Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Dear Broken Girl

Dear Broken Girl,
             I'm a reader. Not just books, but anything with words. My eyes are drawn to wherever there are letters, constantly trying to find meaning from the signs and shapes around me. Today, I sat at the park, the one right on the grounds of the middle school, and I pored over the graffiti-covered table, picking out all the "she loves him" messages and strange initial additions when I saw your message. All it said, in the handwriting of a child was, "Broken Girl."

     I am fairly certain you are a middle-schooler. Frankly, that's a terrible age. I know it isn't comforting to hear that, but I was once a middle school girl, and I have one of my own now. She is bright and beautiful, just as I am sure you are. She is often a giant puddle of tears, too, a mess of emotions she isn't mature enough to manage, floundering in a saltwater sea she created. The hope in this is that it won't last forever. I don't know how old you were when you scratched this into the table, and whether it was in a fit of high drama, or just a small, sad sigh from a soul too old for its body.

    Regardless of the reasoning, (other than the fact, that as a mother, and a law-abiding citizen, I do not encourage anyone to carve into public property) I wanted you to know that I saw your cry. And I have some things I want to say to you:

    At one point or the other, sometimes at so many points that they all seem to connect together in an endless underline of pain, we are all broken. We aren't breaking, or bending, we are past tense, beyond repair. Sometimes the reasons are obvious: a boy, a bad grade, parents who don't understand. Sometimes they aren't even clear to us: just a black hovering mass of thwarted desires, misunderstood feelings and tangled emotions. Sometimes the things that break us are things that will soon be forgotten, but some inflict scars that last a lifetime: abuse, abject poverty, destroyed families, death. But we are all broken: in your case, some of us sooner than later.

    And while I am sure you know that misery loves company, it is never quite satisfying in this case to know that you are not alone. "So what?!" you probably say in the ages-old refrain of teenagers everywhere. Who cares that we are all broken? It isn't the same. No one could understand my unique brand of suffering. No one has ever walked in my shoes.

   And that would be the next thing I would say to you. You may be broken, but you don't have to stay that way. There is Someone who understands your pain, sees how it is as much a part of you as your DNA. How your very identity has become the things that have carved themselves into your heart, damaging you beyond even being able to hope for repair. He's the one who created that DNA-and He has engraved you someplace much more lasting than an ugly green picnic table.

"I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands..." Isaiah 49:15b-16a NIV

    His name is Jesus and He is in the business of restoring broken things, actually, restoring broken people. And He is so good at it He can bring the dead back to life.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3 NIV

"[B]ut it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death  and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." 2 Timothy 1:10 NIV

  He can never forget you-He has a constant reminder of His love for you, right on His hands, where He bears the wounds that He received so that we could be healed.

""He himself bore our sins" in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness: "by His wounds you have been healed"." 1 Peter 2"24

    What breaks us more than sin and shame? Our sin, the wrong things that we have done-you know what they are. They are the things that you want to shove down into the deepest, darkest places inside of you, but instead they throw you in that hole. And you remain there, suffocating under the guilt, trapped by burning shame. Perhaps some shame you didn't bring on yourself, perhaps some you did. But does it matter? All that is down in that hole is your grave.

   And these might seem like things that a middle-schooler can't handle. But you have already handled more than you should. Isn't that part of what broke you in the first place? No one needs to tell you that life is cruel-you learned it before you could articulate what that even meant. You are grown up enough to recognize that things are wrong. But you will never be mature enough to make them right. Thankfully, you don't have to-Jesus came and did that for you.You may think your name is "Broken" but with Jesus it can be changed to "Child of God".

   "See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1a NIV

   I got your wood carved message on a peeling picnic table bottle, cast into the waves of a school yard, in the center of a city that all seems bent on ignoring you, burying you and your cry for help under endless waves of life. I saw your plea, and I am sending back my own message: typed and tossed into the frail bottle of a tiny blog, hurled into the unmeasurable depths of the internet. And you may never see it. But I can promise you this: no matter how broken you are, pieces scattered from here to the sun, He sees you and He is calling you by your true name.

"Now this is what the Lord says-the One who created you....Do not fear, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by your name: YOU ARE MINE." Isaiah 43:1 (paraphrase, emphasis mine)

   He sees. He knows. He heals. He repairs. He loves. And your true name is His.

