This has been a challenging week, the peak it seems of a challenging season in my life. I have long debated on whether or not to share the gory details, but I think that is best left for intimate one on one conversations. Suffice it to say that this has been a painful season, a stripping of who I am, who I thought I was, and unearthing a very ugly picture. It hurts; I have felt naked, vulnerable, weak - like a rotting corpse just waiting for the buzzards of life to come pick at my bones. I have never thought of ending my life in this season, praise God he placed my wonderful husband and sweet daughter around me, but I have struggled to keep going, to move forward, to even get out of bed.
A few weeks ago God asked me to give up something precious to me, something that has been with me for a long time, a thing that has largely shaped who I believe that I am. The person asked to borrow it, but I know that God asked me to give it, expecting nothing in return, and it was hard.
The next morning in my quiet time, when I prayed about where to read, I felt the urge to begin reading wherever my Bible flipped open to...a practice I have not partaken in since I was very young - this often leaves you right smack in the middle of an old testament list of family members or some other chronicle that seems little applicable to our daily life. I opened to Isaiah 2 and began reading, but had to pray for God to help me see what He was trying to show me. I kept reading on to chapter 3 and turned the page...there it was. I have the Amplified Bible with notes from Joyce Meyer, and she began to unload chapters 2-3, "When God Removes your Props"...
Isaiah 2:22 God asks, "Why are you putting your trust in frail people who are only alive for so short a time?" and then goes on to tell them that he will remove their "props" out from under them. Joyce talks about what are props are - things like our support system, things from which we derive pleasure and satisfaction (she listed exactly the thing that God asked me to give up - He has a sense of humor), and things that we believe are the measure of who we are.
Isaiah 2:8 says, "Their land is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, what their fingers have made." vs. 22 says, "Cease to trust in [weak, frail, and dying] man, whose breath is in his nostrils [for so short a time]; in what sense can he be counted as having intrinsic worth". Then Isaiah 3:1 is the kicker, "For behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff [every kind of prop], the whole stay of bread and the whole stay of water."
Ouch! And you know what - this is just what God has been doing to me, or perhaps, it would be better said that God has allowed satan to remove these things from me. It is called "sifting" (see the conversation between God and satan in Job or what Jesus tells Peter about how satan has asked permission to "sift" him). Satan cannot touch a believer without the permission of God - we are covered - he can only use scare tactics - which we often fall for, but in my life these have been far more than scare tactics. I have been stripped of all that held me up and any ability to pull myself up by my bootstraps or regain control. I am broken.
I had no idea how much my sense of self and worth even came from my appearance (ie: the color of my hair), but not being able to maintain these things certainly revealed what was inside, and it was not pretty. This season has been a painful one, years, in fact of stripping my life of people and things that I counted as sure and part of my identity. But God allowed it.
However, God is restoring to me a crown of beauty for ashes in ways hardly expected - let me share a few. For one thing - because I have grown up in the church and have had a relationship with God for a long time, I know well what a Godly woman should look like and talk like (or so I thought), and even when my heart was not fully engrossed in passion with Christ, I was able to put on a persona so that no one else could see where I fell. There where leaks and holes, as with any mask, but I could usually pull it together. I cannot any longer, and the beautiful part is - God has taught me that I don't have to try! Isn't it glorious! I don't have to try to be a good Christian girl and do good Christian things, and I have no strength to try. All I can do is be me and ask Jesus to change my heart. That means me with the ugly parts, the sinful parts, exposed and unabridged, but the beauty in it is that when I am no longer trying to maintain my composure and am just broken before God, then He can really change my heart!
Because of this season, I have felt that surely no one would desire to be my friend because I literally have nothing to offer to anyone - I am barely getting by from day to day. The beauty, the friendships that God is revealing to me now are friendships that do not require me to try so hard to be what I believe they want/need from me, they are effortless (I feel), and far more fruitful because my eyes are focused on the Lord (and not the friend - idolatry) and I have no time or energy to try to be nicer or funnier or kinder or whatever - all Kandi is likely to spill out pretty soon - mess that I am, and something amazing is happening - people like me for me. Even though I am a melancholy personality, even though I do not like to talk on the phone, even though I don't know how to have surface level conversation so I can be really intense, even though I am constantly analyzing relationships and conversations, even though I am sometimes awkard or too blunt, even though...all the things that I have long felt that would be barriers to friendship.
And this week, painful as it has been, has been so beautiful, God answering our prayers in ways that are so clear and rich, that I hardly would have recognized before. This season is not done - God is not done stripping me of my "props", but He is teaching me that those things that I have leaned on are unstable, but He is stable.
A friend shared with me some insight from Ezekiel 37 - the valley of dry bones. Consider how God gave the dead bones first sinews (muscles-strength), then flesh (our will), and then skin (our outer appearance) then He breathed new life and put His spirit in us. She encouraged me to consider how first we must be stripped of these things in worldly terms to then have God replace them with His.
Mediate on this Truth, and trust that if God has allowed you to go through a painful season that while the enemy meant it to destroy you, God means it to reveal Himself to you, build relationship, and give you strength, identity, and life that you have never dreamed possible, but first, you must be stripped of your old self. Fear not, dear heart, God is working, He is moving, and this battle has already been won - we are victorious!