Lights Out

lights out

Last week, I had the opportunity to go on a missions trip to Mexico with some close friends. We had such an amazing, eye-opening time, and were blessed to be able to do outreaches at five churches there. On our way back to the base from Mano de Leon, a secluded fishing village about two hours from where we were staying, I was talking with one of my good friends from home. The ministry’s theme verse for that week was John 1:5, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” As we discussed this verse, and what it’s like to have God bring you out of darkness into Light, the following illustration popped into my head:

When you’re walking in light, you can see everything in your path. You can avoid obstacles and be aware of dangers that may confront you, and you will find that it’s much easier to keep your end goal in sight. But our flesh, that human nature ingrained within us, prefers to live in darkness. Temptations arise and sometimes…we fail. In those moments, we’ve turned out the light. The darkness is very uncomfortable at first. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face. You stumble on objects strewn across your path, you slip into ditches, you trip over stones, and you desperately throw out your hands, hoping to feel your way through the darkness, but to no avail. You’re blind. But you have a choice. You can turn the light back on. Sadly, some people stumble on, and the longer you stay in darkness, the more your eyes become accustomed to it. They may live in such a night for the rest of their lives, or they may grow tired of this way of life and in brokenness and humility, come back to the light. Just as the darkness was at first, the light can be uncomfortable when it is turned on once more, but as you diligently walk in it, you find that the longer you stay in it, the more your eyes adapt to its brightness until you wonder how you ever lived without it.

Wait for It…

waiting

Do you enjoy waiting? Is it fun? What about that feeling of impatience that makes you tap your fingers and glance at the clock every couple seconds? Is that the best feeling in the world to you? Don’t be shy, raise those hands up in the air. All right, let’s see, we have………………..Ah, yes, we have about…zero. Yes, zero. Plenty of us in the “Waiting’s Great” club aren’t there? Okay, so maybe there are those few people out there who do enjoy waiting, but I think we can all agree that most of us do not have “waiting” written on our list of hobbies. We’ve all waited, though, haven’t we?

So I usually like to read a chapter of Proverbs a day. It gives me a great guideline for my day and is also handy in keeping track of the date (it’s the 13th, right?…Oh, wait! 18th! Got it!). Well, the verse I’m about to share is not from today’s Proverb, but it comes up in just a couple days and it’s really been on my mind lately. “Man’s goings are of the Lord: how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24). You might be wondering how this ties in with waiting, but if you’ll just wait for it (wink, wink), you will see!

The past few months of my life have been trying. I’ve cried a lot, been depressed a lot, slept not a lot, cried some more, etc. Yeah, yeah, you get it. I don’t want pity, but I do strive to really set the scene. We all come to at least one point in our lives where we find ourselves “in the depths of despair.” We feel stuck. We feel completely hopeless. We wonder why we’re still here. That’s called winter, friends. And I don’t mean that in the physical, seasonal, cold weather sense. Everyone goes through seasons of life, and when winter comes upon us, sometimes it feels like our whole life freezes over, forever to be buried beneath layers of solid, chilling ice. What do you do? You wait…………………………….. For spring, a time of rejuvenation.

How do we wait? What if the going gets harder? Questions race through your head, bumping against each other, tangling in a confusing knot. Where is God when you need Him most? Why is every day a battle? When will life’s woes finally let up?? I can’t tell you exactly why you go through what you do, nor when it will eventually end, but I can tell you that the Lord is with you through it all. He never leaves and He is always offering His strength to face every trial. “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

When I was sixteen years old, I downloaded the audiobook “Stepping Heavenward” by Elizabeth Prentiss. This novel (written in journal form) follows the life of one young woman, Katherine Mortimer, as she strives to walk in godliness. I was fascinated when I first began listening, but I barely got through a small section of the first chapter before I was called away. I eventually lost that audio copy somehow and could not find a way to download it again, and so wondered how I might still get the chance to finish the story. It so happens that as I was strolling past vendor booths at a recent conference, my eye was drawn to a title among some used books. There it was, “Stepping Heavenward.” I quickly snatched it up and bought it and have been reading it since. In one chapter, Katherine records a letter written to her by her pastor, who is helping her along on her journey to a deeper faith. There was a particular part in this letter that hit home with me, and so I shall share it with you: “But you will imagine that it is best that He should at once enable you to see clearly. If it is, you may be sure He will do it. He never makes mistakes. But He often deals far differently with His disciples. He lets them grope their way in the dark until they fully learn how blind they are, how helpless, how absolutely in need of Him. What His methods will be with you I cannot foretell. But you may be sure that He never works in an arbitrary way. He has a reason for everything He does. You may not understand why He leads you now in this way and now in that, but you may, nay, you must believe that perfection is stamped on His every act.”

Now we can see how beautifully “waiting” and Proverbs 20:24 go together, can’t we? We enter into situations in life that rock our worlds; we learn from them, but sometimes we remain in those circumstances for quite a while afterwards, and we wonder why God would allow that. Has He forgotten about us? Not at all. Has He not realized that we’ve learned the lesson and we’re ready for sunshine and blue skies now? But wait a moment. Can we, mere humans with our limited comprehension, truly ask that question of a limitless God? Can we say to Him, “Ahem…Lord? Nellye here. Yep, Nellye Jane. I did that thing You asked me to do, and I walked through that trial that came my way, and I’ve learned ever so much on my journey, so if You could just kindly move that mountain out of my way now, I would greatly appreciate it.” Our God can move mountains, and He does move mountains, but what do we do when He doesn’t? What do we do when we’re still wandering in that dark valley with not a green pasture in sight?

