Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Puritan Prayer

Lord, High and Holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
  where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights,
  hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
  that the way down is the way up,
  that to be low is to be high,
  that the broken heart is the healed heart,
  that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
  that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
  that to have nothing is to possess all,
  that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
  that to give is to receive,
  that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells
  and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
     thy life in my death,
     thy joy in my sorrow,
     thy grace in my sin,
     thy riches in my poverty,
     thy glory in my valley.

--from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

As quoted in Broken by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Monday, February 7, 2011

Has Anyone Seen My Passion?

Has anyone seen my passion? How about my drive or ambition? My positivity? My energy? I seem to have lost them. As I silently asked these questions last Friday, I wallowed in all the unfairness of life, pinpointing whose fault it is (certainly not mine!) I desperately asked God what I was doing wrong! “Do You want me to quit my job? Step down from my position in Women’s Ministry? What? What do You want me to do?!”

Yesterday, our pastor preached the second sermon in his series, entitled, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” based on World Vision’s CEO, Rich Stearns’ book by the same name. Our pastor’s sermon title was, “The Hole in Me.” By communion time, I was in tears. I have a hole in me! There is no hole in The Gospel, but there is a hole in My Gospel—the way I live it out.

As I received communion on Sunday, I knew there was a hole in me. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew God was getting ready to reveal it. My pastor said that the two big holes are the hole of Faith and the hole of Submission. I realized my hole was one of submission. There was something I was holding onto and not submitting to God.

As I continued pondering and praying as I went about my morning, I began to see my sin. I have dealt with this sin before—many times. How could I have missed it—again?! So, I confessed it—again. I journaled about it. I began to see how it has sapped my energy and drive—again. But you know what? I wrote a very short, simple prayer of confession, and the minute I looked up from my journal, the world around me seemed brighter. My chest felt lighter! I could breathe better. A tension was gone. It is amazing what such a simple prayer can do!

As I continued through my day, another hole in me started to come into focus. For over ten years, I have wrestled with God over some huge family issues—a rebellious child, the death of my second child, and the long, painful process of adopting another child. I have been steeped in guilt, grief, crisis and an uncertain future for years! My firstborn is still not living the life that I have always dreamed for him, but he’s too old for me to tell him what to do. My second born is safe and secure in the arms of God, and the adoption of our 3-year-old has been finalized. I have no monstrous goal looming on my horizon, I have worked through my grief, and my firstborn is not in my control. And now God is asking me to lay all that down. I have allowed those things to define me long enough.

When you live in the midst of grief and crisis for so long, you begin find a sick kind of comfort there. You begin to think that it somehow makes you special. Without the crisis, I’m just an average person. Forgive me, but I’ve never wanted to be average.

I remember hearing Joyce Meyer saying that God can’t bring beauty from ashes until you give them to Him. I have to let go of my ashes. I want beauty in place of them, but I’ll never get it until I give them up. My ashes must no longer define me, they must not consume my prayer time or my thought life. It’s time for me to give them up. Somehow that’s scary for me. I can’t explain it, but I do find comfort in my ashes like a germ-ridden, worn out velveteen rabbit. Even though it may be making me sick, I don’t want to give it up, whether it represents my sin or my grief, it’s hard to let go. But until I do, it will continue to sap my strength, my energy, my passion, and my drive.

It takes a step of faith to let them go to you, Lord. Can I trust You with them? Tonight, with trembling hands, I reluctantly turn my ashes over to you. Please treat them gently, they are a part of me. They are precious, they are sacred.