Interestingly we see in the life of Jesus a seemingly contradictory and yet beautifully woven together new covenant of truth kissing grace. He wields His power in force to defend the vulnerable, and yet also, at times, chooses to show longsuffering and patient restraint toward those living in sin.
- Jesus overturned tables in the synagogue, declaring that the house of God had been turned into a den of robbers.
- And yet, He compelled every last accusing soul to drop their stones, when He stood before a woman who had clearly broken the law of God in committing adultery, forcing those present to acknowledge their own weakness and sin, and to recognize their own desperate need for the grace of God.
- Jesus gave preference to His heavenly Father above His earthly parents, going about His Abba Father’s business as a 12 year-old, facing his earthly parents’ rebuke in doing so.
- And yet, He is also the Word fulfilled, a Word that commands us to obey our parents.
- He called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs, uncovering their outward self-righteousness and their inwardly perishing souls.
- And yet, He invited Himself over for dinner, to the house of the sinful tax collector, who was fleecing those around him and had no single friend, calling little Zacchaeus down from the tree he had climbed up in, so he could see Him, the Messiah he so longed to know.
All this makes me think of the microvessels of the heart that both contract (restraint) and expand (power wielded) to function well. If the microvessels contract too often – going into spasm – insufficient oxygen is carried to the heart, causing chest pain, breathlessness and lethargy. This is incidentally the chronic heart condition – microvascular coronary spasms – I suffer from.
Spiritually speaking, this illness of the heart would look like me perpetually showing restraint, not opening my mouth nor overturning tables, when this is in fact needed. Interestingly, both positions (restraint and wielding power) require deep humility and rootedness in the Father’s love.
For, to wield our mouth, hands and feet to defend the vulnerable, comes with the threat of being rejected and condemned, even by our very own brothers and sisters. And to show restraint, to allow God’s grace to do its work patiently and graciously, comes with the threat of being misunderstood. Of being seen as one who condones sin, rather than as a follower of Jesus, who is living out the justice of the Cross, by walking in the footsteps of our humble King.
This humble King sees inside the heart of each one of us. Darkness (the obscurity caused by our sin) is as light (divine illumination in the light of His love) to Him. For, He sees our longing to be fully known and perfectly loved. And so, our Messiah willingly humbled and still humbles Himself for all of us, who long to know Him.
He bent down as He walked this earth, and still bends down toward us today in our hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. And He overturned the tables in anger, that had become a stumbling block to His children, keeping them from His Presence. And He is still doing so today, so that we might come to know His compassion for us all, and His perfecting love and holy power in our weakness and imperfection.
Interestingly, Bettie recently shared a passage of a book with me, that we are both currently reading. In that passage, this bit, in particular, stood out to me (Fearfully and Wonderfully, by Dr Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Kindle location 3093):
The defence mechanism itself becomes the disease.
Besides my heart condition, I was also diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2015. Interestingly, in therapy, we could trace the origin of this disorder back to a moment as a child I had spoken up (wielded power) and was shut down in response, the shutting down being done in the name of God.
Since then, not opening my mouth to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, has triggered waves of trauma, as my body – a Temple of the Holy Spirit – has been longing to wake me up to the truth of this mighty God speaking in me.
You see, over the years I learnt to hide the weapon of truth living inside of me, as I allowed my fear of man’s condemnation and rejection (seeing this as God’s condemnation and rejection) to cripple me. The defence mechanism itself became my disease, as I learnt how to hide the light of Christ and blend into the background to avoid any and all confrontation, as I tried to still the heart of Jesus beating inside of me that had led to those I trusted the most turning me aside and deeming the truth I spoke not of God .
But when God brought me home to Him, He began to wake me up to the beauty of wielding this sword of truth with my mouth. Since my Prodigal return, He has repeatedly compelled me to become visible again: to speak up, when all I have wanted to do is run and hide. And only then, after I have spoken up in His prompting and empowering, has He led me to become silent again, to hide myself in HIS protection and defence.
