Friday, August 10, 2018

It’s Time to Clean House

Impatient and struggling we want to see change happen immediately. When something is wrong we want it fixed. We wrestle and wrangle with the struggles we face thinking that we can make it better. 

That’s been my situation for the past two years. I wanted change and I wanted it right then and there. And I truly thought I had the power to change my circumstances. 

Here’s the thing…we live in a world where we’re told that we “have the power within ourselves” to rectify the wrong to get what we want, or fix what is broken. And there might be some truth in that. We probably do have the ability to do those things. However on our own, without all the information, we don’t have the ability to properly put together a solution. 

The greatest life lesson that I have learned is that God is ultimately in control.  No matter how much I try to maneuver or piece together a solution for my weary circumstances, I’m incapable of doing it correctly. And the simple reason why I cannot do it is that the only information I have is the information that sits in front of me. I know what led me to the situation and I know where I am in that moment but I can’t see ahead into my future. I have no idea what’s coming next. 

What does that mean? It means I can’t create the perfect plan that will heal my broken situation. This means that in those moments when I’m struggling, scared and alone my reaction to the things happening around me is typically based on those listed emotions. For me, I need a quick fix. I need something to make the pain go away. For some that might be drugs or alcohol. For some that might be sex. For some that might be vegging out in front of the TV or a good book.  Whatever that might look like, none of those things ultimately fix what’s really going on. 

No matter how hard we try, without all the information, the solution that we create will probably end up causing us more harm than good. 

Over a year and a half ago I posted the picture on this page truly believing what it said. I believed that at the right time, the Lord, would make it happen (Isaiah 60:22).  What was the “it” in that statement for me?  It was my pleading with God to make my husband better. To make our marriage what it had once been. But at the same time I wanted to believe that the Lord wanted it to happen right now just like I did. But He didn’t.  He wanted some change to happen first. So instead, His plan for me included a desert, some wandering, some soul-searching, some loneliness and some severe heartache, because His timing is perfect. He knows just what we need and when we need it.  He knows that in order for us to be the best version of ourselves, that we have to find our way back to Him because we have strayed away. And what’s interesting is that sometimes we don’t even realize that we have strayed until it’s too late. And because we don’t realize how far we have strayed we don’t realize the amount of work it’s gonna take to get us back to where we need to be. And for me, that was my biggest problem and it took quite a bit of work for me to realize that’s where I was. 

So as my struggle grew bigger and my heart ache deeper, I finally realized that I needed to invite Him in. I had to open the door and ask Him to clean house. And He did. 

He started with my closet. He started going through the clothes in my closet that had been there for way too long and He began removing those things that no longer “fit.” Relationships that were  unhealthy and activities that were a distraction. Before I knew it, half of my closet was gone but I could see what I had that still fit. From there He moved into the bathroom. The messiness of the bathroom reminds me much of the messiness of my sin. The grime and the mold that can build leaving our bathroom feeling icky and gross just like sin does to our hearts. He began to expose those places that I had missed. Those corners that I had overlooked or ignored because I just couldn’t be bothered with trying to get it clean. But He wiped it all clean.  And by the time He finished that bathroom sparkled like it never had before.  And then He moved on into the kitchen. The disheveled and unorganized kitchen. The room where chaos often lives.  He started by arranging things. He put things in order making things easier to find. He sorted things out by their priority, putting those things that are most important where they could be accessed easily. 

Once He finished cleaning house, there was a peace that wasn’t there before. This peace didn’t come easily because I had to say goodbye to some things I didn’t want to see go but I am so thankful for the work that has been done. I am thankful because it caused me to rely on and trust Him to make the moves that were best for me. 

God knows everything about us. He knows what our future has in store for us.  This means He alone is the perfect solution to whatever circumstance we face. And once we have handed over our circumstances, and His timing and plan unfolds before us, we’re able to look back on everything that we’ve been through and find joy in the pain. Suddenly we realize it was all for our benefit because it drew us closer to Jesus. He alone became our Saviour, our strength and our comfort as we trusted Him to "clean house."  

