Part 2: Chapter 1 – Day 6: The Thread of Redemption

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 2‘s Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a testimony of God’s redemption in her own life and heart and invites you to join her in prayer at the end. This is an edited version of a blog post she published here on shalomaleh.com at the end of May.

A few years ago, I sat lamenting my past and all the decisions that were made on my behalf as a child that I saw as pushing me down my Prodigal path. In effect, I was blaming my parents for the path my life had taken. But as I began to do so, God began to ask me to look for His thread of redemption weaving through every decision made on my behalf.

I blamed my Dad for choosing to send only me to a non-Christian school and taking me away from my “safe” environment. But God asked me to open my eyes to see what He had gifted me in those years. It’s then I saw the beautiful souls He had had me befriend from multiple nations and multiple faith backgrounds. Jesus taught me so much through these girls, who were so genuine with me and, unlike me, didn’t hide beneath a veneer of self-righteousness. 

Through these girls, I now see Jesus showing me my own need for salvation. For, the sins I saw them fall into, I saw reflected in my own heart. The only difference was that no one but God saw that darkness hiding in me. Jesus was showing me that it’s not Christian environments that are our Savior, but Him alone.

I blamed my parents for the trauma of my childhood. I blamed them for making me feel like Jesus had abandoned me and my little adopted brother, as in their pain, frustration and exhaustion, they began to follow the letter of the law and abandoned the Spirit’s leading in their methods of discipline. But God asked me to open my eyes to see my story through the lens of truth and grace.

Now, I know my parents never forced me to worship them. My parents never forced me to put my trust in them above God. I chose to clothe myself in lies and turn to sin to numb my pain. I now know that Jesus has given me the gift of free will – the free will to choose Him, to be set apart unto Him.

I now know that He so longed for me as a little girl to rest in His love and acceptance. He longed for me to persevere through suffering, by abiding in Him and His Word to me, a Word that did not return void, but reaped the fruit for which it was sent, more than twenty years later.

I now know I have been given the honor and free will to rejoice in the hope of glory that will not put me to shame, as I choose to be set apart according to the purposes of God:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5: 1-5 (ESV)

I now know that to honor my mother and father was to honor Jesus in them. It was to allow Jesus to set me apart for His purposes. It was to discover that I have the free will to deny myself, take up my Cross and follow Jesus that He might bless each one of us. 

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:34-37 (ESV)

Jesus showed me that when my parents dedicated me to Him as a baby and when I gave my heart to Him as a four year old, He bound Himself to me. I became His.

My parents and I invited Jesus to become the author and finisher of my faith, in response to our Heavenly Father’s invitation and Christ has shown Himself faithful and still is, daily. Now, I see how Jesus used my parents’, my little brother’s and my own weakness to perfect His power. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV).

God knew my prideful and adulterous heart needed this experience of being set apart, so the branches that were not bearing any fruit could be cut off and burned. Now, through His patient labor of love and mercy, I am embracing the discipline and pruning work God first began in me as a little girl. And I am seeing the fruit of His labor of redemption: His buying back of my life and heart from sin and death.

For, Jesus is turning my mourning into dancing. Through each new setting apart, He is opening my eyes to see by faith and not by sight. Through my experiences of His faithful and never-forsaking love, my heart is learning to trust and obey Jesus. Now, I know that “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV).

Yes, forever He will be the Lamb upon the throne:

Dear Abba Father, thank You for the thread of redemption running through our families and the beauty You are bringing from the ashes of our past. Help us not to sit in the ashes of our old life, longing for someone to bring us to You and to make us acceptable in Your sight, when Christ has already made us acceptable in Your sight. Remind us that Christ has given us the power and authority to pick up our mats and walk into the new life You have ordained for us.

Father, forgive us for defining ourselves and others through the eyes of the world. Open our eyes to see Your redemption at work in our lives, to see all the ways You have already been transforming our hearts and minds to look more and more like You, through our setting apart. Open our eyes to the beauty of the unseen: the fruit of the Spirit You have been growing in us, as You have cut off and burned all the branches that were not bearing fruit in our lives.

Help us to embrace the Cross, to honor Your Son’s obedience, as He took upon Himself our sin and our suffering at the Cross, by now taking up our own Cross to follow Jesus. Help us to hear and obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to put to death the works of the flesh and to heed Your call to be set apart unto You alone. Teach us to trust You that we might pray without ceasing, even when it hurts. Help us to hear Your call and to continually pour our hearts out before You in the loss and pain. Help us to listen for Your Word to us, that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that by testing we may discern what is Your will and what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Help us not to bow to our idols of pride, self and man, but to recognize the honor You are bestowing on us to fill up in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, the church, as You set us apart that we might be holy, as You are holy. Teach us, moment by moment, to walk in the light of Your truth. Give us undivided hearts that we might fear Your Name above all else.

Open our eyes to the beauty of Your setting apart that You have purposed to destroy our idols and make us truly One in You, just as You, Your Son and the Holy Spirit are One. Thank You that it is You who works in us, both to will and to work for Your good pleasure. Continue to bow our knees in awe of Your majesty and power and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Receiving My Papa’s Pride

Recently, I once again dropped to my knees to cry out: “oh, LORD, break this horrid sin of pride in me.” But what I heard God speak to me, broke me. I heard Him reply: “Anna, can you let me be proud of you? Do you know just how proud I am of you?”

