Grace for the Remnant

It’s not easy being left. It begins in childhood, older siblings off to school and new adventures, friends moving away, the first taste of loss as we lose the elders in our lives.

And it doesn’t seem to get any easier as we grow up. Relationships fracture and become estranged. The first loss of a peer, too young, too soon. The first loss of a parent, too fresh and raw.

There is an insatiable fear of being left, being left behind, being left to jealousy of a life not experienced, left in grief, left in anger and sorrow.

Left because it’s our job to stay, as others experience newness. Left because it’s not yet our time.

Left because of the selfishness of others, or left because of our own selfishness.

There doesn’t seem to be the potential for grace in being left. We’re encouraged to see the good, seek God’s bigger plan in the midst of our pain and numbness. Encouraged by others who have never been left that being left is not the end of the world, when in fact, our world has just crashed down around us.

Or where is the grace in the everyday as we see others in our lives not consumed with the mundane pattern of diapers, bills, shift work and budgets.

Grace for the heart sore and travel dreamers. Grace for the bored and the tried. Grace for the grieving and angry.

In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. 3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit[a] of judgment and a spirit[b] of fire. 5 Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory[c] will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

Isaiah 4:2-6

Our grace comes twofold. It comes in the hope of our future restoration, and the shielding and purifying with-us of God in the present.

The knowledge that we, the remnant of our hopes and dreams, are called beautiful and glorious. That our unseeing eyes do not reflect how we are seen. We are recorded, noted, in the midst of the ashes of our expectations, we are seen as holy.

We, the survivors of loss and leaving, are the fruit of the land. Because out of us comes the reflected glory of God. The knowledge that he is the one who has sustained us. That we have been battered and bruised, refined and purified in what has left and been taken from us.

But we have remained. We have remained because HE has remained.

Though in our struggles we may not always see him, though the daily duties and drudgeries can hide his face, he is with us.

He is with us, a cloud of smoke shielding us from the poking and prodding of untruth and discouragement.

He is with us, a flaming eternal fire of warmth and light to drive away the chill of grief and burn off the heat of anger.

And over us, his glory stretches like a never-ending canopy.

He is shelter and shade, refuge and hiding place.

Though the storms blow, the hurricane force of life’s trials come at us, we are sheltered. Given a place to grieve and rail at the world, in the safety of his grace and truth.

And in the midst of the steady drizzle of discouragement, life’s dull patterns and lost hopes, he is a hiding place. A hiding place of hope and truth and guiding hands and gentle heart.

And we, when we seek  his presence, when we assemble in all our states of brokenness, find grace for the everyday and the once in a lifetime. And we are sustained.

 

 

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Looking to the Disease for the Cure

Do we always see our own wounds? Those bruises and cuts that surprise us in the shower, the papercuts when we haven’t handled paper.

These wounds set us wondering about the unnoticed injuries that we sustain through the motions of everyday life.

My emotional and spiritual wounds take me by surprise as well. Those times when a word or comment digs deeper than it should, when someone’s failing hits me like a sudden snowball to the heart. When I realize that something that happened to me days, weeks, years ago has the power to sting like a wasp’s sting.

As we go through life I don’t think we realize how our wounds affect us. Because there are ways of dealing with these small wounds, balms offered by culture and society that we are trained to unconsciously pursue. Pushing the wounds out of our mind and deeper into our bodies, convincing ourselves that we’re ok.

Because no one ever died of a thousand emotional papercuts, did they?

When I have those moments where I’m surprised by pain, a sudden surge of ouch in the midst of a regular day, I try to get over it. Because that’s what you do. We surge ahead, making do, and making peace.

I’ll process with friends, my husband, myself in the car as I’m driving, but not often enough to I process with God. My self-sufficient nature takes me to a place of self-help, of self-soothing, and I misdirect my need for healing towards my coping skills.

Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.

Isaiah 1:5-6

This passage sits heavily on me.

