Hold On or Be Held?

Holding On
Holding On

As a follower of Christ, I have to give up my need to hold on and learn to be held. Christ didn’t cling to things or people; He rested in His Father’s arms. His life is a beautiful example of the strength found in being held. 1 John 4:18 reminds me of the power of being held in God’s loving hand.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (NASB)

Holding on is about fear. Being held is about love. Human nature and the ways of the world say hold on! Christ says trust God’s love to banish fear. It seems a simple choice, but I find myself holding tightly when I should be relaxing into obedience.

Holding people tightly leads to losing them. Love can only grow when let go. Possessions are more easily held, but there’s no joy in the ownership we think we have. All ownership is merely an illusion. Nothing valuable will be owned; that is particularly true when it comes to love.

No one holds more tightly than those determined to promote divisive doctrines. The body of Christ is a fragmented mess because of the holding and pulling that take place within it. Christ makes His will for His body beautifully clear in John 17:21

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (NLT)

I get very frustrated and sometimes want to head to the mountaintop and leave the messiness of the church. I know God enjoys our special time alone, but I also know He created me for community. He loves Christ’s body, and He wants me to love it too. Love isn’t about fixing or doing for; it is about living and loving honestly and with a whole heart. Sharing my story and my journey with others puts my heart in the perfect position to be held, and that’s exactly where God wants it to be.

Holding on is about my strength and endurance. Being held is about dependence upon God. I can choose either path, but God made it clear this week that being held is the best way to go.

Being Held
Being Held

Broken Bride

I’ve always believed God wanted me to be a bride, but I could never see myself as one. I’ve never really been a bride even though I walked down the isle in a long, white gown forty-two years ago. After a year of dating and a summer of living together, I made it clear to my boyfriend that we were either going to be married or I was leaving. Billy said, “Fine, you pick the month, and I’ll pick the day.”

I picked September because it was August at the time. He selected the 31st, and I was thrilled that he remembered that we had met on the last day of September. I said with surprise, “You remembered!”

He quickly proceeded to recite, “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November….” I cried and told him I wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man on earth. He felt guilty and told me to pick the day. I opted for the 15th and down the isle we went.

Twenty-nine Septembers later, I left a marriage that was never meant to be. I thank God for my son and granddaughters that came from my marriage, but I realized early on that I was not, and never would be, a bride. I missed my chance to be a beloved bride, so I put my fairy tale dreams away.

My idea of a bride came from the perfect princesses of childhood stories. I never imaged a bride could be broken until this morning when God made it clear that His bride is a broken one. The church is described as the bride of Christ or His body to emphasize oneness with Him.  Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit are One; Christ died so we could also become one, as well. Husbands and wives join together in a unique and beautiful union, so Christ used the powerful metaphor to make His point about the power of love to unite.

God knows I am not perfect, but He never expected me to be. He knows His bride is broken; it’s why He sent His perfect Groom. The church isn’t perfect by any means, and neither are the individuals that make up the body of Christ. Christ  finds belovedness where the world sees brokenness. It’s the biggest difference between God’s way and the way of the world. I’ve always seen myself as damaged goods; perhaps that’s why I could never see the beloved bride He created me to be. The use of bride to describe is not about an earthly marriage; it is about my relationship with Him.

A bride loves her groom with abandon and cannot wait to be with him. A groom cherishes his beloved bride more than anything or anyone else. That sometimes changes after the wedding; but before the ceremony, there is an air of exhilarating expectancy in both the bride and the groom. The difference with Christ and His bride is that expectancy becomes eternal exhilaration when they are joined together.

I cannot begin to imagine how wonderful eternity with God is going to be, but I get a sweet taste of it while I wait and prepare my heart to meet Him. Before I can begin to wait, I must first see myself as His beautiful, beloved, broken bride. With the help of His Holy Spirit, I caught a glimpse of that bride in me this morning.

An earthy bride wants everything to be perfect for her special day, but Christ’s bride understands that brokenness prepares the heart for the perfection God will provide when we are finally in His presence and filled with His Son’s precious love.

Falling Up :)

My son Tyler gave Shel Silverstein’s book, “Falling Up,” to me for Christmas one year. He knows how much I love poetry, and Shel’s a favorite. I thought of the book’s cover as God’s powerful lessons became crystal clear this morning. A dear friend reminded me that the journey is about spiraling upward, and as he made a twirling motion with his index finger pointing to God, I realized falling upward is part of spiraling upward because falling is part of the journey.

Life involves stumbles, trips, and flat out falls, and that’s why it’s so important to travel with company. Rita will be out of town for a while, and I’ll miss our long treks up the mountain. I’ll stay near the bottom and circle a lot while she’s gone because I don’t go up alone. It’s not the fear of bears or snakes that keep me from the higher ground; I just don’t want to fall with no one around. I did that at Whiteside Mountain once and drove home a bloody and embarrassed mess!

Having someone who loves me walk with me helps me keep my attention on the path and the beautiful scenery, and that’s where it belongs. It’s easy to lose focus; that’s why I need a loving companion. I can catch them if they trip, and they can catch me when I do the same. If we both fall at the same time, we can still help each get up, dust off, and find our balance once again. It’s not funny when you fall, but I thank God for love that lets us laugh together when wounds are healed and feelings mended:) It’s the beauty of love, and God is the very best example of love that looks at mistakes and finds humor in lessons learned.

There is nothing sadder that someone who has fallen alone or been left behind when they fall by those who don’t care enough to stop and lend a hand. I thank God for surrounding me with loving companions who make my journey a sweet joy and share both the tears and the laughter that come with loving as God desires. Love humbles as nothing else, but it also brings greater joy than anything else in this world. It is a taste of what is to come, and I thank God, the source of all love, for helping me help others when they trip and for putting those in my path whose love lifts and encourages me to keep going.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says it best, Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Words to love and travel by if you want to fall up and help others do the same. Too often we bring others down or beat ourselves up. I’ve done my share of both, and that causes everyone to fall and many to stay down. If we don’t find the courage to get back up and help others do the same, the body of Christ will be less than God desires. If we love as God desires, our falling will result in honest communion and love that makes others see Him in us and in our relationships. That’s what this journey is all about 🙂

Going up :)

Who Are the Poor, Blind, Captive, & Oppressed?

God took me back to Luke 4:14-21 last night and this morning to let me know I am the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed to whom Christ came to preach. I am part of the body of Christ and belong to His church. He is sitting in the synagogue saying to those listening that the Word is being fulfilled right before them.

I don’t like to hear that I am poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. I would rather take those verses and go out and find someone to preach or minister to myself. That’s easier than seeing myself as any, much less all, of the descriptors Jesus used in the synagogue that day. The church was, and still is, guilty of ignoring the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our agendas and programs take the place of worship, and we are just too busy doing His work to notice our own desperate need for Him.

Christ has a simple message, the same one He had for the synagogue. He came that our spiritual poverty could become His abundance. He opens our eyes to Who He is so we can see God and worship Him with abandon. He frees us from the captivity of rules and agendas. He lifts the stress of doctrines and denominations so we can find the unity He so desires.

When it comes to unity, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 says it best.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a partof the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.  If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

Finding the beautiful unity of one Spirit is impossible as long as we worry about individual recognition, rules, doctrines, denominations, and agendas. If we truly hear God’s Word, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and look to Christ’s beautiful example, it is possible to have the unity Paul describes so vividly.

I have the Children’s Story again this week, so I expected a difficult lesson as I prepared my heart for it. I wasn’t prepared to hear that I was poor, blind, captive, and oppressed, but I needed the humbling message. He knew that better than anyone. Glad He is patient and loving. May I be the same:)