Monday, September 28, 2015

Oh To See Beyond Packaging . . . .

One of my new favorite scriptures comes from Isaiah 11:1-4.  It says, "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth."  This is one of the passages from Isaiah that describes what the longed-for Messiah for will be like.  I hear these words and Jesus with His perfect understanding becomes clearer to me.  He comes to us seeing the real stuff of who we are, looking beyond the outward trappings to see what is most substantial about us.  Because the basis of His judgments are not limited to what He sees and hears, He is able to make righteous, RIGHT judgments.  People are just not capable of that.  We humans do not have the capacity to see all of everything.  We can only go by what our eyes and ears tell us.  And our judgments are based upon  surfacy things. 

God pointed this out to the prophet Samuel when he took up the horn filled with oil in order to anoint the new king of Israel.  Samuel looks on the oldest of Jesse's sons and says, "Surely the LORD's anointed is now before the LORD" (1Samuel 16:6).  God's response cuts to the heart of every judgment human beings will ever make:  "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).  God had chosen David to be king.  But everyone around David had already written David off because of outward appearances.

My problem is that I internalize the judgments of others, and those judgments live on long after the person has been removed from my life.  They don't even have to verbalize the judgment; I can fill in the details faster than the info forms parents have to complete on the first day of school.  So real or imagined it becomes a part of the story I tell myself about who I am. 

The thing is, as I grow in my faith I know these judgments to be lies.  I can even come to the place of rejecting them as the truth.  But when the enemy attacks, he insidiously whispers those lies into my awareness again, manipulating emotion so that the lie seems more real than God's Truth.

God makes judgments too.  God sees things as they are.  And while the world judges and condemns or congratulates based on appearances, God is interested in our hearts.  God sees clearly and truly the way sin has shaped us and marked us, whether the sins have been our own or those that have come against us.  God sees, and God desires to make it right.  Jesus is the One He sends to do just that.

The thing is, God never judges the outside of things that we complain about or want to fix.  You know, the things that make us one of a kind.  Those traits and tendencies, the shapes and particularities of who we are.  These are the things God celebrates in us because He put them there on purpose.  We are His wonderful creativity manifest in flesh, and everything we would disparage as not good enough (because the world didn't like it) are the very things He rejoices in.

On the bad days, when I am under attack, I struggle to love all those things that are clearly the mark of God's handiwork.  When I hurt because I'm so afraid to feel the sting of rejection, I argue with God about the stuff of who I am.  But then on the good days, I see that it is those things I am most embarrassed by, those things most uniquely me, that God uses the most.  For those who need to know they are not alone in arguing with God over the shape of who they are, I share this is for you:

This is the packaging
He chooses.
I will never comprehend
what makes my
dustiness wonderful,
and fearful even.
My dusty self
is animated
with something
far beyond me. 
I cannot argue
with My God
and His Sovereignty.

But I do anyway.

"Why this package,
 Lord? Why me?
With all this
I don't see
the beauty
in what feels
an awkward mess.
I only feel the burden
of my thoroughly
human love.
But His WORD
my argument,
like bread broken.

This perfect LOVE,
so wounded
by my own
unwitting hand,
is reaching through
my questioning doubts
claiming me again.
"As much as it takes,"
His wondrous
His reach
retracing steps
I took away
from the pain
of being
loved and left.

And when at last
He finds
my shrinking,
hiding self,
He holds me close
to His
easing His
pain as well.

So I will let
You find me
in the hurting
that I feel,
trusting that Your
is enough to make
me heal.
I will yield
my aching self
into Your waiting
and I will trust
Your precious Love
that always

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Shape of Grace

I'm a week out from leading our church's Women's Retreat.  It was an amazing weekend.  And it was certainly good to serve the Body of Christ in just that way.  But it has taken me all week to process what the weekend meant for me.

In the very heart of serving I became acutely, poignantly aware of the way brokenness has shaped my own story.  What I realize is that the doubt and fear I struggle with is the fallout from the way darkness and loss have written on me.  I am grateful for reminders of how far God's love has brought me.  But the remembering can be so real that I forget I'm not that same girl anymore.  That I don't live in that same place anymore.

This week I have been incredibly thankful for my loves who ground me.  The man who holds me--when he doesn't quite understand what I'm feeling his arms around me make the feelings less potent.  The boys who hang on me--their humor and energy and blatant need of me have the power to pull me out of the past, bringing me back to the present.  And my littlest one, who so much desires for me to be a part of his world, who longs to be a part of mine--when the enemy feeds me lies, he reminds me of my worth as a human being.

It's hard to write these things.  People often believe and expect the ministers God has placed in their midst to be somewhat inhuman, immune to the heartaches and trials that everyone has to endure.  Truth is, every person regardless of status or position is still a member of the human family.  We all have our faults and imperfections.  We are all dusty from the ground we were made from.  I'm not going to pretend it isn't so.  When Spirit fills me to speak words of Grace to an aching soul, my soul is aching too, yearning for a word spoken to me. 

This week I've come away from serving the Body to simply being part of the Body.  I have been listening so intently for that Word coming to my own unfinished self.  Yesterday my littlest boy asked me to play with him.  I suggested coloring.  We pulled out markers and colored pencils and got to work.  With color fluid beneath my fingers, taking shape upon paper, God began speaking to my heart.

The darkness of our lives doesn't have to break us. 

What I see is that it is the very darkness I thought would destroy me is the darkness that gave shape to God's Grace in my life.  His Story unfolding within me.  I want it to be pretty.  So often it's not.  But it is hauntingly beautiful.  For every dark moment, every memory that penetrates my present, there has always been, and always will be, Grace that fills in the gaps of my need.  I'm afraid of my insufficiency.  But every time, EVERY time, God's Goodness has met me in the middle of my need, drawing me to safety, showing me Salvation.  Every time.

I want to say I'm no longer tender.  But I am.  I feel the ache.  I want to say I'm feeling someone else's pain.  But I'm not.  The ache is my own.  God doesn't ever have a problem with that no matter how much I do have a problem with it.  I am choosing to walk through this day holding His Hand, trusting that His Hand is at work making this story, my story, His Story within me, beautiful. 

And someday I will see the full picture of Grace in my life.

And I will rejoice in what I see.