How often do I ‘take my lumps’ in this world and let them grow into welts?

How often do I shrug off the bruises in the persistence of MY own rebellion?

I look to my own self or to the world to sooth my wounds, not knowing that my wounds are clouding my judgement. These head and heart wounds have made it difficult for me to seek healing because they slink up so quietly, add up through time and space.

“From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness – only wounds and welts and open sores.”

Our thinking is damaged.

Our hearts cannot seek true, motivated love.

Our bruises cloud our choices.

We have no soundness and no tether to rightness. Layers upon layers of varying degrees of damage can point us away from God, inwardly licking our wounds like a slinking dog.

But God offers me something different. He offers me healing, and it’s not always easy, and it’s not always pretty, but it is complete.

Our wounds are cleansed. This is the painful part. Ridding our wounds of the infections of thought and strongholds, sterilizing them and making them clean with his truth.

Our wounds are bandaged. Offering protection from the elements of the world, the grit of words and soaking of guilt, putting a layer between our newly cleansed wounds and the world.

And we are soothed with oil. There is grace for the healing, gentleness instead of hardship.

So why am I not smarter, willing to undergo this healing that brings full restoration?

Because I’m looking for my own balm in Gilead. Gilead, the famous place to source spices and medicinal herbs in the ancient world. But the world does not provide healing for God’s people. 

We try our own fixes, world and home remedies, not realizing or accepting that our healer is God.

It’s scary to lay my wounds open before him. I’m afraid of the cleansing, the truth of the depth of the wound and the scouring that is needed. But that’s the only way healing can begin. When I present my brokenness before him, arms in front, head bowed, exposed and willing, then he is able to begin his healing work.

And the bandages become badges of honor.

And the oil becomes anointing.

And I begin afresh.

Seeking a Higher Capacity

I’m sneaking this post in while my daughter fiddles with the radio, the boys are off to school, and there’s the promise of making granola in the air.

It’s been a while since I’ve written steadily. These past few months have stretched and grown me, not because of bad things, but because of new things. And I don’t know about you, but new things, even if they’re good, make me want to slink away and process them in a hole for a while.

New church, new ministry, changes of plans and new plans. All these good things take time to process and adapt to. I’m not a naturally quick adaptor. Well, that’s not entirely true. I resist adaptation while I am adapting. It’s more of an internal process than external. I’ll do the work while at times resenting the work.

Makes me sound like a treat, doesn’t it?

As we’ve been going through a month of changes, I’ve been pondering the nature of change. How at times it seemed our waiting was long and slow, and then everything rushes in at once like a spring flood. When you’re in a holding pattern and then God says “GO” and you say “But I need to pack my emotional processing, work through it, come to resolution…” and God says, “leave it and go”.

God’s timing often stretches my capacity. My capacity to wait, my capacity to move, my capacity to follow obediently and not question without ceasing.

Capacity is one of those words that is whirling around right now. Leadership capacity, ministry capacity, workload capacity. It’s something I really really want, but don’t often have. I want to be seen as capable and of high capacity, but human nature wills out sometimes.

My capacity is directly related to my relationship with God. Sure, there are things and wirings that have been in me from birth and conditioned through life that mean my capacity in certain physical and emotional places is low or high. But the true test of capacity, the spiritual capacity I have for change, for obedience, for listening to God’s word and following in grateful trust, is honed and developed through my time with God.

Spiritual capacity can be learned and developed. Paul learned this through his experiences and journey with God.

 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ[b] who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

I want that kind of capacity. To have the type of relationship with God where he is the one who strengthens me. Strengthens me beyond my situation and experiences to be a person who can weather all storms and sunny days with equal assurance.

To be stretched, refined, and know that when I’m at the end of my limit, that I haven’t even touched the near limit of God’s equipping and power. To experience God’s equipping, feel my capacity to love, persevere, and serve reflect him more than myself.