Claiming The Land

Months ago I wrote about how I was praying for a Year of Jubilee. I wanted a season of rest, very specifically a rest from cancer, and all the worry and pain my husband’s cancer treatments inflict on my heart. God, in his grace, has since given us six months of “stable disease”, six months without treatment. 

What I didn’t realize when I prayed for a Year of Jubilee was how much God would call out in my heart the other purposes of this specific season of Jewish law. During Jubilee slaves go free, and for months God has been showing me one place in my life after another where I wear the chains of slavery. I am slave to old wounds, slave to what others think of me, slave to approval, slave to fear, and shame, and guilt. And I am slave to so much sin. 

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)

God placed bright lights on my slavery, and honestly I didn’t always respond very well. Oh but grace! Grace began to whisper and then to shout, and the words that grace speaks are LOVE. Pure love. 

Some chains broke, some began to loosen, some still have a long way to go. But I know that it is the work of the Spirit to free me and it will be done. In time. Through love. Not through my natural attempts at shame or striving, but through love. 

As this new year began, I started looking at a different aspect of the Year of Jubilee. There is a clear message of place in this season. A call to trust God for our “land”. A call to give up land that you’ve claimed that doesn’t belong to you and take back, reclaim, land that is rightfully yours. 

In a society that lives off the land, land means more than just home, it means place and purpose and work. Your land was your place in the community. 

And so I’ve been asking God a question… 

“What is my land? Where is the place that is for me and only me to claim and occupy?”

So often in my life I think I have shrunk back from claiming land that could have been mine. I shrink in fear, in uncertainty, in self doubt, in self consciousness. I don’t want to do that anymore. 

But I am no stranger to the other side of this either. I have often tried to claim land that probably (or in hindsight, clearly) wasn’t for me. I have spread myself thin, dipping my toes in lots of different communities, in lots of different activities, in lots of different work and dreams. I don’t want to do that anymore. 

Here’s what I do want: 

Only the land God has for me. 

Only the place He’s written my name on. 

Only the seat at the table that He directs me to. 

I’m not really sure what this will look like. For the last month it had meant canceling a lot of things, not going to a lot of things. It’s meant being home a lot, because the one place I’m certain is for me is my place with my husband and my children. I don’t say that with any since of obligation, or chauvinism, or old wounds of “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.” I say it because I love my husband and children, this is where my love is, this is where my vows are, this is my family, my roots, my clear place. 

But I know it’s not my only place either, and I feel sure that there is land, purpose and place in community, that God has for me and my family that we haven’t claimed. So I continue to pray. 

A few weeks ago this prayer took a very tangible turn, and it resulted in very clear and physical leading that I don’t want to forget. Because here’s the thing, in this day and age our place and purpose doesn’t have to be dictated by our physical, tangible, geography, but it will always, always, be influenced by it. 

So as I prayed for place, I began to pray for tangible, physical, geography as well. We’ve been living in a rental, borrowed land, for two years since moving to Arizona. We’ve been living far from our kids school and from many of the people who we consider part of our close community. 

So every day as I drove the 30 minutes to take my kids to school and the 30 minutes home again I began to pray for a house. And I began to pray super specific, for necessary things and unnecessary things. Above all though I prayed that we wouldn’t move just to move, but that God would move us where he wants us, to the house that has our names written on it, the place that would put us where he wants us and enable us to be the people he wants us to be. 

I remember one day in particular, when I got super honest with my own heart and with God. I told Him I really like our rental now, that although I wanted to move, I didn’t have any urgency to leave this place. This house has been a safe haven for us the past two years, it fits us well. I don’t want to leave it unless I’m absolutely sure that the next house is a place God picked just for us. I didn’t just want a move, I wanted a calling, a calling to a specific house. 

Well friends, today, only a few weeks after that prayer we are 14 days away from a close date on a house. And I can say with confidence, God picked it for us. 

