Friday, March 20, 2015

Wasted from Grief: Lament Straight from Psalms

Life is hard. Anxiety, depression, physical illness, death, loss, relational unfaithfulness, broken relationships, heartbreak, murder, persecution, suicide, cancer, car accidents, debt, job loss, divorce, eating disorders, doubts, family tensions, school failures, regrets, hurtful words, insecurities, loneliness... If we are honest with ourselves, any one of us can admit to experiencing suffering from pains like these. What do we do with them? "Grin and bear it," "Look up," "Think positively," "Think of those who have it worse than you and you'll feel better." These are all things that I have heard spoken in some of my times of hurt and pain. None of these things have made me "feel better" during times of deep suffering. I decided to take a look at the Psalms and compile a prayer "lament" based on words straight from these Scriptures. I hope that these words are as encouraging to you as they have been to me. They are honest expressions of suffering taken right out of various chapters of Psalms (3, 31, 44, 57, 90, 139; if you want the specific references, feel free to ask me).

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

Awake, Lord! Why do You sleep?
    Rouse Yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do You hide Your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
    our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us;
    rescue us because of Your unfailing love.

Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on Your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let Your work be shown to Your servants,
    and Your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in You my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
     He will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness!

Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
    and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with You.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and He answered me from His holy hill. 

It's okay to express your pain. It's okay and good to admit your feelings of despair and depression, of deep hurt and suffering. We have a God who redeems suffering, who heals suffering, who desires to draw us close to Him within the suffering. There's hope in Him - real and eternal and unchanging hope. "I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill." Have you cried out to the Lord in your suffering?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Honest Confession

"Your weakness becomes a backdrop for the glory of Jesus Christ. Embrace your weakness as the ground of Christ's power and glory... This kind of weakness acknowledges our flesh and puts on humanity... Your weakness is the channel for God's strength. God chooses to use us in the place of our greatest dependency. Get rid of this perfectionism."

Dr. Laurie Norris mentioned it in chapel this morning. A counselor reassured me of it on Monday. Both Mrs. Kane and my resident supervisor challenged me with it on Tuesday. My boyfriend seems to console me with it every day.

The simple truth that I am human.

It may seem silly, but for most of my life I have had a hard time believing that I am human; or, at least, I have tried to be more than human because I believed that I had to be. Good? No, the best. Well done? No, perfectly done. My expectations of myself are often higher than those that others have of me. The standards I set for myself are often so high even God's grace can't meet me when I fail to meet them; or, at least, that's what I often live my life believing.

The truth is, there's something I've been hiding, covering up, concealing; or, at least, trying to. And that is the simple truth that I am human. I know I haven't actually been hiding this; I've just tried to, for almost all of my life. And that is why first of all, I need to confess... I am human. Second of all, I need to apologize... to each and every one of you who I have refused to be vulnerable with, who I have put walls up with, who I have acted composed and put together in front of when really, inside, I have always just been a big sinful mess. The truth is, I'm scared. I've always been scared that others will see my imperfections, my struggles, and my sins and see that I am human.

If there's something the Lord has been trying to pound into my head and drill into my heart this semester, it is the simple truth that I am human. It may seem silly, but for a perfectionist like me it is really one of the most profound and powerful truths He has taught me so far in this life. Apparently, I am a human who is capable of missing a class, missing a quiz, sleeping through a work shift, turning a paper in late, forgetting about a meeting, needing to postpone or cancel meetings, stuttering in class because I have nothing smart to say, saying hurtful things to those I love, being selfish and prideful, being fearful and anxious and down, crying, doubting, and committing the same sins over and over again.

Grace. I have never been more thankful for Grace than in this time of my life because His Grace has never been more real to me than now. Perhaps this is because I am only now realizing how much I desperately need it. The Grace of Jesus Christ, my Savior, who was wounded for me so that I could be made whole (Isaiah 53:5). The Grace of God my Father who continually forgives me (1 John 1:9), draws me near to Himself (James 4:8), and assures me that it is when I am weak that I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10) and that His Grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). And I am thankful for the Grace that God gives me through those in my life - the girls on my floor, my boyfriend, my friends, my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister, my bosses, and my professors. Thank you to all of you who have shown me grace when I least deserve it; you may never quite know or understand how much this has meant, and continues to mean, to me.

