Living Whole

This is the third 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


And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:15 ESV)

Memories are funny things. Sweet memories linger. Scents of summer’s breath, Grandma’s perfume, Granddad’s soapy bristle as he leans in to give you a tender “peck” on the cheek. But then there are the memories seared into the brain. Locked away, too painful to linger. Hidden deep.

And yet Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For me, this gift came in the return of a piercing silence, in the lingering pain He began to draw to the surface, that I had known so well as a little girl.

Silence 

More than anything 

It cuts and maims

And holds me bound.

To then be met 

By slicing silence 

Is too much for 

This one heart to bare.

Teach me Your wisdom 

LORD, to keep on giving

Even then

Even with heart torn and bled.

Even when lying tongues

Speak shame and press me far away

Where I begin to question

Who I am.

Help me even then to return

And rest in who You are

Inside of me

Strong, where I am weak.

Hold me, each and every broken piece 

Safe, in Your whole hands

And place me where You 

Would have me be.

Be my strength, when I have none

My courage, where lies speak loud

My thoughts, my words and deeds

That I may once again:

Turn toward You, my Rock

My fortress and deliverer

That Your heart may gush

As living water from this:

Your holy Temple

And dwelling place

A living stone among many

Being built upon the Rock.

Upon the cornerstone

Rejected by man

But chosen by God

And precious to Him.

As that little girl, God first called me to partake in His suffering. He set me apart from those I loved most, calling me to stand with Him to intercede for the healing of His Body. But, as that child, I allowed the enemy to convince me that this setting apart, that caused such deep pain in my heart was proof of my evil and my disobedience, rather than proof of God honoring my heart’s desire to know the depths of His grace.

Yet, even in that unbelieving and distrusting child, His grace gushed forth, breaking open my hardened by sin heart that I was too afraid and too ashamed to bring into the open. Sadly, though, as I saw the responses of those around me to the Holy Spirit’s touch upon me and my open confession of my weakness and sin, I reeled in shame.

Yet, rather than condemn me as I bowed before my idols, God led me out and away from the environment, where the enemy prowled and bound me in perpetual fear and shame. Then, many years later, His Holy Spirit once again poured out upon me. This time, I was surrounded only by mountains, walking my baby girl to sleep, as I grieved my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Through my life story, God is showing me that His call upon our lives is irrevocable. When we keep silent in the breaking, as His longing for us individually, and for His Bride corporately, pierces our fearful and prideful hearts, we let our bones waste away through our groaning all day long (Psalm 32:3). And yet, amazingly, even then, in our silence to our Father’s call, our Savior continues speaking tenderly to us through the desert. Piece by piece, He breaks open the wilderness of our hearts to gush forth His grace, proclaiming through the breaking that our hard service has been completed, that our sin has been paid for, that we have received from the Lord’s hand double for all our sins (Isaiah 40:2). 

Now, unlike when I was little, I can see that as our hearts harden to the seed of His sowing in our pain and unbelief, God’s power takes over. For, it is precisely in our weakness that Christ shines forth His power to save and redeem. 

We needn’t be embarrassed by His power that openly displays the changing of our minds and lives. We needn’t be ashamed of the pure, white dress of repentance He is clothing us in to prove His love for us and His Body. We needn’t be ashamed of the growing fruit of His love for us and others being revealed in and through our open confession of sin and weakness. And we needn’t be ashamed of the healing leaves of His grace covering us. For, precisely these healing leaves are what God uses to silence the accuser of our brethren also, as He strips the condemnation and shame covering those around us, as we boast in our weakness to His glory.

Yes, through our every breaking and setting apart, God causes us to die to the law that has been arousing “sinful passions” in us (Romans 7:5) and to arise anew in the strength of His Spirit at work in us (Romans 8:9). He transforms our thinking so that instead of dwelling inside our lack, we begin to dwell inside the fullness and the perfect wholeness already dwelling inside of us: Jesus. It’s the heart and mind of Christ at work in us that stops us fighting to defend ourselves and stops us fleeing to protect ourselves. It’s Jesus that compels us to come into His Presence unguarded to be covered by His healing wings of grace. 

As He draws us ever nearer, He uncovers our pain and unbelief. It’s then we come, as little children, whose Savior has split the veil of separation in two. We come with our anger, with our tears, with our fears and our agonizing doubts, pouring our hearts out freely at His feet.

