The other night I woke up with three very clear thoughts in my head. I got out of bed, made that precious first cup of coffee and jotted them down. I left it at that. This morning, I returned to those same thoughts and I want to share them with you because these 3 things have changed my life in ways that are incalculable.
Warning: There is truth in here and there is personal stuff in here…hence the title Raw. Oh and this is a tad long…
In 2004, my husband and I experienced the failure of a business and the subsequent humbling and frightening pain of bankruptcy. At this broken point, God “got me” and began to introduce me to three of His very powerful concepts. Concepts that as humans and especially as Americans are very difficult to grasp.
#1 God’s love for me. Period. Amen. End of story. No matter my past mistakes. No matter my past successes. No matter my future mistakes. No matter my future successes. His love for you and for me is perfect and unconditional. As the business unraveled, John 15:5 was opened up to my heart and mind. It says, ” I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you you will bear much fruit. APART FROM ME, you can do NOTHING. (emphasis mine.) The revelation I had was that ALL of my past success was the blessing of God and not of my own doing or talent and that the failure of this business was inevitable no matter my attempts. Why? Because it was not God’s will for our life. Sure, we made some business mistakes and we made some successful bold business moves. But, no matter what God was not behind it. So, I learned that my success was irrelevant to God. He loved me whether I was doing great or failing miserably. Continuing with this same verse..here comes #2.
#2 God’s authority and God’s ways – Why on earth did God not want that business to succeed? I do not have the answer – I didn’t ask and honestly never did. He said He didn’t and that was enough for me. But, WOW…talk about truly seeing that God is the authority and the Power and well I can either line up with it or fight it, that was eye opening. See, I believed that hard work truly was the “secret”. Of course we shut down this business very quickly upon receiving that insight from God. But, the mode I went into was, ok since God is all powerful and He’s obviously got final authority, then I shouldn’t really do anything without knowing that it’s what HE wants. So, how on earth do I even start to figure that out? Right? How do you know? I mean really know. So, I started reading my bible and studying in devotions every day. Every day. And every day I prayed to understand His will. And every day I listened. I listened HARD. Mistakes are painful and costly and I’m not prone to learn my lessons twice. I want to learn the first time. As I read and prayed, it dawned on me that God was telling me what to do! I could hear and I could hear by reading with my eyes. Read His word and do what it says. And as I read, I realized that in doing what He said, in human terms this was often illogical and often made absolutely NO sense to me. The key came with Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Whoa. I’ve spent most of my entire life trusting on my own understanding. I’m smart. Not always right and certainly not always wise but still, I’m ok for the most part. But I could see where on many levels the choices I made based on my understanding didn’t always have a good outcome! Here is where the word surrender comes into play. I had trouble with that word. A lot of trouble. I’m tough. I’m a fighter. Surrender sounds weak. But, surrender is one of the strongest, most powerful things I can do when it is surrendering to the Supreme God who made me, created me, loves me and is the authority over everything. So, I decided, that my understanding, my logic, quite frankly didn’t matter. I no longer had to “understand”. I would just do and perhaps understanding would come.
Probably the easiest way to demonstrate the result of this surrender to God’s authority is telling you about how God provided during this time. The Bible says to tithe 10% to the church. In my mind, I said this, “Lord, we don’t even know if we can pay our mortgage, put gas in the cars, etc. How on earth can I give 10% of the little I do have to you?” Robert and I agreed we didn’t understand, but that we would do it. Sometimes the check went in the offering plate and our hands were simply shaking because, afterall wasn’t this foolish? But, as the tithe went in and the unsureness of day to day and week to week finances continued, we found that we ALWAYS had our needs met and then some. We were truly living on the edge. Some mornings, I would pray, should I go to the store today? or should I get my haircut? And at some point, the funds always came through. See Robert and I are self-employed. No regular paycheck on the 15th and 30th. But week after week and month after month and now year after year, He has provided. It is now so simple to see that God provides everything and His deal is you keep 90% and He’ll take back 10%. Holy cow, that’s a bit more than fair. I didn’t understand this at first but I obeyed until I did. That’s God’s authority and how it always works for our benefit in our lives. I can tell you, even though my obedience is not the best and I haven’t been doing this an incredibly long time, when I deliberately choose God’s ways I always have peace even if I’m uncertain and can’t see and don’t understand. I think this is what’s meant by the “peace that passes all understanding.” Being under God’s authority makes life easy and less worrisome because if I’m obeying, then it ALL will work out for the best.
#3 God’s Healing. I had and have hurts. Wounds – some of them long standing. My father was never around, never cared, I’ve only seen him once. I spent most of my life trying to prove I was valuable, I was totally insecure. I propped up my value with my career, making money and honestly just accumulating the “stuff” that this world and the American way tells you to so that you are successful. I fell hook line and sinker into that. Also, because I was always striving and proving, my stress level was crazy high. Because when you don’t think you have value and things don’t look like they will be successful and you may fail or not do as well as others, then heck, you truly aren’t valuable! That’s stressful. When we closed the business, Robert and I discussed if I should go back to corporate work where I used to make a decent and comfortable salary. We decided that that wasn’t what God had planned. So, I continued on as a personal trainer. My annual income as a trainer was about 1/5 of what I could have made. So, gradually, over several years, God took away all my “props” – you know, those things you count on that tell you you are worthy, that you are valuable, that you should be loved. Imagine that I’m a table with four legs and gradually God took all four legs away from me. I’m now a table top only and depend on God to hold me up. It was painful and very scarey to let go of the props I’d so faithfully tended to and was convinced I needed. But, again, peace and freedom were the result. The healing from this was complete.
