Everything I know about loving myself I learned at a gas station

Ok, not really (but kinda). Eh, read on.

God has been working overtime on me lately it seems. As an intro I want to share something I posted in my personal blog a few weeks ago:

I got the most amazing compliment of my life a couple of days ago.

After a very busy weekend and getting to bed later than I anticipated on Sunday night, working all day Monday, going straight from work to a meeting then running to the store for a few groceries, very tired, I stopped for gas on my way home. When I was at Trader Joe’s I bought myself some pretty white and purple (daisies?) because, well, I’m a girl and I need flowers sometimes.

The flowers were sticking out of the grocery bag on the back seat and when I rolled down the window to speak with the gas station attendant, I smiled and made a comment about the weather. He smiled back, responded to my comment, then nodded toward the flowers and said with a wink, “are those flowers for me?” Without missing a beat I nodded in the affirmative and said, “Absolutely – if they’d make you happy…” and I reached around to the back seat, grabbed them, and held them out the window to him.

You could’ve knocked him over with a feather. I sincerely tried to get him to take them, and though he grinned and thanked me, he declined. When I had put them back he held out his hand and introduced himself (Cedric? Fredrick? Drat this memory of mine!). He expressed incredulity that I would do something like that for a perfect stranger and told me he can tell a truly beautiful person when he sees one. He said that most people aren’t like that and told me several times that I was “a beautiful girl” then (and here’s the amazing part) he said I “exemplify humanity – or what humanity should be.” Maybe it’s because I’ve been so tired for the last few days, but that a stranger would say something like that to me…it just touched me very deeply. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. When he finished pumping the gas and I was pulling the cash out of my wallet he said, “you tell your boyfriend I said he is a very lucky man to have such a treasure and he should hold you tight.” I chuckled and said, “if I ever get one, I’ll be sure to let him know.” He looked surprised and said, “what? No boyfriend?! What is wrong with them?!” (Preaching to the choir, buddy…) Shaking his head and “tsk, tsk-ing” he said, “you’re looking in the wrong places, girl…the wrong places.”

At this point I was all set and ready to go so he smiled, waved, and wished me a good night.

It was one of those extra-special encounters with a stranger that puts me in mind of that bible verse about “entertaining angels unaware.” I’ll never forget it or how special he made me feel in those few moments.

Thank you, Father.

This was a life changing experience, but the reason for that didn’t really hit me fully until a couple of days later.

Just over nine years ago I weighed 325 lbs. And let me tell you – I truly hated being so heavy. But even more than I hated the weight and the limitations it placed on my physical abilities, I hated myself. More than one person told me I was pretty (or more accurately, that I had “a pretty face”) but I couldn’t see it. Finally though, one day in May 2008, after more than 20 years of being morbidly obese, it was like a switch was flipped and I was just “ready” to lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers and my weight started to come down. It wasn’t easy and it took a long time (too long in my estimation – especially since my ex-husband lost over 100 lbs in the time it took me to lose 50) but I was doing it. And when my ex and I first split up in 2011, miracle of all miracles, I didn’t regain the 75-ish lbs I’d lost – I maintained. Eventually I lost an additional 39 lbs bringing my total weight loss to 114 lbs. That was in the spring of 2015 and I was 36 lbs away from my goal weight. (36 pounds!!!) But here we are on the cusp of summer 2017 and I’ve gained back some of the weight I lost, so I find myself faced with the daunting task of needing to work to lose it again.

Such a thing should have me feeling pretty horrible, shouldn’t it? I mean – I failed, right?

I’ll be honest. I did feel really bad about myself for a long time. Horrible even. I berated myself (even as I slowly kept gaining weight over the past year and a half), felt like utter crap, and cried whenever I looked in the mirror and tried on clothes that were practically falling off me two years ago but are now too small. I’ve celebrated, rewarded, comforted, and punished myself with food for years – convinced that no guy worth having will ever see past my weight to the woman inside, so what difference did it make? (As if finding Mr. Right is the only reason to lose weight.) <insert sigh & eyeroll here>

“You can’t give away what you don’t have – if you want to love others you need to be filled with love. Period.” — Valorie Burton

But you know what God used that encounter with the kind fella at the gas station to teach me? That I am beautiful. Yep. You heard me. I am beautiful just as I am. You know why?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3: 3-4)

According to the Word of God, I’m beautiful inside (even if my overweight body, with stretch marks everywhere, isn’t). I am not, nor may ever be, a size 10, but if I had to make a choice I would rather have a beautiful heart being made more and more like Christ’s every day than a beautiful body (as defined by Hollywood/society).

