Awakening

black-and-brown-desk-globe-3994840When the world is shaken, your soul awakens.

For the last few months, the world has had a “closed” sign hanging on the front door. We’ve gone from traversing the globe to traversing only to the local grocery store. Forced togetherness means the relationships with the people under our roof are equal parts sanctifying and supportive. Relationships outside the home require even more intentional intentionality. The virtual reality of Zoom Bible studies and Facetime coffee dates with dear friends become necessities as we learn how to love and serve during an isolated season. A season of unknown and unexpected.

It’s a strange new world for sure. One that, at the time I’m writing, is beginning to cautiously find its way to something resembling (sort of) normal. These different days are not what we wanted, not what we anticipated. It feels as if someone hit the pause button. And here we are sitting somewhere between pause and play. In the waiting place. In a holding pattern. So many things put on hold or cancelled altogether. In our family alone, we’re waiting to formally celebrate a college graduation, the marriage of a dear cousin, and the arrival of a long-awaited niece.

close-up-photography-of-santa-claus-snow-globe-1684131In many ways, it feels like God picked up the earth like a snow globe and gave it a good shake. Here we are rumbling around in the fallout trying to adjust to a world that feels not quite right. It is the reality of life in a broken, fallen world. But what if it’s also a gift? A gift of grace from a loving Father who will not let us continue in conformity and comfort when He is a God of SO MUCH MORE.

For a follower of Christ, the trials we face are always purposeful, always for our good and His glory. When God shakes our world, if we let Him, He will mature us, grow us in ways we could not apart from a crisis. Difficulties allow God to open the eyes of our heart, to deepen our faith, to awaken our souls to how much we need Him and how much He loves us. During this still season, I’ve noticed four ways He is awakening my soul.

  • woman-holding-mirror-2460534I see myself more clearly. Just as Jesus turned the tables on the manipulative money changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-14) He will often turn the tables of our lives over to remind us of who we are and who He is. Life behind cloistered walls causes an introspection. The lack of an expressway of pressing activities is causing sin I kept under the covering of busy-ness to come floating to the surface. I’m no longer able to escape from myself into the shallow waters of the “stuff” of life. My idols are quickly rearing their ugly heads and I have to look in the mirror and face the truth. And when I face the reality of my sinfulness, well, let’s just say the hardest person to live with during quarantine isn’t my husband, or my kids. It’s me.
  • woman-holding-her-head-2128817I see the brokenness of the world more vividly. Fairly soon after the quarantine started, I began taking regular breaks from social media and news media. I didn’t want to ignore the state and struggles of the world, but I found the fear that seemed the grip the world was overwhelming. It was heartbreaking to see that fear turn to anger and violence. But as I took time to pay attention, I recognized the enemy’s tactics to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But I also know what the enemy meant to harm us, God can mean for God for the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20). I knew before, but now I know to my bones, how deeply and desperately the world needs to know Christ, and how great the love of Christ is for us. He died for this broken, selfish world. He came to rescue us from ourselves. What kind of God would leave heaven to come to this fractured place? A God who loves us beyond description and beyond my feeble understanding. I need to let others know. The love of God COMPELS believers to go and make disciples (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Without the world being shaken, the fierce reality of a broken world and our desperate need for Jesus, wouldn’t have invaded my mind and heart, and my heart may have continued to grow more complacent and even cold.
  • I see the small moments more gratefully. I don’t know that I understood God’s gifts of grace to the extent that I do after walking through this time of stillness. I’ve been overwhelmed by God’s goodness. Overcome by His love. I’m taking time to sit and enjoy the simple moments. A long overdue video call with a dear friend. An gardenia-2633393_1280unhurried morning sitting on my front porch on a beautiful, breezy, balmy day. The smell of gardenias wafting through the air, the sunlight streaming across the yard, the sound of my neighbors working in their garden or playing in their pool. The sounds of my boys singing, long walks with my daughter, restaurant pick up car dates with my hubby. No rushing to events. No schedules filled to the brim with obligations. Time to be bored. Time to just sit and pray and read and worship and just “be” with my Abba. Recognizing the miraculous and mundane moments are both a gift of His loving hand.
  • I keep my hands open more willingly. As the talk of quarantine began, my youngest daughter was in the middle of her freshmen year of college at a school four hours away. She was enjoying every moment of college life when she came home for Spring Break and never went back. After a few weeks and the initial shock wore off, she said one of the biggest lessons she is learning is Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” She is learning hands-1044882_1280at a young age to hold all things loosely before the Lord. When I hold things loosely, whether it’s plans, relationships, achievements, when my world gets shaken, those “things” will fall from my hands into the hands of the One who is holding me. And I can be fully confident that the One who is holding me is able to keep me from stumbling and present me blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy (Jude 24). That is a peace-filled place of surrender, and in that surrender my soul finds rest.

