This post is linked up to Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart:
This morning, I finally found a quiet moment alone. I sat down to write a Lament, following the helpful guidance of Margaret Feinberg at What to Do When You’ve Got an Achy Breaky Heart. I did so in February this year, in the midst of my battle with a then as yet undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and was amazed and deeply encouraged by the powerful release of doing so. In the past days, I’ve felt a weight upon me, as I’ve been carrying emotions that have been at once crippling and yet inexplicable.
If you’ve been reading along lately, you’ll know that God has been working in my heart to release that which I have not been called to carry. But in writing the Lament this morning, my eyes were opened to the need to name that which I am called to release. In Genesis, God called man to “be responsible for the fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of the Earth” and follows this by bringing every living creature to Adam “to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named birds of the air, named the wild animals”. It’s as if naming the living creatures was part of Man taking responsibility for the creatures, as He was called by God to do so. And in giving my emotions a voice on paper, I felt myself taking ownership over that which was pressing me down.
In the New Testament, we see this same ownership being taken in words, when Jesus confronts Peter with his past, his having disowned Jesus on three separate occasions before the cock crowed:
John 6 : 15 – 17 (NIV)
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
What I find compelling is that Jesus presses into Peter until he “hurts”, until he is fully confronted by his guilt and shame, the third question mirroring the third time Peter denied knowing Jesus, when he was confronted by fear. And yet, here the ownership of the guilt, shame and consequent pain of failing the One He loved, was used by Jesus to set Peter free. It’s as if He’s pleading with him: “Confess it Peter, be real, tell me just how much your heart is hurting, how dreadful you feel. And I’ll show you that My Love and Grace covers it all, every single bit.” In asking Peter to “feed His lambs” and “feed His sheep”, Jesus is both releasing Peter from the captivity of his past and the attached emotions (shame, fear, hurt) AND building Him up, by affirming his new calling of shepherding the church in Jesus’ name.
As I sat down to write my Lament, I felt God also calling me to own what was pressing me down. I felt the anger dissolve into what lay beneath: the feeling that God had left me all alone, all alone to carry ridicule, rejection and loneliness in my faith. “Tell me, don’t hold it back, let it out, break the sky and the earth open with your cries.” It made me reflect on the following Scripture and how the “noise” has to be voiced and broken open to be stilled, before God’s Voice can be heard:
1 Kings 19: 11 – 20
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anointJehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
As I saw the root of my problem: fear of rejection and a belief that I had to keep fighting when all energy was draining out of me, I felt God call me to reflect on Lamentations 3: 28 – 33 (The Message):
28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.
31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
in throwing roadblocks in the way
And I felt His Love wash over me, as my heart broke open to be filled with His promises: “wait for hope to appear”, “the Master won’t walk out and fail to return”, “His stockpiles of loyal love are immense”. And so, I stilled my soul, bowed in prayer as I ran through the forest, and heard the words of a Keith Green worship song take shape:
“Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful. Your Face is all I seek. And when your eyes are on this child, Your Grace abounds to me”
And then I saw it, the beauty break open, unfurling before me. Trees stretching their arms up high and wide, streams of sunlight pouring into the forest, birds dancing from tree to tree and Majesty, Worship His Majesty coming to my lips. And as I ran further, I saw a large tree with enormous branches stretching upwards, as if in praise, and I felt Him calling me to praise Him with my heart breaking for that which I could not yet see fulfilled, to praise Him in quiet hope that He would fulfill these deep desires of my heart, that He will yet lead those I love into His great outstretched arms, just as Jesus gave thanks, gave His own body for the breaking, trusting that His Father would yet multiply redemption in the breaking:
Luke 22: 19 (NIV)
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
John 16: 31 -33 (The Message)
31-33 Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
No, I am not alone. He is with me and will remain with me always. And as I name what weighs me down, letting Him break it open as I take ownership of it, He will lead me to the quiet running streams of His Love, to refresh and restore my soul.
John 16: 12-15
12-15 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’