I do not share these things for attention or for my own glory. No, I share my weaknesses because I am finally finding the freedom to admit that I am human. Because I am finally finding the freedom to be human. Because God has given me this freedom. Because through my weaknesses God's glory can most clearly be seen. Because "sufficient enough" is His Grace for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because, hopefully, you can be encouraged as well and therefore, God be glorified.

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). I pray that I will reach this point. I pray that, with Paul, I will be able to allow myself to be so human that the Divine's power and glory can be clearly seen in me. When I pretend to be "perfect," I make it all about me and my own glory; when I allow myself to live in the freedom God has given me to be weak, to be frail and finite, I make it all about God and His glory and strength in me.

I am in no way justifying sin, because my sin is against my Father and is deserving of death (Romans 6:23). I am only confessing that I do sin and that I am simply human. To pretend that I am perfect when I am weak is to diminish the visibility of His Glory in my life. It is to replace the Glory that is rightfully His in order to bring glory to myself.

"When I am weak, then I am strong." Yes, Father. Make me weak so that Your strength and glory can be clearly seen in my life. Sufficient enough is Your Grace for me. Help me to live in this Truth.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beauty From These Ashes

"To love and be loved is both a blessing and a tragedy. It both heals and wounds, salves and scars. Though I know in my heart it is, sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. I'm really scared to love, really scared to be loved."

"Molly, Mamaw is not going to be in the house when we go in this time." I had played on the floor by my grandma's deathbed and sat by my dad at her side for a few weeks prior to this and still I did not believe that she was actually gone.

"Yeah she is, Dad," I laughed playfully, sure that he was joking with me. My little four-year-old heart could not quite grasp the fact that my grandma wouldn't be there. I walked inside and saw the empty bed where I expected to see her lying as usual, and then I knew. I knew that my dad was right. I left her house that day and did not hear her voice calling out to me, "Watch your step!" as she had always lovingly warned me when I left her house and bounded down the porch steps carelessly.

Only a few months after I attended my grandma's funeral, I attended my grandpa's. Two years later, my teacher called all of us together to tell us that our school bus driver, an older man I had attached myself to, had died. A year after that it was an elderly woman I loved named Violet. A few years after that it was my great-grandma.

One afternoon, I sat in a corner of my bedroom and sobbed over the pain and loss my little heart was experiencing. My mom came over to me and with tears gently told me, "Molly, please don't let this loss keep you from getting close to anyone else." At the time, though, my little heart was a lover, and it continued to attach itself to other people. It attached itself to an elderly couple, Roy and Mary, who became like my grandparents after the death of my biological grandparents. Roy is the one who gave me a mint that caused me to lose my first tooth, the one who had me convinced that he drank coffee for dinner every night, the one I visited almost every day just so I could sit by his side on his front porch. Mary is the one who I read books to, who I flipped through the pictures of my baby book with, who I sat beside while I did my homework; she was my "grandma," I was her "little angel."

Then one day when I was twelve our phone rang and my mom called me to her side. I immediately knew what had happened. "It's Roy... I'm so sorry, Molly." My mom cried and tried to console me at the same time, but my heart was broken. A month ago, my phone rang again and I tried to fight back tears in vain while I was on the phone with Mary's grandson. Again, my heart was wrenched. This time, I was 11 hours away and I didn't even get to say goodbye.

Why am I sharing these things? It is not because I want pity, because I don't. It is not because I want attention, because I really don't want that either. I write because I have to, because God has given me a story that He has not intended I keep to myself. I write because I know that every person has a story that is filled with its share of loss and pain.

"To love and be loved is both a blessing and a tragedy. It both heals and wounds, salves and scars. Though I know in my heart it is, sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. I'm really scared to love, really scared to be loved."

