In my last blog I wrote about trust. I said I would tell you my answer to God's question to me. The question of whether or not I was willing to trust him no matter what may happen? Like Job, my answer was an emotional 'although you slay me, yet I will trust in you'. So, yeah, my answer was yes.
I went to bed that night thinking, oh Lord, please don't slay me! I think I should have included my car. Because I woke up to a smashed window and my purse stolen. Stranded 400 miles from home with a 1/4 tank of gas, no money and no idea how I was going to get home. Panic and fear hit me for about 5 minutes as I tried to grasp the magnitude of what just happened. Then I remembered my commitment to God less than 12 hours earlier...
It was now a day to put my resolve to the test, and much (and I mean MUCH!) to my surprise, it felt incredibly peaceful to not go down the spiral of resentment, anger and bitterness. I had to consciously choose to take the path of Surrendering my right for justice, blame and resentment. I had to choose immediately to hand over, my hurt, panic and the feeling of being violated over to the one I chose to Trust. I kept repeating, 'I know nothing escaped your eye and for whatever reason you chose to allow this. I don't understand and I am a little afraid right now, but Yet, I will trust you'.
Who in real life has this kind of response after such a violation? Surely someone else occupied my body, mind and spirit in this situation.
Oh wait... yes indeed that has to be what took place when I made the choice to Trust...Because, it certainly wasn't the ME I knew before I took this trip!
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
and gave himself for me." - Galatian 2:20
Surrender: abandon oneself entirely; cease resistance. That is exactly what it felt like. Something of a cross between feeling helpless yet strong, vulnerable yet protected. It was an odd sensation and feeling. The only time I have ever felt something similar to this was when I gave up defending myself to those who overpowered me. That ended in me withdrawing. This however, ended in me feeling strengthened and empowered. It was like falling into the water - weightless, un-abandoned and free.
"If you want a change in your life, if you want forgiveness and peace and joy that you’ve never known before, God demands total surrender. He becomes the Lord and the ruler of your life." - Billy Graham
On this trip I had been reading the book, "Unoffendable" by Brant Hansen. I did not think a book with this title would teach me about trust and surrender but it did. It redirected me to the humble truth: If I had accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, then I needed to live both of those aspects out. It seems I was real good on the Savior part, with the eternal life aspect and knowing I was saved by grace, of which I am so very grateful for His sacrifice. But, the Lord part? Not so good. I really wanted to maintain the rights to my life and sprinkle it with good deeds and the many flavors of the cultural Christianity du jour, as is taught in so many churches in our nation. But for Jesus to be Lord, that requires utter and complete surrender. Complete letting go and handing over everything of myself to his leadership, no matter what!
That is a pretty large pill to swallow! I don't know about you, but control is not something I eagerly wanted to hand over. It is not simply a selective (when times are tough) "Jesus take the wheel" kind of thing. It's a Jesus take the whole darn car kind of thing!
For Jesus to be Lord, we must give up our right to justice, to vengeance, to directing and guiding our own lives. To taking a stand and devouring someone else in the name of Christianity - (Jesus never asked us to defend Him or His kingdom - but rather to always be ready to give an answer for our hope).
Surrender is being willing to give up the pursuit of wealth, status, entitlement and the distorted belief that we are all deserving of some magnificent 'American Dream' of prosperity and all things warm and fuzzy. Now...with that said, that doesn't mean God won't bless us with wealth, prosperity or all things warm and fuzzy. It means we surrender seeking after those things, for His sake.
Surrender is denying ourselves.
"Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life[a]will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" - Matthew 16:24-26
I knew it was what I wanted and needed to do. But I was scared. It felt at first like jumping into a body of water in the dark with no way of knowing how deep it would be or what I would encounter. It was pretty scary to take the leap. But as it turned out, it was more like floating weightlessness. That must be what Jesus meant when He said to 'come to him, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and He will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). It's hard work running our own lives (and trying to run others too!)
Surrender is about giving up ourselves so we can be filled up with Him. When that happens, we are no longer burdened by the cares of all that is going on around us. All the strife, the politics, the human injustices, the violence and offenses. God has got it. Grasping that, and loosening my grip so I could fall back into His arms - the second best decision I made this week. It is the most peaceful experience I have every felt. It is pure joy.
I was reading in Genesis and this verse stood out to me like a billboard -
"...Noah did according to all that God commanded him, so he did." Genesis 6:22
Why did this verse stand out? It wasn't so much about Noah's obedience but more about the fact the God gave him instructions and THEN he did them all.
Noah found favor in Gods sight. God chose him to build this huge boat, with specifications to the minute detail. Not just the length, height and width, but how many floors, where the door and windows were to be located, what type of wood to use and how to assemble it and cover it in so it wouldn't leak or sink. More details came with what and how to furnish the inside. Things like how much food to gather, what animals and how many and for what purpose. The most critical of all the details however was who was to go into the boat, when they were to go in and when they were to come out.
Details. And Noah did ALL that God told him.
It started with a conversation between God and Noah. God told him that all flesh was coming to an end on the earth. Then God gave the first instruction - Go make an ark of gopher wood and cover it with pitch.
