For those who have been David and not Joseph

I walked away from the straight and narrow.

I. Walked. Away. No one led me, no one tempted me, and no one forced me. I. Walked. Away.

In an event that had more mental and spiritual hardship than I was expecting, I was ill equipped to handle it. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I was unequipped and my only answer is that I thought it could never happen to me. I thought I was spiritually invincible; I was much too steady to be shipwrecked. I read my bible every day. I prayed regularly. And last but not least, I was a missionary. My pride gave me a false sense of successful living without the healing hand of Christ.

I spent 3 years of my life giving up everything to serve the God that I came to know and love. I gave up relationships, comfort, decent internet, and smooth skin without any bites for the sake of knowing Him better and serving those that He loves, and I came to find out that I’m not sure I knew Him much at all. I knew the idea of Him. I knew the characteristics of Him. But as far as truly knowing Him, I was ignorant because I hadn’t shared in His sufferings, and when I did, I didn’t handle it well.

All those great guys of the Bible that went through hard things; that was because they did bad things, right? David’s son died because he sinned. Samson had his eyes gauged out and he was imprisoned because he broke his Nazarene vow. Those were the ones I latched on to… As long as I wasn’t “like them” I’d be fine… But here’s the thing… There are those who suffered blamelessly. God gave me an opportunity to be like Job and Joseph; the innocent sufferers of the faith. And. I. Blew. It.

When I returned I was HURTING. Maybe it was the fact that I lost my identity as a missionary. Maybe it was the fact that I lost a family I came to love as my own. Maybe it was the fact that I was reintroduced to a world that was so vastly different from what I came to know. All I know for sure is this: I had the opportunity to walk with God through these things; I had the chance to suffer well; to be a Joseph of the faith. But as time drug on, and as the process got deeper, darker, and more difficult, I chose to walk away. I chose to find things in the world that were bringing a reprieve that this God I forfeited my life for wouldn’t give me, no matter how much I begged and pleaded.

As I sit here looking at the last six months through my hindsight 20/20 I’m not ashamed. I’m not condemned. I’m in awe of a loving God. I’m in awe of the God that loved David after he slept with Bathsheba. I’m in awe of Samson’s God who restored his strength and allowed him redemption. I’m in awe of the God of Peter who had 2,000 years of church structure built on his comeback after the denial of His relationship with the Lord. I’m in awe.

God is gracious, guys. He’s so gracious. In the midst of my worst decisions He was there. He protected me from things I didn’t deserve protection from. He allowed things that made me look at myself and ask “who even is this girl?” and when the day came that I didn’t like the answer He was gracious and took me back. He never took away my seat at the table. He only heaped up portions as He patiently awaited my return.

You can’t have a comeback without a fall. You can’t get up eight times until you’ve fallen seven. You can’t experience a loving return until you’ve ran away. I would never suggest anyone run from God; it’s a lot of pain and consequence, but if you’re in a season of running; if you’re questioning everything, I know from experience He will be there. He’s there now, and He’ll be there for your return. His love is steadfast. He’ll rebuild bridges you’ve burned. He’ll restore relationships you’ve forfeited. He truly does restore the years the locusts have eaten.

One of my favorite quotes I’ve read through this entire process is, “second and third repentances are not met with half-ass parties in the Father’s house”. I’m sure there will continue to be struggle, sin, doubt, frustration, etc… but every time I take a thought captive, every time I choose to repent I’ll be met with loving arms that throws a party for my decision to trust in His truth instead of my fear of God. A fear that is tarnished by wounds that were inflicted by the sin of the world.

So where do I go from here? Well. I’ve gone the David, Prodigal & Samson route. I’ve messed up and tried to clean it up. I took advantage of the grace and gifts of our God. And I’ve done most of the things I swore I’d never do. So now I get to know experientially that those ways don’t work. Masking my pain, my hurts, and my sorrows with worldly remedies doesn’t work. I need supernatural healing. I need the only one who’s able to clean up my heart one prayer at a time. I need this healer to strip away my fears of rejection and betrayal, and replace it with the value I once believed I had in Him. I. Need. Faith.

Faith is the root of healing.

Faith in His word: His word stands the test of time. When the lies that He can’t be trusted because He hasn’t felt trustworthy come to my mind I need to stand firm in His truth that, “for those who know Your name put their trust in You, for you, O Lord have not forsaken those who seek you” (psalm 9:10). I can’t quit seeking Him. That’s where the battle is won.