Elisabeth Elliot once said, “Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” We do not always know why we go through different tribulations. Certainly, we learn from them. But what if we feel we have learned from them? What then? I felt this way just a few days ago, to be honest. I’ve been going through a specific trial for close to two years now and I felt like I wasn’t anywhere near getting out of it. At first, I had been a stubborn, selfish person, refusing to listen to God, but as time wore on, the Lord taught me how to let go, how to trust that He knows what He is doing. But when I found myself still in these difficult circumstances just days ago, I wondered what God was doing. I had learned, hadn’t I? Hadn’t I taken to heart the moral of the story? Well, the Spirit decided to speak to me at that moment, and suddenly it made sense. Sitting on a gym floor, surrounded by several groups of chatting people, I picked up my notebook and wrote, “Why all the pain? Why all the anger? Why the bitterness? the struggle? Why leave me so helpless?…..Oh…..That’s why You did it. It didn’t please You to watch me suffer, but You knew all along I needed it. You knew I needed to fall to my knees, to lift my empty hands, to offer up my bleeding heart. I needed to find that only You are enough, to be so desperate and broken that I could only turn to You and You alone. That’s why You did it; that’s why You’re doing it. -4/15/18″

I still don’t know exactly why God is allowing me to remain in this place, but I do know that as long as it is bringing me closer to Him, it is good. I don’t always understand my life, why things happen the way they do, but I know that it is the Lord who directs my path, and His ways are much higher than mine. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).

I will finish with one last thought, one last bit to chew on. My sister and I were talking about waiting just the other day, and she said to me, “You know, waitstaff serve people.” To further explain that, in a restaurant, you have a waitstaff, made up of what we usually call waiters and waitresses. Their job is to wait on the customers, serving them in any way that they can. Isn’t that interesting? I worked as a waitress myself for a little while. Waiters and waitresses don’t just stand around doing nothing, waiting for someone to need a refill or ask for an extra fork or request a takeout box; they are almost constantly out and about in the dining area making sure that the customers are satisfied. In a way, I feel that we as Christians are called to just that. When we wonder why life is going the way it is, and all we can do is wait, we’re not just to sit down and expect some miraculous change; we need to be active! We need to serve the Lord in any way that we can, big or small, on the mission field or in everyday tasks around the house. Meanwhile, God will be doing His own work inside us, using our circumstances to make us more like Christ.

“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord…For the Lord will not cast off forever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:25,26,31-33).

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen you” (1 Peter 5:10).

“I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made everything beautiful in his time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:10,11).

 

 

Don’t give up; spring is coming! Wait for it…

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Standing in the Gap

 

Who-Will-Stand-in-the-Gapblog

Standing in the gap. What does that even mean? According to freedictionary.com (with any parenthetical elements having been added by myself), to stand in the gap is “to expose oneself for the protection of something (or someone); to make defense against any assailing danger; to take the place of a fallen defender or supporter.” Most of you probably already knew that, but I thought it might be a good refresher. I had always thought that this saying was made up by some random person that nobody remembers, but I was surprised to find just a couples nights ago that it’s actually used in the Bible!

In Ezekiel 22:30-31, it says, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.” At that point in time, the people of Jerusalem were turned from God and were living wicked lives and worshiping idols (both physical idols and idols of the heart [Ezekiel 22:4, Ezekiel 14:3]). Ezekiel prophesied to the people many times, speaking the words given to him of God, but they were proud and stubborn and refused to turn from their ways; thus, they were doomed to receive the judgment promised them of God. But this wasn’t the first time the Israelites had provoked their patient God to wrath…

Israel was tired of waiting for Moses to come down from Mt. Sinai, so they persuaded Aaron to make gods for them. I don’t know whether or not he was really on board with such an idea; nevertheless, a molten calf was conceived of the people’s impatience, formed of the Israelites’ gold, fashioned by Aaron for the people to worship. “And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of the evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exodus 32:9-14).

What if Moses hadn’t been there? What would have happened?? I guess we can’t really know for sure, but I think we have a pretty good idea that things wouldn’t have gone down so well for the Israelites. Before anyone starts thinking, “Sheesh, God sure is a jerk,” we have to remember that God is just. Yes, He is a God of love; yes, He is a God of goodness; yes, He is a God of patience; but He’s also a God of justice. Any judgment poured out on the Israelites would have been more than deserved, especially after God had wrought many miracles to bring them out of Egypt, out of cruel bondage. But God proved just how merciful He is by listening to the intercession of His servant Moses and sparing His people, even continuing to bless them.

Going back to Ezekiel, we see that the Israelites had once more placed themselves in a perilous position. God was ready to judge them, but you know what He did? He looked for a Moses first. He searched, actually hoping to find someone who might intercede on the behalf of His people, to stand in the gap for them. But he could find no one, not one person. And so we have that “therefore” which leads to God explaining what He must do.

