Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 7: Sovereign

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a story + poem as a final free will offering of bronze, showing us how the LORD invited her to let Him exchange her judgment with His own, in and through her weakness.

Several years ago, I found my heart turned to bitterness, much like Naomi did, after her husband and sons died and she decided to return to her homeland. But as I layed my bitterness before the LORD in a poem, as I sat with the name Naomi had given herself, God exchanged my bitterness for joy, just as He did for Naomi.

Sovereign

Gather, You tell me
Gather, my broken dreams?
Gather, my heart broke in two?
Gather, all I've poured and emptied out?
Gather, here my broken self?

What do I gather?
When all I have is broken
Shattered?
Mara, she said to call her
Mara is the word I'd choose
A bitter hand dealt.

Gather, You tell me
Gather, Your tears here for me wept?
Gather, Your heart here broke for me?
Gather, all You've poured and emptied?
Gather, Word made flesh?



But not till much later, did I see that this place of desolation I found myself in, came about because of God’s jealous love for me and my family. For, He refused to allow my heart to remain divided in its affections, just as He refused to allow Naomi’s heart to remain divided also.

Perhaps, like me, you didn’t realize that Naomi had moved to Moab with her family during a drought. Rather than trust God to provide for them, they had chosen to seek refuge outside of the safe boundaries God had given them to dwell inside of. When things got tough, rather than wait upon the LORD, they took matters into their own hands. And yet, even there, God remained faithful to His covenant of love.

All those years later, as tragedy struck and Naomi was left bereaved, she decided to return to the land of her faith, and Ruth decided to accompany her. What Naomi saw as God dealing her a bitter hand, was in fact God’s plan of redemption at work.

He was leading her to return to her first Love, where this time, in her place of great need, she would listen for the LORD’s Voice and not the enemy’s. There, God directed her to send her daughter-in-law into the hands of Boaz: her kinsman redeemer. A man of God who would provide bountifully for Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.

Boaz foreshadows our own kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ. For, Jesus Christ has redeemed our family line, through His own blood. He has purchased us back from the enemy, freeing us from our bondage to sin and death.

In my place of desolation, I came face to face with my Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, who showed me that my loss was in fact my gain. In that place of great loss my true sinful heart was exposed for all to see, so that my God could reveal His true heart of love and mercy toward us all.

I deserved judgment, not mercy. My idolatrous affections and numbing my pain in sin deserved God’s wrath. But just as in the case of Naomi, God honored the deeper desires of my heart, He had planted there. Desires to love Him from my whole heart.

And so, He took away my idols, one by one, leaving me bereft. But in that place, as I bemoaned His bitter hand, He arose to declare me His and to redeem my Prodigal journey.

Just like Naomi, I had once fled my God’s safe boundaries, choosing to fend for myself, after deciding in a time of drought – when God appeared not to be answering my cries – that my God had abandoned me and those I loved. I descended upon my Prodigal journey that would take me to the other side of the world.

After opening my eyes to a newborn faith (incidentally exactly when my childhood cries to God in prayer were answered, more than twenty years later), God took me back into similar situations of rejection that I had found myself in as a child, as I obeyed my God’s calling to speak up and to confess my weakness and sins openly.

Just as when I was little, I wanted to bow before man to be loved and accepted. Or I wanted to try to “persuade” those before me to “see the truth”, turning to fleshly means of fighting. I see-sawed between the two. But each time, after a period of asking me to stay and persevere in His truth and grace, as He continually cleansed me of all unrighteousness, God commanded me to depart under a new authority: His.

What I didn’t see until after several of these breakings and losses, is that my losses were in fact my gains. For, through each loss I went through, God was restoring more of my heart to Him. He was restoring my first Love for Him and redeeming the years the locusts had eaten.

Now I know that the droughts we walk through, when it appears our prayers are falling on deaf ears, are God’s gift to us. God’s gift sent to uncover our own sinful and divided hearts to cleanse and restore them unto Him. He was never ashamed of me in that place of the enemy’s attack. For, He allowed these attacks to expose my idolatrous and divided heart, so He could invite me to enter into His wholeness: to exchange my faith in my idols of self and man for a faith in Him alone.

Now, I know why He gave me a very specific Scripture-based prayer to pray repeatedly over myself, right after I came home to Him: a prayer I still pray today: “Father, teach me to walk in the light of Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I might fear Your Name above all else.”

