Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Dreams are Made Of

Last night, after falling victim to old patterns, habits, and the sort of things that trouble God's heart, my own heart throbbed with angst - a combination of my fallen nature, my desperate longing for reconciliation with my Creator, frustration at God's silence, guilt over His freely offered gifts being too easy and too free, and a million other spiritual issues that stand between He and I.

The problem is, I guess, that since He's come into my heart in a more profound way, it's changed a lot. I mean A LOT. I hardly recognize myself, but I nearly weep in thankfulness every day that I'm not who I was, that He has given me a new lease on life, the opportunity to live a new way and a better way and hopefully repair some relationships that were damaged by my brokenness.

Yet, these changes also make me keenly aware of the barrier that still exists between Us. (The Holy "Us" - me and God - which is why it is capitalized.) His healing is fantastic...but it is not complete. For awhile, I thought it was not complete because I wasn't perfect. That's not quite it. I'll never be perfect, at least not here.

His work is not complete becuase of my unwillingness.

My unwillingness to admit my depravity in certain areas. My unwillingness to let Him have it, to let Him redeem it. My unwillingness to accept what He offers. My unwillingness to honestly face my own darkness, my own demons.

It's not that I'm totally closed off. It's more...fear, I guess. He's touched a lot of areas of my life that I thought were beyond repair, that I thought even God had no answers for. And that's been incredible. But in many ways, He's only touched the surface of those areas. Like I just wanted to see what it might feel like to let Him come closer, just a little closer...ok close enough. Back up, God. I don't need You all up in here.

But I DO need Him "all up in here." The level of healing is already tremendous, but there is so much more. Underneath what He's already seen, what I've already given Him, is darkness, depravity, and brokenness so intense that I even fear it myself, though I know it is a part of me. It's dangerous stuff, disgusting, horrid. I shudder to think it even lies within me. It would be really cool to see what God can do with it, knowing He will do incredible things. It's just so painful to even think about.

That troubles my heart. Severely.

As I fell asleep with these thoughts rolling through my heart and only semi-consciously through my head and with tears welling up behind my eyes - tears of rebellion and protection and desperately wanting Him to forget I even mentioned it and NOT go to that place - I began an awkward dream.

The dream took me back to a time my dreams often take me back to - the time of my most profound brokenness, when life was hardest and I was most bitter and cruel, a time I wish I could go back and redeem (and in fact, that is often what my dreams attempt to do, let me relive and redeem those years). And there were birds. Everywhere, there were birds. They were flying. Doves. The symbols of peace and freedom.

Except they divebombed me. They came after me viciously, quick, attacking with their beaks and tormenting me by flying around my head and batting their wings against my flesh. One pooped on my head. I cowered in fear, begging for someone to take them away, to get them out of there. A man did, but I was shaken; I could not calm myself. Why were the doves attacking me?

When yet another appeared just over my shoulder, resting behind me on a shelf, I panicked and tried to scoot away, but I could not. Turning back around, it was no longer a dove, but a weasel - the symbol of deception and mistrust. It bit me. It latched onto my forearm and left tooth marks in my flesh as I tried to shake it off and throw it out the window.

I woke up with one thought: "That damned weasel bit me."

That dream has rolled around in my head all morning. I'm not the kind of person who thinks all dreams have hidden meanings, that they are significant or should be deciphered or what have you. There's too much scientific evidence to believe that's the case. I do believe, though, that God sometimes uses my dreams to get me to think about something in a new way, whether He orchestrated the dream or not. Sometimes, He's got to get me thinking. Perhaps even laughing at myself.

Or laughing at weasels.

Truthfully, this dream reflects my heart. Something I'm working on in my heart, anyway. Doves - they are peace. They are freedom. These are the gifts God has so long pled with my heart to accept. Yet they attacked me. Why? Because peace threatens my life. Freedom means I have to give up holding on. It means I have to give over everything and truly shed the old self in favor of the new. (Which is something I've been working on, but still fail miserably at more often than I'd like.) They threaten everything I've ever known about myself or about my world or about my God. Freedom and peace - these require radical change.

Maybe that's why the dove became a weasel. I just don't trust it. I say that I trust God, and I genuinely feel like I do, but if I do not trust His peace or freedom, then do I really trust Him at all? No. That's a tough word to say, but the answer is No. Either I trust all of Him or I trust none. Just as there is no such thing as 99% obedience, there is no such thing as 99% trust.