Soon after that prayer I told my sister I thought Bryan and I should start casually looking at houses, no urgency, just looking. She instantly got on her computer and found a handful of houses within the few blocks surrounding her house. One of them, the one with the blue door, stood out. It was a bit more expensive then I wanted, and a bit bigger than I thought we needed. But I kept feeling nudged towards the house with the blue door. I think I looked at it on line every day that week. 

That weekend a dear friend of ours who is a realtor took us to see a handful of houses. We went to the house with the blue door first. It had nearly all of the necessary things I had prayed for and many of the unnecessary things I had asked. It was essentially turn-key and would need little to no work, which is very rare for the area we were looking in. We loved it, but our guard instantly went up. We looked at a bunch more houses that day but none of them met any of our requirements. 

We came home thinking and praying about the house with the blue door, but both secretly saying good bye to it, because we weren’t sure we were ready to move on it as quickly as we would need to in order to get it before someone else. We also weren’t sure we could really afford it and we knew the owners had already turned down one low offer. 

That night our landlady sent us an email telling us she’d like to sell the house we’ve been renting. The next day she officially gave us 30 days notice to move out. Suddenly we had our urgency, but we still weren’t sure we could afford the house with the blue door. 

We went back to the drawing board and looked at a bunch more houses. We only found one other house that met our requirements and felt livable for us, but it didn’t stir anything in us. We both kept thinking and talking about the house with the blue door. 

One day standing in the kitchen Bryan said, “I think we need to make a big ask. I think we need to ask God to give us this house and to give it to us at a cost we can afford.” So we started to pray. 

I went back to the house with the realtor to see it again, and though I didn’t want to admit this to anyone, walking in the door already felt like coming home. 

We started working on financing and my anxiety attacks started. For me it wasn’t just the fact that it was a bit more expensive than I’d like, I wasn’t sure I was really ready to buy at all. I wanted the benefits of buying, like being able to re-do things, make things more accessible for Sage, paint etc. But I didn’t want the liability. Bryan’s cancer is stable, but we have no idea how long it will stay stable and all I could think about was the liability that would fall on my shoulders if it didn’t. 

And then we were told that because we still have another mortgage (a condo we bought when we were first married) we couldn’t qualify for enough to make an offer on the house with the blue door, in fact we were a bit too tight for most of the houses in that area. 

We felt discouraged but kept praying. I started praying for some unforeseen way that we could have the benefits of owning without all of the liability. That’s when my parents went and saw the house, decided it was perfect for us, and offered to buy the place for us, with the understanding that we could buy it from them once we were ready, and if something happened to Bryan and we never were ready then they would take care of selling it or renting it or whatever needed to happen – the benefits of owning without all the liability, exactly what I prayed. 

While all this was going on the owners got another offer on the house, a high offer, but a contingency offer, and they refused it.

We decided to make a low offer with the understanding that they would probably negotiate higher. My parents hate negotiating, and Bryan and I aren’t fans of it either, so I quietly prayed that they would accept the first offer, never imagining that they actually would.  They accepted our low offer right away. 

At this point we felt awed and grateful, but we knew there were still lots of things that could go wrong. 

The next time we went to the house there was a note from the owners saying how happy they were that a young family was buying their house and how happy they had been living in this house. There was also a stack of boxes and tape they had left for us. Tears welled in my eyes as I walked through the house again. 

When the house appraised it appraised for exactly, to the dollar, the amount we had offered and they had accepted. When the inspection was done there were some minor little things found, but only two bigger things. One was the roof which we had already known about and factored in going into the deal. The other was that there is a leak in the master bath room. Someone wouldn’t normally say that a leak in the master bathroom was an answer to prayer, but for me it was a little bit. The master bath was our least favorite part of the house and one of the things I wanted to do to the house was re-do that bathroom and make it accessible for Sage. I thought we’d have to save up for a while to do it, but the leak gave us urgency. Rather than ask the sellers to fix things we decided to ask for a credit to go towards the roof and bathroom. I had a set number I was praying for and (thanks to our awesome realtor) they agreed to even more than that number. 

