself to be affected by Him and other people, the tender heart that God gave me would shatter. So here I sit aching in my jagged nest, the life slowly bleeding out of me, not letting anyone touch me. If only I would leave behind the things that used to give me comfort, God would be my comfort. He would heal my heart when it breaks and my life would not slowly, achingly bleed away. If I let people touch my  heart the way God lets all of us touch His heart, He will spread His wings to catch me when things get too uncomfortable and He won’t let me fall. He will fly with me.

"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants" (vs. 2). 

Making this even more precious to my musical heart, this whole chapter is actually a song that God Himself wrote for the Israelites to memorize. He wanted them to remember how affected God is by their choices and that He helps them learn to fully live. Can you believe that? God wrote His people a song! God wants His song to pour into our tender places. As our Protector, He doesn’t want us to try and protect our own hearts from being affected, but He wants His song, His love, His longing, and His reflection in other people to touch our tender hearts. God cherishes, guards, and even sings about, our sensitivity.

"I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand" (vs. 39). 

It is possible for our tender hearts to be wounded when God stirs our comfortable nests, but God heals and delivers us. At first glance, this beautiful verse means that no one can take us out of God’s hand. But I see an even richer meaning as well. Nothing and no one else can bring us God’s deliverance. Nothing can truly heal us or make us more secure than our Protector, not even the nest He first built for us. No one else can vindicate or clear us of blame when we waste our strength resisting God’s flight plan (vs. 36). No one else can be our rock, refuge, help, or shelter (vs. 37-38). No one else can bring us life or heal us. Nothing we see as ‘good’ outside of God can be the thing that delivers us. We are the cherished, protected reflection of God. It’s time for us to believe that, to open our hearts, and to leave the nest. We may be surprised at how healing it is to fly.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." -Psalm 17:8
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He Holds Hands Full of Lilies of the Valley

I’ve noticed something about myself lately that I don’t like at all. I’ve been responding to everything with biting sarcasm, whether just in my head or spewed from my lips. Any attempt at trying to cheer me up has been met with an internal scoff and usually external negativity. I should apologize to anyone I’ve allowed to see that ugly bit of myself but hey, at least I was being honest for once… or so I thought. I have felt anger within myself for awhile. It’s ok to be angry sometimes but it’s not ok to sink into bitterness, which is what I have done. But I’ve realized that most of this knee-jerk sarcasm and anger is a cover for the way I’m really feeling. Because I’m really feeling like a lost and terrified little girl who needs her Father to take her home.

I’ve become aware that every bit of my existence has been about striving for something. If I am not striving for something, perfection of some sort, I have no idea how to act. I am trying to find the way home my own way and have gotten frustrated and given up. Instead, I need to let God carry me home in His way. I’m terrified because it’s not the way I have always known. I have never fully grasped what it means to be God’s child. Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that I had to work hard to earn that position, that I had to be perfect for God and everyone else or they would be disappointed in me. I thought I had to work harder to be better, and to make everyone else’s lives better, or I wasn’t good enough. And since I have not been able to make my life or the lives of anyone around me better, I am hopelessly lost and my entire life has been a failure, perhaps even a lie.

I think that’s a big reason my illness started right after my first Social Work job. It was impossible to be a perfectionist at that job because there simply weren’t enough hours in the day. I had to cut corners and I constantly felt guilty for doing so. It was unacceptable to me that I couldn’t hack it. I was miserable because I could not do everything exactly right. So instead of finally accepting that it was impossible for me to be perfect, I found a different job and quickly realized I had stumbled back into my comfort zone. I loved this job more than I can say, and not just because I was good at it and could accomplish it with my normal perfectionistic drive. I genuinely looked forward to it every day. And when it was taken from me due to my illness, I found myself lost again.

Probably one of my most frequent prayers since leaving work has been, “what am I supposed to do?” God’s only clear answer has been, “rest and let Me heal you.” That may sound good, but it is indescribable agony for someone who only knows how to work, how to do, how to strive for perfection. There has never been one single moment in my life that has not been spent analyzing which “self” would be best to present in that moment and working hard to present only that self at that time. I have never been at rest within myself. This fake world crashing down around me has left me lost, vulnerable, and basically non-existent, since I have never known my true self and don’t know how to be her. I HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO REST AND IT FEELS LIKE IT IS KILLING ME. Hence, the healing crisis. But it’s easier for me to be angry than sad because it’s less vulnerable, so that’s where I’ve been hiding out for awhile. See, always hiding.

I finally started to allow God to reveal to me how completely heartbroken and devastated I am. Then, I visited my work friends the other day. It was good for my heart to see them again but it also reawakened in me deep sadness and loss. As I watched them move about their office, familiar in their workplace, and as I listened to their lives, my ache became evident. And when I realized that it was not even two hours from the time my friend picked me up to the time she dropped me back off and my body was completely finished, overly-exhausted and unable to function anymore, I just knew that was the last time I could push it to have much of a life outside of this house. I felt my body telling me it was finished for awhile and that scares me. It’s not just the loss of my job that has left me reeling, but the loss of my ability to strive for perfection, the loss of the only way I know how to act, the loss of who I truly believed I was. I miss work. I miss knowing my purpose (even if it was misguided). I miss familiarity. I miss helping people. I miss the daily support system and camaraderie. I miss being able to go places without issue. I miss knowing what to do with myself. I miss everything about the life I used to know….except when I remember that the life I used to know was a life of my own making, not God’s.

But the sadness is still overwhelming. So I’ve been asking God where He’s keeping the comfort that He talks about, because I don’t feel it. I keep asking Him to hold me, to come find His lost daughter and carry her home with Him. My heart is so broken and I just don’t feel comforted. I asked Him to show me in His Word. As I was reaching for my Bible, my alarm went off and played the song, “Held”, by Natalie Grant. Yes, I chose the song as my alarm but I didn’t remember that’s what I had chosen, nor that I had chosen it for this hour. God used my previous choice to show me this hour that He is holding me.

