Yikes! It has been a while since I’ve written. The last two months have certainly not been short on revelation, God-encounters, blessings, challenges, and just sweetness. At the conclusion of what has without a doubt been the best birthday week in all my 23 years, I’m writing from a place of overflowing joy.
God has been so faithful to bring me everything He promised I would find here in Waco: His presence daily, growing my faith and understanding of who He is and who He says I am. Rich relationships — the kind of friendships that I already can not imagine my life without. The best possible place to grow my marriage, in intimate community and in the presence of the Father.
I think if I had to put this experience into one short phrase so far, it would be this:
Surrendering my whole self to see the deeper things of God.
My whole self. That’s been the challenging part. One thing I’ve always known about myself, as the poster child for “Middle Child Syndrome,” is that I am very independent. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing — I think my adventurous spirit that’s willing to take risks comes from that place of independence.
What is dangerous, however, is my tendency to withhold myself from intimacy because of that independence. I’ve noticed patterns of that in the last few months in my marriage. It’s just little things, like my default response when Noland asks if he can help with something being, “No, I’ve got it under control.”
Yikes. Did you catch that last word? Control. Independence can easily and sneakily turn into control. That’s when things go from bad to worse. So I was noticing these things in me, and noticing that I would get so easily irritated when my idea of how things should go didn’t come to pass. I wanted to control situations and have the independence to do them the way I wanted. I knew this needed to be dealt with somehow, and I had begun to ask God to search my heart for those places.
During her teaching about two weeks ago, a woman named Stef Herber spoke directly to all of these things in my heart. I began to wrestle with them even more. The next day, she walked up to me at the end of class and said she just felt like God was wanting to take me to deeper places with Him, but there was maybe a place in my heart that I hadn’t fully let him into. (We hadn’t met at this point, by the way) So she asked if she could just pray for me, for deeper places with God.
Of course I said yes, and then I told her that I so closely related to the things she had talked about the day before with independence in her marriage early on.
I was moving closer to a place of breakthrough in that area after hearing her speak that week.
All weekend after that, I kept asking God to show me those places in my heart and help me to let Him in there.
That Saturday night, I had a dream. In this dream I had all these sores all over my arms, they were like bubbly blistering sores. One of them was opened up and just really gross looking. So I went to see a doctor, and this is what he said to me, “This isn’t a life threatening issue, it’s just a bad health issue. This is unhealthy decisions surfacing in your skin, and it will go away if you just learn to say no to some things.”
Then I woke up. I knew that God was trying to speak through that dream. I woke myself up enough to process a little bit of what I’d just seen and heard in my dream, and then I went back to sleep. (It was like 3 a.m.)
When I woke up, I had this dream in the back of my mind, wondering what God had to say to me about it in my time with him that morning. I also woke up, for some reason, wanting to know what I had done with my Jesus Calling devotional when we moved. I felt like I needed to read it that morning, so I went and dug it out of the bottom of a box. Ten minutes later I learned that was totally the moving of the holy spirit, because it said this:
“To live in my presence consistently, you must expose and expel your rebellious tendencies. When something interferes with your plans or desires, you tend to resent the interference. Try to become aware of each resentment, however petty it may seem. Don’t push those unpleasant feelings down; instead, let them come to the surface where you can deal with them. Ask my spirit to increase your awareness of resentful feelings. Bring them boldly into the light of my presence, so that I can free you from them.
The ultimate solution to rebellious tendencies is submission to my authority over you. Intellectually you rejoice in my sovereignty, without which the world would be a terrifying place. But when my sovereign will encroaches on your little domain of control, you often react with telltale resentment.
The best response to losses or thwarted hopes is praise: The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Remember that all good things — your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time — are gifts from me. Instead of feeling entitled to all these blessings, respond to them with gratitude. Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of my hand.”
So obviously at this point I just laugh and say, “OK God, I hear you!”
I asked him exactly what this devotional was saying I should ask him. “God, would you make me more aware of my resentment when my independence and my domain of control is encroached by YOUR sovereign will?”
Of course, since I asked, He answered. The next day I just had one of those Mondays. I was tired, I had been in class all morning and taking care of three needy kids all afternoon, and I was hoping (without communicating said hopes) that Noland had just thought about/taken care of dinner and whatever else needed to be done around the house before I got there. So when I got home and he hadn’t, I was instantly frustrated.
This came at just the right time, as friends were coming over to pray together about church planting. My mind is obviously set on eternal things at this point. (Not) So I left the house, drove around, cried, prayed, and reentered the situation with a heart that was in a better place to pray with this group of people.
As soon as they left, though, all that resentment came right back once it was just Noland and me in the house. Noland of course has no idea that I’m frustrated at this point, so he’s just walking around the house doing his own thing while I’m fuming on the couch. I called him into the living room and told him I felt like we needed to talk through some things.
I explained what I’d been dealing with in my heart, that I just felt chaos and we need to do a better job of trying to organize our lives together so we can avoid those chaotic times of conflict. I cried through most of this conversation. And I just still felt frustrated. I was still holding on to resentment.
Noland reached down to pull me up from laying on the couch so he could hold me, which is of course sweet. What do I do, though? I snap! My response was, “Why don’t you just ask me to sit up, I’m perfectly capable of sitting up on my own.”
So he says so sweet and tenderly, “I just want to hold you because you’re upset.”
And as soon as those words came out of his mouth, I heard that still, small voice of God in my mind say, “You do that to me, too, when you do that to him.”
At that point I just broke. I cried for like 15 minutes. I apologized. More so to God than I did Noland.
But in that same moment, as much as it hurt, something was breaking off of me. I felt a freedom from that independent spirit. I felt the love of God through the arms of my husband as he held me and prayed over me. I knew in that moment that God had been faithful in what I’d asked him for: to bring my resentment to the surface and reveal to me the places where my control and independence are keeping me from his will.
The lesson learned here, really, wasn’t that I need to be less independent and controlling so I can be a better wife — although that’s certainly a positive outcome. It was that I was keeping myself from intimacy with God in this one small compartment of my heart, and when I searched my heart and found it, he blew the doors right off of that compartment and he came in and filled that place.
In return I received so much joy, so much peace, and so much new understanding and revelation of who God says I am.
He taught me that when I press in to him in the hard places, he takes me even deeper into the things of him. And he reminded me that when I ask him to give me something, he always comes through.
Why wouldn’t Dad respond joyfully with a “yes” when we ask him to help us know more of him?
That’s what this season has been about. Ask for more. Go to the places that hurt at first and watch him redeem them. And then get even more than you even knew how to ask for. There is always more of him!
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”