I found myself weeping before the Lord this morning as I passionately renounced my most beloved and oldest demon friends for the thousandth time, and then longingly looked back at them heartbroken as the walked away at God’s command.
I cried out, “God, I don’t know why I’m doing that! I hate them! I don’t want them! And a part of me loves them and wants them back already! Help me, God!!! Help me!”
“Worship me,” he whispered. I felt the soft touch of his gentle calloused hand gathering up the tears on my cheeks.
A touch from the Master had already begun to sand away another rough spot on my broken heart. His calloused hand. A perfectly divine, resurrected body with a calloused hand and a rough, scratchy cheek and coarse dark hair.
He smelled like sunshine and cedar.
I wept. Jesus wept. We wept together for the death of Lazarus in my own heart.
“Lift your head, weary sinner,” He whispered.
I tell Google to play Lift Your Head Weary Sinner and I worship. I weep and worship and weep and sing at the top of my lungs. Let the chains fall! Let the chains fall! My repentance becomes worship. I worship.
I kept my head lifted up and I fixed my eyes on the Lord’s gaze. I’d renounced and confessed and repented. I’d worshiped. Our eyes stayed locked. He sees and he loves. He sees me. And he loves me.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6 ESV
I felt so much relief. The Lord and I were locked in unity. I allowed Him to keep my gaze, despite my fear and my torment, and He saw me. He saw all of me.
He has always seen everything in me, every darkness, every fear, and He loves me.
All those long lost beloved friends of perdition who whisper on the winds of my memories, with their shame and death and suffering, all just disappear into the glorious light. I know my gaze will wander. And I know His gaze wont falter even when mine does.
I don’t have to always understand. I doubt. I fear. I worry. I am human. I was born on a train bound for death. And Jesus loves me. He offers Himself up to me so we can be one.
And I am reminded again that we are One. Oh, the audacity to consider my fears more terrible than God’s power! His light washes away everything that isn’t light.
In Him there is no darkness.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5 ESV
I will worship Him.
I choose to be blinded by His love for me, bound on a train for Glory instead of death, no matter what familiar demons I hear screaming out the window.
It’s hard to imagine isn’t it? Divine collaboration. Sounds like something out of a cerebral mythology thesis. At least it does to me. Yet, those are the words that keep coming to mind.
“Daddy,” I asked. “What do you want from me? What do you want from Your Church?”
With a wink and a contagious grin the size of galaxies colliding, he replied, “I want Divine Collaboration.”
This is an honorific to Him, I can tell. It’s a title he likes to pin on all His kids. We are all his Divine Collaborators. And I could tell He was thrilled that he’d gotten my attention.
Perplexed and definitely curious, I said, “Please explain.”
I am a philosopher and processing with God is something I like to savor. I want to stew and chew and taste every scoop of insight the Lord ever gives me. I feel delightfully compelled to savor and digest the nuanced flavor profile of God’s interactions, not just with me, but with his Body and with his Creation. I’ve learned a lot eating at the Lord’s table with Him. We talk. A lot.
The other day I was talking to a friend about this tattoo idea I had and all of a sudden I heard myself say, “It’s kind of like this ‘divine collaboration’ between God and me.” It just made sense to me to say it that way.
I had to smile. There it was again.
My husband and I took a road trip last month to celebrate our anniversary. We drove along part of the iconic Route 66 through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona all the way to the Grand Canyon. As we drove through high desert devoid of much life and saw rock formations that put modern architecture to shame, I heard it again: divine collaboration.
The land spoke to me as I marveled at the spectacles and grandeur created where infinite pale sky meets striated rocks in various stages of petrification and erosion. I felt the profundity of time’s endlessness: infinitely changing and staying the same all at once. I had never felt closer to my Father God, the Creator of All Things than I did in those moments of experiencing his Creation. His words were clear: this is divine collaboration.
As I experienced the beauty of God’s world in all its intricacy I began to pray for the people who lived there, and I felt the land speak to my heart about them: these people that God loved so dearly and who had been so horribly abused by the “progress” of European settlers. I wept and prayed and wept and prayed. I fell in love with those impoverished and yet resilient indigenous people who continued to hold on through the worst types of adversity. Serious divine collaboration.
It’s so much more than just a “good conversation” with Jesus.
1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,b7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11 ESV
Even Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he accepted it anyway and obediently emptied himself from fear and doubt and the entitlement of his status, and trusted that His Father in Heaven had his back and they were a team, even if it didn’t feel like it sometimes.
Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross because He trusted God.
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1
How can we possibly be like Jesus? Jesus divinely collaborated with the God of the Universe, while considering equality with God something beyond his grasp, and obediently and humbly received and obeyed, even in angst, even in hunger, even in torment, even in fear. He conquered because he humbled himself and obeyed in perfect unity with God.
Even though obedience made him look like a slave.
So maybe trusting God in obedience isn’t slavery, even if it might look like it is? Maybe obedience is actually divine collaboration. Maybe choosing to humble oneself, one can find exaltation in the Living God and be empowered in His Righteousness to be joint heirs with Christ.
14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonsf of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17 ESV
Divine collaboration: to trust that even obedience unto death will gain eternal reward and glory for God AND you.
It can be unimaginably painful, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Yet, I know that suffering pays beautiful dividends for those who are willing to learn and grow from it. Empathy, courage, salvation. It all come from suffering. Death and suffering are not the end for those who are in Christ Jesus. We know, because of Christ’s example of trust and faith, that God will be faithful to us as well.
God doesn’t want mindless robots. He’s not going to force you to do anything. He asks. He always asks, because he loves you. He offers this divine collaboration to anyone who would accept it. If you can get over yourself long enough to believe that it might actually be better with God than without, to accept for even just a moment that God is in fact good and trustworthy, you too can have this beautiful title of “Divine Collaborator”.
Divine collaboration means trusting God, submitting to God, and then freely talking to God without fear of condemnation.
Daddy didn’t get angry with Jesus when he questioned Him in Gethsemane. He listened. He comforted. He strengthened. And Jesus endured to the end. He trusted the Father, and on the third day was resurrected from the dead.
Jesus obeyed God and was raised up in Glory.
We have seen the truth of who God is in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and we believe in our hearts through faith, that God raised him from the dead and he will one day do the same for us. We are saved from death into life and from orphan to first born son. God wants us to be his friends. He wants unity in love. Unity in love means divine collaboration. It means trusting that the source of love and life is from God and endowed to his children with generosity.
Divine collaboration isn’t passive. It isn’t selfish. It isn’t arrogant. To walk in Divine collaboration with God is to actively believe in the reality of your shameless and righteous status as a child of God and fearlessly “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16) not just to receive forgiveness of sins, but to be lifted up into glory with God himself and receive wisdom and comfort from Him for eternity. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Refuse to be silent receivers of God’s mercy and love. Choose instead to be Divine Collaborators. Let’s use the tools we have been given, infused with the Holy Spirit and the many gifts He has provided us, and share our thoughts and ideas with Jesus with confidence. Realize that He’s already decided to “use the foolish things to confound the wise” (1 Cor 1:27) so we can stop worrying about if God really wants to hear from us or not. Trust me, he does. No, we’re not worthy of it on our own, but we’re not our own if we’ve given ourselves to Jesus.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
Divine Collaboration with one another is equally valuable. God’s obedient and loving children are a collective force.
We are stronger together as Christ’s body here on Earth. Know that we are all one with Our Father in Heaven by His Spirit. We should be unified as His image bearers and as walking tabernacles of His Presence.
Let us each humble ourselves and be divine collaborators together with our Lord.
(The Lord gave me this word about a week ago, and I’ve felt permission to share it.)
My hand is outstretched in judgment.
My Body and My Blood are the life raft I’m offering the world.
Don’t you know you are a Holy Priesthood?
My hands hold you up and protect you from the judgment and the wrath yet to come.
My Body should produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
Stop focusing on the law and live it, just as Christ fulfilled the law in His body.
You are His body. Have you forgotten? You are His life raft.
Save the world that is dying.
I have already achieved the Ultimate Victory.
It is my GIFT to you to carry the Lost into my Kingdom. That’s why you are here!
Come let us reason together, little ones.
Your job is not to figure anything out. It’s not even to sow the seeds. I sow the seeds. And I sow them generously.
You are the soil. Bear fruit.
I have planted a seed in every one of my children so that it will produce fruit.
You produce what I have already made and ordained.
Don’t listen to the lie that you have no value.
Don’t listen to the lie that you have nothing to offer.
You have everything in your nothingness!
Have you not seen it? Have you not tasted it?
It can explode out of each one of you with nothing more than your tiniest faith.
Please trust me. My eyes are in you. Use them to see what the dark rulers of this world have tried to use to blind you. You see through a glass darkly, yes, but your darkness cannot conceal ME. I AM. And I will show you the way through the darkness.
Put out your hands and grab the Lost who are drowning.
You are not the swimmer. You are the life raft.
I am the Salvation of the World and you are my Body. You have eaten of my flesh and drank my blood. It now runs through you. Float because you were made to be my life rafts in this age. Float and put out your hands. I will put lost little hands into your hands and give enough strength to pull them into the temporary shelter I have made you to be.
I travel with you, just as I did with Moses and the Israelites. Can’t you feel me? Can’t you see me? You don’t need Moses to talk for you. You have ME.
And even when you are scared of Me, I will accept you and bring you to me with loving kindness and patience. I won’t deny you or condemn you. That isn’t who I am.
Repent and don’t look back, except to weep for those who are drowning.
Keep putting your hands out. I do everything else. My yoke is easy. My burdens are light. It is only the Enemy of this world that disqualifies you, and he is already my footstool. Don’t listen to the footstool who offers you falsehood disguised as honey. Drink deeply from the water of life as the Samaritan woman did. Be like her. Go tell everyone that I know everything about you and I love you, you were lost and I found you and I gave you life. Lead them to me. Lead them to life.
Did you know that the Bible actually endorses abortion under certain circumstances? I am a thousand percent pro life, and I also believe that there are times when an abortion is necessary…ie an ectopic pregnancy, incest, rape, etc. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to do as Christ, and give each person the right to work out their own salvation with God on their own terms with the assumption that the Lord will work in their heart to bring each person closer and closer to Him through and by His Spirit.
And by no means am I intending to imply any salvation except through Jesus Christ and him crucified and resurrected for the ultimate atonement of our iniquity.
It seems to me that it’s much easier to judge others (and even ourselves), before recognizing that to judge at all is to presume to know more than the Ultimate and Only Righteous King. He is the only One capable of judging each person with equity and love.
We see through the glass darkly, and we grow in humility when we acknowledge that God is at work in everything around us, working it for our good despite the cruel and desperate work of the enemy on the prowl to utterly destroy our lives.
Therefore, I choose to accept that God can work with whatever we are willing to give him, and that by choosing to tangibly love the ones who act like our enemies by providing support through the loving acceptance of personal autonomy, trusting that the One Who Made Us will work this stuff out, and that our prayers, love, and the sharing of the Gospel to all people (perhaps even especially toward the ones who are most different than us politically, religiously, morally, or otherwise) is what will make the most difference in the bringing of God’s Kingdom Come.
“Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.” ~Jesus
People are freaking out. Roe v Wade has been on the books for a long time. It’s scary to see such a huge change in our government laws. And it’s easy to begin to question the safety and ramifications of that change. We conjure up images of doctors of questionable character wearing blood soaked aprons performing back alleys procedures with a rusty hanger. Or at least I do.
And yet, I hold out hope that there are still enough “strategies and freedoms” in place in our government to protect women and their reproductive health AND protect the lives of the unborn people. The unborn have all of their “rights” ripped from their tiny little grasp before they have even had a chance to take a breath.
There is too much nuance regarding this issue, and Roe v Wade’s decision has never been our source of truth. As followers of Christ, we can put our hope and trust in Our Savior Jesus to manage all of these issues, and protect and honor the sanctity of all life, whether or not we are aware of how He is doing those things.
Reproductive rights are equally as important as the lives of the unborn. We get upset because we get pulled into absolutes, and this is never going to be an “absolute” situation.
There are times when abortions are necessary, and their are times when abortions are just convenient birth control post coital contact. There are times when giving a baby over to abortion is best for all people. And there are beautiful times when God can use a tragedy, a mistake, or a lapse of judgment to provide life and beauty to a situation that had only darkness just by allowing an unborn child to live.
