I thought was a very articulate and helpful article.
The earliest memories I have of You go back to around Kindergarten. I remember sitting atop that huge tire on the playground with one of the other girls from my class. I remember her asking, “Do you believe in God.” I paused and then with a certainty that could only come from You, I said “yes.” (I also then fell backwards off the tire and had to be carried in…)
I also remember as a child hearing a gentle whisper on more than one occasion: “There is more to life than this.” At that point in my life, I hadn’t gone to church and knew next to nothing about You. But even at that time, You were wooing my heart and creating within me a discontent with the average, with normal.
Fast forward a decade and I am in the middle of the tumultuous middle school years. I now believe not only that You exist but that I want to spend my life serving You. Not long after, I learn that You speak to people. Even someone like me could learn to hear Your voice. And so, at every major junction in my life, I tried to ask You what You wanted me to do, where You wanted me to go, which option You wanted me to select.
Again, fast forward a decade and You find me nearly obsessed with Your will. I had spent the last ten years trying to go where You told me and do what You asked me to do. But instead of feeling more contentment and intimacy with You, I was nearly driven crazy by a deep fear that I had somehow missed it–that I was displeasing You. Did You want me to go to Egypt? Not Texas, Lord. Really? How could I leave my children? Didn’t You call me here in the first place? Nearly 14 years of following You and the same fear still haunted me: am I gonna die and find out I wasted my life and displeased You?
In the weeks before moving to IHOP, I felt like I was hanging on by thread. I began to question everything about You. I doubted Your goodness and was convinced that You had somehow abandoned Your most faithful servant (go ahead and laugh). But I came anyway, exerting the last of my energies to crawl into this place.
I was extremely skeptical about this place, a little unnerved with their foreign sounding theology and all this talk of feeling “the heat of Your gaze.” But as I searched Your Word for Truth, I had to admit that Your word backed most of what they were saying. So after a month, I began to get pretty comfortable. Sure, things were hard at times, but I was learning a lot and everything felt pretty controlled–just the way I like.
And then class came and a theology of years came crumbling down around me. He told us that he didn’t believe that God cared where we went, necessarily as long as the two choices weren’t sin. He put it this way: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength–and do whatever you want.” What?? Do.whatever.i.wanted? I had come to IHOP because YOU wanted me to. I had gone to the reservation because YOU wanted me to. I was obsessed with doing what YOU wanted me to do. What was this talk of desire? Did he really just say You don’t care whom I marry as long as I am first loving You with everything?
He went on and on, laughing about those who try to overspirtitualize Psalm 37: 4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” He insisted that You don’t really care what we do (again, as long as we love You with everything). He said that it was all about the relationship with You.
His words were bouncing off the walls of my head, “Do you want to go to this country more than that country? Do it. Do you not want to go here? Don’t. If God wants You to go to a specific place, He will tell You with a big neon sign. It will be clear. People are always saying, ‘the Lord told me to do this, or come here, or do that. Frankly, God doesn’t talk that much. He values silence.” What? Then what in blazes am I doing here? Why had I left my children? For the last decade I had cared very, very, very much about where You wanted me to go and what You wanted me to do. How dare this man suggest You didn’t have a preference!
I felt physically sick. I asked my leader for permission to skip church. I literally ran back to my apartment. I turned off all the lights, dragged me sleeping back to the closet and pulled the door tight. As I had done so many times before, I curled up in a ball and waited for the tears to flow. But this time was different. I couldn’t cry. It felt wrong…fake somehow. A part of me knew that any tears I shed would just be an attempt to manipulate You to do something miraculous like come down in Holy FIre. So instead, I just told You I was sad and confused. I asked myself if hiding in the closet in the darkness was really the best way to fight despair. I knew it wasn’t. So I pulled the curtains wide open, came out of the closet and sat down on my bed with Bible and highlighter. I read through Song of Solomon and Proverbs. I tried to talk to You about Your Word. And that was it. No big revelation came, no clarity jarred my soul awake. But I left my room for dinner no longer wrestling with despair, a part of me wondering how I could in light of Your goodness.
At dinner, I asked some of the people I was eating with about their though
ts on class. It open up an rather intense conversation that involve a half a dozen people and an equal amount of opinions. After a half an hour of listening to people spar, I was dazed and confused.
