Known

Isaiah 40: 27 – 31 (The Message)
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.


As the Lord began to unearth the fears that were crippling me, both in response to memories of my mother’s last hours and reflections on my childhood, the first anniversary of Mum’s departure for heaven crept ever closer. I was genuinely fearful of what this day would bring. My heart was heavy with grief and my mind still anxious from the memories of crippling flashbacks.

And yet, God chose this day of deep mourning to display the wonder of His Loving Presence, to bring deep joy into the depths of sorrow, not just for me, but also my Dad, who was staying with us at the time.

I recorded the day in my journal:

Yesterday, we commemorated one year without Mum and Grandma. I was fearful of what this day would bring, fearful of the tears, of the pain. Yet, as the day progressed more and more joy took hold of me, held me and embraced me.

Balloons bubbling into giggles of delight, joyful purple bubbles catching a powerful gust of air and being drawn up high, high above the cloak of mist that covered us below, delighted girls watching the sight and thinking of their Grandma, a warm embrace from a Dad whose heart felt as heavy as that cloak of mist, but whose tears found release. A café of remembrance bringing God’s gift in a basket speaking of a Grandma’s kindness, of a Grandma’s deep love flowing over, from beyond the grave…speaking of a God and Saviour sowing a garden, a Garden of Joy, Gladness, Peace and Thanksgiving, where a wife’s, a mother’s, a Grandma’s soul can find a rest eternal in the Sun and Son of Life. A Garden waiting to call all its children home to their Father of Compassion and Love Abounding.

As the afternoon dawned, so did the sun in all its warmth, as children played and laughed, sliding, jumping, swinging high and adults smiled, joy lifting heavy hearts. Children’s joy a balm to weary souls. A day ending in thankfulness for gifts overflowing from a Father of Grace.

Everything about the day reveals God’s deep abiding Presence to me:

  • the heavy mist that covered us as we arrived at the beach (my Mum’s favorite place) to release the purple (my mother’s favorite color) balloons, which mirrored the heaviness of our grief,
  • the delighted giggles and energetic limbs of our little girls, who lifted our heavy hearts,
    the strong gust of air that lifted the balloons up high and away, which spoke of the strong arms carrying our mother, grandmother and wife into His Presence,
  • the basket that met us in the café we went to, a café we had taken my parents to many years ago, that was filled with happy memories.

    What is so astounding about this basket, is:
  • the words inscribed on the signs were in English, not Dutch,
  • that it was about a Grandma, what my Mum was to her six grandchildren, a role that gave her such incredible joy, especially in her final days on earth, when the biggest smiles would spread across her face at the sound of her grandchildren crying, giggling or playing, or as they would come sit at her bedside to clasp her hand in theirs or playfully run around her bed,
  • that there was no particular reason for the café to choose these words on this particular day (it was not Mother’s Day), and that at the bottom of the basket there is a pine cone, something my parents would often go out to collect at the back of their beach property with their grandchildren.

We ended the day with the joyful playing of our girls at the outdoor playground of the pancake restaurant we visited,  delighting in their exuberance and reflecting on the wonder of the day.

God truly is the God who “knows me inside out” (John 4: 29), “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16: 13), the God who comforts me “as a mother comforts her child” (Isaiah 66: 12 – 13) and the God who, full of compassion, pours out joy, gladness, thanksgiving and the sound of singing into the depths of my grief:

Isaiah 51: 3 (NIV)
The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

This is the fifth 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

Breath of Heaven

Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: blue, purple, and scarlet thread;  Exodus 35:5-6

When God’s people set to work to build the Temple of Solomon, they brought forth several gifts. Included in their gifts was blue thread. This was to be woven, together with the scarlet (blood sacrifice) and purple (royalty) thread, into the curtain that would divide the Holy of Holies and the Presence of God from the common people. Later our Savior became this curtain for us by His sacrifice at the Cross. So now, He ushers us, His children, directly into His holy presence.

Even today, God still invites us to bring forward our blue thread, but now for the new Temple. 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3: 16 (ESV )

Every time we come with our deep yearning and groanings, we give Him the thread of heaven that lies within us. For He has already placed eternity within our human hearts. He just beckons us to enter the Holy of Holies, to pour out our hearts before Him, so that He can unveil the Promise of heaven within our innermost being through His beautiful weaving.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8: 23 (NLT)

The first time I brought forward the blue thread within me was several months after losing my Mum to glioblastoma multiforme. I began to experience complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) for the first time. Interestingly it was writing a Biblical Lament that unearthed memories I’d chosen to repress. 

