Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Parable of the Water

Suppose you have a pitcher of water, nearly full to overflowing, and you pour out all you have into an empty vessel. When you are ready to leave that place, you pour the water back into your ewer to carry with you on your journey. Inevitably, you will not have the same fullness as before. There is always one or two drops that refuse to leave the empty vessel, falling back down and leaving a thin presence around the bottom. This leaves your supply just a few drops short. But suppose then that a gentle rain begins to fall. Won’t your ewer then collect those few extra drops and something more? And won’t those few new drops spread something new through the whole ewer?

Or suppose you take a handful of popcorn and lay it on a plate. Can you pick it all back up again in one grasp? Of course not! If your hand truly was full, not every kernel fits in the same way. Inevitably, you leave a few behind for the scavengers.

So it is with God. When you pour yourself out or lay down your life, you never get fully back what you have given. Not here. But God is doing something greater, using what you could not take with you to start a new plan in motion where you have laid the seed and sending the gentle rain to fill you anew with something fresher, cleaner, and more pure than you’d had.


God truly has changed His servant. Perhaps this is what has made the past couple of weeks so challenging. The whole tone is different, and my heart is in a new place. It is hard to understand the persistent peace and the sense of resolution in my heart. It is new.

I’m a young woman who has fought many battles, most probably unnecessary had I let anything but fear or pain control my heart. But at the time, I knew no other way to live. And so I fought. Life was battle after battle, why me story after why me, this continual sense of victimization and questioning whether I could ever be good enough. Then wondering why no one saw in me what I was seeing in myself, though even I knew it was masked beneath this exterior that had to fight to feel like it was living. There are people, I know, who could easily have looked at the events of the past two weeks and come to one of two conclusions: “This stuff always happens to her” or “She was looking for a way to fail.’

For much of my life, I had been one of those people. Feeling the victimization of this stuff “always” happening, of being targeted. As much as I got beat up in middle and high school, this would be a logical conclusion. Or that I always looked for a way to fail. This, too, was something I knew of myself. This fear of things going smoothly, this excess energy if I didn’t have to fight that sent me searching for a brawl, for something to break and go wrong. I’ll admit that I have held myself back too many times, stopped myself short, expected less of myself then mourned at not having the strength to push through.

Truly, God has changed the heart of His servant.

I don’t feel victimized, don’t feel like life is just a series of horrible, unbelievable events that will inevitably define me. His peace and presence overwhelmed my heart, and it was HIS voice, HIS Truth that echoed loudest. Knowing He had something better for me, that He would fill me to overflowing soon. He promised.

That something better is already here, and it’s beyond words. There is, of course, the change in my heart as I’ve already mentioned. It is knowing that I am not at fault, having no guilt, telling a story in full truth without hiding anything. Those concepts are new for me. I had always considered myself a truthful person, and that is to say that I’m not going to go out of my way to lie nor will I tell a story maliciously or out of spite. But in this story, I finally realized how I had protected my other truths. How I had always had some remnant of guilt – something that made me feel culpable or disgusting or less than worthy, something I always felt I had to hide to protect my image – that prevented me from just laying it out there. In this story, there is none of the above. I accept my role in things, and I know I have not been perfect, but I don’t feel the need to hide even the less-than-glowing parts of myself to protect anything.

I simply am as I am, as He has created me to be. And I am fully ok with that.

A few years ago, this would have been a story that I would have told forever, that I would have recounted and tried to show that I am good and the rest of the world is evil. I would have used it to garner attention or sympathy or support or whatever. I would have played it to the max because I would have felt like I didn’t have any other story to tell. That’s not the case today. In fact, I hardly consider this a story at all and from the first day, I was ready to let it pass. This…is not Truth. This is the world’s fiction, and I can’t let that define me. The pen of the dirty little ratfink who thinks he authors this world doesn’t change one bit of Truth that the Author of my life wrote. This is not my story.

And then there is my reaction and my part in all of this. It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me – and particularly to those who have been on the receiving end – that I can be vicious. I can be mean and spiteful, hateful and rude. Absolutely mean and relentlessly vicious. Even though I have known for a long time that my lion’s roar was more a kitten’s meow, that the beastly anger that burst forth from me in moments of trouble…was not truly a part of me. There was something deeper that should have overridden those outbursts, but I shoved it aside in favor of showing my strength.

Strength that was no strength at all; strength that merely was fear, that fight or flight when I neither wanted to brawl or fall. God has redefined in me over the past several months, slowly but surely, what it means to be strong. He has changed my understanding of strength to mean things I never would have imagined. He has made me strong in ways I never would have defined strength. And what I always considered strength…He has revealed as folly, as fear. Now, I have true strength, but no words to tell you what that is like.

In the past week, I had the opportunity again to be vicious. Perhaps if I had felt that same victimization, had those thoughts that would have made me hate the world or worse, myself, I would have lashed out. If His peace had not been there, if His voice had not been louder than the four berating me, if my heart had closed and refused to listen, if I had chosen the fight over the stillness…things could have gotten very ugly. Let’s be honest – that would have done no good. I could have yelled. Cussed. Put my feet down and stood my ground, refusing to go without an apology and demanding that I keep my job. I knew what they were doing was wrong; I knew they couldn’t get away with it. Yet…I chose something quieter, something more in tune with the truth of my heart. I did not give in to their message. I denied their conclusions. I stated unequivocally that they were wrong. I cried many tears. But that something quieter prevailed.

I played by the rules, navigated the situation with grace. No one knew what was going on. When the story started to come out, those who knew nothing commended me for my grace. They praised the way I’d handled the situation, telling me that I truly was walking without shame, with my head held high and the fullness of my integrity. They added that they’d never had a problem with me. And oddly, for a girl who would normally be loud to overcompensate for her discomfort, her awkwardness, or those lingering questions she usually has of herself and her abilities…I had a reputation for being quiet. A little too quiet, maybe, but we all know that wouldn’t have lasted long.

One of the coolest things maybe I have noticed is that I have not been alone. God has been beside me every step of the way, but there is something more, too. I mentioned that I am a young woman who feels like she has fought a lot of battles (admittedly, many probably needlessly). There have been many of those where I was fighting alone, pushing aside the voices of loved ones and friends trying desperately to calm that fighting feeling and tell me it wasn’t necessary. Standing alone because no one would stand behind me, no one was going to fight with me. In this, though, I am not alone. Friends, family, even from the most unexpected places – you have been standing not just behind me but beside me, and that has not gone unnoticed. I am…speechless, and it only reminds me once more how incredible His change in me has been.

God is doing tremendous things in my life. I have known that for a long time, and it has scared the Hell out of me. (I never understood why scaring the Hell out of someone was mentioned as a bad thing; shouldn’t we want the Hell scared out of us? I know the powers of Hell fear me now.) He has softened my heart and quieted my spirit, redefined my strength, blessed me beyond my wildest imagination. Now, I have listened and heeded that presence, His presence. I have embraced His peace. I have lived according to my heart instead of my fear. I have refused to question myself, to stop myself, to demand to fail. I have refused to hide even the pieces of the truth in which I don’t come off so well.

For the past couple of years, and more earnestly for the past several months, I have prayed for God to make me alright. Then prayed for Him to make me alright with being alright. He has answered.

I like this softness, this quietness, this peace, and this presence. I love what He has done in me, continues to do in me, and calls in me. It is beyond words to know this strength, to be this full, to have contentment, and respect and integrity and the millions of other little gifts included in this new heart. I am a woman truly changed, and I can’t wait to see what He is doing with me. In me.

In deepest praise...