Archive for the ‘Prosaical Ponderings’ Category

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Love her like Jesus

January 30, 2009

I’d like to tell you the story of a young woman you may never meet. She’s 13 years old, and she gets $25 CAD each month to share between her guardian and herself to meet all her worldly needs. For my American readers, that’s roughly $20. She’s been orphaned, and when she first was brought to the attention of my friend, she was only 12, had already had multiple sexual partners, and was being tested for AIDS. She was fortunate enough to test negative. She’s lived with various family members, and as my friend put it, “like any typical 13 year old, she’s got a mouth and an attitude and she uses both!” She’s been used and abused, left with many physical scars from multiple beatings from people who thought she hadn’t shown them the respect they think they’re due culturally.

My friend is a missionary nurse in Namibia, serving the people there as a registered nurse, loving them even as she meets their medical needs. But she doesn’t shrink away from meeting other needs when she finds them. When she and the other missionaries there realized this young woman had no home to live in, having been turned out of another relative’s home, they enlisted the help of a translator from the village church they attend and set out to intervene. The girl’s aunt agreed to let the crazy white people, the missionaries, build a mud hut for her on the aunt’s property. The catch? While the missionaries had helped mud a hut before, they’d never built one before. Not only that, this is the rainy season. If it rained while they were mudding, or before the mud could dry and cure, the entire venture would be, well, forgive the pun, a wash. But that didn’t stop them. They enlisted the help of others, and yesterday, they went to the aunt’s property and built this young woman a mud hut. Apart from a few spits and sputters in the early morning, before the mudding, there was no rain… and as of 6 am local time, there still has been no rain.

So, what’s the big deal? Why am I telling you the story of this girl you’ll never meet, the story of a young woman that even my missionary friend will have to leave behind when she leaves the country to come home in a few weeks? Why did the story of this girl stop me where I am, here, thousands of miles away, safe in an insulated home that is in no danger of washing away in a good rain?

Simple, Beloved. God loves her. God created her to love her. She was born to be loved. Right now, there is no one in her life who can love her the way God loves her. None of her relatives love her that way. She’s just another burden to them. Another mouth to feed. None of her classmates love her that way. They beat her if she doesn’t respond the way they want her to. Everyone in her life holds her up to some standard and finds her wanting… and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they beat her and scar her young body for failing their tests. She has no one in her life that will love her the way God loves her; unconditionally, without expectation, a pure, undefiled love that can’t be perverted or misconstrued for anything else.

The story of this girl catches me where I am because I know this child. I’ve been this child. No, I’ve never been this exact child, living on less than $20 a month in sub-Saharan Africa. And I don’t mean to somehow minimize the stunning poverty and need of the undeveloped world… because absolutely, this girl’s physical needs are stunning. But just as Jesus recognized with the paralytic lowered through the roof to Him, her spiritual needs, the emotional wound in her soul, is every bit as desperate as her physical needs. And in that, she is no different than you or I are. You know her. You may have been her. But you’ve met her.

Here’s the good news; Beloved, God wants to do big things to draw her to Himself. He’s calling her name, faithfully pleading for her to come to the One who gave all He is to love her. You may never see the big things He is doing in her life, but that doesn’t mean He’s not doing them. In the case of the girl my friend knows in Africa, God has been staying the rains in the rainy season. He brought together a church and a community to give her a home. He brought women into her life to show her unconditional love, and even when my friend leaves, she won’t leave her friendless… the other missionaries will remain a bit longer. I’ll be honest, Beloved, I can’t see the way His plan will be fulfilled in her life, but in my bones, in the deepest parts of who I am, I know that He is working in this young woman’s life right now. He is doing big things to call her to a relationship with Him. Someday, she will look back, and she will see the men and women who loved her the way Jesus loves her, who were faithful to love her unconditionally until she knew how to be loved.

I don’t know if there’s anything tangible you can do for the girl in Africa… but that’s not why I’m writing tonight. If you want to do something tangible for someone in need, there are plenty of places you can do that. What I do want from you doesn’t cost you a penny… but it does cost your time and it does ask you to invest your heart in people… and that’s a radical risk, but it’s one that Christ made for us, so surely, if we’re going to be called by His name, it’s one we can take, right?

