Monday, January 13, 2014

He Knows and He Sees - The Secret to Standing When Your World is Shaking

I forget, and all too easily, the things I always tell my kids to remember.  Like "You are learning.  I don't expect you to know this or get it right.  That's why we're here!  All I ask is that you don't give up."  But then I look at my life and this first week of the new year, first steps of a journey with trust, and I already feel like a failure.

And I long for it deep - this continual coming of Christ in my life, this constant Light shining.  And I don't want to miss it! I don't want to walk with the clenched fists and tight jaw saying, "No, God."  And we sing it at church: "Let us become more aware of your presence.  Let us experience the glory of your goodness.  Holy Spirit you are welcome here..."  And after the way my year started, I know what a dangerous prayer that can actually be.  

As we talk over brunch, it is clear - I am experiencing the glory of His goodness, and it is beautiful.  But it is not without pain.  That confuses me in a way.  But then I read John's words - preparing a way for the Lord.  So I flip back to Isaiah with Handel's Messiah playing in my head and I think, "It's earth-shattering!"  Valleys raised up and mountains laid low and rough ground made level.  This will rock your entire world and leave you feeling shaken, at least.  And this is the making a way for Jesus!

And yes, the ground beneath me and around me shakes, but He is good and I can stand and it's there at the end of chapter 1.  Jesus says to Nathanael, "I saw you while you   were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." And I gawk at the thought of it.  Jesus saw him before he was called.  Jesus saw him.  He took notice of him.  And maybe that's the real miracle of it all.  And yeah, when the Son of God says He knows me because He sees me, it does lead me to believe, to stand firm while the world shakes and say, "Come Lord.  You are truly welcome here.  Have your way in me."  And Jesus said it to Nathanael, and He says it to me and to you as well, "You believe because I saw you when you were still sitting under the [fill in the blank.  Bondage of anxiety?  Depression? Fear? Idolatry of comfort? Self-doubt? Self-sufficiency?  Self-righteousness? Fig trees come in all shapes, like baggage.]  You shall see greater things than this."  Oh, how I love that!  I saw you when you were a mess and I called you... and as if that wasn't miracle enough, you'll see greater things than this.

It's like my voice teacher used to say... There's more!  More love.  More faithfulness.  More goodness.  More grace.  More than I could ask or imagine.  He sees and He knows and I can stand through it all.  No fear.  All trust.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five Minute Friday - See


I whisper it out loud to myself, as I stand from the computer.  Why are you leaning in so close?  And then I laugh.  Yes, because I'm talking to myself in an empty classroom, but also because there is deep truth right there waiting for me.  I'm leaning in close because I'm bone weary and I need to see.

No, I can't seem to see straight these days, because the pain is all too real.  Her words cut deep and I know mine did too and well that just makes me feel like a failure.  And when God told me that 2014 would be the year to trust I didn't know the learning curve would be quite this steep.  Because when the ones you love are hurting, and hurting you, and there's nothing you can do, and you really just don't know, it's hard to tell which way is up.

And so it is that: I have to lean in close to see.  And God said it to me clear that day, "Press into me child.  I want you.  I love you.  Press into me."  And then it was clear that trust is the very pressing into God and the opening up to adventure.  The unclenching of the fists to receive grace and give grace.  And I have to lean in close to hear the beating of His heart because the war drums are about to right drown it out.  I have to lean close to hear the whispered words of love because my words aren't always love and neither are hers and neither are the ones in my head.  I have to lean in close.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

10 Things to do After a Break Up (or Any Other Heart Break)

There's this feeling you get when a relationship ends.  It's somewhere between being spun around in circles and being on one of those tower drop rides, except not quite as exhilarating. You feel completely disoriented and unstable and you can't really figure out what to do next.  At least that was my experience the night he looked at me and said, "I can't do this anymore."  It's true that hope deferred makes the heart sick, and loss is right painful.  And you know I'm not just talking about dating.  So I've been asking myself this question for the last few days: What do I do with my heart break?   Some humble ideas...

1. Let yourself cry
The biggest mistake I've ever made in dealing with heart break has been to hold back the tears.  I don't know who got us thinking that strong people don't cry.  What a lie!  Tears are not a sign of weakness; they are a sign of our humanity.  Last I checked, God intentionally created human beings, not robots or another host of angels, and we have a pretty special place in His heart.  He gave us emotions, and He gave us tears as an outlet for those emotions.  What's more, the Psalmist says He puts our tears in a bottle and writes all our angst and pain in His book.  So yeah, deal with powerful emotions the way God intended - go ahead and cry.

