The Ping of Death

I heard the ping, ping, ping of a nail going into a piece of wood echo in the room. Words, lies, hurt, anger, things carried by women for far longer than they should of, and some since childhood, getting nailed to a cross. If I am still long enough, a week later, I can still hear it.

And there’s part of me that knows the devil does not want me to remember that. He likes me hearing words, believing lies he’s fed me and living in a place of hopeless regret and bitterness, turning to gossip and envy rather than pouring out love and support, encouragement and joy.

Y’all. I know without a doubt God has given me a desire to work in women’s ministry. To write about faith, singleness, dating, community. To put together studies and gather women to uplift one another. I know that without a single doubt in my mind. But here’s the kicker I have wrestled so hard and for so long with: I don’t do relationships with my fellow ladies well.

That’s the reminder I get when I start writing, when I sign up to lead a small group, when I step out to engage other women. You don’t do it well. Who are you to do this? Your circle is small. It’s like he knows what my downfall is, what will make me stumble and run back to my hiding place. Where I circle up with my self and vow that I won’t put myself out there, to look ridiculous and be known. I’d rather stay to the outskirts and not be hurt or mocked.

Even writing all of this has been a difficult step for me over this last week. Because I’ve had to admit to myself that I would prefer to live in the lie and doubt God rather than trust Him fully with the work He’s doing all along. And so last Monday I sat sobbing…ladies around me not understanding why or knowing what I wrote on that sheet of paper and put down on that cross-knowing Jesus Himself took care of it so long ago so that I wouldn’t carry it anymore, that I should have never carried it to begin with. But I had taken to living in James 3:16, choosing envy of others living out what I believed God had given me and seeking my own selfish ambition in my own strength…I was leaning into words and perceived slights of others as a means of willful disobedience and mistrust of God.

Y’all it’s an ugly place to be in, where you point the finger of judgement and unmet/unreasonable expectations of others, seeking to gossip and cut down fellow believers instead of building each other up through encouragement and support. It’s not mine to define how someone should be a friend to me, nor should I choose to sin against them when they don’t meet expectations I have falsely established for them. My life should look more like verses 17 and 18 of James 3-peace loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, bearing out the good fruit of righteousness.

And so a work God had long since started in me, came bearing out in the pings of a nail and a hammer onto the cross Monday night. Surrounded by women from across the church, fighting to let go and put the lies, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, all of it. That view was intended specifically for me. That sound. That moment. Because God knew only that would get me to wake up to what He’d been aiming straight at my heart with for months…that the desire of His heart was calling to mine if I would but listen, lay everything else down and pick up the cross instead.

I had to hear that specific ping of death, the death nail of the lies and sin I had chosen repeatedly to finally see the weight of it all…to know He long took it from me, if I’d but put it there for good.

Fig Trees and Flipping Tables Jesus

I have to be honest with y’all….I have never truly understood the cursing of the fig tree by Christ on the Monday of Holy Week. I jump quickly to the story of Christ flipping the tables in the temple-the image I really cannot wait to see in heaven, justice-seeking Christ full of righteous anger. But who doesn’t love that?!

fig-tree

But first that fig tree y’all…As Christ is heading back into Jerusalem from Bethany, where He’s staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus He is hungry. Yep, we see Jesus get hungry in Scripture, which is His human side coming forth from what I tend to lean towards. He sees a fig tree off there in the distance that is in full leaf, meaning it is showing that it should be bearing fruit, whether small or large. (Fig trees in that part of the world do not fruit until June, this would have been March-April) The tree was giving all intents and purposes that it was something that it, in production, in fruit, was not.

Christ immediately curses the tree, that it may never bear fruit again.

A parable lived right out for the apostles to see and hear.

It was a testament to the state of Israel at that time, and very well the state of our lives too in the church. Israel was showing off one thing, claiming Yahweh as God but yet bore out none of the fruit of that life…instead going after their own gods, making legalism their true aim instead of holiness. They bore no fruit of a life lived in obedience. It is a show with no substance, deceiving what is presented.