Pray for her. Pray that God will stay the rains. Pray He will protect her, not only until she can move into her hut, but also from the beatings that have marked her life so far. More than that, pray that God will bring someone into her life that will love her like Jesus loves her, with a pure love that can’t be perverted and distorted. God loves Dophelia. He wants someone to love her the way He does, someone from whom she can receive that love. And as He brings to your mind His other children, the other Dophelias, the Heathers, all of the children who feel like they have no one, pray for them, too. Pray for someone to come into their lives to show them they were never forgotten.

And Beloved, here’s the beauty of intercessory prayer: as you plead with God for someone to intervene in the life of the forgotten, He’s already answering the prayer… in you. You may not be the final answer, you may not be the tangible answer, the one that a Dophelia finally knows, but by lifting her up, by remembering her and loving her the way Jesus does (because He, too, intercedes for us before the Father, remembering us before Him), we’re already providing the answer to our prayer. And the more of us that remember her, the more of us who intercede for her, the greater the covering we place over her, the more room we give the Lord to work in her life.

Pray unceasingly. It’s all I ask. Yet… oh, Beloved, the power in that prayer, when you pray and you’re certain of the will of God. And Beloved, you can always be certain that it is the will of God that we are are loved the way He loves us! So pray, Beloved, certain that He means to answer your prayer, and watch. Because He’s stayed the rains for her so far… and I know He’s just getting started in her life.

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Learning to walk…

January 23, 2009

I have been so hopeless. I’ve not even known how to put into words this dark place I’ve been in, but tonight I found the words… and once I was able to put it into words, I think I was able to start to work my way out again.

You see, my physical problems aren’t over. They might be gone by April. Maybe. If they aren’t, we undo some of the surgery we did… we take out the mirena IUD we put in, the thing that’s been causing me so much pain. Then, if my body can’t keep these problems under control, we have another pair of surgeries to try… except because I have adenomyosis, instead of simple endometriosis, that might not work, either… so we’d have to wait and see if that works. If that doesn’t work, then the only thing we can do to get the whole thing under control is a hysterectomy, which is a pretty radical surgery. But all of those add up to months and months of waiting and what ifs and who knows… maybe even a year or two. And all that time, any of them could fix me, or none of them could (though the hysterectomy would be a pretty effective fix for most of my problems).

It’s like all those physical problems are an enormous boulder at the top of a mountain, and I’m living in a cave at the bottom. Hope is the step it takes for me to leave the cave… but I’m so afraid of that boulder that no matter how depressing the cave may be, I’ve chosen the cave over the risk of being smashed by the boulder. It’s a soul-crushing, heart-breaking, hope-stealing existence. I’ve lost my connection to the abundant life Jesus promised, or the Joy that God longs for us to have.

I’d clung to the verses in Exodus 33, where God lovingly tucks Moses into the cleft of the rock for Moses’ protection. In my brokenness, I was content to cling to the safe walls of my cleft, too fearful to venture out. My fear kept me far from the entrance, but this evening, as I wept in despair, because we’re not meant to live in caves, disconnected from joy and the abundant life, I was called to the entrance.

Perfect love drives¬† out fear,” God called from the entrance, wooing me out. “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me… My dove in the clefts of the rock, show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” And I knew again, as I’d known before, that I didn’t have to know how to get past the boulder. I didn’t have to see the end of the path, I just had to follow His voice. He’d provided me with a lamp for my feet, a light for my path. And when I don’t understand, He said I could rely on Him, and if I trusted in Him instead of myself, He would make my paths straight. After all, He’d told me already He was doing a new thing. “See, now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wasteland, Beloved, and streams in the desert!” He said He’d go with me, to lead me over the ways I didn’t know. “I will guide you along unfamiliar paths. I’ll turn the darkness into light before you and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will never forsake you.”

