Thursday, August 26, 2010

Won't Get Fooled Again

Once upon a time, I was afflicted. The first time I became aware of it, I was eleven years old. My mother was placed in a sanitarium after having had yet another nervous breakdown. I was, as usual, shuffled off to my grandmother's house to stay. It wasn't the first time my world had been turned upside down overnight. Change and instability were staples in my life; if my mother wasn't hospitalized due to mental illness, my parents were separating and this meant going to live somewhere else temporarily, and often at a moment's notice. I'd become accustomed to moving every two years for one reason or another, but this time was different. I wasn't rolling with these punches as easily as I had before. I felt sick inside in a way I never had, and it didn't seem to go away. I was plagued by uncertainty and insecurity. I cried myself to sleep every night. I didn't know how to process this weird new feeling, and I didn't dare tell anyone about it. At eleven, I didn't have the language to explain the concept of despair. Eventually things returned to normal, but only for about a year, until my parents separated for good. I knew this time there would be no reconciliation. Within twenty-four hours time, I was living in a new place. The only thing that came with me was a bag of clothes. Everything I cherished was ripped away. Up until that day, all I had to do was be a kid. Build forts in the woods. Ride my bike for miles and miles. Climb trees, conquer playgrounds, turn cartwheels, and dance like a fool up and down the sidewalks with aspirations of being a great dancer someday. After that day, I wasn't the same. I died a little inside.

Over the following years, that sick feeling began to revisit me again and again. Episode after episode of rejection and abandonment left an open door for that gut wrenching, life sucking monster to worm its way in and rob me of any kind of normal life. Physical and verbal abuse left me questioning my self worth. Betrayal took a few more crucial whacks at me. By the time I was twenty years old, and a mother to four small children, that feeling of despair had now taken up permanent residence in my soul. For ten long years it camped out in the recesses of my mind. It crept in slowly, casting doubt and poisoning my thoughts. The self hatred was intense, but I hid it well. Everything about myself sickened me. I would recall episodes of rejection and abandonment and would just wilt from sadness. This 'thing' was taking over and I was helpless against it. I went on with my day as though it wasn't there. I would spend the day volunteering in preschool classes with a smile on my face, and within hours of returning home, have fleeting thoughts of suicide. I contemplated how I would do it if I were going to actually go through with it. But then my eyes would inevitably fall on a pile of Legos or a picture one of the kids drew, and for a time, the darkness would scatter. There was no foreseeable way out of the pit I'd found myself in. I resigned myself to the idea that this was the only kind of life I'd ever know.

And then a funny thing happened. When I was 30, Jesus showed up. Suddenly I was too preoccupied with Him to really look inward too much. An invitation was extended to come to the table, and in a total state of brokenness, I was ravenous for a feast. I can't explain what occurred on the inside over the next several months, as grace smashed headlong into every dark thought that tried to come between me and my new friend. A year and a half later, I was delivered from depression and the wounds began to heal. I threw away the medication that, just a year before, I was told I would probably have to take for the rest of my life just to remain functional. A decade of despair was suddenly replaced by radiant joy. I came alive on the inside, and it showed on the outside. I wish I could describe with words the transformation that took place inside literally overnight, but there are no words that do such a transformation justice. I wasn't a victim anymore. I wasn't bound by the things that happened to me in the past. I was no longer held hostage by anger and bitterness. I was given permission to forget the things that had shaped who I was up to that point, and to move forward with a clean slate. I was FREE!

The depressive spirit however, doesn't relent easily. Even after Jesus makes our acquaintance, life happens, hurt happens, and we're forced to offer up a response to it. I thought that deliverance somehow provided me with an impenetrable force field that made me impervious to attacks from the oppressor. So when depression began to set in once again, I was crushed. It begged the question: Was I really delivered? God said it... did I believe it? Numbers 23:19 says, "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Likewise, 1 Samuel 15:29 says, "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." Who is it though, who seeks to convince me otherwise? And what do we know about his character? John 8:44 says the devil "was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is NO truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies." It's important to establish the intent of the heart when it comes to those contending for your soul. It's important also to know that you have a choice regarding who gets it, and it's pertinent to choose wisely.