The people of this world are not unlike the Israelites in the way they regard the Lord. They walk in their own ways, worship their own gods, and seek to please only themselves. Such filthy living calls for judgment from a perfect and holy God. He loves them just as He loves His children, but holy and unholy cannot merge, cannot coexist. Thus, He sent His Son Jesus to become the sacrifice we need, paying for our sins to make us right with God. Not everybody is so quick to receive that gift, though, and for those wayward sons and daughters God calls His children to stand in the gap. We plant seeds of the gospel, we water with the Word, we harvest with our Lord, but that’s only part of standing in the gap. Standing in the gap requires fervent prayer, spiritual battle against the devil. It’s placing yourself between that lost soul and the clutches of Satan.  It’s standing firm with the sword of the Spirit raised against that wicked one, warring in the strength of the Lord. Is it easy? Not always. I’ve learned that from personal experience. But it is worth it. 

So my question is today:  Are you willing to fight for the soul wandering in darkness? Are you willing to battle fiercely? Are you willing to accept the pain and prolonged grief and discouragement that may come? Are you willing to wait? Are you willing to be a person who can help erase that “therefore” for someone else? Are you willing to stand in the gap?

Who will stand in the gap?

 

Indescribable

Before I begin my story, I’d like to say that I do not truly know whether or not what happens in this story is something that could actually happen or has actually happened before. I simply thought it would be an interesting occurrence to write about. Enjoy! 🙂

The silence began to overwhelm him. Throwing open the door, he stepped out of the truck and walked; walked until the stars appeared, and until the sweltering heat of the day gave way to a bitter chill that nipped at his bare arms. There was no better place for a barren man than the desert.

Broken and defeated, he dropped to his knees and drove his fingers into the pale sand, clutching it tightly in his fists before flinging it into the air with a rending cry to the heavens. In devastating sorrow, he continually poured out his grief, trying to fill the silence, and the emptiness that thrashed in his chest like a ravenous demon attempting to devour his very soul.

Finally, his throat having become raw and his voice hoarse, he collapsed and wearily rolled onto his back, feeling as if his life seeped from him and soaked into the desert sand. “Why?” he whispered raggedly as tears of anguish streamed down his temples and into his disheveled ash brown hair. The stars remained distant and cold.

Settling into the sand, he became wearily content with just breathing, eyes squeezed shut. He didn’t know how long he lay there before he became vaguely aware of a light glaring against his eyelids. Squinting at the harsh radiance, he slowly sat up and rubbed his eyes, trying to discern what was invading that fragile moment.

“How long have you been standing there?” he hoarsely asked after the realization came to him that he was either dreaming or being visited by some supernatural being.

“Longer than you’d like,” came the reply. The man rested his forearms on his raised knees and studied the speaker. Beneath the brilliance was the figure of what appeared to be a man. The being stood with arms loosely crossed over his broad chest, feet planted shoulder-width apart, mouth set firmly, blue eyes piercing yet enigmatic.

With a mirthless chuckle, the man shook his head and fell on his back, deciding he was losing his mind. “So why are you here?” he inquired, glancing at the stoic being.

Sighing, the being dropped his arms and answered, “Well, we don’t usually do this, but I’ve been sent to ask you to come with me.” He extended his hand toward the man on the ground. Curiosity flashing in his eyes, the man eyed the offered hand before hesitantly reaching out and taking it.

There was a blinding flash of light, then sudden darkness. He wondered if this was death. But when he heard the distant birdsong and felt a balmy breeze whisper across his gritty, tear-stained face, he realized he was standing in some new place, eyes tightly closed. Cautiously, he ventured to peek into this different world, looking upon it through squinted lids. His eyes grew large at the sight.

It was a place of great beauty and peace and light, indescribable by mere human vocabulary. The man glanced over at his supernatural companion, who regarded him with an almost amused expression on his otherwise stern face. He seemed very at home. “Overwhelmed, David?” he asked.

“A little,” the man replied, scratching his head and blinking in wonder. “It’s like…like…nothing I’ve ever seen before.” David stood utterly still, paralyzed by awe, when suddenly his eyes shifted suspiciously back to the being. “How do you know my name?”

“Never mind that,” said the being. “Look.” Gesturing with his head while maintaining his stalwart stance, he looked just past David, his eyes seeming to flicker with joyful anticipation. David swiveled his head  to the right, eyebrows drawn in confusion. He froze at the sight of her. His body trembled, tears sprang to his eyes, and an uncontainable delight overtook his whole being.

“Hi, David,” she said in almost a whisper, a shy smile gracing her lips.

“…Anna,” he managed to choke out before stumbling toward her and pulling her into his arms in a desperate embrace. Burying his face in her hair, he whispered, “What is this? Am I dreaming?”

Anna chuckled softly before gently pushing away, looking into his tortured blue eyes. “No, you’re not dreaming.” She tucked a strand of caramel hair behind her ear, watching him fondly. A muscle in his cheek twitched as he fought an onslaught of tears.

