I wish we had been better at keeping our blog updated. I have many things written in my journal, and we have shared snippets of things we have learned between the blog and our monthly newsletters (available on our website), but unfortunately we have not tracked enough. Dave & I have experienced some things spiritually over the past year that have pretty much rocked our world. We have seen God in a way we never have, and we have truly been challenged in what it means to live the Christian life - the crucified life. frankly, it is quite scary. Scary because I know our eyes have been opened to see the truth of God's Word, and am afraid for so many that have never been shown the Word of God for what it really is. I am ashamed to say that for many years I thought I was OK spiritually because unfortunately I compared myself to those around me and thought I was just like every other Christian I know.
I am grateful that the Lord brought circumstances in my life that I truly could not handle in my own power and caused me to seek Him out of desperation for His power just to make it through with some kind of success, lest I look foolish for screwing it all up. I am afraid my motives were not always so pure and I did not even see it.
About 2 1/2 years ago, I wrote an e-mail that I placed in my journal because it had great significance of the realization of where I was at spiritually. I recognized for the first time in my life that I was not living the Spirit filled life that I read about in the Bible. The Bible says "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you", and I felt I was very far from that power. I did not believe it was anything mystical, nor did I feel that i would go around healing people or speaking in tongues like they did at Pentecost. I wasn't really looking for anything magical, but I knew I was missing something. In fact, something that concerned me was when I would talk to others about it, they would engage me funny and not seem to know what I meant. they would ask questions like why I didn't feel I WAS walking in the Spirit, yet when I asked them if they felt they were, the answer was typically, no. That kind of bothered me especially coming from people I looked up to spiritually, people that are leading in our church. I wasn't looking to judge ANYONE, yet when I looked at others, I felt they didn't really have what I was missing either. I wasn't even quite sure WHAT it was supposed to look like, but there was a great gnawing in my heart, and today it is evident that God was piercing me. He had so much to empty me of and to teach me, and I was so blind - so prideful. I will never say I am not blind. As I was learning of my spiritual blindness, the Lord began to open my eyes to see like I never saw before. I began to read scripture in a new way - a way that is so real and alive. As I read all the verses in the New Testament about blindness, i saw the correlation between the physical and the Spiritual. In John 9:35-41, I saw that I was much like the Pharisees. And unfortunately as I talk with others around me, people are not quick to admit that they are blind (spiritually). Here are the verses.
35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
36"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."
37Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."
38Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.
39Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
40Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?"
41Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
So many think they are on the right track as I did. I was so much like a Pharisee in many ways. As I began to really study the Word, it became a mirror to me - seeing myself in light of who God is, and what HIS standards are, as opposed to comparing myself with others, and their standards. Now I read the Word and see how Holiness is what God requires, and His Word says, "without holiness, no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14)- that is a sobering thought.
Over this past year, many challenges have been brought our way, and we came kicking and screaming through some of it - especially when it came to protecting my rights against being hurt and rejected. I am such a people pleaser and I want so much (too much) for others to be pleased with me. I do not handle rejection very well, and much of that has come my way over the past 15 months - more than I can handle at times. As I cried out to God many times, He challenged me on those rights and made it very clear to me that I did not have any. I remember one day sitting in our school room and crying in prayer about how hurt I was over a situation and God gently showed me how I was making it about me. I questioned Him and asked if I had the right to be upset over how I was treated. His answer was very gentle yet very firm - "No, you do NOT have any rights. the day you gave your life to me, you gave up those rights". I have to say that I did not repent right then and turn from my wicked ways. I battled for some time (and am still struggling with this reality). But God showed me something that day that was new to me - something I think that is new to many. And I say that because EVERY person I have shared that story with (and it has been many), have all had the same response, "Well, you do have the right to be upset". I know, it sounds good, but it is not the life that Jesus lived - not the crucified life where we are told that in order to be Christ's disciples we must "Deny ourselves daily, take up our cross and follow Him". (Luke 9:23). I wanted so much to hold onto these rights, but frankly the hurt came so often that i was tired of being hurt. I came to realize the attacks were not going to stop, and in fact it may get worse. the only thing to do was to deny myself, deny my rights, so I can have freedom FROM the hurt. taking up our cross daily means to crucify the flesh daily, and that includes crucifying our rights - especially seeing the example Jesus gave as He held onto to NONE of His rights and He is the ONLY one that deserves to keep them.
I heard a great quote once that my friend shared with me years ago, and today I see it as reality in my life. It goes something like this:
"To inoculate me from the praise of man, He baptized me in the criticism of man, until I was no longer under the control of man."
This quote means so much to me now, and I am beginning to feel that freedom. It still hurts, but I no longer try to protect those rights. I know they do not belong to me.
One thing God has revealed to both Dave and me - and my husband has taught me a lot in this area, is that everything, EVERYTHING that we do, every circumstance that comes our way is for the purpose of bringing glory to God. The attitude in which we have in our hearts toward God and toward others during the most trying of times truly tells of our character and relationship with Christ - a reflection of where we are on our path towards holiness. God has convicted me many times of the condition of my heart, even though outwardly I went through the right motions. He has shown me how my righteous acts are like filthy rags to Him, and ANYTHING I do in my OWN power cannot bring Him glory. Then how CAN I bring Him glory, as it seems I do so much in my own power? This is what we have been learning this past year - to surrender our hearts fully, wholly to Christ, so He (and only He can) change our heart, so the power of the Spirit can flow and do what only He can do. What my hearts feel is a good tester of how much of "me" is still in there.
This journey we continue to travel comes with much hardship, but we rejoice in the fact that the Bible assures us that every believer will face hardship. Because of the desire to bring glory to God, we are challenged to embrace these difficult times with fresh hearts and healed eyes. Of course we continue to submit to our flesh more times that we want to, but when we put our heads on the pillow at night - even through tears at times - we truly thank God for the circumstances that He continues to bring our way that are refining our hearts to shape them into the image of Christ.
We have more trials to face, ones we see and ones we don't see. The next challenge in our journey that we face is Dave stepping down from his current job, in order to start raising support full time. this is a HUGE (somewhat scary) step for us to take, as we will have to finish our support before a certain time, where as before we were not under that pressure.
This change will take place within the next couple of weeks, and we will take some time to visit with family and take the kids on a much needed short vacation before we head up to NY to raise support there. there is no telling of what that will look like, but we are trusting the Lord to continue to guide us every step of the way. He has provided a place for us to stay already and we are so grateful for that. it will be small and our family will become very intimate (or perhaps enemies) : ) The Lord's continued provision for us has been unbelievable. And I say unbelievable, because we have never trusted Him in this way before because we have typically made our own plans of how we do things. Trusting God in a radical way can bring much fear as you are no longer in control, and now we do things HIS way. I don't know why we ever doubted that He would provide this way, but it was perhaps because we weren't willing to have what HE wanted us to have as opposed to what WE wanted us to have.
Since the selling of our house and getting rid of so much stuff, we realized how much we have accumulated our own desires and then expected God to provide for them. Dave continues to tell people that we are "Happily Homeless." We laugh because in part that is true - we do feel very free, but on the other hand, we do look forward to settling into our own place and getting back into a normal routine. We will try to make the next couple of months a fun adventure for the boys and we trust that this time will be a great Spiritual marker for all of us, as we continue to be stretched along the way.
By His grace, and for His glory.....