There are seasons that God allows in our lives that are just gut wrenching, I just came out of one of those long enough to catch my breath, but now am headed into a new one. This one is in the area of parenting. I am a mom who is hurting, I know there must be more out there like me.
The lump in my throat aches as I begin to try and give language to all the scary places my heart has been recently. There have been some hard things Jesus and I have walked through together, my healing from childhood trauma, dealing chronic sickness, and managing a real walk with Jesus in the midst of our broken world. Life here in the dirt is hard!
Everyone warned me about my children’s teen years, and as a mom who already has one grown and out of the house, I thought I could manage.
But, what I didn’t know, what caught me by surprise, was the onslaught of HURT! It’s hard to put a name on it, but I know I first recognized with in my son, before he left, before he crossed the threshold from which, had I known at the time he was crossing, my heart would have broken into a million pieces. They are small at first, the moments when our children stop being ours, and begin belonging to things that we don’t recognize, can’t control, can’t keep them safe from. If you would have asked me then, I believed I had surrendered them fully to the LORD, but that was until the truth was so cruelly and painfully apparent to me, and I was forced to let go before I was ready.
“You have broken down all his walls; You have brought his stronghold to ruin.” Psalm 89:40
“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard. I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down it’s wall and it will become trampled ground.” Isaiah 5:5
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” Ephesians 2:14
We recently had our land cleared. When my husband first suggested this, I had no idea what implications this would have on my life and my sense of vulnerability to the outside world. The couple who owned this house before us had purposefully created an atmosphere around our property that I can only characterize as “wilderness seclusion”. And I will be the first to admit, I kinda liked it. I liked having a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. The more isolation, the less accountability. If the neighbors couldn’t SEE what was happening behind our carefully planted wall of trees and shrubs, they never had a reason to judge.
However, those walls also kept others from SEEING the beauty of where we live. After all, it wasn’t the “wilderness seclusion” of this place that drew us to want to make it our home, it was the beauty of it. And as much as I wanted to keep those walls up until this place looks perfect and impressive for all who drive by to see, the walls had to come down so that process of that perfection could begin.
It’s humbling to see be laid bare and exposed, knowing that you, who just days ago could have hidden it, now have the most, let’s just say, “needy” yard in the neighborhood.
It’s scary to change, and for those moments of change and transformation to happen under watchful eyes. It’s so easy to hide behind our walls and talk about change and transformation, never really intending to allow the bulldozers to come and tear apart the wilderness we are hiding in.
As I look out the window now, my heart is touched with the realization of how much my new “view” has truly shifted. Just a few days ago, I was looking for deer who may still be out grazing in the morning, birds bathing in the bird bath, and tying to avert my eyes from noticing the cob weds that need clearing on the porch. But now, the walls are down, and my eyes see more, and my heart extends outward. I can see my new neighbors’ homes, and I am more aware of them than I have been in a while. My heart is drawn outward, beyond my private wilderness, and I long to connect with them in ways that I haven’t.
What a beautiful thing happens once our walls come down.
“Satan dines upon what we withhold from God.” Francis Frangipane
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
There are moments in our lives when we realize that the cocoons of comfort we’ve woven around ourselves to protect us from the threats we thought were “out there” have become more like death rags, wrapping us up and binding us to the even greater danger that lurks within.
It’s a scary thing to not feel safe within yourself.
To realize that your biggest enemy may just be the person staring back at you in the mirror. And to realize with sickening horror that the infestation that’s been eating away at you your whole life is coming from the one place you can’t escape, your own heart.
As the lyrics of a popular song state, “where do you run to escape from yourself?” (Switchfoot).
This realization started for me not far into my Christian walk. Up until then, I had lived a life of chaos, I didn’t realize it, but the constant drama and activity always around me had become my favorite hiding place, my cocoon. But, once I came to Jesus, the chaos that I had once kept myself cloaked in, did not fit anymore. I was learning to be brave, to risk my first steps outside of the cloud of my own debris that had kept me enveloped my whole life. I knew that to stay in the chaos was to reject the peace that Jesus was offering me, and Heaven knows I needed His peace.
