Thursday, January 13, 2011

cord of three.

"A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart."
Ecclesiastes 4:12

Late December 2010: It’s the middle of the night and suddenly, I’m awake. Wide awake. The wide awake that generally follows a heart-pounding, cold-sweating nightmare or crashing sound in the night. Inexplicably, I stare into the darkness, confused. Did something wake me up? Did someone wake me up? My bedroom door is cracked and shadows begin shifting as my eyes adjust. Before there is time for confusion to begin yielding to fear, I've learned from years of living alone to just whisper aloud the only name that brings light into the darkness: “Jesus”...

A handful of times in my life, I have felt as though the Lord Himself has woken me up early, pre-dawn, calling me to meet with Him, but never in the dead of night like this and never with such audible and visual clarity in the midst of such silence and darkness:

“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

That was it. Now, I'm not suggesting I heard an audible voice with my ears, but I am saying that one sentence resounded so clearly, so loudly in my heart and mind that in that moment, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. I sat straight up in my bed. I know the verse well. The verse is common; this feeling is not. All throughout scripture we see the Lord speaking to various people (Habakkuk, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.) saying, "write this down". I know this isn’t one of those times that I can just make some sort of casual mental note and try to follow up in the morning. This is one of those times that it’s as though the Lord is saying to me, “You’d better write this down. Now.”

In the fall of 2002, we were in Ridgecrest, NC for a marriage conference. For the sake of posterity, I will refrain from too much detail, but suffice it to say that we had come through a proverbial storm that had recently led my husband to surrender his life to the Lord. Of course, I was still clinging to the belief that I had done the same long ago. (You know, because I had walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, etc. etc.) I gave God credit for that, certainly; but just as I had when I was fifteen, I walked away from that moment, from that retreat – and from God Himself - believing that everything would be okay; that I would be okay. We would join a church together, maybe teach Sunday school together, have children together, do all the things we were supposed to do and live happily ever after. At twenty-five, I had wanted to believe it was that simple, that I had no active participation what God was doing or desired to do in our lives. He was my God in name alone, but not Lord of my life, and not the love of my life. Eight years later, it’s 3 a.m., and here I am: wide awake. Alone.

During that retreat we had purchased a “love knot”: a three stranded cord shaped into a cross and knotted tightly in the center: two tan, course, fiber-like strands and one solid, velvety-smooth red strand intertwined. A little tag hung on it with the verse: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” It had hung in the foyer of our home for the years that followed. I don’t know what happened to it in the years since. I’ve moved more than once and we have both moved from the home we shared together. But tonight, when I was awakened from my sleep, I saw it. It sprang forth as clearly to my mind as the words of scripture had to my heart. The lighter, tan fiber-like strands were worn and tattered; frayed and unraveled. But the third strand; the one that had always looked and felt different; it was vibrant crimson, still as strong and as smooth as the first time I touched it; velvety to the touch and though the three had unraveled, the crimson strand was firmly knotted in the center.

And then, in a whisper, three words that have repeated in my heart (and in my journals) off and on for a long, long time: Renew. Redeem. Restore. A thousand different directions I could go with them, scripturally, logically, illogically, metaphorically, figuratively - but I couldn’t make sense of why now… it’s the middle of the night. Lord, I can’t possibly write all of this down, too… and then, by something I cannot define or describe, they weave together: the three words. The three cords. The three words become the three cords: The broken and unraveled strands, He renews and restores, and the third crimson strand, the Redeemer Himself, He redeems - for His glory.

When everything else in my life was broken, God was faithful. Through my years of running and failed attempts at hiding, God was faithful. So much has changed throughout the years, throughout my life, but God has not ever changed. God is faithful. Unchanging. Unyielding. Faithful when we are faithless. He holds all things together. He makes all things new. His ways our not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. When we unravel, when our lives fall apart, when we break promises to one another, God keeps His promises to us: His love will never leave us or forsake us. He is our only hope.

I don’t pretend to know the outcome of this life, but the one thing I know is this: my Redeemer lives.

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again. From the depths of the earth, you will lift me up.” Psalm 71:20

...

The next morning, I wake up. Oh, maybe it was all just a dream: some vivid imagery and play on words my brain concocted when I was asleep or half awake or somewhere in between. But, I know myself – and while I’m somewhat clever from time to time, I’m not quite that clever. Especially at 3 a.m. Page after page of my journals, and this blog for that matter, are filled with things that – frankly – I couldn’t have contrived if I’d wanted to, even on my most creative of days. Our sinful minds desire to cloud every thought with doubt. I reread what I'd written a few hours earlier and I know... my Redeemer Lives.

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