Categories
Christianity God Salvation

Burn Me Beautiful

“In this world you will have trouble…”

                                     – John 16:33

Burn me beautiful.

These three words reverberated in my heart the second Steffany Gretzinger uttered them in a video I was watching.

Burn me beautiful.

What a vivid reminder of the season I’d just come out of.

“There are times you know you should burst out crying. Times when you’re fighting tears as they stain the white of your eye because it’s not a good time, they’re people here, it’s not dark yet. There’s always a reason to cover, but when tears don’t go out they dive in deep. And you can feel your heart getting heavy, insides too full tinged with pain it wants to burst right out the seams. So you fight it. You cover it. But your eyes betray you. And you watch your heart start to sink. And you walk away knowing very well it is a matter to be cried out and laid bare before God, but you don’t want anyone asking questions. Not before you spill everything before Him. You’ve done it too many times before. And your eyes are still swollen red from yesterday. But you do it anyway hoping you’ll get cried out someday. Someday… Does it ever come?”

                         – Lady Skillz (Everything Is Beautiful Here)

Yeah. It was that kind of a season. Dark. Difficult. And yet. Beautiful.

I know what it means to be burned beautiful. I know the feel of heart-wrenching pain structured by His loving hands. I know the tears. The tears that never seem to end. I know how it feels to have the despair of impending defeat replaced by the rush of bitter-sweet triumph.

I know.

These are not just words for me.

I know.

The sum total of it in what I told my friend in the middle of it all…

“Soldiers have scars. I have scars. Process has scarred me. People usually think of scars as a bad thing…and getting them is PAINFUL…but you know how there’s always that one soldier who shows off his scars with pride and tells the stories behind them…I want to show my scars…my process with pride. Not in me. But in Him. This scar…this is where He taught me of His love. See how deep the scar is? See how deep His love for us is? This one….His faithfulness. This one…His sovereignty. And so on.

Process has scarred me. You can’t look at me and not see at least one of my scars. He’s scarred me so deeply and indelibly that you cannot ignore my scars. They’re unapologetically in your face. Because they all scream: God was here…God is STILL here.

We were made in His image and likeness. Why? Not just so that we could understand and relate with Him. But so that the world-those yet to know Him-could as well. He saw the end from the beginning!! We are His greatest testament. We are His greatest testimony. The boldest revelation of who He is. Not the heavens. Not the earth. Not the miracles and the power. Us. His sons. We who bear His mark. We who bear the scars that tell of who He is and how deeply He loves us. Scars so deep you can’t ignore them. Scars so deep you just have to ask about them.

All of creation groans in expectation….waiting for the sons of God to be revealed. Why? Creation gets it. It knows the sons of God are an extension of who He is. An extension of His glory. He created us to bear His glory like nothing else can. Like a parent and a child who’s a carbon copy of them. We look like Him. At least we’re supposed to. When they look at us, they’re supposed to see Him as well. To see Him in all His glory and majesty in us.

For the record, I didn’t embrace process. Not really. I went in kicking and screaming. There’s nothing remotely pleasant about it. No one goes into battle smiling. And I think that’s something we all need to get…and those of us who get it, admit. PROCESS SUCKS. But on the upside-I now have these really cool scars.”

God wastes nothing.

Certainly not my pain.

Or yours.

“…But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

                                                    – John 16:33

Categories
God Salvation

Still…

“A lot of times when we are struggling with questions and we ask people for answers, they throw really eloquent and stuffy answers back at us. And we know they haven’t actually found those answers for themselves. They are just saying what someone else said. That was never good enough for me. I had to find the answers myself.

– Jonathan Wilson

I stopped making New Year resolutions years back when it struck me that if I really wanted to change, today was as good a day as any. Today could be any day. Not just the beginning of the year.

The strange thing though is that I started off this year by making a commitment to God to fully submit my life to Him. Then life happened. As it usually does. And that commitment became a thorn in my side. A constant reminder of a broken promise.

Little did I know that my entire life would be turned upside down.

And He’d hold me to my promise.

2012.

The year I hit rock bottom.

Hard.

That was by far the loneliest, scariest pit I’ve been in. Yeah, I’ve seen my share of them. Usually I just claw my way out. This one though… I didn’t even know where to begin. So I just sat there in the darkness, helpless.

And in my most desperate moment…

I found God.

I haven’t stopped finding Him since.

Every day I encounter Him anew.

