I Am a Quilt

wrapped-in-quilt-head-shot-sm

These days I feel like I’ve been thrown in the washing machine, twisting back and forth, back and forth, agitation at every turn and then holding on as the spinning makes the blood rush to my head and threatens to spin my life completely out of control.

But then comes a pause. A signal ending the cycle. A reminder that “though I am surrounded by troubles…the Lord will work out His plans for my life – for [His] faithful love…endures forever” (Psa. 138:7, 8 NLT). And I remember.


Somewhere along the way I started thinking I was a prom dress with delicately appliquéd beads and lace and a tulle skirt flowing to the ankles and this rough agitation and spinning would send the beads flying and rip the tulle to shreds.


Photo credit: Rebecca Love Photography

But now I remember. I’m not a prom dress. I’m a quilt. Bits and pieces patched together in unlikely harmony to make up what I am. I’m not the kind that never gets used or hangs on a wall. I’m the kind that is a little quirky and gets jumped on and wrapped around and dragged on the floor and picnicked on and gets dirty.




So I need washing. And into the washer I go and twist back and forth, back and forth by the merciless agitator, and then spin and spin and spin.


And I am clean again.


This beautifully made quilt was laying on the bed in the room prepared for us in one of the homes where we stayed for three weeks in the Philippines. Below is the quilt label attached to the backing of the quilt. The label states, “Quilt machine pieced and quilted by: Nancy Christensen; Mont Vernon, NH 2003. I made this quilt as a fundraiser for Alex Hansen who is fighting a long battle with cancer. May this quilt bring joy and warmth to the new owner and a miracle for Alex!” The quilt was raffled and won by the Filipino woman we were staying with when she was living in New Hampshire with her New Hampshire native husband over ten years ago. It was one of the few things that made its way to the Philippines when they moved, and it has been giving “joy and warmth” to more than just its owner. It was such a comfort to me while staying in a new place for the season we were there.


Painting Layers

the-final-layer-with-pens

I find a misty well rising in my eyes these days. Stinging. Breaking. Falling. Like my heart. It’s because every tear holds a face, and every face holds my heart. Tears drip onto pages of my life and the colors bleed together, making forever indistinguishable what was once separate.


I suppose this is what makes endings so hard. It seems that between the beginning and ending of things there is the messy bit called the middle. And, it’s in the middle where the tears and faces and hearts all bleed together like colors on the pages of my life.


Endings loom and threaten to deem senseless what has become permanently united. And, if I simply end here, there is no meaning in the blending. But, I think it is not truly so. These colors and this bleeding and this ending is but a layer, a foundation. I cannot see the fullness of this purpose, but I know every future layer relies on this beginning one.


I read the wise words of one whose colored pages are still being layered upon despite his earthly ending. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” says C.S. Lewis. There is a stinging note to this statement if it means that what “we leave behind” is to be forgotten. But, I think that it can make such a bold statement because it looks with hope to the things ahead, notwithstanding the things behind.


How can a painter complete a painting if he mourns the ending of each layer? He must rejoice in that layer and begin again with newness and freshness and excitement for what he will build upon the previous. 


I suppose one of the greatest joys to a painter is the actual process of painting. In reality, it’s a continual series of beginnings and endings that make up a whole realm between the beginning and the ending. The middleness of it all. I wonder if it’s really this middle part we are after, the process between the beginning and the ending, and the process of beginnings and endings.


It is here that I catch a glimpse of the Ultimate Painter, the One painting on the pages of my life. I find myself mourning the ends of the layers and fearing the beginnings of new ones, and the tears sting and break and fall in the process. But, I forget that He is the Master Painter, loving every stroke and blend of life and color in each season that I pass through, willing to allow unseemly drips and tears to become a part of it all because I think He loves the middleness, too.


He came and lived in the middleness. He painted the lives and loved the heart faces that He bled for. With blood He painted their lives into finishedness. And, so He paints mine. I am not finished in my life today, but I am being painted into finishedness, layer by layer, grace upon grace, glory to glory. And, as He paints strokes and layers, blends lives and colors, He is making something beautiful in the finishing process; making beauty in the middleness.


A Creative Adventure in Faith

adventure-in-faith-feature

Have you ever had someone recognize something in you that you couldn’t see or thought was insignificant about yourself? If so, it was probably someone who knows you really well like a parent, close friend, or mentor. But, what if it was a total stranger? Someone you have never met, but who was put in your path by no contrivance of your own. Things like that never happen to me. But, last month, it did.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about the whole thing, but on top of it being rather busy around here and being sick, I felt like I didn’t have sufficient words to describe the whole experience. I still don’t know if I have the right words, but I’m going to try.