Now... how many of us could build a boat from that? We might immediately respond with "sure God, but...how big do you want it? Where do I find the wood? How do I cut and transport the trees, collect the pitch...and oh by the way... why a boat? I'm in the middle of the desert and there is no real water source around here? How will I move the boat once it is finished?
Or, we might respond with "got it God!" Thanks for the vision, for sharing this huge thing with me and thanks for all the resources, knowledge and skills you have given me to carry it out. I wont disappoint you! Followed by making the plans, getting the workforce assembled, marketing it to let everyone know that God wanted a boat built and qualified and called individuals were needed to help design and assemble it.
Noah didn't do anything until God gave him the first set of instructions.
We don't know how long Noah waited to hear God say each set of detailed next step instructions or explanations but it appears there was a delay. God started first with the blueprints for the boat. 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. (In modern terms that is about 515 ft long, by 86 ft wide by 51 ft high.- depending on which unit and definition of measurement you use to equal a cubit) That is pretty specific. He told him he wanted three floors, a window on top and a door on the side and to cover it with skins and paint it with pitch.
It was to house every non mankind creature that takes breath through nostrils in pairs - Male and Female, and specific types, gender and quantity of animals to be used for a specific task later on. Consequently the instructions continued to include all the varying types of foods they were to provide for them on the boat, and the accommodations.
If you have been to the zoo, you can get a small picture of what the inside of the boat must have needed to look like to house every flying, crawling and walking creature - plus a big family.
That's A LOT of details!
Then God told him the why "Behold, I myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth"..Genesis 6:17
Noah might have thought, um God, it will take a whole lot of rain to cover and float a 50+ ft. high boat.
But God had all the details. Not only rain from the sky, but water was going to come up from the earth. "The fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened"..Genesis 7:11. After 40 days and nights of torrential downpour and ground flooding, the boat lifted.
The waters continued to fill the earth covering the highest peaks in excess of 26 feet above the tallest mountain until nothing was seen but water. Mount Everest is over 29,000 feet high!
The waters stayed on the earth for 151 days... About 5 months before they slowly began to recede...After a year, the waters dried up, but still, Noah did not step out of the boat until God told him to.
This would probably be the most difficult waiting moment for anyone. For over a year, sitting in a stinky boat, knowing you are sitting on top of a mountain, the ground is dry, you can see all around (Noah took the top off to confirm, yeah, the ground was drying up) but until you got your go ahead, you had to sit and wait...and wait...and wait some more.
I don't know about you, but I am a planner. God speaks a thought and I think cool! I can do this and make it happen! And when it fails, falls flat or seems like it is missing something, I come knocking, asking what I did wrong. One humbling thing I have learned..over and over... is GO may not mean now or in ways I think GO means.
God is the God of details. He will not give us a big task and tell us to GO do it, without HIM giving us the finite detailed blueprint for how to carry it out. The hardest lesson of all is to wait for Him to give the details - no matter how long we have to wait and even if the details come in small bits at a time. We need to wait.
So what might that look like for us to wait? Enter the Big vision - build a boat, write a book, feed the hungry, be a mouthpiece, start a church, lead a group, start a business.. Nice! Now what? Wait... don't plan, don't create, don't dwell. Just sit with God and wait and listen. God will give us the step by step of the what, how and when.
Noah listened. Waited. Then acted. Doing everything that God had asked him to, when he asked him to and how he asked him to.
2018 is a new year and a time that I have decided to wait for each step of instruction. At first I was scared..what if I don't hear God? What if I miss a detail and fail? Am I being irresponsible by not doing something?
God will make sure I wont miss - I need only listen and wait. So far, so good.
I don't know about you, but I have jumped when I needed to be still and was still when I needed to jump far too many times than I am comfortable admitting. I have tried to figure out meanings of things and how to carry out a vision only to find myself back on my knees. Many times my efforts have appeared to be a great success and sometimes a complete failure. Regardless of the results, when God was not in the details, it fell flat and fell short or complete satisfaction and fulfillment.
We live in a culture where wait is a bad four letter word. But, we are missing amazing blessings, joys and growth when we don't wait...Not to mention the loss others will experience when we don't do what God calls us to do in the WAY he needs us to do it and the moment it needs to be done. There are amazing things awaiting us and all those we encounter beyond our impatience.
Will you join me in 2018 to walk the journey to trust God in the details?
This morning I heard a message at church about pride in a way that I had never heard before. I have heard many messages, given a few myself even, but nothing like this. It left me in a good space - Humbled and grateful.
I had been praying intentionally for the past several weeks (after years of passively wondering) for God to show me how to live out His purpose in me. To fully and actively arise. Arise was the word God gave me for 2017 - to leave behind the old ways of thinking and doing and live in a newness he was revealing to me. I found however that in the midst of this years ‘arising’, there has been a powerful struggle.
For years I was considered successful in the worlds eyes. But a hidden mess inside. After a long season of allowing God to clean up that mess inside, I found I didn’t know how to be ‘successful’ without bringing out the very mindsets I left behind. Ones full of trying to prove myself to a world that was always changing the rules. There had to be a middle ground, but I couldn’t find it. Until today.
