What happened last Sunday was horrific. There is something quite deadlier than bullets.
I have a story to tell But I don't believe anyone wants to hear, I can tell by the scrutiny on their faces How unfamiliar the things that come out when I share They tell me, "That's impossible" They tell me, "That's not people-friendly" But what they are really saying It's not necessary to be unashamedly me , All except one I admit, I agree with them Maybe I should take it down a bit Have 'normal' interests, so others can comprehend Not to think so deep Not to be so 'sensitive' I have wished to be somebody everyone wants to keep So, I tried copying their tastes To find my place I could have pulled it off too, They believed it to be true All except one I didn't recognize me anymore My real smile was absent, My thoughts forgotten, And my feelings, well, dead. My 'me-mess', hidden in a box, Yet, I was 'normal' The voice with the story still managed to speak, In the hollow parts of my cheek I tried, hard, to keep the mask. Yet the cracks kept appearing No they didn't ask, they never ask When I was alone, I tried hard to convince myself, this was enough for All except one It took rejection for me to see, Even if I was someone else They still wouldn’t have chosen me. Person after person, friend after friend, They denied the one thing I sought. I remember the nights when with my soul I fought To be rejected because of who you are, Are the heights of pain, Something I cannot explain. Maybe that’s why I haven’t told my story. Maybe that’s why it’s hidden Because they wouldn’t understand And myself I couldn’t have forgiven Of course, all this is unknown to All except one To embrace me took a lot from that one, I couldn’t find the strength I didn’t have the courage to be myself I just wanted to pretend But I had run out of options to put on the shelf Slowly, he gave me a shovel I began digging for my mind, for my life To my surprise, I found it but didn’t love it How could he choose this for his wife? It was worse than before, bitter, hurt, ashamed and condemning It became my enemy like All except one Wounded, I open my heart to the one who gave his all Little by little, I made him get closer, Until he was in the middle of my mess And instead of running or requesting I get a 'helper' He took up a broom and started cleaning I stood clueless. Surely, there must be something I should do He read my mind and replied, ‘No, that’s why I died.’ Yet they didn’t see, they never see, All except one There is still mess But he hasn’t left Teaching me his truth is the only thing I need to profess I started loving me because he does Embracing my uniqueness because he saw them as good He tells me, I am worthy of celebration as any creation would I couldn’t tell this story because nobody would believe me, All except one
That’s how I started the year. This was the only way I could truly express my state of heart. My lifeline was the approval of men and if I didn’t get it, I would squirm in a corner, destitute, starving, burdened. But, to be pursued of God even like that is the best experience in the world! Guess what? He’s pursuing you too. Isn’t that amazing?
I listened this week “The Pursuit of God” by A. W. Tozer and fam, I was constantly draped. (I recently realized books were on Youtube! I know, I am late to that discovery but it doesn’t matter, I know now!) The ninth chapter was the most significant to me, it drove a wedge right into my heart.
“All I Need Is God”
A hundred pounds lifted from my back instantly. All I needed to do was to rest in God? I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone? You mean I can relax in public because I didn’t need to over filter anything? Whew. I’ve heard it before but when the dross clears from your heart, its secret places get discovered. You should spend some time meditating on that passage, paying special attention to ‘self-love‘. I trust you can see my error in the poem and perhaps in you.
To think when I wrote it tears smeared my screen and now, I have this ridiculous smile, feels beautifully strange. Even last time I was at a low, feeling estranged from God, turns out my idols stood between us. Idols of self and people pleasing. It’s amazing the power of the word, chastenings, fellowship, fasting and prayer. It’s amazing how the roads have led me here, seven months into the year. To be able to say, “All I need is God,” is no ‘hurry come up’ declaration or emotional stance. I realize that even when I don’t feel it and it helps me obey his commandments.
I don’t want you to be bound like me in pretense I nurtured. It becomes an unwanted vine, suffocating everything in its path. It blinded my eyes to all the love and acceptance around me. You don’t need seven months, you need a thirst. A thirst for rest and a weariness of the burdens you carry. Believe Him when He says,
How do You Live in that Rest?
Take up his yoke, deny yourself, take up the cross, do His will. Then learn of Him, get into his word, pray, fellowship with other believers. Then, anticipate the temptations to return to vines outside of God. Ensure you have a counter thought, promise or truth, look for the way of escape that’s provided. Precious, may we become meek, may we be ourselves, may we be bold enough to share our mess and imperfections, to seek only God’s approval and accept it, to be real with God and man.
Lastly, honour God in all things. Chapter 10 had these main point:
That means, every moment I spend should be used glorifying God, whether on whatsapp, Facebook, netflix, quiet time, group outings, posts, everything. I don’t want you to think I have perfected this. Trust me, it’s a daily battle, but now, I am not fighting against me or God, we are fighting the sinful nature together.
Other than more non-fiction posts, the long awaited Engraved Series continues next Friday! I have been musing on it and we are in for a treat. I can’t wait to see who picks up on the clues ! Yassss! I’m excited! Read Engraved: Doubts to refresh yourself on what happened last. Thanks to those who reached out to me, it has given me exxxtra motivation.
P.S. You are really a good listener, I hope to return the favour, reach out, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked this post and would like to receive more, sign up below! Remember, you are precious.
We’ve been on a roll over the past years, it seems we are ‘canceling’ feelings. It’s interesting how they taught us how to tie our laces, brush our teeth, do homework, and yet no one taught us how to maneuver our emotions. Even the bible makes it a priority, it commands us to guard our hearts because it determines the course of our life. (Prov. 4:23 NLT) No matter how hard we try, we can’t outrun them, eventually they catch up. But what’s clear is whether or not feelings are immediately in our consciousness, they dictate our path. Whether that path is to run, to pause or to overcome them. We want to be a part of the ones to overcome them. To do that, we must start at our past.
Our lives are just like the universe, a preacher once said. Before God came and created it, we were without form, void, and darkness prevailed in our lives. Salvation restores our form/ foundation, fills our voids, and lets the light into our hearts. Our foundations before Christ were unstable, destructive. Our houses could have fallen at any time. Now, Christ has become the rock we are building upon. However, when saved, our past remained in our memories, forgiven and forgotten by God, yes, but not by us. The mistakes, the hurts, the pain, our offenders and the ones we offended take permanent residence in our minds, skewing our outlook and damaging our relationship to God and others. How do we get rid of them or even bound them, so they don’t always mess things up?
Christian author, Miroslav Volf, suggested a path to healing from our past, or in his words, memories. In his breakthrough book, “End of Memories”, the journey starts with remembering and not just that but remembering truthfully. Our first steps, a guardian holding us just after birth, the feeling of first touching the ground, the first time we saw a bird, or the sky, or the ocean, our first words, the first knee scrape and the first time we laughed, all important things, all things we have forgotten. It is a fact memories fade, but some especially negative ones, we repress. I don’t blame you; I did the same thing too. Recalling negative experiences are uncomfortable, excruciating even. But avoidance has helped no one in history, not even the thinkers.
