Wednesday, January 23, 2013

letting go: when your bitter collides with His sweet

God has been revealing a lot to me over the past few weeks.   I suppose I am writing in reverse.  A few posts ago I summarized how much in the kingdom of heaven appears upside down and backwards to us here on earth, and how It's Possible That through the brutally bitter act of letting go, you can collide with Him in the succulently sweet.  But I left few details as to my arrival here.

In my previous post I shared how one of the keys to walking in victory may be found by taking control of one's thought life. How by allowing Jesus to be thick in my thoughts, He was making me a conqueror in Him.  While that is a key, it's not the only key to walking in victory.  There's something that must happen first to ensure victory.  Something more profound that begs to take a closer look.

The act of surrender.

What does this really mean?  I've struggled here for some time.  In fact, I remained in denial here for a long time.  Truly convinced that I was doing all I could to follow hard after Him and live my life in full surrender, yet finding myself walking in defeat time after time.  With the tension building.  But over the past few weeks, when I hit a depth of low I hadn't yet reached before, I begged God to reveal to me what needed to be changed.  There seemed no way out of our circumstances.  That we were just drowning in ruin with no where left to turn and no easy or quick way out of it all.  Desperate for change and relief and willing to do whatever He was asking us to do.  Anything.  Anywhere.  We just needed Him to lead us and show the way.  What He revealed humbled and took me by surprise. Sometimes, that's the only way He can grab our attention.

Surrender.
It begins here.
In the sometimes brutally painful act of letting go.
Letting go of dreams.
Letting go of plans.
Letting go of what's near.
And comfortable.
Of what "should be."
And of what seems "right."
Surrender.

God showed me that I had been holding on to a lot more than I had been willing to admit.  For me, it was the dreams and plans I had for our family...how I felt my story should turn out, and what I felt would be the right ending.  Dare I say the "deserved" ending?  I was trying to write the answer to the formula of my life's equation.  I wanted to be the poster couple for, "Obey God and He will bless you!"  or "Take a risk and leap of faith and the LORD will bless you for it!"  I wanted this happy ending.  I wanted others to see this come to fruition in our lives, that when you are Spirit-led and follow and obey God, it works out.  He blesses obedience and perseverance.  This is true.  The problem is, I was putting the terms and conditions on the blessings.  Expecting that if I behaved this way...then God will in turn behave this way (the way I desire and see fit).  I was placing unfair expectations on God and even on my husband...secretly believing for months on end of this long journey that if my husband could get his spiritual act together, then God would bless us in "this" way.  Boy was I wrong.  I won't deny that an ugly sense of entitlement was shamefully revealed.  With every bit of holding on, God began painfully peeling back layers from my heart and exposing things I didn't want to face or take a look at.

With every ounce of my being I believe that our decision that has led us to this circumstance was Spirit-led.  I believe our motives and desires to follow His lead were pure.  The LORD gave green lights and confirmation to us every step of the way.  He led me to scripture that encouraged and moved us along in our journey.  And He repeatedly brought me back to this same scripture revealing new things in time. We knew it was of Him.  And I praise Him today that He made this so evident and known to us that we wouldn't have to stand here years later and doubt.  I haven't doubted the decision.  But, I've doubted His purpose.  I couldn't let go of the idea that God would lead us somewhere that would circumstantially devastate us.  But He did. There's no good reason to try to play the "what if" game.  The bottom line is, He allowed it. I haven't been able to let go of my interpretation of His leading and my expectations in how He would bless us.  I couldn't accept the fact that perhaps He led us here solely for spiritual purposes, that the blessings are found here, even though I was expecting something much different. And the more I hung onto that dream, the more I found the tension building and the days of defeat collecting.

It's very easy to follow His will for your life and somewhere along the lines tangle your own will up into His.  It's too easy to begin focusing on the problem, the lacking, the disappointment and expectation, and lose sight of the things in life that really matter.  Eternal things.  When you are in real need, it's hard to focus on anything besides those real tangible needs being met.  But God kept peeling away until I could.  Until I did.  At times I cried out to Him in utter desperation and fear, telling Him that I didn't think I could possibly bear being stripped any further.  That there was nothing left of me and if He took any more, I feared I would be left in a pit of ruin and faithlessness.  I begged Him not to, telling Him there was nothing left to take.  Nothing left to work with, but a shattered pile of brokenness on the floor.  But He kept stripping and peeling and exposing, till this heart of mine felt nothing but pure and painful rawness.  And it's there that I realized that when you are at the end of yourself, with nothing left, you find there is more than enough of Him.  That when you feel life is broken and shattered, He's underneath you with His everlasting arms, holding every shard, piece by Peace.  When you are pushed to this point of helplessness, you discover the true source of your Hopefulness.

And you give in.

You decide that all you have is His.  And you place it all back into His lap, in complete trust.  Every broken dream and shattered shard of hope becomes His.  You choose to believe that in His Sovereignty He knows what is best for you. You let go of what you think is best, stop asking why, stop placing expectations on Him or others, and trade in your plans for whatever He has in store.  And you accept it with gratitude, for you believe in His Word and His promises even when life has disappointed you, brought on the fearfully unexpected or unknown, and has forced you to move on to Plan B.

You surrender.

