July 24, 2012

Do I Belong?

I wrote this post for Internet Cafe Devotions. Even though it ran last week, I thought I'd share it here.

She was in seventh grade and excited to finally be in one of the popular crowds. Then one day her best friend—a girl she idolized—handed her a note. As she read the scribbled words, tears burned her eyes: “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.”

And just like that, it was so.

The rest of her friends followed the note-writing leader because that’s what middle school girls do. With one swift kick they booted her out. Yesterday’s friends now ignored her and talked about her. She was rejected, alone and heartbroken.

“What did I do? Why me? What’s wrong with ME?”

Through the rest of middle school she chose isolation rather than facing the pain of possible rejection from new friends.
Oh, middle school is a tough road for young girls to travel as they struggle to find their place in the world. Their transparent actions cry out, “Do you see me? Am I worthy? Do I fit in?”

As adults we say, “Whew! I wouldn’t want to go through that again!” and take solace in the fact that rejection like this ends in middle school, and that we’re so self-confident and secure now.

But are we?

Loneliness, depression and anxiety are epidemic among us. We may have figured out how to put on our big girl pants and get through the day to day, but inside so many of us carry wounds from life’s disappointments, hurts and rejection. Time and again we’ve wondered, “Do you see me? Am I worthy? Do I fit in?” Often the world has answered—or our inner voice confirms—“No.” We live believing the lie.

There’s a woman in the Gospels who knows about rejection. For twelve years she bled and no doctor could make her well. Because she was perpetually unclean she knew oh so well what it was like to have people move aside when she walked by. To be talked about, excluded and ignored.

After twelve years of living as an outcast, surely she craved acceptance, human touch and affirmation. When she cried out, “Do you see me? Am I worthy? Do I belong?” a “No!” filled her ears. I imagine the pain of loneliness was even greater than the pain of her illness.

Then one day she heard Jesus was coming. In her heart she knew this was her chance for healing! Desperate for a cure, she gathered her courage and pushed through the crowds. Finally she came behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak. Her bleeding immediately stopped.

Despite the crowds crushing against Him, Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’” (Luke 8:45, 47-48)
Jesus’ response touches the women in her most broken places.

Where she’d long received rejection . . . Jesus offered acceptance.
Where she was used to being invisible . . . Jesus saw her, and called her forward.
Where she’d wanted to remain silent . . . Jesus asked her to testify.
Where she expected to be chastised . . . Jesus praised her faith.

This woman pressed through the crowd that day with so many labels dragging her down— bleeder, unclean, outcast, unloved, unworthy, disgusting.

Jesus knew it wasn’t just her body that needed healing. With one touch He stripped away the lies of who she thought she was and showed her exactly as God sees her: Daughter. His actions proclaim, “I see you. You are worthy. You belong…to me! Now go in peace.”

Where are you most broken? Where do you need healing? What lies block the truth of who you are in God’s eyes?
What Jesus said to the woman, He says to you.

He sees you. He adores you. And He claims you as His own—Daughter. Reach out to Him in faith . . . for just a touch.

July 13, 2012

I'll Have What She's Having

We sat in a circle, talking about repentance and freedom and deliverance and victory. What does it mean? What does it look like? And one question kept coming up, “How? How does this happen … and how can this happen to me?!”

We tossed around thoughts and a few personal stories. We looked up scripture. Then one friend shared her experiences.

It was the kind of testimony shared with fellow sojourners, not casual seekers. She talked about intensely difficult struggles, about shattered expectations and disappointments so great they took her breath away—and knocked her to her knees, literally. As the storms raged, she went to her Lord. In sorrow she prayed. In anger she prayed. Through tears she prayed. Through confusion she prayed. With love, she prayed. With gut-wrenching honesty she prayed.

Through days and months and years, she brought her broken parts to the cross. To Jesus. She’d give and He’d take away.

Did He make the storm stop or give the answers she sought? An outsider might look at the evidence and say, “No.” But as we listen we know differently. Jesus might not have changed her circumstances, but He changed her heart. The more of it she gave, the more of it He transformed. Her spirit shines so radiantly that everyone sees the light within.

As she spoke, it struck me—this is what faith looks like. The persistent, passionate, pursuit of our Savior. The willingness to trust, regardless of the outcome. The courage to come with open hands and let go of whatever holds her back, no matter how precious it is. The desperate need for divine sustenance. The humility to realize when she’s getting in the way of God’s doing … again.

Surely this is why she has a faith we admire, and has experienced deliverance again and again.

Looking at my friend’s walk with Jesus, I think about the line from When Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

I’m tired of the status quo in my faith. I’m tired of believing the lies of the enemy. I want the kind of deliverance that Jesus promises in the Bible—not as an eventual victory in eternity, but as a here and now reality. I want to walk in the power of the Spirit and be used by the Lord to do great things for His kingdom. I want to get out of my own way and stop tripping myself up before I even get started.

How about you? So many women I’ve met through the years want a deeper faith. They want to forgive or change or heal or experience intimacy with God. But they are stuck and discouraged.

Jesus didn’t walk this earth and die on the cross for us to live this way. He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

So what’s the difference between us (or at least me) and my friend? I’ll tell you one thing is clear. She approaches her faith like an athlete in training. Disciplined, obedient, committed, passionate. She puts in the time, works through the pain, looks to improve and stays singularly focused on the goal—Jesus.

If you, like me, want to experience the abundant life that Jesus promises. Here are some bad habits I’ve observed that WON’T get you there:
  • Just going to church on Sunday and spending a few minutes every day reading devotions
  • Holding Jesus as arms’ length
  • Adding faith as a hobby or an accessory to life
  • Not reading the Bible
  • Sitting back and hoping for the best
  • Dictating the outcome
  • Giving Jesus your leftover time and money
  • Thinking, “I’m not that bad”

As the author of Hebrews tells us,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (12:1-3)

Paul instructs, “Run in such a way as to win the race.” Win the race. Not participate in, observe or dabble in.

Run.To. Win.

Where are you in the race?