You know what’s funny though? The weight is coming off again. Not anywhere near as quickly as I would like, but it is definitely coming off. Truthfully I haven’t stepped on a scale for a while, but a pair of pants I couldn’t even pull on a few weeks ago went on easily and fit comfortably two days ago. God has done some major healing on the inside so food just isn’t as important to me as it used to be.

I guess the bottom line is that, for many reasons I won’t get into here, I never felt like I was enough and couldn’t see any beauty in me at all, so I didn’t think I was worth very much. From the time I was in my early teens until somewhat recently I actually felt as though I had to practically apologize for my existence. I felt like I was intruding on people’s lives just by breathing (no exaggeration).

But I don’t believe that anymore. God has changed me.

I am enough.

I am beautiful.

I am valuable.

And I most certainly have nothing to apologize for – I add to, not detract from, the world.

It’s important to note here that I’m not saying any of this in a conceited “I’m all that and a bag of chips” kind of way. With some help from a terrific therapist, some healing love from some truly wonderful people in my life, but mostly from God (reading His Word and reminding myself frequently who I am in Him), I can honestly say, for the first time E-V-E-R, that I love myself. Again, not in a vain, arrogant way – I just recognize my value as a human being and beloved daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (which, incidentally, makes me a princess), believing I am worth the time, effort, and resources to take care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Thanks to my Heavenly Father, I can, at long last, hold my head high and look the world in the eye. And not because of me – but because of who my Creator made me. I am His.

So while I am definitely going to continue working to lose this excess weight I’m finally, at long last, doing it just for me – not in the hopes of snagging some great guy (because let’s face it – if he’s really all that great he’ll recognize the treasure inherent in winning my heart no matter how much I weigh). I want to move more easily. I want to be able to walk long distances without losing sleep because I’m so much pain I simply can’t get comfortable. I want to be able to be on my feet for long periods of time without needing to ice my knees for hours afterward. But more than anything I want to be able to dance at powwows.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

I’m not stressing about it anymore though because I know I’ll finish it and get down to my goal weight this time. I’ll get there because of my ‘why.’

I’m doing it for me.

And that is enough.

 

Rain, pain, and gratitude – a major “aha!” moment

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18)

God is changing me.

Again.

Still.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Monday was a rainy day. For me, rain = pain. It’s been that way for years and years because of the bursitis in my knees and shoulders (worse in my right knee and right shoulder). I’m one of those human barometers who can tell you when it’s going to rain (or snow) even if there isn’t any in the forecast. Although I (really, really!) wanted to call into work because the pain was pretty intense when I woke up, I pulled on my big girl panties and went anyway, determined to smile my way through the day without complaining.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

I prayed on my way to work as I normally do and, reacting to something God stirred up in my heart, made the decision to be thankful for the pain. No, I’m not crazy (not yet anyway) – I decided to be thankful because experiencing pain means I’m alive and as far as I’m concerned that’s something to be thankful for. (Right?) Really – how awesome is that? I get to be here for another day loving on people and doing what God wants me to do. What an honor! I also decided to use the pain as a reminder to pray for people; every time I feel a throb of pain I lift up whoever God calls to mind right then.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

And then I got a surprise. It would appear as though making the choice to smile, be thankful, and focus my prayers on others, even though I was really hurting, did…something (?)…in the spiritual realm which in turn affected my body.

I think.

Maybe.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

I’m still pretty bowled over by it, but the pain quickly began to recede after making those choices – and following through. Although still a bit stiff and sore for a minute or two as usual when I got up from my chair after sitting for a long time – I’m always fine after I move around for a minute – my knees and shoulders were almost totally pain-free by mid-late morning even though it was rainy all day and into the evening. It’s important to note here that the bursitis flare-ups don’t usually dissipate until the rain is done – and even then it’s not at all unusual for there to be residual soreness for day or two. While I won’t presume upon God by declaring myself completely physically healed without clear confirmation from Him (there are still occasional twinges), I can’t help but wonder if the God-inspired change in my attitude from “oh poor me” while staying in bed and babying myself to “thank you, God, for this pain because it means I’m alive” and “please use this pain to remind me to pray for others” while going to work with a smile, didn’t somehow break some hold the enemy of our souls had on my body (?). I’m no theologian so I can’t say with any degree of certainty that’s why it happened; it’s just an educated guess.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)