(Before I start, let me pause for a minute and just mention that I am not generally someone who seeks deep significant meaning from simple decisions or experiences. I believe in seeking God for guidance each day so that I can make the best use of my time, but I don’t usually overthink everyday events. So, when I share this story, please know that I’m not trying to make something out of nothing, it just so happens that on an ordinary day while doing ordinary things, an extraordinary thing happened.)

When we came back to Malawi from Baltimore the last time, I was just discovering how much I love brush calligraphy, so I was of course searching all over social media for inspiration. I came across a wonderfully unique Christian artist from Australia who had the most delightfully intriguing way of illustrating stories from the Bible. So I clicked the “follow” button on her account, and more or less continued on my way. But, little did I know the impact that simple click to follow would have.

Unbeknownst to me, it had been in this unique artist’s heart to start blessing people with old fashioned “snail mail” packages, as she calls them, as part of a set of creative ideas for 2016. I had read her blog post about it and admired her heart, but it never crossed my mind that what was forming in hers was that I should be her first recipient…

Skip over to my sector of the globe, and you’ll find a simple girl trying to make the most of what she has in her tiny green hulk of an apartment. One thing I’ve learned over the last year or so is how much I love to make things. It started out with having to make things if I didn’t want to stare down the Incredible Hulk every moment of every day, but then I had the most amazing revelation that if I am made in the image of my Creator, He very possibly could have put a creative capacity within me.


The Incredible hulk kitchen before


…and after

So, I began to explore. I started doodling Bible verses and sketching bits that inspired me and painting a little with the cheapest children’s watercolor set I could find. I studied more polished “artists” and thought about a day and time when I might have the opportunity to practice with “real” materials, not just make do with my $2 watercolor set.

Fast forward to March. I received an email that nearly blew my mind. It was the unsolicited and humbling request from someone named Adelyn Siew, the same amazing Australian artist I had started following, wondering if she could bless me with a craft care package, and what might I like? I sat dumbfounded.

I struggled for a day or so with what to reply to her email (because how does one answer such an invitation?) and finally managed to humbly admit my love for her unique pen drawings and that I couldn’t find any of those pens in Malawi. And, so she thanked me, and I waited.

One of Adelyn’s pen drawings that inspired me

Fast forward again a few short weeks, and a slip was in the PO Box for a package to be picked up. I could scarcely contain my excitement, but since we share a PO Box with the team and they had picked up the slip, I still had to arrange for a time to actually go to the post office myself to pick up the package. I waited three days, and finally Matt was going into town and I begged him to stop by the post office to see if he could get it. He waited over 45 minutes behind Peace Corps workers and local people to finally get the little bubble mailer with my name on it.

As soon as he got home, I couldn’t wait to tear into the package! And, when I opened it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not one, but SIX pens, I had loved, a brush calligraphy pen, a pen specifically for watercolor doodling, a paint brush pen, a sketchbook, and the most beautiful set of PROFESSIONAL watercolors I had ever seen. I sat there, eyes filling with tears and heart about to burst, looking at this extravagant gesture of kindness from someone I had never met.

photo courtesy of adelyn. I was too excited to even take a picture!

Time and space aren’t sufficient to explain how meaningful each item was, but it was like God had recorded the secret desires of my heart and whispered them into her heart as she picked out each item. It was one of the most personal and profound things I’ve ever experienced. So much so that I kind of just kept taking out the paints and pens and looking at them in disbelief for a few weeks. (LOL!)

But, finally, this past weekend, I opened the paints and with trembling hands painted my first few strokes. I can’t explain the excitement that bubbled up within me, but it was like something was being tapped into that I didn’t know was there. Maybe it sounds really lame to some people, but for me at that moment it was the farthest thing from lame. I had the sense that it was God stirring something He put in me and has wanted to draw out but that He knew I would never have pursued on my own unless it came in the form of a completely unsolicited, unexpected gift. This dear lady saw something in me that I couldn’t see, but I believe God must have revealed to her. To me, there is just no other explanation.






So, today I found myself in prayer, wondering what all of this is for: the love for making things, doodling, sewing, painting, journaling. I committed it to the Lord, and then opened the sketchbook I had received in the package. Immediately, a very simple illustration came to mind and the words to follow.