Oh, and we were also able to set a close date that was less than 30 days out so that we would close three days before we needed to be out of our rental. 

Friends, I know all too well that things don’t often work out so smoothly in life. But sometimes, purely and solely by God’s grace they do. This house feels like it has our names all over it, like it’s exactly where God wants us. It feels like a gift given to us by someone who knew us really well. And I want to remember this time, document it, and call it to mind. 

Now my prayers have shifted. Now, I’m praying for paths to place, to the place in community that is FOR ME, that are as clear as this move has been.  I’m praying for what my friend Morgan calls “holy nudges”. The kinds of nudges that lead me to pray big bold asks. The kind of nudges that make me say, “That’s not possible” and then let me watch and participate as God makes it possible. 

I don’t want to fight against walls. I don’t want to try and claim land that’s not mine to claim. I also don’t want to shrink back from the big asks, or from the places God has for me. 

I just want to follow the Spirit. 

I want to claim just what God leads me to. I want to claim the places that are mine, and for me, and have my name on them, nothing more and nothing less. I want God to fight for me, and my work to be the work of love, grace, and prayer, the persistent work of simply marching around the walls of Jericho with trumpets calling forth praise, the work where God gets all the glory cause it’s all him, all His grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. 

Grace and peace,

Bethany


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Who Am I In Truth

The alarm wakes me from unconsciousness and I rise, dragging my feet as I do most mornings when I’ve managed to get an ounce of sleep, my body craving more of the illusive comfort. Sage is awake and we sit for a moment on the couch cuddling. I am not ready to break the stillness, the silence, but I can feel the clock pulling at me. It is time to get moving.

I hand Sage a doll to play with and head to the kitchen. It is still dark outside as I flip the switch on the electric kettle and wait for the noise of the water boiling inside. I wish I could turn a kettle on inside me some mornings, to warm the chill that creeps in and find the heat to start the day.

I pull a mug out of the cupboard and pour the hot water into it before sitting down at the table. I should go wake Thad. But, I’m not ready. I’ll just finish my hot water first. I grab my phone and out of habit click on the Instagram icon. It barely opens before my thumb hits the large white button at the bottom of my phone. That’s not how I want to start my day.

Instead I click open my bible app and read the passage for the day. Genesis 35 glares at me from the screen, as if it were a large road sign momentarily lit by the light of a speeding car.

(Click here to read)

There’s something here for me. But, I’m not exactly sure what. I switch translations and read it again slowly in The Message, and then in The Voice, and then I sit.

Quiet.

In the dark.

One word stirs in my heart, “Ask.”

I’ve been posing the same question to God for years, decades even, “Who are you?” I’ve been praying over and over, “God show me who you are, in truth. Not as I imagine you to be, not as people tell me that you are, not even just as I’ve previously believed you to be, show me who you are in truth.”

And another question, equally common to humanity, “Who am I?” has rested heavy on me. Lately it has held me captive. Who am I really? Who am I in truth?

These are the most basic questions, perhaps the most common, but they aren’t as easily answered as I’ve often been led to believe. These are questions we live into, these are questions we breath, questions we ask again and again sometimes getting one answer sometimes getting another, sometimes getting no answer at all but simply soaking into our hearts some truth completely incomprehensible to the intellect.

God tells Jacob to get up, arise, move. He tells him to go to Bethel, which means house of God. And so Jacob and all his household purify themselves, cleanse themselves. They take a bath. They take off all their jewelry, all the trappings they hide behind, and they set aside all their foreign, alien, false god’s. They gather all these false, foreign, extras and bury them.

In the dark quiet of my kitchen a prayer escapes from my lips, a question passes through my heart…

What is false in my life? What is foreign? What things am I hiding behind, clinging to, giving a place of honor in my life, wearing like jewelry on my heart, that are false? What things am I picking up that are foreign, that aren’t mine, that aren’t for me? What idols am I quietly collecting? Show me the things that need to be set aside so that I can simply and completely, in wholeness, be who I am, as you intended me to be. Show me the false, so I can see the true. Cleanse me, so that all that is left is what is true and real, right and mine. So that I can come to Bethel, the house of God, and meet with you in truth.

