When I began dealing with pain of my past, I came face to face with a core of shame that ran deep, That core explained why, as a believer, I had struggled with the desperate desire to experience deep connection with God while, at the same time, trying to hide parts of myself from Him. I knew I believed and belonged to Him, but I was plagued with fear that if He really knew me He would realize what a mistake it was to extend grace to a mess like me. I had a lot of knowledge about God and could always believe His promises for others, but often wondered if He could or would fulfill them for me and in me. This fear and doubt stemmed from that core of shame that had taken root from an early age. The core that led me to believe I was a bunch of "toos"-- --too dirty, too bad, too stupid, too needy, too messy, too weak, too defective, too invisible, and too inadequate, each "too" hidden by a great big smile. It also left me wondering if I could be loved the way I knew God loves others. Over the next few weeks I want to share some of how I began to heal shame that is no longer mine to claim.
First, I found someone safe to share about the things that caused my shame to take root. I learned to recognize and acknowledged it as well as the lies that formed its roots. Next, I began to believe there was value in stories--both His story and mine and the relationship between the two. As I did that I began to view my story as a redemption story instead of resenting that it wasn't a perfect fairy tale. That helped me begin to accept both the positive and the negative I had lived. It helped me accept both my weaknesses and strengths and to embrace a life made messy by being in the process of sanctification instead of striving for perfection. I became more comfortable with the confusion of living in a fallen world while I desperately longed for the beauty of heaven untouched by sin. I began to believe that the hard wasn't an indication of a lack of power or love on Jesus' part any more that it was proof that I was beyond redemption.
I also developed a strong curiosity about how God relates to His people and began reading about His encounters with people in both the Old and New Testaments. I read more carefully and meditated on the stories, penning questions and thoughts as I went. I realized people in the Bible were not super heroes, they were simple humans like me--humans that sinned, humans that felt, humans that struggled. So, I tried to put myself in their shoes so I could connect with their stories at a heart level. My view of God and my relationship with Him began to evolve from a fear base to a love based one.
Over the next few weeks I will share what I learned from some of the stories. The first story is found in John 4. It's the story of Christ's encounter with a Samaritan woman. I learned Jewish leaders at that time avoided Samaria because they despised the mixed race that had grown out of the Assyrian captivity, But, Jesus! He wasn't like other religious leaders. He entered Samaria and stopped beside a well to rest because He knew a very thirsty soul was in need. He watched as one lone woman approach the well during the hottest part of day--a time in which she could avoid others who came to draw water as well. I imagine her approaching the well with purpose in her step, hoping to get her water and quickly leave. I also imagine her growing more cautious as she realized He was sitting there.
He surprised her when He asked her to give Him a drink and she responded by pointing out the obvious culture breaches, knowing full well He, as a Jew, would not want to drink from the vessel of an unclean, Samaritan woman like her. Surprisingly He continues to respectfully dialogue with her, pointing out that she didn't know who He was, didn't know that He was offering her living water, and that she didn't understand how she could receive it. I love that Jesus never memorized a script. He presented truth in terms familiar to each. He knew she came to the well physically thirsty and He used that thirst to expose deeper thirsts of her heart. She tried to keep the conversation where it felt safe, so it didn't stir up painful longings, didn't expose her unmet needs, and allowed her to keep her secrets well hidden.
But He knew! He knew He had what she needed most. So, He continued to steer the conversation to the real and to the spiritual. He asked her to bring her husband. It seemed like an odd request, but I imagine with her history her eyes dropped and her voice either softened or bristled depending on which contempt she used to silence her shame.
But He knew that the truth she needed to face was in the words she didn't speak and He used that truth to draw the surface her painful, unrequited thirsts of the soul. He gently acknowledged she was right in saying she didn't have a husband, and let her know she had five husbands and was now living with a man to whom she wasn't married.
He knew! He knew that a woman married five times was looking for someone to fill soul-thirst. But each marriage she entered was like drinking caffeinated drinks to dowse physical thirst. No man, could meet all the unmet needs of childhood and the failed marriages before him.
He knew! He knew that she was living with a heart deeply wounded by the humiliation and shame of rejection that comes with being drug to the town and declared an unfit wife. He knew with each rejection she suffered, her soul had grown more thirsty. He knew with each rejection, parts of her heart grew calloused. He knew with each rejection the belief that she wasn't enough dug itself deeper into the core of her being, causing her to doubt but unable to totally kill the longings. He knew she was a woman whose physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs were crying out to be met and He saw her and He heard the cries of her heart.
Through the discourse, her knowledge of Him grew from being a Jew, to a prophet, to the Messiah. And the words He said to her had to be balm to a thirsty soul: "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem...Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." I can't imagine the power those words held for her. By those words He included her and told her she is sought by the Father--she, the woman, the Samaritan, the ostracized, the defective, the inadequate, the unloved, the invisible, the abandoned is being sought by Jehovah.
Her encounter with Jesus changed her. She left her water jar in the dust, going to the very people she avoided by her noontime water runs. She told them about Jesus and invited them to come and see for themselves if He was the Messiah. The painful hard the woman had endured and the painful hard the community experienced as a mixed-race culture, rejected and scorned, had given them a soul thirst so deep they knew only the Messiah could quench it. Many of the Samaritans of that community came to know Jesus was the Savior of the world!
There is never a thirst so deep Jesus can't fill it, but we often have to come to the end of ourselves to fully believe and embrace this truth. I also know there is never a shame that can run so deep that the Spirit of God and His truth can't dissolve it, replacing it with pure joy. For when the King of kings seeks us and then meets us by the wells we have dug in an attempt to quench our parched souls, we can finally drop all the pesky "toos" and know that by His blood we have been accepted, made whole, and declared good enough.
Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!