Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Part 1 – it happens... things get broken
She shared words that were hard in coming. Words that told a story she wished had never been written. I said in the softest flow of air, “You can't stop what's happened, but you can choose a different ending than the one you're in now.”
No vase would choose to be shattered. No heart asks to be broken. And when things break, the world would say it has been ruined. It is useless, it is finished.
But the world is wrong......... again.
Because the One who is above all things looks at that same brokenness in a wiser way, with a keener eye. He says He can bring beauty from a pile of ashes --- He can bring streams of water in the desert --- He can take what seems ruined ------------- and make it------ new.
It's the way of brokenness.
Few will invite it to come. Most refuse its approach. Usually we have no choice.
So rather than allow it to complete it's work in us, we fight it --- deny it ---- medicate it ----- run from it.
When we've known the hammer blows of personal brokenness, and lived to see the smoothing out of something rough in us, then we begin to understand it.s importance. But until we've known its effectual work, we struggle to sit still in its unsettling presence.
It's one of the huge differences between living in a first world place and a third world place. The contrast is stark. In a third world environment, there are few ways to escape the “thing” that is working to break you. You have no option, you can't simply go to another place and begin doing a different thing. Need and hunger hold you still. But in a first world place, there are options, choices, ways to get away from the thing that is pressing down. You can pick up and move, get another job, leave the spouse that's hurting you, get in your car and drive to a new life.
But what if you're a child and the brokenness is coming to your parent, who is not covering you, and their brokenness rolls into your little world. You can't escape it. (In a third world country like Kenya --- this is exactly how many street children come about. They do run --- to the street. And a different, mean, worldly kind of broken begins to breathe.)
Or what if the breaking is coming in the form of a disease. Even in a first world place, there's no way to hide from it's impact.
It's just that brokenness is a universal thing --- it comes in every corner --- and to everyone.
Yet when it comes to us, when it's painfully personal and standing on our doorstep, we can feel so alone. Alone is not good. We were not created for aloneness.
She knew that something was gravely wrong. Tears came as her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.
Our toes dug into the sand, we watched families playing in the waves, the sun began to set. She'd endured life, and worked to overcome much pain, but her past was haunting her present and fear was crashing in again.
Grave – it's the right word for it.
She could smell the pungent stench of death, her eyes could only see the struggle around her. And her strength, all of it, was being consumed (and wasted) on trying to maintain, survive, endure, and find a way to defeat the problems before her. And they weren't just her problems anymore. They were the problems being lived out in the lives of her children now ---- their hurts carried a faint echo of her own even though they knew nothing of her story. She had held it silent for all her 60 decades.
It looked exactly as though the other person in this painful “Life-Play”, was the cause of the stench. It was their sin, their fault, their wrongdoings that caused the problems. (And to a very large degree, this was oh-so-true!)
If they would just change....
or perhaps if they had just disappeared...
“could they just go away please?”...
“Then this suffocating dust could settle and the sun might shine again and life could get back on course... perhaps happiness could then come.”
But as surely as that solution seems so right ------ it would only be a temporal reprieve. For that would be the outward way of “relief” --- not the inward way of “healing”.
When the struggle inside us collides with the hammering-tool outside us (the situation, the person, the sickness, the “problem”), our eyes become fixed on IT, the problem. We put our focus on IT. We laser in on it. And all our mind can think on is “if this thing was changed, I could find peace”.
IT is the problem. Right?
But what of the Holy Words that say, “In this world you will have trouble. But do not be afraid. For I have overcome the world”.
Doesn't that mean that in this old world, there are going to be so many “its”? Struggles will abound. Problems are “normal”. Oh but I cringe even typing those words.
It's a hard reality --- not a sparkly, feel good truth --- it's raw.
Troubles come ----- then they go ---- then others come -----
The woe-is-me-soul would want to throw in the towel and give up on life. But not the Jesus-in-me-soul.
Have you ever walked on the ocean's shore, sand under you, sun above you, and waves steadily pounding beside you? There's a rhythm to the steadiness of it all; on most days it comforts us in some inner way.
Then the sun gets too hot and we long for the coolness of the water. We inch our way in, toes first.
As she spoke, the waves beside us seemed to speak as well, “keep going, we're not shocked by anything you might say”. They invited her every word, they were not afraid. Waves know what to do with the dirt of life.
