Reproach:1. blame or censure conveyed in disapproval: a term of reproach.2. an expression of upbraiding, censure, or reproof.3. disgrace, discredit, or blame incurred: to bring reproach on one’s family.
4. a cause or occasion of disgrace or discredit.
Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
For the few of you that don’t already know, I’ve started to get training in guitar. For the first week, my fingers were painfully sore. I had large red welts on my finger tips and some of them were forming white blisters. It was incredibly painful to play but I managed to fight through it and eventually started to form calluses on my fingers. These calluses prevented me from feeling the intense pain the steel strings inflicted. I noticed however, in the shower today, that I couldn’t feel anything with these callused fingertips. Now that I’ve started working at a furniture store I can’t even feel the textures on fabrics because of the hardened skin that has dulled my senses.
It made me think about the calluses that can form on our hearts. Years and years of friction and pressure can cause hardness, causing us to feel nothing, including compassion for others. It can keep us shielded from the truth when we should be sensitive to the lies and deception of the enemy. This sort of pressure or friction comes from abuse, mistreatment, or even small areas of neglect during childhood. When the callus of self-protection forms, it blinds us from seeing recurring abuse and mistreatment. The need for relationship and acceptance is still there but the callus formed from this pain prevents us from seeing the abuser or false teacher correctly while assuming this need for relationship is being met.
But the Lord wants us to have tender hearts. We might feel the sting of rejection over and over again but a tender heart will keep us sensitive to His love and manifest presence. A tender heart allows us to hear His voice and receive His Word. A tender heart will cause us to be sensitive to the supernatural world around us and allow us to be able to “see” in order to “fight”. A tender heart allows us to become aware of His protection over our lives.
I sat in a sideroom of the prayer room one Tuesday afternoon during a fasting meeting and listened as one of my prophetic mentors explained to me that I was about to enter one of the most pivotal, horrific, and beautiful seasons of my life. That was in November of 2008 and on the previous day I had an absolutely disrupting encounter with the Lord. Today I remembered a part of that conversation. She explained a similar encounter and journey she had years before.
“It was the most difficult season of my life. It had a lot to do with love. A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff.”
A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff. That sounds nice. That doesn’t sound too bad.
Boy, was I wrong.
I don’t care who you think you are, but if you think you are good at the Sermon on the Mount, you are delusional and probably arrogant. I’m pulling no punches here. I love Jesus, but this Sermon is absolutely the most flesh-killing tool He operates with not to mention the fact that it is completely offensive… in a good way :/.
This weekend I was driving down the road with my new friend Rachel who was visiting for our Winter Gathering. She told me she felt the Lord wanted to free me from the bondage of worry (ahem) and that He wanted to free me from the bondage of the ‘need to be right.’ Oh yes. That’s what she said. And the problem with this is that Rachel happens to be the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life so I couldn’t accuse her of impure motives.
But here, I realized what the Lord was saying was that that all of this really wasn’t about who is right or wrong… it was about self-preservation. Do I care more about preserving my reputation or do I care more about pleasing Him and becoming a humble peacemaker? It’s not the question that is so humiliating but the fact that my answer is so obvious when I allow the Holy Spirit to examine my heart. It is moments like these that I don’t want to waste. Moments that I know the Father is doing something so beyond the actual circumstance I’m in. He sees so far ahead and we stand there, grasping for control when we will never really have it. We really think we’re ‘big stuff’ and then we realize that we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re idiots. Idiots with a great inheritance. Sometimes God doesn’t actually care if we’re right or not. Sometimes He just wants to show us the idol of approval in our lives.
It makes me feel like a child. Like a two year old being potty-trained.
Oh yeah. That’s how I’m suppose to feel.
Which brings me back to another incredible vision I had this weekend.
Dancing. Dancing in my pink bedroom with the ruffled canopy bed in the background. I was eight. And I was worshipping. And He was dancing too.
And then we were in a field of flowers, dancing wildly, spinning and spinning and spinning. Then a drastic change in scenery.
Suit of armor, like Joan of Arc. Swinging my sword, cutting off the heads of demons, challenging the forces of darkness.
Back the camera up. I’m not Joan of Arc. I’m a child. I’m a little child wearing a miniature suit of Armor and the Father is standing right beside me and He’s huge. HUGE.