And God meets with Jacob again and gives him a new name.

“Your name is Jacob (Heel); but that’s your name no longer. From now on your name is Israel (God-Wrestler).” (The Message)

God-Wrestler.

What did Jacob think of this new name? Is it what he hoped for? Perhaps not. It’s not exactly a feel good name, it’s not Father of Nations, or Prince of Peace. God-Wrestler invokes a certain amount of pain, doesn’t it? And yet it’s an honest name. We can see it in Jacob from our vantage point, but could he?

And isn’t it, in fact, a name full of honor? God Almighty let Jacob wrestle with him, allowed Jacob to bring all of his baggage and questions and frustrations right before the throne and wrestle it out with the God of the universe there. What a privilege!

Do I want God to speak an honest name to me? A name full of honor and privilege, but also, quiet possibly, full of pain? Or am I still wearing so much of my jewelry, and carrying so many of my foreign god’s that I can’t accept an honest name. Do I hold on to a name that is lesser than all that God has for me? Or strive after a name that is more? Can I let him speak honest truth over me instead?

Israel doesn’t seem to accept the name right away either. The text continues to call him Jacob.

And then a son is born and Rachel dies. Jacob is given a great joy with a great pain. And then the text reads, “Israel journeyed on…”

It’s as if that moment of mixed pain and joy confronts Jacob with his true identity, God-wrestler.

I again read over the last few verses of the chapter, names and places. It blurs a little. Stop. Pay attention, something has happened. Israel is Jacob once more. Why? Is it important.

Israel was an honest name, but perhaps it was also one that Jacob had to live into, like the questions. Perhaps that is how it is with us as well sometimes. God shows up and gives us a glimpse of who we are, at heart, in honest truth, and we don’t claim it right away, and then maybe for a time we do, we live into it, and then we revert back for a time to our old self, our old foreign falseness.

And maybe this is yet another place where we need each other, where we need community. We need people who can call out our real names. People who will remind us when we sink back into the old self. People who will speak truth to us, even when that truth looks harsh. People who will say, “This is not who you are. This is something foreign. This is something false. You need to bury this.”

Jacob had a new name. Perhaps for the first time in his life he saw himself rightly, saw himself honestly, as God saw him. And then he went back to his family, his sons and his father, and they called him Jacob. Rather than call out the deeper true identity, they saw the old, the “heel”.

Often in my own life I feel a great shift has happened, a peeling back of the false and a stepping into the true, and then, well, then life continues. And things go back to how they were. And perhaps there are hints of the change, but it isn’t acted out in completeness.

And sometimes, no often, even when those around me do call me by the truth and see the new or the could-be in me, I don’t believe them. I still cling to the lesser name.

There’s a chapter in Henri’s book The Inner Voice of Love that I haven’t been able to shake lately. He writes:

“When people who know your heart well and love you dearly say that you are a child of God, that God has entered deeply into your being, and that you are offering much of God to others, you hear these statements as pep talks. You don’t believe that these people are really seeing what they are saying.
You have to start seeing yourself as your truthful friends see you. As long as you remain blind to your own truth, you keep putting yourself down and referring to everyone else as better, holier, and more loved than you are. You look up to everyone in whom you see goodness, beauty, and love because you do not see any of these qualities in yourself. As a result, you begin leaning on others without realizing that you have everything you need to stand on your own feet.
You cannot force things, however. You cannot make yourself see what others see. You cannot fully claim yourself when parts of you are still wayward. You have to acknowledge where you are and affirm that place. You have to be willing to live your loneliness, your incompleteness, your lack of total incarnation fearlessly, and trust that God will give you the people to keep showing you the truth of who you are.”

And there, hidden towards the end, lies some key to the spiritual life, “…trust that God…”

Trust that God will keep speaking truth over me. Trust that God will keep calling out my true name, and giving  me others, at just the right time, who would speak that name over me as well. Trust that God will finish the work he began in me. Trust that it is God, by his grace, who does the work.