“Then what is this?” he murmured, taking her hands in his and searching for answers in those affectionate green eyes. Uncertainty clouded her soft features and she glanced toward the being as if silently asking his permission for something. Nodding his head, he flashed a quick smile of encouragement and looked toward David.

Anna breathed deeply and answered, “Jesus wanted you to see where I am, how I’m doing.”

“Jesus?” David blinked in surprise, cleared his throat, and continued, “You mean that all that going to church, and reading the Bible, and praying to God…was real?”

Anna’s eyes seemed to penetrate his very soul. “Of course.”

David broke the intense gaze and scanned his surroundings, letting it all sink in. He looked at her once more as he heard her voice, noting the passion in her eyes. “But I’m only here because of Jesus. All those other things were the results of learning to truly know Him. And what sweet lessons they were…” A radiant smile caused her face to glow with unspeakable joy. Looking deeply into her eyes, David came to a stunning realization: Heaven was real, and his Anna was there. More importantly, Jesus was real and because of Him, Anna was happy and living abundantly beyond death’s cold grasp.

A moment of silence passed as David let it all settle. His eyes shimmered with gathering tears as he brushed his thumb across her cheek. “Save a place for me?” he quietly asked. She reached up and placed her hand on his jaw, a very tender smile curving her lips.

“That’s up to you, beloved. You have to open the door.”

And with that, David’s eyes snapped open and he found himself looking up at a black sky burning with a host of glittering stars. Anna’s last words echoed in his head as he sat up. “You have to open the door.” He stood and dusted himself off, then walked back in the direction of his truck, contemplating whether or not it had really been a dream.

When he reached the old pickup, he opened the passenger door, popped the glovebox, and pulled out a .22 pistol. He turned the weapon over in his calloused hands, running his fingers across the cold metal. Setting it aside, he reached into the glovebox once more and this time pulled out a Bible. He’d kept it in there ever since Anna had given it to him three years ago, but he had never opened it. As he stroked the soft leather cover, something told him to flip to the last few pages, and when he did, his eyes fell upon a verse that Anna must have marked before giving the Bible to him. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

“You have to open the door.” Tears pricked his eyes and he gazed up at the stars, swallowing the lump in his throat. He slowly dropped to his knees and heard the soft rustle of paper on sand. A small slip of paper had fallen from between the pages of the Bible. Picking it up, he gently unfolded it and released a strangled a sob as he read Anna’s graceful handwriting: I love you, David, and I always will.

David pressed the note to his heart and looked down at the Bible lying open on his lap. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock…” Letting out a wavering sigh, David bowed his head and closed his eyes.

The Broken Heart, Part 2

Simple Cross Heart Shape - Dramatic Vignette

Before I jump into this post, I encourage anyone who has not read “The Broken Heart, Part 1” to check it out here. It is the story of my own “broken heart” experience, the reason I am writing this post. I truly hope that this will help you find healing for your own wounds, whether they were inflicted in the same manner as mine or some way completely different.

I would like to begin Part 2 by saying the following: Whether we know it or not, we all have a wound, a broken heart. Some wounds may have just one source, but I believe it is more likely that most wounds have multiple sources. My own wound has had several sources, but there are three in particular that did the most damage. Believe it or not, only one of those was of a somewhat “romantic” nature. When you talk about a “broken heart”, I think a lot of people tend to associate that with girlfriend/boyfriend breakups. But that’s not the only thing that causes heartbreak. Many, many people in this world get their first taste of that as children looking to be loved by their mothers and fathers. It can come by a good friend, or someone you really look up to. A broken heart does not just come from a failed dating relationship.

Some of you might have what you feel is a gaping, irreparable gash, and some of you may have what you feel is a miniscule bruise or scrape. Whatever the “size” of your wound, it is there and God wants to heal it. It’s the very reason Jesus came!

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath appointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Those are the very words of Jesus before He even came to the earth! He was stating His mission before He was even in the flesh! There is a short portion of “Captivating” which speaks about this very passage of Scripture, and I would like to share it with you:

“This is the passage that Jesus pointed to when he began his ministry here on earth. Of all the Scriptures he could have chosen, this is the one he picked on the day he first publicly announced his mission. It must be important to him. It must be central. What does it mean? It’s supposed to be really good news, that’s clear. It has something to do with healing hearts, setting someone free. Let me try and state it in words more familiar to us.

God has sent me on a mission. I have some great news for you. God has sent me to restore and release something. And that something is you. I am here to give you back your heart and set you free. I am furious at the Enemy who did this to you, and I will fight against him. Let me comfort you. For, dear one, I will bestow beauty upon you where you have only known devastation. Joy, in the places of your deep sorrow. And I will robe your heart in thankful praise in exchange for your resignation and despair.

Now that is an offer worth considering. What if it were true? I mean, what if Jesus really could and would do this for your broken heart…? Read it again, and ask him,   Jesus–is this true for me? Would you do this for me? He can, and he will…if you’ll let him.”

That last sentence leads to what you’ve been waiting for: the steps to healing.

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Step One: Surrender

Just writing that, just reading those words, makes me cringe a little. Surrendering is a simple task…but it’s daunting. It takes courage, and trust, and faith, and a lot of the time we feel like we’re running thin on those. But healing cannot come without it, and God will go to great measures to bring us to the end of ourselves and our wills, for it is at the end of the rope, against a wall, that we realize He alone can rescue us.

“Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake then; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them…” (Hosea 2:6, 7).

We can do all that we can think of to try and heal our wounds and find validation (a sense of being needed, of purpose), but we will never find that healing in anything that we do. It is Jesus that came to seek and save, and for that reason, He often has to thwart our plans, shatter our dreams, and seemingly “hedge us in” on every side. We must find ourselves broken and trapped, unable to save ourselves, that we might finally turn our eyes to Him, the only One who can bring us out and raise us up.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (Hosea 2:14).

We have to turn from those things we thought might heal us and save us, and we have to place our hope in Christ. And not just our hope. Our every dream, our every desire, our every need, our very lives. Jesus Christ calls Himself our Bridegroom. He loves us so tenderly and boundlessly. With that knowledge, don’t you think you can trust Him to be with you always, to always be working everything out for your good even if all seems to be falling apart? Won’t you give yourself to Him?

Step Two: Let Him in

You might be thinking, “Isn’t letting Him in the same as surrendering?” In a way, it is, but there is so much more to it. A person can surrender simply out of obedience. They can give their lives to God and take on everything that comes their way simply out of obedience. They can live their entire life simply out of obedience. But what is the greatest commandment in the Bible? To love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might! Oh, how He loves us! And He wants us to be able to experience that love to the fullest. He doesn’t want us to go through the motions, obedient yet gritting our teeth. He wants us to invite Him to share the load, to walk with us on the path.

Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

This verse is commonly associated with the unsaved, and rightly so! God is knocking upon their hearts, asking to be let in. But He also still knocks upon the hearts of His children. He desires us to simply let Him love us, to bask in His great and wonderful love, to allow Him to heal us. Yes, He is awesome and powerful. He could storm into our hearts and force us to allow healing…but He doesn’t want to do that. He gives us the choice to allow Him in or to go our own way. He will find those hurting places if you allow Him in, and it will hurt to have it exposed, but you know how after a certain amount of time you take the band-aid off a wound to give it air and promote faster healing? It may hurt a little at first, but it won’t take long for it to seal up and feel brand new. And so it is with our own wounds of the heart. We must bare our hurt to Jesus and allow Him to come in and do what only He can do: heal.

Step Three: Grieve

This is exactly what it sounds like. Let the tears flow. Let out all that bitterness, all that anger, all that sorrow, all that brokenness. Too often we feel that we must keep it all in and bottle it up tight, and if we just keep it hidden long enough, it will eventually all fade away into nothingness. But that is not true. Keeping all that in wrecks a person from the inside out, it tears you apart and creates even more negative emotions that build up and build up until one day you unintentionally explode.

Yeah, it’s a little scary to think about letting it out, especially if you have a lot to let out. You might think it will overwhelm you and send you into a downward spiral of deep depression, and it would…if you chose to focus on it time and time again. But when you cry out from the depths of your heart, releasing all your sorrows and cares to God, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7), it aids the healing process. Oh, how it can hurt in the moment, but what a relief when it is finished, when you’ve let it out! It’s tiring in my opinion, but you feel as if a tremendous weight has been lifted off your back and you can truly rest. Even Jesus, my friends, was a man of sorrows. Even Jesus grieved from time to time (Isaiah 53:3; John 11:35). So let it out, let it go, and feel the healing begin.

Step Four: Forgive

I don’t know what’s harder, surrendering or forgiving. Both require a giving of self, and they both take sacrifice. It’s not easy to look at a person who so deeply wounded you and just say, “I forgive you.” Honestly, I believe it’s completely against our nature as fallen humans. But without forgiveness, all of that anger and bitterness that built up before will come to haunt you again, taking root in your heart and holding you captive. And not only can it affect you, but also it can affect those around you, reaching out with wicked tendrils of hate and destruction (Ephesians 4:31;  Hebrews 12:15).

What makes forgiveness so difficult is that it is not a feeling. At least, not with most people. It’s a choice. More than likely, you will not say you forgive someone and then immediately feel completely free from any negative feelings toward them. That takes time and the constant help of Jesus. As Neil Anderson wrote, “Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving. You will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made.”

One thing that helps when forgiving someone, is to remember that they too have a wound deep inside that needs healing. They too have broken hearts that need Jesus’ touch. They too have broken lives that need Jesus’ guidance. Though they are not innocent of their choices, it still must be remembered that they are just as broken as we are, that they too have been mercilessly assaulted by Satan and his minions.