Acceptance doesn't mean you give up on your circumstances.  It doesn't mean you stop having dreams and desires.  In full surrender you make a decision to look beyond your circumstances and trust that His purposes are good and right.  And you let go of all the things that are holding you back from doing so.
You'll be surprised at the beauty you find in this.  Your bitter collides with His sweet and transformation takes place.  For me, it was almost immediately.  As if a veil had been lifted.  Perspective becomes anew. In sorrowful repentance, you realize the depths of your own nothingness and what you really deserve in this life.   And then you can't help but wake up each day with a heart bursting over with utter gratitude.  Surrender becomes sweet and covered in His joy and unsurpassable peace.

As I've been mulling over these things this past week, God kept leading me back to this verse:

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it." Mark 8:35

Matthew 10:39 says it this way, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

And again in Luke 9:24, "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it."

Did you know that this truth is quoted 5 times in the gospels? (Also in Matthew 16:25 and Luke 17:33). Obviously, Jesus was trying to tell us something here and really wanted us to listen.  I know these verses have a lot to do with serving and pouring our lives out for others and for Him.  But as I began to study these verses further, they spoke directly into my circumstances and to my personal act of letting go.

I'm not a Bible scholar, so bear with me here...The Greek word for "lose" in these verses is "apollumi," which means "to destroy fully." It comes from the word "apo," (which when used as a prefix usually denotes "separation" or "away from something near"), and from the base word "olethros," which means "ruin or destruction." Before studying this verse and digging deeper into the meaning, I wrote of "devastation" and "ruin" in my previous posts.  This resonated with me for I understood what it means to feel "destroyed fully, ruined, and separated." It's no wonder God led me to this verse at this time. (or shall I say, it was in His Wonder-ing that He led me here).  Much of the tension I was experiencing in life was a result of me holding onto God with one hand and whiteknuckling my own dreams with the other.  Personal hopes and dreams that were near to me and treasured, that I was unwilling to give up and be separated from.  To lose one's life, to let go and surrender, there must be a destruction, ruin, and separation of will and self from that which is of God.  This is the bitter.

But don't stop here, we haven't yet gotten to the sweet.  In researching the word "find" in these verses, I discovered the obvious.  The Greek word for "find" is "heureo," which means "find, get, obtain..." But, it also means "perceive or see." Again, I'm beginning to fully understand the truth behind these teachings.  When we lose our life for Him, we find life.  That "finding" is often found in the "perceiving."  In surrender, God transforms our hearts which changes the way we perceive Him and the life around us.  My husband and I haven't had a change of circumstance, yet our perception to things around us has changed and given us a new outlook.  One that beholds Hope, Peace, Joy, and Perspective. This is His sweet.

And one last note about this verse...when looking up the Greek word for "life," ultimately it means "heart, life, mind and soul."  But the Greek word corresponded to several words in Hebrew including, "breath, spirit" and "alive or raw."  It made me ponder the thought that perhaps it's in the breathlessness of our letting go, in the rawness of our bare hearts and brokenness, that He is finally able to breathe into us new life and make us come alive in Him.

The Message translates Mark 8:34-37 as this:
"Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead.  You're not in the driver's seat, I am.  Don't run from suffering; embrace it.  Follow Me and I'll show you how.  Self-help is no help at all.  Self-sacrfice is the way, My way, to saving yourself, your true self.  What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?  What could you trade your soul for?"

Letting go.
Sweet surrender.
This is the Grace we catch in the fall.
The end of ourselves that denotes the very beginning.
The colliding of our bitter with His sweet.

And this, my friends, is something worth holding onto.

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful post - thank you for sharing your heart and faith. Letting go is hard. . .I'm in the process of some of that too. I know it will be worth it as I follow the One who has a plan for me!

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  2. Amazing and beautiful as always. You have the amazing ability to write what so many of us feel but cannot express. And you do it so gorgeously.

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  3. Joy- your letting go is degrees deeper than mine. and with that depth you'll also find a deeper measure of grace that He will pour out onto you. indeed, He has a plan for you. in many ways, i already see it coming to fruition, and i know the fruit of it will be fragrant and overflowing. thanks for visiting my blog. ALL glory to Him!

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  4. Aimee-
    thank you. all credit and glory to God. there is nothing good in me apart from Him. writing is a passion and if i can encourage others in the process and use my abilities for Him, it has purpose and i will continue to do so. He is always worth the risk of sharing.

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  5. I have no words. Your words, however, are stunningly raw and real and powerful. Lovely - as always - and true.

    LOVE YOU!

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  6. Amanda, I stuck with reading all the way through and am glad I did. It was hard for me to read though with the colored background under your beautiful words.
    Diana

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  7. Diana- thanks for visiting, and thank you for your feedback! It's funny because the blog background is supposed to be white and my text should be in black. I'm not sure what happened with my formatting...but I'll look into that. I know how distracting that can be! Thanks for noticing and pointing it out. Bless you!

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  8. Beautiful post, Amanda! I once wrote a message about hope and disappointments. In it I wrote: "Hope keeps us trusting God to work our disappointments out for our benefit. Many times our expectations lead us to disappointments. We expect something to happen a certain way, but then we get disappointed when it doesn’t work out the way we planned. Hope, on the other hand, trusts that God gives us what we need, even when it’s not what we want."

    It's hard when we are going through a disappointment to see that it's for our benefit. But God is faithful. Eventually we begin to see that He is with us and there is a good reason that we need to go down this road.

    Thanks for sharing your heart. It really blessed me! You and your family are in my prayers. Blessings to you:)
    Amanda

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