I confess, if I were the author of my story, I might have written a few of the chapters differently. I might have cleaned up some of the rough edges and plot lines. I might have skipped a trauma or two, or three, or a million and seven.
When I was seven or eight years old, I had an encounter with God. I’d been raised in church. I’d heard about him almost my entire life. I would have been able to tell you all about the Bible stories and the gospel. I sang hymns louder than anyone around me (anyone who knows me in person can attest to the fact that I sing louder than most). I knew of him. But that night I MET him.
I remember being surrounded by people in that little country church in Southern Ohio and it being just Jesus and me. I remember him softly speaking to my heart that he had a plan for my life. I remember knowing more than I’ve ever known anything (to this day) that he was real, he loved me, and I am his and he is mine. No matter what I’ve been through since, everything comes back to that one night when he called me his own.
What I’m realizing now, so many years later, is that I’ve spent most of my time trying to live up to the calling I felt that night. Every mistake I’ve made felt like the annihilation of everything for me. Every trauma felt like disqualification. I can’t say my life has been a rose-garden. From a ‘Christian-ese’ perspective, I probably should have been disqualified. I’ve had a baby out of wedlock. I’ve been divorced and remarried. I’ve made some grade-A messes throughout my life. How could he possibly still use me now?
But one thing remains, the redemptive love of God. I’ve never stopped asking him to pick me back up and help me to keep on walking. Sure, many times, I’ve tried to scoop myself up off the floor and fix everything broken in my life. Sure, many times, I’ve whined and cried to the heavens because a lot of my messes weren’t my own doing, and it just didn’t seem fair. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that.
Still, he didn’t call me because of my qualifications or my abilities. I wouldn’t have been the right choice. He called me by his mercy, knowing I would mess it all up a thousand times and keep coming back. Maybe the biggest part of my testimony is that through it all and despite of me, I still love him deeply. I feel everything deeply and I’m not afraid to be real. Maybe my weaknesses are part of why he chooses me. If his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9) then I have spent a lifetime proving him strong. I’m like a weeble-wobble who keeps popping back up ready for battle no matter how many times I’ve been knocked down.
The past few years have been probably the hardest few years of my life. I’ve cried more and, honestly, lost my wobble more, in that season that anytime I can remember. It’s been ROUGH, y’all! But I’ve kept on fighting and getting up every morning, sometimes begrudgingly, lacing up my running shoes, and walking forward. Now, I’m seeing God answer prayers I wasn’t sure he would. I’m seeing him perfect, despite how weak I had been. I’m so incredibly grateful!
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord.
I feel like I’d reached the bottom of myself and all the striving and trying to be enough was finally able to give way to a profound and staggering desire for him. Suddenly, I want him to be glorified, not to prove myself worthy of him reaching out to me so many years ago, but because I feel the weight of his glory. I would have never thought I was making the focus about me. I would have denied it if you’d accused me of it. I wasn’t outwardly. I wasn’t making a show or doing good works and ministry to look good to others. I think I was, however, trying to look good to me. I thought I was a bad investment.
I’ve always prayed the Psalm I began this with. It’s been a mantra of mine for years. Yet now, I feel it to my bones!
My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
He has been so good and so faithful to me; I cannot help but tell of his goodness. I yield my life to be a pen in his capable hands. His story is being written on my heart and walked out by my feet. My heart is overflowing.
I know this isn’t the kind of thing I typically write here, but I pray that you who have been patient enough to read this so far, would realize that every step, even the rough and unsteady ones, will bring you closer if you just keep walking towards him. I pray that his love would so permeate your spirit, that you can’t help but write, create, sing, dance, whistle, whittle, play air-guitar, whatever it is that you do . Overflow! Don’t allow the scars of this life to rob you of the beauty he’s writing for you. Just keep walking. Every step is worth it if we are walking towards Jesus. He isn’t going to run away. He’s right there with you always!
I’ve done a lot of research lately. Call it the consequences of a lifelong nerd falling down a rabbit hole. Alice would be proud!
An almost lifelong friend recently “deconstructed” from the Christian faith. I have a lifetime invested in this faith, part of which, I walked along side this friend…closely. So I wondered…
What causes someone to give up a lifetime for a new lifetime? Is there anything that would possibly convince me to walk away? What reasons, what heartache, what analytical study, what abuse, would separate life from life and truth from truth?
For me, the answer is nothing. I’ve firmly established my convictions and beliefs and cannot be persuaded of anything contrary. But I get it. I really do.
I despise spiritual abuse! It is abhorrent! And I believe a Jesus would be in the midst of it with chords turning tables and agreeing with me. There is no excuse. I despise the notion that anything, power, ministry, or money, could be more important than the rights of a victim! There is no excuse.
But this does not disqualify the gospel. And there are far too many thoughts swirling in my brain tonight to make this fully cohesive.
For tonight, I will say that I’ve seen multiple posts surrounding the idea of Christian worship that are grating at me. I’ve been leading worship over half of my life so this inherently bothers me.
They say that worship music is manipulation preying on the emotional response of the congregant. That the music is derived in such a way as to inherently initiate an emotive response and is, therefore, manipulative by nature.
I take issue with this on multiple levels but tonight let me give you an experiential example.
Yes, music is moving. Music speaks to the soul. No one can deny this. Why it is supposedly wrong to incorporate this with our faith traditions is lost on me. Even in scripture, Saul calls for a musician to soothe him. The musicians went into battle before the army. There is precedented truth to the power of music to inspire and transform. Why is that wrong?
The criticism is that worship music inherently coerces an emotional response and we, worship leaders, manipulate with chords and progressions designed to elicit said response from the hearer.
I couldn’t help but think of a moment in our worship services this past Sunday when we sang the song, “Hymn of Heaven”. The lyric to the second verse says, “And every prayer we prayed in desperation. The songs of faith we sang through doubt and fear. In the end, we’ll see that it was worth it. When He returns to wipe away our tears”
For reference, I was on stage performing this song. So don’t think for a moment I wasn’t involved? But, in the moment, I wasn’t feeling the emotional resonance of chord structure and performance. I was caught up in the lyrics, the truth of my life this year and the prayers “I’ve prayed in desperation”, and the “songs of faith I’ve sang through doubt and fears.” And the beauty of what God has done in my life recently.
I lead/backup vocal worship almost every week of my life for the last 30 years and this few months, I found myself reaching for life at the wellspring of hope because life isn’t easy. You don’t know my journey, but if you did…
We aren’t immune to suffering.we aren’t promised tulips and roses.
Sometimes we get prayers of desperation. Sometimes, there isn’t sense to be made of the chaos. And my full story is a song for another blog post…
But as I sang this song from the stage on Sunday (along with others equally as beautiful and impactful), tears filled my eyes and I had to be “that girl” on the church’s livestream pulling myself together while my tears fell.
Because if it weren’t for the gospel…
If it weren’t for truth…
If it weren’t worth it…
I wouldn’t be here.
Someday I will share the whole story. Someday, I will explain but for now…I hear the naysayers calling “manipulation” and I praise God above that He is REAL!!! He is TRUTH! And He is enough for me.
I’m truly sorry for the voices lost to spiritual abuse. My heart breaks for you more than I can express but I please don’t judge God on the horrible injustices of people who call themselves his. Find Him. Reconstruct to the true and loving God who is so infinitely valuable and faithful!
Two cents for the hurting…how can I help? I’m listening.