These are honest words that I prayed to my Father last night. The truth is, I love deeply and I am deeply loved and it terrifies me. At any moment my phone could ring again. At any moment my heart could be wrenched, wounded, and broken again.

So, why?! Why continue to love and continue to open up my heart just to invite in more pain that I really cannot bear?

Because this is what Christ has done for me (Isaiah 53:5). Because this is what my Heavenly Father has called me to do (John 13:34). Because the gift of loving someone far, far outweighs the pain of losing them. Because in the Family of God, I have all eternity to continue loving them (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

And this is why I trust that God is in the works of turning my mourning into joy, my despair into praise, my ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:2-3). I trust that He is also in the works of doing the same for you. It's okay to wrestle with the Lord, to ask Him the hard questions, to wonder why He has allowed pain. It is okay to be heartbroken and angry that He has not allowed you to say goodbye. It is okay to pray honest prayers, to let your Heavenly Father hear your heart, to crawl on your knees to the Throne when everyone around you is telling you to run to it but you know you don't have the strength to even stand. He just wants you. The same God who has allowed the heart-wrenching, breath-taking pain is the same God who comforts and heals us of that very pain.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

That's the beauty in these ashes, the hope in the midst of this pain. This life is not all there is. Praise God this pain is temporary, this "light momentary affliction... preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Father, thank You that even when I do not understand Your ways I can still trust You. Help me to trust You more, especially when my heart is deeply grieved. Thank You that this is not my home, that You are even now preparing a place for me where there will be no more death or crying or pain. Thank You that even when I cannot "thank You," that even when I am in a place of despair and hurt because You would allow me to hurt so much, that You still love me and want me and pursue me. Thank You for holding my heart in Your hands. Thank You that when I cannot stand, I can fall on You; that when I cannot understand, I can still rest in You. Oh, God, You are good. Thanks for loving me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

By His Wounds

"Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead."

I sit with her as she tells me about how she became homeless and now has nowhere to go. She sleeps in abandoned buildings every night, finding shelter wherever she can, and I know this woman is unsafe as she lays her head down to sleep each night. I wonder if I'll get to see her again, get to hear more of her story, get to be encouraged again by this woman's faith even in the midst of her loss.

Fast forward.

We're sitting in a circle; we call it "women's circle," but really it is a type of peace circle where each woman shares her perspective when the "talking piece" is handed to her. When the talking piece is handed to one of the women, she begins to cry, explaining that she has been homeless for the past five days and is at the lowest point of her life right now. Her faith pours forth from her speech as she says to us, "I will not let my circumstances define me." She has a resolved faith that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28).

Flash back to three days ago.

I sit with her... her and five other women. I am leading devotions, and suddenly she changes the subject. "How can you rape me and then expect me to be your girlfriend? No! I hate you, but I don't hate you because I don't have time to hate you because I am a happy person." Another woman tries to calm her down, stating the fact that 1 in 3 women are sexually abused. She goes around the room, "That's You are not alone. It was me too." Another woman begins to cry. My heart is heavy, burdened by the weight of the pain that these women hold. "I will never love again. The risk is too great," one of the women speaks. And my heart breaks in two because this world is broken and women like these are torn apart by the pain of it.

Fast forward to later the same day.

I am sitting at a table, somehow doing art therapy with three women. I don't do art, let alone art therapy, but I was asked to do a craft with the women so I decide to do something with purpose. I found some small frames in the supply closet, so I bring these to the women and tell them to draw a picture on each side of the cardboard that the frame holds. One side is to portray where the women feel they are at in their lives right now, the other side to portray where they want to be. One of the women colored the entire backside of her piece of cardboard black. I asked her what it meant, but didn't need to have much explained to me when I realized she had written, "A very unhappy place" above the black background. Another woman didn't draw anything, and when I asked her about this, she simply said, "It's nothing. My life is nothing right now."