Like Paul, I too have now discovered, and am still discovering daily, that all else is rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as my LORD and being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. Now, I too can sing: “It is God for me.”:

Each time Jesus purposely led me into a death and resurrection. He led me to face the sinful nature of my own heart and my inability to save myself and others. And then, in each death, as He asked me to leave and He closed the doors behind me, He gave me His heart of love and mercy. He wrote His Word deeper and deeper upon my heart.

I have become as dead to the people and communities He commanded me to leave, but alive to Him and His Word of love and mercy toward me and toward them. God is turning my bitter into sweet in and through my weakness.

He is answering His tearful intercession for me through my mother, all those years ago. Those answers are coming through my weakness and God’s grace to me: not through anything I have done to deserve it. They are coming through Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as the trauma triggers shaking my body in each place of idolatry have alerted me to the division occurring in my heart. These triggers have led me into stilling to hear and obey the Voice of God, to take steps to heal and guard my heart.

What the enemy sent to steal, kill and destroy me and my family, God is turning into good, to bring deliverance, healing and abundant life in Him. Praise Him!

It's then I see You
There beside me strong
Hand in mine
Walking to the Cross

Your Body broken
Shame and mocking
On You laid
Pierced and bled in pain
In the tomb You lay.

Till Your heavens
Darkness rent
Curtain raised,
Now in two
I hear You rip.

Christ, You raise
My broken life
In the breaking
Of Your Body
From the tomb
New life unwrap.

Your songs releasing
Now my human soul
Awakening
Your Living Word
Declaring me
Whole.

Embraced in love
Steeled in truth
Sent in Grace's
Own true Breath
Into Your world
That's yearning
For You:

I AM mercy's hands
And mercy's feet.


Broken,
You make whole again
Dark,
You shine my night to Light
Tears,
You cup and pour to Joy aflame
Fear,
You still in Perfect Peace
My feet,
On righteous path
You tread
Sure and steadfast
Held.

Gather, You tell me.
YES I shall gather
The tears You wept for me
The heart You broke for me
All You've poured
And emptied into me
I shall now receive:

The Word
Made flesh.

Garden of My Lord
Enclosed and sealed
For a time such as this
Your spring has broken
Your fountains I hear
Crashing, pouring.

For, Your love and mercy
You've gathered
Now to rush and pour
Sovereign
For Your own delight
In me.

For, wondrous
Are Your works
My soul knows it
Very well.

Praise You, Jesus!


“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain” (Song of Songs 4:12).


May we all rest in the love and mercy of our Creator today. May we come to know and taste, more and more, that our smallness and weakness is not our shame to carry, but ordained of God to draw us ever deeper into knowing Him and being known by Him, that we might declare the wonders of His works:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

Chapter 1: Day 3 – The Unveiling of the Great I AM

Welcome to Day 3 of Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine, a poem and devotional written by Anna Louise Smit (revised & edited version of an old blog post, Defender True).

Do you hear those voices too?
The ones that tell you
You're not enough
You'll never change
All you do is make things worse?

Do you hear the voice that follows then?
The one that tells you
Defend yourself
Hold on tight
To who you wish you were
Lest he rips it from your weary
Tight-clenched hands

Or the one that pushes you
To lie there in that bed
A bed that covers you in blankets
Grief, despair and loathing cruel
Chaining you to who
You believe you truly are
Lost
Forevermore.

Now, stop
And still
Feel Christ's hand
Clasping yours
Earthquake shaking
And flaming fire
Are but shaking off the old
And burning all the dross
To reveal
His gold in you.

Do you hear Him too?
Glorious Truth
Kissing the kind, sweet
Gentle Voice of
Grace.

Feel those
Rushing waters pure
Pouring now
Upon your shoulders hunched
Let them wash away
What's not of you
All that's died
Upon the Cross
To now reveal instead
The lavish gift
Of Christ.

Hear His gentle
Tender Voice
Unveiling
The many gifts
Hidden in
His heart
For you.

Beloved
Chosen
Holy
Pure
Purposed
True
You are His
Masterpiece.

Created anew
In Christ Jesus
You shall perform
The good works
HE
Has long
Prepared for
You.

Unashamed
Confident
Sinking in
His royal cloak
Be strengthened
Your feet firmly planted
Appointed, upon the Rock
Now rise and stand
As new.

Let Christ reveal
His arms stretched high
His unclenched hands
His heart, mind, Body
Worshipping
In Spirit and truth
His love flowing
From you.


