Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I surrender all....still working on that

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet
from the snare.
Psalm 25:12-15

Are we so intimately united to Jesus Christ’s idea of prayer— “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10)— that we catch the secrets of God? (Taken from Oswald Chambers' June 3rd entry)

This is really a very tough thing to be that "intimately united to Jesus." It is harder than I ever imagined it would be at the start of my journey to become so united with Him 31 years ago. It was the fall of 1986, when I was called upon to endure a tremendous trial that would stretch on for years to come. I was 19 years old and had just gone away to a four years university to begin my sophomore year of college. Here's a brief testimony of that.

That year...I had been convicted by the Holy Spirit that I wasn't putting Christ first in my life. I didn't love Him the most. I had put someone else in the first place slot...and that person was Me. I had originally believed that the person I had placed there had been the young man I had been dating...and while he was really close to the top slot, when I really stopped to consider that deeply, I had to come to the truth: that the person I put first was none other that myself. I wanted what I wanted. Period. I wanted love, security, and be taken care of (and really...who doesn't want that?). I sought that security out by looking to the wrong source. At that point, I was fairly certain that I would be taken care of and loved forever by another person. I don't think this is unusual for the human species to seek security in the wrong place. For me it was a person who would love me...for another it could be in a job, money, or position of prestige. It can also be placed in your own ability and intelligence.

That September, I went on a Christian retreat with my college fellowship group. During that retreat, I went to hear a middle aged woman speak about what it truly meant to become a woman of God. I knew that I was far from being the woman that she described. I saw in her, a beautiful peace and gentleness that can only come from the Lord. I also understand now that it probably came after years of trial and tribulation. After getting the wind knocked out of her by life's circumstances. In order to become that need to have a deep faith. What is faith that hasn't been tried? It isn't anything! Faith is a muscle that must be built up. Just as lifting weights makes you stronger....going through trial increases faith (unless you decide that it isn't worth it in the long run and you give it all up).

At that retreat, I made a commitment to allow the Lord to make me into woman of God no matter what it took. Yes....I really did use those exact words in my prayer...and I meant them. During the course of that school year I was stripped of everything I had originally believed would ultimately bring me security and happiness. Due to a mental health issue, I experienced extreme confusion in both mood and my thinking. I was rejected and abandoned. I was falsely accused of things I hadn't done and my reputation was tarnished. I became incapable of nourishing relationships. I lost the person I had loved deeply and in whom I had believed would love me back forever. I had a very broken relationship with my mother. I also lost many "so called friends" on my campus. I had no energy...nor any ability to make rational decisions. I encountered humiliation and shame because of some of the things I had done and said during the height of my illness. I couldn't even count on my academic ability, as my grades suffered greatly. Thinking became extremely difficult for me. The depression I entered was so profound that I seriously considered taking my own life. Basically, I had lost myself...and it was pretty traumatic. This little paragraph doesn't begin to accurately describe the darkness and emotional pain I had entered. Throughout this entire time, a voice would often whisper in my mind and it would ask, "Do you still want to become a woman of God?" I would answer, "  matter what it takes." And then I would go through even more hell. I somehow knew that everything I was going through was connected to my strong desire to thoroughly surrender my will to His to become a woman of God. I was in one of the biggest spiritual battles of my life.

That battle has continued throughout the rest of my life, although not alway in quite as severe a form. The battle rages on nonetheless. Becoming a woman of God is all about surrendering what I falsely perceive will bring me happiness and security. It is also surrendering control. I have continued to struggle to consistently surrender it all to Jesus...although it has become considerably easier. That hymn with the title I Surrender All has new meaning for me. What have I had to surrender? I have had to surrender some things that I once considered to be basic rights of a middle class American woman. Some of the things on my list might seem silly, and they really are, but Satan knows exactly what buttons to push...even the petty ones.

Here is a partial list of some of the rights I've sometimes thought I should have been allowed to claim...just by being alive on this earth. The right to enjoy a comfortable life. The right to be prideful. The right to live a pain-free life...both emotional and physical. The right to have control over all the outcomes in my life. The right to never having to experience extreme brokenness. The right to be understood. The right to a fair trial. The right to harbor anger (a biggie for me).

We all have our own lists. It all comes down to surrendering these rights and realizing that life is about learning to trust Jesus...not necessarily living happily ever after with all my dreams coming true. Where would I be if I had all my rights delivered to me? Would I understand my need for Christ? Would I have even an inkling of empathy towards those who suffer? Pain is necessary for personal growth as well as learning to surrender to Christ.

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