Archives For redemption

Friends, we have have recently been through some deep waters together. I had a purpose in sharing those stories with you; it wasn’t to shock you, wound you, or crush your spirits.

It wasn’t even to evoke sympathy. No, I simply wanted you to share in my journey; in order to do that I needed to authentically represent the things that happened. After what you’ve done for me, I owed you that much. It was because of you that I got to go to bootcamp. So it is as much your story as it is mine.

I could have broken down each session, given you what I heard, and learned, but I wanted you to partake instead in my internal journey. Each of the stories I shared last week represents a stage in the process Jesus led me through during bootcamp. Like an onion, He gently, lovingly peeled away the layers.

Showed me where I’d been hurt the deepest, wounded the most.
But allow me to back up a little bit first. Going into it, I had an idea, a dream of healing, but I was frightened. The only thing I clung to heading up to Colorado was tale of the woman with the issue of blood. Like her, I told myself if I could but touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, I would be healed.

Never did I expect Him to reach down, and touch me the way He did.

But He did, friends–O! how He did. The weekend began with John Eldredge repeating two refrains:

“You have a heart, and it matters, ” and “You were born into a world at war.”

As a man, and this is not meant as a reproach, merely an observation, I can’t recall the last time I heard either at church.

From there, John and the team laid the foundation that my heart–every man and woman’s heart, really–has been wounded in that war. In the process of uncovering those wounds, I was forced to confront the “Poser,” or the false self, I’d constructed to hide the wounded boy within. What were my fig leafs, and why didn’t I want to be known?

That is a deeply personal journey for each one of us. Suffice it to say, God was faithful to show up, blow down my house of cards. The truth came diamond-hard, and slug-ugly (God the diamond, and I the slug). And I got something from each and every session. Where before I lived with rejection, He gave me a new name:

Loved and Accepted.

As surely as the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west, He spoke that to my heart. But He wasn’t done with me yet. He wanted me to know that I was “loved and accepted” before He dove deep in my heart to wound me to the depths of my soul.

What do I mean?

I mean that for me, and for you, too, there is a theme to our wounds. And that God is faithful to wound us in our deepest woundings to bring those things to light.

Because He wants to heal them.

First, He knocked out my foundation, which was this:

Nearly everything I have done in life up until now has been for a singular purpose, namely my dad’s approval–his affirmation, his validation. Despite clearly getting the message from him, and others, that I didn’t have what it takes (who did that message really come from, who worked so tirelessly to take me out?). This explains why I continued for so long to allow him to wound not only me, but my family as well.

I wanted him in my life.

What boy doesn’t?

But that rejection, that craving for approval, wasn’t the deepest thing about me. No, Jesus went past that to my deepest heart.

It was the penultimate session of the retreat. Already I was struggling to remain present, my mind and heart drifting to home, and its cares. Despite this, worship really moved me. God was there. I belted out the words to Tim Hughes’ Everything harder than I’d ever sung anything in my life (I’m very much a joyful noise person).

And then Morgan Snyder got up to share. I realized–God showed me via Morgan’s story–the deepest thing about me wasn’t a life lived balanced on the knife’s edge between a fear of rejection, and a desperate need for a approval.

No, the deepest thing, the thing that felt truest of all, was that I believed I was alone. This was brought powerfully to my attention by:

Yes, that is the much-seen video of Derek Redmond losing out on his last chance for Olympic gold, but rising anyway, choosing to complete the race. God showed me three things, spoke them indelibly into my heart:

1) I believed I was the man running the race alone, the watching world waiting for him to fall. That I was essentially fatherless.
2) All I had longed for from my father, I already had–had had–all along. He so gently rebuked me of this.
3) Like Redmond’s father in the video, Jesus has got me, His arm already around me.

He told me “Son, you’re not alone. You’ve never been. This race that you run–life? I’ve carried you all along. We will finish together.”

I was shell-shocked, stunned, hadn’t dared hope God would speak in such a personal way. But He showed up in the midst of my fragile faith anyway.

At this point, we were dismissed to an exercise, a time of silent reflection and prayer. We were to get alone with God, take these questions to Him.

I couldn’t do it.

I went back to the bunkhouse, locked myself in a bathroom stall, and just balled.

