Faith · friendship · Motherhood · Real Christianity

When You Decide to Live Wholly

2cor517About four years ago, I made a big decision. I was going to take this life of faith seriously. I was going to listen to the Lord and see where he led me.

I was going to see what all these people meant through these terms “Give it all to God” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” I honestly felt a lot of that was all platitudes and a little bit fake.

I thought that praise music was stupid. And I often felt lost and unaffected by the Bible. I felt like it was overwhelming. I can honestly remember opening my Bible and starting to read the book of Isaiah and shutting it because I was just overwhelmed. It didn’t register as truth, but as confusion.

I started one of those read through the Bible plans. I was pretty dedicated to it. I got through some tough books. I loved Genesis. I loved Exodus. Then I got into Numbers and Deuteronomy and Leviticus and Job. Some was awesome. Some of it put me to sleep.

Some of it started to stir my heart.

I honestly felt like Job would never end. The depression was almost too much for me. But I noticed that he would not renounce the Lord. And then I got to the part where the Lord speaks. I was overwhelmed with the majesty of God and the mercy he placed on Job’s life.

I also started to write my prayers down. Not every day. But some days. And then some days became most days.

I started to teach my daughter the Bible. I learned so much from a storybook Bible. I actually began to understand the love God has for me from a storybook Bible.

I started to listen to praise music. I still didn’t love it, but it started a change in my heart. I was no longer angry in traffic. Now, it’s often all you’ll find on my car radio. It’s my preference.

Practicing the life of following Christ is not comfortable. It’s not fun. It does not meet any of my human expectations. But it does keeps its promises. God keeps His promises. But the character of God is not what you expect.

It’s not a 10 steps to a new life kind of plan. It’s a plan with struggle and blessings and results and more questions. It’s a plan of letting go of the you you think you are and becoming the you you were meant to be.

I learned a couple of things through this early process and they led me what I’m talking about today.

Just because you make a decision of faith doesn’t mean everything is perfect. You accept the free gift of salvation, but your life doesn’t miraculously become flooded with gifts and riches and all your problems disappear.

Actually, your life is flooded with gifts. They just don’t look anything like your expectations. When you choose to walk in faith, it’s a path to healing your broken heart. You gain the gift of strength beyond your own. You gain a new perspective. You start to see others like God sees them.

You start to believe you are loved without question, without expectation. You start to see hope flooding into your heart even when you promise yourself that there will always be a wall of protection from hurt. You feel profound pain surface even after you’ve pushed it down for years, but the miracle is that you see it walk away never to return.

You see your cracks filled in with grace. The grace that fills in your cracks is so astounding that you want to help someone else understand they don’t have to live under the weight of lies or walls of protection. I lived under all these rationalizations that I could never get to a place of peace with my pain. But when I really examined them through the lens of God’s grace and mercy, they didn’t add up anymore.

So I threw them away. I no longer saw the value in carrying around rationalizations to hide my pain. It’s kind of like carrying all those receipts in my wallet. The money was spent, the food eaten, the clothes worn. Why do I keep them? Because I’m too lazy to throw them away. So, I started to examine them and dispose of them. And replaced them with truth. I’m a loved daughter of the King of Kings and if I’m going to share this love with others, I need to walk the walk and talk the talk.

When you share the love of Christ, you grow strong and bold and wake up healed. I’m not kidding about this. I really started to see a real change in my heart when I started to live in the purpose God made for me. I was breath-taken by my ability to connect with others.

For so many years, I’ve hidden behind a wall of glass looking into the lives of others wanting so badly to have the friendships and connections they had. In a way, I coveted the idea of friendship because it was the thing I struggled with the most.

But last month after a major setback in my journey, I made a new decision. I decided to pray when I felt the rejection of other people. And I examined this rejection. And realized a lot of it was my own expectation of other people. I was expecting to be rejected before there was even a connection. I also accepted that not all people are where I am. And that’s ok. There’s room on this journey for all of us.

So, I started praying through it. And then I did something bold and risky, which is not really my human nature. But it is my new nature.

I started baring my soul – on this blog and in conversation and in my prayer journal. When I became vulnerable – willing to let someone see the deep recesses of my heart – I found peace. And I’m finding friendships. Real friendships built on the unspoken connection of “me too.” What a blessing it is when we let go of our heart of stone and reveal our heart of flesh.