                                                                                             Praying for you still-
                                                                                                              Clare

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

See What You Want to See

(This is a five minute blog post.)

   What do you see when you see me? To be honest, I'm never really sure. I try to spend less time thinking about what other think these days, so I can spend more time thinking about what God thinks, instead. I don't say that to try to sound holier-than-thou, more that I am prone to be too introspective, too easily swayed by the opinions of others.

   And also because the longer I am around, the more I realize: we see what we want to see. We meet someone new and we instantly start forming opinions, applying adjectives: short, tall, skinny, plump, smart, sweet, in-charge, mousy, silly, rich, frugal, and the list continues on, never-ending. And most of the time we make a snap decision: I do or don't like this person. And then we expect them to carry the weight of our expectations.

   Sometimes this happens in a few moments, other times it can be built out of long-term data: a person's Facebook page, their Instagram account, their family, their other friends, their positions at work, at church. We don't really get to know them, instead we play Sherlock Holmes, collecting information that supports our theories, discarding what doesn't suit.

    But do we really get to *know* them? Very few of us fit neatly in boxes. Very few of us suit the label "perfect". Very, very few of us, when you boil it down to the bare bones, are deserving of jealousy. Very few of us want to incite that feeling in others.

"Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" Proverbs 27:4 NIV
   Sometimes I want to borrow the refrain of the rebellious teenager, "You don't know me! You don't know my life!" Because, sadly, this is often true. You judged me based on what you wanted to see, you never took the time to get to truly know me.

   And the reverse is often true. You intimidated me, you sparked the green monster of envy, you looked pulled together, fit, you were smart and sassy, confident in your decisions. So, I never chose to look past the labels that I slapped on you, perhaps some fitting, others just a mistake made in haste. I never asked you if you had needs, or burdens. I never wanted to let you outside the box I created, it was too much work to re-think things.

   "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2 NIV

   It was too much work to bear with you, to suffer through your ups and downs while suffering through my own. I didn't want to be patient; I wanted you to be what I thought you should be now. Or I thought you were something you weren't, and I was unwilling to see where the road might take us.

   I'm sorry for the times that I only saw what I wanted to see. The times that I missed out on beautiful friendships because of jealousy, or fear, or impatience. I'm sorry for the things you missed out on with me-that I am many, many things, but none of them is perfect. Perhaps the next time we can be brave enough to look past, look through, look into, and not only see what we want to see.

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:11 NIV 

Friday, April 19, 2019

It Is Finished



  Jesus last words on the cross, according to John, were simple ones:

    "When He had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." John 19:30 (NIV 1984)
     At face value, those words seem strange. Almost...anti-climatic. Imagine the disciples, fearful, distraught, confused. Why didn't He say something to them? Something to encourage them in their time of distress? Surely those weren't the words they wanted to hear.

    John doesn't tell us how Jesus said those words, but Matthew 27:50 is similar to  Mark 15:37 which says,

"With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last."

   Jesus spent His last breath, in agony and pain, each gasp of air its own unique, horrible form of torture, to shout these words. Why?

    Don't miss this: as surely as Jesus' resurrection is our promise of  new life, and an eternity in heaven, these words hold life-changing power.

It is finished...
        our penalty was paid.
It is finished...
      His work on earth was done.
It is finished...
      God's wrath had been appeased.
It is finished...
      we could be redeemed.
It is finished...
      the rescue was complete.

IT IS FINISHED....
     THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO BE DONE.

    He did it. All of it. We are given the choice: acceptance or rejection, faith or disbelief. But nothing we can ever do will finish it. Jesus alone could finish the plan to bring salvation, to open the way for the new life that the resurrection would prove. Jesus' resurrection, His triumph over death, can not be overlooked. But the knowledge that our debt had been covered was summed up in those three precious words.

It. Is. Finished.

IT is finished.

It IS finished.

IT IS FINISHED!

    The beauty in those words is exactly the balm a wounded heart needs. The preciousness of those four little syllables is beyond measure. We could never, ever, do the work that needed to be done. We could never, ever, find a way on our own. We could never, ever, work off the insurmountable obligation we had for choosing our own way. On our own we could never, ever, ever, ever be saved. But Jesus.