I’m sitting here and I’m writing this tonight so that I remember these promises as I begin this journey out of this cave of despair. I won’t see the path out. I’ll see each step as it comes to me, and He’ll give me the grace I need to take it. But when I get to the other side, I’ll look back, and I’ll see the way He handled that boulder. You see, for me, it’s a giant boulder. For him? It’s a tiny pebble. And yes, I may have to climb over it, I may have to tunnel through it. This release tonight isn’t about me being certain that I’ll wake up healed tomorrow… because I don’t know that I will be. If I am, I will praise my God for that healing. But even if I am not, I will not lose faith. Because my God can deliver me from this fire, or He can deliver me through it, as he did three young Jewish men, or He may deliver me into His arms (an unlikely scenario here, admittedly)… but in all things, My God has been faithful to me. I can look at my surgery on January 6th, 2009 for the most recent tangible evidence, if I need it.

So I’ve crept to the edge of the cave, and I’m taking the first wobbling step out. After all… He calls me His Beloved… and I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine. He’s calling me to come out, providing the path, lighting it, and guarding me the whole way, and loving me perfectly the whole way. Where is there room for fear in that? If God is for me, who can be against me?

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Twofer.

January 12, 2009

Twofer.

Yup, this one is a twofer, and I freely admit it. Actually, it might be a threefer. But I think twofer is good enough. Let me get the first part out of the way, and then we’ll get to the rest. Be patient… it’ll be good.

One of the bloggers I follow is Anne Jackson, author of Mad Church Disease. She’s giving away some PC software that includes books, bibles, and some research materials, and the requirements for entry (listed at her site, flowerdust.net) is that you comment with your favorite Bible verse and then blog about it, encouraging your readers to enter as well. Consider this your encouragement to enter… because while I’ve entered, we may not keep the software if we win. We might give it to our church, or our Sunday School class, or possibly give it to a small church that has few resources available to them, and let them get the use out of it (if we keep it, it would be to use for things like my blog, or for when we teach Sunday School ourselves). The winner will be chosen randomly from the commenters on Anne’s blog, so you can’t win if you don’t go to her site to enter.

So, what’s the other part of this twofer? Well, I’m going to tell you about the verse I entered, and why. I don’t know that I’ve blogged about that.

Zephaniah 3:17 is an amazing little verse, tucked into the “minor prophets” at the end of the Old Testament. It’s poetry, but not part of the poetic books. It’s a promise to the nation of Israel, and while I think we have to be very careful about taking national promises and giving them personal application, I think it’s safe here. Most importantly, it gives a snapshot of the heart of God, sort of a hint to how to understand the entire Bible… and all in this one little verse.

Pretty big claims for one little verse, isn’t it? Why don’t we start by looking at it?

The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Oh, I love this verse. I love it. It makes me cry with joy. But we’ll get to that eventually. Let’s see if we can deconstruct this bit by bit.

The LORD your God is with you.” Right off the bat, we have an introduction. You may not recognize it, especially if you haven’t grown up in church, but when you see the word lord capitalized like that, it’s something really special. It’s not just the top dog on the food chain, it’s not just a feudal power. When it’s capitalized like that, it’s referring to a name that’s so special, people are afraid to say it, lest they dirty it somehow. This is the name given to Moses in the desert when he asked who he should tell the people had sent him. This, Beloved, is the name of God… except, because it’s so special, people are afraid to even write it, for fear of dirtying it, of lessening it (the command to honor this name comes from the Second of the Ten Commandments, so it’s one people take pretty seriously), so all we get is “LORD” in all caps. But it’s still an introduction. “The God who took you out of Egypt, your God, is with you.”

There’s something else there. Notice that verb? It’s in the present tense. It’s not “I will be with you” or “I was with you”… No. This is immediate. This is right here, right now, in the thick of your hurt and your troubles, the God who delivered you from Egypt is here with you now.” Quite the first line, isn’t it?

He is mighty to save.” All the “he”s that follow are referring back to God, so out of respect to Him (remember, they respect His name so much they won’t even write it?), we capitalize it (in case you’ve never noticed why I do it). So now that we have an introduction, we get a list of promises… sort of attributes of God. These tell us who God is, and what we can know about Him. The first one? God is mighty to save.