I know it’s absurd that I am asking you to do this, but friend, God can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge. It’s true He knows our hearts, but do you know yours? That’s why prayer is so important. It’s an exclusive session with the greatest counselor, comforter, and healer. I remember the first time I did this; it was sometime last year. People close to me often said I was closed off, guarded, cold, emotionless even. As a highly sensitive person, this was the farthest from the truth, I just didn’t know how to handle my emotions or express them. They made uncomfortable, made me feel weak and stupid. So, when they became overwhelming, I disappeared. I didn’t know it was okay to just feel. Apparently, I had bought into the idea that I had to always be okay. I needed to remember, to acknowledge, to name the thing or things.
The interesting part to this is not only will we sit in remembrance to God, but we will speak of it. I did not grow emotionally by myself; I had a community that was patient, loving and sober. Healing whilst more internal than any other process is never done alone. Paul didn’t just arrive after such a horrific past. He had the word, the Holy Spirit and a church family to encourage him. Remembering truthfully might seem easy especially for victims, but one needs to be careful. William James warned,
“The most frequent source of false memory is the accounts we give
to others of our experiences. Such accounts we almost always
make both more simple and more interesting than the truth. We
quote what we should have said or done rather than what we
really said or did; This is one great source of
the fallibility of testimony meant to be quite honest.”
In simple terms, find a prayer room, pour out to God then find a sober confidant, pour out to them fully and honestly. Don’t make yourself look any better or the offender any worst. Afterall, bearing false news is a sin too. Beware of assuming motives and opinions. There will be time for that later. Leave nothing for shame to have power over. You can do it the other way around if you choose too. If you killed someone say it, someone raped you? Say it. They neglected you when you were younger? Tell every detail. Perhaps you struggled with sexual immorality? Confess it. Someone broke your heart? Reveal it. The things I confessed started losing their power the moment they left my lips. Our shame feeds off the things we remain hidden. Let me just add too, it’s okay to feel ashamed too.
I journaled before speaking though; it helped me sort through my emotions to find out what was holding me back from being open and vulnerable. Then, after I sat down to write, I rose to talk to God and people.
Healing is a messy business, but staying broken and wounded is even messier. Your pain won’t just stay in a corner while you continue life, it insists on getting attention. Unhealed pain makes pebbles seem like boulders and streams like raging waters. If you received healing, you change the course of your life for the better. Let’s start with vulnerability. If you feel you can’t talk to anyone, slide into my DM on Instagram. I promise it’s a safe place. Next week we will tackle another part of the journey, condemning those wrong deeds. Remember, you are precious.
I have planned my life. I know exactly the things I want to accomplish. I never realized the implications of this until I started being more consistent in prayer. There was a distance I didn’t feel before. I know the battle of wills is what prayer is about, but this was new, well new requests anyway. Things were getting a little serious in my life. And I know I shared about sometimes the fire doesn’t go out but refines instead- this one needed extinguishing immediately. I literally commanded God on what I wanted to see happen and when the lingering thought appeared, “What if this isn’t what God wants?” I would cry and end the session, God wouldn’t let me down, would He?
It took a few sermons, writers and musicians for me to understand. I was holding on to my dreams. I didn’t want God to take them from me or worst replace with ones I hated. Honestly, I would have been fine if He just answered my prayers the way I wanted, and I did my due diligence in serving Him, something resembling a business contract. But He’s the kind of God who won’t stay in a corner. I wanted rulership of my life. Remind you of anyone else? Yes love, Sister Eve. The Fall reflects the greatest temptation for man, the desire to rule our destinies, to become like gods.
But if one neglects his closet, then all evil comes of it.Charles Spurgeon
There’s another being who wanted to rule his destiny too, Satan. It’s interesting how he used the very things God gave him to put himself up on a pedestal. Are we using the very intellect, abilities, beauty and connections God gave us to set up our little throne? Lest you think I am being dramatic, consider this. I want my life to go the way I want it. First, it’s not my life. Second, it’s already planned. But I want to change that. I want things in this life to serve me, instead of using them to serve God. I have become the object of worship; I am ultimately saying; I am in charge around here and things are going to go my way, no exceptions. Satan ended up getting kicked out of heaven. Imagine my predicament. But before you conclude God is a tyrant and takes ‘small‘ things too seriously, we need to keep His character and the Cross in view.
The little leaven breeding all of this took a while to pop up- the pride of my accomplishments. In the back of my head, I wanted people to say, “Wow, this girl is making progress, look at her family and she’s doing really well in her career.” To put it a little different, “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. (Is. 14:14 NLT)” Devilish if you ask me, because when people would see future me, my intention would not be for them to see Christ. I wanted them to see me.
So this is the elephant in my prayer room, perhaps yours too, autonomy or self-governance birthed of pride. Creatures playing dress up god. Prayer is an afterthought because we’re already leading the way. May this be a reminder it is not in man to direct his own steps (Jer. 10:23 KJV). We also make little time for it because of its humbling effect. The very act of praying declares our insufficiencies. Prayer brings us to a posture where we see ourselves as below and Him, above. Our prayer life reveals to us our understanding of God, ourselves and decisions. The one that gets first place gets the most attention.
Without a doubt, we can test our hot or coldness based on the temperature of our prayer life. When we pray, if we doubt if He can make us happy; we are too far away from Him. If we think He’s incapable of leading our lives, then we worship a God we know not.
Above all else, whilst I have made prayer about me, essentially it isn’t. It’s about the wisest, most powerful, most loving, most beautiful creator deciding to commune with me. His representation on earth. Though, I may not always walk worthy of this calling, His love and mercy persuades me to come closer for greater transformation. Really, what could be more worthwhile than that?
I am grateful, even if struggling. Prayer is doing what God instituted it for, to reveal my heart and bring it into alignment with His. It is positioning me as a child, relating to her father. So you know what I am going to do the next time I pray? I am going to be a Jacob, except daily I am going to loosen my grip so God can carry me to where He wants to. And even if months from now, I am living in unchanged circumstances, I will stay in His presence, bringing all my grief and wishes. Until I can join A. W. Tozer in proclamation.
“Sometimes I go to God and say, “God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth, I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what Thou hast done already. God’s already put me so far in debt that if I were to live one million millenniums I couldn’t pay Him for what He’s done for me.”
― A.W. Tozer
Then I would have understood the cost and privileges of being a part of this great salvation. Remember, you are precious.
Recording: Abigail Barrett
Connecting with someone before they get whisked into a meeting is less than ideal when they reveal something you had been blind to. She told me she was once as into ‘it’ as I am. That my expressions were once hers. Sadness played on her smile as she continued. Something pushed her away from it, from Him. It was a guilty pleasure, she said. She spoke with a conviction even I override now and then, “Presumptuous sinning is wrong, God charges you for it more than the ignorant, I can’t be in God’s face like that.” Yet here she was, not as ‘committed’ as I am. The thing is, I felt she was talking about me.
God and I disagree on what pleasures are acceptable, even if I don’t do the things myself. I ask things like, “What’s so wrong about having the last dumpling covered in curried chicken gravy even if I am full, or hitting the snooze button for the fourth time, or a glass of wine now and then, or masturbating, (that’s not technically fornication if it’s just one person), I add, or buying the 3rd outfit with no use for it, or binge watching a series that is ‘clean’ but says nothing about God or stalking celebrity pages that promote nothing I stand for or at worst, is fashionable pornography or watching an all-night funny cat video marathon? Come on! They are just cats!” If my conscience could be silent, I would get away without feeling guilty too. But there is something God wanted to teach me about the human desire.