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Psalm 139:15-16 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4 

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When You’ve All but Given Up

What happens when we release the grasp of something we are afraid to give up? What happens when we let go of the control of something that we think only we can fix? What happens if we hold on to something for too long? 

This has been the lesson that God has been teaching me for the past two years. Amongst other things, He has been teaching me the importance of letting go and casting all my cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). To acknowledge that giving Him all of my doubts, worries, hurts, and frustrations is the only way things will get better. I won’t say it has taken this long to figure that particular principle out because I’m stubborn, though I can be stubborn, but instead it’s been trying to fully understand what it means to let go of something and hand it all over to God. 

All along that’s been my desire.  To give Him everything that was happening in my life and allow Him to work. What I didn’t realize was that I was still holding on. That my fear of losing something familiar  was keeping me from releasing every piece of what needed fixing. And so what had to happen? He had to completely break me down. I had to be reminded that I have no control of what happens in my life. Here’s what I mean by that.....Yes I can make choices or decisions but the outcome of His plan is based entirely on how His plan has been written. I can change how I get from point A to point B by the choices or decisions I make, but ultimately the destination has already been determined by Him. This means I can make the road an easy one or I can make it incredibly difficult. And that is what happened over the last two years.

Matthew and I have spent an incredible amount of time the last two weeks searching out God‘s word, studying God‘s word, talking through what’s been going on the past two years with his accident, the struggles in our marriage, and really praying and asking God for direction. It has been an amazing two weeks. For two years we have struggled, searched for God, questioned God, trusted God and felt like we weren’t making any headway. But one day when we didn’t think we could take anymore and we both expressed that we were done, we sat down together and asked God to step in, to move in a way where we knew He was working.  We asked Him to guide and to restore. And that is exactly what He’s been doing! 

Matthew likes to listen to a preacher by the name of Joby Martin. This pastor is fantastic and I enjoy listening to him as well, especially because he sounds like Matthew McConaughey to me. Anyway, Matthew sent me one of his sermons last week on God‘s faithfulness. At the beginning of that sermon, Joby talks about being part of the family of God. Being in community. He talked about how community is so incredibly important when it comes to facing trials or struggles. He went on to say that if you wait until you need Christian community then it’s too late because we are always in need of the body of Christ.   Accountability, the encouragement, the connection that comes from believers spending time together.  He added that Christian community is deeper than any genetic family. And if Matthew and I have learned anything over the last couple of years it is the truth of that statement. When a group of people share the common bond that is the love of God and an intimate relationship with Jesus, the relationship you have with those people in your community is something that you will never know outside of being part of the body of Christ.  And as I thought through the significance of that statement, I realized that that was part of what Matthew and I have been missing the past two years.  

For two years, we have been surrounded by a group of people who have prayed with us, prayed for us, walked with us, stepped into the mess that has become our life, and loved us no matter what we were facing. It has been a loyalty and love that I have never experienced before. But what existed within our community, was lacking in our marriage. Our life situation had become so monstrous that we had become more focused on our problem than we were on God, the One who loves us.  We had become like Peter when he stepped out into the water. Instead of focusing on the face of Jesus, we focused on the storm that surrounded us (Matthew 14:22-33]. The common denominator, that is Jesus, that had drawn us to one another in the beginning was no longer the common denominator. We had lost that intimacy that is shared between believers because Matthew and I had lost our foundation which is Jesus. The rock that had made our community so strong and kept it strong, was not the rock that our marriage or our individual lives was built upon. So when life’s struggles came to be, our foundation crumbled. For two years people have prayed that Matthew‘s brain injury would be healed, that all of our issues would be resolved, and that God would show up in a big way. But all along, God allowed these things to happen as a way to draw us back to Him and mold our lives into something that He has planned for us. 