A massive dragon flies toward me. It was not nearly as big as the Father but it was A LOT bigger than me. I thrust my sword through it’s belly and it was forced backward with ease. I threw that silly creature back so effortlessly as the Father looked on in pride… even though I knew He was giving me all of the power to do it in the first place. It was more like He enjoyed the very sight of me… not so much that I was some crazy, skilled warrior.
There happens to be more to what I saw but I’ll keep it to myself for now.
The point is this– He’s God. I’m man (lady). Whether you’re a retired 78 year old worldwide evangelist or a four year old child, we are children of God and children have a very limited understanding of what our Dads are up to; why they do the things they do. We just go with the flow and let Him handle it, knowing that whatever happens it is for our good…
“The battle is not against flesh and blood…” in other words… I need to love my way out of the battle. Not fight my way out… at least when it comes to fighting with the wrong army.
I have been more aware of the demonic realm in the last couple of weeks than any other time in my life. Sounds traumatic, right? Well… right… at first anyway. At first I was in utter panic that my future would be utterly destroyed. Not kidding. But then I had an encounter with God. He’s the best. In fact, I had multiple encounters with God in the midst of some pretty dark circumstances. And even after Jesus Himself spoke truth to me and after we closed some doors that wounds had opened, fear rose up in me again a couple of days later. Fear that He was going to leave me stranded. Fear that I would be fighting this ‘thing’ alone.
So I sat in my bedroom Saturday morning and talked to Him about it. I told Abba that I was really scared. Really, really, really scared. He didn’t chastise me for my unbelief. He didn’t wag his finger in front of my face and say “shame on you!”. Instead, He showed Himself to me as a daddy. A daddy with huge shoulders and big muscles. And he said, “don’t worry. I’m gonna take care of my little girl. You just sit here and rest.” That was all it took. I knew He was telling me the truth. I knew I could lay back in His arms and that everything would be okay.
And because I knew that I was safe in His arms, I knew it was safe to love. I knew it was safe to love and forgive.
So my ex-boyfriend emailed me on Facebook the other day. He rarely goes on Facebook but a couple of weeks ago decided to make a surprise visit and initiate a little bit of a chat. I hadn’t had any communication with him for over three years. It felt fine talking to him. We only talked for about twenty minutes and it was mostly catch-up stuff. I didn’t feel any tug on my heart or anything emotional whatsover. Well this weekend he sends me an email. It seemed perfectly innocent and just might be perfectly innocent but I decided not to respond. In fact, I thought maybe… just maybe I should delete him completely from my Facebook friends list. Why would I do that if everything seemed perfectly innocent? Because our hearts are easily deceived. I, at one time, had an emotional connection with this person… it, was one of the few romantic relationships I’ve had where I actually felt loved and valued. We had very legitimate reasons to break up and I’m not sad that we did but any time your heart has been involved, trouble usually follows.
Our hearts are so deceptive. If we do not let go of emotionally-tied relationships from the past we will remain stuck in the same place and unknowingly halt any forward movement in our lives… including spiritual growth and relationship growth. Sentimentality is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Objects, pictures and other paraphanalia from our past are signs (big ones) that we have not let go of emotional ties. I don’t normally hold onto anything that exes have given me (and I don’t have a lot of exes) but I still own a painting from this particular guy (who is an up and coming artist in Dallas). I know, even though I enjoy this piece of art, that I should probably ebay it simply because there is no need to for me to remember him every time I see the painting.
I have thought a lot about past relationships recently because I am finding that they have influenced my reaction to others far more than I thought they did. I realized that there is one particular ex who I thought I had forgiven, but in reality, all of the evidence points to the fact that I have not forgiven him much at all. It has been seven years since the ending of that relationship and I thought that I was totally healed from everything that happened to me during that time period but mistrust and fear have once again begun to rule my life. It is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to realize that we are still in pain after seven years of wanting and contending so much for our hearts to be healed and finding ourselves back in the same place with our hearts still locked up. The worst part is that you don’t feel like anyone understands how this could happen. How could anyone still have serious trust issues after seven years? I simply don’t know how to answer that. Believe me when I tell you that I wish I had the answers. I wish I didn’t act like a maniac about everything. I wish I didn’t live in constant fear of getting hurt.
Last night the Lord spoke to me about moving forward with Him. I don’t really know what that looks like, only to say that I think it means to not give up- to fight for this “thing” in my heart to be healed… to fight to forgive and move on and not allow someone else unknowingly control my life in this way.