It seems that we can always find something to feel depressed about. It's easy when you have those tendencies, and life offers no shortage of disappointments to dwell on. I keep reminding myself though, that I HAVE been delivered from this, and God doesn't take back those blessings, no matter what I think of myself, how many times I screw up, what I've done in my past or what my current circumstances may be. Free is free, and despite what the enemy would have me think, that's exactly what I am- no longer bound by a spirit of depression! That's the truth of it. When the Holy Spirit takes dominion and begins to clean house, we're no longer Satan's property. He's been evicted, and any claim he had over us is thereby terminated. Why give it back? There's no authority for that depressive spirit to rule over us, unless we GIVE IT PERMISSION TO. Into everyone's life a little trauma must fall; no one is exempt from the bumps in the road. We all hit them eventually, but the difference between being tested and taken out completely comes down to two things- one, knowing the truth about ourselves as God declares it, and two, not allowing our shortcomings and past failures to keep us from believing and receiving it. God doesn't take back healing. He doesn't change His mind. WE do.

I will surely face my oppressor again many times. He will lie to me, and continue to try and regain access to what God has already claimed as His. I'm reminded of the saying "Fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice, shame on ME." Regrettably, the devil has fooled me more than twice, but the revelation of choice and the grace that enables me to use it will ensure that in the future, I won't get fooled again.

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." --John 8:36

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No Ordinary Love

So it's been about six months since I opened this blog and wrote the first post. I had ambitious plans to write daily at first, but it didn't come to pass. Part of the delay has been trying to decide where to start, and what direction I want to go. I have learned though, that these things are not really up to me. The focus of this blog is not me. If not for God's amazing grace, I would have no story to tell. I'm not where I am because of anything that I did. I was just a basket case when God came a' calling. A nobody. A cynical, sarcastic, crude lump of clay that somehow caught His attention.

For some reason, He chose me. Out of a world consisting of billions of people, I was singled out for redemption. I could have been passed over. I could have lived out my entire life unceremoniously and left this world possessing no knowledge of the eternal and having accomplished none of the things I was created for. I could have never known a joy that you can't describe with words, that nothing in this world can produce. When I look at it from that perspective, I see what a significant gift has been given to me, and how it came at a time when I was least deserving. I have a responsibility to repay the sum that was ransomed for me. It is with a sober mind that I realize that sum was a life- the life of His son, for mine. My first thought was, "Wow, God got a raw deal there, sacrificing His perfect Son for someone so imperfect as me." But it made me realize that despite this, He saw something worth rescuing. I'd spent my whole life combing every corner of my world in search of love's true definition, until my world collided with His through a series of beautiful and breathtaking events, and I realized that salvation, in both its complexity and simplicity, was IT.

We learn as baby Christians that Jesus died for our sins, but how many of us really ponder the magnitude of this sacrifice? What does it take to make the weight of this penetrate our intellect and grab hold of our hearts? We are a people obsessed with love; it only stands to reason because we were made for that very purpose. We are born with a craving for relationships and the instinct to search for love. True love is not relative or arbitrarily defined; it is absolute, and made pure and undefiled in the blood of Christ. Its sacrifice was much bigger than any we could make. God designed it this way so that we might be able to discern the real from the counterfeit and choose rightly. It was costly to Him, and He did it for US.

I wasn't blinded by this revelation the moment I said the sinner's prayer. But when I was, it changed everything. God was no fair weather friend, and this was no ordinary love. He wasn't going anywhere, no matter what I said, what I did, no matter how stunningly flawed I was. I carried such baggage and hurt from all the other loves who walked away, but my biggest disappointments were but a grain of sand dissolved in his grace, mercy, and long suffering. It melted me. As truth was poured out, I started to see myself differently. I was no longer defined by the things that happened in my past, or the mistakes I made. I was, and am still being made new. It's messy, and beautiful at the same time. It's a process that's both frustrating and fascinating. I sometimes embrace it, sometimes fight it; I have moments of weakness but the truth is permanently etched in my heart and mind, and because it's always lived up to its claims, I can't help but return to it every time. It's really the only sure thing we have.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This Is Why I Sing

