A week or so ago, as I was puttering around at home one evening and reflecting on how much my life has changed and how very good it is, the thought materialized in my mind and resonated in my heart that I am “a life resurrected.” You have to know my story…where I have been, what I have come through in the last several years and where I am now to truly get that. But, suffice it to say that I was born, then born again, then died an agonizing death to myself and to things from the past and am now truly living “a life resurrected.”
It occurs to me, even as I sit here and type, that I am much like Lazarus and that my story is similar to his in John 11. You see, I was dead…some things from the past had killed my heart, ravaged my soul, snuffed out my spirit and buried me lifelessly in a dark tomb…and like He did in Lazarus’ case, Jesus took awhile to come and to heal and to call me back to life again. For me he delayed coming for more like 40 years instead of just four days. I don’t know why but I have learned that His timing is always perfect and that He has a vision and perspective far larger and broader than mine.
Like Lazarus, I had brothers and sisters who sent word to Jesus that I was sick, who waited patiently and expectantly for Him to come, who were grieved over His delay but were grateful when He came and believed unswervingly in His love and power. Like Lazarus, Jesus wept over my wounds and the death they had brought to my heart, soul and spirit. And like Lazarus, He commanded others around me to “remove the stone” and He called me out of the dark tomb that held me captive and He again commanded others “to unbind and let me go.” Like Lazarus, Jesus did it ALL but he called others to play a role in my freedom and healing. You see, it was a joint effort…Him, me and them. That’s how “a life resurrected” happens. It’s not a solo act.
And I dare to say, like in Lazarus’ story, that others have believed and been strengthened by their role in and through what they witnessed of my resurrection to life again. You see, that is how it works…we pray, we cry, we wait, we listen, we obey, we participate, we see, we believe, we rejoice, we are strengthened and encouraged. “A life resurrected” is a marvelous and miraculous thing initiated by our Savior and it involves and touches us all. It’s not a solo act.
So, I am living “a life resurrected” and I am grateful for the One who came at the perfect time and orchestrated it all and for those who shared in the ministry of my resurrection.
And now, I walk in the great adventure and the irrepressible joy of being a “cast member” in the story of others and their call to “a life resurrected”, as well. Yes, indeed, I am “a life resurrected.” And it’s not a solo act. It’s never a solo act. To Him be the glory…
I was intrigued by the recent Men’s Final at the Australia Open between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. It lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes and was heralded as an epic game. Ultimately, Djokovic won but it was a glorious battle for the prize of being called the winner.
As I have been pondering that great tennis match I can’t help but apply the principles from that game to our lives as believers. We are truly in an EPIC battle and no matter what the scoreboard says right now I know the final score….WE WIN! We so often and easily forget that and some of us are not even aware of this reality. We are in a battle that is more epic and glorious and inspiring than anything we will ever watch on TV or in a sports stadium and the prize that awaits us…oh, what a prize. It is greater and more splendid than any shiny trophy, winner’s paycheck or fame on this earth. This is so very TRUE. But we so easily forget or we don’t even realize it. So we trudge along…discouraged, downcast and defeated…hoping that the whole thing will be over soon so that we are finally out of our misery.
Don’t take me wrong. Life where I live is hard. Actually, life for me has always been hard and I bet the same is true for you. But, no matter how hard the battle or how long it lasts…we must remember that we are engaged in one EPIC battle…the game of all games and WE WIN! On top of that, THE CAPTAIN has picked us for His Team…has chosen us to serve in His Battalion. He sees something in us that we don’t see in ourselves. He spotted a winner…a victorious warrior when He saw you and me. And He knows something that we don’t…there is NOTHING He can don’t do with His life lived through us.
Oh, yes, it is one gloriously EPIC battle we’ve been called to. Our name has been called and we are in the game…like it or not. And it is hard…no getting around that. It will last longer than we think we have the strength for and will cost us more than we thought we wanted to pay. We’ll get pretty battered and beaten up and wounded before it is over and it’s will take everything we’ve got to finish before the buzzer goes off. That’s why we need to encourage and remind each other that WE WIN! And, oh, baby the prize! What a prize! That’s why we are encouraged in the Scriptures to…”stimulate one another to love and good deeds” and “don’t become weary in well doing” and on and on. And it’s why we are encouraged not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” That admonition was never meant to be used as barometer of our spirituality or a legalistic roster of our loyalty to a church but rather it is meant to call us to a “holy huddle” so to speak. Those eleven men on a football team come together in a huddle…to encourage and inspire one another and to decide on the next play. In the same way, we need to come together and huddle up for encouragement and strategy about our next move. Because it’s going to be a long, hard game and we need to remind each other often that no matter how long it lasts and how many of us get injured along the way…we are in the epic battle of the ages and WE WIN! And, oh baby, what a PRIZE awaits us!