Father, how do I hold the pain of these women? I cannot help them, cannot take away their pain, cannot even hold it for myself without breaking.


"Do you want to go with me to get a diet coke?" she asked me, and I immediately said yes. Anything for an adventure through this neighborhood, the sixth most dangerous in the city of Chicago. Okay, obviously this little white girl had some hesitation about walking through "the hood" with this woman, but I went. As we walked the few long blocks to the little corner store, through the group of large guys who jeered at us, side-stepping all of the trash strewn across the sidewalk and grass around us, she talked. She did not stop talking until we set foot into the store, and even then it was only to find her diet coke. She told me her story - how she became homeless and how she is where she is right now. I barely spoke a word. A few nods, a few "mhmm"s and "yeah?"s were all she needed as affirmation to continue telling her story. I was enthralled, captivated, and broken all at once.

Flash forward one more time.

I am currently sitting in my apartment, looking outside my window as the sun begins to set. It penetrates the clouds in a golden stream of light that I am sure is a piece of Heaven. I often wonder how I got here, how in the world this country girl from small-town Pennsylvania ended up in inner-city Chicago doing urban ministry to women in the sixth most dangerous, most violent neighborhood in the city. I can hardly believe that the girl who just three years ago was scared to walk a block down the street to go to the bank, is the same girl who just a couple weeks ago walked through the hood with a woman she had only just met two months before. I can hardly believe that this girl who wanted to leave the city the moment she stepped foot into it now, three years later, cannot imagine leaving it.

A piece of my heart has been planted here and I cannot just uproot it. I have seen, and I cannot turn away. I have seen the immeasurable brokenness and felt a small part of the immense pain that these women carry, and I cannot just tear myself away from it. To truly care for someone, to see them with the eyes of Jesus and to love them with the same love that He loves, is incredibly eye-opening but also incredibly painful. It hurts to care. It hurts to carry pain that was never meant to be yours, was never never meant to be theirs.

Flashback, this time to over 2,000 years ago.

"Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified Him..." (John 19:17-18).

"'He Himself bore our sins' in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; 'by His wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

"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" (Isaiah 53:5).

That is exactly what Jesus has done for each one of us. He loves us with a love that, because of our sin, often incredibly pains Him. He carries our immense pain, pain that was never meant to be His. He desires to take us upon Himself, and this means all of us; He wants all of our pain, all of our burdens, all of our brokenness. "By His wounds we are healed." We cannot heal ourselves, let alone another. We cannot even carry our own pain, let alone the pain that someone else carries... But we have a great high priest who empathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15), who has carried our pain and tells us again to cast all of our anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7).

Bring healing, Father. Pour Your healing touch on this city and claim these women as Your own. Draw them near to Your heart and use the loss and pain and tragedy of their lives to draw them even nearer to You. Show me how to love them with Your love... and hold me as You break my heart for what breaks Yours. May I never give up when it gets too hard, when the pain is too much to bear and caring for others means experiencing more brokenness and pain than I want to. Remind me that Your wounds are a result of greater pain than I will ever know, and it is by these wounds of Yours that we are healed. 

So be it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

I Carry them Home

They say it’s not a good thing to “take your job home with you.” I always said I wouldn’t do that, that I wouldn’t let my job affect my personal life, that I wouldn’t think about it or talk about it outside of my "9-5." Or, in this case, my 8-3.

But I’m not so sure that’s possible anymore.

How do you see a 19-year-old come over to you on the verge of tears, shaking uncontrollably and telling you to stay calm because she’s having a seizure… and not think about her, be concerned for her, after she's taken to the hospital by ambulance and you leave and go home? How can you look at a piece of paper with the face of a woman on it that the police hand to you, asking if you have seen her because she is wanted, and though you have never seen her face in person, how can you not carry it home with you and wonder what her story is, why she is wanted, what pain she is carrying? How do you not think about the woman who is always so happy to see you, overly happy, but one day she says she’s “not a talker and would just start crying” if she began to talk about her pain, and though she doesn’t want to, she begins to cry right there.