“The great majority of persons who have any sort of religion at all bear leaves, but they produce no fruit.”

-Charles Spurgeon, Nothing But Leaves

We believe within our own churches we are one thing, when in fact we are bearing nothing of substance out. Jesus is very well talking to us right here, right now in our churches in America. Egyptian Christians are murdered as they attended Palm Sunday services on Sunday. Yet we sit idly by and allow our comforts to be our concern, whether the a/c is working overtime or not (the very thing I complained about this morning, I kid you not y’all) or whether so-and-so is friendly towards us, or that our service had better numbers than the other church. Instead of our hearts yearning for righteousness, for holiness and complete obedience in all things.

We’ve grown into our own hypocrisy that our Savior cursed this very day….that He pointed to and made clear that deception in bearing fruit was not worthy of life, of His blessing, but rather a curse, a death. We need Him to make us useful and fruitful, to bear it out…just as John 15 points us to, that we abide in Him and we bear much fruit. But we must be in Him, not doing of ourselves or in ourselves. It took being led into John 15 over the last couple of weeks for me to see the real point Christ is making here…if we aren’t in Him, we bear false witness of fruit, we attempt to be the vinedresser, branch and root all in one, only there is nothing of substance to us, to our churches.

Ripping the Bandage Off

Band-aid on hand isloated  white background.

As a kid, I think we can all agree, that taking a bandage off was kind of the worst. I think it hurt more than the scrape or cut sometimes when you would have to pull that off an arm or leg. In high school I had to have a couple of stitches in my shin and I can recall with clarity the bandage tape was more painful than getting the stitches out.

By far though I think emotional bandages are harder to take off. The pain and deep cuts underneath that bandage reveal our worst times of life. Times of loss, depression, addiction and brokenness. Pulling that bandage back means we are letting it breathe, we are taking the first step to acknowledge it is there and we are healing.

Sometimes it can catch us by surprise, and just like mom would say, “If I do it quickly, it won’t hurt as much.” I think that’s true to some extent. When we’ve been hurt or faced something that has cut us deep we need that initial time to bandage up and prevent infection in our lives. We tend to the wound and hopefully rest from life. We pull back and examine the events that led to the wounding.

But, just like our physical cuts and scrapes, if we don’t pull back that bandage and reassess, after a while the wound festers. It can get infected by the closing off of life. If we remove ourselves, bandaging up and dwelling on the wound for too long infections of life set in. Pride, ego, anger, bitterness, self-doubt. All these things will set up and spread throughout the person.

The anticipation of ripping off the bandage can be worse than it actually happening. Whether that means addressing the issue in yourself, facing those who have hurt you deep, or simply giving forgiveness it can be a difficult task mentally and emotionally to pull that off. I know for me, that if I hold onto unforgiveness with that wound, it will simply because such an infection that it pervades every piece of my life til there is no peace and simply an ugly, venom spewing existence.

Is it easy to rip off that bandage of emotional hurt?

Absolutely not.

In fact, I can say from very recent experience, that had I not prayed and sought wise counsel on it, I wouldn’t have been able to rip it off when I did. I am for certain that it would have begun to fester had the opportunity to address the wound and see the healing from it not presented itself when it did. We can grow anxious about pulling back the bandage or we can know that “in everything, through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, (we can) let our requests be known to God” and there we find peace that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:5-7)

Let me also share that while you may pull back that bandage, there may still be the need for healing to continue. You may need to redress and rebandage, even after pronounced healing has occurred. It’ll mean being watchful that your emotions are not controlling you through that hurt, but that you are giving way to continued growth and renewal from the wound. It’s also not an overnight, or even in a few weeks, healing. For many it’s weeks, months, and years.

Sometimes that wound gets reopened and cut deeper. Each time it gives place for healing to come and peace to invade when we let go of the anxiety of the bandage coming off.

That’s the Power of Words.

I had an encounter recently where I was sporting a rather negative attitude, about nothing in particular, and not towards anyone in particular. As I continued to talk and fester, I sat with astonishment at my words. It was like I couldn’t help myself and continued to slather on some negativity.

Photo courtesy of cuindependent.com
Photo courtesy of cuindependent.com

Over and over I see it in every day life, whether it’s in conversations, interactions, emails or social media…and I am guilty of it too. We don’t consider our words and the impact they have. I wrote at Single Roots the assumptions made about single life in the workplace, but it started with words. It started with the words not fully considered when said.

We say things in jest, for either venting or vengefulness…from a state of irritation or anger. The words though echo throughout life, and not necessarily the life of the person who said them. It builds a legacy of you…what you say in life. What you breathe into the lives of others. Do you want that life to be one of peace, joy, and happiness? Or do you want it to be one of burden, negativity, and destructiveness?

There’s enough bullies in the world. There’s enough trolls and bitter people spouting ugliness and junk at us. Shouldn’t we be focused on speaking joy and love into others’ lives? You have the choice what you say today. Speak words of wisdom and love, not deceit and bitterness. Speak from where your heart resides, and not where the devil tells you that you are heading.

 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

The Chemicals Between Us

As much as we have distractions these days, we also have choices. They are everywhere, including gluten free, fragrance free, and peanut free just to name a few.

Today you have the choice on what you let affect you. Today you have the choice on how you process and how you respond. Instead of reacting to someone, or their actions, choose to respond. There’s a stark difference in reacting and responding. Far too often we make the choice to react. It’s in our chemical nature to automatically react to a situation or an individual. Dr. Henry Cloud points to the difference in the two:

When I react, they are in control. When I respond, I am.

Do you give into the reaction and allow the control you have on your emotions to be let loose? I know I do alot of the time. I am a reactor. Unfortunately the example of such a thing is a nuclear reactor that many fear when the alarms start blaring. But when I look to an example of a responder? That’s easy, I see a first responder to an emergency scene. They are calm, collected, and assessing the scene before them with poise. The difference is so drastic but it comes from work, learning, and time.

Today is a good day to start the lesson of responding instead of reacting…we all have the choice. For you, which will you choose?

Anger Management

Last week I lost my temper in the worst possible place.

Church

Photo courtesy of Anger Management, the movie.
Photo courtesy of Anger Management, the movie.

Admitting that to you all is hard, because I had to admit it to the person I lost it with first, which was much harder. It wasn’t a pastor or visitor, it was someone who knows me pretty well at this point in life. They were attempting to call me out on the path I was headed down and I didn’t like it. In fact, I was seeing red and wanted to escape.

I tell you all this, to share this small piece of the story. In the moment as my anger began building I heard a small heart whisper. I don’t hear God audibly, but I often hear Him whispering into my heart and this small voice said “Don’t let your flesh, the devil, ruin this right now. Don’t give in to it.” Instead I shoved it aside and fell into anger and let my temper and emotions control the situation I couldn’t otherwise control.

That moment, that choice, had a domino effect for the last week. Not only on my life but another individual’s life. And several others if I am being really truthful. If I had stopped and listened to the sound of reason, of truth, straight from God, life would’ve been much more peaceful this week I believe. I chose a familiar road of anger and resentment, of piercing rage and emotions.

I had a choice, as we all do, in how I respond in situations. That choice has consequences that go far beyond that moment, or myself. Now I have to be the one to reconcile and seek forgiveness, knowing I had to first go before God seeking forgiveness for disobedience, anger, and so much more.

If you are facing anger or a temper, I pray this same verse over you that I am praying over myself. May we begin overlooking the slights and the wrongs, and start living with better sense. Of ourselves, of God, and who He knows we can be.

People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs.

Proverbs 19:11