But an odd thing happened once my heart became still enough to catch up to myself, I began to FEEL! And it was terrifying! It was as if all the pent-up anger, fear, guilt, shame, abandonment and insecurity as well as feelings and emotions too strong to ever find words for began to chase after me and wrestle me down into a powerless heap.
There is a story in Genesis 32 that depicts what this season was like better than I can ever describe. It is where Jacob, a man who had been a deceiver and a hider his whole life, is finally called by God (after 20 years) to return home. Only, to return home means that he must face his greatest fear, the confrontation with his brother, Esau, whom he had stolen a birth right from. On the night before Jacob is about to enter the land where he is sure to meet confrontation with his brother, God allows a strange event to happen. I will let the scriptures tell what happens next,
“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:24-28
Sometimes God will allow us to catch up with the Truth about ourselves so that we can watch Him wrestle it off us.
For Jacob, it was a one-night wrestling match that had taken 20 years to build up to. My wrestling match has lasted years, and I am only now beginning to really walk in to my identity as one who has striven with God and men and is prevailing. And I would be lying if I said that my old identity didn’t come looking for a “re-match” from time to time.
Now, when those old familiar feelings come back and stare me down in the mirror, threatening to reclaim the territory of my heart, there is only one response I can offer to escape my sure defeat and secure the boundaries of my conquered territory. That is to refer them to God’s TRUTH about me. His identity for me is everlasting and stands. It’s stronger than any of my defenses and it’s the only one that secures life, not only for me, but for those whose life I am in care for.
I am speaking on guilt and shame next week and so I am meditating on this topic this week, and so doing hope to be sharing a little of the overflow from what Jesus is sharing with me. I hope you enjoy!
When my youngest was a toddler, she would reach her arms up to me, hands wagging, and say in the sweetest, littlest voice, “I hold you?”
It was her way of asking for comfort and shelter from a world that had suddenly grown overwhelming to her.
It’s funny because, once we are BIG GIRLS, one of the HARDEST lessons to learn is to accept and receive that same comfort and shelter from the only ONE Who is able to truly offer it.
Like bookends that encapsulate all my JUNK, Guilt and Shame always followed me around, trying to capture me, trapping me back inside their dark and isolating domain. The territory is familiar there, and I dare say, even comfortable. I know how to live in guilt and shame. They were my home and dwelling for most of my young adult and early Christian life, and I was ready to defend my right to camp there should anyone dare try convince me to move. I had earned my right to that camp! Haven’t we all?
It’s funny how we can become heroic about our stink piles.
I use to guard mine, lest anyone come too close and smell the REAL me.
I can’t fully explain how my piles around me began to lessen, the stink began to decrease other than to say, I let HIM in.
It was the BRAVEST thing I ever did.
And as He dwelled with me, amidst my mess, and accepted me, I felt loved by Him.
And my need to hide behind those piles became less and less as I grew to receive what He said about me more and more.
The most amazing thing happened. He never removed my piles, He transformed them!
My shame of, “I am not enough”, became , “I am enough in You.”
My guilt of, “I haven’t done enough,” became, “It is Finished in You.”
There was never a defining moment when He or I moved a mountain, but there were millions of tiny, almost inconceivable moments that I allowed Him to move tiny fragments of a mountain in me. So that one day I looked up, and there it was! The piles of all my guilt and shame had been transformed into a mountain that I now could climb up, and see the world from, in a WHOLE new LIGHT!
IN HIS LIGHT!
And it was BEAUTIFUL and ABUNDANT!
The older I become the more I have come to see a pattern evolving in this beautiful love between my Savior and I.
I see that I started out as His little girl, fully trusting in Him, but like the prodigal, I wanted to leave Him and go and live my life away from Him.
And, in love, He gave me the freedom and provision to do so.
I came back, in desperation, and with lots of PILES!
I wanted reconciliation at a distance because I didn’t know how to rid myself of guilt and shame.
But, He wanted His child back. And, at the CROSS He took care of any pile (or mountain) that will ever stand between us.
And He never stops wanting that little girl who is vulnerable to Him, and trusting of Him enough to lift up her arms and say, “You hold me?”