I was trying to respectfully listen to someone talk about God’s opinion on whom we marry when with striking clarity, this idea came into my head: I want to be like missionaries such as David Brainerd, Nick Saint, Jim Elliot,
etc. because I believe it is what they DID that made them pleasing in God’s sight, not their heart.”v It was as if I had been struck
by a bolt of lightning. God already told me what He wants me to do the rest of my life: love Him with everything and love His people. Period. He only cares about what I do in so much as it relates to my heart.
And the walls of Jericho came down.
I realized in that moment that I had idolized what these individuals had done because I thought that their works were so impressive and sacrificial. These works must have counted more than having a standard job. I never genuinely believed, until that moment. that a housewife who loved You with all her heart, soul, mind and strength really maximized her life in the same way as a missionary. Then I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth: “If I give everything I have to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love–it profits me nothing.” Nothing. Not even a little bit. Wow. How had I not seen this. Is this not what You say to the church in Ephesus. “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance….but I have this against you–you have lost your first love.”
For over a decade, I have waited for You to prove to me that You love me. On every missions trip, hope was renewed that this was the year You would show me. I would go to the highest solitary point I was able and cry out, “Show me You love me!” As the years passed and I heard nothing, the cry changed to one of despair and accusation rooted in bitterness and despair. “Why don’t You love me? Why don’t You want me.” It seemed like I was the only One in the world You wouldn’t show up for.
I came to IHOP begrudgingly, believing I was doing You a favor and once again demonstrating my faithfulness to You despite Your seeming lack of affection for me.
But something is shifting. Somehow, incredibly subtly, I am realizing the horrible error in my thinking. I was reading the book of Job and over-identifying with his misery. I felt like I understood (albeit, to a smaller degree) how he felt he had been wronged by You. I too wanted to have my own little court session with You, the Almighty, condemning You for presumedly withholding Your love from a devoted daughter.
And then I read Job 38-40, the part where You answer Job. You come to Job in a whirlwind and say, “Who is that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you and you make it known to me.” You go on to ask Job a series of rhetorical questions that serve to humble Job and remind him of Your infinite wisdom and superiority over man. You end by saying, “Shall a faultfinder contend with Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” Job squeaks out this reply, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”
Faultfinder. One who dares argue with the Perfect One. That’s me. That is how I have treated You. Worse, in fact.
But Your kindness continually leads me to repentance. I was reminded of something I felt like You spoke to me yesterday–You didn’t respond to my prayers of proof in those days because if You had, it would have taught me that You do in fact owe me something–that You really hadn’t done enough to show me. I came with a spirit of pride and condemnation and You, in Your perfect wisdom and insight knew that the lesson I would learn would not work for my good. What I thought was withholding was yet another outpouring of Your love for me.
Today, I feel as if the puzzle has come together. I was reading through Allen Hood’s notes on Your Father heart. He highlighted John 17 which is one of the only prayers recorded in the BIble between You and Jesus. In it, he prays, “I in them and You in me that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that You sent me and loved them as you loved me.”
Love them as you have loved Jesus…Love them as you have loved Jesus…Love them as you have loved Jesus…Love them as you have loved Jesus…Love them as you have loved Jesus…Love them as you have loved Jesus…Love them as you have loved Jesus…
The idea rolled around in my head like a marble. You love me as much as You love Jesus. There is no question about it nor an argument that can counter it. It is written plain as day in the Bible. What are the implications of this? I am not sure, to be honest. But I do know that it means that if I question the love You have for me, I am calling Jesus a liar. Wow. I have called You a liar for years!
It also means not only that You love me, but You delight in me! I can know this because it is also in Your word! Whenever You tell another believer how much You love them, I can know it applies to me too since You love everyone the same as Jesus and You love Jesus as much as You love me! The logic is incredible and so powerful!
And so by Your grace, I ask that You would help me to never ever again question whether or not You love me. I may not feel it at times or at all, but I purpose in my heart to declare the Truth rather than believe the lie.
Wow. Didn’t see that one coming,
Thank You for showing me that You loved me all along,
Darkness deep, I knew you intimately
Wrapped in a shroud
So many shameful secrets to keep
Peeled back skin, clearly slave to my sin
How did I get here,
So deeply wounded within?
During those dark days, groaning in my pain, I cried out “Lord God, free this slave!”
Oh you heard, Oh you knew, you cried out ” My child, I will rescue You!”
