Chapter 1: Day 6 – Growing into Love

Day 6 of Chapter 1 for Arise & Shine. A devotional and poem written by Anna Smit.

Making Friends with the Rain by Wendy Simpson, used with permission. Wendy blogs at Widow’s Manna, and you can find her artwork on WordPress at Wendy’s Vignettes or via Facebook at Wendy’s Vignettes
 

Recently, as I found my eyes resting on a compliment given to someone else, rather than pressing down the jealousy and insecurity I felt, I brought it before the LORD in prayer. I asked Him to bring me a Word to cleanse me of my sin. He gave me John 15:2: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

I then went to read up on the process of pruning. What caught my attention was the branches that were cut at the base of a tree: the so-called “suckers” that if left to grow would suck out necessary nutrients and weaken the wood. These “suckers” needed to be cut back to the base, not once but three times to form a healthy callus. 

I thought about how words of affirmation are one of my main love languages and how if left to my own devices, I would define my worth based on the words of man. So, every time someone is showered in words of affirmation by man and I am not, is in fact God’s gift to me. It’s His Way of cutting off those sucker branches and strengthening the base of the tree. It’s His Way of ensuring the nutrients aren’t spent on branches that would suck the life out of me.

Each time that sin of jealousy rises and insecurity flares in me, is God’s invitation to come to Him that He may direct my heart to draw its worth from Him. To be reminded by Him that I am seen, heard, known, loved and chosen and even liked by Him, even when man doesn’t see me, hear me, know me, love me, choose me or like me (and trust me when I say I know that I am not always so easy to listen to, get to know, love, choose and like  because let’s face it: I’m human).

It’s Christ’s invitation to lean into His strong trunk that is even now holding me up and rooting me to the place of His choosing. It’s Him reminding me that He wove me in my mother’s womb for a hope and a purpose, so that when it’s time for me to branch out, I will no longer be seeking the praise of man, but lifting up my branches in praise and awe of my Maker alone. Why? Because every branch cut from me, will have lifted away my fear of man, to root me so very firmly in His living and dynamic Word to me, in relationship with Him: my trust, my hope and my life Himself.

So, it’s not about me “making myself stop being jealous” or about pushing away those thoughts of insecurity that rise. It’s about placing that branch in the hands of Jesus, my Good Gardener, and allowing Him to take it away – the branch feeding on human affirmation that is bearing no fruit – so that I may lean into and grow stronger in Him: my base, my stronghold, my life, my comfort and my very breath.

And the Word I then found Jesus giving me to root myself in, rather than the word of man was: 

Colossians 3:14 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Perfect here means according to HELPS Word study:

Cognate: 5047 teleiótēs (a feminine noun) – completion (consummation), in its cumulative sense, i.e. built on what has to precede and also supports the stage that must come next. See 5056 (telos).

And bound together in harmony means according to HELPS Word Studies:

4886 sýndesmos (from 4862 /sýn, “closely identity with” and 1210 /déō, “to bind”) – properly, a bond (close union); a close (inner) identity which produces close harmony between members joined closely together (WP).[Note the “close, firm bond conveyed by syn (together,” WS, 242).]

This showed me that the root of my sin of jealousy in this case was the sense that God has been passing me over. He’s continually drawn me into periods of hiddenness, and continually had me tear things down and start over from the ground up. And I realize now that I have felt like He has purposely withheld success from me.

But what He’s showing me here is that each of these tearing down’s have been His cutting away of sucker branches. And that this has been His very necessary discipline. It’s what had to come first, so that I would end up crying out to my God. So, in the silence of those I most looked up to, He would become the One I looked up to most. So, I would find He had all along been inclining His ear to my unspoken yearnings to be seen, known and loved by Him.

He just had to strip away the noise to overshadow me in His light, so I could recognize His face, His heartbeat beating inside of my chest and His Voice singing inside and over me, all along.

Yes: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, NIV).

What I can now see, is that if God had not repeatedly caused me to arise in His Word and to depart, where it wasn’t welcomed, I would have kept my light hidden and covered over to belong and be “acceptable” to others. I would have avoided feeling the pain of past losses and betrayals all over again: pain God intended to uncover and bring His healing comfort to.

I would have revelled in outer success, but inwardly been rotting away, as all the nutrients would have gone into pleasing man and silencing God’s precious Word in me. Each parting and closing down (of ministries and blogs) and starting afresh has been His doing: His purifying of my heart, His rooting of me in His love and Word alone. Oh my heart! So, no! I have not been passed over: I have been loved on. I have been tenderly parented in love. For, just look what I now do when that jealousy and insecurity born of unhealed wounds arises. I come to my Heavenly Father for His Word of affirmation, comfort and healing.

I now know to turn to my Papa, to come boldly before the throne of grace to confess my sin freely and to ask Him to give me a Word to root me deeper in Him. So, yes: my Papa has withheld earthly success from me: not because He was passing me over, but because I am His.

He knew it would destroy the soul of His little girl, who has needed to grow in the knowledge and confidence of His love for her: a love that is constant, abiding and enduring. 

Jesus always knew the wounds of my past. He knew how my Prodigal wandering began when I turned man into my god: when I began to believe man’s word to be His. Now, through all the cutting away He has taught me to discern His Voice from my accuser’s and to deep down know He never ever left me alone all those years: it was always me turning toward and clinging to my fellow wounded humans, who needed God’s love and mercy too, and away from His perfect love for us all.