The light is beginning to creep through my kitchen window now and my cup is empty. A prayer lingers on the air…

And the day begins.

Grace and peace,

Bethany


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Hail The New

“…fast away the old year passes…”

For the past few years I’ve gotten to New Year’s Eve and said a very firm “good riddance!” They were hard years and I was eager to put them behind me.

Last year was also like that, but with an added note of tenderness. I wanted to put the year behind me, I wanted to put growing cancer cells and uncertainty behind me, but I knew I couldn’t. We were still in it. So I clung gently to the word “hope”, and we spent our New Years praying and smudging and holding our tender hearts in open hands with only the safest of friends.

Now we come again to this landmark of passing time. This year feels so different then the last few. This year Bryan isn’t in treatment. His tumors haven’t grown in about eight months. We’ve tentatively, slowly, started to dream again. We’ve been in a fairly “normal” season.

And I want to hold on to it.

It’s been a hard year, but it’s also been a sweet year. A tender year. A year were external pressures have slowly lessened and made room for growth, and depth, and slow healing.

Much of this year for me has been peeling back layers and shedding skin. It’s been a year of shining light in dark corners, and bringing things out into the open. It’d been a year of waking up, and letting go of numbness, of a slowly opening heart and all the hurt that comes with that.

It’s been a year of deep personal soul work. And I’m not ready for it to end.

I know it won’t, I know it doesn’t need to just because of an arbitrary date on the calendar, but I also know this date marks a shifting.

Something new is coming. Maybe not tomorrow at the strike of midnight, but sometime soon. No season lasts forever. And I can already feel this one ending.

“…hail the new, ye lads and lasses…”

There have been little invitations everywhere. Invitations to enter into a new sort of soul work, a new level of heart work, to build on all that has come from 2015, and step onto new ground.

It is an invitation though, and I know I have a choice to accept it or not. I can sense within me the urge to drag my feet, to think I’m not ready yet, to believe that I need to stay in this space longer. Yet I know my hesitation is just fear.

The fear of not knowing what’s next. I can handle the hard spaces I know, I’m not sure I can handle the hard spaces I don’t know.

What hard heart work does God have for me next?

This year could bring anything.

When I think about that I don’t get excited for all the unknown good this year could bring, instead my mind goes straight to all that could go wrong. I know, all too well, how quickly things can change.

At the heart of my fear are two beliefs. The believe that I am not good enough, strong enough, kind enough, smart enough to handle what comes my way. And the belief that what God has for me is only for my “spiritual good”.

I still don’t believe that The Spirit of God has good things for me, wants good things for me, here and now, in this life. In very real and tangible ways I still don’t believe (though I struggle to believe it) that God loves me.

I think that is the heart of this invitation I keep hearing, the invitation into a new year, a new season, a new space of growth and learning. Will I believe that I am the beloved? Can I accept that God loves me AND has good things for me (in the land of the living)?

How? How do I step onto this new ground, into this new land? Beliefs aren’t changed by a sudden act of decision. It takes time and lots of little repeated decisions, decisions to stay the course.

I’m finding a small bit of the map in the writings of Henri Nouwen lately. It is good that though each story is unique to the individual there is also much that is common in the spiritual journey.

“The new country is where you are called to go, and the only way to go there is naked and vulnerable…As long as you run from where you are and distract yourself, you cannot fully let yourself be healed. A seed only flourishes by staying in the ground in which it is sown…Think about yourself as a little seed planted in rich soil. All you have to do is stay there and trust that the soil contains everything you need to grow. This growth takes place even when you do not feel it. Be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received.” The Inner Voice of Love

“Do not despair, thinking that you cannot change yourself after so many years. Simply enter into the presence of Jesus as you are and ask him to give you a fearless heart where he can be with you. You cannot make yourself different. Jesus came to give you a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new body. Let him transform you by his love and so enable you to receive his affection in your whole being.” The Inner Voice of Love