It’s there Christ teaches us to glory in our weakness. His power unveils a new heart of faith, hope and love, beating so strongly in us: His very own heart of flesh that has already replaced our heart of stone. It is not we who must muster up the faith to believe Him at His Word. NO! He gives us this faith as a free gift. The faith to truly believe Him when He reminds us that it is no longer we and our sinful hearts that live, but Christ and His heart of flesh that lives in us, When He reminds us that the life we now live in the earthly tent that is fading by the day, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20), knowing that as our outward selves are decaying, our inward selves are being renewed by the day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

He stills the accuser’s voice, that we might hear His heart of flesh declare in and through us: “My beloved is mine and I am his.” (Song of Songs 2:16). He reminds us that we have never and will never ever be alone. Yes, our God is with us in each and every breaking. He is with us in each and every silence. And clothed in that knowledge and experience of His precious Presence with us, joy, peace and glorious hope begin to flow out of us with great force. Living water – the life of Jesus – begins to gush out of the rock – Jesus – living inside of us to bless and heal others also.

Now, I know that when all I could hear and feel was that piercing silence as a little girl, the Holy Spirit was in fact speaking with and in me (cf John 14:17). Precisely by setting me apart through my own and my loved ones’ weakness, He was preparing the Way to shed abroad His love, not just in my own heart and my loved ones, but many more.

Now, I know that all along, He was preparing me to live out His irrevocable calling on my life: to be a broken open vessel to His glory. Now, thanks to His perseverance, I can testify, with great joy and thankfulness, of His life at work in me. I can speak of His unbelievable mercy toward me in my sin and His deep compassion toward me, through every trigger of trauma. Triggers that He is using for good: to transform my mind and to reveal His heart of flesh in and through me.

Now, I know that nothing can stop me from speaking of Christ’s love and grace for me. Not what man may say to me. Nor any breaking Christ walks me toward. Because now, I know that the bread (the Body of Christ) is lifted up to our Father in heaven in thanks, so that He may be broken and multiplied to feed a waiting and hungry people. And I know that as we take eat of the bread of life, in our breaking apart, and drink of Christ´s cup of suffering, we declare the finished work of the Cross and His imminent coming. We declare His Body healed, whole and made complete in Christ Jesus, our LORD and Savior.

Yes, every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain (Isaiah 40:4). For, all Promises are Yes and Amen in Jesus. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it. So, it shall not return to Him empty, but it shall accomplish that which He has purposed, and shall succeed in the thing for which He sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).

Come let us taste and see that our God is so, so good to us:

Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 57:8-11, NIV


YES! Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For His calling upon our lives is irrevocable! Praise HIM!!!

A Heart of Gold

1 Peter 1: 23 – 25 (ESV)

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

When the suffering we walk through just doesn’t make sense we can be tempted to respond religiously, rather than wholeheartedly. We can begin to suppress the deep longing inside our heart to truly experientially know the hope we profess. We can begin to believe we are meant to grin and bear life. 

But right there, as our flesh presses us to turn away from God, our merciful God answers our deepest heart’s cry to know Him. Christ in us – our hope of glory- causes us, through new trials sent our way, to cast the Promises of His Word at His feet. He compels us, like David, Jeremiah and Elijah before us, to cry out to Him to give us faith, to reveal Himself to us and our loved ones through His sure and steadfast Word.

Psalm 12:6 (NIV)

And the words of the Lord are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold refined seven times.

The gold the Israelites once brought forward for Solomon’s Temple was used to overlay the clasps, fillets and capitals.

Exodus 35: 5 ESV

Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze;

These items strengthened the weakest parts of the Temple’s frame and joined the many curtains into one whole curtain. Today, Christ now literally strengthens and makes us whole, perfect and complete in Himself. He literally overlays and joins us to Himself.

In my walk through the mental illness of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I am beginning to experience the truth of this gold coating and joining. As the memories, doubts, hurt and anger I have repressed for so long are now crashing like waves within me, my God is breaking open my heart to come before Him as I am.

It is in these moments of overwhelm I, through His living Word at work in me, cry out for Jesus to reveal Himself in my weakness. He is answering my heart’s cry. He is removing the scales from my eyes. He is breaking the bread before me. He is revealing the truth of His powerful Presence in all I and my loved ones have walked through and are walking through.

No, the horrific storms we walk through that overwhelm us, freeze our hearts in fear and shock and shake us to the core do not define us as unfaithful. Rather, they are sent to unveil the faithfulness of our mighty God. For, as we stumble and fall, His great mercy catches and awakens us to new life. 

Our Savior reminds us: it’s not our righteousness, but His alone that saves us. Through each and every storm Christ is only calling us all ever deeper into communion with Him because He so longs for us- for each and every part of us. Through our honest and raw desperation Jesus draws us unto the Father. Into His merciful arms, to see Him right there WITH US in the pain. Holding us tight. Soothing us as we shake, kick and scream. Stroking our face and reassuring us: “You can’t see this now, but I am making all things new. All things. Even this. All of it has purpose. Every single piece.”