Part of my walk through the neighborhood where Breakthrough is located

I think about the woman who walked down the street with me in the rain, telling me how beautiful of a day it is, and when we reach the building she thanks the Lord that we got there safely. I think about another woman I just met, a cancer survivor, who wants me to teach her how to blog so she can share her story. And I think of the girl who walked with me the whole way to the bus, talking the whole length of the two city blocks and then some, and then gave me a hug before I stepped onto the bus to go home.

The woman who has become a completely different person, so disassociating herself with reality that she is not even herself, all in an effort to not face into the realness of her pain… The woman who walks through the halls murmuring something I cannot discern, and I wonder who she is talking to, what she is thinking about, where she is… The woman who sits all alone, and even when I approach her and ask her how she is doing, she looks down and chuckles… The woman who does not respond at all when I speak to her… The woman who gets upset every time I look at her because it makes her uncomfortable, and I wonder why this beautiful woman is so insecure… The woman who begins to cry to me because she has been taking care of her three younger brothers and recently became homeless... The woman who talks about the walls she puts up around men because of things that have happened to her in the past, and I know I can't assume yet I know that I know, and my heart breaks.

I carry these women home with me. I know I’m told I shouldn’t. I try not to. I didn’t even know that I did.

Healing. Freedom. Love. Acceptance. All four are needs of mine, of yours, of each one of these women. All four I can try to give, but not like Jesus can. Only Jesus has the power to heal (Luke 8:46-48). Only Jesus can set us free (Galatians 5:1). Only Jesus can love unconditionally (Romans 8), and He loves each one of these women even more than I think I do. Only Jesus offers complete and total acceptance, telling us to come to Him (Matthew 11:28)… even in our worst and weakest moments.

Only Jesus.

I bring these women home with me, in my heart, but I cannot carry their burdens. Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus was meant to do that.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It’s Jesus’ invitation to each of us, and it is only Jesus who can give us this true, deep rest that we desperately need.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). It’s Jesus’ invitation to me, to you, to each one of these women. And it is only Jesus who can take our anxiety and burdens off of our shoulders, only Jesus who can carry them.

Only Jesus.

May this serve as a reminder to me, and perhaps to you, that we cannot even carry our own burdens, let alone someone else's. Let us cast all of our anxiety upon Him without reserve. Let us come to Him, heeding His invitation to rest; for it is only Jesus who can save, who can heal, who can bring freedom.

Only Jesus.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Within these City Lights

I looked out the skyscraper window overlooking the city of Chicago. It was dark, and all I could see were lights. The beautiful city skyscraper lights and the lights from cars driving down the busy streets. The lights meant life. Life in the buildings and life in the cars, people living and traveling and working. People living wealthy and successful lives on one city block, and people living on cardboard boxes on the next block. I could not see this in the dark, but I knew because just a few hours earlier I had walked the city streets and saw the wealth and the poverty and felt the depth of brokenness and hopelessness. People striving for greater wealth, greater success, greater prosperity, while many of them were all the while missing the One who was truly Greater. People sitting on street corners asking for money and food, all the while being ignored by those who God has sent to love them.

As I looked out these skyscraper windows knowing the life that these city lights held, tears sprang to my eyes. I have sent you here, Molly. My heart was burdened and while every fiber of my being wanted to turn around and go home to the comforts that I knew there, God had already attached my heart to this great city that lay before me and all around me. If you don't go now, Molly, you never will. These words of my dad still ring in my ears and resound in my heart; Go. My heart was burdened and I knew that I must go.

Abandon. I don't think I really know what that word means. According to, it means to "give up completely." According to Jesus, it is a "denial" of myself: "And He said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me'" (Luke 9:23).

To give up... to deny myself... abandon.

When I visited Chicago with my dad three years ago, my heart was immediately burdened. I fought it. I fought it so hard as I looked out over the city lights. God, I cannot go to a school in this city. I don't even like cities. "Go..." But I don't know anyone... All my friends are going to other schools. "Go." My family will be so far away. "Molly, go." My whole life is going to be so different. "Trust me." I'm scared. "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for I will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). Where You go, I'll go.

