Sometimes I’m Not Ready For a Miracle

I came across this quote the other day, about the Israelites wandering around in the desert for 40 years:

Their journey was a journey of liberation. They were being liberated from slavery in Egypt, where they had been dehumanized and exploited, so that their elite Egyptian slave drivers could build their own never-enough system. It was also a journey of discipline. They were learning values on the journey that would form their national character when they finally settled down — so they wouldn’t become either slaves or slave drivers in the future. (Naked Spirituality, Brian McLaren)

That struck me in a profound way, because it describes so well the journey I’ve been on in the last year. I’ve written before about how I’ve been struggling with some health challenges for over ten years. I’ve had people pray over me many times, and I’ve begged and pleaded and cried to God many, many more times myself for a miracle.

A few years ago, I started noticing some small, slow changes, and since then, my health has improved very gradually. Sometimes I would get so impatient. I believed that God could heal me instantly, but it didn’t look as though that was going to be His chosen method, so I tried to be okay with whatever form healing took.

In this last year, things have been changing in ways I never would have imagined. I’ve always struggled with a lot of stress, fear, and anxiety in my life, and a number of different experiences started to open my eyes to the fact that what needed to change, perhaps more than my physical health, was my mental and spiritual health.

God was after my mind and my thoughts. There was much fear in me surrounding my health problems, and I struggled with trying to choose and control what kind of thoughts filled my mind.

Many of my health problems were related to stress, so as God did a new work in my mind, my body followed along.

There is still much room for improvement, but what struck me about the Israelites is this:

If God had brought them straight to the Promised Land, it would have taken 11 days, instead of 40 years. God needed to do a great work in them first.

They weren’t ready for the Promised Land.

Those years wandering around in the desert stripped them of their old identity, and turned them into God’s people.

desert

photo   © 2011   Moyan Brenn , Flickr

 

If God would have given me my miracle right away, and healed my body in an instant, I would have ended up right back in the same place. Thoughts of fear and anxiety would still have enslaved me, and my body would have continued to respond to that.

He’s taking me around the long way, because He is doing a great work in me. He’s making my mind ready for the miracle of healing that is slowly taking over my body.

I also need to be stripped of my old identity.

Oh, how wonderful that He loves us too much to leave us the way we are! He takes us on whatever path we need the most, and gets us to the Promised Land in the perfect way, at the perfect time.

I still have so much to learn, and I continue to hope for more healing in my life, both mental and physical, but I think I’m starting to enjoy the journey. I’m at peace with the fact that there’s some scenery I need to see first, as we go around the long way.

And I don’t believe it’s punishment or hardship to need to go the long way. I think it’s just life. If I can accept that, and if I can soak in each step of this process, there can be joy in God’s timing, instead of impatience.

He’ll get me there, in His perfect timing.

Are you waiting for a miracle? How is God transforming you, as you wait?

When We Share Our Stories

For the next week, I’ll be posting some of my favorite posts from the archives. I’m speaking at a ladies retreat the first weekend of March, and want to focus on preparing for the sessions I’ll be teaching.

I’ve re-posted readers’ favorites before, but those are not necessarily my personal favorites – the ones that came from the deepest part of me, and seemed to bring some kind of healing and truth to my life as I wrote them. I hope you enjoy them, the second time around!

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true story

Do you ever think about how important it is to share your stories?

To tell other people, “On my own, I’m kind of a mess, but let me tell you about what Jesus has done in my life”?

We live in a culture where people share lots of things very openly – social media allows us to expose the everyday details of life in a very public way – much more than ever before. But lots of those details end up being surface stuff.

Do you ever share the deeper stuff? I think that’s the stuff that needs to be shared a lot more than it is.

There’s a story in the Bible (Luke, to be exact) about a man who was possessed by demons. He was completely incapable of living a normal life – he ran around naked, broke chains with his unnatural strength, and lived in a graveyard.

But one day Jesus came along, wasn’t scared by him, and told the demons that it was time to get out.

They didn’t like that idea, so they came up with a different suggestion – they requested to be sent into a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus did this, and as a result, the pigs went crazy, and ran over the side of a cliff into the lake. End of demons.

The man was a big fan of Jesus after this, for obvious reasons. He wanted to follow Jesus wherever He was planning on going. You’d think that Jesus would be okay with that, seeing as He already had a bunch of men traveling with him. But Jesus said to him, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”

It was more important for the man to go home and tell his story than it was for him to go with Jesus. That was the role Jesus wanted him to fill.

And then the very next story is the one about the woman who was bleeding for 12 years. She reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak, and was healed instantly.