The cool waters feel good to our feet, so we keep moving forward. As we make progress into the waters, we come to that place where the waves crest. Where they peak and then fold, tumbling down in a ribbon of white rush. That's the line where, if the wave has any size, we might get knocked down. When we walk to the line of the rolling waves, we either choose to let it knock us over OR we choose to lean into it.
The former means the wave is unbroken and it will carry us where it wants to. That's usually a whirl of confusion in foaming, sandy waters.
But the latter means the wave line is broken and we find ourselves still standing on the other side of the impact.
Either way ---- something gets broken--- either the wave line is breeched or we are.
If you've ever found yourself coming against a big wave in the ocean, you know this, you have to brace yourself, even crouch down, bend your knees and lean forward to be able to endure the impact.
For me ---- those big waves require that I ---- bend my knees.
I've never once conquered a wave with straight, board-like legs.
Try it sometime if you never have --- you can't do it.
It's the bending of my knees that gives me balance.
It's the bending of our knees that gives us balance.
Part 2 --- Facing the waves wisely
In this sharing, the waves represent the “in this world you will have trouble” part of that verse.
Unbent knees, stiffness, will not serve us well when facing those waves.
Bent knees, a lowering of ourselves, better allows us to withstand the impact, and find ourselves in a new place. We're not bending our knees to give in to the trouble --- no, we're bending our knees to balance ourselves against its impact.
Have you ever noticed how calm the water is just beyond the wave line? (calm at least until the next wave comes)
Too often we might think of the wave line as the place where we should become strong, rigid, firm. We think if we get tough, we can beat the wave. But it's not our strength that will get us on the other side of the impact.
More Holy Words speak directly to this thought of rigid strength winning. “Not by power, not by might, but by my Spirit say the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)
The way of the world says, get stronger, meaner, tougher --- fight fire with fire --- if they hurt you, you hurt them more.
But that world-way doesn't fit with the Abba-way. Jesus showed us clearly. His greatest show of strength came on that cross; He stayed there during the breaking. Then His greatest show of power came at the mouth of that tomb.
Our willingness to face the “wave” wisely (because “in this world you will have trouble”),
to “bend our knees” (“do not be afraid”), and choose to focus on the calmer waters beyond (“for I have overcome the world”), (John 16:33)
------ this will carry us through.
It's not the removal of the wave that is needed.
The waves are there ---- they will always be there ---- they will not be removed --- until Heaven.
If it's not this person, it will be another person. If it's not this challenge, it will be another like it. If it's not this unkind situation, it will be another. The waves are always there.......
(and if we can r-e-a-l-l-y understand this at a soul-deep-level, we'll find a storehouse of grace and mercy for those around us who are being tossed about in waves of brokenness)
It's not the removal of the waves that will finally bring us happiness or peace or calm.
It's our willingness to face them, and allow our bended knees to break the impact that will bring us to new places in life.
What happens to the wave?
If you've ever bent your knees, lowered yourself, closed your eyes, held your breath, and leaned forward into a wave, you find that you can endure it. The whirl of its waters will pass by. Then the wave continues on to where it was going. But it has not carried you with it. It might even lift your feet off the ocean floor briefly, but if we keep our positioning, it can not carry us with it.
Therefore ----- our stance does not change the wave. We can not change the waves. We can not complain about them enough, argue with them enough, fight back against them enough, or in any way alter them. We have no control over the wave.
What we can do ---- what we do have a control over --- is how we choose to face it. It is our only chance at altering the outcome.
It can either throw us backwards onto the shore and crash its waters all over us OR we can choose to bend our knees, lower our center, and lean into it.
The waves of life ------
they might intimidate us with their size, they might hit hard when they come, but oh --- with bent knees and a “lowering of self”, they will not push us backwards into old places.
So this means that I can't face the waves without bending my knees and lowering my center of gravity.
Those two things must be in place ---- two things that will allow a breakthrough --- but two things that will also allow a “breaking” in me.
It's a very different kind of “breaking”. Not the brokenness that comes from the hand of another; it's rather a brokenness that comes IN the hands of the FATHER.
Bending my knees is that visual reference to praying. Bending myself, no stiffness of leg or heart or mind or emotion. (This is a hard thing to do if we're stuck in the “i must defeat it” mode.) Bending my everything to HIM, not it or them. It means I must grab hold of His robes, look for His way, choose His hand on my heart. No more shaking my fist at the wave. Instead choosing His way in the wave. Trusting that He really is good and He truly can carry me through the impact(s) of this life and in so doing, He will be washing me with each wave, He will be washing something from me that needed to go. Something I hadn't even realized was stuck to me. And when I will allow the truth to really come through --- i'll realize the stench that i'd faced so often, thinking it was on the other, was actually also on me.