It’s complicated. Life is complicated. And God is still on His throne. We will survive this. We can trust God. We KNOW we can trust Him, so we can release our fear and insecurity over man’s choices. We don’t have any control over them.
We can use our voice to be heard and be seen, and hopefully reflect Our Lord Jesus in the process. We also cannot keep others from expressing that same right. And God’s hand of judgement and protection is outstretched still. He gives and He takes away. And we can trust Him with that.
I’ll leave you with this passage of scripture from the book of Romans, Chapter 8, English Standard Version of the Bible, with sub headings removed.
Romans Chapter 8
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers,[e] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience
.26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When I was growing up, my mother insisted that we do chores after we had watched our favorite Saturday morning cartoons. We cleaned our bathroom and bedrooms from top to bottom, changed the sheets on our beds, folded and put away our laundry, dusted and vacuumed and did yard work. Only when we were finished were we allowed to play.
I carried this habit into adulthood. And when I got married and had my first apartment, I kept an immaculate house. Then I had kids. Life’s priorities change when you have kids. The word “immaculate” fell out of favor and was exchanged with phrases like “lived in” and “it’s fine”. Kids. They’re great. Really. And I taught them how to clean just like my mother did.
For a time, my kids were a huge help. They cleaned their own bathrooms and bedrooms. They helped with the dishes and laundry. Then one day they grew up and moved out and I realized how many of the chores I used to do on a regular basis had fallen by the wayside or been absorbed into the “lived in” and the “it’s fine” category, with no kids left at home to even help out with the basics.
I also suffer from chronic health conditions and debilitating arthritis. Over the years I had learned to really depend on my kids and my husband to help me, and I’ve also settled for a lot less than I had when I was younger.
It made me sad. I saw how my parent’s house deteriorated as they aged. The kitchen sink was always clean, but dust and clutter multiplied quickly with no one able to keep it all in check. I don’t want that to happen to me.
I took it to the Lord, and I laid my pride at His feet. (Funny how I can lay everything down at His feet, but can’t seem to lay even the smallest burden down to ask a friend to help!) His answer was simple: Your desire for a clean house matters to Me because you matter to Me.
My wellness has value to God.
Cleanliness for me became a symbol of wellness, and my pride had kept me from that wellness. I blamed my fading cleanliness on kids growing up and my disability. Only when I took it to the Lord in humility and acknowledged my pride did I see the Lord’s heart for me. I didn’t want to ask for help? I didn’t want to pay for house cleaning? Because of pride?
Do I boast in myself or do I boast in Christ? My wellness matters to God. He has seen the desire of my heart. He has heard my plea for help. He showed me grace for my pride and my stubbornness. And he’s blessed me with the finances to hire some help.
Since January of this year a crew from Totally Clean ICT has come regularly to clean my house. They are a locally owned company, run by two Latina women. I get to bless them with my business and they get to give me back my clean house. That’s a win win in my book.
Because wellness has value to God. Thank you, Lord, for always providing for my needs.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:19
The heart of every believer is to follow Jesus and seek His will for their lives. But often that journey is wrought with fear, doubt, and confusion as we listen and try to discern His voice amidst the countless distractions of our busy lives.
My friend Kendra recently posted on Facebook about her own reflections regarding her journey with Jesus and with her permission I am sharing it here:
“At dinner with friends a few weeks ago, someone asked the table: “What would be your ideal? What would represent a ‘dream come true’ for you in regards to your work & life?”
“One friend thought for a moment and responded, “I am kind of done thinking like that. I am learning that God knows my longings and hopes and I can rest in trusting each offering and invitation as they come.”
“This casual defiance of a question has sat with me for a month and has begun to work its way into my being in a shaping way. Over the last few years, I’ve cultivated a way of being which has more often invited me into a place of urgency and confusion than into a place wonder and trust.
“A veracious desire to figure things out, seemed to rob me of the joy of relishing in each step as the path unfolds before me. There is mystery to be uncovered in the life of following Jesus, to be sure, but the mystery becomes a task-master when it becomes a puzzle to solve instead of a wooing to be responded to.