Out of Egypt I call my daughter
Out of Egypt I draw my son
your time of slavery–it is over
your time of freedom has been won! (2x)
Pharoahs call, seductive claims
Don’t you miss your chains?
Wilderness long, where’s your Face?
Should i go back?
Have you run out of grace?
Those dry days, lost in desert sand, I cried out “Father, where’s the Promise Land?”
Oh you heard, Oh you knew, you whispered ” My child, I have rescued You!”
Out of Egypt I called my daughter
Out of Egypt I drew my son
your time of bondage–it is over
Believe your freedom has been won! (2x)
Longing heart, sustained only by grace
How much longer until
I see my Deliverer’s Face?
But On I press, for Cannan I’m bound
For what can compare
to this perfect Love I have found?
During these long years, you’ve seen me through, now I cry “Holy One, All worship to You!”
Oh you hear, You always knew, you sing “Beloved, my heart beats for you!”
Out of Egypt precious daughter
Out of Egypt, beloved bride
the time of longing is almost over
Soon you’ll worship at my side.
Into Canaan, all His people
Into Cannan, spotless Ones!
Life your voice in humble worship,
Gaze upon the beauty of the Son.
Into Canaan, all His people
Into Cannan, spotless Ones!
Life your voice in humble worship
Gaze upon the beauty of the Son.
I have known for years that this day would come. But the manner in which it came so reflected Your character that it astounds me.
It really wasn’t until the reservation that I began to understand how important my hair was in forming my identity. It was the one part of my body that people constantly complimented. Strangers often asked if it was natural, if they could touch it, how beautiful it was, etc. It became such a common experience over the last two years that if someone didn’t remark about it, I wondered what was wrong with it that day.
The compliments were like heroin to my wounded soul–I constantly was looking for the next hit of affirmation. I glanced in every window that I passed by, I made a judgement call, assessing my value based on the outer package that I presented.
I didn’t have to search very deep in my heart to know that this was a problem. I also knew a bit about Your character–You wanted all of me. I knew that You were constantly working for my good and my abuse of my hair was not pleasing to You. I knew it was an id
ol in my life that was chaining me down. Yet I continued just the same, daring You to take the one thing I loved about me, from me.
And then I decided to dye my hair blonde, much of my motivation being rooted in the desire to gain more attention.
But then it didn’t turn out blonde–it was Little Mermaid orange. I cried and cried out of a deep place of brokenness. Who would love me now that the only beautiful part of me was ugly? Rather than purpose in my heart to seek a Truer kind of beauty, we spent nearly $200 buying the shade of hair I was after.
And it looked good. The blonde suited me very well, softening my features and making my hair even more eye-catching. But the pleasures of this world are fleeting, are they not? Soon my beautiful golden tresses had taken on a brassy orange after being coated by the mineral-filled water on the reservation.
Again I wept, sure that You were purposely working against me and trying to strip me of my beauty. Rue took me to the hair salon and I dyed it brown again, just wanting the saga to end.
It turned out midnight black. The Wicked Witch of the West and I shared the exact same shade of hair, I am sure. To make matters worst, my beautiful curls now hung limp.
I cried and cried and cried. I had gone from beautiful brown girls to limp, black hair. Only You understand what it did within my soul. I was so angry that You had the audacity to take my beauty away.
Much was I relieved when the color began to wash out. But wait–too fast! I was convinced that the color was fading too fast and soon I would be left with splotchy blonde, brown and orange hair.
You got it–again I cried. I screamed at You for taking my hair away, refusing to own up to my own foolish decisions. What kinda of Father takes His daughter’s beauty that he so stingily bestowed?
As time passed, my fears faded. The curl returned, the color calmed and the expensive shampoos and conditioners I purchased softened my damaged tresses.
And then the lice came–louse, to be more specific. That single bug was a wave against the foundation of sand I had built. I always used to joke that if I ever got lice, I would have to shave my head. Now that I was faced with the reality, I panicked. I sat for hours underneath the shower cap, praying the Listerine fumes would kill every parasite that dared tread across my scalp.
It worked. My scalp felt clean and no nits or lice were found. My beauty had survived another onslaught!
But a few days after arriving at IHOP, I knew something was wrong again. Though I didn’t
itch again, to my horror, I found dozens and dozens of nits. So I wept.
Six lice treatments later, one heat treatment, hours of research, several loads of laundry and an untold number of tears, I was again free.