The more I think about it though, the more sense it makes to me. Scripture clearly states that a heart at peace gives life to the body and that envy rots the bones – and I don’t believe this is even remotely metaphorical. Matthew Henry agrees: “An upright, contented, and benevolent mind, tends to health.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary) I didn’t waste even a second of my day wistfully watching anyone else walk down the hall wishing I could move with such little effort. In fact, for the first time ever, I was at peace and truly content right where I was at in the midst of some pretty nasty pain. (Which, honestly, is a small miracle in and of itself – I’m not one who normally does well with that level of pain – which is why I usually just stay home and shut out the world if I have to deal with it.)

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

While I don’t believe words themselves have magic powers, I do believe that the things we say affect us – they come out of our mouths, go into our ears, and we internalize them. Our words affect our thought life, which affect our emotions, which affect our belief systems, which affect our actions, which ultimately results in negative consequences in our lives. So if we routinely say negative things about ourselves or someone else, we’re “speaking death” and killing a part of our/their spirit. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that rather than “oh-my-gawding” and complaining about my pain (I don’t usually complain out loud all that much, but I think it’s safe to say I had a grumbling spirit about it as far as God was concerned), I chose instead to be positive, speaking life.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Whatever the “why” though, God is very clearly behind this and I am more grateful than I can put into words.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” (Psalm 28:7)

Addendum: Today, Wednesday, we have more rain moving in, so ordinarily the bursae in my knees and shoulders would be swollen and painful.

They’re not.

Thank you, Jesus!

Well, my Father knows I love surprises…

“Sometimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all.” –Unknown

Something pretty awesome happened this morning.

I need to back up a few years first though. My friend Eileen’s mother-in-law, Anne, has a friend who gave her a prophetic word years and years ago, but it wasn’t for Anne and she didn’t know who it was for. The Holy Spirit impressed the message on her friend, she wrote it out, gave it to Anne, and Anne put it in a pile of papers somewhere and promptly forgot about it.

Then one day many years later, in spring 2014, I was at Anne’s house. We spent some time visiting and some time in prayer together. Afterward she got up and headed for the kitchen, but she suddenly turned and walked over to her dining room table and pulled a piece of paper off the top of a pile of books and papers and said, as she handed the paper to me, “oh! I almost forgot… This is for you. I was going through some of my papers a few weeks ago and I found this – hadn’t even thought about it for years – and God said ‘this is for Lauren.’”

When I read it I was so overwhelmed I cried. I couldn’t help it. That God loves me (ME!) enough to give me that message… There are simply no words.

As much as I loved what I read and hoped it was for then, I knew deep down inside that it was a reassurance for the future. I really feel like God made sure I got it when I did though so I’d know He hadn’t forgotten about me (I had been feeling pretty discouraged) and that no matter what things look like He is at work in and for me. I had it in my purse and let a couple of close friends read it, then, to my dismay, it vanished so I thought I had accidentally thrown it out when I cleaned out my purse. I was devastated because, due to decades of sleep problems, my memory isn’t what it once was. I couldn’t remember it word-for-word. I could remember the general gist, but that was it. I told God that if He wanted me to get the message again at some point that I knew He could make sure it found its way back to me somehow when the time was right. I’ve thought about it from time to time since then, and every time my heart ached over how irresponsible I had been with such a precious gift.

Then this morning, three years later, I went to my bookshelf to find a bible study to do. I wanted to bring it to work in case I was able to go to the library on my lunch break (I wasn’t). But this one book I haven’t read yet caught my eye, tugged at my heart, and I just had to grab it: Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas. When I opened it to glance inside a folded piece of paper fell out into my hands. It was the prophetic word I lost three years ago! (How the heck it ended up in that book I have absolutely no idea…)

I was on my way out the door to work so I didn’t have a lot of time, but, thrilled because it’s exactly what I needed right now, I had to stop and thank Him from the bottom of my heart. My cup overflows.

And I’m definitely reading that book!

