God’s Landscaping Business

This is a follow-up to my poem “The Swamp” that I posted a couple of days ago.

A good friend, Naggie, texted me yesterday morning.  When I received her text, my eyes just about popped out, and I had to call her to find out more about it.  She hadn’t read my poem, and she had heard this from God on Monday but didn’t send it until Thursday.   Here goes:

Oh Jo, I got a prophetic word for you … It is that God will “fill in the pit”, that you will never trip back in, slide back in, jump back in, stumble back in … But instead rejoice and be glad and jump on top of the filled in pit … Knowing that He IS the victory!  He is victorious!  He has conquered and you just get to dance on top of the pit that no longer exists as He has filled it in!!

 

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been in and out of depression, up and down, back and forth.  Even in the good times I wonder when it’s coming back.  In the bad times it feels like I’ve always been there.  I have seen it in my mind’s eye as walking through a field of pits, never knowing when the next one is coming up, doing my best to stay away from the edge, but somehow unable to keep away as circumstances push me in.

And now God’s saying that…

Those pits are going to be filled in!

I’m not going to live in fear of depression anymore.  He’s changing the landscape.  He’s God, and He can do that.

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
Isaiah 40 verse 4

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Isaiah 43 verse 19

Here’s a little bit of Handel’s Messiah, because great words deserve great music.

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The Swamp

Out of the swamp of self-pity

Feet on firm ground

Looking around

I see your blessings surround me

I see your hand of mercy

But it’s easy to slide back in

With one backward glance

Wallow in the mud again

Forget what you’ve told me

Savouring the pain

But you never heave a sigh

Never turn your back

Never label me ‘too hard’

This one just needs a little more love

A little more grace

She’ll come round.

Whatever is Lovely….

In a recent post (Pain) I wrote about the difficulties I had been having getting over hurts from my childhood.  Even though my parents have been loving and good parents on the whole, there were painful memories and resentment that I was holding on to from the past.  Every time I visited my parents the old pain would be renewed, and I would come home unsettled and fighting depression again.  This happened many times, so that I began to avoid visiting their home.

The last time this happened was at Easter.  I was bitterly disappointed, because I wanted to be able to move on and not have this horrible pain, dealing with the same thing over and over again.  I felt like a child who couldn’t grow up.  It helped to remind myslf of God’s love and his acceptance, but I still couldn’t let go of the resentment towards my parents.  I asked God, “How can I get past this?”

The answer came when I met with a close friend and her husband for prayer.  My friend asked God for healing for the hurt places in my life, going all the way back to the little girl I was, who believed herself to be unloved.   And then she gave me a verse.  It is very well-known, but I had never applied it in this way before:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

She prayed that when I would think of my parents, I would think of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc: that my thoughts and memories of my parents would focus on the lovely, praiseworthy things about them (and there are so many – thank you Lord!).  I realised that my mind had been set on a certain track, so that when I thought about them I would focus on things that I resented, and each time my thoughts went that way, the groove would become deeper and it became more and more difficult for me to think about them any other way.  God was asking me to consciously change my thought patterns.  I had been asking God for the way forward, and He had shown me the path.

After my friend prayed I realised that I needed to repent of my wrong attitude towards my parents, particularly the way I had judged them and criticised them for years.  So I did that.  When I went home I felt like a huge load had come off me.  I was exhausted, but free.

Since then the pain is gone.  It sounds simplistic, but it really is completely different.  I was a wreck emotionally before I went to that prayer meeting, and since then, I have been at peace.  The real test will be when I see my parents again.  Will the old hurts still sting, or are they healed forever?  At least I now have a way forward.  If I am hurt again, I can choose to think on ‘whatever is lovely.’

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Why my blog is called Isaiah 41 verse 10

I was about 10 or 11.  I was staying with my parents who were missionaries in the kind of country where people don’t usually go for a relaxing holiday.  I never felt like I belonged anywhere.  Not in that culture, because I couldn’t speak the language, and I looked different and was foreign, and not at the boarding school for missionaries’ children, where the other kids often picked on me or disliked me. At an early age I had stopped believing in my mother’s love for me, and the lie that I was unloved was causing me to grow up crooked, like a tree that overcompensates for an early injury.

But I had heard that God loved me.  I also had heard that He would speak if one listened.  One day, when I was by myself in the room I shared with my sister, I took my Bible and sat on the bed, and asked Him if it was true.

“Is it true that you love me?  Do you care about me?”

I waited.  Then a verse reference popped into my head: one that I didn’t know.  I looked it up.

Isaiah 41 verse 10

So do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; 

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Then I knew that it was true.  He does speak, and He does care, and He is not only the one true God, Creator of the universe, He is my God, the one who watches over me.  He is Love.

He has kept His promise to me.  With Him I am strong.  He is always with me, and He holds on to me.  I’ve wandered off the pathway lots of times, and got distracted, and disobeyed His instructions, but He has not given up on me, and He never will.  Some songs say, “I will never let you [Jesus] go.”  I always change the words when I’m singing to “You will never let me go,” because the truth is that we often let go, but He doesn’t.

I’ve found that if I hold onto His love, I can love other people, and not be afraid of them hurting me.  It’s hard to unlearn old habits of mistrust and criticism, but slowly He is making the change.  If I ask Him to show me how He sees a situation or a person, it’s like He changes the perspective, making clear what was blurry, changing the colours, and sometimes revealing details I did not notice before. 

Sometimes I look back and wish I had pursued Him earlier, when I knew this from an early age, but for a long time it was about following rules and being a ‘good Christian’.  I was too busy trying to fix everyone else, and swinging from self-hatred to pride and back again.  But they say that nothing is wasted with God, so I will trust that He is making something beautiful with the mess. 

Pain

The last couple of weeks have been difficult.  Tension with a family member has dragged up emotions and memories from the past that still have the power to wound me.  I am stung again by rejection, criticism and the feeling of never measuring up.  Once I start thinking this way, it becomes habitual, and almost anything can trigger off the negativity, even an article in the newspaper about someone’s ‘perfect mother.’ I am reminded of all the ways I fail, and start thinking I am pathetic, hopeless and just generally a blot on the landscape.  Why do I listen to that voice?  I don’t want to fight this battle over and over again.  I am in tears many times a day, remembering, and then turning to God for comfort and truth.  There are some things He has told me that I have to hold on to:

“My Father’s house has many rooms.”  John 14:2

I am loved and welcomed by my Heavenly Father, always accepted because of Jesus my Saviour.

“You are a daughter of the King.”  Romans 8:15

No longer dressed in rags, but in his robes.

“We must obey God, rather than men.”  Acts 5:29

My allegiance is to Him, not to others’ expectations.  This is particularly difficult when I love and respect a person, and they disapprove of my choices, even though I believe that I am obeying my Heavenly Father.  People-pleasing is only taking me down the well-worn path of rejection and despair.  God will not take me there.

I feel like I am a child again, confused and wanting desperately for someone to look after me.  I feel completely inadequate to be a parent to my children when I am still a child myself.  But somehow my children are beautiful, sensitive people, who are growing in faith and learning to care for others.