“St. Thomas says [I-II, Q.34, a.4] that a man is good when his will takes joy in what is good, evil when his will takes joy in what is evil. He is virtuous when he finds happiness in a virtuous life, sinful when he takes pleasure in a sinful life. Hence the things that we love tell us what we are.”
Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude, Pg. 11
I find pleasure in things that have nothing to do with God because they make me happy. I would go further to say, even more than the things that honor Him. But this is something I am far from comfortable with. Authors Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey shares about a pleasure/pain experiment:
“Then, somewhat characteristically, he recruited volunteers among the female students who agreed to let him stimulate the nerves of the clitoris electrically. To his surprise, he found no nerve ending that could be designated a “pleasure nerve.” In fact, the main feature of the erogenous landscape was an abundance of the free nerve endings normally associated with pain.
Weddell concluded that sexual pleasure, too, is more perception than sensation. Sensors of touch, temperature, and pain dutifully record the mechanical aspects of one body coming into con- tact with another. But pleasure involves an interpretation of those reports, a process heavily dependent on subjective factors such as anticipation, fear, memory, guilt, and love. Physiologically, sexual intercourse between two lovers and the ordeal of rape involves the same nerve endings—but one registers as beauty, the other as horror. Pleasure, even more than pain, emerges as a by-product of cooperation among many cells, mediated and interpreted by the higher brain. ”
Pain, The Gift Nobody Wants – Pg. 59-60
So, are they saying something I find pleasurable can turn into pain if I just changed my mind about it? Trust me, I’ve tried, don’t work. Or so I thought. I needed to see the end of my pleasures. Solomon ran ahead and did that. His conclusion was it was all meaningless, like chasing the wind. (Eccl. 2)
Real Pleasure Defined
How does prayer and study become more pleasurable and not painful or just mundane? Romans 12:1 shares the renewal that takes place. But how? Colossians 3:1 states it beautifully, it’s setting my heart/eyes/mind on things above so constant renewal can take place.
How then do I define these heavenward pleasures so I can submit to this process of renewal? The late Ravi Zacharias has defined this using these three biblical points:
- Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from your final goal is legitimate. (What is the ultimate goal of your life?)
- Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure
- Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality or destroy appetite
While sinful things feel good even fantastic at the moment, it is short-lived and harmful. Jesus said it best:
18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
Mark 4:18-19 KJV
Imagine the thing that should cleanse our ways barren and dried up. The results of that are uncontrollable lusts that lead to sin and ultimately death. Perhaps we need to see ‘innocent’ pleasures as leaven.
God of the Happy
Despite what others say or our own thoughts, God is interested in our happiness, in us finding pleasure. It’s the source that has always been the problem.
“Being happy in God and living righteously tastes far better for far longer than sin does. When my hunger and thirst for joy is satisfied by Christ, sin becomes unattractive. I say no to immorality not because I hate pleasure but because I want the enduring pleasure found in Christ.”
― Randy Alcorn, Happiness
I am happiest with Jesus; I smile more; I overthink less, my fears are subdued by His grace, I find meaning for my life, motivation for purpose, I am more productive, and have peace down to the depths of my soul. Anything else and I become overwhelmed, flustered and depressed.
What can we do starting today? Replace mindless scroll time to check up on a friend, or pray for them. Share meals at lunch to avoid overeating, give that money to somebody in need that you would have used to buy the extra outfit. Think about things that make you experience closeness to God. Do more of that. When you are overwhelmed and tempted to waste time on a series that adds no value to your life that you will end up regretting, find another one to watch! Just let it be God glorifying, I highly recommend The Chosen, they even have an app for better quality! And let’s not forget music, use the weapons of melody to redirect your thoughts.
Have extra time on your hands? Give yourself to volunteerism in the ministry and or shelters, hospitals, prisons, etc. It’s amazing how understanding someone else’s struggles reduces the delight in selfish pleasures. If you are tempted, at the moment, say it to a friend or leader, confession is POWERFUL. Ask them to pray for you. If you can change your environment do so. All of life’s war is choosing one thought over the other. Don’t let one sinful thought escape, they have a way of growing into monsters. Fight to the end. Remember, you are precious.
Recording: Abigail Barrett
“You’ve been hurt, abused, mistreated, misused.
You’ve had friends all around
But they let you down
Don’t give up now, or through in the towel
Don’t you worry, your healing starts now.”
Trotter, Larry- ‘You can be healed‘
I find the words of this song by Trotter Larry very encouraging during this season. Wounds were not meant to last forever, even though the season may last longer than you have expected it to; there is a season for healing.
On this journey we call life, there is a point where we may have encountered some experiences that we never imagined possible. Experiences that left us wounded deep within the heart. Precious ones, you are not alone; I’m in that boat. With that said, here’s my story about the process of my first time feeling the pain of a heartbreak.
Considering my past, I’ve been exposed to intimate relationships from a tender age. I grew up in a broken and sheltered home. My parents really care for me and they trained me up in the right way as a parent should; But I never experienced expressing my emotions without being judged, so I seek attention from the opposite sex, pouring out my heart to them. I never knew what it was like to be single or how it feels until now. Throughout my journey, I’ve entered relationships and never understood what love is and the purpose of intimate relationships. I entered relationships with the wrong motives. I just needed the pleasure and a sense to feel complete. As a result to my lack of knowledge, and understanding; I was cheated on, abused physically and mostly verbally and I returned the same treatment to some of those individuals, except the cheating aspect (lol). But that never stopped me from pursuing because I believe that I am worthy of being loved and that there is someone out there for me.
After I accepted the Lord Jesus as my savior, I entered a relationship. With this relationship, it was my first time sincerely seeking the Lord as it pertains to marriage. My prayer to the Lord was “Lord if he is not in your will for me, please do not allow me to be in love with someone else’s husband. If he is not in your will, please expel all the feelings I have for him because I don’t want to go contrary to your will and end up doing my will.” After a while, I genuinely find myself loving this individual. The love I experienced being poured out of me to this individual that I never encountered with anyone before. I then found out that this love could not be of myself, because I never knew what love was and I of myself is incapable of loving someone without being conditional, but with this person, this love is unconditionally, I could see all the flaws and all and still be able to love this individual and this love flowed over to me loving and embracing others. It was something I was constantly prayerful about because I wanted to please the Lord in all areas of my life.
He expressed interest, and I did myself. We had plans of getting married and would serve the Lord together. Then it came to the breaking point where I was of no more interest to him. All the plans, all the promises and experiences got me burning with sorrow, left me angry at God for allowing or causing this. Being depressed and confused for months. My heart was broken into fragments for the first time! Broken to the point, where I never wanted to see the light of day anymore. I never wanted to have anything to do with the Lord because I believed he was unfair to me. I returned to seeking pleasures from pornography, that I knew was wrong but I never cared, then the Lord intervened and allowed my stomach to be upset of watching pornography. I then repented, but I was still depressed. I would sleep, expecting not to see another day; preparing myself for death, but the Lord never saw it fit to take me. I was tormented during the nights had to shower late just to fall asleep or watch something that would make me laugh.