God has been giving me the gift of growing into Jesus and being firmly rooted in His love above all else. He is uncovering my wounds to wash, cleanse and bind them in His Living Word, to breathe His life and comfort into me and through me into His Body.

So, when jealousy and/or insecurity rises in me, I now know to speak to my soul: 

“Sink into the trunk of Jesus, Anna. Let His healing leaves cover you, so that you might see what He does: how all your brokenness has already been bound together in His wholeness. So that He might remind You how He sees you: as a chosen, beloved and appointed member of His Body. You have not been set aside by Jesus. You have been set apart unto Him and His glorious purposes.

Now dance with abandon in Jesus, Anna. Let His love and grace lead your every step. Let His kindness and compassion flood over you and open your dove’s eyes wide to see what He does: that He has already bound every vital part together into the whole in perfect harmony.

Let His Word continue to wash away the dross and dust covering over His beauty in you, as He affirms who you and those before you truly are. Let His mercy pour out like healing rain and rush over you like a gushing river, covering and claiming every part of you. Breathe Him in that You may dance in step with the Spirit of truth and grace. Jesus is carrying you into your destiny, step by step by step.”

Making Friends with the Rain by Wendy Simpson, used with permission. Wendy blogs at Widow’s Manna, and you can find her artwork on WordPress at Wendy’s Vignettes or via Facebook at Wendy’s Vignettes
 
Dance in Abandon

Come, dance
Here
In abandon
With me.

The lover
Of our soul
He calls us
Forth.

Wild
And free
I AM
In Jesus.

Pointing fingers
Cutting words
Shaming stares
And turning backs:

Wounded man
Cannot tame
These Gospel feet
That call us:

The Beloved.

Our childlike heart
Speaks peace, be still
The Father hears
His Son awaking.

No fear of man
Can snuff out
Christ's love
Bla - zing e - ternally.

Safe here
In our Abba's arms
Come sway
With me.

The breath
Of Life
Our every step
Has paved.

A dwelling place
In His arms
Come, find
Awaken to

His Spirit breath
Declare with me
I AM not lost
But found in Christ.

Yes, I dance here
In abandon
The lover of my soul
He, calls me forth.

Wild and free
The Great I AM
I see Him now
In you and me.

Father God, I bow my knees before You, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of Your glory You may grant us all to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all Your fullness. 

Now to You who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to You be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

Chapter 1: Day 5 – At the King’s Table

Welcome to Day 5 of Chapter 1 for Arise & Shine, a devotional written by Bettie Gilbert.

“’Don’t be afraid,’ David said to him, ‘for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.’ And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.”  2 Samuel 9:7,13

The story of Mephibosheth, the one Scriptures say “was lame in both feet,” always touched a deep chord in my young heart. Here was a boy who was the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of King Saul—the one who tried to have David killed. Yet when his entire family was killed, and his home was destroyed, King David invited him into his own Royal Palace, all for the sake of the covenant made with his father, Jonathan, years before. 

As I first heard that story decades ago, something critical to my way of seeing was planted in my child-like heart. And when God saw that it was time, He reawakened the earlier question by asking a second question.

Is it true that the King of Heaven would really invite me to HIS own table?

And how can that be possible, since I have only grown more disfigured over the years?

As chronic illness stripped away my old way of living, I wondered what would happen as the years progressed. Would I be able to bear up under the pain? Would bitterness finally one day take root? I felt powerless to stop the darkness I felt as I watched my own lameness grow more pronounced.

As the chronic pain and inflammation wore away at the strength of my feet and ankles, another label was placed onto my identity: lame and slow. How could the King, the perfect Royal One, ever look on me as beautiful again? Would I ever be found worthy to come to His table?

And then He opened the pages of a long-forgotten story. He placed my heart in the open air of HIS royal Temple, and He invited me in, showing me the seat next to His own dear Son. Joint-heir with Jesus, He called me: “Come inside with me! The Kingdom of God is within you. I am not offended by your pain, and I am already here, waiting for you to open the door.”

Feasting With The King

Where is my home?
Where is my dwelling place?
Everything I’ve known
What I’ve seen
Has been devastated

What can I do?
Where can I belong?
Everything I’ve done
Where I’ve worked
Has been swept away

How should I feel?
How is life to be lived?
Everything I’ve tasted
What I’ve shared
Has been covered up

I hear a voice
Speaking my name
Ushering an invitation
And setting me on a new path
All for the sake of a choice
Made on my behalf
An eternity ago

How is the table spread
Here before me now?
How is the King’s house
The place of my dwelling?
Why would my name
Be the one He calls?

He sets me at His Home
He calls me His child
He opens the door

All for the sake of Love
All for the sake of Covenant
A kindred heart promised
A kindred heart responded

And suddenly my lameness
Doesn’t matter anymore
The King calls my name
Feasting at HIS table
Eating of His bread
Forever I belong with Him.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 NIV

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21 KJB

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the voice of Your invitation. We pause and shake ourselves when we first hear Your call. How can it be? We know of our lameness all too well. We don’t belong at the Royal Table, and we aren’t worthy to feast with You.

Oh, but thank You for the gift that You poured over our hearts when YOUR own son entered the covenant of grace on our behalf! Now You call us worthy because of HIM, and You seat us at the table of Your presence to feast with You.

Help us to receive the joy of Your presence today. Help us to rest at Your table with You. And help us to lift our voices in praise of Your son, our Savior Jesus.

In His name we pray,

Amen.

Thanks to Andreas Rønningen @andozo for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/S2YssLw97l4