It is hard to say but I honestly didn’t know how to live confidently without appearing or feeling proud. I feared pride so much that I fled to the other end… shrinking back. But that felt like being a caged eagle - pacing and agitated - desperate to get out and be free to soar.
To arise and live as God had purposed me to be, in a world with so much self promotion, I couldn't sort out how to do that. How to be in the world but not operate as it does. As a Christ follower, I have not been able to figure out how to promote a business, handle self esteem setbacks and feelings of comparison with others without resurrecting the very mindsets I had left behind.
I had only learned in life, two ways of operating - bigger, better, stronger (to survive and be seen) or shrink back (in defeat). I knew there had to be another way because neither of the ways brought peace on any level - professional, personal and spiritual. But I could not see the way - so I have been somewhat frozen. Afraid to step out and afraid to sit still. Trapped.
In the corporate world, it seemed that bigger, better and stronger (or what I have shortened to be known as BBS) is the path to success. Self promoting exudes confidence and success. Stepping on others (intentionally or indirectly) and strategically plotting how to shine at all costs is celebrated as an assertive, goal and success oriented person. I hated that world. I hated that mindset. So, I tried what I thought was the only alternative. Quietly plodding along doing my best... while feeling I was rotting away in the land of the unseen and seemingly insignificant. I thought humility was waiting to be noticed, to be called up.. to be raised up. But that too was not the way and left me frustrated. Back and forth I floundered between bigger better and stronger and shrinking back. BBS had greater success than shrinking but both left me feeling dissatisfied and without peace inside. Not to mention not always positively received.
I was once celebrated as independent, confident, a quick start, a go getter, tenacious and determined. That encouraged the BBS to keep plodding along. But that small voice inside of me said something wasn’t right. As God removed the prideful self in me, I found that the life of being a BBS bull in a china shop was not for me. The alternative option I thought was all that was left. But that too was empty and depressing. I felt defeated and more like a wilted flower watching life and my passions pass me by. I have been frozen in fear of becoming proud and fearing disappearing into complacent nothingness. There had to be another way. But I couldn’t find it. I have been stuck here for three years.
My prayer turned desperate and intentional...
The awesome surprise came this morning. Now, I know that I am not the only one who prays for something and when the answer comes, discover there is so much more in the answer than we expect - and not always comfortable. I had trusted God would answer me. I just had not really asked Him the way I have these past few weeks. To be exact, my prayer was "God, I am tired of being stuck. Please show me how to walk in confidence in the purpose you have prepared and called me to without becoming a prideful twit or staying a scared little girl”.
"There’s no place I can go that Your love won’t find me.
No place I can hide, that You don’t see". - Bethel Music
I didn’t expect the answer to be so simple. It was humility.
I thought my shrinking back was humility. But what he revealed to me was in my shrinking back there was layers of hidden pride. That was exposed this morning during service. A dangerously masked pride fueled not by confidence and a healthy self-esteem, but a storehouse racked with hurt, negative feelings, self and other centered critical-ness. Ouch.
Humility. The middle ground between bigger, better and stronger and shrinking back. Pride doesn’t stand a chance with a humble heart.
All around us the world says step out, speak up, be seen. Christ followers hear distorted messages of be quiet, show 'humility' (that is false) and wait to be seen. Both are full of pride and neither show true humility.
C.S. Lewis said that "Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less”. Touting our accomplishments or sitting stewing impatient silence - both keep our focus on ourselves.
The pathway out is taking our eyes off ourselves and fixing them on God. Loving and accepting ourselves as God does - gives us the greatest sense of self-esteem. Being grateful for our strengths “and" weaknesses, balances us, keeping pride, comparisons and critical spirited-ness at bay. It is in this moment we truly Arise in the fullness of who we are and become fully dependent on God. Don't know how, when or where to share about your business or gifting - ask. What does God say?
When we take our eyes off ourselves, we can see the path we are to walk on clearly. The fog of pride is removed. Clarity revealed. Success unlike we have ever experienced is put into motion.
"Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will raise you up” - James 4:10
I didn’t expect the answer to be pride. I expected another answer. Something like a business plan. I was desperate for an answer and God showed up. The answer wasn't to 'get out there' or 'sit back'. It was to get my eyes off myself.
There is nothing wrong in advertising, promoting or soliciting a business. There is nothing wrong with offering your gifts and talents to benefit others. What is wrong is what is hidden behind it all.
Where are you at today? Do you compare yourself with others or other businesses? Do you hold yourself back waiting for someone to notice you, feeling resentment when others get noticed and you don’t? Do you manipulate, force or make a way for you to be seen, chosen and raised up to a special place? Do you find ways to let others know just how special you are while feigning false humility? The higher we try to climb to be noticed, esteemed and valued, the greater the distance we fall. Ask God today where hidden pride might be in you?
"Pride comes before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction" - Proverbs 16:18
Today's closing scripture at church seemed fitting to this blog as well. It truly captures how we can be successful in this world while not operating in the philosophies that it practices.
"the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.” - Micah 6:8
Don't forget to pick up a copy of my book, "Confessions of a Feel Good Addict"
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