Indulge me while I apply the song lyrics to my life. “Two months is too little. They let him go. They had no sudden healing. To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling… This hand is bitterness. We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow.” I’ve had no sudden healing and to think that God would do this is appalling. I’ve been covering and numbing my sorrow with anger and sarcasm. I just didn’t want to feel the pain. I would rather blame because at least that convinces me there’s a reason for my suffering. Without the anger, there is only loss. But I need to let go.

“The wise hands open slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.” Lilies of the valley are a symbol of humility and also of the Second Coming of Christ. It is also a highly poisonous flower. How profound. In order to gain the hope of tomorrow (Jesus’ return), I have to have the wisdom to open my hand and accept the poison (pain and suffering of life) with humility, recognizing my need for God and that the life He is building for me is better than the one I built. Vaneetha Rendall Risner, about whom this song is written, says, “I can experience true joy only after I have acknowledged my sorrow. And when I do, I find myself in a deeper place with the Lord, who helps reframe my disappointments and pain.” I highly recommend her book, The Scars that Have Shaped Me.

“This is what it means to be held, how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive. This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was when everything fell, we’d be held. If hope is born of suffering, if this is only the beginning, can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?” Maybe comfort is not necessarily removal of the pain, but knowing that I am still held and loved when my world falls apart. Maybe it’s knowing this is only the beginning and that we can wait for our Savior to deliver us. Maybe the comfort is knowing that God will never waste our pain and will use it for good. Knowing this probably won’t take the pain away but it may remove the sting of bitterness.

When I finally made it to the Bible after the song was over, the verse that seemed to mean the most to me was Isaiah 66:13, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” I thought about how a child doesn’t understand why anything bad happens to her and she runs straight to her mother to be held and comforted. Being held may not change the circumstances but she cries it out in her mother’s arms. Even if her mother is the one causing what she perceives as bad, she still lets her hold and comfort her. And though the child’s pain grieves her mother’s heart, her mother doesn’t change the circumstances because she knows what is best. This deeply touches my heart and it’s where I have been in the last few days. I have been angry at God for so long but right now I don’t want to be angry anymore. Instead, I crave comfort and I want to be held. I can trust God enough to let Him hold me even when I perceive that what He’s doing is bad. He knows what’s best for me and will accomplish it even if it grieves His heart to break my heart. After all, “The Father said no to the Son. And that no brought about the greatest good in all of history.” – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Earlier in Isaiah 66, God says He esteems those who are humble and contrite in spirit (vs. 2) and He will not bring labor without delivery (vs. 9). This is such a beautiful promise. God will not bring pain without delivering us. He will comfort us (vs. 13), we will rejoice, and His hand will be made known to His servants (vs. 14). To those who humble and submit themselves to God, opening their hands to the lilies of the valley, to those who allow themselves to grieve in God’s arms, He will bring deliverance, comfort, joy, and a knowledge of His work. This is what it means to be held.

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I Am Held

While I was growing up my grandparents had a cottage at Lake Erie and we spent many summer days on the beach and nights sitting around the campfire ring. I remember the delicious breakfasts over the fire and the camp pies and singing around the fire at night. Many wonderful memories surround that fire ring.

But there is one memory I have of the fire ring that isn’t quite so pleasant. I was very young and I was ‘helping’ my dad burn trash in the fire ring. At one point, my dad reached down with his left hand and touched the fire ring while he threw trash into the middle of the fire with his right hand. I don’t know why he did it, and he certainly wouldn’t have done it if he had known that I was going to do it too. Because I thought I could be like my dad, I touched the very hot fire ring and was burned. I did not understand that it would hurt me because I was not as strong as my dad. I didn’t have calloused, hard-working hands like he did and I didn’t know how to just barely touch it for a moment so I wouldn’t get burned.

Ever since the beginning of time we have been trying to become big and strong and knowledgeable. We have been trying to become like God. Adam and Eve wanted to become like God so they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Becoming like God hurt us. We thought it would make us like Him, to understand like Him. But all it brought was pain and shame. I still don’t understand why my dad touched the fire ring. There really wasn’t a reason that I can see. But just like I didn’t understand what my dad did, I often don’t understand what God does. There doesn’t seem to be a reason behind His methods sometimes. But God’s ways are always going to be higher than our understanding can reach. I am not strong or knowledgeable enough to understand Him completely and I never will be. Constantly trying to become like God and understand things like God has hurt me, just like trying to be like my dad hurt me for a brief moment. I try to ‘help’ God by becoming like Him and I hurt myself instead. I question His ways and live in fear when I could just rest and let Him be God.

But, here’s another truly beautiful thing about God. Even when we try to be like Him, He still takes us in His arms and comforts us when it hurts. He still covers our shame and offers us His love and grace. My dad held and comforted me when I got hurt and I learned a valuable lesson. And each time there is pain in our lives, it’s an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson and to be held by the greatest Love in the universe. I am so glad my Father is strong enough to hold me when I hurt.

Oh, and I imagine there will be camp pies in Heaven! 😉

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord." - Isaiah 55:8
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It Would Be Easier

“It would be easier if He wasn’t who He said He was.”

Those words, penned by Jennie Allen in her book- Nothing To Prove, stared me right in the face. She was giving words to Peter as he pondered his denial of Jesus. It would have been easier for him not to have to look Jesus in the eyes again after his betrayal. Those piercing, loving, forgiving eyes gazing into eyes that had denied knowing Him. It would have been easier for Peter to just try and forget.

