Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Locusts and God's grace gifts in the swarm: Friendships, part 1

Those days were impossibly long and yet too short. The end was coming quickly, and yet it seemed to forever loom on the horizon. I struggled to learn what it meant to grieve well, especially when the object of my grief was not yet gone. I was lost in my todays, dreading the tomorrows, and wishing my yesterdays would come back. Meanwhile, my peers were embracing futures they had only just started to write. I couldn't relate. My life was being consumed by locusts...and though those months and years of death and destruction would be given back in grace gifts beyond my wildest dreams, all I could see were the swarms (see Joel 2:25).

There was a steady faithfulness, though. She and I, we would purpose to meet at the local gym...presumably to work out together, but inevitably we would always end up gabbing relentlessly, nursing our sore muscles and even sorer hearts. It was in those moments of consistent, intentional friendship that I poured out my poisonous brokenness and soaked up God-strength to face the next tomorrow. God's grace comes in many forms.

Then there were the months of darkness and depression, of broken trust and deep, deep hurt. This relational girl was torn apart when relationships in which I had deeply invested myself combusted. God gave me another relentless grace, another kindred spirit. She met me in the pit. She listened, she caught my tears and joined my chorus of screams at a world broken and unfair. But in the end, she wouldn't let me stay in the pit. She nudged me upward, closer to the heart of a God who never stopped pursuing me.

Of course I can't forget the sisters who share my blood and my heart. The wise one, who has poured so much of herself into me...who was my template for life for many years as I watched her live and grow in independence, making her own choices and becoming the beauty she is today. And the young one, with whom I can be candid and perfectly goofy and still feel fully accepted and loved. The giggles and road trips and shared passion...who am I without these ones who share a history with me? Dear sisters, by blood and by heart.

I haven't even begun. I could name many others...Grace gifts I never deserved but God heaped on anyway. What I couldn't see then was that, while the swarms were still thieving, God was already giving back what was being taken. Even today I sit with hands poised over keys...not really sure how to convey the magnitude of what God has done for me through these dear, treasured friendships that will never allow me to stay the same.

Friendships--the kind of treasured, life-altering friendships I am talking about--are hard fought. They are work, commitment, and sacrifice. But the generous return is immeasurable. There have been days when I could have buried my head under the covers with less heartache than it took to pursue, to pour out my heart, to grow. Those days when I choose to do the hard thing, though--to willingly enter into the depth of sacrificial friendship--those are days I meet Jesus in new, deeper ways. These gifts I have been given in the form of friends are a reflection of God's goodness. And while now we only "see in a mirror dimly," and that reflection can sometimes be smudged and smeared and dirty, it serves as a reminder to me...one day, I will "see face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

I turn 25 in a few months...and while I am semi-freaking out about this quarter of a century milestone, I am also reminiscing about a beautiful day last year celebrating those who made me who I am. Can't wait to share those memories in this space...a tiny glimpse into the depth these dear sisters and "spiritual mothers" (well, biological too ;) of of mine have added to my life. Stay tuned...you may decide to celebrate a few people in your life as well :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When the fixing comes in the knowing

"As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone" (Luke 8:40-43).

I can imagine her standing there. The crowds are pressing in, and yet she feels alone...unknown. Lost in a sea of people, and yet acutely aware of her own brokenness. Her body and her heart have bled for too many long months and years, making her unclean and unworthy of human touch. If only she could find the healing she had spent all her years and dollars trying to obtain, maybe then the shroud of shame that had become her garment would be lifted.

"She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased" (Luke 8:44).

She wanted physical healing...and believed touching Jesus would be enough.

"And Jesus said, 'Who was it that touched me?' When all denied it, Peter said, 'Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!' But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me'" (Luke 8:45-46).

She wanted healing...and He wanted to know her. He was not afraid of her desire, of her bleeding or her femininity. He was not put off by her "dirtiness."

She was not hidden to Him.

"When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed" (Luke 8:47).

I would guess that she would have been content with the physical healing, but He knew she would not have been truly healed. He called her out, brought her to her knees.

Then He spoke life to her: "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace" (Luke 8:48)

I imagine Jesus reaching out a hand and pulling her up from the ground, lifting her chin with a gentle finger. I imagine His eyes spoke the heart healing she did not even know she needed: "I see you; I know you. I am not disgusted by your bleeding body. I have known your bleeding heart...be known by me." She wanted to stop the bleeding, and she left with a heart freed in the knowing of a God-man who took on himself her bleeding body and bleeding soul.

I have been her...bleeding in my own shame and brokenness, alone and unknown. I have longed for the healing, and been caught in the knowing.  How often do I ask for the fixing, rather than the knowing? This God, "who has searched me and knows me," is teaching me that the fixing comes through the knowing (Psalm 139:1). As I know and am deeply known by God, my bleeding heart is mended. The shame is lifted, and I am at peace.

Dear friend, know that you are not hidden to the God of the universe. You are known, and you are beckoned to know. Won't you allow yourself to be caught in the knowing today?