Life bursts forth
Someone approached me awhile back to write an article for them. My only instruction was, “write something beautiful.” Instantly, fireworks erupted in my head. As a writer, I can write “beautiful” in my sleep. Then Monday happened. Tuesday wasn’t much better. Wednesday was the calm before the storm. On Thursday, an old, shoulder injury rushed back onto the scene with a vengeance, stealing away any confidence I had to write anything, beautiful or otherwise. Friday found me nursing my pain with Netflix from the couch, as satan played target practice with my sanity. How could I write something beautiful when ugly had sprouted up in the garden of my soul? (Told you I was a writer.) In those moments, I needed to rest in God’s presence. In times past, I would have reacted instantly and badly. I would have gotten mad at God for not protecting me, blamed Him for my misfortune and dipped into the medicine cabinet of my past for an emotional painkiller or two.
A few days later, I saw what God, not myself, was authoring. It was indeed something beautiful. As I told a friend how difficult it is to think “beautiful” when you’re surrounded by so much ugly, it hit me. Jesus on the cross. What a horrendously ugly, yet purposeful time. Before Jesus, the cross wasn’t a symbol of beauty. It was a torture device. Jesus pressed through every, horrific, pain filled moment, because of His love for us. It was His love and willingness to endure hardship and trials that transformed a thing of torture into a symbol of beauty. I asked myself. If I am living surrendered to Jesus, am I living as He lived? What do I do when satan comes knocking at the door? Where do hardship and struggle take my mind? Do I brace and endure, reminding myself of the long term good? Do I succumb to the pressure and medicate the short-term pain?
I often encourage those trying to navigate the waters of Christianity and the bible, to read the gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the literary “3-D printer” of the Jesus Christ’s life. They represent four accounts of Jesus that, verse by verse, construct a composite image of Jesus Christ in our minds. Jesus knew what was expected of Him during His time on earth. He was here to do the will of the Father, not the will of the people. I think how often that fear and neediness leads me to get these confused. Jesus knew who He was. He knew that times of rest and time with Father God were necessary, not negotiable. When we follow Jesus’ example and take time to rest, understand our calling and connect with God, the seeds of beauty break through the soil of our dark, human hearts. Life bursts forth. Matthew 15:19-20 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person…”
Though ugliness may swirl around us, Jesus speaks directly to our hearts, “Peace, Be still.”
God revealed something in my talks, screaming fits and silent moments with Him. John 3:30 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” At different times in my life this verse either infuriates me or enlightens me with the reminder that I can, once again, resign as the CEO of my life. The mature Christian in me understands it fully. The fragmented, little boy who struggled in silence with his sexuality, grew up in a restrictive church and was raised by a bipolar mom and a distant dad, is consistently battles with this verse. That little boy endured 12 years of anguish and pain, waiting for his time to shine. He wasn’t giving up control that easy.
Yet, a loving God had the patience to endure my elective, ‘ugly’ years. To wait for my humbled ‘Yes’ after years of angry ‘Nos’. His Grace affords us some personal moments of ugliness as Jesus searches to restore beauty and healing to the wounds in our broken hearts.
God posed the question to me one day, “What if this entire thing, your life, was simpler than you’ve made it? What if it was all about the relationship between Me and you? What if your talents, abilities, desires and ministry goals were all just distractions? What if it truly was about loving Me with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?” This conversation when on for a few minutes before I realized what He was digging around. With each question He posed, I felt a peace, clarity and a closeness to Him return to my heart and mind. For weeks, those feelings had been shrouded by pain and distraction. Suddenly, I felt the clouds in my mind roll back and His guiding light break through.
When God finished, I saw the point He was trying to make. God wants our being, not our doing. He wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. If you have trouble hearing from God as I did, start with His word. One truth I have learned over my short, 20 years as a Christian is simply this. God is always speaking, somewhere. Never stop searching for His voice.