It would be easier. And I want easy! Too many people have put me on a pedestal and I want to knock it right out from under myself every single time. You have NO idea what goes on in my heart, and that’s probably my fault for not telling you as much of the ugly as is necessary to kick the pedestal down. I am NOT an inspiration… so just stop. Right here and right now, I admit that what I continually strive for in this life is a way to make things easier for myself. And when something goes wrong, I immediately look for a way out.

For example, I thought my hope was in the right place because the thing I hope for more than anything is Heaven. I long for it every moment. But God recently broke through my thoughts and showed me that my motivation in hoping for Heaven is not pure. I hope for Heaven so that I can run away from this life. Because it would be easier for me to be there right now than it is for me to be here. It shook me that my motivation for the end of this life is not Jesus. Rather, it’s an escape. And it breaks my heart that I want the escape more than I want Jesus. Because if I really wanted Jesus more than anything, I could have all of Jesus right now. I could have all of Him and He could have all of me if I would stop running from Him.

But I run because the Jesus life feels too hard for me. It would be easier if I could just ignore every hard thing, and I’m ashamed to say that I have tried. I try all the time. It would be easier if Jesus had called me to a pain-free life. Instead, He reminds me that He won’t take my pain away but He will help me carry it (Isaiah 53:4). It would be easier if I could turn a cold shoulder to the ones who hurt the people I love, but there’s that “honor one another above yourselves” thing (Romans 12:10). It would be easier to ignore any nudge of calling on my life because I don’t have what it takes, but Jesus said the Holy Spirit would accomplish it through me (Matthew 10:19-20). It would be easier if Jesus would stop calling me to have my heart ripped to shreds, but there is a pruning process that is necessary for bearing fruit (John 15:2). It would be easier if I could just stop my heart from loving altogether but Jesus said loving God and loving my neighbor as myself are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39). It would be easier if none of this mattered. It would be easier if Jesus wasn’t who He said He was.

But is easier really better? Today, I really want to say- yes, yes it is. But I know better. Easier invites complacency, stagnancy, pride, a life choked-out from the lack of Living water. Easier takes instead of gives. It consumes comfort instead of offering it to someone else. Easier is safe and selfish. Easier extinguishes real relationships. And easier does not care about others. Easier means this life is all there is and, oh my, I can’t handle that! Easier here means there’s nothing to look forward to There. Easier is a wasted life.

It would be easier if He wasn’t who He said He was. Then I could relax and forget about the hard things He calls me to – the loving my enemies, the giving up my control, the being seen and vulnerable. And though my heart feels pulverized by this life that is so, so hard, easier is not better. Because easier is a life without Jesus. When I think about it, when I REALLY think about it, life without Jesus is not actually easier. That’s just an illusion. Because a life without Jesus is a life done alone. It is dark. It has no hope for anything but the right now. And Jesus invites us to more than the right now, to a beautiful and eternal future. And He wants us to allow Him to make our lives on this earth easier. He wants to carry our burdens and He wants us to rest in Him. Life with Jesus is actually the easiest and best life because it is a life allowing Him to do the hard work. He wants to flood our lives with Light for the path, love for our broken hearts, and His strength for the hard things. I AM SO GLAD HE IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS!

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
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The Healing Crisis

"The Lord replied, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" - Exodus 33:14

Remember the time I almost died? Well maybe not, but I thought I was dying and I’m trying to convey how I felt. I started a new supplement this past week and it completely knocked me off my feet. I believe I had my first herxheimer reaction (herx) from the medicine. This article explains a mild herx but it’s basically a die-off reaction, also referred to as a “healing crisis”. Medicine kills the pathogens in your body- in my case Lyme, among many other things- and the body reacts to the large amount of toxins released as the pathogens die. The die-off either exacerbates the symptoms you already have or it creates new ones. There’s always something new to discover in the medical wonder that is my body. A daily adventure, if you will. I reached out to the Lyme community and the consensus was, if you’re lying in the fetal position waiting for death, it’s a herx. That about sums up this past week in my life.

During my reaction, I vowed that I would not take the medicine again because it simply wasn’t worth the agony of sleeping on the bathroom floor and the fear that my heart would truly stop beating, nor the worry from my husband who has to watch all of this unfold and still fitfully attempt to get enough sleep for work. But my doctor told me to take two days off the meds and start back very slowly. During those two days of rest I did a lot of thinking and praying. I realized that my joints and glands were not as swollen. I think for the first time, something was actually working. That was the scary part – the realization that it doesn’t matter which medicine accomplishes this task, if I am ever going to get better the pathogens that are causing me to be sick have to die. In order to heal, the evil that is inside of me has to die no matter how much it hurts.

How metaphorical. This is exactly what has to happen in our spiritual lives as well. If we are going to let God heal every part of us, the evil parts have to die no matter how painful the process. 2 Timothy 2:11-12 says, “It is a trustworthy statement: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” If I endure the healing crisis allowing the pathogens to die, I will live. If I endure the spiritual healing crises allowing my old self to die, I will live and reign with Christ. What could be better?

Awhile ago, I asked God what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I just feel so irresponsible and useless and it deeply bothers me that Jason has all the responsibilities while pretty much having a second job caring for me. What I heard God say was, “rest and let Me heal you.” Ok God, maybe I heard You wrong. You know I rest all the time. In fact, I feel like I rest so much that I’m restless!! And I’m pretty sure God said something along the lines of, “bingo!” If your spirit/mind/heart is restless, you are not really resting.