My pillows and sheets were my best friend because they held all of my tears. I felt like I was on a thin line of sanity and insanity, wondering what was happening to me. I started seeing myself as a doormat for men, because I felt used and abused emotionally and mentally. I felt like God was using this to repay me of all the evil I did within the past. I felt so far off; I was even excited for the wearing of masks because I never wanted to be questioned, I just wanted to be hidden. I became silent and lost in conversations that I once found interesting. I just wanted to pass on because I never thought there was anything good for me anymore, I wanted to forget about everything and I only saw that possible only if I died. I thought God was just playing with my feelings and he doesn’t care, but here’s what I am learning and being reminded of within this season as I am on the road of recovery, thanking God that I am still alive and well.
Lessons I am learning in this Season.
- Never lower your standard for the opposite sex. Be virtuous. Maintain your purity.
- God has your best interest at heart. You are more of a value to him than the sparrows.
- Guard your heart.
- Never trade God for any relationship, always ensure he’s first.
- Empower yourself in all areas of your life.
- Do not get involved in an intimate relationship if you know within yourself that you are not ready for marriage, that only puts fuel to the fire and you might get burn.
- Understand your worth, your value and walk in integrity knowing who you are and to whom you belong.
- Be accountable, always. There must be someone you can trust. Community helps.
- Not everyone will get married early, late or any at all. Know your purpose and what God calls you for.
- Get involved in church, in your community. Find something that suits you. Don’t be lazy.
- Don’t get married because you feel lonely.Ensure that your motives are right.
- Ensure that you have an understanding of self first and what a Godly marriage requires because marriage is a ministry, it’s not about you but to give God glory.
- Be healed first. Don’t start a relationship being broken by your past relationship/s, you will just bring a burden into the marriage. Hurt people, hurt people.
- Enjoy yourself, laugh, have fun with sober friends that have your best interest at heart.
- You are only made complete in God. He satisfies you.
- Singleness makes you unique, separate and whole. It’s not a curse. Take advantage of that season.
- If the relationship never works out, maybe it wasn’t God’s will or maybe it’s not the time yet.
- Be patient with yourself. Take time to heal and learn from your past mistakes so you can be able to be better than you were moving forward.
- Your past doesn’t determine your future. Get up and start anew. It’s never too late to start again.
- Forgive. Don’t allow what has happened to you to make you bitter, so you miss the promises of God. What God has in store for you is much better than the things we lost. There is hope, the best is yet to come.
Here are some scriptures I am delighting in, and you can do the same.
Psalms 147:3- “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Isaiah 61:3 – “ To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
2Corithians 4:8&9- “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Proverbs 4:3 “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
Hi Gems, I hope you are well. If you would like to ask questions from this writer or any other Precious Thoughts family member, don’t be afraid to send them to email@example.com. What would you like us to share on next? Remember, you are precious.
I am so happy to share this insightful interview with Meagan, a new momma and wife! Let’s go meet her!
1. Where are you from? How long have you been saved and describe yourself in three words?
I’m from Westmoreland where I attend Bethel House of Prayer but I’m residing in St Ann and attend a Pentecostal church whilst here. I’ve been saved since around age 11. I’m still trying to figure things out about myself as we are always evolving , learning and changing for the better at times but I’d say I’m an individual who is honest, compassionate but also cautious .
2. How did you know your husband was the ‘one’ ?
There is no one way of knowing your partner is the one. I didn’t go down in prayer and fasting for signs to prove he was the one. I prayed for him, his soul, our relationship and all, but not for the sign/s. What I used to confirm that he’s the one for me was the fact that one he is nothing like the man I always imagined would be my husband-perhaps because I was being too shallow about certain details. Two, I know that even if I strayed from God, He still speaks through our leaders and when I took him to my home church and introductions made, there was no disapproval. In fact, they all loved him.
3. How has the transition of single-hood to partnership been?
There is not much difference for me. The wifely duties of course, but apart from that spiritually there’s not much difference for me. I tend to have some same struggles with praying and fasting, but I have a husband is of the same faith who renders needed support. There might be times when I’d want to fast but have to reconsider based on certain matters that would take place on that day. For instance, if I’m to be traveling then I know I won’t be focused enough, so I’d be harming my body in the name of Christ.
4. Tell us about your newborn. What are you learning from this experience?
I will share his initial, AHW. He’s 10 months old since his birth, literally the day he was born I had a better understanding of how much Christ can love us. I was never the one who couldn’t wait for babies, in fact, I was often indifferent about having any. But becoming a spouse and a parent you are constantly practicing putting your wants and needs aside for the ones you love. You learn to be more patient-not perfectly patient, just more patient than I was. The experience is bittersweet at times, especially living in these times. I worry whether I’ll be able to equip him with the tools to stand against the influences of this world.
5. What aspects of the experiences was unexpected whether married or motherhood and how did you handle it?
I don’t think there was anything that happened that was unexpected. I had a pretty broad knowledge of both realms prior to my personal experience, so nothing was necessarily unexpected.
6. What would be your encouragement to singles considering a partner?
My encouragement is to first have a good grasp of who you are so you won’t be easily influenced by the actions or words of the intended partner. Make sure your relationship with Christ is a priority. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a wife or a husband otherwise the Lord wouldn’t design us this way with these hormones and desires etc. However, do not be so focused on getting into a relationship that you neglect the one you have with God. Make sure your partner loves God just as much or more than you. That way, you’ll both have the support needed when struggles arise. Be transparent about intentions with each other so if anything you’ll know whether to walk away. Pray, seek God in all you do. And most importantly, don’t rush into anything.
I am definitely transferring those ‘don’t rush’ words to my journal. Let me know who would like to be featured next! Remember, you are precious.
Jesus was a selective person. He loved the multitude, chose twelve disciples, then three more for his inner circle and the disciple that spent a lot of time on his bosom. I was not sure how that worked, my need for space restricted my imagination in it being a pleasant experience. But the scholars explain that it’s not literally, but a place of nearest to the host at a table or how Joshua was a right-hand man to Abraham and Joseph to Potiphar.
So, with my WWJD metric, I gotzz a right to choose my friends, not with an elite mindset, but choosing people who will best help me on my journey and me helping with theirs. It is a lot like inter-cropping. Peas and corns are besties in the farming world, peas convert the atmospheric nitrogen with their nodules, so the soil becomes richer, and corn loves this. The corn shelters peas and assists with the wind breaking. Perhaps we shouldn’t look for our friendships to be two peas in a pod, but corn and pea duos.
I admire this trait in my friends more than anything else. If you haven’t realized by now, I have issues lol. However, sadness doesn’t make me uncomfortable, it helps to be more, what’s the word? Grounded. When I read Solomon’s reflections, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us,” (Eccl. 7:3 NLT) my heart sighed. Melancholy is petrifying. When I don’t see an immediate cause, I tear apart every fabric of my life, examining every thread to find the one is out of place. My weaknesses love this part, they unravel themselves one after the other, barely leaving me with anything to cover my shivering heart. When my friends see me shaking in the wind, they don’t withdraw to expose me more, instead they draw closer, closer in prayer, in word, in deed and literally just laying right beside me without a word. I don’t remember ever feeling so heard, yet we spoke no words.
