I started this blog as a ministry to others. To share my stories and develop community here. I wanted to have a place to share what God was doing in my life. I wanted this to be a place where I was fearless. Where I could push past platitudes and be real and transparent.
I had no idea this blog would minister to me more than to others.
Last year at my blogging début, I chose one word for 2012. Stripped.
When this word came to me, stuck in my mind and wouldn’t relent, I pictured it as something that would be gentle, the peeling back of layers, exposing treasure. The good things in me under all of that junk. What I found instead is that there is no good in me. Not one thing of worth.
It keeps coming back.
Splayed open, bare, released from any covering,
It’s what He’s speaking to me.
Stripped of my self-reliance, trying to build my tower to the heavens.
Stripped of my scars like Naaman plunged deep into Jordan’s cleansing water.
Stripped of my doubt and unbelief like Peter sinking in the waves.
Stripped of the things that entangle and are not mine to carry, like David’s armor, when all he needed was some stones and a sling.
Stripped so I can be clothed in Him. A new covering.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63 ESV
If I had known then how much that word would cost, I might have picked something else entirely. Something with which I had more control. Something that allowed me wiggle room and the semblance of choice, like intentional. I could then choose where I wanted my intent to be focused. I’d be more intentional about quiet times, about motherhood, about my marriage, or service, or friendships. I’d fix my gaze and by golly, I’d get it done.
But isn’t that always the way with me? Haven’t I struggled with bootstrap Christianity for so long? In places I don’t want to admit, don’t I often think I am enough? Don’t I often feel that God owes me? That I deserve more?
But this word, I had no control of. This is something that was happening to me, the stripping done by hands other than mine. A transitive verb acted upon with no will of my own.
If you bring anything to the table when coming to Christ, you cannot be saved. Because that is not grace, that is only religion. And religion has its place, but not in salvation.
Everything I have to offer is filthy rags. I have nothing of worth. I am poor in spirit and power.
It’s only when I think I am not that my faith fails me.
And so in looking back on this year, I can say without any doubt in my mind that God made good on this word. It was like those prayers for patience that you don’t really mean because you want the character but not the process with which it takes to get there.
You don’t realize that God will stall you, load your back with burdens to endure, tease out the tiniest fleshly irritants and prolong them. That your prayer will be answered in ways you never really wanted. In ways, you never even imagined.
I didn’t realize that my self-reliance would be tested to the brink when my mind and health failed me. When depression hit with the hardest of blows. That my weakness would manifest how much I trust in myself. My own abilities and skills. How much I say I want his glory but really wrestle with my own.
I didn’t realize that my scars would be opened. That my insecurities would rise from depths I thought long healed and come out at blog conferences, with my stats on google analytics, in the church where I can’t seem to fit, or the dressing rooms where the strain of zippers and buttons betray where I find my value.
I didn’t realize that after all these years, I still doubt His promises. Still reel with unbelief when capsized into storms and the dark thunder that accompany trials. That I would sink under pressures, sink under worry, sink under grief. That instead of reaching for Him, I would swim harder, gasping and raging hard against the waves, the dangerous flailing of a drowning man, pulling those near down along with him.
I didn’t realize that I would struggle so much with God’s will. I didn’t realize that I would wrestle this hard with my place, my purpose, my voice.
I didn’t realize that the tension with which God’s children must exist is what leads us to The Holy Spirit, because there is so much that must be prayed out, sought along the road to maturity. So much that can’t be answered with lists and black and white and tidy boxes.
I didn’t realize how cynical I truly am and how much damage and distance that cynicism created my life. I didn’t realize that in indicting the church, culture, and the world in which we live, I would have to count myself in that verdict. I didn’t realize that I am the problem. Me.
I didn’t realize that under it all, when stripped, I am nothing.
I didn’t realize that it would hurt so much.
I didn’t realize that obedience would cost me. I didn’t realize that in losing my covering, I would feel naked and alone. I would feel vulnerable and I would get hurt and I would get healed.
I didn’t realize that my misery would be my ministry.
I didn’t realize how poor we must become to be blessed. To be ransomed.
I didn’t realize that naked, exposed, emptied out, I would raise my broken hallelujah, and it would be enough. It would be beautiful.
I have been thinking of my word for 2013 and will post that later this week. Have you ever had a word you felt resonated throughout the year? How has God made good on his promises to you? Looking forward to a new year with all of you. Thank you, dear friends for sharing this past year with me in the muck and glory. I love you all.