Psalm 25:8 (New Living Translation)
God is fair and just; He corrects the misdirected,
Sends them in the right direction.
Yesterday was one of those messages at church that had my name written all over it. I mean as in flashing neon bulbs spelling out each letter…VANESSA! VANESSA! VANESSA! Thankfully the flashing lights are between me and God. And well, my husband because no doubt he knew it was for me, too. And, well, now you guys. Smile…it’s all good, though.
Picture it…you are headed to church, not really even feeling like going (yes I certainly have those days but by now have learned most of the time those are the services I need the most! Which I am about to prove!) and on the way to church your mind and emotions are reeling with the ways you think you have been mistreated. Your feelings of frustration and anger have formed tight little knots in your belly. Really the only reason you got up to go to church today was because you know, from past pain and experience, you CANNOT dodge church or set that example for your children even when you want to run! So you ride in silence. You sign your kids in. Complain under your breath about being late again. Find a seat towards the back because worship is in full swing. Just stand there. No singing. No hands lifted in surrender. But then Anthony Evans, the guest worship leader, begins to lead the crowded room in these lyrics…Oh no, You never let go…through every high and every low…Oh no, you never let go of me…and you feel a gentle tug on those tight knots inside.
Announcements come in the form of a funny video where some of the male staff are dressed like characters from The Avengers. Prayer and collection of tithes and offerings. Then Anthony Evans steps back on stage to sing a song with lyrics something like this…Even when you’re weary…even when your faith is lost…even when it’s hard to trust…Trust Me now. And the knot loosens inside considerably. Tears begin to slide out. His presence…His love…doing what only He can do.
I have sat in many services over the years, at the church I grew up in as well as C3, when I realized sitting in my chair that God had an appointment with me. In His love and wisdom He began loosing the knots of my anger and frustration with His loving presence before He brought out the big guns. He reminded me to trust Him, that He never lets me go, before He then began correcting me. Oh yes…
My Pastor comes up to speak with several pieces of luggage on stage with him. We are in a series titled “Real-ationships.” We opened up God’s Word to Ephesians chapter 4 and Pastor began talking with us about the baggage (hence the luggage) we bring into relationships and marriages. Each piece of luggage on stage represented a piece of “baggage” listed in Ephesians chapter 4: bitterness, anger, harsh words, slander and every evil practice. I knew I was carrying around a few of those. I knew it was the cause of those knots Jesus was trying to untie on the inside of me. I knew it was sin. And I knew only Jesus could free my heart…clean out the yuck that was accumulating. I knew, even though it slightly annoyed me, that my husband no doubt realized God was speaking to me. There was no condemnation. Pastor always points to Jesus. “Take your baggage to Jesus. Leave it at the cross.”
It’s hard to be corrected. Especially when you have let your pride convince you that you have a “right” to be angry and offended. Or when you let self-pity prop you up with excuses. But see, more than I want to be right, more than I want to have my way, more than I want a pass, I want to be free. I have experienced freedom in Christ incomparable to anything else in life. I have learned offense and supernatural peace do not dwell together. I have learned something even harder: What I get offended about and how often I get offended says more about me than it does the person I am offended with. That’s hard. But the reason I know it’s true is when I live in the freedom Christ wants for me every day, when my joy and peace is rooted only in Jesus, I do not absorb the actions or words of others as a reflection of my value. So I get offended less easily and when I do feel hurt or offended, God is able to help me put it in perspective and let it go. However (ugh!), when I drift into pride and leaning on others to validate me, stroke me or meet my needs it’s not long before I’m disappointed. Hurt. Harsh. Soon angry and if I’m not careful, will become bitter. I realize that is normal living for so many people. And it was for me for so very long. But because I have tasted of the true freedom to be found in God’s love…what it really means for my life when He fills me and cleanses me…when I no longer look to anyone except Him for my worth and value, I let His Word begin to break up the hard places of my heart. I believe with my whole heart that God was not only correcting me yesterday, but redirecting me. Reminding me. Convicting me. Because He loves me.
I won’t pretend (so over pretending) that after a powerful service I’m good to go. See, yesterday at church God got my attention, brought correction and showed me the right direction. But I still have choices to make. What do I do with those nasty thoughts and what do I do when my feelings get all mixed up? I mean there is no one to follow me around all day playing response time music on the keyboard! Smile…I gotta make choices. So today, I first of all choose to start my conversation with God with a thankful attitude. Telling Him thank you for the many blessings of my life…how He saved my marriage…gave me beautiful children and how He spoke to my heart yesterday. Then as I talk to Him about the things bugging me I choose not to go on and on but just ask Him what should I do? And then a scripture comes to mind about praying for those who hurt you. So I do. It’s not a magic formula for freedom. But it’s God’s way. And when we choose to do things His way, receive correction when we are misdirected, He does what we can’t do in our own hearts and minds.
Sometimes I think about all the things I write and share about my life on this blog. Sometimes I think goodness! TMI!! Even now I laugh out loud sitting on my deck with worship music blaring through my open kitchen windows. I don’t mind. It’s all about Jesus. I write about my life because this is my experience of knowing Him….finding Him…being found. And it means so incredibly much to me that I can only surrender, however imperfectly, to the compelling need in my heart to share with others this amazing love God has for us. The change that is possible. The freedom in following. The grace…so much grace. So, today I hang out my spiritual laundry and let it blow in the wind. But really it’s for Him. I want Jesus to know that I love Him. I appreciate that He loves me enough to correct me, guide me, redirect me. Again and again and again.
I want Him to know that I long to humble myself before Him. Let Him work in my heart…untie the knots…”clean out the pipes” as a friend and I used to say. So it can be so much more of Him in my words and attitudes.
Free from offense. Free to love.