Last night I was speaking with a group of friends about the issue of fear when someone made a profound statement: “Fear and faith are the same thing. They are both expectations of something. Fear expects something bad to happen while faith expects something good.” Romans 8:14-16 says,
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
It all comes down to whether we really believe who God says He is. Do we believe He is a good Father who wants good things for His children or do we believe he is a neglectful, passive Father who doesn’t care about the needs of His kids? Truthfully, the Father wants extravagant things for us. He wants to see us succeed. He wants to provide for us. If we continue to expect bad things to happen, we will become self-fulfilling prophets.
We have to believe that we are no longer slaves to fear but are adopted by a generous, kind Father in heaven. We cannot believe the lie of self-protection any longer. Trying to protect ourselves with resistant, emotional walls is sin. It is sin because we do not trust in God’s protection or leadership over our lives.
Last week I had a dream about the subject of fear. I was invited to go swimming in a pond with someone. We were both excited about hanging out with eachother but as soon as I got to the edge of the water, I started to feel that familiar hesitation. I was terrified to get in the water with my friend. What was underneath the water? Would something hurt me? Was the water too dirty? Fear consumed me. My friend went out a little ways into the water and waited for me to meet them. Finally, I faced the fear and waded slowly in. Eventually, both my friend and I were swimming through the water that I had once been so afraid of.
Taking steps to face our fears is a crucial passageway to wholeness. We have to first remind ourselves who God is and that He is much bigger than our fears and we have to worship and declare who He is even while we’re facing those fears.
Because we have all been born with a sin nature, we cannot expect others to treat us perfectly at all times and others can’t expect the same from us. If our identity is grounded in the love of God for us, than the actions of others should not affect us.
I was reading 1 Corinthians 13, or what is also know as the “love chapter”. One of the verses has been on my mind all week: “Love believes all things”. So much of my fear comes from my expectations of the pain I may recieve from others. With certain friends, I am always expecting to get hurt– always expecting to be disappointed. But instead of expecting that they will treat us badly, we should instead believe the best about them– to see them with the eyes of love, through the lens of Holy Spirit, rather than with our own fallen eyesight. In a way, when we expect unkindness from our brothers and sisters, we are walking in judgment, when the Lord has asked us to walk in love. And we must walk in love without walls and without hardening our hearts in self-protection.
I’ve made the mistake recently of looking back on my past recently and envying the people that are still living the way I use to. What I figured out is that if you look past the thin veneer of knowing all of the “right people” or people recognizing you when you’ve never met them in your life… or you get past the ludicrously superficial conversations that only happen in bars… or the van trips with stinky musicians who, in order to keep their sanity, are bent on trying to out-do eachother with practical jokes… or recieving degrading comments by random drunk guys… or spending days at a time laying around a girlfriends house whining about your broken hearts over a couple of Shiners…
“Well, Brooke… if you put it THAT way…”
Yeah. And that’s only the surface stuff.
Along with all of that amusement also comes seperation from God. All that stuff in the paragraph above… well that’s called disobedience. That’s called choosing your own path. It’s also spelled “D-E-A-T-H”. And knowing you’re choosing death instead of choosing eternal life, friendship with the living God, hearing His voice, a love that will not… EVER relent… knowing your choosing death (aka your own stinkin’ flesh) is depressing. There is nothing more agonizing, nothing more painful, nothing more despairing than choosing to be seperated from the presence of Jesus.
And then one day I figured out this simple truth: It isn’t about me! Granted, occasionally I slip back into this silly lie but one day I woke up and said… “I haven’t dug myself a hole so deep that Jesus can’t pull me out of it”.
The relentess stuff that I wrote about earlier. That’s actually the most painful part though when we’re in the thick of it, we don’t really see it that way. I know I interpreted that part as God forgetting about me or not caring about me. Basically, He allowed my life to become completely miserable. Sounds like fun, huh? Jesus is kind… He is gentle but he will use the least amount of discipline to provoke your heart in the deepest ways imaginable. Sometimes we’re so stubborn or so full of fear that His version of discipline might as well be Guantanomo Bay.
We were created to have this amazing communion with God… with a Jesus who is ALIVE and wants friendship with us. And if we don’t do what we were created for we will spend our whole lives trying to find our purpose in other things and we will never… ever find it because it’s not there. It’s with Him. And that is… beautiful.