God led the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt… they know He is mighty to save, but the reminder helps from time to time. We all tend to be a little forgetful. But if we’re going to take this national promise and make personal application, we need to be convinced that He is mighty to save, too. We need to trust in His omnipotence. It’s a big word, but what it means is that He is all powerful. It means there is not one thing, not one minute atom, not one spooky little quark, not one cosmic string anywhere, that is outside of the power of God. He may not choose to operate His power at all times, and we’re not even going to discuss the nonsense of God creating a rock so big even He couldn’t lift it, because that’s a circular argument for fools… but if God controls even the microscopic, then I can have faith He controls the macroscopic. I can trust that He is bigger than the mess I can make of myself, or bigger than the health problems I can face. If I really believe that God controls every speck of dust, then I am as safe at home in my bed as I am in a war zone (though I’m reckless enough to needlessly endanger myself… there’s a difference between confident in God and foolhardy).

There’s safety and confidence, assurance and comfort in that statement. My God, who is here with me now, is big enough to handle whatever comes my way. He is able to save me and preserve me, until it’s time for me to come home to Him, and when that day comes, He will be there, mighty to save still, to carry me to eternity.

He will take great delight in you.” Oh, Beloved. I cry to read these words. God will take great delight in you. Stop, and read them again, only put yourself in there. God will take great delight in me.

God. This is the God we’ve just said guided the Israelites out of Egypt. The God who has the number on every spooky little quark and cosmic string. The God who caused existence to exist. And God will take great delight in you. Not a little delight. No. GREAT delight.

Beloved, this is the Father who RAN for his lost son in Jesus’ parable in Luke. This is the woman who threw a PARTY over finding a coin. This is joy so great, so abundant that it spills over and affects everyone around. GREAT delight. This is joy that changes lives. And the omnipotent God looks at you, little you in your little corner of the world, and what comes into His mind, His heart? Great delight! Party-throwing joy. Belly-laughing goodness. God doesn’t look at you disapprovingly. He’s not sitting in Heaven judging you. He’s not Zeus, waiting to hurl lightening bolts at you.

This is the picture of a God who waits for you to open your eyes every morning, hoping you’ll say hello. He smiles every time you do. He laughs every time you do. And He’s eagerly waiting for the opportunity to be in relationship with you, to be the Lover of your Soul, your best friend. He wants to walk in the garden with you in the cool of the day.

He will quiet you with His love.” Have you ever seen a very small child throwing a temper tantrum? After a while, they’re so angry, they seem to forget how to stop crying… and that seems to upset them more. It becomes a self-defeating cycle. The more the child cries, the more out of control and afraid they are, and the more they cry, and the less they are able to stop crying. But they’re still angry, and if you pick them up, they’re liable to fight you still, so you have to hold them while they fight you. You know that if you can just hold them and rock them long enough, you can help them settle down, and break the cycle that’s frightening them. You have to love them, even when they think they don’t want it, until they’ve quieted enough to be free of their temper.

That’s one of the things I think of when I think of how God has to deal with us. In many ways, we are children, and we rail and flail wildly against Him, much like the small children throwing temper tantrums. But God, like a wise parent, is willing to hold us close and wait us out, loving us when we feel unlovable and unloving. He soothes our fears and anxieties with His faithful love.

As I’ve struggled through the past several weeks, I’ve experienced this repeatedly… times where my fear raised it’s ugly head and I reacted out of fear instead of from a place of trust in God. But every time, God has been faithful to quiet those fears with His love, and He’s been faithful to carry me through these impossible times with unfailing love.

He will rejoice over you with singing.” God will sing. God will SING. The God who spoke the universe into existence is going to sing. Even better? He’s going to sing for joy of you. Right now, God is composing a love song just for you. This same God we’ve been talking about, the one who delights in you, who calms you with His love, who is mighty to save you, right now, God is composing your love song. And here’s the thing that knocks my socks off… look at this world we live in. If he spoke this world into existence… what happens when God sings?