“Adventure in faith.” There are so many people who plaster their walls with words of adventure and travel, but rarely do they leave their living room. I may be living halfway around the world from many of those people, and it can seem like an adventure in itself, but the idea of adventuring in faith adds a whole new meaning to it. I want my whole life to be an adventure in faith.

As I thought about this, I thought of Abraham who ventured from all that he knew to a place God told him, “I will show you” (Gen. 12:1 AMP), and “by faith…he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go” (Heb. 11:8 AMP).

Everything that God is doing in my life can seem so fragmentary at times, but there is such a simplicity and freedom in knowing that I will be shown, and that I don’t need to trouble my mind about where I’m going. 

I’m so grateful for the life of this lady, and I’m grateful that she was willing to adventure in faith to send that package. I’m not sure where all of this will lead, but I’m excited to take this ordinary day I’ve been given and take a step in this adventure of faith.

Stories: Katie Ngoma

Katie Ngoma

 

We first met this courageous lady as a group of us gathered around her bed in the post-surgical ward of a local Korean owned hospital. Hooked up to an IV that she monitored herself, she smiled wide at us while recounting the events that led up to her fifth (and thankfully, final) corrective surgery following the botched Caesarean section that brought her first and only child into the world.

From that day we have watched her miraculous recovery and fearless confidence in God. For those of you who will understand this reference, she is the “Trish Watson” of our church in Malawi. She is a “capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman” of the Proverbs 31 quality. She is a pensive problem-solver and planner, characteristics that are a bit rare culturally speaking for a Malawian. You will often hear her saying, “ah, but we can do it!”

She is married to a vigorous, enthusiastic man in our church named Brave, and they have a beautiful daughter named Yanko, who just turned a year old after Christmas. They are a faithful, godly family in our church and we are so grateful for them!

How You Can Pray for This Family:

Despite being well educated, which is not something every Malawian can boast, they struggle to find jobs they are amply qualified for since the job market here is poor. As a result, finances can be a challenge. However, you will often hear them speak faithfully, “I know my God is faithful” and “nothing is a problem.” Please keep them in your prayers as they endeavor to grow in seeking “first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).

Stitching Line upon Line

desk landscape

“For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)


These days have been filled with stitching. 

Needle pierces fabric; a tiny sword piercing flesh, “penetrating…the deepest parts of our nature.” Needle goes down, pulling crimson thread behind. Sword piercing flesh drawing blood and “crushing in my bones” (Psa. 42:10). “My inner self thirst for God, for the living God.” (Psa. 42:2).


Needle pierces fabric; tiny sword emerging from flesh. Needle comes up, pulling crimson thread behind. Sword stained with blood of “joints and marrow.” Exposing. Sifting. Analyzing.

Thoughts. Purposes. Motivations. From “the deepest parts of our nature.”

Blood is everywhere; pouring out of every prick and pierce of sword. Crimson mess of pain and crushing and heaviness. I am dizzy from the loss of blood. “Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psa. 42:9, 2).


Needle goes down again, crimson thread in tow. Sword pierces flesh again, touching depths of trust and reliance. Needle comes up again, crimson thread following. Sword stained, but — the gush is slowing? Needle down, sword piercing. Needle up, blood ceasing. Needle down, sword pricking. Needle up, bleeding stops.

I look down at my hoop. The needle rests. I see the results. Crimson threads stacked, line upon line… Purpose is revealed.


Each crushing blow of sword stitching me back together. The hemorrhage of discouragement quenched. The oozing fear dried up.


 “God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down or relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm, I will not fear or dread or be terrified” (Heb. 13:5-6).


“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome” (Jer. 29:11).

Stitches stacked up, line upon line, making me whole. Beauty created.




Today is for…

happy thanksgiving

Today is for…

I’m stirring early on this day. But, today is not the day I thought today would be. Today is not for pancakes and sipping coffee from under blankets. It’s not for filling the ears with Christmas and the screen with floats and yardage. It’s not for enjoying us in a strange place where exotic birds call at dawn and sun beats down on dusty streets. It’s not for grateful sentiments on napkins and over mantels. There will be no fireplace, no cozy sweaters, no snow here today. No, today will not be the day I thought today would be.

 

 

Today will be a different day. Today will be for humbling and quietude and thinking smaller. Today is for turning on the faucet and getting choked up because after 36 hours the water flows and “He knows that I have need of this…” Today is for wondering at ten simple pieces of furniture amidst the forest of green walls and seeing “faithful” written on every curio upon desk and wall. Today is for waking to the white of fans whirring and rhythmic sighing from “the one whom my soul loves.” Today is for thinking smaller.