Abandon. It means different things for different seasons of life and for different people whom God has called. For me in that moment, it meant giving up my own desires and plans for my future for God's desires and plans. Little did I know then the work that God would do in my heart over those next three years as I allowed God to strip me down of everything that I thought I was and needed to be and began to slowly build me back up into who He wants me to be. I did not know that the heartstrings He had attached to the city of Chicago that night would not be easily severed or that He would ask me to do further ministry to the people there.

The reason I am writing tonight is to ask you to pray for me and for the people I will be ministering to in the city of Chicago this summer. I am a firm believer in prayer, knowing that God hears the prayers of His people (Psalm 34:7). I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, knowing that the God we pray to has the power to change hearts and lives (Psalm 62:11). And, frankly, I don't. I have been reminded again and again that I can do nothing in my own strength, for when I try I fail or burn out.

This summer, God has asked me to minister in a neighborhood on Chicago's West Side. While I am not getting on an airplane to enter an overseas, foreign country, I am flying back to a city to minister to an impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhood that so desperately needs the hope and love of God. If you would like to commit to praying for me this summer, I would love to know so that I can send you updates of my internship throughout the summer. You will be a great encouragement to me.

I will be ministering with Breakthrough Urban Ministries in their women's center, leading devotionals, co-facilitating a women's trauma therapy group and a support group, and building relationships with the women who live at the center. I am so excited for this opportunity that I have been given, yet ask that you would help to cover me, the women's center, and the women in prayer. God is asking me to go with little resources, asking me to have faith that He will provide for me, for my next month's rent, for my school bill, for my daily needs. Where God calls, He provides. I am so thankful for this truth and am looking with much anticipation to see how He will provide!

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).

Abandon. I believe that it has a lot to do with faith. Giving up completely, denying myself and my own desires and plans, picking up my cross every day and choosing to follow hard after Jesus. It is not easy and yet it is the definition of the Christian life. I cannot see how God will provide for my needs, yet I have confident assurance that He will. I cannot see the work that He will do both in my life and in the lives of the women He is sending me to this summer, but I have a confident hope that He will work. I am thankful that it is He who will be walking these city streets with me this summer, for Christ is the only One who knows the deep parts of the hearts of those I will pass by and those I will minister to. And He knows the deep parts of my own heart and its needs.

Though my heart is torn because I am leaving behind a summer filled with the family I love, I know that "my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior" (Hillsong, Oceans).

Abandon... He has called me to nothing less than this.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Strength to be Weak

"When I am raw and vulnerable is when I am most fully alive."

My professor spoke it with such conviction that it immediately struck a chord in me and I quickly wrote it down in my notebook.

"When I am raw and vulnerable is when I am most fully alive. If I am not willing to be open and raw and vulnerable, others will not find freedom to go to that place."


As I finish out this semester, I look back on where God has brought me over these past four months and I am overwhelmed. From my new position as a resident assistant to my new relationship to a new floor and a new major and new job responsibilities and new ministry involvements and a new church and new friends, this semester was challenging. Perhaps "challenging" is not a strong enough word to evoke the emotions that I felt this semester during times when I was literally so exhausted I couldn't move or so sick I couldn't get out of bed. Or every day that I have been humbled in class as I realize more and more how little I know about the very things I am pursuing to do with my future. Or the times when I sat in tears as I saw the dark depths of my soul to a level I had never faced before. Or the moments when I fought with the Lord over these dark places of my heart and the tugging He had placed on my heart to share these places with others.

"If I am not willing to be open and raw and vulnerable, others will not find freedom to go to that place."

Yes, Lord. But I am afraid. I am afraid of love because I am afraid of loss.