I told my counselor about this and she read the definitions of “rest” to me. Rest is a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities; freedom from activity or labor. I assure you I’ve got that one completely covered. Next, rest is peace of mind or spirit. I do not believe I have ever been at rest inside of myself. I truly don’t know what that feels like but I think God wants to show me. Rest is also a rhythmic silence in music, which speaks to my musical side. Rest is something used as support. I liked this one because I could take it to mean that I need to use God as my support. I also need to lay down my pride and start letting others do things for me without feeling guilty. Not easy! The definition that my counselor read multiple times was “the repose of death.” I really did not like that one because it sounded morbid and I didn’t understand why she kept repeating it. It’s awesome how God plants seeds and then later helps us see the reason. I get it now!! In order to rest and let God heal me, the old me has to die no matter how much the process hurts.

I’ve never been as attached to Psalm 23 as many people are, but I think I’ve fallen in love with it anew and will be camped out in this passage for awhile.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” During this time of rest, God will make sure that I lack nothing that is necessary by His standards, not mine. Just as a shepherd knows what the sheep need, God knows what I need.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” In order for God to restore my soul, I must lie down, be quiet, and listen to Him. Rest.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God has to get rid of the old things that were not leading me down the path He wants for me. And that means those old things must die.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” But while these things die, I do not have to fear because God is with me to comfort me, provide for me, and guide me.

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” This is the most beautiful part to me. There is rich meaning in anointing oil. Oil can be used for physical and spiritual healing and I find it so perfectly beautiful that it is included in this passage. As I rest, I allow God to pour His healing over me. Another use for anointing oil is to set aside someone for the service of God. I love this. God is using this time to prepare me to serve Him, likely in a way that I have never imagined. The old me is dying so that the new me can be the person He created me to be. I am so excited to see where God takes me!

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God only has goodness and love in store for me. And what better promise could there be than that?

When I allow God to heal me spiritually, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. I do nothing in my own strength. Therefore, I am at rest as I rely on Him. My heart yearns for this healing rest. I also want to be healed physically, as much as the process scares me. So I need help! I need to be surrounded by the support part of rest. I need my brothers and sisters to pray for physical and emotional strength. At this point in my weakness, my 9-pound dog can pull me over. During my weakness, I need to feel God’s presence with me to help me through. I need His perfect love to cast out my fear. Today I stared at the medicine bottles for a good half hour, took a break for an hour, came back, held Jason’s hand and took them, panic and all. There’s a reason they call this a “healing crisis”. But if I’m ever going to heal, I need to let the medicine heal me even when it feels like death. And if I’m going to heal spiritually, I need to let God heal every part of me, no matter how painful it is and how much it takes out of me. Both processes will take nothing from me that I need, only the things that harm me.

There must be a reason this song has been on replay in my house for quite some time, “Oh, Lord I lay it down. Help me to lay it down. Oh, let this be where I die. My Lord, with Thee, crucified. Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall once and for all” (Lauren Daigle). God, I’m ready for the dying part of rest. I’m ready for you to heal me once and for all. I’m ready for my kingdoms to fall and Yours to build. I lay it all down. I trust You! Let the healing come as I rest in You.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." - Isaiah 30:15
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The Beauty of the Rubble

He will show you a new beauty. That’s the post I wrote one year ago when I decided to start naming the beauty I see in the midst of the brokenness. Beauty in the rubble.

I had been in a very dark place before that time. And I’m not saying this year of noticing the beauty has been bright. In fact, it’s possibly been more painful than the last. But slowly it transitioned into a different kind of pain. Instead of drowning in darkness, it has been a pain from which I’m generally able to see the light all around me. I started watching sunsets again. I had stopped doing that. I enjoyed nature again. Instead of constantly doing, I’ve been able to just observe God’s beautiful people at work. When I felt like I was drowning in pain I could look outside of myself and notice beauty.

Noticing the beauty this year helped get me out of my head at least once a day. It’s a scary place in there sometimes. Counting the beauty helped me praise God and notice his gifts. It helped me to see something positive amidst all of the negative. This year was jam-packed full of beauty that I would not have noticed if I had not purposely gone looking for it. God’s gifts to me. Beauty in the rubble.

But, the most surprising thing I have learned is that it is actually possible to see the beauty OF the rubble. Sometimes I may have to squint a little, maybe tilt my head or turn around. Or maybe I can’t see it now but I know I will see it eventually. The rubble is beautiful because of what God is doing with it. He said so in Romans 8:28.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that I only thought of that verse as God working the greater good for other people. I took comfort in the thought that my pain could help others and I definitely still think that can be the case. But I finally realized that God is working it for MY good as well. It’s difficult to see it that way because it doesn’t feel good, but it IS good. It is good for ME… because God said so.

I realized recently that I often thank God for the things I originally begged him to take away. I begged him to let me stay in Tennessee instead of moving back to Pennsylvania for awhile and now those Pennsylvania years are very precious to me. They were some of the last times I spent with my grandparents, among other blessings. I’ve begged God countless times to take away this illness. But if you were to ask me if I wish it had never happened, I would firmly, wholeheartedly say “NO.” This illness has gifted me in unbelievable ways. I can feel God’s presence with me like I had never felt before. I can see how this brokenness is allowing God to mold me into a better person. I can feel it stripping away the things in me that do not matter and slowly putting the broken pieces back where they belonged in the first place. It is a very painful beauty, but a beauty nonetheless. When I finally started pulling myself away from the darkness and started focusing on God, my eyes began to adjust to the Light.

This is certainly a beauty I have never seen before. All I needed to do was turn around.

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Stinky Fish Grace

"But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord." - Jonah 1:3

I grew up learning about Jonah on the felt board in Sunday School. Yes, felt boards, not Smart boards, were the name of our game back then. Jonah is likely one of the first Bible stories we learn because it is so memorable. And what kid wouldn’t love a story about a man being swallowed by a big fish?