When she touched Him, He stopped and asked, “Who touched me?” He knew that someone had been healed by touching His cloak. But being Jesus, wouldn’t He also have already known who it was?

I found it really interesting that Jesus made her step forward and publicly announce that she was healed. He made her tell her story to all the people there.

Some people boldly asked for healing, but this woman quietly reached out to touch Him as He walked by. The whole thing could have happened unannounced.

But Jesus stopped and asked her to identify herself.

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Why did He do that? In the presence of all the people…

I don’t know for sure what all of the reasons were behind it, but I do know that something happens to us when we share – when we tell people what Jesus has done for us.

There are times when I really don’t want to.

It makes me look bad when I air my dirty laundry for everyone to see. There’s a part of me that is always, always afraid people will look down on me, and think I’m pathetic, or maybe I’ll end up actually being the only person in the world who thinks such immature, selfish, sinful thoughts.

If I do get brave enough to share the whole “Before and After” story, I’m afraid that people will get stuck on the “before” part, in which I look ugly, rather than the “after”, in which Jesus looks fantastic.

But guess what has happened almost every time I’ve chosen to be open and vulnerable? Someone else has been able to identify with my experience, or gotten the courage to open up too, or been encouraged to keep going when things are really hard.

Good things happen when we share our stories. But we have to be brave, and not listen to the part of us that’s afraid. We have to trust that if Jesus thinks it’s a good idea, then good things will come out of it.

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Have you ever had a great experience that happened because you were willing to share your story?

Reaching Out to Touch His Robe

For the next week or so, I’ll be posting some of my favorite posts from the archives. I’m speaking at a ladies retreat the first weekend of March, and want to focus on preparing for the sessions I’ll be teaching.

I’ve re-posted readers’ favorites before, but those are not necessarily my personal favorites – the ones that came from the deepest part of me, and seemed to bring some kind of healing and truth to my life as I wrote them. I hope you enjoy them, the second time around!

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Last night I was reading the passage about the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, and was healed when she reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak.

For some reason, the fact that she reached out grabbed my attention, so I let it sit there for a little while.

hand

I was thinking about how it must have felt to be that woman. Bleeding for 12 years! That might sound hard and awful, but I will never be able to grasp what it was actually like for her. Beyond the physical suffering, there was also the label she had to live under – a woman who was bleeding was considered “unclean”. That woman was “unclean” for 12 long years.

Anything she touched, anywhere she sat or lay down, would be unclean and have to be washed afterward.

Any person who touched her would be unclean.

Any person who touched what she had sat or lain down on would be unclean.

She had spent 12 years trying not to touch anyone.

And yet she reached out to touch Jesus.

What must it have taken for her to do that? I tried to imagine what it must have felt like, to be that woman, waiting by the side of the road. To see Him coming through the crowds of people, knowing this was her only chance.

And then to actually stretch out her hand and touch Jesus.

She was healed instantly. I tried to imagine the power of that moment, and I began to pray that Jesus would reach out and touch me, too.

But I stopped right there as it hit me – when I pray, I ask Jesus to reach out to me. To reach out to heal me, reach out to touch me, reach out His hand to touch my heart, my life. But this woman reached out to Him.

He is always there, right there with me. What if He’s waiting for me to reach out to touch Him?

Is there a difference?

Praying that God would reach out to me is very easy – I pray some lazy, easy words, and He does all the work. I want His miraculous power working in my life with very little effort from me. Reach out to touch me.

But reaching out to Him takes faith. It takes initiative and movement. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James4:8)

He promises His presence, but He also invites us to come to Him. I don’t want to just sit around, waiting for Him to come get me. I want to go to Him, reach out to Him, take a leap of faith and jump to Him! Pursue Him.

Reach out to touch Him.

There’s a song by Caedmon’s Call with the words, “Swing Your robe down low.” I always picture the robe of God sweeping across the sky, hanging low enough to the earth for us all to touch it. So close, Him waiting for us. Offering Himself to us.

I close my eyes and reach out my hand to Him. And it does feel different. I’m the one reaching, accepting, inviting, pursuing. I’m having faith that He is there, that there is Someone to reach my hand out to.

Swing Your robe down low.

When Life Gets Hot

That Ann Voskamp is amazing. I keep giving you links to her blog because so much of what she says is true and wise, and gets me thinking.

If you want to check out another great post, go here. She writes about how life can be like a pressure cooker:

“…Let the pressure do its work.” Lock the lid on. Let life get hot.

Stay present. Breathe deep.

Let the pressure do its good, quick work.

Such a good read about how the pressure of life can refine us.