We would rarely choose the hard path that God lays out for us.  The one that includes the pain, the struggles and the frustrations. But thankfully we serve a God who loves us and knows just what we need in order to hear His voice within the chaos that is this world. It took a place of complete brokenness that we were finally able to hear His voice, but thankfully He didn’t give up on us. Though it took us reaching a place of complete exasperation and a place of “being done,” His faithful love chased us down and drew us back into the safety of His arms.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Ephesians 3:20 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Made for Love

I used to believe that Song of Songs was written solely for the purpose of describing two people who intensely loved one another. That it provided a sort of template for what we should expect within the intimacy of marriage.  And though I do believe that it demonstrates that kind of love, I also believe it shows something else as well.

Song of Songs is such a beautiful book and provides such imagery of what life and love can be within marriage, but as I’ve been reading lately, I’ve come to discover another image depicted in the words of this book.

Human love is beautiful but it will fall short. It will fail us. It will betray us and over time, if neglected will turn to ash.

Though Song of Songs speaks of the love shared between two people, it also gives us a glimpse into the way God loves us. It is with a great intensity and fierceness. It is a constant and sustainable love that never ends or gives up. And though the idea of sustained love can be used to describe human love, it is rare. But being those with human hearts, we long to be loved with such an intensity by another.

Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of Jesus and His bride. It speaks of God’s jealous, strong, fierce love for us. It describes a love that our souls long for but cannot be quenched by anything found in human relationships. This yearning is not one that can be satisfied by any other because we were created to love God and to be loved by God. He is our first love. He loved us before any other and His love will never end. And though we might not recognize His love is the love we are desperately seeking, once we discover it we are never the same ❤️

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.”

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

He is Able

For the past year Ephesians 3:20 has been a significant verse in my life and one that I have clung to as a reminder that God is able to do what we cannot on our own.

This morning is the first time I have ever read this passage in this translation (The Message). I love the way “extravagant dimensions” is used to describe the love of Christ. What a beautiful picture and reminder of what we can experience when we surrender our lives and walk in step with Him. He works gently within us and does more than we could ever dream possible when we surrender our lives to Him. What an amazing reminder and invitation to open the door and invite Him into our lives ❤️

“I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it, not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

Ephesians 3:16-20
The Message

“The scripture plainly teaches that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a universal gift to all believers.… We must believe, therefore, that this unspeakable gift, which is meant to help us enter into the glorious realms of the Spirit now, is already
the possession of even the weakest and most failing child of God. It is true, whether we recognize His presence or not, whether we acknowledge and obey His control or not. He is within each of us.… The secret is that we must allow Him to take full possession. We are His sanctuary, His dwelling place, although we may not yet have opened every inward chamber of our hearts to let Him dwell therein … simply recognize the presence of God already within you, and fully submit to His ownership, and allow Him to control every circumstance.”

-Hannah Whitall Smith

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Edges of the Cross

Following Jesus means dying to the desires of the flesh every single day. It means total surrender. It means acknowledging the sacrifice Jesus made upon the cross and the power that His sacrifice holds. How do we avoid this idea of a pleasant religion? How do we refrain from putting our own selfish and sinful desires before His sacrifice? It is a spiritual battle that is fought daily with God’s word and the reminder of the cross....the ultimate weapon ❤️

“Consider Christ’s ultimate weapon—His death on the cross. To the onlookers at Golgotha that day, the cross looked like a defeat. They had no way of knowing that it was the mightiest weapon ever wielded, and it was in the hand of God. In his fantastic commentary on the gospel of John, J. C. Ryle wrote,

“The form of the cross is that of a sword with the point downward; above is the hilt toward heaven, as if in the hand of God; below is the point toward earth, as if thrust through the head of the old serpent the devil.”

In the same way, our weapons don’t look threatening to human eyes, but in the spiritual realm, they are recognized as mighty. We use confession, prayer, meditation, and community alongside silence, obedience, and gratitude. Scripture teaches us that we also use forgiveness, grace, love, and mercy. And perhaps that brings us to this point—the greatest of all, the Word of God itself.”

Sheila Walsh
In the Middle of the Mess