Job’s friends were the opposite. Their silence didn’t cover, they looked on pitifully, worsening the situation for seven days! (Job 2:13) When a friend is struggling, hurting, sick, broke, pity should never be the response. Jesus offers us the answer, compassion. Pity stays at a feeling, compassion leads to actions. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Listening is one of those actions too. If Jesus didn’t listen, we wouldn’t have known most back stories. I think about blind Bartimaeus, Jesus already knew what he wanted, but he said it. The woman with the issue of blood could have been just given a knowing nod, but Jesus asked who touched him. Jesus is a good listener, I mean we pray, sometimes all at once. There’s healing when we talk, too. Real friends listen, not distracted, daydreaming, bored but compassionate, active listening.
Imagine the peas saying to the corn, “You should have learnt to convert atmospheric nitrogen to make nutrients by now. Something must be wrong with your roots.” Our friends are different people. They have preferences, arrive at decisions and perceptions that vary from our way. Most of our impatience and quick judgement stem from these innate differences. Job’s friends took the worst route possible, they judged first and not once asked a question to understand Job’s suffering. (Job 4:8) By a long shot they weren’t wrong in their theology, God punished the wicked, but their understanding was incomplete. God allows suffering that works a far greater glory in us.
We can never be sure that our friends are not a present-day Job. They don’t need arrogant friends who talk down to them, but to convert the truth of the gospel to comfort in those moments. If they struggle with condemnation, knowing that what they are doing is a sin, becomes redundant, it’s clear to them. What they need is encouragement, embellished with grace that leads them to Christ, who is the one to give them a heart of repentance and security in the price paid. If they are reluctant to acknowledge what they do as being wrong, we lovingly but directly point them to a verse or principle in the Word. Here, silence would be to their destruction.
We all have that one friend whose facial expressions are to die for. And their words? A fresh baptism for their lips, please. But what I can agree with is that they usually say what we think- Job is that friend. His sarcasm rang throughout most of the book. Job 12:1-2 is my favorite. But in chapter 6, here was a man wanting to die and all his friends could consider was the exegesis of his statements.
5 Don’t I have a right to complain?
Don’t wild donkeys bray when they find no grass,
and oxen bellow when they have no food?
9 I wish he would crush me.
I wish he would reach out his hand and kill me.
11 But I don’t have the strength to endure.
I have nothing to live for.
14 “One should be kind to a fainting friend,
but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.[b]
15 My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook
that overflows its banks in the spring.
17 But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears.
The brook vanishes in the heat.
25 Honest words can be painful,
but what do your criticisms amount to?
26 Do you think your words are convincing
when you disregard my cry of desperation?
Job 6 (NLT)
27 You would even send an orphan into slavery[c]
or sell a friend.
Now tell me if Job isn’t the best! He nailed most of our feelings in suffering. Attempting counsel or comfort becomes meaningless if we ignore one part of the man, the emotions. Job was not right to contest God, he had to repent of that after his request for an audience with The King finally came through (Job 42), but insensitivity will push our friends further into misery. I would caution that focusing only on feelings is dangerous too. Notice God’s response in Job 38-41, did God say the worms are still eating away at your flesh, would you like to share about that? No, he spoke of His majesty, how intentionally he designed creation and how He still rules powerfully over them. But that’s God, what can we do?
We don’t want to make the same mistakes as Job’s friend, playing the role of God. So, here’s our resolve, we love. Love covers a multitude of sin. Dare I add pain, distress and weaknesses. Love shelters. Love too speaks the truth. Love is present. Love doesn’t forsake. Love is patient. Love sees past the arrogance to a hurting heart. Love forgives 490 times in a day. Love texts first. Love is genuine. Love sacrifices. Love seeks reconciliation. Love forgets the past and moves on. Love stands firm. Love isn’t insecure. Loves always points our friends to God, who is their true everlasting shelter. Jesus says the greatest love is when a man gives his life for his friend. Seemingly too much for us? Perhaps we aren’t ready for friendships, just as marriages. J. C. Ryle sums it up beautifully,
This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our sorrows and doubles our joys.J. C. Ryle
May our friendships shout the love of Christ like a man lost in a forest. Two, we will find, is better than one. Remember, you are precious.
It’s strange how I purposely refrained myself from sharing about this. If you heard from me before now on this, I would have had a very critical tone, I once had a post draft I titled, “The Love Conspiracy”. It blasted Hollywood for having robbed of us the oh so perfect love that’s not made of candlelight dinners, or immediate connections always or even the most intimate sex. Perhaps I’d have chosen that approach because it would cover up my own longings and insecurities. But hiding reeks of shame and I am not ashamed of the lessons I’ve learnt.
Why Am I Single?
I assume you are at the age when everyone else is getting married. Those cute wedding photos make you both happy and sad, mostly sad. You wonder when your time will come, if any at all. Or you really just desire companionship. Then the daunting thought comes, “Why am I single? There must be something wrong with me.” Some look within, it must be because I am ugly, boring, underachieved, not in their league, too tall, too short, too fat, too slim, dare I say, not spiritual enough.
Others look without, he/she just couldn’t see what a good choice I am, nobody has come close to what I have envisioned for a partner (settling is out of the question but maybe nobody will, ideals aren’t reality), she wasn’t attractive enough; he was too short; I didn’t like the way he laughed; he didn’t pursue me intentionally enough; she sent mixed signals, he/she was interested in too many people, I trust you see I could go on. Then last, some look up, the most used one in the church, it wasn’t the will of God. Whichever the category we find ourselves, the reality is, we precious, are single.
I Want to Get Married, Just Not Yet
I’ve never been one to like something because somebody else does. But with marriage it’s different. My parents got married before I was born. I’ve seen how ‘Topsy turby’ things can get and how fulfilling and beautiful too. If you are like me, you’ve either quickly dismissed the thought of not getting married or almost wept. I admit, I don’t want to get married right away, but the possibility of not being able to frighten me. We will talk about that soon. But what about now? Good morning texts would be lovely, petty arguments, him noticing details others miss and random adventures would be nice. At least until we are ready to get serious, right?
I wish I knew before that ‘innocently’ getting to know someone just for the sake of it is one of the most unwise things we can do. It’s interesting how many persons broke my heart who never committed to it – Or how many emotional attachments I formed that only left me feeling used. Who do I blame for these? At first, God. But He didn’t text the guy or shared personal stuff or spent hours daydreaming about him, did He? I think not.
If you’ve searched your heart, took an inventory of your soul and mind, and you realize you aren’t ready for marriage, it’s best we refrain from being intentional about one person. Why? Life happens, our desires change, our feelings and our maturity. If you think I mean that you behave like a robot with the opposite sex from now on, then I apologize for misleading you. Honey, be yourself. Laugh, worship, talk (preferably in a group) just ensure you aren’t interested in that relationship above all else.
My current male friends are at an association level. I don’t imagine sharing my deepest longings, plans, hopes and dreams are beneficial to either of us at this point. They know what anyone else can know. Then, if I want them to know more, something’s up, lol, and I analyze why I feel the need to. We are responsible not only to protect our hearts but also our brothers and sisters’.