Faith in His hope: He gives us a hope, and a promise that is so farfetched that in times of darkness it seems unbelievable. I get to go to heaven? A place without sin. A place where my tears will be wiped away. A place where I will be able to lie down in peace…? Me? This sinner? This prodigal? This rebellious daughter? Don’t get me wrong… I know all of this is TRUE. But after the fall, it seems too much for my brain and heart to handle. I don’t deserve this hope, but I get to put my faith in it. And every time I’m reminded of the fall, or every time I stumble I get to be reminded of a gracious God whose arms are stretched out still.

Maybe next time suffering comes, or more so as it continues I’ll be a Joseph. I’ll be able to stand firm in the truth. I’ll be able to suffer well. Maybe I’ll be able use my prison to prepare for the larger picture. Maybe I’ll be a Job who stays steadfast through the trial. Next time I’m called to share in the Lord’s suffering I truly hope I’ll let Him shoulder the burden while I walk in faith & hope. But for now, I’m just thankful that God still loved David, and Samson, and Peter… And He still loves a rebellious, fallen missionary like me.

Hosea 6:1//Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up

In Search Of: Hardworking Prison Cellmate

Where are You, Lord?
What did I do wrong to get here?
Will this ever end?

Anyone else ever have these thoughts while in prison?
Anyone else never actually been to prison?
Please tell me I'm not alone...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a specific area in my life where I’m helpless. And the circumstances that got me here weren’t of my own doing. God put a trial in my life that I have to trust is for my good and while dealing with this I just happened to be reading through Joseph’s testimony in Genesis.

Genesis 39 gives us the account of Joseph who was unsuccessfully seduced, falsely accused, and wrongfully imprisoned; all because the dude was attractive. He was probably rocking the dad-bod, man-bun, or whatever else was the aesthetically pleasing trend at the time. Here he was just minding his business, honoring his God, and obeying his master... and he ends up in prison. What the heck?!

I feel like I’m there. Physically speaking I’m nowhere near where Joseph is, but spiritually speaking I’m most definitely there. There’s a lot happening outside the walls of my life that isn’t necessarily fair; a lot of pain, hurt and sin going on with people I love. But my hands are tied. I’m a sitting duck. I have no control.

So what now? I guess since we’re using the example of Joseph, and because he was a Godly man it’s safe to follow his lead.

Verse 21 says, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Okay, step one: recognize that the Lord is with me and shows me steadfast love and favor even in the midst of my prison. But I don’t feel like He’s with me… So now what? Stand on the truth of the Word instead of how I feel. Tell my feelings they’re stupid and irrational, because they are, (yours probably are true. Yeah, I said it) and press into the truth of God. Alright, let’s see, how about Romans 8:38-39? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. No prison, no circumstance, no powers. Nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus. 

Okay, got it. I’m loved and Jesus is with me no matter how I feel. But I’m still in prison… Soooo now what?

The account of Joseph continues on to tell us what God’s favor did for Joseph in his prison. “And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” What did Joseph do in his prison? The same thing he did outside of it; honored God. Joseph worked hard, proved himself faithful and trustworthy and was given responsibility based on his actions and God’s favor. I especially like that it says the keeper paid no attention to anything in Joseph’s charge. Joseph could have used the keeper's trust to his advantage but instead He used it to glorify God. Joseph probably could have manipulated certain areas, put himself in advantageous situations, or gone to the right areas of the prison to possibly escape. But instead he honored God and worked hard and diligently in the tasks he was given. Would I do the same? 

You know those inmate clean up crews you pass on the highways? If that was your job in your prison would you be filling as many bags as you could? Or would you be trudging along, doing the bare minimum until it was time to leave? I think of their overseers and how much they must appreciate the ones who don't need much direction. They see their task and they do it. I would bet there are highway clean up crew inmate workers with better attitudes than I tend to have in my spiritual prison.

My current prison is being a missionary. Don’t get me wrong, I like the role God has placed me in, but I’m on another continent where circumstances elsewhere with family and friends seem to be crumbling. I could choose to dwell in my prison, and try to escape it OR I can use my prison to glorify God, walk with Him, work hard, and trust that He knows what’s best. Trust that His word is true and His hand is on these situations better than mine could ever be. Besides, contrary to my own pride He really doesn’t need my help.