Well, of course that kid would have to be me. Ever the odd one, I always kind of worried about Jonah and was grossed out thinking of his three-day surroundings. Then, there’s the lovely visual of the fish vomiting him up. I can hardly even stand to use that word and Jason knows to change the channel at the first hint of visual/audio up-chucking of any sort. This story has never appealed to me in the slightest. But I still felt as if I’d known it inside out (ha, pun not originally intended) since I was a child. I didn’t really think there would be anything more to learn from it, but God always has other plans. I thought I knew it by heart, but He showed me it hadn’t sunk into my heart. Because I now realize, Jonah is my soul-brother.

Jonah disobeyed a direct order from God. I disobey God and He’s been speaking so clearly to me lately, I really have no excuse. Jonah tried to run from God. Boy, do I love my running shoes. Jonah thought he could sleep peacefully after saying “no” to God’s difficult task. I think I have to say “no” to the hard things if I want peace.

But, my storm is coming…

This illness is a storm of sorts. I refused to take care of my health for years. It’s really not a wonder that I’m sick. I ignored the nudges from God to slow down, to grieve, to manage stress, to ask for help. And I was swallowed-up, forced to stop and take care of myself. Forced to cry out to God again.

"In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry" - Jonah 2:2

The fish in which Jonah sat marinating in filth for three days was grace. Stinky fish grace. Grace he did not deserve. He was disobedient and deserved to be tossed around by the storm. But God sent grace in the form of a fish. It was in the dark, rank belly of that fish that Jonah called out to God again and promised to finally obey. And it is from the dark, foul belly of my illness that I found the nearness of God again. My illness is grace. Stinky fish grace, but grace. Beautiful, wonderful, humbling grace that I would have never known otherwise.

Allow me to illustrate this concept further. My days are full of stinky fish grace. Beautiful rubble. We only have one car right now and that means when I need it, I have to get up early and take Jason to work. Less sleep, stressful driving, BUT also togetherness I would otherwise miss. I would have missed kissing him goodbye outside his work today and watching his coworkers greet him in the parking lot. I had to be in Kingsport later anyway for an unpleasant meeting. There wasn’t enough time for me to go home after dropping Jason off so I planned to meet my friend, Robin, to walk. I was early to our meeting place. I could have considered all of this a waste of time, BUT I was able to watch the ducks play in the peace of the stream in the early-morning sun. I met a fellow bench-rester and we watched and shared a laugh at the ducks chasing each other. This man was just visiting his sister from out of state and I gathered he lives alone and doesn’t see his family often. I will likely never see him again but I hope this encounter was as bright a spot in this lonely man’s day as it was in mine. I am thankful for this simple, shared moment with a stranger. A divinely-appointed gift. My friendship with Robin itself is grace born out of illness. I only worked with her for six months and by that time I was so sick I couldn’t hide it very well. Being the great nurse that she is, Robin read me like a book. And I, the person with the iron bars and concrete walls, let her sneak past the gate. She is still a dear friend to me, much attributed to my illness rather than in spite of it. I have other divinely-appointed kindreds due to this wonderful, stinky fish gift of illness. By the time I had to drive back to pick Jason up this afternoon, I was far past my expiration but again, God gifted me. I don’t go many places by myself so I was perhaps overly-excited to be able jam to my very eclectic array of Alathea, Dolly Parton, Savage Garden, and Point of Grace. All I can say is dancing to loud music fends off panic-driving. Thanks be to God. Again, I was gifted with Jason’s presence and recap of his day on the way home. Alas, we still needed groceries and I almost considered it when Jason asked if I needed to ride IN the cart (oops, I mean, buggy). But God gifted another grace in the midst of the stink. I was greeted by my favorite grocery clerk who always smiles, calls me “young lady”, and genuinely wishes me a good day. He always blesses my heart. God always blesses my heart. My disobedient, fearful, run-away, stinky, filth-covered heart. He gives me grace I do not deserve.

IT’S TIME TO THROW ME OVERBOARD.

 

The storm has been raging around me for quite some time, waves pelting me against the rocks, the darkness covering my head, drowning me. Sometimes I’m not sure how I will make it out alive. Is the storm raging around you like this? I am wondering if it might be time for us to embrace the storm. To jump, or ask someone to help throw us overboard. I wonder if by welcoming the dark and painful circumstances, if we would experience God’s peace in the middle of them. To watch God calm the storm around me instead of watching Him calm it from a distance seems that much more powerful. I think I’m ready to be swallowed up by the stinky fish version of grace. Wondrous, mind-blowing, heart-changing grace that I do not deserve in the slightest. Grace that may not look like what we would consider good, but grace that saves us from drowning in our darkness. I want to embrace my less-than-ideal circumstances, believing that God IS working them for good. I don’t want to reject the seemingly stinky gifts anymore because they just may be what saves me. I want to see these gifts as grace. Beautiful, saving grace. It’s time to jump in.

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Peace In the Pain

How do you find words to explain a shift inside a human heart? I’ve been mulling over that question for several days while simultaneously waiting for the back swing. Basically, I don’t trust myself to stay a changed woman but I long for it to stick. This experience may not seem profound to anyone else, but for me it is monumental. It is something I have clung to each passing day since the day I let God change my heart and something I want to keep hold of until I see Jesus face to face.

I ‘formally’ gave my heart to Jesus twenty years ago but, as all of his followers know, we learn more each day about what that really means. And for me lately it has been a clutching, exhausting, grasping, constant, stubborn tug-of-war with my whole heart. I just wouldn’t let God have it. I’d let him have some of it but I didn’t like what he was doing with parts of it so I took them back. The part I simply refused to let go of was pain. I thought if I let God have my whole heart, he might break it by not taking away the pain. I don’t know how else to explain my flawed thinking other than I have been angry about my own pain and the pain of the people I love. I resented God for allowing so much hurt and I doubted his goodness. And then I beat myself up for my faithlessness. I have been in a deep, dark pit of constant ups and downs. One day I would fall down in worship to God and the next I would rage at myself for resenting him. And this roller coaster ride in my heart has centered around a fear of pain.