No, no lying tongue
Has power there
Where Jesus stills
Our hearts to hear
The Voice of truth
Kissing
Grace.

For God Himself
Has cast these columns
This Temple
Not of human hands
But with His own
He establishes
He strengthens
For, He alone
Is the Great
I AM.

Our One and Only
Slayer of all sin
Stiller of all accusations
Defender True.

Have you ever noticed that as we begin to step out in faith, choosing to trust God in the midst of our great weakness, that the enemy comes out roaring? He will do his best to turn our eyes toward our weakness, telling us we are not enough, we are never going to change and we are only making things worse, by walking in the very path God is taking us down. 

When my accuser has poured in accusations of “not enough”, “never going to change” and “only making things worse”, I have often responded in one of two ways. Either, I have become defensive, pridefully putting on a mask of self-righteousness, so I am not set apart from those around me. Or, I have sunk into despair and become depressed, as I have begun to believe that it is up to me to “be enough”, “always change for the better” and “always make things better”, rather than up to my God to transform me from glory to glory.

But as these accusations have hailed down on me and I have retreated into my cave – either my mask or my bed of suffering – my God hasn’t turned His back on me. No! In His great compassion, He has drawn ever nearer to me. Just like He did with the prophet Elijah, who faced repeated persecution for doing the will of God.

Just like He did for Elijah, He has lovingly sheltered, fed and placed His hand upon me in my cave. And when He has strengthened me to trust Him afresh, He has invited me to join Him outside of my cave. There, comforted by His Presence, He has invited me to listen to and feel the earthquake and fire of His purifying truth. It’s then I have realized that His anger is not directed at me, but at the accuser of my soul who has attempted to steal, kill and destroy.

It’s then I have begun to see how all along He has been moving to defend me – His dwelling place. I realize He has allowed the enemy’s sifting, but only to shake off and burn away all that doesn’t define me.

Then, as this realization has dawned in me, He has stilled my heart to hear the gentle whisper of His restorative and redemptive grace. He has humbled me to see and rest, not in my own strength or perfection, but in the perfect power of His beautiful Word.

And then, clothed in His affirming love, He has called me back to continue the task He first gave me. He has given me the next concrete steps to take and filled me with fresh faith, so that I am no longer striving in fear and shame, but resting in His labor of love through me.

God continually helps me. He helps me to face and process past trauma. He helps me to lay down my idol of responsibility and to bring Him my deep, deep pain. As the triggers come in waves and I see those babies rocking to and fro before me in the orphanages, as an eight and nine year old, God invites me into His arms.

As I watch fellow believers I love and trust, again and again, turn away, punish and condemn children in their weakness and need for Him, He invites me to trust Him. To trust Him that even now, He is working, even as the Scriptures and stories He has had me share appear to fall on deaf ears.

He invites me to remember my own and my family’s story. To remember that in His time He brought those tears of repentance from the Word I spoke as a little girl. He reminds me that as He drew my Mum into His arms in her own weakness and need, through the ravages of cancer, how she turned to embrace the now grown man, she hadn’t understood as a little traumatized boy. How her heart broke in two, as she finally recognized the root of his rebellion. And how the Spirit breath filling her to overflowing poured out upon me also, to draw me into the light of God’s love for me, in my own sin and need, too.

He reminds me that I am no longer that little girl caught in lies. He reminds me that the Word I speak in His Name is not my responsibility to perform and complete, but His alone. He reminds me that when people turn against me and see me as the enemy, I can rest in His love and acceptance and release them into His love and care, rather than clinging to them and embracing the accusations the enemy flings at me.

He helps me see how my own, my Mum’s story and my little adopted brother’s are in fact so similar. How all each one of us truly needed was Him. And He reminds me of all the ways He saw and extended compassion and mercy to my Mum, my little brother and I in our weakness and need, through the many years of our blindness and rebellion. How when no one else saw our need, HE always did. How He cupped our every tear and how nothing was ever wasted. How even now, with my Mum in heaven, He is still turning our ashes into beauty.

He reminds me that I am not without Him – my everpresent help in trouble – who has promised to never leave or forsake me, nor those my heart breaks for. And WITH Christ, my advocate and my atoning sacrifice, I begin to realize I am more than enough.

Not only do we stand justified by the blood Christ shed on the Cross, we are also being transformed from glory to glory, moment by moment, to look more and more like Jesus. So, each of us can lay the accusations at His feet to arise in His mercy for us. We can surrender all and walk into the love of God that sets us free to love Him and each other from His whole heart.