So stand firm today and keep battling on! Stay in the game, my precious friends and fellow teammates, until it’s all over. Be encouraged and huddle up often with others on the Team…because the game is hard and it may last awhile longer than we had hoped. Remind each other that we know the final score and WE WIN! WE WIN! And, oh, baby what a PRIZE awaits us when the buzzer sounds!
As I have been pondering and praying over the beginning of a new year, I’ve simultaneously been meditating on “the beginning of all beginnings” thousands of years ago in the Garden. There were two distinct trees there in the midst of the Garden…the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and throughout this first week of the New Year, I have been captivated by the reality that there has always been a choice. Even in the midst of a perfect world and an ideal life, the man and woman had a choice. They were not forced to remain in perfect, gloriously dependent and fully satisfying relationship with the Trinity. They made a choice every single day of their existence in the Garden to trust, depend on and enjoy the Father. That is until one fateful day when they choose to believe a lie, unplug from the one true source of love, life and security and strike out on their own. I know that a debate has and always will rage on Armenianism vs Calvinism – free will vs. absolute sovereignty and this not meant to be treatise on the subject. But rather a simple observation from Genesis 2 & 3 that there has always been a choice.
This is an important perspective that has a profound impact on our lives. As someone who has suffered profound abuse, it easy for me, to this day, to feel powerless and like a rag doll carried along by the currents and circumstances of life that I have no control over and little power to impact or change. But that is far from true. I and we are faced with a choice and, in fact, multiple choices every single day. We can choose the Spirit or the Flesh, we can choose life or death, we can choose to be a dynamic overcomer or a pathetic victim, we can choose love and kindness or hatred and cruelty, we can choose to build up or to destroy, we can choose to grow or to remain stagnate, we can choose to lie down and quit or to keep battling on, we can choose hope or despair, we can choose to live for ourselves or to live for others, we can choose Him or everything else. The list goes on and on.
There has always been a choice since the beginning of time in the Garden and there still is…every single moment of every single day. We are more powerful than we think we are and we have more God-given influence to impact this world and lives around us than we want to acknowledge. That power and impact lies in our choices. Most of us, consciously or unconsciously run from this reality because it carries immense responsibility…a responsibility with no way out and no one else to blame but ourselves. It is a lot easier to play the victim, to deny our freedom and our power and to whine and blame. That’s what Adam and Eve did. Through the power of the Spirit, we can change their legacy of Choice and change our lives and those around us…one choice at a time. When things aren’t going well and it seems that God has disappeared, I can choose trust and continued dependency on Him. When the man on the street is rude and mean because I didn’t cross the street fast enough in front of him, I can choose love and kindness in return. When the checkout line is not moving fast enough or the border crossing is backed up for miles, I can choose joy and patience. When my checking account is empty and the funds I need are not there, I can choose peace rather than anxiety and worry. Again, the list could go and on. The reality is that I have a choice and with that choice profound power and impact on the world around me.
I have heard many of my friends talking about their word for the year. Well, my word is CHOICE. I won’t get it perfectly right in my choices this year but I am asking the Spirit to make me more conscious of my choices and the power that comes with them this year. I am asking Him to help me choose well because the reality is that there has always been a choice and there always will be. What a humbling, powerful reality this is. We have a choice.
Since arriving in Sarajevo, I have developed a new hobby of gardening on my balcony. My balcony rail and widow seals are full of petunias and marigolds and I’ve started a small herb garden. Every morning, I get up and tend to my flowers. I begin by picking off the dead blooms, pulling weeds, spraying for aphids and then nourishing the plants with plenty of water and occasional fertilizer so that they are strengthened to withstand the scorching sun and other elements of the environment. I have been a Bible teacher for many years and have long understood how Papa is at work in our lives and tends to us a like a Gardener but this summer on my balcony has brought fresh insight into that reality. Everyday Papa is tending to us like flowers in a beautiful garden. He prunes and cuts back dead areas so that new life can eventually bloom, he pulls out the weeds in our hearts, he protects us from the things that desire to eat away at us and He nourishes us so that we are refreshed and able to thrive…all for His glory. Thankfully, Papa is a far more accomplished Gardener than I am. I sometimes over or under water my precious plants and I sometimes spray too much insecticide and rather than protecting my plants from the aphids, I un-intentionally kill them. But our Father, He is the Master Gardener. He always knows exactly what we need and He makes NO mistakes.