Ironically, my silence here in the past few days has in fact been God compelling me to yet again live out the words I am sharing with you here. I have been learning, in the Holy Spirit’s prompting, how to become an advocate for my own health. How to speak up to receive the medical help I need, when I would much rather lie down, and accept the status quo: even though that status quo is literally killing me.
I now have a referral to a hospital that has expert knowledge of and experience with others who have my heart condition. I am leaving the hospital, where I was told my condition is very difficult to treat (which is true) and that there isn’t much more that can be done for me medically, other than upping the dosage of one of my meds, which has caused awful side effects (which is not true).
Yes, every single time I have spoken up, both for the spiritual health of the Body of Christ, and for the physical health of my physical body (which belongs to Jesus) in the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I have faced exactly what I have been so afraid of: minimizing, and/or belittling, and/or a door shutting on my face. But through every attack – on the inside of me (self-condemnation) and on the outside – God is becoming my defence: my portion and the strength of my heart, as He leads me away from the shut door to the open door of His blood that was shed – not so I could lie down and die, but wake up to His lifeblood and breath in me.
He has not only been causing me to arise in the truth, but to stand firm in the truth of His love and grace for me. Through every attack, He has walked me into His protection, leading, timing and completion. To achieve this, He has repeatedly had to separate me from those who have condemned me, also to prevent me from becoming bound in a perpetual fight and flight mode – and doing harm not just to my own body, but to the Body of Christ also. The dividing sword has given me back my lifeblood and breath in Christ Jesus, as I have surrendered what is not mine to understand or bring to completion.
Beautifully, in each leading away from a closed door (of accusation and condemnation) before me, God has surrounded me by people, who have built me up in truth and grace, as He has led me to see and walk through the open door set before me. These are people who have encouraged and still are encouraging me to both open my mouth, and to walk into and rest in the hope that is mine in Christ Jesus, through each obstacle I face along the way.
In all of these sustained, ongoing relationships, the other person and I have been empowered to love each other, even when what we see and believe is not the same. But in that place of friction and confrontation, God is repeatedly compelling truth to kiss grace, as He is slowly but surely shedding the lies each of us believe, to lift up the truth of His whole and united heart. A new heart that is drawing us closer and closer together and deeper and deeper into His love that surpasses knowledge.
I am not only becoming Christ’s work of sanctification to the other person, but he/she is becoming His sanctification to me, as my own spiritual blindness is also being lifted away, piece by piece, in both our speaking up and our silence. I see God strengthening each of us through the power of His new heart at work in us.
That new, healthy heart, is contracting (restraint) and releasing (wielding power) the microvessels, in step with the Holy Spirit, to transport the lifeblood and breath of Jesus to the whole Body. God is bringing such a sweet and inexplicable union in Christ, even as we each only see in part, what we will one day see in full.
Bettie too, is seeing the parallels between her physical illness – of rheumatoid arthritis – and the spiritual affliction plaguing Christ’s Body:
Oh! How often I have thought of the ways He asked us to lay down our own dignity and position for the sake of our brothers. It was the spiritual picture of what He is asking me to bear physically now. My inflamed joints ask those other joints not affected, to also bear with them, to bear up under the trial for the sake of the injured one. My old physical way would want to “push through” the pain & ignore it. But God’s pacing here asks me to rest, to pause, for the sake of the wounded area.
And both of us are now recognizing how God has been healing our hearts and our bodies, through the thorn in our side. Through our physical affliction that is humbling us and opening our eyes to truth kissing grace: not just in our present circumstances, but also as we look back upon our past, and even as we look toward the future and a hope we have in Christ Jesus.
In this place of physical weakness, our God has been teaching us both to walk in step with the Holy Spirit. To lean upon our Jesus, so that His heart becomes more and more visible in and through us. So that His perfecting power and His compassionate restraint might arise and shine in and through us and for us.
As Bettie shared with me:
Every breath, every beat of our heart, is God’s fresh start. He is so very full of mercy towards us, His Fearfully and Wonderfully Made body/Body. Thank You dear Jesus for opening Your Word in our hearts. Thank You for uncovering those areas of hidden wounds and scars, so that the mercy of Your New Covenant can wash us afresh. Oh amazing grace how sweet YOUR sound!!