My experience with forgiveness has been what it only could be. Difficult…but a necessary step and a freeing choice. At first, I was so hurt. And not just hurt, I was bitter, and jealous, and oh so angry with Tate (mentioned in my last post) for doing what he did. Why forgive him? Sure, he didn’t do it purposefully to cause me pain, but why should he have my forgiveness? Did it really matter to him whether I held a grudge or not? Whether I hated him or not? I came dangerously close to that, feeling a bitter hatred toward him. But God has this way of letting you see things through His eyes sometimes. And you know what I saw? A broken soul desperately in need of Jesus. A lost soul I had prayed for for what felt like forever. A weary soul struggling to find purpose and a sense of truly being needed. A restless soul in search of the truth. A wounded soul dying without a healing touch. Oh, it brought tears to my eyes, still does. Sometimes I still fight against those negative feelings, that wicked bitterness threatening to rear its poisonous head, but then I go back to thinking on that soul and something shifts in me, breaks in me, cries out in me, “Lord Jesus, please save Him!” Because if I, Nellye, such a wicked sinner as I am, could be lovingly redeemed by the holy and spotless Lamb, reconciled to a perfect and almighty God, filled with a strong and compassionate Spirit, why shouldn’t he have that too? None of us deserves that gift of grace given us by Jesus Christ and the shedding of His pure blood, but God wants it for us, He longs for it, because He loves us (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

After breaking off a relationship, I hear a lot of people say things like “Oh, he was just too clingy” or “She was so emotional.” I can’t do that. I don’t mean to make myself sound like some great saint for that, it’s just, honestly, the reason I began to care for Tate the way I did was because of his heart, the way he cared for people, the way he looked out for me. He had his negative aspects, but so do I. And as for the choices he’s made that have hurt me, well, he may have very freely made them, but he made them with a broken heart in need of healing. And so I cannot tell people “He was just too [fill in the blank].” The only thing I want to tell people is that he is a soul in search of the only One who can fill the void in his life, who can relieve the ache in his heart, who can satisfy his deepest desires, and he hasn’t found Him yet. He’s just “in the wrong place tryin’ to make it right” (Come Home, One Republic). If you would, dear friends, please pray for him. He needs it.

With that said…let go. Be freed. Let your chains of bitterness be broken by Jesus Christ. Forgive.

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another…even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).

***********************************************************************

Now that I’ve talked about the steps to healing, I’d like to give you one final excerpt from the book “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge:

“God went back and got the shaking little girl that was hiding under the bed and convinced her to come out. He unclenched her little fists and took her hand and placed it in his and answered her question. He told her it was OK for her not to be tough. He would protect her. She didn’t have to be strong. He told her she wasn’t a rock but a child. An innocent child. His child. He didn’t condemn her for anything but instead understood her and loved her! He told her she was special…like no other and that she had special gifts like no other. She knew his voice and trusted him. She could hear the pleasure he had for her in his voice and felt his delight in her as he talked. He was so gentle and loving she couldn’t help but melt in his arms.”

Healing does not take strength or being tough. In fact, it takes almost the opposite. It takes complete surrender, baring your heart with all its wounds, being vulnerable with the great Healer, trusting Him with everything you have. It’s wrapping your bloody, broken, frail, scarred heart in tattered ribbons and offering it to the King as a gift, a sacrifice, having no idea what He has in store, knowing only that it is good.

Healing takes also a warrior spirit, for when you decide to ask Jesus for healing, and give yourself to Him with abandon, the Enemy moves in, his forces of darkness churning and striking, seeking to devour you and tear you down (1 Peter 5:8, 9), whispering destructive lies in your ears (you are not enough, you’ll never make it, you will always be wounded, you’ll never amount to anything, God has nothing good in store for you, etc.). This is an unseen battle, and invisible war of the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:10-18). You must fight back! It may sound terrifying, but remember that you are on the side of the Lord of the battle! The mighty Warrior King! He will never fail you or forsake you, and He has already given us the victory through Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 31:6; 1 Corinthians 15:57, 58)!

If you are interested in reading “Wild at Heart” or “Captivating” (I highly recommend that you do!), or if you would like to just check out John and Stasi’s website, you can find the links below! God has really changed my life through these resources, and you want to know when I made the decision to allow Jesus to heal my wound? A little less than a week ago. I know I have a ton of things to learn still, and I don’t wish to feel superior to anyone by writing a blog post about healing when I’ve hardly begun healing myself, I just sincerely want anyone who needs healing to be able to find it, just as I have. I may only be in the process, but I can tell you with all my heart that I know I will never regret the decision to allow Jesus into the broken places of my heart, to be my Healer.

John and Stasi’s website: 

http://www.ransomedheart.com/

Wild at Heart: 

Wild at Heart (PAPERBACK)

Captivating: 

Captivating (PAPERBACK)

 

 

The Broken Heart, Part 1

broken heart

The broken heart is a tough subject. Tough to experience, tough to write about. But I believe God is calling me to tell my story, to relate my experience, to share with you all how healing can be found (as impossible as it may seem at first). I don’t intend to dramatize what happened to me, I don’t want to make you feel sorry for me, but I want you to know that I am not writing this as someone who has never experienced heartbreak. Heartbreak isn’t just for the lost, it isn’t just for those who have fallen away; it can happen to anybody, Christians included. So, here goes…

I met him in the summer of 2016. He seemed a rather average chap with a bright smile and blue eyes that twinkled with friendliness and curiosity. As we all stood in a line, side by side, shifting nervously while the three women assessed us for casting (we were at callbacks for a musical), he suddenly turned to me and enthusiastically introduced himself, giving me a hearty handshake. A bit surprised, and not quite sure what to do with myself, I shyly told him my name and shook his hand in return. I was not at all what I would call “interested in him” at the time, but I was appreciative of this warm gesture, and somewhere in the back of my mind I hoped we might be friends.