What’s situation do you find yourself in that feels like a prison? Stay at home mom? The Oregon Coast’s lack of sun? Your own mind; anxiety, depression? Situations you can’t fix with people you love? A sin you were introduced to and you can’t break free from? Less than ideal finances? Sickness? Marriage? Singleness? 

Please know this; your decisions and choices didn’t necessarily land you in your spiritual prison. Sometimes it’s solely because there’s a lesson, or a refining characteristic being woven into you. Sometimes it’s a consequence, and that’s okay too, because God wants your freed as much as you do. And sometimes we go to prison to minister to the other prisoners. God wants to comfort us in all our troubles SO THAT we can comfort others in theirs. God is going to use your prison for good. He promises. 

I wonder if Joseph knew his time, hard work, and authority given to him in the prison was preparing him for something bigger; to have authority over the land of Egypt. I wonder if he doubted the dream he had early on of his family bowing down to him? I wonder if he felt abandoned?

It’s okay to admit you’re in a prison, it’s even okay to admit you don’t like it, but it’s not okay to wallow there. 

You won’t be in prison forever. God specializes in setting captives free.

Hope in Christ.

Luke 4:18//The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives...

Foot In Mouth and Teachable Moments

Disclaimer: The coffee I'm drinking has sugar AND caffeine so it's safe to say this may be jumbled. I apologize. Not really, though because this maple-vanilla blended treat is magical. 

I don't know a whole lot about anything. I'm not the brightest crayon in the box. I'm pretty sure I'm not even in the same shed as those sharp tools people talk about. However you want to say it, the fact is I'm self-admittedly not bright. Don't believe me? Here's an example. I just found out LAST NIGHT that a narwhal is real! And if that's not proof enough of my ineptitude, well then, let me give you another. We'll keep it in the animal category. I thought buffalo were fictional until I was 18 years old and saw one up close and personal. Okay, actually it was from a car and it was 100 yards away. But the point still stands. If you need any more examples please refer to a good friend of mine. I know he'd be thrilled to tell you some more embarrassing stories.

Most of the time, though, especially as I get older and go through the aftermath of saying things I shouldn't, I'm relatively good at not saying everything that comes to my brain, but there's always those moments where my extroversion takes over and, to my shame, my mouth has to say the first thing my brain tells it to.

As I was reading through the gospels this week I could really put myself in the shoes and feel the embarrassment of Peter. You know, the guy who rebuked Jesus because he thought he knew better. The guy who lost faith after taking a step or two on water. The guy who told Jesus he'd never deny him, and then denied him in the exact way Jesus said he would. The guy who cut off a guys ear because he was doing the exact thing Jesus said would happen. Yeah. That guy. I relate to that guy. 

During Peter's career as a disciple of Jesus he had sat in on the same discussion and learning opportunities the other guys did, but I find it relatable how he was always the one to take it a step further by opening his mouth. And then quickly inserting his foot. And I think Jesus loved it. Don't get me wrong, he was definitely corrected when needed, but I know God is looking for people with the boldness of Peter. People with the courage to try again after making mistakes. People who want to follow the scriptures and get up after falling. People who are willing to be taught.

It was because of Peter's need to be taught that we learned to forgive 70 x 7 times. It was because of Peter we learned to render to Caesar what is his. It was because of Peter we learned we can be imperfect and cut off an ear or two and still reach the masses with the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of the bible's most teachable moments come from Peter's tenacity and the occasional foot in the mouth.

I think we could all take a lesson from Peter. He never let his mistakes take him out of the game. He always came back to Jesus to be restored to truth and forgiveness. Walking with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection changed Peter's life and he wasn't going to let anything keep him from getting back up and following the Lord's call on his life. Peter allowed the Lord to correct and refine him. He had a teachable spirit, and God used him to dominate the first 11 chapters of Acts. 

Even though I may be admittedly ignorant in all things science, math, zoology, geography, and so on, I pray that I continue to be teachable in the things of the Lord. And when I mess up I pray that I would take my cues from the life of Peter; get back up, take the foot out of my mouth, and keep walking with the Lord.

Proverbs 24:16// For the righteous falls seven times and rises again...