 

 

Today is for different things. Today is for heart and brain transplants, so I can live and think in health and wholeness. Today is for “come, follow Me.” It’s for leaving my table and my imaginations to “come and see” where He is going. Today is for heart to burn as He walks with me along the way. Today is for choosing the “better part” that will not be taken from me.

 

 

Today is for “greater love” and “laying down your life.” It’s for washing feet because haven’t my own undeserving feet been washed? It’s for falling into the earth and abiding alone because didn’t He abide alone for me? Today is for remembrance and giving thanks though tomorrow holds crucifixion.

And so today, on this day that will not be the day I thought it would be, without sweaters or signs, I get quiet and think small and exchange heart and mind for the chance to be like Him. I leave my table to follow Him, who Authors today.

Today is for thanksgiving.

Days and Words and Hearts

chairs in a circle

These days have been filled. My home has been filled with visitors. Chairs filled with faces. The air filled with words. I listen to the words that come from the faces in the chairs, and what I hear is hearts. I think we suppose that words come only from the mouth, but they really come from the heart. Each face is a heart, and each word is entry into it. Heart faces speak words.

Seeking. Hopeful. Impoverished. Broken.

They don’t say these words, but it’s what their words are speaking. I don’t know what to say to such big words, but I know all words must become subject to one Word. So I find myself searching this Word.

What I find is my own seeking. My own hopefulness. My own poverty and brokenness.

I find myself in Jeremiah 18:4 at the potter’s house, and the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he made it over, reworking it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make it.

And I hear the one Word speak, can I not do with you as this potter does? … I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you. Again I will build you and you will be built (Jer. 18:6, 31:3-4).

I find my own need of rebuilding and reworking, but I also hear one Word to govern my needy words.

So, I pray.

I pray for Seeking One. Hopeful One. Impoverished One. Broken One. I pray for words.

Hearts filled with blood give life to bodies. Hearts filled with this one Word give life to souls. But, hearts filled with fat sentence death to bodies. How many people have their hearts filled with words that are silently constricting the blood flow so that their soul will perish?

Only God knows.

But, I play nurse and seek to hear symptoms so that clarity might be given to the essence of their disease. The disease of humanity apart from this one Word. In this nursing, I find that souls are simpler than bodies. Bodies need many different treatments, but the life of a soul is found in One. One Person. One Word. I pray that One Word would govern their words. I pray that One Word would fill my words. I pray that One Word would fill their hearts.

So, I fill my days. I fill my house with visitors. My chairs with faces. Seek to fill the air with One.

 

In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. (John 1:1)

 

 

 

 

What is a missionary, and am I one?

Lisa and ladies

As I sat with a few ladies in the home of one of the women in our church, laughing and crying and sharing life, I couldn’t help but pause in the midst of it to observe the scene before me. We sat in an 8’x8’x8’ “living room” with white walls, long past their pristine beginning, in red upholstered chairs with oak arm rests and legs, like you’d find in a doctor’s office waiting room. There was a mini fridge in the corner and a 12” analog television, complete with bunny ears, and a small DVD player attached to it sitting on the floor.

 

In the opposite corner from the mini fridge was a pile of plush blankets piled on the floor, arranged as a crib, and a wooden mobile suspended from a beam in the ceiling, that twirled in the breeze that occasionally let itself in through the open front door. To be honest, most of these things don’t stand out anymore when I visit someone’s home. What is more recognizable is the heart beating behind the tenderly arranged blankets and carefully arranged furniture.

 

As I sat in my red upholstered doctor’s office chair, I listened to the heart wrenching struggle of its owner over the last few months. She held her active, attentive, wild-eyed four-month-old daughter as she told the story, all the while the little one’s entry into the world being the cause of her mother’s anguish.

Her mother had had a cesaerean section to deliver her. The active youngster was oblivious to the fact that her mother subsequently underwent five additional surgeries and procedures to amend the complications that followed the botched incision that ushered her into the world.

As we all listened, silent and riveted, to the account of this woman’s chilling month long stay in the hospital, she said something that caused a mist to form and swell in my eyes. She recalled one evening during which she arose from her bed to use the bathroom. As she made her way down the hall to the nearest shared patient bathroom, she hugged her chest and prayed,

“Touch my soul and heal my body. Even though there are relatives that could take care of my baby, I want my daughter to feel my love for her one day, so touch my soul and heal my body.”