He has become the very air I breathe. I know that this sounds like some nice play on words but it’s not. It’s my daily reality. So beautifully and intricately intertwined is my heart with His that I can no longer tell where He ends and I begin. I am NOTHING without Him.

For the first time in my life I’m not looking back on a year with thoughts of what could have been. Everything that needed to be has been.

I have no worries about the one ahead. God has shown me the craziest blueprint of what my year will look like. In one word: ridiculous. Yet I’m walking into it wrapped in His presence, secure in His embrace. What more could I ask for?

I’m straddling the fence between the past and the future. Perched atop the present. Truly at peace with all three.

He says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10

I am still.

I know He is God.

I finally get it.

I pray that you do as well.

“Stunning.

He was given a name to explain exactly where He is during my deepest need.

He is Emmanuel – God is with us.

He is not a concept, a theory or a theology. He is not a system or a religion. He is not an icon, a figurehead, or a mythical movement leader. He is not an allegory. He is not an ideal. He is not a way of life. He is not a memory. He is not experienced in the past or the future.

He is not a static-drenched echo from a far off land. He is not once, or at one time. He is not less real now than He was to those who could touch Him. He is not the property of the pietistic, of any denomination or location. He is not a fable created to make children shape up. He is not here more for those on their game. He is not over there, up there, away from here.

He is not withheld. He is not unwilling. He is not less here because we haven’t called on Him enough. He is not a bedtime story. He is not capricious or sporadic. He is not every now and then, or on special occasions. He is not only in the miracle. He is not here because you called hard enough. He is not here because you earned it. He is not ever absent.

He has not forgotten. He is not weaker, less able than back then. He is not beyond where your prayers reach. He is not vague. He is not here in spirit. He is not here in a metaphor. He is not here in a riddle or a formula. He is not here by wishing He was real.

He is here. Right now. Fully, completely. He is in you, around you, with you, over you, about you, for you, on time, in the middle of, surrounding you and the ones you love, in complete power, communicating as clearly as any time in history, doing perfectly to you, for you, by you, thinking about you every moment, walking directly into the middle of your worst day, your worst moment, your worst fear, your pain, your loneliness, your doubts, your insecurity, your sickness, your tragedy, your fragileness, your hope, your joy, your peace, your dreams, your relationships, your love, your longing to have your life count.

He is here. He is champion and author of every beauty you find yourself longing for. He is the one who stands over you in the darkest hour. He is lifting you up, when you are too exhausted, too devastated, too hopeless, too failed, too compromised, too far gone.

He is in this season. He is with you driving alone in the car, pushing a cart amidst the mind-numbing department store music, the hurting ones you can’t get to, the loss you can’t comfort, the change you can’t stop, the party you drive by, the memory of past Christmases you can’t bring back.

He is here. Listening to every word, forming answers and intimacy stronger than words. He is here in the music that draws your new nature to the sounds of heaven. He is here in the eternal.

He is here, drawing you to the Cross in this very moment, to fall down in awe of the endless love He is displaying right now, to show you the moment of the Resurrection and to bring it into this moment.

He is here to protect you from the despair, the condemning voices, the regrets. He is here to stop you from plotting a way out of your marriage. He is here to help you completely find your life after your marriage. He is here to show you the new way, in this new season.

He is here to whisper who you are in Him and who He is in you. He is here to stroll the lanes with you, hands in pockets, smiling, with all the time in the world. He is here to declare your worth. He is here to be glorified, enjoyed, trusted, loved and worshipped by you. He is here, to stare at the lights right next to you.

Right now, right here. He is here, whether you want Him here or not. He is here in all power, doing exactly right, even when you don’t believe it. He is here in the pain you never thought He’d allow. He is here in the yelling at Him you never thought you’d ever dare. He is here completely, in full Person, for you and you alone in this moment.

He is God with me, God with us, God with them, God with the wicked and twisted and vile, all at once. He is with the shivering homeless one, with the starving mother who can’t get out to find food. He is unafraid to be present in a world that questions why He allowed, why He doesn’t do more, why He doesn’t stop it all. He is here and does not deflect our accusations. He is here in our arrogance and self-righteous imagining that we care more than He does. He is perfect love poured out and fused in. He is my new name, Christ in me! He is Emmanuel.

He is not here the way we demand. He is here exactly in the way we need…

and all it takes to experience it, is to trust that who He is named is actually true.

– John Lynch