 

Learning to Control my Feelings – part one

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” –Zig Ziglar

Yesterday was Administrative Professionals Day. I had an email waiting for me when I got in to work from my former boss, Betsy, who now works at another college, and I got pretty choked up. She has always been very thoughtful and made me feel appreciated. There were a few us in my department who came in to flowers from her on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes, like on Administrative Professionals Day and the first day of each new semester, she bought them, but she picked a lot of them from her own garden (including a pretty, bright yellow flower she grows that smells like chocolate. Seriously. Is there a more perfect flower for a girl?). Of all the ones she brought in my favorites were always the hydrangeas though. I still have the last one she brought in for me before she left last August.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” –Melody Beattie

Anyway, I never heard a peep from my current boss and, I’m ashamed to admit, that stung more than a little. Yes, it’s true. I’m not perfect. (Surprise!) Truthfully I struggle with wanting to be appreciated and recognized for my contributions like many other people, so I kept thinking (quite a few times) that it would have been nice if my boss had even just sent an email saying “Happy Administrative Professionals Day!” I guess Betsy spoiled me. I honestly didn’t expect flowers from my current boss though. Since her office is in a different building, mine is not the face she sees sitting outside her office every morning (still, I’m one of her admins). But again, just some acknowledgement of the day would have made me smile.

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” –John Milton

However, last night when a bunch of negative thoughts flooded in again, it hit me that thinking these things was making me feel down and negative. I don’t like that. There are plenty of things to feel negatively about in this world, but creating negativity is something I try hard not to do. Yet that’s exactly what I was doing. So I talked to God about it and He made me realize a few things. First, like a gardener tending her vegetable garden, I was fertilizing these feelings by entertaining and repeating the thoughts, and this was making the sad and negative feelings grow. Second, He reminded me that I have no right to place expectations like that on someone anyway, but even more so when they don’t know anything about it. How silly and self-centered is that? The woman isn’t a mind reader for pete’s sake. Plus I don’t know what else is going on in her life right now, so how inconsiderate is it of me to expect that she should remember the day? It was one of those “walk a mile in another’s moccasins” moments. Third, it’s not her responsibility to make me smile; and fourth, although I hadn’t actually said, “I’m offended by this” that’s how I was starting to feel. An offense is an “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult” and that’s how I was viewing it – almost as an insult – so it would have taken no time at all for this to blossom into a full-blown offense. But then God reminded me of something else: being offended, or insulted, is a choice. I was choosing to let it bother me. I don’t think we can help it when thoughts just jump into our heads but we can certainly choose whether to entertain or reject them, and I was giving these thoughts importance by entertaining them. So I made the decision right then to reject any further negative thoughts about this. However I don’t think it’s enough to merely stop thinking about negative stuff – I need to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones – with truth.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NASB)

When I read this verse, the word “these” is emphasized in my mind. “…dwell on THESE things” as opposed to dwelling on negative thoughts that a) most likely aren’t even true, and b) are making me feel bad. God is telling us here that we have a choice as to what we think about. He’s not talking about living in denial, rather focusing, or dwelling, on good over evil.

Stated very simply:

“Where the mind goes, the man follows.” –Joyce Meyer

So instead of focusing on my hurt feelings, entertaining the (untrue) thoughts that my boss doesn’t care and I’m not appreciated, I chose to focus on the truth about her: she’s friendly, personable, kind, caring, doesn’t micromanage, she really listens and makes me feel like the most important person in the world at that moment when I’m talking to her about something, and she has expressed appreciation for things I’ve done many times in the past.  Why do I need a special day for her to let me know she appreciates me? Given the choice I’d rather have a boss who appreciates me all year. And while she doesn’t give me flowers like Betsy did, she verbalizes her appreciation. So today is a new day and I’m choosing to thank God for the fact that I not only have a job, but that I have a job I enjoy, working with wonderful people, and for a woman I genuinely like and respect. And you know what? I feel thankful, lighthearted, and joyful today. Thank you, Lord!

“Your joy is yours to have; choose it.” –Dean Shannon

Following Christ

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 – NASB)

I’ve been doing some reading, praying, and reflecting on what it means to follow Christ.