I have seen all of these wonderful illustrations about The Master Gardener with fresh insight over this summer and then this morning, I had another profound insight, perhaps the profoundest of all. I had finished caring for my plants and I sat down on my balcony for a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of the flowers. At the angle that I was sitting, I saw that I had missed a dead bloom in one of the flower trays. It was hidden underneath other flowers and leaves and was completely un-detectable except from that angle. As I set there it dawned on me that there are areas in my life that need pruning and tending to that only my Father can see. He has the unique angle and perspective that I don’t have. He sees those wounded, damaged and dead places in me and us that we cannot and never will be able to see for ourselves. So when painful things are happening in my life and I don’t understand what He is up to, I can rest in knowing that He has a perspective that I don’t and I can trust that He is at work pruning and nurturing places in my heart and character so that I can thrive and be fully alive for Him.
You may wonder why I would characterize this as the profoundest of insights for me. The answer is because it speaks to a very personal struggle in me. A few years ago when I was in the midst of intense therapy for a deeply traumatizing event in my life, I hated it and I mean I intensely hated it when my therapist would see things about me that I did not see myself. It drove me crazy because it made me feel stupid and extremely vulnerable. You see survival for me meant being able to see everything and anticipate, self-protect and take care of myself. The fact that there were things in and about me that I could not see myself evoked an agonizing sense of inadequacy, extreme vulnerability and paralyzing fear. I have since learned that we all need the perspective of others to help us see things about us that we cannot see ourselves and to help us grow and mature. None of us were designed to go it alone. All of us need others…people in our lives who will love and care for us…who will help us see the things we can’t see…the things hidden out of sight and beyond our awareness…and have the courage us to speak truthfully into our life.
And, above all, we need The Master Gardener who has a perspective that we never will and who is completely for us, completely trustworthy and always tending to our lives for our good.
I am 51 days and counting from my May 2nd departure date. I’ll get on a plane then and return to Bosnia after a six year hiatus here in the States. I was elated to set a firm departure date and buy my airline ticket several weeks ago. Since then, I have experienced a myriad of emotions. Someone asked me just this week how I was feeling at this point. The word that spontaneously came from my mouth was heavy-hearted. I am enthused and passionate about returning to live and minister indefinitely among the women of Bosnia and Eastern Europe, for sure. But, I am honestly and simultaneously experiencing a significant degree of sadness. Going there means separating from the life, the routine and the relationships dear and familiar to me in my world here. As I sit in that reality my heart is heavy. The healing journey of these past few years has bonded me deeper in relationships and a more solid sense of belonging than I have ever known. The healing journey has also taught me to connect to my heart and my emotions, to let myself feel and own them and to be real and authentic in the expression of them. Interestingly, recent days have been a bit quieter than I had anticipated at this stage in the departure countdown. I sense that Papa has orchestrated the quietness and restricted the busyness for a time so that I might genuinely connect with these emotions and the current state of my heart in order to walk through this transition real and alive rather than stoic and numb. That would have been the old Diana. The new Diana, who is now truly alive in His Spirit, knows that to deny the state of my heart at any given point on this journey, regardless of what it is, would be to dishonor myself, those that I love and will miss and my Father in Heaven, as well. So today, my heart is heavy…I’m okay with that and more deeply alive than I’ve ever been.
“God has trusted each of us with our own set of unfair circumstances and unexplained experiences to deal with. Can we still trust in Him even if He never tells us why?”
This is one of my favorite quotes and it came to mind as I listened to someone share her story recently. The reality is that God owes us no explanation and often doesn’t offer us one. The greatest area of growth in my life recently has been in the area of giving up my need…more accurately…my demand to know or understand what He is doing. That gets easier the more I stand unshaken in the knowledge of His love and goodness. It is a plce of brokeness and humility that says you are God and I am not.