I found that peace that passes understanding. I found that profound strength that is not my own. I literally felt the presence of God come down and sit beside me when I prayed for someone else or spoke life over someone. When I gave unto others, my peace was sealed. When I gave up my life, I got a whole new attitude and peace is what follows that decision.

I woke up in hope and not doubt. And I woke up without the pain or expectation that my day was going to be fraught with doubt. I woke up with a drive to do something better than the day before. I woke up with a desire to serve the Lord with my whole heart.

The month of October of this year was an amazing month for me. I got to see something extraordinary happen in my life. Anxiety no longer runs my life. The more I poured into other people – serving them – with words of life and grace, the stronger my core felt.

I stopped giving my old self dominion over my heart. As Chris Tiegreen puts it in the Romans Bible Study I’m in:

“More than that [to not let sin reign], we are to make conscious choices to not present ourselves (or any part of ourselves) as tools of unrighteousness but instead to present ourselves to God for His righteous purposes (Romans 6:13). Sin no longer has dominion over us because we have stepped out of our repeated, failed attempts to live up to a standard of righteousness, accepted God’s radical grace, and submitted ourselves to His transforming work, which makes us righteous from within.” (Romans, Explorers Bible Study, p. 91)

I found a purpose – my God-given purpose. My husband told me this extraordinary healing was because I was living my purpose. He sees me the way God sees me. And I’m finally seeing me the way God sees me. Redeemed. Loved. As a vessel of His love and grace. I don’t deserve any of it, but He gives it to me anyway. He gives it to me so that I can show others the hope that is in me.

Forgiving yourself and others releases the final chains on your heart. Holding on to pain is selfish and a way we think we can control our lives. But if you really believe God has the best for you ahead of you, you have to let go of that pain and forgive the ones who hurt you. You have to make a daily choice to let the pain die at the cross.

You have to take those old hurts and put them down. They do nothing for you. They do no one any good. Sure, you’re scared to see what life is like without pain to hedge you in. But when the grace of God hedges you in, you still have protection. Protection of your wholeness.

In Psalm 91:14-16, the psalmist writes:

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

Alexander MacLaren, a Scottish pastor and Scripture expositor, calls this section of the Psalm “The Answer to Trust.” I love this. God loves me and offers me all of this just because I trust him. He protects you from the fear. He makes you whole. He delivers you from the lies.

When the devil is on the prowl, you are prepared for battle. I went away this past weekend to spend three days with the Lord – serving, singing, training up my heart. And I returned to my regular life with a plate of hardship that would normally knock me off to a place of criticism, self-doubt, panic, worry, yelling at my kids, pulling away from the people who love me, going through the motions, being over it all the time, being tired before the day began.

I fully expected the old patterns to take my heart and wrap it in lies. But I fought back. I prayed when the pain tried to invade my cracks. I told the pain where it would lay – at the foot of the cross. Where I believed the lies of doubt before, I took them and turned them around and asked the Lord to reframe them as truth. I took these negative thoughts and took them captive to the truth Christ has planted in my heart. I reached out to a fellowship of prayer warriors. We went to the throne of God asking for His power, for His strength to overcome.

And just when I was ready to lay down my sword to doubt, He showed up with an answered prayer and another. He sent His people to rescue His girl.

Yesterday was an incredibly hard day. But God walked beside me as always. And this time I chose to lean on Him when I couldn’t walk one more step or throw one more punch. He poured out His love and kept me whole. He filled in my gaps when I wanted to just fall to the doubt, the anxiety and the lies.

And today was not an easy day. I had to go to battle again for my child’s heart. I’m not proud of a few of those moments of fight. But when I went to the Lord for His protection and provision, her heart responded to His power.

She saw the Light. She turned away from the ugly lies that were ready to engulf her. I know this battle for her is not over. I know the battle for my heart is not over.

But I do know who wins in the end. I do know that I can rest in that truth. He wins. And I can trust that promise. So can you. You can be whole and at peace if you just choose it.

I’m praying that this post blesses each of you and that if you don’t know this love, you ask someone to share it with you. I will be happy to be the one to do it. Just drop me a line and we’ll talk – amandacbrandon at gmail dot com.

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