“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
I’ve had two people come up to me during retreat and tell me how they kept thinking that every message the speaker gave was like it was meant for me. And I have to say, I agree. I had my reservations about going to retreat. I was not in the best place. My episodes had been so terrifying that by Friday morning, I had to have an emergency therapy session over Facetime right before my ride came to get me. Confession after confession poured… EVERYTHING. Then she said,
“You never got to grieve over what happened to your 17-year-old self. It may have seemed like consent at the time, but it was abuse, wasn’t it?”
Then, I was crying all over again.
Wow… It wasn’t the clarity I was looking for, but maybe it was the clarity I needed. I thought that when I was saved, God had redeemed me from all the hurt. That he had healed me. But he only healed me spiritually. Emotionally, I was still suppressing the trauma from all the manipulation I experienced. And I blamed myself for it because I thought I should have known better. But really, I was a naïve child, innocent and then robbed. And 5 years later, I’m blaming myself all over again for things I didn’t do and feelings that weren’t in my control.
I kept asking God. Why? Why did it have to be THIS that you used to bring me low in order to know you? Why couldn’t I just be those Christians who grew up in church and got saved at a retreat site or something? Why did it have to be this traumatic, terrifying, ugly thing that makes me feel like nobody will ever want me again?
Strip me back of all my pride, my possessions till all I want and all I seek is your presence…That’s how the song goes. I built up a wall of accomplishments, cynicism, an “I’m-capable” attitude to hide it all. I ran behind the trees and hid from God like Adam and Eve. The mask was on for so long, I believed it was my real face. Then, God allowed all this into my life. My career was stripped. My abilities and talents meant nothing anymore. My people left me and friendships broke apart. My long time stable relationship became like a sail boat in a thunderstorm. Panic attacks. Depression. I literally stopped eating, breathing, and living.
“God gives grace to the humble… and He’ll humble you in order to extend that grace.” Thanks, God. It’s bittersweet, but I needed it.
Stripped of it all, I was faced with nothing but a desperation for God’s presence. I craved it. Thirst for it. Clawed my way through page after page of scripture. I needed the truth. I needed God’s truth. Advice: Never drop your shield.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To the end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication or all the saints.” –Ephesians 6:10-18
Satan will tempt you. Satan will lie to you. He will make you doubt God’s goodness and his character. He will make you question your safety. He will try to strike you down at every opportunity. Therefore, KNOW GOD. KNOW his character. KNOW his providences and his truth. Know your identity in him. Put on your armor and go into battle.
LOVE – .Love honestly. Love with vulnerability and rawness. Love even with all the risks laid out in front of you.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
and I’m not just talking about just a significant other. I’m talking about EVERYONE.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
It is God’s calling. We are intended to be the culmination of his love to the world.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others” – Philippians 2: 3-4
I thought this retreat was about getting away from people and stressors in my life. But I find myself only wanting to think about people. Some specific and some not. And all I want is to fulfill this commandment. I’m anxious about my relationship and I’m anxious about broken friendships. But, maybe it’s because my heart was coveting these things. Time to let go. What happens will happen. It won’t matter what happens if I can’t at least love them in a way that will help them love God more.
Whether Ellis and I break up or stay together, my only goal should be to help him see Christ in the fullness of His glory. Whatever that means. And my other friendships? The same. The risk of people burning me and hurting me and leaving me will always be there. But LOVE them anyway. I count their walk and joy more important than my own. I have to… That’s sacrificial love. That’s Christ’s love, right?
I prayed months ago for God to help me love people sacrificially. And maybe this is the part where he equips me. Love in truth. Live to encourage. Be present for them always. Be like Jesus and GO to them. Serve them where THEY ARE AT. Not waiting for them to come here. I can’t count how many encouragement cards I wrote this weekend. And I don’t think I should stop there… There are so many people on my heart right now… How do I reach them all?
“It made a difference for that one…” Beautifully said. Thanks, Josh.