Unless You Become as Little Children…

I would like to share this post from a blog that is very special to me. Three and a half years ago God used this blog to help me to find freedom and peace, to know that I am under grace, not under law, and that Jesus is enough.

8thDay4Life

I really believe the human default (for adults that is) is law and legalism. I am not sure we are born with it, but society operates on this paradigm so it’s drilled into us at a very early age. Even if you don’t grow up in a legalistic religion, classmates and teachers both will make sure you understand the ground rules of success both socially and academically. How far back can we trace our fear of failure and rejection? Maybe parents were critical and you felt you must achieve something to gain their love. I am starting to see behavior-based religion as a secondary element that we choose because it flows with the worldview we already have. All the world religions I know of fall well into this same paradigm.

The problem isn’t that the law framework is false. Reaping and sowing are obvious – and even Jesus talked about…

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Letting Go

It seems like I am like an onion, with layers that need to be peeled off.  God does some things in a hurry, and others take more time.  I have been going through an intense spiritual and emotional shake-up since Easter, when I had a disagreement with a family member.  The rift dragged up memories from my childhood, of the feeling of never being good enough, and it was like I could hear my family member condemning me and my life in my head.  Every criticism or perceived criticism by this person and other people came to mind, and it was almost unbearable.

For the last few weeks God has been working away at the festering wound of my resentment and childhood pain, getting rid of it for good.  He’s been working on my thinking about my parents, showing me that I need to focus on and remember the good things about them. He has shown me that I needed to repent and change my attitude towards them (Whatever is Lovely…). He’s been reminding me that my identity is in Him, not in my human family (Pain). He has promised me that He’s filling in ‘the pit’ of depression, so that I will be able to jump for joy (God’s Landscaping Business).  And last week, He showed me how to forgive.

Recently I have been reading the book To Forgive is Human, in this quest to forgive and find lasting peace.  It discusses stages of forgiveness and why people forgive, for example, because of social pressures, or because they want peace in their family.

Reading about human reasons for forgiveness got me thinking about God, and why He forgives.  Obviously there is no outside pressure on Him to forgive – He is the one that makes the rules. I realised that forgiveness is part of who He is – it is His nature. He does not experience the struggle that we often do to let go of past hurts and forgive. In fact, His commitment to forgiveness is so great that He paid the ultimate price so that our relationship with Him could be restored. As Jesus was taunted by his enemies on the cross he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24) He had no desire for revenge, only empathy that pitied His enemies and recognised their blindness.

As I thought about God’s forgiving nature, I heard the song “Endless Hallelujah” by Matt Redman, which speaks of Heaven and the perfection that we will know there. All the resentments and grudges we hold here will dissolve in that place. All of our mistakes and wrongdoing will be forgotten. Then the thought came:

Why not let my resentment go, and let Heaven into the dark places of my heart, the not-so-secret corners, where I squirrel away my grudges and bitterness?

As He is, so shall we be.

My Father’s nature is to forgive, and I am His child, therefore unforgiveness has no place in me.

For some time now (for years, to be honest) I had been holding on to resentment for hurts in my past, knowing that I should forgive but unable to find peace. That word ‘should’ is like a weight around one’s neck somehow – all the things that we ‘should’ do but just can not. It had helped to concentrate on the good things about those who had hurt me, but somehow I was still struggling with forgiveness. However as I thought about who God is, and who I am as His child, I was able to let it go. I saw how much I had been forgiven myself, and the sins of others against me were a mere pittance in comparison. He takes away the burden of resentment and replaces it with joy – the joy of a prisoner set free.

All the pain I caused, the lies I spoke, the hate I breathed,

You nailed on the tree

And said, “Follow Me.”

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.

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.

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.

Beggar for Love

I was a beggar for love until you found me,

Clutching my filthy rags around me,

Scrabbling in the dirt for scraps left behind,

Holding tight to what I could find,

Until you found me.

 

I was a beggar for love until you found me,

The longing for love a festering wound within me,

Scorned love turned to passionate hate,

Loathing myself more than anyone else,

Until you found me.

 

I was a beggar for love, but you stooped in the dirt,

Picked me up, washed my wounds, healed my hurt.

In your perfect love, Jesus, I find

A well so deep I can never drink it dry.

Not just one in a crowd to you,

But a beloved child lost and sought,

You never relented until you had me safe in your arms

Nestled near your heart,

A beggar no more.

I am yours.