Often we try to heal ourselves by just covering up the wound, burying it or sometimes even by dragging it with us like a bag of rocks or pretending that it didn’t happen or wound us in the first place. That’s not true healing, that’s incomplete because it’s never truly gone. But, when God heals – it’s forever, it’s complete and very thorough. Since God had brought me through a few of these times of props or table leg removals, I was getting expereinced in the process. The process involved being honest and taking a good hard look at the pain – not easy let me tell you. But, when I looked, it didn’t scare me as much as I thought it might and then God’s love comes in with perfect surgery to remove it and heal it. I am valuable because God loves me. Period. I do not need props.
One morning a few years later, as I was reading and praying, God nudged me and said it was time to look at this whole issue of not having a father. Oh boy, really, do we have to go there? Now? Today? Really? So, I said, God I don’t want to but I will so, lead the way. In just a brief 30 minutes, He showed me the depth of my pain from not having a father, BUT He also opened my eyes to see that my step Dad, Don had indeed been a father to me. My heavenly Father had provided my step Dad and I had never really allowed Don’s love to enter my heart. Never allowed myself to receive it. Oh my, how had I missed this for yes..it’s true…30 years??? I was devastated at the time I lost in not receiving love. I was devastated in the hurt I must have caused my step Dad and I was in AWE at God’s beautiful way of revealing all of this to me. He opened my heart to experience the pain and the loss, then he healed my heart by opening my eyes and heart to the love that had been there and the love I could now embrace and cherish for hopefully another 30 years!! Now, that’s what I call perfect healing!! That one was quick. But some things aren’t so quick.
In the healing department there is a real long battle of confusion that has been going on. Because I was a striver and stressed out, I had to find ways to relieve the stress. Certainly one of those was exercise. The other was wine. A nice glass or two of wine and ahhh….the day could just melt away, even if for a little while. On the one hand I loved that relief. I’ve heard of people feeling about ice cream like I felt about wine! Emotional you know? Satisfying. But oh so temporary…very, very temporary. God showed me that He wanted to be the one to un-rattle me at the end of the day. That He wanted to be my comforter, my stress reliever. That He would comfort me with comfort that would last. I realized that this was probably wise, true and smart and I said, ok to His proposal. But, the not so funny thing is I kept forgetting to go to God..instead, I used the tried and the old. Rattled? Stressed? Take the edge off with a glass or two of wine. After the edge was gone, then I’d realize shoot…I made the wrong choice. It has taken a very long time for God and I to work through this. I think perhaps you can relate? Perhaps it’s food for you and not wine like me…perhaps it’s something else. But, it’s a coping mechanism and a behavior choice and these are accepting LESS than God’s best. So, like an onion, He and I unpeeled and unpeeled and I began to understand more and more of how He will relieve my stress so it is easier to remember to go to Him. But, I’ll tell you the guilt of this and the shame of this has been staggering. Why am I so weak? I’ve asked myself some very scarey questions.
But in the last 2 years, I’ve been more often at peace and going to God and not using wine to unrattle and destress..but still it’s been a weak point. Something I’m careful to keep tabs on lest I stray back. Then, I heard a message at New Spring two weeks ago. Our pastor talked about the difference between standard operating procedures and best practices. SOP’s are those things which we do, because we have for so long. Not because they necessarily work or make sense or have great results or are good for us or wise..but we do them anyway. Best practices are those things which we do because they ARE the things that make sense, have great results and are wise! Ah ha!! Guilt and shame be gone. Freedom comes forth! SOP’s are just bad habits. Wine to relieve the rattle and stress – bad habit! Such clarity. Such freedom.
See the healing took awhile on this and went through levels..but it came. I would write over and over and over in my journal – teach me, help me out of this. I hate this about myself. Then finally I started writing, Lord no matter how many times I go to wine instead of you I will NOT quit trying to go to you instead of wine. I will not quit. Within several months of making that commitment, the final key went into the lock and my big breakthrough came!! I have peace and confidence now. I persisted and God came through. I wanted to learn this lesson completely along time ago. I wanted to just not have to learn this lesson. But, when I set my mind to finish this particular race – truly committed to it. God came down with the gift that helps me choose Him over wine!! Wine goes with great food. But go to God for rest from rattle and stress!!
God’s love, God’s authority, God’s healing. There is so much more to God than these three facets; but the incredible power of these three facets has truly transformed my life. Yes, I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I do not go alone. I go in confidence with God.
I hope that in some way, my story will inspire you to embrace all of God. I think it can be easy to accept His love and not so easy to accept His authority and His Healing. Be brave. Trust Him, He will not let you down. God can do for you what He’s done for me and even more!
Where to start? It starts by accepting the gift of His son Jesus. See Jesus died for you, for your mistakes and sins. Jesus paid the price so that you could be in a relationship with the Almighty God. So that you could go to heaven and spend eternity with God. But that is just the beginning. That’s the love part and it is free! God wants all of you dedicated to Him and He also wants you to take ALL of HIM – not just His love, but His authority and His healing too and all His many other amazing facets. He’s a gentleman and will not demand. But He does want everything – for you to give all of yourself to Him and for you to accept all of Him into your life.
Got questions? Want some answers? I’ll be happy to help or point you to someone who can be of help!
Because He loves me. Because He loves you,