Friday, December 16, 2011

seasons change.



"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy."
Psalm 16:11


I've always said that I believed the climate of heaven will be sunny and sixty-five degrees. Every single day. You know, forever. A heavenly, paradoxical combination of both eternal spring and eternal fall. I don't imagine that I'd long for the seasons, even my favorites. I imagine that blooming flowers and falling leaves would go unnoticed in the very presence of God. Here they give us a glimpse of His glory; there we will live in the midst of His glory. (Lord Jesus, come quickly).

Some days, I am homesick for eternity. The place where every path we set foot on is the right one, leading to the Father; where there is no more wandering, no more wrong turns, no more painful detours; where He will "wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain". (Revelation 21:4) That verse has always been a comfort to me in times of tragedy, loss or witnessing the needless suffering of others. But tonight, it struck me that the verse says "every" tear. Every single one. Tonight, I am reminded that He "keeps track of all my sorrows. He has collected all my tears in His bottle. He has recorded each one in his book". ( Psalm 56:8) The sorrows we have no control over - and the ones we inflict onto ourselves. He collects the tears we cry in sorrow, the tears we cry in regret, the tears we cry in repentance, the tears we cry in frustration, the tears we cry in disappointment - in every situation and in every season...

From where I am standing, the landscape surrounding my path looks vaguely familiar. It was in 2009 that the Lord changed the direction of my path and of my life (and consequently, my blog). Two and a half years later, I expected to be so much farther from the place where I began, so much farther from who I had been and so much closer to who He longs for me to be… Oh, I could write paragraphs of analogical comparisons about where I went wrong… misleading signs, broken compasses, meandering detours, curious wandering. The truth is that when you combine the strategy of the enemy with the sinful nature of our hearts, you have a recipe for… lostness. Thankfully, we have a shepherd who "leaves the ninety-nine to go and search for the one who is lost" (Luke 15:4). I believe with all my heart that verse applies to those of us who are His children as much as it does to those who have yet to hear or believe in His name. And so it is not with great disappointment, but rather great relief, that I find myself where I took my first steps on this journey - because it is with Him and if lacking so much else, in the fullness of His presence.

Looking back, I am so grateful that I was moved to write down what the Lord spoke directly to my heart - I am so grateful that He knew I would need it now, perhaps even more than I did then. One year ago, almost to the day, I was struggling with the direction of my life, absolutely crippled by the fear that I would continue to take wrong steps, choose wrong paths. I couldn't trust myself and frankly, I was having difficulty trusting God. I attended an incredible retreat at my church over that weekend called "Life" that is based around John 10:10. It was days later before I could even begin to put into words what God had spoken to my heart and what I had experienced. Rereading the words I wrote a year ago, I'm utterly convicted and confused about the path I have traveled since then, and am reminded of how completely dependent I am on His mercy and grace for the path that lies ahead....



December 18, 2010:
"Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death." - "But there is another kind of fear", the session leader continued, "which paralyzes us. It steals our joy and our peace. It keeps us from our calling. It causes us to stumble and fall short. This fear is not from God. For God did not give us a Spirit of Fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) Fear manifests itself as control. We attempt to control/demand our own way or we manipulate circumstances. On the outside, it appears strong; but on the inside, it is cowardly and fearful. It causes us to: badger and manipulate people; run ahead of God and not wait on Him. All that we hold on to keeps us from the abundant life in Him. It becomes a vicious cycle and we believe the lie that letting go will make things worse. But "His perfect love casts out all fear; whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (1 JN 4:18)

I had walked into the retreat praying that God would simply remove the unsettling in my heart; that He would calm my anxious spirit and remove the fears I had about the course of my life. Instead, the Word became a mirror in which I could see my reflection - the one that He sees: a woman living a life absolutely crippled by fear; a woman with a heart that was paralyzed by fear. A woman who had been living in complete denial; appearing strong on the outside but weak and crumbling and cowardly on the inside. I had continued to control and demand my own way, badgered and manipulated others. I had ran ahead of God instead of waiting on Him. Why? Because of fear; the terrified thought that He might not come through - that He wouldn't take care of me; that He wouldn't hold true to the promises of His word. "I am the One that you run away from out of fear, because you do not trust me. Whoever fears has not been perfected in my love. My desire is to perfect you in my love. Let me. Trust me."

Could it be that I left Him in the middle of that process? That He was perfecting me in His love and I foolishly turned my back and walked away? So many times I had felt that sense that familiar, ambiguous calling and so many times I had ignored it. I buried my face in my hands, thankful it was dark in the room, weeping. I could barely wrap my brain around what God had just clearly spoken to me. It was gut-wrenching truth that I had not wanted to accept or believe, but He had just made impossible to deny: I hadn't been honest with myself, with my God or with anyone else.

Between sessions, we prayed with an intercessor. I stood sobbing before a sweet, older lady - pointing to my heart, "crippled by fear", was all I could manage to say. She had prayed with me at an earlier session and knew that I was struggling with some doubt/fear about the direction of my life. She prayed for guidance and wisdom and then, mid-prayer, just looked straight into my eyes and asked me, "My child, what is the desire of your heart?". I shrugged. She continued praying, but the Lord continued pressing my heart with the same question: "My child, what is the desire of your heart? If I could grant the one deepest desire of your heart for your life and if you truly believed that, with me, all things are possible - anything at all - what is the one thing you would ask of me?".

He already knew the answer. He knew that I knew, too. After all, you know, He's God - He knows everything. But He also knew that I not dare speak it aloud. I confessed it silently, almost reluctantly, tears pouring hot and fast down my face. Silence. "Then why haven't you trusted in me to provide?" Before tonight, I wouldn't have been able to answer, but now I knew: "Fear", I answered, "fear that I will hold onto that desire and then be devastated if it isn't your will, fear that I will turn it into an idol and worship it instead of you, fear that I don't deserve your promises, fear that I will hope in you and be let down... fear, fear, fear."

There was another brief moment of silence. In hindsight, I envision a father taking in the words a child has just spoken before grabbing them up in His arms to comfort and hold. As so many times before, His answer was swift and thundering and came in a barrage of scriptures that were rooted in my heart and brought forth through His Spirit with more speed and accuracy than I could ever hope to replicate: "My child, I have promised you in my word that if you trust in me with all of your heart and not lean on yourself for wisdom and understanding that I will make this, your narrow path, straight. Delight yourself in me, truly delight, and I WILL give you the desires of your heart. (Proverbs 3:5-6 & Proverbs 37:4) Trusting in me fully means trusting that I will conform the desires of your heart according to my will and fulfill them in my timing, for my glory and for your good (Romans 8:28). I have not come for your hopes to be crushed, but for your heart to be healed so that IN ME you may have LIFE (John 10:10) and I will keep in perfect peace all who trust in me, all whose thoughts are fixed on me!" (Isaiah 26:3)

"Nadia, I have a plan for you, it is a plan not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future. You have called to me and come and prayed to me, and I have listened to you. You have sought me and found me because you have sought me with all your heart. I have been found by you and I will bring you back from captivity. I will rescue you and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you." (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

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And that is exactly what He has done - carried me back to this place where I began.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

Psalm 91:14-16

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