"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." --Jeremiah 29:13

This has become a passion of mine. I grew up in a church that taught me to believe in the Living God simply because "the Bible told me so." This God was angry... wrathful... something to be feared. He was distant and impersonal. Prayer was not a petition for His loving hand to reach down through the cosmos and touch our world- it was a one-sided repetition that signified the beginning and end of the sermon and gave thanks for each meal. And there was talk of this man Jesus... the Son of God Himself; a man who taught us amazing insights about ourselves, healed the sick, performed signs and wonders, and endured a horrible death on the cross so that we might have everlasting life, yet NOBODY was excited about Him! People sat expressionless and deathly still as they sang acapella from hardcover hymnals. I sang too. I didn't really know what I was singing, but I sure loved those words...

"O victoreeee in Jesus... my Savior, forever... He sought meee, and bought meee... With His redeeming blood... He loved me errrrre, I knew Him... and all my love is due Him... He plunged meeee... to victoreeee... beneath the cleansing floooood..."

While everyone else stood around me and likewise professed those same words with their mouths in complete stillness and with their hands firmly at their sides, I felt animated as I sang them. I could hardly stand still; I made sweeping motions with my hands like I was conducting an orchestra. Something inside me was intrigued by those words. It was a joyous feeling; so much so that I would find myself singing them everywhere I went.

"Up from the grave he aroooose... with a mighty triumph o'er his foes... He arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign... He arose! He arooooose! Hallelujah! Christ aroooose!"

I would bend down and then raise my hands up as high as I could get them when it was time to sing that chorus. I would march in place. Fellow congregants would point and snicker. A mess in a dress, with stringy hair and bruised up knees, I found it just wasn't humanly possible to stand still when singing songs with a victorious theme. My little heart had been engaged. I knew something; and for several years after that, over time that 'something' would be slowly devoured by the locusts of loneliness and heartbreak time and time again- that is, all but a small remnant that wouldn't be revived, multiplied, and poured out until I was nearly 31 years old. It's notable that at the tender age of five, it felt so right to march victoriously. There are tears as I write this, because as I look back between now and then, I can see His fingerprints all over my life. I was never alone. He was always lurking; outside my door when my parents fought... across from me at the table where I held solitary tea parties... between me and the predatory men who took away my precious innocence... near the bathtub where I considered drowning myself after being raped by someone I loved and trusted... through betrayal after betrayal and rejection after rejection... it was the same little girl, throwing her hands up and marching victoriously. That's who He saw when He looked at me. That's who I am today. I'm still here, still marching, and once again victorious- and it's all because of a love that surpasses human understanding.

Jesus and I fell out of touch for many years. I had forgotten Him, but He hadn't forgotten me. Eventually, our worlds would once again collide in an extraordinary way, through an extraordinary friendship, and I would never be the same. I owe a greater debt to this man than I could ever repay. Imagine walking out in front of an oncoming car, and being tackled by a stranger who pushes you to safety, and then humbly goes on his way before you even know what hit you. Who was that person? What was their name? Where did they come from? How did they happen to be in the right place at the right time, that you would even be able to sit here and ponder the character of one who was so unselfish that he would put himself in harm's way for you? Who is he, that he would be willing to lay his life down for you?

Wouldn't you chase that person down? To see their face, hug their neck, or at the very least, to offer thanks for being able to live to see another day? Wouldn't you be enamored by such a selfless act of love?

It is because One has so unselfishly given Himself for me in the most humbling way that I feel compelled to chase Him down; to seek Him with ALL my heart, in every capacity in which He may be found. This is the foundation for this blog; to follow the clues of science and history in pursuit of bridging the gap between myself and this peasant... this mere tekton from Nazareth whose hands created the stars, whose words have made lives new, and whose blood has saved us and bound us to one another. To know who He is, where He came from, and why, as just one being among billions, He would be mindful of little me. As repayment for this great gift, I lay down my life, however and whatever it may cost me, to share His story and mine. You may call me ignorant, unrealistic, or even crazy, but I know what I know- and I will gladly take my place and title in space and time as one of the happiest, most fulfilled, purposeful, and confident deludanoids you know ;-)