   Fear has to do with punishment. Our sin merited the worst punishment of all: eternal death. But when Jesus bore our punishment on the cross, our sin, our shame, our death, none of it His.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fear is not made perfect in love. We love because He loved us. 
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us." 
1 John 4:18-19a, 3:1a, 3:16a (NIV 1984)

    Those three little words mean we can have faith in the One who took our punishment, knowing His love for us was exemplified through His death, and through that faith we can be perfectly loved, and in that love we will never have to fear again.

    That is a lot to say in a few little words. But I suppose that since He is the Word (John 1:1) He knew exactly how to get His point across. And, of course, to say just the right thing.

   So, this Good Friday, we can cry aloud with Him, "It is finished!". We can triumph with Him.

Monday, April 15, 2019

What the Heck?!

(This is a 5 minute blog)

    I normally try not to use this space to rant. I kind of feel like that is not beneficial to anyone who might read my blog, nor is it uplifting to me. However, I hope that this post will come across as more thought-provoking than angry, because this is a topic of great interest to me. I'd love to start a discussion if anyone is so inclined!

   So here's the deal: what is up with "Christians" swearing? I feel like this really violates many Scriptural principles, not the least of which is Proverbs 15:26

"The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked,    but gracious words are pure in His sight."
  I do understand that language is fluid, constantly changing and growing with culture and age. However, some words are quite obviously offensive. Therefore, why would someone who professes to be a believer, whose first (and only) goal should be the glory of the Lord, feel that it is acceptable to use words that are known and interpreted by the vast majority of the population as swearing? I saw a post on Instagram today, in reference to *donuts*! that used a curse word. WHHHHHYYY? (This particular shop, to my knowledge is owned by people who profess Christianity, even so much as specifically mentioning Beth Moore and inviting her to their store.)

  Is is to be cool? Because here's the thing: I've never met anyone who was offended by the fact that I don't swear. But the use of swearing makes me very uncomfortable. It, to me, violates the principles of Philippians 4:8, as in it is not something I want to think on. It isn't lovely, it isn't praiseworthy or excellent. Often it seems to demonstrate a lack of command of English, as in, you have a limited number of adjectives to choose from in your stock vocabulary, and perhaps need to visit a thesaurus. It isn't that it is about my personal comfort, though, it is that I don't believe swearing points others to Christ or shows the world His truth.

   Please note that I am not inquiring about the world at large. Those who are not in Christ will speak and act in ways both objectionable and immoral. I am not looking to make them change their ways in order to suit my beliefs. I am speaking to the Christian community, to those who say that they have been transformed, that they are not of this world.

    We have the opportunity to demonstrate how Christ has changed us by allowing our words to reflect Him. If we say that we love Him it should be exemplified by both our deeds *and* our words. Therefore our language, no matter how "informal" should always be Christ-worthy, not cringe-worthy. What do you think?

 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Five Minutes

     Five minutes. It isn't very long, but it can be productive. I haven't blogged in far too long, and I keep thinking about it. Obviously, that isn't translating to action, but over all these months I have appeared quiet my mind has never stopped thinking about posting.

   I think we were made to be productive. We were created in the image of God, and He made all things. He shows us in so many ways through creation that producing, creating, is part of His plan. Yes, there are other places and ways that I "produce" or "create", but none has ever felt so much "me" as pecking away on this little corner of the internet.

   I think my demands for myself are always greater than the ones that anyone else has for me. Heck, half the time I don't think anyone is even reading what I write so why do I insist that it be perfect? It never has been anyway. I want to have a great title, wonderful photos, graphics I designed myself. And I am sure there is a time and place for those things, people who are called to do that. But right here, right now, that isn't me.

   I tried keeping a journal, but it isn't the same. So here I am. I am committing to sit down and write. Even if it is only for five minutes. I won't say that I will do it every day, but my goal is more than once a week. If I get started and want to keep going after five minutes, fine. If not, I am holding myself accountable to this: I will press "publish" before I close my laptop. Even if it is a mess. Even if there are typos. Even without photos. Even if no one reads it. Because I feel like this is something I need to do. I was made to create.

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