What If You Think You Are Ready but Aren’t Married?
That, I don’t have an answer to. I don’t know if the person you are interested in is your partner. I don’t know if he/she who doesn’t like you back will eventually turn around and love you. I don’t know if someone will finally look in your direction. I don’t know if you will get married. Does it make you sad like it does to me? Does it even make you angry? Do you feel that God is savage for not giving you a ‘good’ thing? If so, admit it to Him, the last thing He desires are lips that praise but hearts that refrain. C. S. Lewis says we ought to lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us. What’s in you? Take a moment right here and just say it. He knows it, but mere knowledge of your heart isn’t enough, but He wants access. To do what? Comfort, perhaps even an answer. If your heart refuses to be comforted, Marshal Seagal shares:
I love reading, it settles me. I find my struggles or questions aren’t original which is a bummer if you look at it from another perspective. But, it helps me finds answers, answers not spoken in everyday conversation. I have been eyeing Abraham for some time now, I almost despised him, he made it bad for us with his ‘father of faith’ thing. Listen, nobody could have gotten me to sacrifice a pet much less a child and yet there he was being all obedient and full of faith. I felt inferior, like I could never measure up to that but I wanted to, I really did. I need faith to please God right? So, I started looking, Moses opened my eyes to Abraham’s struggles and failures, and I exhaled, so he is normal, I can get there too then. Another author outlined the real reason he had courage for that trip to the mountains:
We have promises of unspeakable joy, abundant life, rest, peace, quenched thirsts. Can we trust him to fulfill them whichever way He chooses? What are you holding onto? God or His gifts? It is idolatry if we desire His gifts more than Him.
I am not dismissing your emotions or desires as illegitimate. They are real and sometimes overwhelming, I would know. Feelings respect nobody. That’s why Margaret’s words comforted me;
Let’s not forget we are in the middle of our stories. Our inability to trust that God has everything under control is dangerous. The enemy may whisper that your singleness is punishment or that He isn’t for your joy or happiness. That’s what caught Eve’s attention in the first place, the serpent said, “God knows this is will drastically improve your life, satisfy those longings, even make you more like him and yet, he withholds it.” He has a way too of allowing you to feel alone in your battles, but whilst you long for a partner, others long for a child, a job, healing, deliverance, the Holy Ghost, money, an emotionally peaceful home etc. Don’t let him isolate you, we belong together, we struggle together, we experience victory together. When people experience a loss or have the same interest, they find a support group. Why should we not? Don’t just look for people who will understand only, but people who will call you out when you wander.
Perhaps we need to be reminded who our God is too. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son (John 3:16), While we were yet sinners Christ died for us ( Rom. 5:8), I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), For my God shall supply your need according to his riches in glory (Phil. 4:19), I have called you by name, you are mine (Isaiah 43:1) He makes everything beautiful in his time (Eccl.3:11) and No good thing will he withhold (Ps. 84:11).
What to do now?
We do what we are born for. Worship. He made us for a purpose. What is God calling you to now? The beauty of singleness is undivided attention towards God. Don’t stay hung up on what’s missing, what should have been and start living. Or were you waiting on marriage to do that? Worrying about the future won’t change it, we are not asked but commanded not to. Do what will last, serve God wholeheartedly, make memories, be happy. Marriage isn’t a reward for faithfulness either, you serve because you love the God not what He can give. And if no ring reaches unto our left hands, I pray we realize we weren’t given the short stick; we will join Ann in saying:
Talk soon, remember, you are precious.
What does it mean to live? Is it to experience different cultures or cities? Or maybe it’s living out the ultimate foodie dream by tantalizing your taste buds every waking moment? How about being the most famous person in your profession or hobby? To be deeply loved by another? Or as I have often wished, to be without clocks, quotas, expectations, based on impulses and passions to just be, no restraints, no comparisons? How about pain free, rent free, even better, bill free!? Tell me, what does it mean to live?
I can laugh at the matrix, but it’s not a far-fetched theory. Our reality is, however, a hundred times worse- we don’t get to shift bullets. I mean, the real reason is, we are aware of the monster controlling us and we remain in bondage; we don’t fight; we don’t run, we even find pleasure in it. Our deception is so dangerous that we make excuses for it, we have fallen in love with the thing that hates us.
I have been ranting about death to self a lot these past few weeks, but I have been missing the bigger picture. Yes it’s true, this world is full of trouble and when we seek solace from the despair, we come face to face to a bloodstain, wooden cross to carry. I have been running from this truth, hoping to avoid it somehow, whilst reaping the peace it springs at its edges. But the beautiful thing is the cross isn’t only an emblem of suffering and shame, but of discipline, obedience, forgiveness, love and the one I most need now, hope. The cross bears the paradox of being death and life at the same time.
Beauty of Pain
I was so focused on my death, I couldn’t see passed it. All I was thinking was, “What will I have left after this painful death?” I wasn’t seeing the beauty to this pain, perhaps not even Christ when he felt forsaken saw it either. I found to be true, a kernel of wheat cannot grow unless it dies, bursts, rips, gets torn. Has your mother or friend ever shared embarrassing, sometimes painful pregnancy stories with you? Well my mother does, over and over and over, I pretend to dislike them but I honestly couldn’t get enough of them!
She says it was like, “My life turned upside down.” Yet she can affirm how much she loves her children, and even how much those experiences help her love her children. The cross or self denial or discipline, whichever you choose, is not the destination, it’s the journey. For a mother, (all being well) a healthy bundle of joy awaits, for us, life, abundant life. So I’ve started telling myself when I feel exhausted on this journey from carrying the cross, it’s because I am ‘expecting’. I am expecting life. Thomas Merton understood this beauty,
Why should I cherish in my heart a hope that devours me—the hope for perfect happiness in this life—when such hope, doomed to frustration, is nothing but despair? My hope is in what the eye has never seen. Therefore, let me not trust in visible rewards. My hope is in what the heart of man cannot feel. Therefore, let me not trust in the feelings of my heart. My hope is in what the hand of man has never touched. Do not let me trust what I can grasp between my fingers.
Death will loosen my grasp and my vain hope will be gone. Let my trust be in Your mercy, not in myself. Let my hope be in Your love, not in health, or strength, or ability or human resources. If I trust You, everything else will become, for me, strength, health, and support. Everything will bring me to heaven. If I do not trust You, everything will be my destruction.Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude
He calls us to obey, trust. John chapter 10 has been working on me with my submission struggle. Sheep do nothing but drink, eat, follow. Yet, Christ says he has called them to life and not just life, but abundant life! What if this is what it really means to live? To eat the word of life, drink the wine of the Spirit and follow the Shepherd? Guess what, because it’s life that I’m after I must be a sheep. Oh, far away I found myself from the fold.
Sheep Need a Shepherd to Survive
Sheep are by nature are preys. The only defense they have is a thick coat of wool. That might be beneficial in the cold, but not when a lion is interested in what’s underneath. The sheep does not have a choice but to depend wholly on the shepherd because it recognizes its powerlessness. That’s why the parable says the Shepherd left the ninety-nine. That one is almost as good as dead on their own.