2. Give thanks
Eucharisteo - this trinity of grace, joy, and thanksgiving - always precedes the miracle.  So even as you are grieving your loss, take the time to write down all that you are thankful for about that relationship.  Thank God for the joy-filled moments, for the way that you shaped and encouraged each other.  Thank Him even for the pain, because these moments when you can't see how you'll get to the other side?  These are the bridge-building moments, the ones where you learn Who can be counted on.  We walk the planks step by weak step, bathe them in our tears and find, in the midst of it all, HE HOLDS.  Give thanks!  All is grace because all is being redeemed by a good God who is madly in love with you.

3. David lament, but don't Israelite complain
To give thanks does not mean to pretend it doesn't hurt, or that you are happy it happened.  I've made that mistake, too.  Don't lie to yourself about your pain.  It will only cause you more.  Instead, feel free to lament.  Express your sadness.  Declare what you feel is wrong.  But do so the way David did, with a heart rooted in the goodness of God.  Be sad, get angry, ask questions, but do so believing that Sovereign God loves you and can be trusted.  Don't join the Israelites in their distrust and ingratitude.  That's how you miss the Promised Land.

4. The best way out of the dark is to be the light for someone else
Pain can get us all wrapped up in ourselves, and that is a surefire way to get stuck in the pit.  Once you have taken the time to lament, begin looking for ways to step outside yourself. Ask God to open your eyes to how you can be an encouragement and support to those around you.  Take flowers to a neighbor.  Offer to babysit for a couple's date night.  Call an old friend or mentor and let them know how much they mean to you.  Cook dinner for some friends. Be the light for someone else and find your world getting a little brighter.

5.  Refuse to speak ill of the other person
It is always tempting after being hurt to call up the girlfriends and bash the other person.  Make the choice not to.  No one deserves grace, and everyone needs it.  Choose the path of grace and mercy, which leads to freedom in forgiveness.  To tear down the other person is to build yourself a prison of bitterness and resentment.  Be careful with the words you speak when you're in pain.

6. Cling to the cross
Loss can leave us feeling right spun around and unstable, but the Cross is always your true source of stability.  Cling to it.  Let it shout across time and history how deeply loved you are.  Let it remind you that God found you worth saving.  Let it show you that even the darkest instrument of death can be turned into a symbol of hope and victory.  Let it fix your eyes on Jesus, and in the midst of all your questions let it lead you to the one question that roots you down deep: "He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us ALL THINGS?"  (Rom. 8:32)

7. Write stuff down... then chuck it.
Inevitably, after two people part ways you will wrestle with unanswered questions, a sense of regret, or all those things you wish you would have said.  Write it down.  There is something in the flow of ink that gets the blood flowing again, something in getting the words out that really sets you free.  Write it all down, pray the redeeming blood of Jesus over it, lay it at the throne of grace, and then throw it away.

8. Take care of yourself
In all your sadness, don't forget to take care of yourself.  It can be so tempting to give up and stop caring when you are struggling with a sense of rejection.  In the midst of your pain, remember who you are.  You are the Beloved of God.  Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  You are blessed, accepted, adopted, chosen, favored, forgiven, and redeemed (Ephesians 1:3-14).  You are clothed in strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25).  As you process through the heart ache, make sure you are making healthy choices physically, emotionally, and mentally.

9. Keep your heart open
When we have had our heart broken, the greatest temptation is to close it in to protect ourselves from getting hurt again.  We want to try to hold it together, but the truth is that Jesus runs to the broken.  As hard as it can be, keep your broken heart open and exposed before God so you might be healed.  Pray that, even though you got burned, you would continue to love brave and dream wild.  Don't let the pain make you hard of heart.

10. Sing out loud
Ann Voskamp said it... that when it is hardest, that is when we need to sing the loudest, because the devil flees at a hymn.  So that's what I'm doing these days - I'm singing this one loud.  

Because it's not so much about the end of us as it is about the fear crouching at my door that I will remain alone.  But really, that's satan-speak for "God isn't good enough to provide."  I refuse to partner with satan.  So yeah, when you're scared and you don't really know what to do next or when the pain will go away, find your song and sing it loud.