What would my life look like to live out peace and freedom? What would it feel like to turn over those hidden pieces of my heart, the ones I leave tucked away because the pain is simply too great? How can I know His redeeming work will not overwhelm me? How can I accept anything He'd give me when it all feels too easy? It's tough, but it's still too easy. I want to beat myself up or publicly declare my faults or permanently mutilate myself somehow so that people, and even me, will always know the horrible dirty truth.

What if the horrible dirty truth was that I have been declared innocent? That I have been cleansed? That I am redeemed?

Enter the angst. That is where my heart wrestles, wanting so desperately this gift from God and to turn over every last wisp of my heart to Him...but fearing what it will require not only in a new way of living, a new lifestyle, a testimony but also in a sacrifice of bitterness, an onslaught of pain as the wounds are opened and healed, and the intense grief of past mistakes.

I don't know that I can ever forgive myself for the things I've done - some I felt I had to do, some I know I didn't, and still others that I've attempted to justify even to my God. And to have God not only forgive me but offer to help me forgive myself, to cleanse and purify me and complete an incredible redemptive's offensive.

But God is offensive. THAT is one thing I know for sure.

So I offer Him my heart. With tears and with repentance and without stipulation, I give Him everything.

Lord, come! Touch the depths of my soul and bring healing to these old wounds. Teach me the ways of gentleness and redemption, that I might live purified in peace and freedom with You, trusting You fully to settle my heart and guide me faithfully. I love You; though I continue to rebel and to worry and to wonder what You're doing, I love You. And I trust You. Take me. Take all of me. Bring Your healing now even as my heart is crushed in brokenness and trembles in angst. Love me as Your daughter, Your precious, beloved, beautiful daughter. Please, Lord. Complete Your work in me and do not let fear push me back.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

True Redemption

As the honeymoon ends and redemption sinks deeper into my heart, I'm forced to look back honestly over my life and figure out a few things.

Here's what I know:

I don't regret anything I did. It pains me that life had to be that way, but I see the beauty in survival. Am I proud of that life? Not exactly. It's hard to swallow the image of the little girl I wanted to be with the reality of the one I was. It's tough to reconcile the loss of a dream life, of the little things girls dream of. It's difficult to imagine and stomach that time when I ate out of trash cans, lied habitually to keep my secrets, gave up my body to others' pursuits of the flesh, and manipulated those in my path to give me some semblance of the love or acceptance I thought I deserved. I'm not proud of the way I lived; but it was how I had to live, and I don't regret it.

What I regret is my damaged relationships. What I regret is the people who came into my life and made a difference, but who never got to know. Or who may never know me now as a redeemed woman, a daughter of God. I regret that they may always know me as trash, a manipulator, or worse. I regret that they might never know the profound impact they've had on me, how they changed my life through something as simple as a smile. I want them to know more of me than a little girl in trouble living a life of the darkest secret.

I want them to know the love in my heart. I want them to know my openness, the ways that even in hardness, they affected me. I want them to see the pieces of my life put back together and a woman strengthened, a woman who is about to blaze her trail through this world. It pains me that I could never tell them the truth; should I tell them now? Should I tell them of my prison, of my darkness and my past? Would they understand? Perhaps they always understood. It's impossible to know.

It's just hard as each day passes and I see another small piece of my life redeemed - in the smallest ways, even as something of the survival self tries to creep up and I have to shake it off, knowing I am NOT that person any more. It's hard because as much as I love the freedom of God and His incredible work and diligent love, there are so many people I wish I could talk to one more time, hug one more time, share a cup of coffee with and tell them the truth...and show them something better. In many cases, that is precisely the goodness they said they always saw in me, the true self under the heartbreak and torture.

It's hard for me to cope with the fact that not only did I miss out on a lot of great things in my life, a lot of influences that could have been had or could have been stronger, but I did a great deal of damage to a lot of people. I could justify it to the ends of the earth, and I know most would understand. But I cannot forget.

Is it wrong to want to go back and have a cup of coffee with everyone you ever met, everyone who know some form of yourself you wish they hadn't? Maybe it's just me trying to redeem my own life so that I feel deserving of what God has already done (and continues to do).

If you have known me before, if you have been privy to my past, please forgive me. I never meant to hurt you.

And celebrate with me this beautiful redemption. Whether you see me every week or haven't seen me in over a decade, know this: I'm not who I was. Most of the time, I hardly recognize myself.

And it's AWESOME.