I was at Starbucks for 2 hours today trying to make progress on this book we’re writing.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, I spent an hour talking to a young man about college, how tired he was, trying to encourage him and another hour trying to get my computer to work.
Because I’d lost all focus, I went to workout but ran into another friend and spent much of that hour talking about God, neuroscientists and bathroom remodels.
So, I came home to paint my living room simply to feel like I accomplished something today. Instead….
I received an excited phone call from one daughter because she’d made a new friend at a coffee shop as they talked about relationships, God, church, faith, family and her photography business…
got a text from another daughter that she needed prayer because a good friend was FINALLY talking to her about God and asking what it means to really have a relationship with Jesus…
read another text from the third daughter that she was in an equally deep conversation with someone about God’s design and advice for marriage….
I turned down the music and prayed for all of them.
I thought about how sweet God is to listen to my heart as I started painting again, but when I turned the music back up, I was hit with something that stopped me in my tracks.
Within just a few notes of a song, God transported me back 9 years ago, reminded me of what I was thinking at the time, showed me a picture of everything that had played out since then and wrapped it all up with a realization of truth that left me stunned.
“Love Came Down” was playing and I haven’t heard it in forever. In fact, the last time I remember singing it was one of the last times I ever led worship and I remember singing it with everything in me out of complete desperation and with a desire for it to be true. It was like I was saying to Him, “Letting go of this role is so difficult, Father, but I choose to worship you even if I can’t sing, even if I can’t see what you’re doing and even if I’m hurting.”
I sang it again today.
“If my heart is overwhelmed and I cannot hear Your voice
I’ll hold on to what is true though I cannot see
If the storms of life they come and the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith
I will believe
I remind myself of all that You’ve done
And the life I have because of Your Son
Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours I am forever Yours
Mountain high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
That I am Yours I am forever Yours”
Nine years ago I had to stop leading worship because I had nodules on my vocal chords. That was difficult.
My mother-in-law had just died.
My husband was hurting.
Leading the church was a struggle.
We had lost friendships.
My kids were beginning to move out and I was lost, sad, and confused.
But, I wanted my heart to belong to God forever. No matter what! It was a hard season but I was bound and determined to pursue Him, worship Him, love Him and serve Him until my last breath. I was going to live a life that pleased Him, and I meant it. I wanted it!
The problem is – I’m not God.
I’m human and broken and weak. I had hurts in my heart that I’d covered up so well, I didn’t even know they existed. Not only that, but the next few years would pile on more hurt and pain. Nothing like many people experience but enough to cause my brokenness to surface. It became harder to hide and eventually, impossible.
My insecurities were magnified in the face of uncertainty and shifting seasons of life. Steve and I struggled to communicate and to find a way to partner in life without our ministry and our kids at home. One daughter struggled to get past her demons and multiple heartbreaks so that she could find joy and confidence to build a life for herself. Another seemed to be rejecting everything we believed to be sacred and seemed to be drifting farther and father away. Many of my friendships shifted and changed. I was lonely, feeling useless but trying to muster the will to find and please God as best as I could.
In some areas I was doing great. My prayer life had never been better. At least for others. I cared deeply about the pain in people’s lives and prayed fervently for friends, church members, my husband and my kids.
I prayed…a lot. And worshipped…a lot. And tried to do all the things I knew to be good and right and true…a lot.
But I failed to see the importance of praying for myself and really digging deep into what my heart was feeling. I forgot that I mattered to God and I failed to ask Him why I was so lonely, sad and unfulfilled. Instead, I thought I shouldn’t feel that way and pressed on, ignoring it but asking forgiveness each time I reacted with hurtful words, actions and attitudes as I tried to “fix” all the difficulties in my life on my own. My strength was failing me and I kept doing the very things I knew I shouldn’t do. I was driving my girls farther away, my husband farther into his shell and myself farther out to sea – in a tiny little boat – all alone.
I wasn’t trying to be inauthentic or hypocritical and I honestly don’t think I was. I think I was blind to places in my heart that God wanted to heal and, in my blindness, I found my own private bondage of fear, selfishness and pride. I could do it! I could fix it! I could have enough faith for all our problems to go away and I would love and serve and glorify God till my dying breath! That’s who I was. A Christian. A pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s wife. I didn’t want to let anyone down and I didn’t want to lose any respect I may have gathered over the years. After all, I was the youngest and the only girl so screwing up would just validate what I’d felt my whole life – that I had nothing of value to contribute or to say.
In the mean time, I ran…a lot. I drank wine…a lot. I isolated myself… a lot.
None of it to the point of being officially “unhealthy” but, in reality, it was all unhealthy because it was done in order to avoid and ignore. (Avoiding and ignoring what God is trying to do is never a good idea, by the way.)
You see, the fact is, I couldn’t do any of it.
I’m sitting here in my living room with paint cans on the floor waiting for me to finish what I started; but, all I can do is sit in awe at the faithfulness of God to finish everything He has started.
The truth is, I can’t please God on my own. I can’t heal my kids’ heartaches. I can’t argue them to faith. I can’t force my husband to talk to me. I can’t even work hard enough to build an effective ministry or make others need me, respect me, listen to me or care about me. I can be faithful and do what He leads me to do. I can rest in the finished work of Christ to make me valuable and accepted. I can and should work hard at loving Him and others but I can’t make things happen. I’m not in control. (Yep…that might be an issue with me.)
Even with the best of intentions, my best attempt at “fixing” life and “fixing” my brokenness leads to more brokenness.
I have to say, though, that my life was great. I was really pretty happy. I believe God worked through me in spite of myself and my faith was true and strong during those years. But I was making life much harder than I think God intended. I was striving instead of resting.
Resting in God’s faithfulness is the “easy yoke”. Striving in my own abilities is what leaves me “weary and heavy laden”. Navigating everything in my own strength had left me exhausted, lonely and surrounded by more fallout than I wanted to admit. And, if I ever forget that God can do above and beyond what I can think or imagine and can miraculously heal my broken heart when I face what a mess I am, He will lovingly remind me.
He did today when I suddenly was faced with all He had done around me. With no help from me. In fact, in spite of me. I realized that I’d given up “trying” months ago. He had orchestrated my total surrender (for the most part or as best as I know how right now) so that He could move. He left me with no other desire but to seek His face, trust Him and believe that He wouldn’t leave or abandon me even when I messed up.
Today He had me look up and see what that trust and dependence had allowed Him to do.
You may be asking what truth left me in tears in a matter of seconds.
Simply this…God can and God does.
The question of what he can do or does do may depend on our need.
God can and does move in the areas of our lives that are broken. He can and does pursue hearts even when we try to do it alone. He can and does save souls.
He can and does heal.
He can and does forgive.
He can and does pursue.
He can and does lead.
He can and does restore.
He can and does bless.
He can and does strengthen.
He can and does speak.
He does it all and always has. My efforts amount to nothing.
My desire to serve and love Him till my last breath comes from Him. The security of being His until my last breath, being held and kept, that’s done by Him as well. Not by my determination. Trying to prove myself or ignore my need simply exhausts me and keeps me from the very relationship that I’m meant to have with Him.
He is so, so good. Overwhelmingly good. Life isn’t always easy but God is always good and faithful.
I don’t deserve it, but He has moved in my life in more ways than I can say. Even now, there are places in my heart that are broken and messed up but He is slowly showing me what they are and how to leave them in his healing hands. My husband is a miracle walking and is getting stronger every day. We are learning how to communicate at a deeper level and our relationship is stronger and more exciting than ever. All of my daughters have found their own faith, healing, purpose and joy and continue to walk through the good and bad of life with more wisdom than I ever had at their ages. The way they glorify God sends me to my knees with thanksgiving. That daughter that I thought I was losing…she’s the daughter telling a friend what it means to be loved by Jesus unconditionally and how wonderful He is. That daughter who stepped out and made a new friend is standing on her own two feet and building a life and a business as she finds courage to trust in God alone.
He does it all.
He pursues. He heals. He wipes away shame and breathes hope into the discouraged. He makes wrong things right and he turns sorrow into joy.
In all of my conversations today I realized something. God cares and He sees. He has always been at work and moving in my life and is in yours as well. Even when we don’t see it. More incredible than that, He has saved us!
When life falls apart and we don’t see where He is, God is holding fast to us. He won’t let go even when we feel like we’ve let go. And, he never will.
We are loved, we are held and we are His. He has done it all and He will do it all.
There is so much more freedom, joy and peace available to us as God’s children if we will simply remind ourselves of His goodness and power, submit to His control over our lives, seek Him as best as we can, trust Him and rest in His love.
After all, it’s all because of Jesus and because the Father loves you. Give Him everything you have been carrying today and know that He cares, He sees, He can and He does.
“Mountain high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
That I am Yours I am forever Yours”