“I had no idea how deeply this misunderstanding had fatigued me over time, and how profoundly I had missed the heart of God in the midst of it. As (my husband) Chase and I prepare to welcome a new little one into the world, and as we, the church, prepare for the season of Advent, I sense that Jesus is inviting us each into a season of rest.
“We can rest, knowing that we can trust Jesus with the things to come, allowing us to be fully present to this Holy moment. We can rest, knowing that our unfulfilled longings and aching questions are held by the kindest love that the world has ever known. We can rest, trusting that the heart of God is for us, preparing our path as we have the courage and faith to keep stepping forward.
“Carla Harding captured this sense of abiding rest in Jesus so well: “Today I rest in the blessing of meekness. I don’t have to fight to make my own way or shout to make my voice heard. Jesus, you go before me. You prepare a place for me. I rest knowing that the earth is my inheritance.”
I’d settled into a folding chair inside the barn across from one of my horse friends, Loki. She’s a giant Clydsdale paint that I’ve become acquainted with at the small farm I frequent on a weekly basis. I’ve become pretty good friends with the three horses who live there, and because it was so stinking hot out that day, I’d asked Loki if she was as hot as I was.
And that’s when I heard Jesus say, “You get used to it.”
Now I’ve grown pretty accustomed to hearing from the Lord when I’m there at the ranch. It’s just one of those places that’s so filled with the Presence of God that it’s palpable. So, when He spoke, I knew there was a lot more to it than a simple comfort.
Loki stood in her open box stall, her giant head stretched beyond the stall door, looking at me, quite content with the temperature over 100 degrees. I’m not used to that kind of heat at all. Sweat dripped across my forehead faster than I could wipe it away with my shirt sleeve.
“You get used to it.”
The Lord was speaking to my heart and I was all ears. I’m certainly not used to the heat! Air conditioning is my friend and to me the heat seems like a terrible, terrible thing. To Loki, though, it was just another hot day in a series of hot days that would come and go in time.
I’ve gotten used to a lot of things in my lifetime. Air conditioning for one, and vacations, and food on the table. I love church services and coffee dates with friends and wifi and smart phones and cable tv. I’m definitely used to all of that.
But I’ve also gotten used to depression that lasted for months at a time, knees so bad I can barely walk, and constant chronic illness. I spent three years bleeding to death because surgery was even more life threatening. I got used to anemic fatigue and low oxygen concentration and blood transfusions and doctor’s visits. I got used to slowly dying a little more day by day by day.
Sitting in the heat that day with Jesus made me uncomfortable, but I noticed something else, something beyond the discomfort. I felt joy. I really liked sitting there with my friend, Loki. It’s like my therapist is always saying to me, it can be both. I can be uncomfortable AND happy. I can be in physical pain AND be at peace. I can be brave AND be afraid. I can hate the heat and love being with that horse. God made us complicated and that’s a good thing!
Two years ago I decided to stop bleeding to death and get the surgery that would likely kill me. Like I said, I’d suffered for three years bleeding to death and getting transfusion after transfusion just to stay alive. Tests showed a lot of problems going on internally. Logic told my specialist surgeon that I likely wouldn’t survive the surgery. He only finally agreed to do it because I’d had so many blood transfusions that my body was going to start rejecting the blood I was getting and that would kill me.
So, in the summer of 2019 I had the life saving surgery that would likely kill me and I survived. I spent a month in the hospital, weeks in the ICU on a ventilator, and months in rehabilitation afterwards, but I lived.
I now like to think of the Summer of 2019 as the time when I decided I no longer wanted to just get used to being sick and dying. I wanted to live. My scripture verse in that season was Psalm 118:17 “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
For so long I thought I had to suffer to experience God’s full power and love. After all, He’d gotten me through so much and Jesus did say no servant is greater than his Master. But it truly is a work of God to live abundantly all the time. To live in trouble and peace. There is a time and purpose and a season for both.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every [a]purpose under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
I got used to being in a season of suffering. It was all I knew how to do. It’s how I survived, and I’m so thankful for that. I know the Lord was with me in it, for better or worse. I was used to trauma and torture and ruin, and God was with me in it. Always, always with me. But now I’m getting used to something new.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
So how hot does it have to get to move beyond the discomfort and into the joy? Do you have to like the heat? No, but you can learn from it. And you can be thankful for air conditioning and thankful for a Savior who’s with you in both.