 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:6 – NASB)

The Greek word “to follow” in the verse above (Luke 9:23) literally means “to mimic” or “to imitate.” God is not asking us to follow a list of rules, rather, He wants us to follow – or imitate – Christ Himself. He wants us to walk – to live our lives – in the same way He did. “Christian” means “little Christ,” and like children follow in their parents’ footsteps, so God want us to follow in (or more literally – walk in) His footsteps.

To give you a hokey metaphor, let’s say I need to cross a massive field in the dark and it’s very windy and covered with over a foot of heavy snow. If Jesus has already gone ahead of me and broken a path then the quickest, most effective, and efficient way of crossing the field would be to walk in his footsteps, right? I mean it makes sense to me; rather than going through the arduous, unnecessary, and even potentially dangerous task of breaking my own path, if I’m stepping exactly where He stepped I don’t need to worry about whatever may be buried under the snow – impossible to see. So walking in His footsteps is not only the quickest, most efficient way of crossing the field – it’s also the safest.

Life can be that way, can’t it? Like trudging across a snow covered field on a windy night. We can’t see what’s coming, the wind can keep us off balance, and we can’t even tell if our next step will be solid, if we’ll step into a hole, or worse, find it’s not a field at all – but a lake that hasn’t had time to freeze enough to hold our weight (eek!). But God knows what’s ahead of us and the safest, best way for us to cross the field of life (yes, it’s hokey, but it serves to make my point).

I like what John Gill says in his commentary on 1 John 2:6: (as written in the NIV – “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”) “The “as” is not a note of equality, but of likeness; for it cannot be thought that saints should walk in that degree of perfection, in humility, patience, love, and in the exercise of every other grace, and in the discharge of duty, as Christ did; only that they should copy after him, and make his obedience and life the rule of theirs.”

Think about that. God wants us to make Christ’s obedience and life the rule of ours. The rule – not the exception.

Wow.

Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. When He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane right before He was arrested, He asked God to “take this cup from Me.” He sweat drops of blood at the mere thought of what He knew He would have to endure. And YET…after He asked the Father to spare Him that agony, He also said “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” He absolutely did not want to go through everything He did, but was obedient regardless – doing what His Father asked of Him – to the point of enduring a lengthy, brutal, agonizingly painful death. Knowing this I have to ask myself, am I this obedient to God? Are you? I know I (very!) frequently fall pretty short (as I’m sure you do as well), but this is what He requires of those who claim to follow Him, so although I know perfection is not attainable on this side of Heaven, I love Him so I will never stop trying to get better at this following in obedience thing.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.‘” (John 8:12 – NASB)

I was always afraid of the dark as a kid, and even though I’m not ‘afraid’ of it (per se) anymore it can still be unsettling when I can’t see what’s around me. I am one who really likes to be aware of my surroundings so this verse really resonates with me. I am so thankful that I don’t walk in darkness anymore because I have Jesus, the light of the world, to light my way.

Do you?

Where You Lead, I Will Follow

So I’m posting this a few months late, but better late than never, right? My words for the year have been as follows:

2011 was my year of grace.

2012 was my year of hope.

2013 was my year of love.

2014 was my year of trust.

2015 was my year of faith.

2016 was my year of surrender.

and my word for 2017 is “follow.”

I’ve gotta tell ya’, I had a bit of an issue with that last one at first. My initial reaction was surprise and then I got a little prickly and defensive because quite honestly I have followed God in obedience when what He was asking of me didn’t make any sense whatsoever from a human standpoint. I have chosen to stand completely alone with Him when it went against the advice of every single person who knew and loved me. So it’s not like I don’t know how to follow God, but just like His mercies are new every morning I’m guessing His lessons are too – He’s taking me to new depths of following Him I guess. So continuing last year’s theme a bit, I’m surrendering my preconceived ideas and I’m sitting back and letting Him take the lead.

“Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead” –(Gilmore Girls theme song chorus)

*****

Come and Follow

“Me and Andrew, we’d been fishin’
The best part of last night
We’d caught nothin’ for all our tryin’
Come the mornin’, and the light–
Then I saw Him, out a little ways from the land
He started teachin’ all the people
And they listened there in silence on the sand.

Come and follow, come and follow,
Come and follow, come and follow Me.

When He’d ended all His teaching
He turned around and spoke again to me
He said, “Simon, row out father–
Drop your nets once again into the sea
I said, “Master, we’ve been workin’
Since the sundown yesterday
But one more time, I’ll throw them over
Just because it’s You who say.