For half and hour, I cried. I grieved all I never had, but had had all along, I grieved how I had spurned my Father. I cried in great heaving sobs so hard my chest was sore for days afterwards.

I cried tears of joy, because for the first time in my life I knew who I was:

My Father’s son.

How about you? Do you know who you are? More importantly: do you know Whose you are?

You can.

On this blog I’ve striven to be honest with you, sharing many of my struggles, foibles, flaws. Even so, there is much you don’t know–simply because people are much more complex than mere words can convey.

What I have shared here, I have chosen to, pouring over the words. I have been the gatekeeper of those words. And I write for many reasons, among which are:

1) Because I love it;

2) To know that I’m not alone.

I hope that number one is fairly obvious, and number two (no poo jokes, please) you have proven to me time and time again. But as much as you think you know me, with as much as I’ve shared, you really only know about me. (You don’t know me the way my wife does, right? And thank God for that! And yet even she, being a separate, but human, soul can’t possible know everything that is me).

What do I mean?

There is only One Who knows me, and you, absolutely, utterly, completely. And there is nothing hidden from the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do. He is the only one who knows the darkest depths of our depravity, and still chooses to love us anyway.

Our transcendent, infinite God know us completely in all of our ways. As David wrote in Psalm 139, He knows us “Even before a word is on our tongue.”

Think on that for a minute.

God is simply indescribable because He is infinite. As vast as the universe is, God is vaster still.

And as wonderfully complex as our eyes, brains, and bodies are, God is much more so.

Even though each chromosome of our DNA has some 20 billion bits of information, just Who encoded that data?

We are fearfully and wonderfully made by a fearfully wonderful Creator:

He is all knowing. The theological word is “omniscient.” It means that before we even knew there was such a thing as a “Higgs Boson,” God knew, and He waited, like a parent teaching a toddler to walk, for us to discover it–delighting in our every faltering step along the way.

It’s too wonderful–incomprehensible–for me. There is nowhere we can go that is away from God’s presence and sight. Even the darkness is light to Him. I can hide from you, you can hide from me, but
nowhere is there where we may be obscured from Him.

God is all present.

He never leaves nor forsakes us.

He is all powerful (omnipotent).

He put us together in our mother’s wombs.

In short, God is simply indescribable because He is intimate. And there is comfort in being so known.

Yet we often hide because we are afraid. We want to be known, but only so much. We want to control that info.

God knows and sees all.

We don’t want people to see our junk, but God knows & sees, and still loves us anyway.

And He lays His hand of comfort upon us.

Lastly, He is simply indescribable because He is redemptive. Romans 5:8 tells us “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Before we ever had thought of, or knew our need for, Him, He did that.

And those words are writ large upon the page in crimson ink.

Even so, we separate from fellowship with this God Who knows, and loves, us so when we sin.

Since there’s no place to hide, we should simply run to Him.

We are all prodigals, but Jesus took the penalty.

He knows you. Do you know Him today?

Shakespeare said that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” True as that may me, I wondered about our churches. Would they be as sweet, or as well-attended, if we named them thusly:

Rahab Bible Baptist–named of course for the now-famous woman who hid the Israelite spies at Jericho. Perhaps better known for her previous occupation: prostitute. Yet God rolled her into his story, and made her a part of Messiah’s earthly lineage.

Tamar Twin Pines Church of God in Christ–she who was more righteous than her father-in-law, Judah. Yes, she went to extreme ends to get what was owed her, and yet God rolled her also into his story.

Woman At The Well Living Streams Church–here again is a woman who found grace, and a place in God’s story, yet who is better known for having had five husbands, and living with a man to whom she wasn’t married. Jesus himself went out of his way to talk to her.

Mary the Weeping, Foot-Wiping, Sinner Church of the Better Part–named of course for Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who, according to John 11:2, “anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair.”

Which brings me to: why are there not more Evangelical churches named after women? God himself placed a high value on them. And more importantly, what is it about grace that so assaults our sensibilities? That we don’t have any churches called “Rahab Bible Baptist?” Grace is about redemption, and redemption is God’s business.

How about this: would you rather be known for who you were, or what you were becoming? And what of these ladies of yore?

What do you think?