For me, sitting in the heat for a while with a big, beautiful Clydsdale is totally worth it. But now I know I don’t have to live there. I can be thankful for the air conditioning.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4:7-11 (ESV)
My earthen vessel isn’t cracked, it’s smashed. It’s smashed to dust. And I admit that for a long time I thought there was surely something wrong with me. I felt victimized. I felt wronged. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. I’ve been abused. I’ve been ravished. I’ve talked to God about it a lot.
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)
If He’s the potter and I’m the clay, then why do I feel like dust?
Did you know how dust becomes clay?
“Clays form from millions of years of mineral erosion. Mountains break down into boulders, boulders into rocks, rocks into pebbles, sand, silt and eventually, when the silt reaches a certain size of fineness, an amazing transformation occurs. Instead of just being a loose mix, the fine particles manifest an attraction for water and each other at a molecular level. Clay can be thought of less as a material and more of a behavior, the phenomenon of very finely eroded minerals to agglomerate.” (Webb, Patrick “From Dust We Come: A Look at Clay.” Traditional Building. Feb 14, 2017 https://www.traditionalbuilding.com/opinions/a-look-at-clay)
Today as I began to write and lament about my suffering, the Lord reminded me of a vision he’d given me a few years ago. I saw a beaten and battered up old vase sitting on a pedestal. Light showed through the cracks and broken places and cast an intricate pattern of spider web designs across the walls. The room was lit up by them.
The vision could have ended there for me to know that God was working and making beauty from my brokeness, but God had more to show me. A huge sledgehammer suddenly came down and smashed the vase, but instead of extinguishing the light, an explosion of vibrant colors filled the room. The walls around it could not contain it, and they crumbled into dust as the light and colors filled the world outside with unimaginable beauty as far as the eye could see.
As I recalled the vision this afternoon, I heard God say, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
There’s my dust.
I thought back to the Garden of Eden. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust was a consequence of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had warned Adam and Eve about it, but they didn’t listen.
Yet I know I’m not suffering the consequences of my sin because I’ve chosen to eat from the tree of life through Jesus instead of the tree of slavery to my own debauchery. My consequences got paid for on the cross.
What I’m carrying are the marks of an enemy who hates me. He hates me because I chose Jesus instead of death. I chose to eat from the tree of life. I called BS on the serpent’s lies.
I think of Jesus, and why He chose to go the cross, and why He called His disciples to do the same. “And he (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23 ESV) We saw Jesus carry His cross. He couldn’t even do it by himself, he needed help! It was excruciating, horrifying, and brutal. But necessary.
Jesus came in the flesh to show us that the pain of this world and the death that it brings doesn’t have to be eternal. He came to show us that we don’t have to suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve and their bad decision. We can choose for ourselves to take the fruit of life offered by Him. We can choose life.
It’s a necessary step, suffering. It’s the consequence of an evil serpent throwing a tantrum because Jesus has offered us eternal life. Jesus knows that road well. He faced those consequences, too. He did it for us. He submitted to Satan’s tantrum and said, “Give me your worst!” and Satan obliged Him.
Jesus’s life wasn’t pretty, and it ended brutally, but resurrection followed! Jesus gets the last word. Jesus is the Word made flesh. And the Word cannot be overcome. It is life and it is beautiful, and he carries the scars on his own resurrected flesh just to remind us of that. What a gift. I’m so thankful for it.
If I’m to follow him in all things, then I must be willing to accept the crushing with the hope that it will bring resurrection life. Not because God hates me, but because the world does, and God is not content to let me suffer in vain. There’s got to be beauty that comes from it, or there’s no point in living at all.
Jesus showed me that because He experienced it. He laid down his life willingly so that I could see that all the suffering the enemy could throw at me in this world would not be the end of me. Because He conquered death, if I follow Him in life, I too shall stand upon the wreckage of death and proclaim eternal life through Him who saved me from it!
Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Dust to clay. Clay to life in the Potter’s capable hands.