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Then they will rebuild cities that have been in ruins for many generations.
~Isaiah 61:4 CEV~
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I’ve been and how it is that I got to where I am now. A scene from one of my favorite movies, Eat, Pray, Love, reminded me that it was in those times of devastation that I began becoming the person I’m destined to be. In the movie, Julia Roberts’ character, Elizabeth Gilbert, is sitting in Italy looking at the remains of the Augusteum and she says something about how ruin is a necessary part of our growth. She’s marveling at how the place has withstood so much chaos and destruction, yet remains standing. In this scene she is processing her feelings for her might-as-well-be ex-boyfriend. I believe she is trying to decide just how much damage has been done as she finally comes to the conclusion that the relationship has run its course.
We do this in life. Ponder the damage. Consider the negative impact. Decide whether to settle or break free. For some it takes longer than others, but eventually anyone who feels that their life has become stagnant comes to a point where the need to be more overwhelms them overtakes the comfort of familiar mediocrity. God did not create His people to settle for less. He did not intend for His people to shrink back into obscurity. On the contrary, He made us to reflect His awesome power. He equipped us with all that we need to not only weather the storms of life, but to emerge from them even stronger than we were when we were confronted by them. If our inclination is to move through life seeking shelter from every storm, but never learning to build that safe place using the tools that He has given us then we miss the point.
God is our shelter. He is, of course, our strong tower. But somewhere along the way, He hopes that we will gain enough strength and momentum from the knowledge that we can always call on Him that we are secure enough in all that He has shown us to lead others to that shelter as well. It’s not like we are to run for the nearest safe haven each and every time we hear a rumble of thunder, screaming, “Every man for himself!” But to be honest, that’s what many of us do.
As I did some walking through my own ruins, I realized that no matter how much I’ve been hurt over the years the fact is that I am still standing. In fact, I’m standing much taller (in spite of my short stature) than I was in the past. I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve moved past destructive tendencies; my own and those of others. I can say now that I am deserving of God’s love, His mercy and His grace because I’ve started listening to what He’s been trying to tell me all my life. I am His child and He loves me without end. And because He loves me, He stands back and watches me figure things out when it’s time for me to learn. He steps forward and comforts me when I’ve been broken. As the song says, He walks with me and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own.
So, like Nehemiah was determined to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, I am determined to rebuild the walls around me that have sustained damage in these many storms. And I know that just like in Nehemiah 4:17, my God will give me the strength to stand with one hand on the sword of the Spirit and the other one putting the stones back in place. He will lead me, He will provide for me, He will protect me and when I need Him to, He will heal me. And these walls, though weathered by many storms, will be an object of beauty that will reflect His glory long after I’m gone.
To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
~Isaiah 61:3 NKJV~
“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.”~Psalm 42:4 (NIV)~This has been a very challenging time. As I look back over the last several weeks and the time I have spent in utter despair over one issue or another, I see that there was something I forgot to do in all of it that would have helped me immensely. I forgot to remember the victories He has given me. There was a time when I made a conscious effort to journal and write down the events of each day; the good, the bad and the ugly. For whatever reason, I seem to have stopped doing that. When I pray each day, I do write down verses and thoughts that come into my head as I’m praying, but it isn’t the same as doing a full recap of the things that went your way on a given day. It isn’t the same as giving praise for what He has done for you at the end of a day that could have been filled with defeat.There was a time when I could think back to the things that God has brought me through and be inspired by the very idea that He would have taken the time to rescue someone like me from a very dangerous place. Why is it that the farther we get from that rescue, the harder it is for us to remember just how grateful we ought to be to be free? Time and distance from the danger don’t make it any less dangerous. And our continued absence from it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible for us to fall back into the pit. The only thing that keeps us from going back to a life that isn’t protected by God’s love is our unwillingness to acknowledge Him in all we do. If we are going about our daily lives without giving Him a second thought, there is nothing to guarantee that we won’t end up right back in the mud and the mire.Not the most inspiring speech I’ve ever given; I realize this. But over the past week I’ve see the same idea presented in a variety of ways; the idea that we cannot out-sin God’s ability to forgive us. It has given me reason to sit back and consider where I might have been taking advantage of this. I certainly don’t mean to take God’s love and mercy for granted, but there have been times where I’m sure that I wasn’t doing everything that I could do to fully receive the blessings that God was trying to give me. There have been times when I wasn’t even sure that I wanted them, yet I continued on and He continues to bless me in one way or another. Why does He do this? What is He trying to show me? And a better question still, why haven’t I gotten the message yet?I don’t know where He is leading me, but I know that I’ve been clinging to my present circumstance the way a young child hangs on his mother’s leg when he doesn’t want to be left at school. There is so much I could gain by moving forward, but I fear the unknown and in doing so, I am not trusting the God who has brought me out of situations that were far more scary than the future I could step into now. I know that I’m better armed, I’m better focused, and I’m well able to do what God has set me here to do. I know this in my head, but my heart and soul haven’t decided to agree yet. So, I pray that He will give me a word that will make it absolutely clear that it’s time to break free and step into the cloud. This life will be over too soon and I don’t want to reach the end of it and say that I had more fear of doing His will than of living outside it. Especially when doing His will involves nothing more than loving Him and accepting His love for me.“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”~Deuteronomy 10:12 NKJV~