As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been going through last year's journals, reflecting on what Papa God has done in my life this year.
Two-thousand-sixteen was a year of questions. At one point, I was launching questions at God as fast as I could. I pitched them like fastballs. I was in a place of feeling defeated. I saw how helpless I was to change, comfort, heal, or even help the world around me. I wanted to fix it, and I knew I couldn't. I can't remember exactly what led me to that moment, but I know it had been building up for a while.
In October of 2015, one of my sisters in Christ lost her baby and it ripped me up. It broke me down. Sometimes I flip open my prayer journal and it falls open to those pages where I poured out my heart for God to bring the baby in her womb back to life, and the feelings flood back.
I believed He was able. I was convinced He would.
And He didn't.
Our due dates were only a few days apart, and we were thrilled to be pregnant together, just as we had been with our previous pregnancies. We were trading stories of feeling sick and sluggish, excitedly reporting when we felt kicks, exchanging Trim Healthy Mama recipes that we might be able to stomach.
One day we sat with a group of friends at Denny's, and she commented, "I haven't felt the baby move much..." She had been through a stillbirth before and was concerned. We all tried to reassure her everything was okay. Because things like that surely don't happen twice, right? God wouldn't do that to her again, would He?
But a couple days later, my friend and I sat beside her as our midwife maneuvered a wand over her belly, searching for the heartbeat. And I knew. And she knew. And the whole room knew.
I don't cry much, or at least I didn't back in those times, but I did then. I left the room and sobbed. I called her husband to tell him the news, and then I broke down. Then I sucked all that feeling in, shoved it deep down, and took all of our children to the park with some other friends while our midwife took her to get an ultrasound to confirm.
I held the pain in while I watched her six children happily play with the rest of the kiddos. Each time I felt it become a lump in my throat, I swallowed hard. I held it together best I could as my husband and I and our friend sat on our porch with all of our children sitting cross-legged on the grass and shared with them the difficult news. I tried to be strong as I hugged their teary-eyed daughters.
|My friend's daughter's footprints|
And my strength turned into anger. And my anger turned into heavy questions. And my heavy questions came tumbling out like weights I could no longer hold.
A few days ago the Lord revealed to me that I have struggled with anger my whole life because of one choice I made.
"I will not cry."
And because I refused to cry, refused to allow myself to fully grieve or truly feel anything painful in my life (except on very rare occasions, where I allowed it to leak out for a bit in private, and then quickly composed myself and resumed life), all the hurt and pain gathered together like a cancerous tumor.
Anger was always just under the surface.
While I know I had come a long way in dealing with my anger—I was no longer the explosive time bomb I had been in years past—I also knew I was not healed, and I had long assumed that it would just always be there. I had resigned to struggling through it for the rest of my life.
I had forgotten that in Christ Jesus there is the power of His grace to overcome every sin. There is victory for every battle, and not just partial victory, but total.
Last year, I beat upon the chest of God, and I found that God has a heart that beats for me. On New Year's Day my friend Jane sent me a text sharing that the biblical meaning of the number 17 is "overcoming the enemy" and "complete victory". I do believe that the Lord has spoken that great victories will come in 2017, beyond our wildest imagination.
I wondered what the biblical meaning for 2016 is, so I looked it up. There were several definitions, but the majority pointed to love and loving. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul clearly defines love by stating 16 qualities of love (beginning with love is patient and ending with love never fails). According to biblestudy.org, the 16th time love is mentioned in 1 John, it is to state, "There is no fear in love..." [1 John 4:18].
Something about that rings true for me. There were several times over the last year that I saw that God was teaching me about His love. He was redefining my own definition of what it means to be loved, what love is, and how love looks.
Looking back, I can see that His love for me over the last year, especially the way He refocused my own perspective of His Father-heart, paved the way for my surrender. His love was always pouring out, but I was often oblivious to it. We often don't need God to do anything new to show us His love. We just need Him to take the scales off our eyes so we can see His love.
There's an album by Steffany Gretzinger that I recently came across and have cherished. It's titled, "The Undoing." It doesn't take a genius to see what I find myself listening to it on repeat!
One of her songs, Out of Hiding, goes like this,
"Come out of hiding, you're safe here with me. There's no need to cover what I already see. You've got your reasons, but I hold your peace. You've been on lock down, and I hold the key.I remember making a conscious decision last summer, "Lord, you can open up the flood gates. I will cry." I gave Him permission to do it because I didn't even know how to. I had to give myself permission to be messy and snot-faced and emotional. I had to give myself permission to feel.
'Cause I loved you before you knew what was love. And I saw it all, still I chose the cross. And you were the one that I was thinking of when I rose from the grave.
Here's the girl who, a year ago, wouldn't cry, and now I live on the constant verge of tears, in the most beautiful way. I'm feeling now. My heart is tender now. This huge cancerous tumor of anger has been plucked out, and I've been healed.
I've learned that God can handle my questions. He's a good Father, and He can handle my break downs. He knows how all the gears of Mandy turn or malfunction. He knows it all. I've also learned that He is trustworthy. We say things about the character of God, even do bible studies on it, but you know, it's a totally different thing when it moves from your head to your heart, when it becomes your belief by experience. I know He's trustworthy because I know He's faithful.
And I know that I'm not some special example. I'm just an every day normal girl, and what God is doing for me, He can do for each person. He wants to show us where we've made heart decisions that keep us from receiving His love and truly giving His love. He wants there to be no boundary, distance, or blockage between Him and us.
He is faithful.