“Do not discount what you have already accomplished. You have made important steps toward the freedom you are searching for…You can look at your life as a large cone that becomes narrower the deeper you go. There are many doors in that cone that give you chances to leave the journey. But you have been closing these doors one after the other, making yourself go deeper and deeper into your center. You know that Jesus is waiting for you at the end, just as you know that he is guiding you as you move in that direction. Every time you close another door – be it the door of immediate satisfaction, the door of distracting entertainment, the door of busyness, the door of guilt and worry, or the door of self-rejection – you commit yourself to go deeper into your heart and thus deeper into the heart of God.
This is a movement toward full incarnation. It leads you to become what you already are – a child of God; it lets you embody more and more the truth of your being; it makes you claim the God within you… You must trust the depth of God’s presence in you and live from there.” The Inner Voice of Love

“Jesus is where you are, and you can trust that he will show you the next step.” The Inner Voice of Love

Yes, come Lord Jesus. Teach me to trust. Change the beliefs I hold about myself and about You. Change them so that all that remains is honest truth. And as I step into this new year, this new season, hold me firm in your love.

Grace and peace,
Bethany


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Godspace Post: Out of Hiding And Into Light

Today I have the privilege to share a bit of my writing on Christine Sine’s site, Godspace. Christine has often shone light into my life and heart through her writing and her heart for prayer and contemplation. I’m always honored to get to share a bit of my thoughts and journey on her site.

Here’s a little taste of the post I’m sharing over there.

I’m beginning to think I cannot fully receive mercy and grace for what I do not expose. Perhaps this is exactly the work of sanctification. Exposing, one thing after another, before God, before myself, before others. Perhaps the work of sanctification requires that I see myself exactly as I am, see all of the cracks in my foundations, all of the broken places, the clutter and garbage to which I keep clinging. In seeing these things, in acknowledging, in leaning towards the light and letting it shine in all corners of myself, I am entering into the heart of Advent waiting, which is need.

It is our deep need for a savior, a messiah, that prompts us to call out the holy summons of Advent, “Come. Come, Lord Jesus.” It is our deep need for mercy and grace, for someone to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, that produces in us the holy longing of Advent.

Perhaps Advent is really a season of repentance. And perhaps the first step of repentance is to stop hiding and step into the light. I cannot heal myself, but perhaps God cannot heal me either until I come to him in truth, in confession, seeing my need for what it is.

Read the full post here.

Grace and peace,
Bethany


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Surrender vs Trust

For what seems like my entire adult life, “surrender” has been my mantra and open hands have been my icon.

And they needed to be. Truly.

I have always been prone to control issues. The little futurist dreamer I was as a child approached everything with clenched fists and didn’t want to give up on her ideas of the world and what her life would look like.

But God, in his grace, dealt severely with my hard heart.

He has preached surrender to me at every turn. He pried open my clenched fists. He provided grace.

And I thought I had learned. Time and time again I thought I had learned, only to find myself on a merry-go-round coming right back around to the things I thought I had left.

This morning was one of those moments. It came like a flash as I was getting my daughter dressed for school.

“Bethany, your open-handedness is just a new form of control.”

I stopped pulling my daughter’s arm into her sleeve and froze. “No, surrender and openness are what you’ve been teaching me, God. How could that be a form of control?”

He didn’t answer, but I soon found myself thinking of a friend. This friend who currently clings to God’s promise, who begs God for specific provision that doesn’t come. She makes me uncomfortable, with her raw desire. I feel uncomfortable with how staunchly she stands, so sure of God’s leading despite the obstacles. I think if she could only approach the situation with more openness, then maybe she could find a way around the obstacles, it might not look exactly like she wants, but life rarely does, that’s what surrendering to God’s will looks like after all.

And suddenly I see it, my hidden belief, the belief I don’t say aloud, but I act upon all the time. The secret belief that God doesn’t make promises, not firm ones. I believe that he does lead and direct us to do certain things, but that leading is no guarantee that the thing He’s leading us to will actually happen. My hidden belief that God doesn’t want us to cling to anything, that all things should be open to being taken away.