Come and follow, come and follow,
Come and follow, come and follow Me.

Now James and John, they’re both my witnesses
To the truth in what I’ve told
How our nets were filled to bursting
More than both our boats could ever hold
And I fell down there before Him
Cring, “Leave me, Lord — I’m full of sin!”
He said, “Simon, don’t be frightened,
Follow Me and you will learn to fish for men. ”

Come and follow, come and follow,
Come and follow, come and follow Me.” –Come and Follow, Don Francisco

 

Laying it all down

white flag

Surrender.

What an uncomfortable word, huh? It certainly was for me when God laid it on my heart as my word/theme for 2016. My first thought was “uh-oh…” One definition of surrender is giving up; but I’m tenacious – when I want/believe in something I don’t give up easily at all – usually not until the fat lady has sung – and even then, like a hungry dog with a bone, sometimes I still hold on. Giving up, even when things look hopeless, simply isn’t in my nature.

But God has been showing me lately that surrender, the way He means it, goes much deeper than that – it’s not so much giving up as it is laying down. Laying down my agenda, laying down my hopes and dreams, laying down the way I think things should be, laying down my plans, desires, and what I want for myself – and being willing to exchange them for HIS agenda, HIS hopes and dreams for me, the way HE thinks things should be, HIS plans, desires, and what HE wants for me.

It’s taken me too many years to count to get to this point, but even now I can feel a small part of me wanting to be rebellious saying, “are you crazy? This (particular desire/hope/dream) is right – and you know it! DON’T GIVE UP!” But I have to give it up, or rather…lay it down. Holding on is very slowly, very insidiously pulling me away from God and where I know I should be heading spiritually.

This doesn’t mean my desire is a bad thing or unscriptural or unChristlike. It’s not. At all. It just means that somewhere along the line this desire became an idol – it slowly changed places with God so He no longer occupied the number one spot in my heart and on my priority list. And that’s just not acceptable to me. I compromised my faith in many ways for a long time in order to keep peace in my home, and when I got divorced I promised God and myself that I would never let anyone or anything come between us again – that He would always be my number one consideration and priority.

Laying anything down that we truly desire isn’t easy, and it’s not a one-time deal. It’s got to be a daily decision. I know I will be tempted over and over to pick it back up and keep holding on. But more than I want that thing, I want God’s best for me. I want Him to be first in everything I think, do, and say. Maybe one day He’ll decide that He wants that thing for me too. Or maybe He won’t. It’ll be easier some days than others to say, “if I never get that thing I’ll be perfectly happy because all that matters is that I’m in the center of His will for my life.” But realistically I’m human and I know there will be (many!) days that it will be as painful and difficult to endure not having it as it would be to literally nail my flesh to the cross.

In more than one place in the New Testament we (believers) are exhorted to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Knowing this I have to ask myself: how easy was it for Jesus to do what He did? I don’t know what was going on inside His head as He went through such a horrific ordeal, but from reading scripture I know that He sweat drops of blood just thinking about it. So if it was that difficult for Him, God in human form, to deny Himself, take up His cross, and do what the Father wanted Him to do, I know I can expect that it will be ever so much harder for me. And as Keith Green was so fond of saying, it’s not a comfy, cushioned, posturepedic cross that God expects me to carry. It’s going to be rough, hard, and heavy; splinters are going to dig into my shoulders, and like Jesus, I’m going to stumble and fall repeatedly under the weight of it. But also like Jesus, I don’t have to carry it alone. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who love me and will come alongside me to help shoulder the burden.

So surrendering can be a blessing – being on the receiving end of God’s love when others help us lug around our burdens, and being on the giving end, sharing God’s love by helping others carry theirs. But make no mistake, as Christ showed us when He laid down His life for us in such a traumatic way, surrendering can also be agonizingly painful – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

So there’s no question: conviction is deeply uncomfortable, repentance is humbling, and surrender hurts. But God’s tender mercy and forgiveness has bathed me in His peace, given me a fresh start, and applied a soothing, healing balm to a raw and gaping wound.

And so it’s a new day.

Weary of the struggle to hold on, I’ve laid my agenda, all my desires, plans, hopes, and dreams at the foot of the cross, and am exchanging them for His.

I surrender.

surrender