It’s when He speaks the Living Word over us, that He opens our eyes to see by faith. To see His gold coating and joining of our weakness to His perfecting power. It’s then we see Him covering us, strengthening us and holding us and our loved ones together as One complete and perfected whole. It’s then we behold heaven come through His gift of faith.

Psalm 138:8 (NKJV)
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

He helps us, like doubtful Thomas, to bring Him our true broken heart, so that He may reveal the presence of His whole heart there. He invites us to touch the holes in His hands and feet, to remind us this pain is not ours to bear. For, we were written on the palms of His hand for a reason: for these very moments we just can’t go on. For when we just can’t bear one second anymore.  So, lifted by His Spirit, we would find ourselves borne up on eagle’s wings, in our waiting on the only One we can go to. The only One who truly understands. The only One who carried not just our every sin, but our every ounce of pain to that Cross, so we would never ever have to carry it alone. So, that our heavy yoke would be broken to become a light yoke of healing and wholeness in His heart for us and for others.

It’s when He lays our weakness and imperfection bare, His power can be perfected right there for all to see. It is then, Christ, our door of salvation, begins to raise up a worship in us in Spirit and truth. It’s then we begin not just to profess, but intimately know our Heavenly Father’s presence with us, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior.

Father God, forgive us for the moments we have believed the enemy’s taunts. Forgive us for believing that we have to be strong for You. That we have to be perfect for You. That we have to hide our doubts, our fears, our hurt and our longings. Forgive us for forgetting that You wept for us as You walked to Your cross, crying out: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

Thank You that You call us to come just as we are. Draw us into Your presence and lay bare our wounded and deceitful hearts. Break open and unravel our hearts, LORD. Pour out our hearts before You. Cast out all fear of punishment by the power ofYour perfect love. Search and know us and if there be any wickedness in us, cleanse us by the power of Your blood and the living water of Your Word.

Thank You that we and our loved ones are overlaid and joined to the gold of Your powerful Promises. For though our flesh and our hearts may fail, we thank You that You are the strength and gold of our hearts.

Now, awaken us to live in this truth. To walk by Your Spirit, to hear and obey You in fear and trembling, trusting that in our weakness Your power will be put on display. Declare Your Name through us today, declare Your praises through the mouths of babes and the hearts of men. In Your Name alone. Amen.

 

Seeing and Perceiving

Come join us today for a poem, Bible story and prayer by my dear friend, Joy Lenton. Further below, you can find out more about Joy and the beautiful book this piece is excerpted from. My best friend and I will be working through this book during Lent. Maybe you would like to join us?

Seeing and perceiving

blind from birth
Bartimaeus still saw more
than the sighted ones
he was able to perceive
Jesus’ full identity

no hesitation
as he dropped his robe and ran
blindly through the crowd
following the voice of Christ
with his faith-filled heart alive

his seeing soul
rewarded with so much more
than he might know
as a full healing takes place
with vision restored again

the crowd are amazed
to witness the miracle
but will they notice
who this teacher really is
and all he is here to do?

more than that
do we see Jesus clearly
or is he blurred
mixed in our finite minds
in those spots which are blind?
© joylenton

Reading

Mark 10:46-52 ESV

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Reflection

I wonder how many of us would be bold enough to call out to Jesus like this. Perhaps we would hold back because of a lingering belief that we were unworthy to bother God with our needs, although Jesus has made us worthy by his grace. Or maybe we would shrug our shoulders and say, “You know what? I haven’t been healed yet and probably never will. This isn’t my day for a miracle.”

It is God’s will to make us healed and whole. The timing is up to him and our participation is required. If our vision of Jesus is flawed, or if we do not see ourselves as made worthy by God’s love, then we are likely to hang back and absent ourselves. May we believe that we, too, are promised recipients of God’s goodness and grace.

Prayer

Holy Spirit,

The story of Blind Bartimaeus suggests how our own spiritual sight becomes enlivened by your work in us, so that we are able to see Jesus for who he really is. Would you help us to take off any blinkers we might be wearing, and remove lenses dulled by false assumptions, as you also open our eyes to the wonder of knowing Christ for ourselves?

May we marvel at the miracle of seeing Jesus as he truly is: our faithful Friend, anointed Saviour-King and living Lord. And as you know him to be—an integral part of the triune Godhead. May we experience the joy of being invited into a relationship with the Father because of his sacrificial life on earth, and glorious resurrection after suffering death on the cross.

Amen



This post is excerpted from Joy Lenton’s newly released book, Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst. She is a contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger who has M.E and multiple chronic illness. Joy is also the author of Soul Shots, Embracing Hope, and Seeking Solace. She writes with a heart to encourage others, and to help reveal the life changing hope we have in Jesus. You can find Joy sharing her words of encouragement, hope and faith on her Words of Joy and Poetry Joy blogs.