I can walk next to God and love him for the good things. No problem. I count the beauty in each of my days and genuinely thank him for it. But there is a dark corner of myself where I hide the ugly, wounded, angry, trembling part that I refuse to let God have. I even manage to hide this part from myself at times if you can believe that. See, I told you it was hard to explain. The absolute constant pain in my life and in most other lives would not reconcile in this corner of my heart with a good God.

So, imagine my surprise when the cosmic shift inside of me happened during intense pain. Actually, I believe it had to happen that way in order for God’s light to reach that dark, aching corner of my soul. I had one of the worst migraines of my life and it ebbed and flowed for several days. One beautiful, sunny afternoon I had been in bed for hours, just lying there in my darkened room. I couldn’t read because it hurt. I couldn’t watch TV because it hurt. All I could do was lie there and think about the pain. It would have been very easy for me to rage at God, but truthfully, I didn’t have the energy. So I just started talking to him. I said, “I can’t take this anymore. God, you take it!” And then I started thinking about what I really meant by that. I wanted God to take away my pain. I’ve been struggling to trust him because I don’t understand pain. But this time I decided to ask him to open my heart to what He was trying to teach me and to allow him to love me through the pain. I told him I was too tired to fight anymore and he could have it all. I was done. I’ve said these words before so you can see why I don’t trust myself to allow it to stick, but then I just kept talking. “God, forgive me for the tug-of-war and thank you for that forgiveness and for still loving me and pulling me back toward you even though I fight so hard to keep part of my control.” I handed him the control. I handed him the pain. I finally fully trusted him with the pain. It was unbelievably difficult and through gritted teeth at first but I finally meant what I said. I finally relaxed and let go. I said over and over, “I give you my pain. I trust you with my pain. Thank you for carrying my pain. Do with it whatever will bring you glory. I accept your love for me. I accept your healing of me when and how you see fit. Use my pain. Use this migraine for your glory. Carry my pain. Thank you for how you are working in my pain. Thank you for working good even out of this migraine. Thank you for working in my pain. Thank you for my pain.” Ummmm…. thank you for my pain? I said it, and meant it, before I could take it back! I couldn’t believe what I had just heard myself say and instead of being a punch to the gut, it was like a breath of fresh air. I thanked God for what he is doing in my pain, what he is teaching me in my pain, and how he carries me through the pain.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. - Romans 8:18

After such a profound heart-change, there might be a slight expectation of a miracle, right? I did not experience a miraculous healing but I did experience a miraculous heart healing. God did not take my pain away. But surprisingly, my heart finally understood that it was enough to know that he was finally helping me bear it. I had finally allowed him to have my pain. I realized something that should have been so obvious, but to a raging, wounded child, nothing is obvious. I never wanted to hand God my pain because I was afraid that if I did, he would not take it away and that would break my heart. But how could he take my pain away if I never gave it to him? How could I be angry at him for not taking away a pain that I was still clinging to by my tired and bleeding fingertips? How could I expect him to do anything about my pain if I never actually gave it to him?

It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. Because, there’s no guarantee that once I hand the pain to God that he’s going to take it away. I want a guarantee. I want pain GONE! I would be so happy to never see it peering out of the eyes of anyone I love again. But there is no guarantee of pain removal. Instead, the guarantee is that God will work the pain for good, some way, somehow and, if we let him have it, he will help us carry it.

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." - Isaiah 53:5

How could I have believed that God was breaking my heart, especially a heart that I never fully gave him? No, he wants to hold my heart while it’s breaking. He wants to hold me and show me how he will make this good. I trusted God to do what he knows is the best thing for me, even if it means more pain. Then, I started singing. Singing? In tremendous pain, I started singing. Song after song kept pouring from me. Meaningful words from songs I hadn’t remembered in years. I just kept singing to my God. Nothing about my pain changed…but everything about my heart changed. And somehow that made the pain so much easier to bear. It was such a relief to finally be completely dependent on God. After the songs stopped, I just listened for awhile and I felt a weight of comfort holding me and the pain greatly diminished. It was still there but knowing God was holding me took the sharp sting of bitterness away.

Sun rays are a reminder to me of God’s presence and at that moment I suddenly knew that I would look outside and see them. I crawled out of my dark cave and peeked out the window to see the most gorgeous rays. The sun rays were an extra gift from God straight to my heart, but the biggest gift was how present he was in my pain. The sun rays lasted just a few moments but his presence is always with me.

Later, Jason said I looked like a different person when I came downstairs and I want to be! I want to have stepped out of the darkness and into the Light for good. I want to have crossed from the depths of death to abundant Life, fully trusting in God. It’s amazing how much freedom is felt when you give your heart away. It seems like it should be the opposite, but God’s ways are more beautiful than our limited understanding. Since that time it has been as if God has slowly breathed new life back into me. Sure, it is a daily, moment by moment battle with myself to give it up again and stop worrying about my pain and other people’s pain. I still constantly have to stop and remind myself to let go and give the current pain or worry to God. But I now know how badly I want to rely on God and let him be my strength. I know that each pain and worry is an opportunity to experience God again. So, I thank him for the pain. I cling to him. As long as I am clinging to God with all of my strength, I won’t have anything left with which to cling to my control and pain. I’d rather expend my energy holding tightly to God. It’s the only way to have peace in the pain.

“One day soon, we’ll see His face and every tear He’ll wipe away. No more pain or suffering. Oh, praise Him for the mercy tree. Death has died. Love has won. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” – Lacey Sturm, Mercy Tree

Carry Me, Lord (Listen to the song here)

Weary from a burden that's too heavy
Oh, just carry me, Lord
Finally ready to let you be strong when I'm weak
Oh, just carry me, Lord

I give up the fight
It was never mine
And I will choose to wait for you
I'll sit by your side
In the still of the night
Knowing God, you'll see me through

Hurting, stumbling blindly on this crooked way
Oh, just carry me, Lord
But you heal me, washing my feet, make my path straight
Oh, just carry me, Lord

I lay down my will
And I'll be still
And I'll let you have your way
What you want for me
Is more than I could dream
And one day I'll hear you say

'I have won your fight
Can you see the light?
And I have cleared the path for you
You let me take your hand
And help you understand
I have always carried you
My child, I carried you.'
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Lyme Disease – The War is On!

I have Lyme Disease. I sat here for awhile trying to figure out how to start this so I thought I’d just come right out and say it. After years of searching, many tests, too many unsuccessful treatments, countless dollars, blood (so much blood!), sweat, and tears, it seems that we finally know the core of what we’re fighting. I say “it seems” because I’ve gotten my hopes up and crushed so many times that it’s difficult to let myself believe that we may have finally gotten to the bottom of it.

Many people think that Lyme will be cured with a round of antibiotics but, once Lyme has been hanging out in a body for a long time, it becomes what is referred to as Chronic Lyme Disease or Post-treatment Lyme Disease (in my case, without the original treatment) and antibiotics are useless, even potentially dangerous. I also have one of the most common Lyme co-infections, Mycoplasma Pneumoniae. These little “bugs”, for lack of a better word, do not have a cell wall, which renders them completely resistant to most antibiotics. They can also fit pretty much anywhere they want and “hide”, making it very difficult to get rid of them. It’s important to me that people understand why this is going to be such a difficult journey so I would love it if you read this article on Lyme and Mycoplasma for further understanding. It appears that the Lyme treatment covered by insurance is antibiotics and antibiotics will not work for me. Life cannot be simple, but I believe that’s when God works in the biggest ways.

It always takes me awhile to process things so if I’m a complete wreck for awhile, please excuse me! I received the news Monday and wrote the first draft of this blog but then I pretty much shut down/broke down. Now, since you’ll be seeing me share Lyme articles all over Facebook in an effort to learn and teach, I guess it’s time to go public. Here are only some of the emotions I can put into words:

Anger. I am allowing myself to be angry for awhile. Yes, I’m angry that this happened and that I did not notice a tick bite. Ticks can be very tiny, bite, and then drop off without being noticed. But mostly I’m angry at the doctors who dismissed me. I have drained our resources going from one doctor to the next only for them to tell me I was fine. I am angry that I was made to feel crazy by those who told me it was all in my head. I am angry at a medical system that doesn’t cover proper testing. In case you are not aware, traditional Lyme testing only catches 56% of Lyme cases. And insurance very often does not cover the appropriate testing. Again, I stand by my view that no one profits from people who are healthy so testing and treatments that will make them well are not covered. No one will ever convince me otherwise and I will be angry about and fight against this pure evil crime against humanity until the day I die.

Back to the doctors. Where would I be if I had listened to them? I shudder to think. I would be on so many drugs! And they wouldn’t know about my gene mutation (MTHFR) that makes me more sensitive to chemicals so they would have certainly caused much more harm than good. My symptoms would only continue to be covered up as they multiplied, rather than finding the root cause. Oh, and I would not have had a Lyme test at all because, as my Rheumatologist said, “there’s no Lyme in Tennessee”.  Well, dear doctor, I’d like to introduce you to EXHIBIT ME.

And, where would I be if the doctors had listened to me? I would not have been made to feel crazy. I would have been tested, and therefore, treated, far sooner. My diseases would not have progressed and likely caused permanent damage to my body. I may not have lost my job and tanked our resources. I sure as heck would be a lot less stressed! So much needless worry for my family. But, enough with the “if onlys”. Dwelling in “if onlys” helps nothing and is very toxic to the mental state. God can, and will, use the bad to make good… always!

Happy. I am so happy, actually ECSTATIC, to finally have an answer! Though I wish it wasn’t necessary, I am happy to be one more case proving to the medical professionals that they need to take their patients more seriously. I am happy to be an example to people who take what their doctors say as gospel and encourage them to be the expert in their own bodies. I’ve been the exception to many of my doctors’ preconceptions and I make certain to go back and inform them for the sake of others. I like to think that those doctors may not be so hasty to dismiss in the future. I took one… or ten… for the team. You’re welcome, TN!

Sad. I am so sad for the life I have lost. Granted, I could have handled the situation better, but I have tried! I’m sad for those who don’t have the resources to get proper testing and treatment, who don’t have loved ones who would cut off their own body parts if they thought it would make them better. I’m sad for the people who don’t know they can question their doctors.

Afraid. I’m afraid to get my hopes up again. My doctor is putting all of her faith in this treatment. She believes it will heal everything – my malabsorption and anemia, my Sjogren’s, depression/anxiety, perhaps even my thyroid. I’m terrified of being crushed again. I’m afraid of the potentially grueling treatment. I’m afraid it will come back or I’ll be bitten again but she will put me on a preventive herb after I complete the treatment. I’m afraid I have already, or will give it to Jason. Yes, it is very possible to transmit Lyme to your partner. We will eventually have to get him tested too.

Determined. I am determined to give this my all. I will be eating a completely clean diet minus eggs (due to a sensitivity), which isn’t a whole lot different than what I’ve been doing already. I can certainly do this if it means helping the treatment protocol be most effective. I am determined to feel what it’s like to be healthy. I truly do not remember the feeling of “good”, and when I finally get to answer the “how are you” question with “good” again, I may burst into happy tears.

Hopeful. Despite my resistance to hope, I can’t fight it. It’s creeping into my heart. I am hopeful that I will be well again. This was my last try. I had said that if this test came back negative, I was done. And my doctor wouldn’t have known what else to try anyway. I kept singing “Thy will be done”, even if I wasn’t exactly sure I meant it. If the test had come back negative, my fight was over. If I had been tested for Lyme first, my body may not have been able to handle the treatment. I was so weak. Other treatments have helped me heal some and who knows, maybe now my body is finally ready to fight this. Though I am not at all pleased to have Lyme, God knew I needed an answer and he finally gave me one.

Thankful. I am so thankful for my brain and my willingness to question and advocate for my own body. I am incredibly thankful for the doctors who do listen and who don’t give up on me. I am thankful for the ones who were willing to rebel against the system with me. I am thankful for the people in my life who have helped me get to this point. I am overwhelmed with emotion when I thank God for a husband who walks beside and suffers with me, for parents who would bleed dry if they thought it would make me better, and for the dear friends who hold my hand, listen to my meltdowns, and encourage me daily to take another step. I could not do this life without any of you! I am so thankful for the prayers offered on my behalf. It overwhelms me to think of people going to God for me. I am thankful for God and his timing. It is never mine, but always best. I know that I will look back on this journey and see God making much beauty out of rubble. God is really the One fighting this war, and I am very excited to see how he is going to do it!

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14

I have made this sound like a closure letter, and in some ways maybe it is. I know the thing we are fighting. But, a fight it will be for sure! I covet your constant prayers! I did not expect to have such an emotional reaction to this news and I am really struggling to not lose my mind…which is why I laughed when I found out the Celebrate Recovery lesson last night was on sanity. Well-played, God! I could not have fathomed the expense of treatment, which is not covered by insurance, so my doctors and I are still trying to figure out what I’m going to do. Please pray that God will provide. Pray that God will strengthen my immune system to fight this. Pray that the side effects and die off symptoms will be tolerable. Pray that my depression and anxiety will not overshadow my determination. Thank you so much for reading and walking beside me through this. And thank you, God, for hearing our prayers!

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Strength for Crooked Paths

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Understanding. I am obsessed with it. I NEED to know why things are. I love rules and quickly get lost in gray areas. I lean so heavily on my own understanding that I very often wander down the crooked path of “Why?” The age-old question of, “Why does a God of love allow so much pain?” plagues me more often than I care to admit. It’s sometimes accompanied by, “What is our purpose in life?”, and “Why did God even create us in the first place?”

I want things my way or no way. I don’t want to acknowledge God in the gray areas with a faithful, “God is God and I am not” mindset. I want Him to take AWAY the gray areas so that I can be more comfortable.

I’ve been studying Isaiah 45. It’s a beautiful passage about God moving King Cyrus to build a temple for Him in Jerusalem. Much opposition surrounded the building of the temple, but the people of God pressed on in spite of their fear (Ezra 3:3). When only the foundation was completed, the people gave such a great shout of joy and praise that it could be heard from far away (Ezra 3:11, 13). They clearly cared more about accomplishing a task for God than they feared the uncertainty of the people around them. The king of Assyria tried to oppose the building, but God changed his attitude so that he not only stopped opposing them, but he actually assisted them with the process (Ezra 6:22). God said, “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight” (Isaiah 45:13). Would you look at that!? Cyrus acknowledged God and God made his paths straight! Sound familiar? In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

But, what if I don’t acknowledge God…because I want so badly to lean on my own understanding? What if I am too afraid of the unknown to let God be God? Here’s the answer. “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me” (Isaiah 45:5). This verse brought me to my knees. God will strengthen me, even when I don’t acknowledge Him. When I am wandering the crooked paths of fear and “why?”, God is still giving me strength for my wanderings. HE IS STILL OFFERING ME STRENGTH EVEN WHEN I AM QUESTIONING HIS WAYS.

When God leads me on His straight path, it definitely doesn’t always feel like the easiest way. During times of uncertainty, instead of allowing Him to take my right hand (Isaiah 45:1) and lead me, I start flailing in anger and fear, trying to get away from the Glorious methods I don’t have the capacity to understand. In my struggle, I actually hurt myself more, fumbling around in the dark through the jagged, mountainous terrain. If only I will stop trying to understand Ways that are much higher than my ways, if only I will take God’s hand in trust, acknowledging that He knows better, the power of what God will do for me is staggering. God says, “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:2-3).

God will level the mountains of our trials, cut the bars of our bondage, help us find treasures in the darkness, and He calls us personally by name as He leads us on the straight path. But even when we wander down the crooked path of fear and questioning, He still gives us strength. What kind of Love is this?

“All the way back, she had imagined him gloating and taunting, rubbing her face in her own broken pride. Instead, he knelt before her and washed her dirty, blistered feet.” This part of my favorite book, Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, pierces my heart every time. I imagine myself wandering around in the darkness in fear, feet catching the sharp rocks, tripping over the questions and doubts, covered in the dirt that I throw at God when I don’t like something He’s doing. And yet, because God loves me more than I can fathom, He still gives me enough strength through the crooked path to make it back to Him, crawling and broken, groveling in the dirt, face to the ground before the Almighty God. I deserve my wounds rubbed in my pride, fear, and doubt. I deserve the mud I’ve flung to be flung right back at me exponentially. But instead, Jesus kneels down on the jagged, dirty rocks of the crooked path, washes my filthy, doubting, wandering feet, takes me by the right hand and leads me down the straight path.

Strength for the crooked path. Strength for the straight path. I’d rather take the straight path and be led by the One who knows the way. Help me, Jesus. Amen.

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