My heart beating wildly, I struggled to make sure I had heard right. I asked again for the last name…and I knew it was true. Before I could stop it, words came rushing out, speaking of a time that I had thought forgotten. The very mention of his last night…made my heart beat in panic, made that bitterness boil up, made me see red…and then I tried to move on to the purpose of our gathering.
There were times when this revelation would come to mind throughout the week, though often I was able to distract myself. I wanted to remember to tell my dear friends because they would understand my heart agony, and perhaps justify my rage. The night it had all been revisited in my mind, I had pondered many things on my journey homeward. Sometimes I love the journey home in my car, quiet and some music playing…but more often than not, God catches me in my car and we have conversations about things that I need to come to terms with.
And I have to be truthful and say that one my way home that night, I thought to myself ‘Okay God, that wasn’t very funny. I totally didn’t want to revisit that. But you know what, I think i’m good. So thanks for that.’
This morning (Sunday) on my way to church, the sun shone brightly and I hoped for a day much like the radiance and warmth that had graced us yesterday. On the short journey to church, i revisited what I had learned and remembered, because I wanted to share my disbelief with my friends. I knew that we wouldn’t have time to chat until after church so i didn’t want to forget.
Walking up the path to the doors, I was not ready for what I was about to encounter. My heart began to beat hard as again my mind revisited some of those moments I tried so hard to forget. And while my mind was preoccupied with the fact that there were no people greeting at the door, I looked up to find my vision filled …with a figure standing off to the side of the entrance. And I willed myself to keep walking. I willed myself to not panic as the thought of him had begun in many several times before. I willed myself to not cry, to not wail and mourn…but to let my outside reflect none of the conflict I felt.
inside the door of my church this morning, stood the very person whose name I had heard mentioned this week, who I have not seen in 5 years and whom I was working through my remembrance of. My first reaction, other than ‘Just keep walking Janel’ was ‘ This is NOT funny God. I am not amused right now. What in the world do you possibly think this could benefit my life?’
and when this same person entered the service and sat three rows in front of me, I dismissed myself from the service and went out to catch my breath and perhaps find someone to pray for my hurting heart. I did dialogue with God a bit, tried not to repeat in my head ‘Are you kidding me?!?’ and try to breathe at the same time. I ended up returning to church and making it through the service…but as the final hymn began to play I remembered not only the hurt he had inflicted on m heart and soul, but the ways in which I had been responsible for hurting him as well. And my heart was then overcome with the realization that I had messed up badly, and some of the anger that lay harboured in my heart was the work of my own hands.
I wandered like a pilgrim searching for fresh drink, finding my dear friend and grasping her for dear life. Thankfully where we were was deserted and we were able to talk freely and I poured out the aches of my heart to her. The disbelief of earlier in the week, the remembrances and the running into all in the same week.
As I reiterated to her my statement of ‘God this isn’t funny at all’, She asked me a question that I won’t soon forget…’It could have been God that brought this into your life. But it also could have been the evil one bringing up old news to bring your heart to a place of despair and wallowing’. She continued, ‘it seems to me by saying ‘God, is this a joke?’ that you are implying that he’s somehow up there, looking down on you and amusing himself with your heartbreak. This Janel, is as far from the truth as you could get.’
She challenged my view of God, and I had to admit that I struggle to trust Him. I have a head knowledge of who He is and what He’s done for me, and also the desire He has for relationship with me. Moving that knowledge from my head to my heart or vice versa, or making it a reality, is a different things entirely. That is something I’m striving to come to a genuine understanding of.
As I shared my words with her about who God was to me, tears began to fill her eyes and she began to weep. She shared with me that as I had been speaking about my struggle in my relationship to truly know and be known by my Saviour, she had seen clear as day before her, an image of the Lord as a shepherd. And in his arms, he cradled a sheep, he was speaking gentle words to the sheep, lavishing his love and care upon the sheep…and he had it close in his never ending and enduring embrace. She said the sheep was me. That God longed for me to know him in that intimate way that she had just described. I was reminded of the verse,
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” John 10:14 (KJB)
As I continued to share my heart, I let her know that my heart was starting to fill not only with bitterness and anger remembering my experiences, but also shame and anger over the way I had let myself treat him. I was beating myself up for things I didn’t think I would do as a ‘good Christian girl’. Things that I didn’t want to admit I was capable of, because then i’d have to admit that I am fallible, that i mess up, that its not always about what others have done to me, but rather sometimes what has happened at the blow of my own hand.
My friend, my dear companion on this journey of life, then spoke words of freedom, of liberation, into my life. Words that are still making themselves known in my heart, but words that are TRUTH and are like water to my parched soul, which had been looking so long for answers. she reminded me,
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”Romans 8:1 (NIV)
No condemnation. None. Everything that I had been wallowing in, everything that I had been beating myself up with…all of those things had been washed in the blood of the lamb. Forgiveness and healing must occur, but holding onto those hurts, letting that bitterness and shame push itself down so deep into my very being that I begin to doubt my Father’s unconditional love but instead think of him playing practical jokes on me and causing me pain as I revisit moments over again. I know he wants to work on these things in my life and in my heart. He does not desire to CAUSE me more pain but rather to work through the pain, of removing each of these thorns that wound so deeply and I’ve let fester, rather then letting his healing hands work on them. Removal will be painful, healing comes at a cost…but the freedom found in releasing those chains comes, when the Lamb hears the voice of HER shepherd and comes RUNNING because she knows, without a doubt, that her ‘sins that were once scarlet, have now been made whiter than snow.
there is no condemnation…NONE, for those IN Christ Jesus.
Go forth in this freedom, little lamb.