By this time, You had taken my heart to a different place. I was finally wiling to not only acknowledge that my hair was an idol, a part of me was willing to consider giving it up.
I approached the prayer room with a restless spirit, accusing You of what I long suspected would one day happen: “Are You going to make me shave my head?” And in the most quiet of voices, I felt my spirit stir and this reply rise up within me: “I’m not going to take it, but You can give it to me if You want.”
The stark difference between the two motives of the heart hit me like a freight train. I finally saw clearly–You could have taken my beautiful hair in a moment but had chosen not to. Instead, over and over again You allowed me to be in situations that clearly displayed how tightly I was holding on to my hair as the source of my identity, desiring that I give it to You. You knew that if You had taken it, I would have unjustly been bitter and would not have experienced freedom.
So the decision remained with me. The smallest part of me remained indecisive so I searche
This link was the first to show up: http://www.wonderfullymadeblog.org/2013/01/why-i-shaved-my-head.htmld the term, “Shaving for my Heart” in Google.
Within the first line, Egypt is mentioned. Indeed, the first photo was of the author in front of the Great Pyramids riding on a camel. I almost laughed. 194 countries and the first blog that I come across takes place in Egypt, the country You have called us to preach the Gospel in.
The author told her story, one not so different than mine. However, she had met a young girl named Daisy who was going through chemo while in Israel. As I looked at the family photo of the grinning girl, guarded lovingly by her mother, brother and father, I recognized a face and a name. Merrick.
You see, I knew the Merricks. My sister had served in Carpentaria, CA with them years ago. They had been close at one time. I had head that the daughter had cancer and had prayed for her. Now, the Merricks were interwoven into my story, changing someone else’s life on a random blog that took place in Egypt.
Recalling that the Merrick’s had a website set up for their girl, I decided to see how she was doing since the blog was written about six months ago. The familiar tears once again began spilling out of me as I read about her memorial. Her broken-hearted mother shared about the death of her daughter in February.
In that moment, everything seemed so much clearer. Was my hair really worth it? Was it worth all the thousands of tears I had shed and the hundreds of dollars I had spent? I had wept over a dea
d idol when somewhere across the country, a family grieved for their daughter.
The hair had to go. I knew You didn’t need it and it wouldn’t help
the Merricks at all. But I believed it would bring a freedom I had never known.
And so I went to the salon and had it cut off. My hair was donated to Locks of Love in memory of Daisy Merrick and in honor of Jesus Christ, the man who gave His life for me.
Reactions are varied but everyone wants to know the motive of my heart. I think Paul’s words in Philippians sum it up best:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
I’ve waited for so many things.
I’ve waited to be loved.
I’ve waited to be chosen.
I”ve waited to be sanctified.
I’ve waited for a purpose.
I’ve waited to be swept off my feet.
I’ve waited to be thought beautiful.
But You are doing a new thing in my heart. I can smell the fragrance of new life beginning to dance over me. I am beginning to see that I have been waiting for what I already have. I’ve only begun to taste and see, like licking the first drip of ice cream off the side of an extra large sundae—a sundae you have waited your whole life for. But that small drip…oh that taste….has built up the anticipation of fully partaking in the revelation of His deep love for me.
So from now on, I am going to wait for something different. I am going to anchor my soul in the hope of one day residing in Heaven with You. By Your grace, I shall no longer wait for what I don’t have. Instead, I shall press on towards the prize which You have called me to.
From now on, I’m waiting for Canaan.
In the genealogy of Christ, many of Israel’s most revered patriarchs committed painful sins against women. Rather than hiding the shame, Matthew almost highlights it, including four women with controversial reputations.
But it continues. I love how this particular commentator notes that God could have minimized the embarrassment of the virgin birth by having Mary conceive before she was engaged. However, in His all knowing wisdom, God chose the moments after Mary was betrothed. This would dishonor and bring shame not only to Mary, but to Joseph and upon her whole household. There are consequences to be obedience–Mary knew this.
Does this not demonstrate that God’s ways are different than our ways? Does this not serve as a reminder that when obedience has an unexpected cost, it doesn’t mean that we should back down? Am I not encouraged to know that even if all others condemn and question me, I am to hold to what God has promised me?