I am convinced that to be vulnerable is the greatest act of love that anyone can ever perform, the deepest kind of love that anyone can ever give. To be vulnerable is to reveal pieces of your heart that perhaps no one has ever seen; it is to give a very tender and valuable piece of yourself to the care of someone else, risking heartache and loss if not received well by the one you choose to give it to. Yes, to risk love is to risk pain and loss and heartache; yet I believe that to isolate ourselves within the confines of the walls we build up around our hearts is to risk a life of joylessness, loneliness, and a degree of pain and loss and heartache that the one who risks love will never know.

And, so, this semester I chose to tear down the walls. To be vulnerable to a degree I had never been before. To risk being vulnerable to see if perhaps this freedom that was promised me really was the reward of a heart left open and raw before others. To see if I truly believed that Christ had come to set me free.


I sat with my boyfriend at the lake, just me and him and a boat that raced across the water in a seemingly purposeless route. Empty beer cans were strewn across the graffiti covered rocks, no doubt the leftovers from a teenage bonfire. The moon created a spotlight above us and the water crashed continuously against the rocky crags that were before us. It was the perfect place for me to share these deep places of my heart; the contrast between the beauty of the moon and lake and the disastrous mess of beer cans and graffiti around us was reflective of the disastrous mess of my heart and the beauty of God's infinite and incredible grace that was poured over me that night as my heart was exposed and God's grace covered it.


I sat before four of the women on my floor who I am in leadership over. Don't share, the Enemy sneered. They'll see who you really are and no longer respect you. Praise Jesus for the strength and courage that come from Him in the moments of greatest weakness. I laid my heart out, raw and open and vulnerable, and it was met with love and gratitude and respect. Share, my Savior pleads. They'll see more of who I really am; My strength in your weakness and My grace in your mess. He received glory and I received freedom.


I sat before eleven other women, highly esteemed women who I am in leadership with. Hide. Build up your walls. Feel shame. I was beginning to feel the spiritual battle in my flesh as my hands began to shake. I shared my testimony, this time testifying to God's grace more deeply than usual as I testified to my own depravity more honestly than usual. More grace and love were poured out on me and I left with a full heart of joy and grace and love. And freedom.


My boyfriend came running over to me, took my hand and led me to a bench down the street where I shared and he sat in silence, where I cried and he wiped away my tears, where I spoke despair and he sang words of forgiveness over me. When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there who made an end of all my sin. Because a sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the Just is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me. He sang the words until they penetrated the guilt covering my heart, and forgiveness and grace washed over it. Praise Jesus for His grace. And praise Him for a boyfriend who has shown me more than anyone else the love of Christ in offering grace where there should only be condemnation, forgiveness and acceptance where there should only be bitterness and rejection.


I sat with my mom, holding back tears and words that I knew needed to pour out. Hold back. You don't need to do this; in fact, it'd be better if you didn't. Praise Jesus for speaking over these irrational thoughts that were entering my mind and giving me the strength to be weak. And praise Him for a mother who has shown me more than anyone else the love of Christ in crying with those who mourn and taking on the burdens of others and making them her own. That night, she cried with me and took on my burden. Love washed over me and my burden was made light.


This semester, I have felt a greater depth of freedom than I have ever felt before. It is the kind of freedom that brings me to tears and draws me to my Savior. It is the kind of freedom that gives me the passion behind this life that I am living for Him. It is the kind of freedom that has deepened my relationships and enriched my life. The kind of freedom that has allowed others to go to the same depths and experience the same freedom. The kind of freedom that gives life.

When I am raw and vulnerable is when I am most fully alive. Fully alive. I have never felt so fully alive, so full of life and love and joy and wonder that cause me to dance and sing and worship and write and love and smile and laugh and live. 

His Grace is enough. I have opened my heart up to experience this, to prove this, to believe this. To close off the depths of my heart are to close off the depths of God's grace from being displayed, thus robbing God of the display of glory that He deserves in my life. Freedom is offered to the one who takes the risk to be vulnerable, to love, to richly display the Savior's glory and grace. Pray for the strength to be weak; for it is in our times of greatest weakness and vulnerability that His strength and grace are most vividly displayed.