OK, so all of this is very nice, but where do I get off saying that this little verse is a snapshot of the heart of God and a hint to understanding the entire Bible?

The God who created the universe says He takes great delight in the people He created. He rejoices over them with singing. He’s mighty, able to save them, and quiet them with His love.

Does this sound like a God who damns people to hell? Does this sound like a God who does anything, ANYTHING, but LOVE unconditionally?

No, I don’t completely understand all the commands He gave in the Old Testament. I know there were laws He gave that existed to protect His people from disease. I’m also fully convinced that it has always been His desire to redeem every single one of us back to Him. He sent Jonah to the Assyrians in Ninevah to call those people to Him. God stepped out of eternity in the person of Christ to redeem us all to Him.

I believe that the heart of God is Love. And when you understand that Love moves Him, it changes the way you read and understand the Bible. When your entire view of God is shaped by this view of God, there’s no way it can’t shape how you view the Word he gave us.

That’s Zephaniah 3:17. It’s the love of God, poured out in 5 simple phrases. It changed how I understand God. It’s beautiful. I wish I could help you understand better. In the meantime… this, in a nutshell, is who I know God to be.

The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

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Where is God now?

January 1, 2009

One of the most common questions is “Where is God when bad things happen to good people”, or “How can you trust God when you’re suffering so much?”

You see, it’s tempting to think that God is a giver of good things, and once you have God in your life, everything is sunshine and roses. In Christian parlance, this is the question of mountain tops versus the valley. You see, when you’re on the mountain top, it’s easy to be close to God, it’s easy to separate yourself from all the distractions that keep you from devotion to God. It’s a picture of the highs in our life.

But when we’re down, when we’re in the valley, in “the shadow of death”, in the lows, it’s harder to stay connected to God. Indeed, there are doctrines that claim that you are struggling in your health, or your life, then it’s because you don’t have enough faith. You feel like everyone is looking down at you and asking “Where is God now?”

Let me tell you, Beloved. God is holding me here. God is here, in the Valley. He’s hiding my soul in the cleft of the rock, like He hid Moses, and He’s carrying me.

You will never see My God bigger or more powerful than you will now, here in the Valley. Because here in the moment of my greatest weakness, God is Strongest. So if you want to know who my God is, if you want to know where God is now? Look down here in the Valley. Dare a glance down here in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, because you’ll never have a better view of God than the one you’ll see down here.

And if being broken is what it cost me to find my God in this complete strength, it was completely worth it.

Where is God now? You mean you can’t see Him? He’s the one carrying me.

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Living out “Footprints In The Sand”, or The Value of Relationship

January 1, 2009

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.

Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.

Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,

other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed

that during the low periods of my life,

when I was suffering from

anguish, sorrow or defeat,

I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord,

that if I followed you,

you would walk with me always.

But I have noticed that during

the most trying periods of my life

there have only been one

set of footprints in the sand.

Why, when I needed you most,

you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,

“The times when you have

seen only one set of footprints in the sand,

is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson

Copyright © 1984 Mary Stevenson, from original 1936 text, All rights reserved

This was my father’s favorite poem, and I remember reading it at his funeral. I had no idea I’d find myself living it out almost 14 years later. It’s not that I’ve been dreaming of walking on a beach, or that I’ve seen my life flashing before my eyes… but I am very much aware that I’m in a period of my life that would show only one set of footprints in the sand if I were to look back over it. I’m unspeakably grateful for them, and I’m convinced that were it not for the Lord carrying me through this time, there would be no footprints in the sand. Instead, this would be the place where the tracks ended, and you’d find me in a heap on the sand, sapped of all energy and hope. This would be a place of death for me, even if I survived it physically, and the tracks in the sand couldn’t help but reflect that death.

And that’s what brings me to the other title of this piece, “The Value of Relationship”.

You see, Beloved, relationships aren’t about just getting through the easy times, they aren’t about being there when the sun is shining and leaving when the rain clouds begin to shadow the skies. Think about wedding vows, because the words traditionally spoken in a Judeo-Christian wedding are about the relationship between the bride and groom, but they’re also a reflection of the relationship between God and His Beloved Bride. “…To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” Do you see it in there? For better or worse. Which means that relationship is there when things go wrong. Relationship is there through the sunlit skies, warns of the coming storms, helps you prepare for them, and comforts you through them until you emerge on the other side, and then stays with you to clean up afterwards.

Yes, I did just compare my relationship with my God to my relationship with my husband, and I assure you that when he reads this, my husband will agree and approve of the comparison. The comparison is made in the Bible, too. The Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is about a beloved and her lover, and is speaking as much of a relationship between a man and woman as it is about the relationship between the God who wrote it and we who read it. In Ephesians, when Paul speaks of the relationship between a husband and wife, he tells men to love their wives “Just as Christ loves the Church.” And the Revelation of John that closes the Bible speaks of the wedding feast of the Lamb, when Jesus will marry his Bride, the church that’s been waiting faithfully for Him. So this idea that the relationship between a husband and wife is a portrait of the relationship between God and us is right there for you.

OK, so what does that mean in the every day? What does that mean right now, when I’m living in a time where there’s only one set of prints in the sand, in this place that would be my death were I alone?

It means that this living relationship with my God allows us to speak to each other. And just as with my husband, things aren’t always sunny or perfect, there are times that things aren’t always perfect between me and God, either. There are times where my husband and I don’t understand each other, and we struggle, but our commitment to each other and to this relationship we have means that we work through the struggles together to find the other side, to find the answer. There are times I don’t understand why God allows me to go through what I’m enduring. There are times I can’t see what He’s doing, but I’m trusting that He’s good, that He loves me, and that this relationship with Him is worth preserving, and I listen to what He would say. It means that God is willing to let me cry out my rage and confusion, my pain and fear, knowing that as long as I’m speaking with Him, there’s still a chance for us to work through even this, there’s still relationship between us. It means that as long as I am honest with Him, I can rely on Him to provide answers and strength in my weakness.

Just as I am better for having my husband in my life, so too am I better for the presence of my God. There are places that I am incomplete, places I am weak or where my knowledge or skills are lacking, and where John’s skills complete me, where his strength complements me. I tend to be very emotional – he tends to be very rational. He can help give me the distance from passion I need to make good decisions, while I give him the heart to make compassionate calls. I hate to touch raw chicken – he doesn’t mind so much. In the places where I am weak, relationship makes me strong.

And that, Beloved, is where I am now. I’ve found myself in a place that has left me broken and utterly without any strength on my own to do anything. I’m in this place that would be my death were I alone… but thanks to relationship, I am not dead. Relationship with God and with my husband is carrying me through impossibility.

What does that look like? I mean, it’s nice to say that relationship is carrying me through, but what does that actually look like?

I’d been struggling to carry myself for a while, to withstand the health problems that were weakening, the constant pain that was draining my strength and energy. Indeed, at one point, I commented that “God’s scale of what I can handle&mine are 2 very different measurements,&I’m beginning to fear I’m going to collapse before I hit His mark.” I was asking friends to pray for me, knowing that I needed to rest in the arms of God, knowing that He was the source of my strength and the source of my victory, but somehow, I kept trying to stand on my own. And then I got a phone call that triggered some of my phobias again, and, well, there’s no pretty word for it-I threw a temper tantrum. That was the straw that broke this camel’s back, and I just fell apart. I told my husband I wasn’t suicidal, but only because it would take too much energy to actually make a plan and do something. I curled up in his arms (see the relationship there? Turning to him when I had no strength to carry myself anymore) and cried, utterly broken hearted.

But because I have relationship with God, too, He was speaking to me also, a soft voice whispering in my mind. He reminded me of what I’d said, that I needed to rest in His arms. And in my own mind, I answered Him, an internal dialogue (almost with myself, but I believe it was with God). “But Lord, I’ve flung myself from Your lap, and I don’t have the energy to even try to climb back up again.” Do you see relationship again? Openness… there’s no hiding truth here, no florid language, no fancy words or high concepts, just a conversation between a heart broken beyond hope of help, and the One who was only waiting for me to ask for it.

