the wall

I use a certain phrase a lot. It typically indicates that I have reached the end of my ability to gracefully keep up with life. Sometimes it means that my sleep deficit has caught up with me.

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Can you relate to this illustration? Have you ever hit the wall?

Sometimes this happens to me in my spiritual or emotional life, when I feel as though I can’t seem to get past, or grow past, my current state. It means that I am in need of a breakthrough… I’ve exhausted myself trying to scale the wall and I need the hand of God to give me a boost or just knock the wall down.

I have been at the base of a wall for some time now.

I see the wounds and fears that are keeping me from the breakthrough. I see what’s on the other side. I’ve tried fixing myself and I’ve tried pretending that I’ve scaled the wall, but frankly, that doesn’t work.

So here I sit.

This week, God revealed something to me about Jesus, something that I believe is key in getting over the wall. Isaiah 53 is where the revelation came from. I’m sure you’ve read this text before:

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
Isaiah 53:3-7

I’ve always believed that Jesus and I have a lot of common ground: Rejection. Unjust punishment. Abuse. Betrayal. Scars. These are the things we share.

Knowing that Jesus can identify with my pain has brought me immense comfort. I have gone to Him countless times to pour out my heart and His empathy has been a salve for my wounds. Identifying with some of His suffering has allowed me to let go of the majority of my anger and bitterness. Jesus and I — we’ve met on the plane of suffering and that’s where I learned to love Him.

But there is more to this passage in Isaiah. As I looked at the words again, probably a hundredth time, something new became apparent to me:

Though Jesus suffered greatly at the hands of those whom He loved,

He did not choose self-protection.

He did not choose self-protection before, during, nor after His rejection. In fact, after His death and resurrection, He went right back to loving, to being vulnerable, to putting Himself out there for others. He did not put up defenses around His heart. He did not hold people at arms length. He did not fear what would happen if He trusted others.

That is where Jesus and I vary greatly. In the aftermath of abuse and suffering, I have chosen self-protection. I have been guarding my heart since I was very young. When self-protecting behavior is so necessary at such a developmental age, it is hard to undo. Truly, If I could change myself, I would have already done it. I’m a pretty determined and resourceful person. I’ve made it through life to this point, but now I’ve hit the wall. I know that I can’t go further in my marriage or in other valuable relationships unless something shifts.

While reading that Isaiah passage, I felt a movement inside my heart. Something shifted, all right. I can’t exactly put it into words, but the tears are flowing and healing is seeping in. If Jesus can overcome betrayal and abuse, if He can love and trust again, then surely He can help me to do the same. If He can live without self-protection, then so can I. He can teach me. His Spirit can guide me step by step.

You might be wondering why is this so profound to me. This insight about Jesus showed me the lie that I have been believing. I honestly thought that I was unfixable in this area. Numerous attempts to change my ways have failed. Lots of prayers seemed answered with little to no progress. Yet the roadblock was not my wounds as much as it was my perspective.

I thought I was beyond hope.

That, my friends, is the wall I couldn’t scale. Now that I see in black and white that Jesus overcame the struggle that I face, I do have hope. I still don’t have the power to change myself, but I can yield to His Spirit and believe that He will change me.

Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

As I contemplate the glory of His unprecedented response to rejection, abuse, and suffering, I rejoice knowing that I am being gloriously transformed into His image: in my heart, in my relationships, in my everything.

More of You, Lord. I need more of You. Teach me more of Your loving ways. Show me what to do, what to say, what to believe. Make me more like Jesus!

photo credit: emtheartist.wordpress.com

urgency

Isn’t it true that all hell breaks loose on Sunday morning when you’re trying to get the family to church on time? None of us wants to bicker with the spouse or threaten the children through clenched teeth…but it happens. The enemy wants to be sure that we are completely wound up and distracted when we get to church.

It happened to us this past Sunday. One of the worst yet!  There were some heated exchanges in the car and lots of tears.

Later in the day, after the cold silence wore off, I really wanted to talk about what happened. My hubby wasn’t ready. The Lord prompted me to be quiet and wait for a better time to talk. It was really hard! The old me would have pressed and trampled on my husband’s heart…but I gave him time and space to think things through.

Meanwhile, however, I kept stewing on things. I became so self-righteous while creating my long list of wrongs against me. While falling asleep that night, and when I woke Monday morning, it was all I could think about. Rehearsing what I would say and do consumed me.

In the midst of my stewing, the Lord spoke to my heart and showed me something new. When I get upset about something, the enemy often works to convince me that it is SO urgent that I must talk about it and work it out immediately. God reminded me that I have a lifetime to work out some of the recurring issues in my marriage. Very few things are so urgent that I must press my husband to talk when he is not ready.  Knowing that the feelings of urgency were coming from the enemy allowed me to stop and put my concerns in God’s hands. I finally had the willingness to trust Him and wait for the right time.

Later on Monday, I received an email from my husband with his thoughts on what happened on the way to church… and an apology. The very first thing he wrote was about how grateful he was that I gave him space! That was the hardest part, but clearly the most valuable. In the end, I received the communication from him that I wanted. Not by pressing him, but by backing off.

This lesson about false urgency is so valuable to me. When I am overcome with emotions and concerns about something, I really need to go to God and lay it all out before Him. If it truly is urgent, then He will confirm that for me. Otherwise, I will wait on Him and proceed with loving caution.

umbrellas and rainbows

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary.  This photo symbolizes our married life together more than any other, so I thought I’d share it!

It was raining the day we were married, and boy has it rained a lot in our married life!! We’ve weathered many storms together, as I’m sure you have too. We were fortunate to see a rainbow or two on the way to the reception that day, and God’s promise was evident… He wouldn’t give us more than we could handle. He would always be there to see us through the difficult times.

This picture is so meaningful to me for three reasons. One is because the umbrella serves as a symbol of God’s covering over us. We have been safe in His care in the midst of the wildest storms… unemployment, illness, miscarriage, looming foreclosure, loss of a ministry, friendship betrayal… the list goes on. He has covered us.

The second reason that I love this photo is because you can see our reflection in the water on the ground! Isn’t it interesting that we really see ourselves, for who we really are, when the storms come. I think that over the last 15 years, my husband and I have been transformed so much. Not just as a couple, but as individuals. Our reflections have changed through the years and we are looking more and more like the people that God wants us to be.

The third reason that I adore the photo is because we are together under there, and Manny is holding the umbrella. He has been there for me all these years… not always the way I wanted him to be, but he was there. He never gave up on me when I was hormonal, angry, overwhelmed, selfish, disinterested, dissatisfied, ungrateful, lost, or confused. He’s listened to a lot of *@#&*$# along the way, and took it in stride. He put his own needs on the back burner so many times because I needed something. He has loved me like he is supposed to; he has loved me like Christ loves the church. Now, he hasn’t executed it perfectly (yet)… but his intent was always to love me even if it came out “wrong” in my book.

It’s hard to believe that 15 years have gone by already. According to society’s standards, we are beating the odds… we are still married!  We’ve had some amazing times together. It’s never easy, rarely magical, not always peaceful, and full of surprises, but we are still married. When the storms came, we just huddled under the umbrella and tried not to shove each other out into the rain.

We’ll see what God has planned for the next 15 years! By then, we could be grandparents. (gulp!!) Whatever happens, we’ll still be cooped up under our umbrella looking for the rainbows!