Sunday, August 20, 2017

To Be Free, Stand Here

I've been going through a rough time for a few months now. It seems like depression would like to come and take up residence again. It's not going to though. I finally shared this with my Sunday school class and asked for prayer.

I don't like to ask for help, especially considering where I have come from and the period of extreme neediness and insecurity I went through following my divorce and my youngest child leaving for college. Thank God I am not that person anymore. Sometimes, though, I think God allows circumstances that cause us to realize we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us. So I had to swallow my pride and ask for prayer.

This afternoon, I was looking through some older journals, seeking to encourage myself from reading about what God has done for me in the past. I came across an entry from 2007. I had forgotten all about this, which makes me glad I journal.

I'll share a bit of it here. It was written after a time of prayer where I had a word from God:

"...God showed me the pit I have been in. In the past when I have read about pits in the Bible, I have always pictured a large hole in the ground about 10 feet in diameter and just deep enough to be hard to climb out of. The pit I saw, however, was so deep I couldn’t see the bottom when I looked down. The diameter was just large enough for a person to get through, not wide like I had always pictured.  Jesus was reaching down to get my hand and help me up. However, I had climbed all the way up until I could see light at the top somehow. I wondered about this, but before I could ask He revealed to me that there were steps in the side of the pit. I had not noticed those before. I asked where those came from and He said they were the Word of God. Speaking the Word of God had given me something to stand on that was higher than where I had been before. Every time I had spoken the Word in faith believing I had climbed a little higher. It was a process. I didn’t climb from the depths of this pit overnight. I was also concerned about being in a pit again, when I clearly remember Him pulling me out of one 2 or 3 years ago. I remember because He told me then that we embark on this journey by the following steps:

He showed me that first is salvation: 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'—1 John 1:9. 

Second, He told me to not be always looking back continually at what I have come out of: 'Forgetting what lies behind me and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.' Phil. 3:13

He then told me another scripture, found in Psalms: 'He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.'  Psalm 147:3

Then He reminded me that as I stood in that desert back in the summer of 2003, looking around at where He had brought me to, I saw a little ways off a mountain range. I somehow knew then that I was going to be climbing again soon. I began to see that the Christian walk is a series of mountains and valleys. As we go onward with Him, we go into times of valleys in between the mountains, but each time we end up a little higher up, a little better off, a little closer to Jesus. Unless we are willfully disobedient, we don’t plunge to the depths where we once dwelled. 

Somehow I had crossed this desert and found a way to go up, which led me through the core of the mountain to the bottom of a very narrow, dark pit. This is the pit that I had found myself nearly to the top of. Jesus had been with me every step of the way, encouraging me to “speak the Word.” He could have pulled me out at any time, but He knew that by my speaking the Word of God, I would be transformed on the inside. I am being changed on the inside as I go, because the Word gets inside and does the work. How marvelous!"

Prior to this writing ten years ago, according to my journal, I had been confused and had felt “dead” inside for a couple of years. 

I say "according to my journal" because I honestly don't remember!  God has completely transformed me and I am no longer "living there," praise the Lord! THIS is why I journal; because God showed me in 1994 that I would be a writer. He put in me a desire to journal, knowing I would I have to have those "notes" from the past to encourage others. 

I had no idea in 1994 how or where I would write. Sometimes we can't see very far ahead. We just have to trust that He knows what He is talking about.

For years I hid God's Word away in my heart by posting little notes all over my apartment: on the bathroom mirror, above the kitchen sink, on the wall by my bed. I would see those scriptures daily and say them out loud when times got tough. Doing this is how I got through to where I am now: delivered from a host of things including depression and I'm NOT going back there!

The Word that I spoke in those dark times has brought me so much farther than I could have imagined! The tears I cried did their work in softening my heart to enable me to take in more of His Word. I turned to the only place I knew to go when my heart was broken, or when I was afraid, or when I was alone; the Bible. 

God used the dark night of the soul back then to cause me to get into His Word more, because He knew it is LIFE. He knew it would be the source of getting me to the next level.

He also knew I would need to be encouraged TODAY and would be able to read what He has done in my life and how far I've come. 

He knew I would STAND on His Word and be FREE! 

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Really Matters

As I have mentioned on here before, I've been de-cluttering and minimizing the stuff I have been holding on to. One time it may be sorting through a box of pictures; another time it might be as simple as cleaning out my sock drawer. This past Saturday, though, the organizing project was one I had been putting off because I dreaded it, but I really felt like it was the day for it.

These were boxes of memorabilia from my life before the divorce, going all the way back to childhood; boxes I had tried to go through unsuccessfully about 5 years ago. I was in a precarious place emotionally back then, due to emotional baggage that I had never dealt with. I just wasn't healed enough yet. Some of my parents' stuff was in those boxes, and even though my mother had been gone 15 years and my dad almost 30 years at that time, I wasn't prepared to face it. I hastily packed it all back up and stashed in the back of the closet, far out of sight and hopefully, out of mind.

By doing this I pushed the pain down into a corner of my heart, so to speak. It was out of sight and mind, but it was affecting me much more than I realized. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned from experience that raw emotions and hurts that are not brought to the Lord will eventually infect every part of the soul. Depression fueled by rejection, shame, and feelings of worthlessness was just beneath the surface all the time.

Thankfully, later  that year God miraculously set me free from that darkness and pain in my heart and I am forever changed. Still, I was a little hesitant to open those boxes, much less throw away or donate some of it. I knew it was time, though.

So I opened the closet and pulled those boxes out. There were the childhood memories, such as my Girl Scout sash and pins, various pictures and clippings from my childhood; and even some 45 records. There were mementos that represented my parents' lives. The items so painful to see that I had pushed them out of my sight for 5 years. Pathetic, I know, but this is what the enemy specializes in. Remember, he comes to "steal, kill, and destroy." He tried to destroy me but he was not successful, praise the Lord!

I'm not sure what I expected to feel upon seeing my mom and dad's treasured items again. One would probably expect to cry, or feel extreme sadness, but something very different happened. I felt joy. I felt relief. There was a release from the past and the hold it had over me. I was surprised but happy to finally be able to face the past; to hold in my hands mementos like a tiny American flag pin that my mother liked to wear on patriotic holidays. 

Looking through the boxes I found it difficult to believe that I had actually been afraid of this. It seemed silly to me that I would find it painful to see and hold these things again. I have now realized all these years later that I didn't lose my parents. I know where they are, and I know I will see them again one day. It was hard to accept back then, though, and I obsessed for way too long over the fact that I was the only survivor of my immediate family I grew up in. 

The rationale of the preceding paragraph is from the perspective of a delivered, free believer. Jesus has broken the chains I once dragged around. The reason I can see it so clearly now is because of the redeeming work that Christ has done in my heart. 

There is no way I could have ever untangled the mess that my life was in. One of the pictures I have attached is of several pieces of jewelry that were hopelessly knotted together. I tried for over half an hour to salvage the wooden cross necklace, the one piece in all that mess I really wanted to keep. Then it hit me that this was a perfect analogy of the cross. Only Jesus can set us free. When it's all said and done, only the cross of Christ matters. Because of the cross I am free!

I found it so ironic that same items that the Lord had given me the grace to box up in 1996 all by myself I was now going through again all by myself. It had caused me so much grief and pain for so many years. Just like He always does, though, He gave me the grace and ability to go through those boxes and throw away or put in the box to donate what I didn't need anymore. As a bonus (or maybe it was the whole reason all along?) I got a lesson in what really matters.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT