The day I had been waiting for finally came.
It didn’t look like what I had seen in my dreams. It certainly didn’t feel anything like I had imagined.
I found the flipside.
Most of my process in the last three years has been about unearthing hidden and suppressed wounds so they may be brought into the light. Wounds that had been buried out of the necessity to survive. Wounds that had been masked by manipulated theology. Wounds that went far deeper than I could even imagine.
Turning to face the wounds was scary, riddled with fear. But they demanded their right to become a part of my story, to be integrated in rather than left behind to dwell in the dark. And so, Sorrow and Suffering became the companions to Much Afraid as she journeyed up the Mountain (Hinds Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard).
Would this turning and facing ever end?
When could I allow my companions of Sorrow and Suffering to go on their way, taking the hands of another soul bereft and wandering, hopelessly longing for release? I often wondered. I wondered and wandered my way right into 2014 and all the way to August where I landed in post-back-surgery recovery, at home, in bed, unable to do one single thing for myself.
I began to read Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown. I found myself in every single character, taking turns bouncing from one of the four leading women to another. “I wrestled with that same truth in my twenties,” “Oh yeah, I know what that feeling is.”
But I was blown away by the end of the book. The imagery shared was mine. I had seen those pictures before. My mind had witnessed those stories, that journey, her heart.
In a time of prayer Hannah (one of the four women in Sensible Shoes) had imagined herself as a child running in and out of the throne room with Jesus. He would hand her flowers and she would rush out to give them to another. She was a passionate runner of His goodness. But He stopped her and said, “These flowers are for you.”
In the story, Hannah was a pastor of a church for 15 years. But I think she symbolizes all of us who grew up in the church in the midst of immense personal suffering.
In a sense we have worn ourselves out serving others. The beautiful vice of busyness, often lauded by our church culture, is an acceptable numbing and addictive agent in the lives of those deeply wounded.
We end up like the Pharisees, internally recounting all the ways we have served others and then wondering why (in the quiet of life) we feel lost, empty and depressed. Rather than sitting long enough with the Spirit to discern these surface symptoms of a marred soul – we just keep busy.
Unlike the Pharisees, this pattern was not formed through conscious effort. We grew up in a Church culture that encouraged this attitude of serving, this becoming nothing so He may be everything. It still sounds right. It should. It is scripture.
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30 (NKJV)
There is a vast difference in living out the theology of serving from a place of wounded-ness or a place of whole-ness. When Christ flipped this theology, I found myself on the other side of my healing, the flipside of suffering.
While continuing to read Sensible Shoes many scriptures from the book of John kept popping up. John, the ONE whom Jesus loved.
The Spirit called up from my memories a sermon I heard in my youth. Each disciple had a theme to their writing and John’s was, The Beloved Disciple. Or in his own words, the one whom Jesus loved.
Yet John in particular was contrasted with the other Disciples. In the church setting of my youth, while others were extolled for identifying Christ as the Word made Flesh or for presenting irrefutable evidence of Christ’s lineage, John was reproached for his arrogance.
As if Christ would love one disciple MORE than another. John’s delight in knowing he was deeply loved was resented.
Suddenly, my mind remembered scenes from home, words spoken in that same resenting attitude.
- You were Dad’s favorite.
- You’re the one who will end up marrying well and have a husband who will dote on you.
- Your life is ‘easy.’
- Nicknamed ‘the brain,’ but the teasing felt laced with a sneer.
I grew up internalizing this: To be given favor, to be loved, to practice my gifts was arrogance.
Envy had flipped what was good and made it evil. My pride and arrogance became the source of every conflict. And at fourteen years old, I broke.
The lie was successfully engrained. I am only allowed to live in a certain amount of favor and grace, we call it salvation – to have more love than that is arrogant and prideful.
I was only worthy of the love that saved me but not the love that lavishes itself all over my soul. I was only worthy to carry flowers from His throne to another, never to take them home for myself.
I journaled once how God showed me the story of Mary breaking open her costly perfume to anoint Jesus. There was a song I once sung for church called “Broken and Spilled Out”
Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee.
Broken and spilled out
And poured at your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be poured out and lavished on thee.
A beautiful song indeed. With a beautiful truth. The problem was that I internalized this message as though I was the oil and not Mary.
To one who is abused – this is an incredibly important distinction.
– To be the oil meant I had no being or identity of my own, I was a thing to be used – and my purpose was to be broken and spilled out. In my home it translated at submitting to the abuse – it was God’s purpose and plan. While in my relationship with God it meant my serving was what earned his favor. I was very clear I could not earn my salvation, but Favor? Blessing? Extravagant Love? I would have to prove I was worthy of those. Serving viewed from wounded-ness.
– To be Mary means that I am deeply loved by my savior. This love is complete, deep, and often frivolous and is not based on anything I have done. It is out of this completeness I am able, and joyfully choose, to let my giftings and blessings be broken and spilled for His glory. Serving from a place of wholeness.
My experience reading Sensible Shoes was mystical. In this sacred space a fog settled between my present and my past. Only the presence of Christ could suspend time, recall the exact memories and weave them into my current reality.
The next words I read leaped from the page…
“The image I’m seeing is Mary of Bethany pouring out that costly ointment to anoint Jesus feet in this beautiful extravagant act of love. What If Jesus wants to pour out something totally extravagant into your life?”
I audibly crashed into weeping. What if Jesus has been wanting to lavish his love on me?
He had been! He had been wanting to for years now!
Twice, two years in a row, at Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Joy had prayed over me and both times she said out loud – “I just have this urge to dump this whole thing of oil all over you.” In those moments we laughed out loud at the outrageous thought.
But it happened again just a few weeks ago as Jill prayed over me – Only months before my back surgery did she prophecy that my physical body was manifesting the inward life-time of carrying burdens that were not mine to carry. My body was done with the weight of it. She said it was time to lay them down.
And the burden I had to lay down was the belief that I am not worthy of God’s extravagant, beautiful, lavish and frivolous love.
A flood of His Holiness washed in and over and through me.
I am the one whom God loves. I am His Beloved.
To be lavishly loved is not arrogance.
It is intimacy
It is drawing nearer to the heart of God
I am worthy of more than an adequate love.
Jesus is adequate, he is enough to redeem my soul.
But he longs to be extravagant.
He desires to move from my Father who heals, to the Faithful Friend who walks beside never leaving or forsaking and move to become the passionate lover of my soul. If I would only receive.
In a sense I had to go through back surgery. I had to be down and unable to doing anything. For in this time of physical disability I could finally hear with my heart.
“If you never left this bed…I would still love you lavishly.”
And I finally let go. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more.
I don’t have to prove my love for Him to receive love from Him.
I am His Beloved.
I am the one whom Jesus loves.
And in this sacred space my companions of Sorrow and Suffering did not leave like I had longed for. They transformed into Joy and Peace. And Much Afraid? Well…she became Grace and Glory.
He longs to love you frivolously…fiercely…lavishly.
You are worthy of His love because He chooses to make it so. Period. The End. Nothing more to be added.
You are worthy of His love because He said so.
Very encouraging post, Cheryl!
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