Only Abba can wash that stench away with His blood. But because of His sacrifice on the Cross, He can also use the waves of life to help us, as we bend our knee to Him.
For just a few lines, i'll share of one wave that repeatedly crashed into my world and left me covered in scratchy sand. For all my life i've been eager for friendship. Even as a little girl, having friends around me, good friends, meant all was right with my world. Somehow I was wired to enjoy friendship. But throughout my life there have been sad stories of friendships gone wrong. Not all my friendships, thank God --- for there are many who have journeyed closely with me for all my days. What a gift. But still there have been several key friends who I treasured so much, who i walked closely beside, but then suddenly they stepped away, and disappeared, sometimes even hurting me in the process. Never once did any of those “friends” come to tell me what i'd done to cause their rejection. Even if I went to her and asked “why?”, there would be no reason given. Just an abandonment of the friendship ---- and i'd be leveled by the wave. Some people, of different temperaments than mine, don't care so much when a friend moves on. But it's been a wave that has pounded me at least 3 hard times in my life. The last time this hard wave came, I lifted myself up to Jesus and said, “Please help me, I need help here, this hurts too, too much.” I bent my knees to Him, lowered my center (myself and how I felt), and asked Him to wash me, wash off of me what needed to go to be healed from the inside out.
And He showed me something IN ME that He wanted to “clean up” (change).
The wave can wash us. It might not touch the one who has hurt us, but it can wash us in good ways.
What was it in me that needed to go?
What needed to be washed away?
He was jealous for my focus. He did not want me to be so focused on that friend, what they thought, how they cared or didn't care, if they responded or walked away. He did not want their actions towards me to matter nearly as much as I was allowing it to matter. He wanted me to lean in to HIM, and not lament over them. Period. It was that simple. And in the bending of my knees in the wave, Jesus said, “Pray for them, give them to me, i'll deal with them, YOU FOCUS ON ME, I will never leave you.”
John 21:22 came alive for me, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, you follow me.” Paraphrased and personal for me it became, “If I want them to... (step away from you), what's that to you donna? As for you --- my instruction is clear to you, you----follow----me.”
Yes, this is a small thing in life right? For some it is. For others it can be debilitating. For me it was bigger than it should have been. I'm letting you see the bottom side of my scrapings as i dare share it here. But, the point is ---- waves come in different sizes and with different strengths. Small or big --- if a wave (a trouble in this world) has the strength to knock us down, then it needs to be handled carefully, faced wisely, and dealt with completely. It needs to be approached and measured and honestly laid before the One who will use it for good in our lives, if we'll hold His hand at the wave-line. Bent knees. A lowering of “me”, my center of gravity (what holds me in the right place). Little or big, if something wounds, then when the wave comes again, as it always will, we can learn to let it wash something off us that needs to go!
Next time you find yourself near those strong ocean waves, do yourself a favor and let yourself experience a visual of this. Don't laugh at me here, resist the urge to roll your eyes (cause you're gonna want to...).
Find a spot on the beach all to yourself. This is not a spectator “sport”.
Carry a bottle of ketchup with you, the cheaper the better.
Stand at the shoreline and pour that ketchup all over your arms and legs. You'll feel goofy for sure, but only for a second or two. Then walk your sauce-covered-self out into the water up to the wave-line. Bend your knees and lower your center of gravity, brace yourself for the waves, don't let them break you --- instead you break their line. Stay there for wave, after wave, after wave. With each wave you'll find you get more accustomed to the stance you need to have, how low you need to go, how much you need to bend your knees. You'll get tired, yes. But you'll get wiser in the ebb and flo of those waves. Let 10, 12, 15 waves come and go, then turn and walk back to the shore. Look at your arms and legs. Is there any red ketchup left? There won't be. What was on you will have been washed from you as you focused on bending your knees and lowering yourself.