Despite our poor excuses for sources of security, when real danger appears, be it spiritual attacks, financial crises, sicknesses and relational issues, we realize how defenseless we are. Sheep-like Christians don’t acknowledge this helplessness at crossroads or on Sundays, but every waking moment of the day. This is does not mean we live in anxiety of our frailty, but submissive to Christ because of it. The Shepherd of our souls is no hireling, he’s not doing this for the money. He cares, like deeply, authentically and fully. He gives up His life for the sheep. He isn’t only the shepherd but also the gate, access to all things. David proclaims:
The Lord is my shepherd;Psalms 23:1 (NLT)
I have all that I need.
Sheep Strive In a Community
Sheep have this thing they do when threat appears, they huddle together. Whilst the shepherd wards of the attacker, to prevent vulnerability, they get closer. When isolated, they bleat until returned to the flock. I have grown sorrowful for people who proclaim they don’t need anyone. If they say they are called by The Shepherd, He takes care of us individually but as a flock.
He addresses in groups, Israel, Jerusalem, the Church, other nations. He has called us to be a body, a multi-membered bride. He died for all, not just you. Perhaps it’s the bleating we hear when they express these things, or when they themselves withdraw, when their eyes tell us they are not okay. Perhaps it’s the silent cries that shout to alert us of the separation.
Sheep are Followers
If a sheep goes one way, you can almost be certain the others will follow even if it is off a cliff. They often lead each other to slaughter houses. When a shepherd is present, this trait amplifies even more. Shepherd spends a considerable amount of time bonding with the sheep. He can `call of them by name, sometimes up to fifty. He scans for the ones who limp, pregnant, or young and helps them. He anoints their bruises with oil and carries them across streams. Jesus says, His sheep follow His voice because they know Him. I don’t believe a sheep that keeps running away will develop a deep intimacy with the shepherd so they follow when he speaks. Talk about consistency.
Sheep are Humble
Everyone is on the same level. No one seeks authority over the other. They look out for the flock, not just themselves. They never fight back when being killed. They may cry, actual tears! But they never fight. They don’t get into quarrels and stick out just to say they won. This is no sign of weakness at all! God has to be standing up strong in your spirit to not desire to preserve yourself, your reputation or right. Sheep don’t change their beliefs to conform, they just never change their posture of humility, even if it means death. Sheep understand that vengeance belongs to their Shepherd.
Unlike actual sheep, we have another nature raging within us, dog-like inclinations. Why do we rage war against sin? Because it will steal from us, destroy and ultimately kill us. To fight any desire successfully, we must replace it with another. We not only shift our minds from sin but we turn it on Christ, ultimate pleasure. But we don’t just fight, we lay hold on abundant life. We lay hold on Christ. We are not surrendering to our death really; we are surrendering ultimately to life abundantly. I rather to stay with a Shepherd who sacrifices His life for me than a devil who is interested in destroying me. (John 10:10) Let’s look pass the weight of the cross to the joy that is set before us, just like Jesus did. Remember, you are precious.
The moment between dying and death, the time between slumber and delayed consciousness, the point between gasping and drowning, between sickness and deliverance- those in between moments are the worst. Even more excruciating is the occasion between rebellion and submission.
I try hard to talk myself into it. I recite verses, I pray, I fast, I share about it; I save them as wallpapers, I journal, I write posts about it and yet here I am still battling with it. I have weeks when I think, this is easy. I love this sacrificial life; it makes me happy, makes me free. Yet, every so often, my hearts long for the chains of yesterday, my hands feel weird without them, like a baby that has lost her favorite blanket. I know, I shouldn’t miss it, but I do. Especially on days when I judge, Oh God this is hard. Why would God even require this? I thought he was interested in making me happy. This does NOT make me happy.
I believe in cause and effect, that nothing is isolated. Even if the cause is outside of one’s self. Therefore, these thoughts weren’t isolated. They never are. Something dragged a baton across the bars of the jail cell housing my sinful nature. Something awoke it, something that identifies with it, that speaks its language. Something I opened the door to.
I had falsely held the belief that once under the shadow of the Almighty, scorpions wouldn’t come there to sting me, or hornets wouldn’t remind me they still have the power to distract and confuse me. When I realized this, I turned to the Hill, looking for the ‘help’ that was promised. The help I assumed would destroy my enemies, my sinful craving and ungodly raving. To not hear the enemies you see today, you won’t see them anymore, was quite discouraging. Instead, I heard, my grace is sufficient.
My response, (very different from Paul’s I might add), first, I wasn’t even referring to that and it may be, but I am interested in getting rid of the present scorpions and hornets that are pulling me from you. Or me being close doesn’t matter anymore? Then, silence.
When my parents (who love me) give an instruction or promise and I make a rebuttal, I am usually faced with a look. The expression that makes you realize the idiocy of the presence of rebuttal. Children obey your parents, for this is right. Whether we understand or are comfortable with the request or gift, we obey. That’s the look I feel from God. The face I imagine as He says, you won’t understand everything I am doing, but one day you will.
I’d like to spend some more time writhing on in self pity about the cost of discipleship, but frankly, I have had enough. Enough of despising hiccups on this journey, of the constant up and down, all the while trying to find balance, to find something concrete to hold on to. Perhaps it’s because I am realizing the rules aren’t changing, I just never knew them. So, the more I know, the more I am expected to adjust. I must learn that my life if lived for God will never experience the false tranquility of being unbothered. It’s experiencing pain, shame, suffering, destitution, joy, nakedness, hunger, happiness, hurt, forgiveness, rest, peace, sometimes all at the same time.
Fire Without Heat
The fiery furnace has always been a favorite for me, especially the way how it’s preached. And who doesn’t love a supernatural deliverance?! After all, an angel or God himself, whatever your persuasion is, showed up! His presence caused the heat to not scorch them, he protected even their clothes! I want that for my life too. Fire without heat, a prisoner in a den of lions without a bite, red seas without water, snakes that heal instead of harm, burnt sacrifices without providing the fire, food without planting or reaping. Is He not still that kind of God? Definitely!
But what if He wants us to really see more of His magnificence and not just His back side? That’s why Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. To show not only show He can protect someone from dying, but He could bring them back to life. I admit I am not ready for this kind of God. I am not ready to experience the death of my will for God’s glory. It breaks my heart to admit it, but it’s true. I judge the Israelites for their cycles of belief and doubt, yet, here I am doing the same thing. Struggling with trust in the invisible, the invisible God, the invisible promises, the invisible heaven, the invisible hope. I am who Thomas Merton calls a coward.
“And sooner or later, if we follow Christ, we have to risk everything in order to gain everything. We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we can see and taste and feel. But we know the risk is worth it, because there is nothing more insecure than the transient world. For this world as we see it is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).
Without courage we can never attain to true simplicity. Cowardice keeps us “double minded” —hesitating between the world and God. In this hesitation, there is no true faith—faith remains an opinion. We are never certain, because we never quite give in to the authority of an invisible God. This hesitation is the death of hope.”