But this story obviously isn’t about Mary alone. Consider Joseph for a moment. Did he not have the option of casting aside Mary and demanding she be stoned? Would that have been the righteous thing to do? Even though the BIble does call for adulterers to be stoned in the Old Testament, even in the womb Jesus is bring a new Gospel. The Bible declares that Joseph was a righteousness immediately following his desire to divorce her quietly. In doing so, there is no doubt that people would have believed Joseph to be the father. Indeed, Jesus is later called the “son of Joseph” indicating that even decades later, people commonly believed that Joseph was the father.
And so, I must come to the same conclusion as Brunner: “Righteousness is not only the determination to be personally impeccable (a frequent misunderstanding) but often the determination, if necessary at one’s own expense, to bear the guilt of others.”
Whose guilt shall you cause me to bear for Your glory, Father?
I am the prodigal. I wander. I want. I search. I turn my back on my Father and leave home. I spend the glorious inheritance that He has given me on that which will not satisfy.
And then I come back, not understanding why I ever left as I enveloped in His immeasurable grace.
But I am not home for long. Soon, I am looking back over my shoulder. Why am I so drawn to the things of this world? Why do I hunger after what will not satisfy?
Can I even remember the last time that I was satisfied? I don’t think so.
Quench my thirst, Father. I need You. I need You to rescue me. I am drowning.
What if I don’t want to?
What does it say about my heart when I don’t want to have a quiet time? Maybe that’s just it–I don’t see it as an opportunity to spend time with the Creator of the universe. Instead, I see it as a sort of mandatory duty.
Deliver me. I am sorry. Please forgive me. What’s wrong with me? I need Your grace so much.
I need You. I need You to soften my calloused heart. I need You to shave away the scars. Break down the walls. Be my Knight in shining armor. I am asking You to rescue me. I asking You to break my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.
Do you know what a big part of me wants to do right now? I want to sit on Facebook and marvel at home many people “like” the above photo. I want to gaze at my own glory. I want to marvel at how wonderful I am–how worthy of worship I am.
I am disgusting.
I need grace. I need You to illuminate Your Word and show me how much I need You. Every single day, I implore the masses to worship me instead of Jesus.
Father forgive me, for I know what I am doing and I do it anyway.
Matthew 1:1-18 The Genealogy
Bruner’s commentary notes that in giving Jesus the name “Messiah” he is in fact declaring a job title. Jesus was the man the Jews had been waiting for for centuries. He was to be a Messiah–a ruler, a leader, a king. He would exact justice and judgement. He was the fulfillment of all prophecy.
Vs. 1 also calls Jesus the Son of Abraham and Son of David. That doesn’t mean much to me. But then the commentary notes that to a Jew, “Son of Abraham” refers to the promise made in Genesiss that God would send someone that would be a blessing for everyone (I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and pin you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”1) Matthew is declaring that Christ is in fact the hope for all nations. Furthermore, in naming Him the “Son of David” he is saying that he is the await King who will rule forever. And so, Jesus is the King that will reign forever and be the hope for all nations. And so, every reference to Abraham in Matthew relates to the promises of God to ALL humanity.
As I read the genealogy of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder why those specific women were chose to be mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. Why not Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah? Ironically, most of them had a questionable sexual history and all were Gentiles. Tamar dressed up as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law; Rahab was a prostitute; Ruth was a Moabitei, a descent of the incestuous act of Lot’s daughters; Bathsheba com
mitted adultery; Mary was an unwed pregnant woman. There is little doubt that having these “type” of women in your genealogy in those days would reflect poorly on that person. But Jesus is so different than anyone else. He owns it. When people touch him, He does not become unclean–He cleanses.
In addition, there is something profound in the “on purposeness” of history. From there point in history, it may have seemed that there was no hope or point for what they suffered. It may have seemed as if the promise the Lord made to Abraham and to David and in turn, Israel, remained unfulfilled. Perhaps they doubted that the Lord had even spoke. Perhaps it seemed like the darkness was too deep and that all hope had died.
But God can not be surprised. He knew that David would commit adultery. He knew that Salmon would marry a former prostitute. He knew that Tamar would sleep with her father-in-law. He knew. He knew and yet in His sovereign providence, He allowed it to be so. Dare we say He even ordained it? Is this not the Gosp
el preached in the genealogy? God chooses to use Gentiles who are soiled but repentant to be a part of the lineage of grace. As Bruner states, “It teaches divine mercy, a mercy extending to both racial and moral outsiders.”