Is it a silly visual or a solid picture of truth? (maybe both) :)
Now, be honest with yourself and with the One who already knows the answer to every question. What's the cheap ketchup mess in your life? What is stuck to you that needs to go? (Because if it gets to stay it will bring a world-brokenness inside you.) How many times have you felt its stickiness in your life? Be honest with God about it ---- right now ---- and ask Him to help you as you bend your knees (pray over it again and again), and then lower yourself before HIM (so He can increase Himself in you). Ask Him to show you the new way you need to allow a cleansing brokenness (from HIM) to wash the sticky mess away. It won't happen in a day --- or even a week --- for me it almost always takes a steadiness in many waves to finally walk back to the shoreline and feel “clean of it”. But begin today dear one. Begin today.
Part 3 – Wash me Lord, use those waves to wash me – Broken for GOOD.
Lowering yourself, lowering your “center” of gravity so the wave doesn't catch you off balance and throw you backwards is the picture of John 3:30 “I must decrease and He must increase.” Oh how we struggle in the living out of those 7 little words. For we think we must increase, we must get stronger, we must press our point or win the fight or prove them wrong or take our revenge in order to beat “the wave”. But this, dear one, is the lie of the evil one.
We can not beat the waves with stiff, strong, unbent legs.
We can not stop them from coming, we can not alter them.
But if we will decrease (let go of what needs to be washed away from us) ---- as we choose to increase Him, choose Him at the center, raise Him up in the lowering of “me”, then we find there is a bedrock strength that can stand in the wave. It is He who then causes the wave to wash us, as it passes by, and we find ourselves in a strange new place of still waters.
Watchman Nee writes so beautifully of this lowering of our center --- but his words call it a choosing of brokenness, an allowance of God's dealings. His book “The Release of the Spirit” has filled my plate of late, and opened my eyes to much.
Brokenness is something to be avoided if it's only being used to destroy; where the waves of life keep throwing us down on old shores laced with boulders and sharp edges. This is the brokenness that comes when the world wins and ashes remain.
But --- the brokenness Jesus guides us towards, is something to be embraced. It's a revelation of being able to see what in us needs to go, what needs to grow, and what needs to change. It's a realization of our inability and His ability which compels us to bend our knees. We see the need to lower our center of gravity; allowing ourselves, our will, our attitude, our my-way-mentality to be broken and washed away. And after the work of this kind of brokenness is complete, we find ourselves standing in a new place. A place we thought we could only arrive at if “they” or “it” changed.
Instead we find, ----- the thing that needed to change, was something in us.
Now ---- perhaps “they” or “it” are a serious issue, a real problem, a troublesome thing to endure. No doubt there are those grievous people and painful situations that cause much angst in our lives.
Certainly change is needed in them as well.
But just as we have not power over the wave ------ we know, we have not power to change them.
Keeping our focus set on them, will rob us two-fold. We'll never see the good possibilities of bending our knees and increasing Christ-in-me and we'll never know what life could have been like after the wave-line was broken and the stuff stuck to us washed away.
The answer is not found in running from the waves. The answer is found in overcoming them by facing them wisely.
Life is a constant remodeling taking us from what was to new places of what can be. But in order to get there, we must be willing to let the One who made us, carry us through the waves. And He can only do that when we bend our knees and lower ourselves in His hands.
He will deal with those who wrong us.
He knows --- He sees --- He will deal with them. And a fearsome dealing it might be. (Makes me cringe to think of it, it compels me to pray for them.)
But never forget, He's also watching to see how we respond to the wave-lines in life. Do we lean into Him, bend our knees and lower ourselves as He increases in us? Or do we rigidly fight the impacts of life and struggle in the surf after being knocked down again?
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”2 Chronicles 16:9 KJV
... in my kindergarten way of thinking this verse through, this I know to be solid-rock truth....
I can not even begin to have a “heart perfect toward Him” if I have not become practiced in bending my knees, lowering myself, and facing the waves of life. Letting the waves flow over me in such a way that what needed to be removed inside me is washed away and my eyes are found set like flint on Him.
Oh Lord, help her (the many “hers” --- and the many “hims” too).
Oh Lord, help me.
Oh Lord, help us all.
Wash us again and again -------
Hold us steady in the waves Daddy-GOD.
We trust Your dealings with us on the path of brokenness. You can take our rough selves and find the diamond inside.
The world's dealings with us brings a brokenness that takes our rough stone-selves and pummels us into sand --- where little if anything remains.
Two kinds of brokenness.
One destroys --- the other “makes things new”.
We choose you and your way Father.
Don't let us miss seeing what you see, when you look at us.