Moving pictures, sounds, and even smells of my mother’s suffering took hold of me, trapping me in the moment. It felt as if someone had strapped me into a frightening roller coaster and wouldn’t let me out, no matter how loudly I screamed. Yet within minutes, the attacks would subside, and my rational and logical brain would return to its senses. 

I was left feeling ashamed of and embarrassed about the desperation and suicidal thoughts that had just plagued me. I didn’t feel God’s love or presence through the terrifying flashbacks. As the waves of emotions coursed through my body daily all I could do was religiously declare their truth over myself once the gulfs subsided. 

Then, one dark night, I finally pitted the anger, I didn’t realize I had been repressing for months, directly at God. I dared Him to show me that life was worth living in a world where His most loyal servants suffered so incredibly, their bodies so terribly broken, before being taken for good. I finally brought forward my weakness that He might perfect His power in me.

It was then that I opened my Bible to a promise He makes to each and every one of us, His beloved children:

“Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.’” John 6:35–40 (MSG)

This one Scripture powerfully cut through my most terrifying fears and the lies attached to them. It showed me that God saw exactly where I was. But rather than turning me away in impatience at my unbelief, He drew me compassionately near. 

Jesus helped my heart open to His unbelievable promises that He was holding me tight and would not let me go and that both my Mum and I will stand before the Father, upright, whole, and complete. He showed me that cancer, a broken body, death, and despair have no hold on His beloved children, who in both life and death remain safe in His arms. 

A few days later, I visited my family doctor and was referred to a psychologist, who gave me the official diagnosis of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The attacks only intensified, but unlike before, rather than hide away ashamed, I began to challenge God to reveal Himself more fully.

In my journal, I presented Scriptural promises to Him as daring questions that would drastically change my life. I brought forward  blue thread for His weaving:

If You’re a Healer, then why did You not heal?

If You’re a Comforter, then why does my heart still ache so very much?

If You’re my ever-present help in trouble, why do I writhe in helpless anger and messiness on the floor?

If You’re a Redeemer, why aren’t You redeeming me in this mess?

If You promise You’re holding me, then why do I feel so very alone in this all?

If You have a Church, a Body, then where are they? Where are Your arms, where is Your physical presence, a hug, a listening ear, tears streaming for this loss so horrid no words can describe it, or ever make any sense of it?

As I cried out in Spirit and truth, He answered me. Powerfully. In visions of beautiful promise and truth. In the Body of Christ that has embraced me, not through a physical church building, but from near and far as they have reached out to me in Spirit and truth. And in the layers of childhood trauma He has since uncovered, trigger by trigger, to heal and redeem.

If you were to ask me to share about my experience of CPTSD now, I would tell you that it is one of the biggest gifts God has given me. For, through this illness I am learning to bring forward more and more of my thread. As I do so, my Lord and Savior is making His wisdom known to me in my innermost being, through the power of His Word and Holy Spirit.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Psalm 51:6 (NASB)

Now, I no longer see the horror of death and decay before me, I see my Mum, healthy, so very beautiful and intensely happy before me. My Savior swallowed up the sounds, smells and pictures of death in His Life before my very eyes. He gifted me with the most incredible visions I will never ever forget. Praise Him!

Oh yes, I still struggle through new winds and waves, but God always helps me to turn toward Him, to give voice to my yearning to know Him, not from my head, but from my heart. This is where He then moves in to heal and write His truth upon the tablet of my human heart. He compels me to surrender all into His hands in trust and to bring forward the Promises of His Word, just as I shared here in Draw Near.

One day, as I too walk through those pearly gates, I know that He will unveil Himself completely in me. In the meantime, I trust Him to keep opening my eyes more and more by the power of His holy weaving.

Father God, overwhelm us with Your love and grace today. Forgive us for the moments we have hid our deepest groanings. Forgive us for holding tight in distrust, rather than surrendering all into Your hands. Forgive us for not bringing you the very Promises that YOU have planted deep within us to speak to life. Promises You have given us, so that we might come to know You, from the depths of our hearts.

Draw us, each day anew, to surrender in faith all things and all people, including ourselves, into Your hands. As we do so, speak Your Promises to life in and through us, LORD. Empower us to bring You our deepest longing to know You and to make You known. Embolden us to draw near to You, that You may draw ever nearer to us.

We believe, but help our unbelief. Perfect Your power in our weakness, LORD. Thank You that You have promised (Jeremiah 31:34 ESV):

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Thank You that we, and those You have given us to lift back up to You, shall know You.

Amen.

Is there a Promise from God’s Word you have hidden away as not being for you or those laid upon your heart, but God is now asking you to take back out and bring before Him afresh? What treasure is He holding out to you to bring before Him as a free will offering today, so that He may unveil His living Temple in our midst?

John 17:3

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.