I just cried and cried and cried. I realized I was so focused on myself that I was failing to praise my God for all HE has been performing in and through me. I began to see how HE has been so strong in me. How HE has been perfecting His power in me. How every time HE has drawn me to come to Him in my weakness of pride, HE has bowed my knees in deep humility, to rest at His feet.

The One Word God gave me for this year was “celebrate“. I sensed Him asking me, not to celebrate what I could physically see, but what HE has been opening my eyes to see in the Spirit: His eternal Promises unveiled. His life, breath and person unveiled in all those He has been calling me to intercede for through the power of His living Word at work in me: including myself.

And as I listened to a sermon on pleasing God today, I wept again, as I saw Him affirm His pride in me. For all those times I went where He asked me. I spoke what He asked me. I faced the enemy’s accusations. And I closed the doors He asked me to, to find myself all alone with Him. Rejected by man, but oh so loved by my Papa.

My Abba Father suddenly turned my thinking on its head. All those places, I left, with my head bowed in shame, as He asked me to leave. All those places, where the Word God had me speak and live out was rejected and I wanted to stay and bow before man, believing man to be God. All those places are not a testimony to my shame. They are a testimony to God’s saving grace. To the Son of God’s obedience at work in me and my Abba Father’s growing pride in me.

Each of those closing doors were Christ’s invitation to receive His internal vindication, by the power of His Holy Spirit. The internal vindication Jesus received, as He walked this earth, facing one rejection after another, for doing the will of His Father. For, Jesus glowed in the love and affirmation of His Papa, who was oh so proud of Him.

I suddenly saw how each closing door has been Christ growing His heart of love, mercy and compassion in me. I saw how those closing doors have been God’s humbling to enable me to enter into His Sabbath rest.

For, each closing door has brought me to my knees in gut-wrenching, honest lament and in that place He has opened my eyes to see what He sees and He has filled my heart with His pure emotions and thoughts. He has enabled me to embody the Word He spoke through me in each place He had me leave.  

For, He has repeatedly broken my heart in grief for those I left behind, causing me to pour out prayers of blessing over those who have accused and even condemned me. He has spoken His Promises of life over them through my mouth. I have literally felt His oil of anointing pour out all over me, with my knees pressed to the ground. And He has also humbled me to search for and retrieve the beautiful grains of truth hidden in each accusation.

“Draw near to me, Anna, and I will draw near to you.” Bitterness and unforgiveness only has room to grow in my heart, where I begin to clothe myself in the enemy’s accusations to believe that man’s rejection is God’s rejection of me. It only has room to grow in me, when I withdraw from my God, believing it is He who has withdrawn from me.

But praise God! My Papa is teaching me to remember that HE never leaves His children and so, when I feel His absence it’s because I have withdrawn from Him. He is teaching me in those moments, to turn back toward Him. To draw near to Him to pour out all that’s hiding within me. And right there my God puts everything in its rightful place, humbling me in my pride to rest in His saving grace.

He vindicates me and those I feel condemned by, by the power of His Holy Spirit. He opens my eyes to see HimJesus – in the face of my every accuser, until all I can do is weep at His mercy – not for those who have accused me – but for me. 

His mercy at calling me unto Himself, so that my knees would now bow before Him alone to rest in His labor of intercession and love through me. So, that the Word He had me speak before them and the Word He had them speak before me, can now be brought to life, in me and in them, in our breaking. So, that I can see the fruit of the Word He gave me to pray 6 years ago. The Word He has kept praying through me all this time: “Oh LORD, teach me to walk in the light of Your love. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your Name above all else.”

Oh yes, I have messed up, grandly. I have clung to the enemy’s accusations. I have clung to people as my god. I have turned around and asked people’s forgiveness for doing the very will of my God. I have walked in unforgiveness and bitterness.

But now I see, how God has been training me in righteousness. How He has been growing me in gentleness and kindness. How, through each breaking, He has been humbling me to rest in Him alone, to surrender all else into His hands that I may love others as He loves me. How He has been fathering and mothering me.

Now I see, I am a new creation, no longer in condemnation. For gone is the old. And here is the new!

Now, I no longer see these closing doors as my shame. I see them as proof of God’s heart of mercy and compassion at work in me. I see these closing doors as His stepping stones for me. Stepping stones into greater and greater humility and a deeper and deeper knowing of His love for me and His pride in me.

Yes! Papa! Today, I choose to receive Your pride in me. I honor You for all You have done, all You are doing and all You are yet to do through Your Son. For, I know I am not my own. I am Your masterpiece.

And You, You are making something so beautiful out of me: not because I am so strong and so good, but because You are so very faithful to Your Promises. You are so very faithful to perform and complete every good work You begin. Praise You!

I choose to celebrate You, Jesus. I choose to celebrate the Promise: the unveiling of more and more life in and through You. For, no! You are not done with me – with any of us – yet! Come, LORD Jesus, come!

This is the eleventh installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends