"And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony..."
-- Revelation 12:11
|A perch similar to mine on the rocky mountain top|
The tears this particular day had less to do with those issues and more to do with present day ones. But regardless, He drew me up to that mountain top to sit by myself on a rock and overlook the neighbourhood, away from everything but Him. And I begged Him to speak into this present-day issue. I begged Him to speak up so I could recognize His words apart from all the tumultuous thoughts in my mind. I needed direction for something and I needed it now or I was going to go crazy with heartache. I listened to the wind screaming around the trees up there at the top of the mountain. I remembered the story of Elijah and the still small voice. And I waited expectantly. I must admit, I was kinda disappointed when I felt Him speaking through my logic (I wanted something a little more sensational!) to say, "I've already said it all in that book (the Bible) you've got in your bag."
But, as I said, I was feeling pretty desperate, so I didn't hesitate long. I cracked open my bible and, even while knowing the pitfalls of such a practice, I let it fall open where it might and read the words on the page. It was Psalm 143, and as I sat all alone on the sunny mountain top, I read the words aloud to God, letting every emotion I felt pour into their rhythm from my tear-stained lips. King David had written this Psalm with dramatic abandon. "My enemy has chased me. He has knocked me to the ground and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave" (v. 3). [I don't know if you're the same, but most of the time when I read of "my enemies" in the bible, I don't think of a human enemy, but of the spiritual one-- satan. Even when there are certain people standing against me in one way or another, I know that he is ultimately the one trying to stir up trouble, and they are just people, like me, needing compassion, mercy, and grace. A powerful line from my bible study that morning kept coming to mind as I cried that day on the mountain, "Your feelings of hopelessness and helplessness come straight from the enemy. They are lies!" and as I read of the enemy in this Psalm, I thought of these lies I was believing...] "I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear" (v. 4). "I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain" (v. 6). "Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don't turn away from me, or I will die" (v. 7). " It felt a bit bold to read out loud in a public place. But as I did, all the pent-up frustrations fell out of my mouth. All the painful feelings I was trying to tell myself not to feel, poured out into the words of the Psalm, and into the ears of God.
And the truths of His faithful character leapt from my mouth to my ears and dropped into my heart. "Hear my prayer, O Lord. Listen to my plea, because You are faithful and righteous" (v. 1). "May Your gracious Spirit lead me forward..." (v. 10). "Because of Your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress" (v. 11). "In Your unfailing love, silence all my enemies [like my own doubts and unbelief in your love and goodness!]" (v. 12). And the reminder of His unchanging character of love wrapped me up and stilled my anxious and unbelieving heart.
And it was cleansing. And it was humbling. And it was freeing. And He was there. And it was enough.
I walked down from the mountain feeling satiated. Like I'd received my daily bread. And also feeling changed. As if I had surrendered something to Him which I had been carrying around, and trustingly took His hand instead.
And it's all felt a bit differently since then. But that conversation on the mountaintop wasn't over yet...
Come Sunday I visited an old church I used to be a part of because it had been awhile since I had seen friends there. There was a visiting preacher giving the sermon. I had met him a few times but I don't know him and he doesn't know me. He doesn't even know that I am not at that church every Sunday, and in fact go months without visiting for the Sunday service. And in the middle of speaking to the entire church that day, he stopped, approached a man in the front row, and began praying for him a sort of prayer of prophecy. I remembered a time years ago when this particular pastor had given the sermon at this church and at the end, he had come around to every single person in the church that day and prayed over them in this way. And, in my shyness, I thought, "Oh please don't do it again!" simply because having all that attention brought on me as he went around one-by-one is uncomfortable. Ooh, the spotlight is not my favourite thing. But after praying for that one man, he went back to the pulpit and continued preaching! So the rest of us were off the hook. Hehe :)
But then, as he was preaching, he again stopped, and came into the rows of chairs and, of course, out of everyone there, he laid a hand on MY shoulder. He called me by name, when I wouldn't have guessed he even knew my name. And He began to pray over me things He said God wanted to say to me. Things like, "I see you and I love you. I hear you when you call on me (and I thought of my asking Him to speak to me on the mountain top!). I see your heart desiring to bring an awareness of my presence and my beauty wherever you go (this guy does not know me. He has not heard my prayers for that very thing, especially as I function most often in an Atheist environment...) I know you have had some experiences which have coloured the way you see me (the experiences precipitating in spiritual abuse counseling have been more traumatic and the effects more long-lasting than I could have imagined), but I want you to know that I am the same God that I was before that. I do not change, though your experiences change. I am the same God. I want you to be released from these experiences so I can do new things." The pastor laid his hand on my head then and said, "I release you in Jesus' name from whatever experiences are holding you back" (again, this guy doesn't know me, and knows nothing about how broken I have felt these past few years. Nor could he have known how it has felt like even with so much growth, and the counseling, and the working though the issues, how it has just remained so heavy. Or how many times I have asked God in frustration to just take it all away now! It's been long enough! Why should it still be there bothering me, hindering the way I trust Him, hindering the way I hope, and so hindering the way I share the hope of Jesus with the hopeless world around me?). And I am about to do a new thing in your life. Watch as I do new things. Because I love you. And you can trust me to be the same yesterday, today, and forever."
And then he went back to the front of the church and continued with his sermon. Just like that. And I couldn't rationalize away the truth that the Holy God of the universe was speaking directly to little old me in those moments. He set it up just so. The "coincidence" of attending the same church as this near stranger on that "random" Sunday. The way he only had such prayers for 2 of us out of the whole congregation, as if God just pointed right to me and said to this servant of His visiting to preach that day, "That one. I want to encourage that one today. She asked on the mountain to hear from Me a way which is a little bit out of the ordinary. There are some things I want her to be reassured about."
And I don't know why He would do that that Sunday and not the few days before on the mountain. Or any number of other times throughout my walk with Him, for that matter! I am someone who needs so so much constant reassurance, and He knows it! I ask for a lot... and so often feel like I receive little... But
He is always always always working on teaching me to trust Him more fully. And I can trust Him to move toward me in the best best way and in the best best timing. Because He IS faithful. Because He IS good. Because His love is REAL. His grace is impartial to anyone who will believe, and deeper and more powerful than we can imagine.
And I had to just share the testimony of this because maybe someone reading this needs reassurance, like I do, that He is listening; that He is Who He says He is; that His love is what He says it is; that He really does want to INTERACT with us on a personal basis; that it's about walking WITH Him, not for Him. I think He did something in me on the mountaintop last week to revitalize my faith, to reawaken my hope in Him, and to restore pieces of me that have been broken for awhile. And then on Sunday, He just threw a little extra encouragement on it because He's sweet like that :) (...and because He likes to floor me with delight and awe!!)
I cannot not share of this gracious God and all the hope He offers us in this place of hopelessness. Maybe you also need to be told point-blank: "Your feelings of hopelessness and helplessness come straight from the enemy. They are lies." Don't believe them! If you're needing a reminder of this hope He's given us, let's pray that He'll give it to you, and that your eyes and ears will be open to how He might do that in your life. Seek Him out! He still speaks. I believe He is crazy about you and wants to tell you so. Give Him every opportunity to do so by being tuned in to His Spirit, drinking deeply of His Word daily, humbly confessing and repenting of sins as He convicts, and watch Him do new things in you. Watch Him fill you up in ways you never saw coming.
Oh, how do we ever do life without as much of Him as we can possibly hold?!
"Let me hear of Your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting You.
Show me where to walk, for I give myself to You...
Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing."
-- Psalm 143:8 & 10