I was awestruck. She had the most tangible, albeit desperate, reliance on something so much bigger than her. Not just something, someone.

In the modern world of healthcare I come from, complications can always be fixed. The bill always gets paid. People always go home “better” than when they arrived. Here, none of those things are guaranteed. Complications have an uncertain outcome, there aren’t insurance companies to ensure you get the treatment you need if you can’t pay for them, and people very often go home worse than when they arrived.

What is to be done?

There aren’t enough non-profit organizations, wealthy benefactors, or social programs to assist every single family and person that has a need, health wise or otherwise.

The only answer is in that Someone. The only Someone that intimately knows every one.

I don’t know when the term missionary was invented, and for all intents and purposes, it can be a great word to categorize what in the world we are doing here in this third world country. But, I feel like somewhere along the line it became a term for someone who can meet the needs of the needy, or at lease attempt to. And, in an indirect way, I think we may be doing that, but it certainly doesn’t describe what I experienced sitting in that little “living room” with those precious souls listening to a real life horror story.

Even though I had visited her in the hospital, and was now sitting across from her in her home, I had been utterly powerless to help or change her situation. Ignorant of her options and the extent of the facility’s resources, I couldn’t help with her surgical complications; and, having no source of my own income currently, I couldn’t make the slightest dent in her nearly $4000 hospital bill, which is nearly five times the average household income for a Malawian.

So, what kind of missionary am I then? I’m not the kind that can meet the needs of the needy, apparently.

On the way home from my visit with this walking miracle, the echo of the Apostle Peter’s words in Acts 3:6 resonated through my mind.

“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”

As we walk the dusty streets and bounce around in dilapidated old minibuses from area to area in Malawi, we are living our lives relying and leaning on that Someone, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have nothing of any worldly value to give anyone, but what we do have, we give without reservation.

When we were about to leave this courageous woman’s home, her husband thanked us for giving our time to visit. All I could say was that I knew the only way to safely keep my time was to spend it. Spend it with people. Spend it listening and loving. Spend it without reservation.

I’m not sure if I am what would be defined as a missionary, but I know that what happened in that woman’s home was real and unforgettable. So, if that is what being a missionary is, then count me in.

Waving Maize

Waving MaizeAs I sit in the corner of my apartment and gaze out the window across the property to the maize standing tall and green, waving to passersby as the wind rustles its stalks, I am struck by the pleasantness this life can hold. It is a quiet day, and the sun is shining warm while a cool breeze dances along swirling leaves upon the pavement. It is the sort of day that novelists and film directors spend their efforts trying to capture. It is the sort of day that people strive to stockpile their vacation days for as they toil through hours and weeks of gray monotony.

But, today is just another day. It’s not a holiday, I’m not on vacation, and I have to cook dinner from scratch soon using a faulty stove and a hot plate. There are dishes to be done, laundry to be washed, and floors to be vacuumed. We will go to bed tonight and get up tomorrow, and similar things will once again need to be done. But how do I go beyond the gray monotony and into the realm of the waving maize, rustling leaves, and shining sun that make up the stuff of novels and movies?

Today an obscure verse in Proverbs 31 struck a chord with me. It says, “expand prudently…not courting neglect of present duties by assuming other duties” (v. 16, Amplified). Somehow after thinking about this verse, it came to me. The answer is in my time. Time is the thing that we never seem to have enough of, yet continue filling up, and always seem to waste. Many people are hard pressed to find “spare” time, but we all have time. It is ticking away, tirelessly counting seconds and minutes, hours and days, months and years. The thing many of us don’t do is recognize the time we do have. That recognition is usually reserved for scheduled periods of time called “vacation” or “the weekend.” But, what about the rest of the minutes and hours perpetually ticking on and on? What are those for? Are they less “time” than those minutes scheduled as “time”?

Objectively, every second counts toward a minute, and every minute counts towards an hour, and every hour a day, day a month, month a year, etc. But, why does it seem that some are “longer” than others? I think that it is in taking the time you have and making yourself aware that you have it. Holidays and vacations and weekends are easier for doing this because they are reserved for such behavior. But, what if once I cook dinner, I pause for a moment and enjoy the flavor and smell of the food I just cooked? Once I do the laundry, can I stop and drink in the freshness of newly laundered clothes? Once I wash the dishes, can I step back and appreciate my clean kitchen? These things don’t take more than a few seconds, but they add to the treasury of meaningful ones.

