Monthly Archives: April 2012

Vulnerable

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I learned something today. You know how people always say that your perception of God often times is based on your perception of your parents (often, your father)? I never really believed that. I’ve had a pretty broken relationship with both of my parents for most of my life, but my walk with God has grown steadily stronger and stronger. I always figured I was the weird exception to this rule; maybe because I’ve been a believer since I was 6 years old. Maybe because I’ve been walking God for quite some time… But, through that intimacy, God showed me that I am not the exception.

For the past 6 months I’ve been helping with my church’s youth sunday school, which pretty much means sitting in with them and trying to facilitate discussion. And, of course, I’ve been learning like crazy during this “teaching” experience; every week, God convicts/encourages me somehow through our lesson. Recently, we’ve been going through Francis Chan’s “Surrender” series, in which students are challenged to surrender every aspect of their lives to God. This week we watched the last video: Surrender Self. As the video was ending, the narrator asked us a very simple question: What areas of your life are you clinging to? In what aspects of your life are you resisting surrender? Nothing immediately came to mind, and so I prayed that simple sentence: God, where am I not surrendered to you? Is there anything I’m clinging to, any place I’m resisting you? And He answered me. It was a beautiful moment; only a few times in my life have I “heard” God’s voice so clearly. I can’t really describe it, other than to say that if it were any more obvious, I would have heard a spoken voice. Almost instantly after praying that simple prayer, a thought popped into my head, and I knew it was from God. It was so unexpected, so out-of-nowhere, I knew it couldn’t have come from me.

My mind flashed back to multiple experiences these past few weeks, all with the same thought-process. Those spare evenings or spaces of time I’ve had recently, times I knew I spend with God, but chose not to. “I don’t have enough energy,” I’d tell myself. “I just need some down-time. I’ve been going and going and going.” And that may be true; everyone needs down-time, especially over-doers like me. But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me some insight, His perspective on this situations; that soft, clear voice whispered in my head: Jessi, you aren’t vulnerable with me.

Lightbulb. And then I got it. This is one area where my childhood is affecting my walk with Jesus: vulnerability. I did not grow up in an emotionally safe environment, so I developed a “survival mode” in which I lived for many years: ignore the feelings of injustice, anger and pain I have inside me, and dismiss them by telling myself, “You’re over-reacting”, “This won’t help anything”, or “You need to respect your parents”. Throughout this year, I’ve started to realize that even though I may think I’m not angry anymore, simply dissmissing my hurt feelings does not make the pain, or the root issue, dissappear. The healthy way of dealing with those feelings is to face them, not hide from them. I don’t have to hide anymore. In the past, I suppressed those feelings for fear of them overwhelming me; the situations causing those feelings weren’t bound to change, so I was afraid that if I acknowledged those feelings, I’d be stuck in them, just like I was stuck in my situation. But things are different now, and it’s time to start peeling off that “survival mode”. With the Holy Spirit’s empowering, I’m gonna start cutting those strings and leave the old habits behind.

God showed me my own reasoning in those moments these past few weeks. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12.  My “I don’t have enough energy” was really “I don’t want to put the effort in to fight my natural inclinations and be real with God. I don’t want to take the time and energy to present what’s really worrying me to Him and actually leave it at His feet. I’d much rather continue in my ‘survival mode’ and try to distract myself.” And that dissatisfied feeling I”d have after spending that hour “relaxing” I’d just dismiss by telling myself that I must be tired from working so hard. I now see that I was dissatisfied because I was choosing the easy route instead of the challenging, fullfilling route.

One of my favorite bands, Tenth Avenue North, wrote a song about this same issue:

 

Father, help me to be vulnerable with You. Help me to fight the good fight, to war with my normal and choose to surrender myself to You. Help me to be honest with You and myself, knowing that You long for me to be real with You. Thank You for speaking with me so clearly. Thank You for calling me deeper into relationship with You. Keep calling me, Lord.

(for the music video, check out The Song in My Head…)

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Empty hands. Surrendered heart. Redeemed lives.

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When I first heard this song, it brought me to tears. I was sitting in the common room in my dorm, just like I am now, and Kirsten (the performer in the video above, and the woman who has mentored me this past year) was giving us a mini-concert upon our request. And this song has been echoing inside me ever since…. Just like Kirsten explained in the video, the book of Ruth is really more about Naomi than Ruth. It’s a book about despair, pain, loss, bitterness and anger towards God. But above all, it’s a book about redemption; how God can redeem those “too-far-gone, call-me-Mara-because-my-life-is-a-bitter-blow-from-God” seasons of our lives and turn them into something beautiful. How God carefully crafts those moments on purpose, so we can see how far we have turned away from Him, with the desire that we will return to Him, completely broken and surrendered, open and trusting in His character to guide you.

This idea of redemption has been one of the key themes God has impressed upon me this year. Passages like Gen 29-30 and Hosea 2 have brought me to tears, dreaming of the day when God brings redemption into the most tender parts of my life. And today I’m back in this place again, asking that God would put transform this area of my life just like He did with Naomi; God brought her through the loss of her home, her husband, her sons, her “normal”… Everything she knew and loved, everything that gave her security and identity, everything she thought she couldn’t live without was stripped from her. God put her in the place to get her to surrender her life to Him, trusting that He is good and He does love her. When Naomi finally realized this, every relationship in her life was changed. So much so, that her family named their son “Obed… worshipper”. This young boy was a living, breathing testimony to God’s redeeming work; out of pain, confusion and bitterness, a heart surrendered to the Lord is one of worship. This worshipper is the grandfather of the “man after God’s own heart”, King David, who in turn is one of the forefathers of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

Jesus, Redeemer. Take this part of my life, with all of its confusion and pain, and do with it what You will. So many times I have thought it beyond change, but I trust that nothing is impossible for You. I know that You are the same God you were to Naomi, and I’m trusting, I’m clinging to Your promise to redeem the brokeness in my life, bring it to the place of surrender and transform it into something for Your glory. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Redemption is big enough. I pray that my children, and their children, and their children would be able to have a more solid, Biblical foundation to build upon through Your work in my life and my simple obedience. My biggest dream is that my lineage would reflect Ruth’s, redemption etched into every child’s face. For Your Glory, precious Redeemer….

“You took my hands, and You emptied them, so You could fill them up with Your presence, God. You took my heart and broke it in Your hands, so You could sew it up with Your cords of love… And there’s a song in my heart now that You are good…”