Yes! Christ is in fact only making things more and more beautiful, through the blood He shed for us and His testimony at work in and through each one of usEven, when we can’t see it, He is working still.

Something that I have found helpful through all the accusations that have been flung at me (internally and externally), is to take pen to paper and write down everything I am thinking and feeling, no matter how ugly it is and then, as David did throughout the Psalms. Then, with everything down on paper, I still, just as David also did, to listen for God’s response to me, through His living Word.

I have discovered that in the pouring out, the earthquake and fire of God’s Word move to shake off the old and burn away all impurity in me. It is then, after Christ has lifted these burdens, I am able to hear and receive His gentle and lowly heart moving in kindness toward me to affirm His purity inside of me.

Christ reminds me that He has already paid the price for the wages of my sin, that He has cleansed me by His blood from my sin. Washing me in the refreshing truth of His Word, He reminds me that I am not defined by the impurity He is shaking off me and burning away, and that I can walk into the new awaiting me – through His blood – to sin no more.

Oh how I continually need God to remind me that it His kindness that leads me to repentance (Romans 2:4). That as the earthquake shakes me, it only does so to expose and strip anything that doesn’t belong in me and the fire only rages to burn away the dross in me to reveal the gold of Christ in me. I need God to remind me that the earthquake and fire are uncovering my true identity in Christ, as I sit at the water gate to be refreshed in His living Word. As He washes me in the Word, He reminds me that I am already clean by the Word He has spoken to me.

If you too, recognize yourself in my struggles, will you join me in prayer, today? I would be so blessed to hold your hand and come together boldly before Jesus and His throne of grace in our time of need:

Thank You, LORD, that in my imperfection, You offer me Your own perfection. Thank You for Your never-ending loving kindness to me in my weakness and need.

Thank You that You know exactly what I have been through and are still going through (Hebrews 2: 18, Isaiah 53:4). Thank You that You know just how much my heart yearns to do Your will. Thank You that unlike man, You will never turn Your back on me (Deuteronomy 31:6). Oh Father, thank You for taking man’s rejection of me and using it to grow me in Your love, truth and mercy.

Thank You that “Those who look to [You] are radiant, and their face shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34: 5 ESV). LORD, when I get discouraged by the accusations thrown at me, help me to cast all my burdens at Your feet. Help me to pour out my heart, allowing You to uncover anything wicked that does not belong in me. Purify and cleanse me of my sin and restore me unto yourself, comforting me and quieting me in your love and mercy toward me.

Help me to remember that: ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (Proverbs 4:18). Help me to remain ‘confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1: 6 NIV). 

Forgive me for hiding my sin and pain from You in fear. Forgive me for trying to defend myself, for allowing the enemy to make me believe it is my perfection and my strength that will save me and others, rather than Yours. Forgive me for my pride, for trusting in my own limited understanding, rather than inviting You to show me what You see.

Thank You for pursuing me into my cave and moving in compassion and kindness toward me, to free me from my sin, pain, unforgiveness and bitternessThank You for continually reminding me who You truly are, for giving me an undivided heart, rooted in Your love and mercy for us all.

LORD, I turn to You now, confessing my idol worship – the worship of my own strength and the worship of others’ opinions – to receive your waterfall of grace, believing and trusting that Your grace is sufficient for me, that Your power is perfected in my weakness here (2 Corinthians 12:9). Forgive me for not coming to You as I am. For not entrusting my whole heart to You.

Forgive me for not believing in Your power to deliver me and others in our need. I come to You now, just as I am. Hold me. Continue to unravel me and wash me in Your love, truth and mercy. Continue to lift away every accusation of the enemy. Continue to convict me of my sin and Your righteousness and lead me to changes of mind and a godly sorrow without regret.

Thank You, LORD, that You are my Defender True and will always shepherd me in love, kindness, truth and grace. In the name of Your precious Son, Jesus, I pray, Amen.

As you now sit at the feet of Jesus with me, may this song bless your heart, just as it is mine too. It was published in October 2013, right before my Mum was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and right before God began to open my Prodigal eyes to His undying love and compassion for me, in my weakness. And now, more than seven years later, as I am even more aware of my weakness, He is continuing to open my eyes to His saving power, as I daily lift up my heart and life afresh to Him. Oh how we need You, Jesus! Come, LORD Jesus, come!