Suddenly, my regular, routine day now holds the stuff of novels and movies. I interrupt my routine with little seconds that make me smile and make me smile for longer than it took to pause and observe. The smiling makes the gray dissolve into a world of vibrancy. Now, I see the maize waving and hear the breeze blowing and feel the sun shining.

I am as guilty as anyone at filling my time with too many things that ultimately bring me to the end of a day wondering what I did with it. But, I love this proverb that warns me to add things to my life “prudently,” cautiously, carefully, so that I don’t add so many things that I neglect to recognize the time and things I already have.

As I think about going back to the States this summer, I have slight trepidation. I am a bit worried about how busy things could become and how much might be required of me. I’m afraid I’ll take on too many things and crowd my time with things that ultimately don’t matter. However, I hope that this little proverb sticks with me so that even when my responsibilities change and my surroundings shift from what they are now, I can still grasp the seconds that will continue to tick by as surely as they are as I write this. I hope that the lessons I’ve learned from the waving maize will find me when my routine again threatens to make my life seem gray, and I can once again pause and add one more second of meaning to it, instead.

Love,

Lisa 🙂

 

 

Created to be Formed

These days have been filled with deep unveilings, unveilings of deep-rooted selfish tendencies, distorted frames of reference, judgmental attitudes, deep-seated fears, and the overall ugliness of depravity. If we are all honest, these days are universal, and I think they are what we spend the vast majority of our lives trying to avoid. We don’t want our true nature to be exposed. We don’t want people to find out who we really are behind closed doors and in the deep recesses of our secret mind. So, we set out to ensure it is never exposed, and we tell ourselves, “I’m not so bad,” until we actually start to believe it.

The trouble is, this process of self-assuaging is a sugar-coated trap. It’s like trying to ignore a cancerous tumor by saying, “as long as I feel fine, I’m not really sick,” all the while the tumor is silently growing and sucking the life from your vital organs. The more frightening part of the whole thing is how slowly the tumor can grow, so you actually may have time to truly convince yourself that you aren’t sick and you’re not so bad off after all. We are incredibly talented at this process, and we are very able to surround ourselves with people who will agree with us and validate our denial.

So what can I do? I’m terrified to face the reality of my diagnosis. I want to find another way to escape it. I can’t really be the person who is afraid God isn’t good or who judges other people or who is simply dissatisfied with my lot in life. Right? Surely if I think positively and take care of others and keep my life in order I will make it through somehow. Right?

The cold, hard, black and white answer is, No.

No?

No.

Crushed under the weight of this “No,” I picked up my Bible desperate for a word of reversal, something that would rebut its oppressive verdict. I found the dichotomous answer in Isaiah 43:1:

 

“But now, in spite of past judgments for [your] sins, thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, and He Who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you, ransomed you by paying a price, instead of leaving you captives.”

 

Here was my answer. God recognized my hopeless situation and did something about it. He loved me so much that He punished His own Son so that I wouldn’t have to be a captive to my depraved, secret self. He even chose an example to reinforce it.

In this verse in Isaiah, He references Jacob and Israel, but Jacob and Israel are actually the same person, nominally distinguished by different stages of his life. God created Jacob, but He formed him into Israel. Jacob was like us, a prisoner of genetic tendencies, striving to make sure his life turned out in his favor by never letting other people get the better of him.

Then, he met God.

He wrestled with Him.

God won.

But, so did Jacob.

Jacob acknowledged God for Who He was, and he was transformed by that acknowledgment. He was renamed Israel. He had a new understanding of life subject to the One who instituted life itself.

But, what about the deep-rooted, habitual tendencies of Jacob that had governed his entire frame of reference towards life prior to recognizing the authority of God over it? The recognition of his redemption by God only took a single decision, but realigning his frame of reference would be a formative process.

So here I am. Here we are. Here are all the saints down through history. Moses endured this process. King David endured this process. The apostle Paul endured this process. Amy Carmichael, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham. The list goes on.

God didn’t redeem us so that we would be left captive to our oppressive, secret natures, but so that we would be free from them. He created me to be formed into the whole person He lovingly designed me to be. But, it means I have to face the music. I have to admit that I have a problem, a deep, ravenous, incurable, life-sucking problem, that can only be dealt with if I acknowledge that it’s there.

So, these unveiling days have to come; these days I’d much rather avoid, rather sweep under the rug, or run away and hide from. But, I’m in good company. I can humbly be counted among those we usually consider “The Greats,” who also had to acknowledge that they weren’t great at all. They too had to meekly say, Lord, You have created me. Now, form me.

Love,

Lisa 🙂