So when your world is shaken, let your soul be awakened to His goodness and His glory. Your heart will be stirred to His good purposes in a way they could not be if life went on as normal. That is grace. That is love. That is a rare and precious gift. That is an awakening.

What has the King been awakening in your soul during this shaking season?

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Psalm 57:7-8

 

To Be or Not to Be (Offended)?

Years ago our sweet pastor’s wife taught about taking offense. She remarked that when something was done to us or was said to or about us, we could choose not to be offended. For me that was revolutionary thinking. How about you?

pexels-photo-133021Is it a shocking idea that you have no right to take offense? You realize that you should forgive others, but do you quickly forgive and move on? Or do you enjoy the power of holding a grudge or being offended? What do you do with verses like Matthew 7:1-5 that talks about not judging and getting the speck out of your own eye first, or Romans 12:18 that tells us to live at peace with all men, or 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that is filled with characteristics for living a life of practical love? Do you equivocate? Pretend you’ve got it all together? Rationalize? In pride, we often focus on self and ignore God’s tuggings on our heart to truly forgive, to reconcile, to lay down our offenses at the foot of the cross.

We often think we are good at forgiveness. I’ve been there. In my early year, if you had apologized to me I would have been immediately gracious! I would hug you and genuinely forgive you. No grudges. Really! But if you didn’t apologize… whoa! Then I was offended!  I felt I had a right to be offended. Yet, I thought I was handling offenses appropriately.

What made a difference in my thinking, and what will change all of us? When we realize and accept that our offenses (sins) against Father God are so much greater than any of the petty things we hold onto that have been done to us, then God’s transforming work begins in us.

The parable in Matthew 18:23-35 where Jesus is giving a word picture of forgiveness to Peter and the disciples will clear up our focus as we allow the stark light of scripture to stream into the dark corners of our hearts that we keep comfortably hidden. calculator-solar-calculator-count-how-to-calculate-67599Jesus prefaced this parable with a command (a command, not a suggestion!) to forgive a person 70 x 7 times.  person. 70 x 7. A single brother. 70 x 7. Another Christian. 70 x 7 = 490 times! Then Jesus went on to tell the story, because stories pierce our hearts with truth.

God was piercing my heart. He was removing blemishes from my heart. He got my attention with that radical thought presented in our ladies Bible study group… I could choose NOT to be offended in any and every situation!

Once He had my attention it was like a seed being planted in my soul. The watering and fertilizing and sunshine started coming. Everywhere I turned I was confronted with verses and stories and examples of taking offense or not doing it. And that seed began to grow. I heard a stream of songs and sermons and wise proverbs on the subject. And it became a delicate little plant.

IMG_4148And this parable, of one who was forgiven of such a HUGE debt but was unwilling to forgive smaller offenses done to him, began to grow in my thoughts. And that plant started to thrive. I began to see the reality of my life and the HUGE amount of grace God had bestowed on me. I began to be humbled. I began to see reality, heavenly reality, through my blurred lens of self-righteousness and pride.

I realized no word spoken or deed done to me would ever come close to being as bad as my sin which nailed Jesus to the cross! My prideful, sinful heart which day after day after day after day chose my will over His and my ways over His, and my set of rules as to what was acceptable over His, had ruled my life. My self love had relegated My Creator and the God of the universe to the position of onlooker in my life, when in reality He rightly deserved the role of Chief Engineer, Conductor, President, Foreman, Principal, Boss,… the Sovereign Monarch of the domain of my life. Who was I that the Lord of the earth should take a back seat to me?

Over time that little seed turned into a way of life and a way of thinking for me. God’s love, His Word, and His grace worked in my heart as Isaiah 55:10-11 says “to accomplish what the Father desired and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.” You see when it comes to our Heavenly Father, His “Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible– terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.” (Hannah Hurnard – Hind’s Feet on High Places)

Since this transformation, other people may have benefitted from my less-easy-to-offend attitude. I’m kinder, softer. But I am the greatest beneficiary of the blessings that have come from learning to forgive immediately and not take offense. I now know what it is like to walk in freedom from taking offense, to lie down at night to sweet sleep, not agitation and anger; to take criticism without taking offense; to maintain long term relationships even through hurts and misunderstandings; to be insulted, ignored, or mistreated and not have it ruin my day; to walk through church on a Sunday morning with a mind full of kind thoughts and blessings and prayers for the dear brothers and sisters I meet instead of an offended spirit full of hurt, anger, and self-righteous judgment!

I still get tempted to take offense. I still have people say or do hurtful things to me, but each time I have an immediate choice to give up self and choose love. To forgive. The pexels-photo-112640transforming power of Christ and of the Word of God have changed me. When the God of love has planted that seed and grown a flowering, fruit-bearing plant in our hearts, personal offenses come into perspective and we can choose to walk in peace not prideful selfishness.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

God’s “…Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible– terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.”

Hannah Hurnard – Hind’s Feet on High Places