Time wore on, rehearsals flew by, and–what do you know!–that subconscious hope became reality. It happened one day as I was sitting at a table chatting with the guy I described above (I’ll call him Tate) and his buddy (let’s call him Max) while watching other actors/actresses blocking out scenes. Now Max and I were getting into a mildly heated debate and Tate was between us, amused as he looked back and forth as though watching an intense game of ping pong.

“She thinks you’re repulsive,” Max said to Tate with a mischievous grin.

Taking the bait, I replied with a humored smirk, “I think you’re repulsive.” I leaned back in my chair, arms crossed, triumphantly eyeing Max and feeling somewhat proud of myself for that witty remark.

I watched as Max scooted closer to Tate and very quietly whispered, “I’m glad to see we’re on mutual grounds.” Shots fired! But these were well-aimed and hit me harder than I think even Max expected, if he even knew I had heard him. I felt the grin on my face shift to a pained frown, and hurt pulsed through me. Glancing away, I let my gaze fall to my lap, where it stayed as I fought the emotions surging in me. I was angry and wounded because I had been joking the whole time. Had he really meant that?? I forcefully swallowed the lump in my throat and remained in my seat, sort of huddled into myself as if trying to hide, though I wanted to go outside and have a good cry. I hoped no one would notice me.

I know this sounds pretty dramatic, and I admit it, it was a little, but there is something that must be shared. My siblings and I were new to this group, a group that had known each other for almost their whole lives (if not their whole lives). We were the newbies, the rookies, the green beans, if you will. We just wanted to be accepted, to make friends, to be liked. So for me to hear a comment like that was, well, pretty disappointing. Buuuut…back to my story.

After sitting quietly for a good five minutes or so, a couple people noticed my fallen countenance. Namely, my sister and Tate. They both tried to cheer me up, get me to spill what was up, but I passively shrugged them off and said I was fine. Tate would’t give in. Sliding my script toward himself, he took a pen and simply wrote “Hi.” The rest is history. That small act of kindness broke the ice between us and thus our budding friendship truly began.  And maybe a little something else too.

Before we knew it, the musical was over, but my siblings and I had found a special place in the hearts of each member of that theater group and still stayed in touch. Tate’s and my friendship had grown quite a bit since that day with Max, and we talked quite often (every day, I believe). That was probably mistake number one: frequent online contact. **As somewhat of a side note, but very important, I must mention this: I’m no expert on relationships, but please, please hear me when I say that, though online chatting isn’t a bad thing, you should never let it be your primary means of communication. It can really complicate things in person.** We talked a lot, and although that’s not so terrible when you’re getting to know someone, it was not the best decision on my part. You see, he wasn’t a Christian. Before anyone gets to thinking I’m being “judgmental” in saying that, I can promise you that I am not. I don’t at all believe that I should have shunned him or acted superior to him–I’m a firm believer in reaching out to the lost and building relationships–but I do believe it would have been best to limit how often we talked. But I won’t dwell on “should haves” and “would haves” and “what ifs.” Moving on.

Mistake two: We opened up about our feelings for one another, feelings deeper than friendship, and we visited this subject more than once. Again. And again. And again. You get the idea. I’d shared the gospel with him before, but he was very unsure about having a relationship with Jesus, and so we both knew that at that point in time it was impossible for us to have anything more than a friendship. I would never force him to become a Christian, and he wouldn’t just jump into something so unfamiliar (which, in a way, could be considered wise on his part). Yet we continued to grow our friendship and discuss our feelings. Until some things happened which resulted in an almost complete severance of that closeness we had.

Mistake three: We got close again. I would never have wanted to completely end our friendship, but as we reconnected the old bonds, something began to happen in me. Something most definitely not good. Some things called emotional attachment and false validation. I thought about him almost constantly and could not bear the thought of ever letting him go, though we were still just friends. It was an unhealthy obsession, really. And all this time, I was still going to church, still reading my Bible, still praying, doing all of these things almost more fervently than before. I was not going to give up my faith, that’s for sure, but I wasn’t going to give him up either. I had begun to find my worth in him. As long as I was someone precious in his eyes, I felt valuable, and cherished, and loved, even if we weren’t actually dating. It’s painful to think about, but it happened. I still clung to my faith ever so tightly, still shared the Word of God with him simply so he could know the love of Christ, but I placed him on a pedestal, raised him up as an idol, which was not only unfair to my patient, loving God, but was also quite unfair to Tate, who was having to bear that weight of perfection, something impossible to any human being. And as could only be expected, he could not hold up under that weight.

Here we are, a little over a year and half later (doesn’t seem like that long, does it? Feels like a lifetime to me), and we are not at all where I had expected us to be. We don’t talk anymore, we hardly see each other, and…he’s found someone else. I’m not about to sob to you over that, but I can assure you it was no heyday for me when I heard that news. At that point in time, God had helped me to see where I’d gotten (emotionally, mentally, spiritually) and was aiding me in getting my focus right again, but the news still hit me like a knockout punch.

When the devil sees a person getting back up and dusting themselves off, he has to try and knock them down again. You know when you’re walking along on a brisk winter day and you hit a patch of ice? You know how you flail around in panic, desperate to stay upright? That’s what it’s like to be determined to walk on the right path, but you’re being spiritually assaulted. I wanted to change, but the strangest part of it all is that I didn’t want to heal. I hated the pain, abhorred it, but I did not want to allow God to begin healing me. I yearned for it, needed it, but I was afraid. Why? Because I knew that I would have to open up that door again and feel the pain anew. In my sorrow and depression, I had plastered band-aids over the pain, boxed it, duct-taped it, locked it away in my heart, nailed boards over the door, and for good measure, scooted several other things in front of that door so that I would not truly have to deal with that wound face to face. Oh, and I threw away the key.

But God was not done with me there. He knew I could never be fully restored, could never really be a confident woman of God thriving in His love (as I tried to pretend I was) until I was truly healed. So you know what He did? He didn’t beat me with a whip. He didn’t shout at me with a thundering voice. He didn’t loom over me forbiddingly. Instead, He brought me to the books “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge and “Captivating”by John and Stasi Eldredge. Through reading these books, I realized what damage can be done to a person when they leave their wounds shoved deep inside, untended, and I found myself allowing God in, asking Him to heal me. He began to gently peel back the many layers that hid my wound, a wound that was slowly hardening me and building up impenetrable walls around my heart. Oh, and He found the key.

In “The Broken Heart, Part 2”, I will tell you just how God began healing me, how He is still healing me, and I’ll use the outline given in both of the books mentioned above. It is truly life-changing, and I have only God to thank for that. I encourage you to please check out Part 2 when I get it finished, because I want you also to be able to experience this amazing, unfathomable, to-God-be-the-glory healing!

 

Quality

A few days ago, I was chatting with a friend of  mine trying to explain some of my quirks. You see, I’m one of those people who sometimes feels the need to clarify why I do or say certain things, and I was in one of those “clarifying” moods on that particular day. As it turns out, this friend of mine already understood what I was trying to lay out so plainly. When he let me know this, I sat back and pondered that a moment. Oh, I thought to myself. So he already understands me?  Curious, I asked, “So you understand why I say and do certain things?”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied. “You are an easy book to read. At least for me.”

At first, I wasn’t sure how to take that. It was great to be understood, but at the same time I wondered, Is it a good thing to be an “easy read”? Feeling a bit self-conscious and overthinking things way too much, I asked, “In your opinion, is it a good or bad thing to be an ‘easy read’?” Trying to pretend like it was a completely light-hearted question for which I held no concern about what the answer might be, I even pasted on a laughing/crying emoji at the end. But I knew that I was anxious about what the reply would be.

Really, I was expecting him to either humor me with something amusing that didn’t necessarily answer the question, or simply tell me which he thought; so I was surprised by his answer. “I don’t think it really matters,” he said. “It matters about the quality of what you’re reading, not the difficulty.” The depth of his insight shocked me. Not because I find him incapable of such depth, but because the truth of the statement was undeniable!

Keep in mind that we were not talking about literal books, like one might pick up in their spare time; we were discussing people. I assume that there are many, many people out there who would have had the same negative thoughts as me; the thoughts that say if you are predictable and “easy to read”, you’re boring and not worth anyone’s time. It’s like we all want to be a captivating mystery novel that keeps the reader guessing in every chapter. But the question is, what does it matter how enigmatically alluring the book is if it has no value, no meaning? If you can’t take something away when you’ve finished, what’s the point??

I think we as humans spend too much time worrying about how to be interesting and exciting to society because we don’t want to become outcasts. We find little pieces of ourselves that seem uninteresting and we tuck those away, replacing them with what we think will make us attractive in the eyes of someone else. But when you do that often enough, what do you end up with? A barren peach tree bearing glued-on oranges. To further explain that, it’s like if someone had a peach tree but wanted an orange tree. Every time the tree brought forth a peach, that person would remove the immature peach and glue on an orange in its place. For a little while, it might look somewhat believable, but after a time, the oranges would begin to rot because they had no true source of sustenance. Jesus says in John 15:4, 5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Without having actually grown from the tree, the oranges will wither and die. “For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.” (Luke 6:45).

So what exactly am I saying? Am I judging everyone who tries to put on a mask to hide the true identity they fear will cause them to be shunned? Absolutely not! I know that I struggle with the same fears and anxieties. But we need not worry. God made each of us to be different, and He equips us with the gifts and talents He knows we can use to glorify Him. And on the days when we feel like we just don’t fit in, or we’re not smart enough, or not attractive enough, or simply not enough of anything to ever be anything important, we can remember 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Jesus Christ is enough; and when we place our trust in Him, having faith that His blood sanctifies us, His death redeems us, and His resurrection defeats fleshly mortality, we are enough through Him. Jesus clothes us in His own righteousness and we are enough.

The last thing I want to leave you with is the following: when it seems like the eyes of the world are watching you and you feel the pressure to put on some great, memorable act, remember that quality is what matters. It matters about what you do with what you have, not what you could do with what you don’t. It matters about who you are, not what you are. And finally, God says in 1 Samuel 16:7, “…Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” That, my friends, is what matters most.