"A Message from the high and towering God, who lives in Eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I live in the high and holy places, but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them, get them up and on their feet again."
Isaiah 57:15 (the Message)
My first post for the New Year and I have sat here for the past few hours just trying to quiet my thoughts and get to the heart of what I want to write. This is not going to be a post on resolutions for 2014, because quite frankly I make them and break them quicker than you can blink. Instead I chose a verse to live by for the New Year; one to pray on, to look at every single day, to make my own. The verse comes from the Book of Luke, 14:33 "Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple." (emphasis mine) I am still trying to figure out my word for the year, but back to the verse... These are the words spoken by the Master, stating that one needs to let go of everything, in order to follow Him.
In my way of thinking, I have already done this... Time to think again. The past few weeks have been a time spent on reflection. I am on a Winter break from school and in the process of trying to find a new job. With each new interview and subsequently with each new rejection, I found myself questioning Him and why He has me on a path that is so hard to walk. I allowed my mind to take me back a few years when everything seemed to be going along perfectly. I loved my life and everything in it. My boys were happy and free from the pain of outside sources, my marriage (imo) was perfect, I lived in a great house, had a job I adored, a car I loved, and a big fat cat who was a fan of cuddling. Fast forward to today and all of those things are gone.
Today there is brokenness. Today there are unshed tears that burn my eyes and make my throat seize up when I try to swallow. Today there is a heaviness in my soul that is unwanted. Today I need my Savior more than ever. Today it is harder to call on Him than yesterday.
As I sat here, looking at the verse from Luke, I realized that the brokenness had to be let go of as well. However, I heard the question being asked within my heart; "Are you ready to let go?" You see my brokenness is a part of me, from as far back as I can remember. I have never felt like I "belonged" anywhere. I wear it like a second skin; it protects me from having to be vulnerable with people, cloaks me from having to trust too much, envelops me from having to open up, and shadows me wherever I go. Without that, what do I have?
We live in a world where broken things are thrown out to the curb, expectantly waiting for the trash man to come by and sweep them up and away, no longer having to look at the mess, instead living in a façade of perfect beauty. Brokenness is not relegated to only "things," it applies to people as well. If you look around you will notice that when relationships break down, people have a horrible tendency to walk away and find someone new, instead of working on reconciliation. The world we live in is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits, broken emotions, and broken relationships; I am one of those people.
I have had a tremendously hard time reconciling the fact that as a Minister, I still fall short in so many areas of my life... That I still have so many areas of brokenness. (sigh) For whatever reason, my mind figured that once I accepted my calling, that once I was on board with the fact that He chose me, all would be smooth sailing from there. The Book of Acts tells us that "...through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." (14:22)
I will not even begin to understand why I did not think that would apply to me in any way :)
With every loss, I see His hand move in my life. With every nasty word spewed out from someone who does not believe I look "the" part, another comes along with a kind word of encouragement. With each curious glance from the eyes of someone who does not know me, comes a look of comfort from one who does. There are times when I walk into a Church that is not mine and I feel like a circus freak... (We do a love service once a month where we go on the road to other Churches around town or in our district, and bring service to them. We do this to promote unity in the community, as well as a way of getting to know others.) There are nights when I get home that I just want to curl up into a ball and weep. I want to quit while I am ahead, yet there is a spark within that whispers "give it one more day" each time I feel like this.
In the midst of all these swirling emotions, I wrestle with how I "should" feel versus how I "truly" feel. You know those conversations you have within your own mind about yourself, your looks, your choices, and your decisions? This is what I am referring to... Goes something like this...
Me: Geez what is wrong with you? Get it together, get a grip, do what you have been chosen to do.
Me: And they call you a preacher? What kind of Minister are you??
Me: You know they don't like you... See the way she just looked at you? You are not wanted here. You look different and they will use their last breath to remind you of that.
(I never claimed to have a kind mind) These are just a few of the conversations that I have with myself and I realized that these conversations are not of Him, but antics of the enemy to make me doubt myself, but more importantly they are used to doubt Him.
On this journey, I never expected doubt to come into play. As a child I went to Sunday School and Church every Sunday... Then I reached a point in my life where I figured that my way was better so I put those notions that I learned to the side and entered into the big bad world, head first. However, my belief in Him did not get lost along the way. I still prayed before I went to bed every night...
That's it. I prayed and to be honest it was mostly done just to escape eternal hell in case something I was doing caused my death that particular night... That is painful to admit. :(
As I was researching the cause of my "internal" doubt, I came across a statement that read "you are moving from the merely inherited faith of your childhood to an adult faith that is truly your own. You should expect that by growing into a mature faith, even though you are a Christian, doubt will come into play at some point. The process can be very painful, but it is really an important part of spiritual maturation. So don’t be distressed; this is something you need to go through." (Read here)
Something else that I "need to go through."
Doubt is not anything new. If you go into the Word, you will find several examples of doubt coming into play. With Moses, Thomas, Jacob, Job, David, Elijah, and even with John the Baptist... The one who baptized the Son of Man, eventually had doubt enter his mind. I figure if John the Baptist can have a moment of doubt, I can as well.
I have found out first hand that a Minister (Pastor, Preacher, Reverend, Priest etc....) is expected to always be "on." People expect them to go from strong faith to stronger faith and they are expected to adequately have all problems resolved so that they can be counted on for the unchanging Word. The responsibility is huge, and I have found that it is enough to take away my breath and it is not limited to the Pulpit on Sunday morning. I can no longer run to the grocery store in my pajamas (sue me, they are comfy and I am human) because I will undoubtedly run into a Steward from my Church.
Gone are the days of going to the mall fresh-faced and make-up free. Gone are the days of gossiping with my close girlfriends. In place of those days I find myself scrutinized in ways that make me shake my head and swallow a scream. From the way I wear my hair, to pantyhose or tights, to my heels being too high, to whether I talk too fast or too slow, to whether I eat or not ( yes, this has actually been a point of discussion that made its way to the ears of my Pastor *eye-roll*) I have been chewed up and spit out, all in the name of Jesus.
However through the thick, choking, clouds of doubt, He sees, He knows, and therefore He answers in ways only He can...
With people He places in my life, like my Pastor who believes in me, even on days I cannot muster up enough belief in myself.
With an unexpected email from a new friend, like my secret Santa, which came in during the writing of this post. :) So sweet!
With a song lyric, that has been heard many times before, but now has new meaning.
With a message from G, after not hearing from him for months, due to a move on his part.
With 7 (the number of completion) blood red cardinals prancing around in the backyard.
With the reading of John 20:24-29 and "understanding" for the first time that Jesus gave in to the doubts of Thomas by taking the words Thomas spoke eight days earlier to the other disciples and turning them into reality.
With a mentor I can call day or night, that makes time to answer questions that frustrate me to the point of pulling my hair out.
With a ray of sunshine that hits my face, on a cold day (it is 27 degrees here... in Florida!)
He hears the cries of my heart, He sees the unshed tears, He feels the ache of loneliness, He acknowledges my doubt, He drives away my insecurities, He silences my fears and with that understanding, He strengthens me...to "give it one more day."
Many blessings upon you my friends!
There Are Times When You Feel Like Giving In
And There Are Times When You Feel Like You Can't Try Anymore
There Are Times Of Trouble In Believing
This Test Of Your Faith Will Last
As Long As It Takes To Pass
Till You Have No More Doubt You'll Endure
And Your Faith Will Emerge True And Pure"