Here’s where my openhandedness becomes control. Do you see it?

Lately I hold everything so open that I don’t pursue anything. I don’t even know how to desire or dream anymore. If I hit the slightest resistance I stop, I let go, I give up. I use openhandedness and surrender as an excuse to protect myself from disappointment, an emotion that feels all too familiar.

I say if God really wants something to happen He’ll place it right in the middle of my path. He’ll bring the request, the people, the whatever, to make it work out. I’m not going to force anything, quickly becomes I’m not going to work at anything long term.

I don’t want to desire, to feel hungry, to want, because I don’t want to be hurt again. So I hide, and I do my hiding under the disguise of surrender, of waiting on God, of openhandedness.

I hold everything loosely and don’t commit to anything, and I call that openhandedness.

If I can’t control my dreams and make them happen, if I can’t control my externals, then I sure as hell will control my internals. I will protect my heart as best I can and that means, don’t step out, don’t dream, don’t desire, don’t pursue. Only respond to what pursues you and only if pursued consistently.

I use surrender as a shield of protection. And isn’t protecting just a form of controlling?

And oh how impotent I become!

And so God keeps asking this question, the same question Jesus so often asked those who came to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

And I squirm under it, run from it, and avoid answering. I numb myself out so completely that I don’t even know how to answer anymore.

There has to be some space between the clenched fists of my childhood and my adult fists which refuse to hold on to anything. There has to be some middle ground where I can be entirely and completely surrendered to the will of God, without becoming so impotent that I am unable to pursue any specifics of that will with desire, passion, and fight. There has to be some balance where I can have open hands while still holding fast to the desires God gives. There has to be some space where I can believe that what God calls us to He completes.

It’s all lack of trust in the end.

So often my surrender and openhandedness are not based on trust, but hopelessness. I surrender to an all-powerful, all-knowing, God, not because I trust him to care for me and love me, but because I feel I have no other choice.

Engrained in my theology is this idea that God cares only about making me holy, and holiness requires pain, so I can’t trust God to care for me, or act lovingly towards me, or provide good for me, because his only aim is my holiness. I’m not sure that this is bad theology, I do belief that God cares a lot about shaping and weeding our souls and I do believe that requires pain. But, perhaps this is incomplete theology. Because this belief I have about God shouldn’t supersede the truth that God is love.

God.Is.Love.

God acts love. God speaks love. God does love. God loves me. In love he desires to refine me, but that is just one of the good things that love desires for the beloved.

I don’t trust my desires and I don’t trust the desires I sometimes feel God has given me. Because in my story desires so rarely result in completeness, fulfillment, and fruit. But how much of that is me self sabotaging in an effort to protect? How much of that is me trying to control? How much of that is me not listening well to God’s prompting? How much of that is just God’s grace not allowing something that in the end wouldn’t be for my good?

Perhaps He is more trustworthy than I could ever imagine.

What if I could really truly believe that God loves me? What if I could believe that he loves my desires? What if I could believe that my risks are covered in love, held up in love, surrounded in love? What if I could believe that even my past hurts, the times I stepped out and things didn’t go the way I wanted, were covered in love, held in love, surrounded in love?

As I come around again on this merry-go-round, and feel like God is bringing me back to the same things, I realize that he isn’t bringing me back to the same things at all. I thought God kept bringing me back around to surrender, only to find this morning that what he has really been wanting from me is trust.

These may seem like very similar things, but at their core surrender and trust are very different postures.

Surrender is an act I do. It’s something I control. I can do it on my terms and even use it to manipulate my own continued stance of supremacy. I can surrender for lots of different reasons, my surrender can be motivated by all kinds of things other than love.

Not so with trust.

Trust is always motivated by love. Trust requires only one thing from me, to receive. To receive God’s love. I can’t trust God until I really accept and receive that He loves me.

He. Loves. Me.

Grace and peace,
Bethany


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