He gave me a picture, and I think He does it that way because I’m so visual. I was laying in his lap, facing in towards Him, and I was so small compared to Him… all I could see was His knees, His lap, and the bottom of his torso, just enough to see me there, in the one place I longed to be and couldn’t get on my own. And the enemy stepped in to attack, but I couldn’t lift my head enough to see where the attack would land, much less fight it off… I was that weak, that broken. It didn’t matter. In that moment, one arm swept me up, cradling me close to His chest and He stepped out, placing His body between mine and the attack. And then He spoke over me the Word I’d memorized, the Scriptures He’d given me before and I’d tattooed on my heart as His promise. “She is MINE. I have called her by name, and she is MINE. This is what the Lord, the Holy One of Israel says-I will give NATIONS in her place. Though the waters rise around her, they will not overwhelm her. SHE IS MINE.”

I wept, Beloved. I shook all over I was crying so hard, because a sense of peace washed over me that I cannot put into words for you. You see, in that moment, I knew I didn’t have to get through this. I didn’t have to get through these medical problems, I didn’t have to get through the treatments, I didn’t have to get through the days between them. I didn’t have to find the strength to pull myself together and survive every day. I was going to be carried far above it all by the Lord, by the One with whom I had a relationship. I am His, and He is going to carry me through it all. In my brokenness, in my weakness, He is complete strength.

And that’s not to say that it has ended there. Because I still got to the test that sent me into a temper-tantrum panic, and I was still trembling with fear. And there are nights that I can’t go to sleep because I am so struck by despair and fear. But relationship won’t let me go. I turn to music, finding the truths that are repeated by the songs and written in scripture, and there I find peace until I manage to slow my racing mind and trembling heart and can rest. And then I carry that with me into my day. And when I went to my test, I took my Bible with me. You see, Beloved, it’s the Word of God, it’s how He speaks to us. It’s His love letter to us, and I took it hoping He’d have something there for me, somehow, though I wasn’t sure where to look.

I opened back up to that passage in Isaiah 43, the one He’d crowed over me in my vision. I read it again, nearly weeping again with joy, but kept reading. And something leapt out at me. “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Most of my fears and phobias have risen out of things that happened to me in my past, so this was as if He was telling me “Let go of all of that. Take hold of Me here and now, and look and see what I am doing now!” I was reassured, and thought I was going to be OK. I went in to go through admitting process, and saw that they had something wrong, and it took all I had to not throw another temper tantrum (generally not a good idea in public). I repeated that scripture to myself, trying desperately to cling to new things, trying to cling to God and release my fears. And I got to the part “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” and I cried to myself (again, silently, in my own head), “Oh, Lord, I don’t, I don’t see it, I’m blind!” I pulled the Bible out while they tried to straighten it out and looked for something that would help, but I wasn’t finding it. I was so frightened, even after they got it straightened all out. But I just kept looking at that Bible, kept looking for something in that love letter, and then He showed me exactly what He wanted me to see. “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Do you see relationship? “Let go of the old, Beloved. Look and see the new things I am doing. Can’t you see it?” And when I said “Oh, Lord, No, no I can’t see it, I am Blind!”, He had an answer even for that. “It’s ok that you’re blind, Beloved. This new thing… I’ll lead you to it. I’ll make the darkness into light, I’ll make the road easy, and I will never leave you, my Love.” Relationship takes me blundering in fear and darkness and leads me to the comfort I need and carries me through when I am too broken to carry myself.

Oh, Beloved, this is my God. This is the beauty of relationship with my God. You are never alone. Even when you wail in the darkness, lost and confused, hurt and certain you’re alone… Beloved, you need only tell Him so, and He will RUN to you! This is the Father of the Prodigal son who watched for him from a distance and RAN to him to welcome him home. This is LOVE as you’ve never imagined, strength you’ll never known until you’re broken, and peace you could never possess on your own.

The value of relationship, Beloved. It is life. In this moment, right now, my relationship with God is LIFE. Why will you struggle on your own when Life is waiting to take your hand? How do you survive these moments of death any other way?