― Thomas Merton,Thoughts In Solitude
Now, yours truly does not intend to remain a coward or give in to the death of hope. Struggle I may, but I will not stop reaching for that prize. Fall I may seven times, but like the righteous, I will rise eight. Will I allow the prisoned nature to speak to my free man? Yes, he may speak, but I won’t trust him. I will remind him, there is a reason why he is behind bars. Why he may not be in control. I will say to my soul, the affliction now cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed. I will fight with every drop of blood, of sweat, of tears, to submit myself to God, to resist the devil, to resist me. Martyn was on to something:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is because you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.
Somebody is talking… Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So, he stands up and says, “Self, listen for a moment. I will speak to you.”
― Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (20–21)
I imagine you are having a hard time as well with submission, or a besetting sin. Let’s tell ourselves to shut up and listen. Let us know that we have a hope, that we are fighting against the carnal man. That we are no longer on the benches observing our lives, thinking we aren’t even apart from the game. That we have taken over the ship and we are now captains, submitting to the greatest Admiral. That even if we murmur because of prayer or fasting or sacrifice, we will do it anyway, because we answer to God, not ourselves.
Will I always be happy? No, but God will be with me. Will I be free from my prison instantaneously? No, but he will sit with us through it. His grace we will see was sufficient. He also promises to open its doors at an appointed time. A time I might not get to experience on earth, but a time is for sure. He is still that kind of God, who is comfortable with three days in the grave that gives way to the salvation of my soul. The kind of God who never leaves, even in weakness, even in turmoil and mess. Take heart, he can overcome yours.
I have told you all this so you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
― Jesus, John 16:33
What’s In It For Me?
The cause and effect principle I shared earlier is something God has invested in. We see him saying, if you do this, this will happen, whether blessing or curse. Abraham went through this cause and effect, yet at the time he didn’t know, hence, the demonstration of faith. After not withholding his son, this is what God says to him:
“This is what the Lord says: Because (Cause) you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that,
I will (Effect) certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies.Genesis 22:16-17 (NLT)
On the other side of submission is joy. On the other side of submission is what your heart truly desires, deep past your flesh and fulfilling the discomfort of your soul. Now, I will leave us to choose. The fleeting, temporary, insufficient or everlasting, satisfying, meaningful? Simply, life or death? Remember, you are precious.
Secrets unfold and while they do, petals of lies whither exposing the truth. Sarah can hardly compare herself to Job, so maybe it’s the balance of her sins adding up. Something in her changed that day, something she has not yet understood. The day she talked with Ray.
It’s been a week now since they have declared her father missing. Her mother’s skirts sway even wider, her brother more passive aggressive and Ruth, quieter. They meet for prayer but they don’t stay too much together, somebody always ends up sobbing, that makes everyone cry too. No one says it but they are tired, tired of crying, tired of listening at the phone, tired of looking out the window, tired of hoping. The only thing she can be happy about is news she heard from Rachel.
“Devon, I mean father and I have been talking more these past few days… some things recently have taught me to be more appreciative of him.”
“It’s okay, you can say it, the last thing I need is somebody who tip toes around the subject. Plus, friends are happy for you even when they aren’t happy.”
Rachel apologized and continued. She tried to control the excitement in her voice, but the bouncing of her legs betrayed her.
“He wants to know the weirdest things, like how old I was when I first lost a tooth, scraped my knees, learnt to swim, if I had a boyfriend, if they treated me well and all. After all of them he apologized, said he wished he was there. The skeptic in me is still reserved, but I don’t want to be the one to mess this up, so I’m cooperating and all.”
“Has he spoken to your mother?”
“Yea, they call each other now and then. It’s weird, but I think she still loves him.”
“Ewe, old people.”
Both giggled. It was nice to. Those things were rare.
“You said you had something to tell me?” Rachel enquired.
Sarah swallowed and called her closer.
“Mark and Adrian came over this morning. I was in no mood to talk but they insisted they had some information about Dad.” Sarah said.
Rachel straightened. “Mark? How did he seem? Relieved?”
“Far from it, I didn’t like the pity in his eyes when he saw me.”
“Perhaps it’s sadness Sarah.” Rachel looked away. “This might be painful for him too, you know.”
Sarah lifted her glass, “To Rachel, always seeing her glass half-full.”
“I thought that was your job.”
“What does it get you Rachel? A ‘global scandal’, a missing father, and a brother who thinks you are as weak as a mouse, a God who leaves breadcrumbs that won’t ease the hunger for relief. Sometimes a butterfly’s wing gets broken and it can’t be mended. This is me now.”
Rachel took a drink.
“You said you heard something about your father?”
A lot of things have caught Rachel off guard, but this, this was different.
Rachel leaned over and whispered, “A gang?!”
“Well, he owes them money. They have some deal where he gets a different girl from the community every Friday. It seems they couldn’t find one on my Friday.” Sarah chuckled, then more seriously, “Ray’s more of a monster than we thought.”
Rachel’s hand flew to her forehead.
“Adrian‘s friend told him. Adrian had the symbol and everything on his forearm. He said he saw it when they visited the garage where they kidnapped him.”
“Do you realize what’s happening?! They want your father to pay his debt or drop the charges so Ray can pay them.”
“I do. They might lock up Adrian. I tried persuading him, but he said Dad was a real mentor for him when he just came to church, that he loved him like a son. He couldn’t just stand by and not do something.”
For the first time all evening, Sarah softened. Perhaps it was the fleeting sun that made her feel safe.
“I don’t know what’s up from down anymore Rachel. I am trying to read and pray but it’s like my fears gets triggered like a siren, it keeps interrupting me.”
“What do they say?”
“That they will never find my father and my family will blame me, that I will never be normal, that I can never love God like before, that I’ll end up in hell.”
“I can understand why you would feel like that. You can consider your love was not a secure as you thought. Houses on rocks don’t fall when winds and rains come, it stands no matter.”
Sarah shifted in her seat.
“You remember that church sister I said was the only who called often? She prays with me most days too, especially now. She had a similar experience, but she was out in the world. She often prayed with me. She said how she got over by calling the biological brother that raped her and told him she forgave him. She said she cried for about an hour on the line and he didn’t hang up. She said a weight lifted off her.”
Rachel looked at her expectantly.
“I don’t think I can do that yet Rach. He ruined my life, my family.”
“Okay, I trust you understand you will continue to feel like this until then.”
Sarah pulled the frays of her sleeve. “I have to get home now. Text me when you home.”
God is funny sometimes, he requires the victim to leave an offering to make it ‘right’. Sarah pondered this as she journeyed home. The God she said she served seemed for foreign now. When she saw her house, the needles of pain returned and the weight on her shoulders gained ten pounds. She was tired of this. Tired of being tired.
“If a confession will fix this, might as well try.” She snorted as she turned the keys.
Her mother offered to accompany her the next day. Grace grabbed her in such joy. She spent her nights praying that God would work on the hearts of her family and to protect Malcom.
Mark’s father prepared a room for them at the station and stood in the corner. Ray’s charm seemed off. He couldn’t look her in the eyes.
“Look, I don’t know where your father is. I don’t intend to be here long.” He said.
“That’s sad news, but that’s not why I’m here. This is.”
The series is coming to a close, but don’t let go of that breath yet! Better is on before. What’s your house built upon? See you next Friday! Remember, you are precious.