Clingin’ Like a Waistband

Jeremiah 13:11 (NASB)

11 For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’

One of the symbolic acts that the Lord asks Jeremiah to perform to demonstrate a message to Judah is to buy a linen waistband, wear it and then go hide it near the Euphrates in the crevice of a rock.  After some time passes God sends Jeremiah back to retrieve the waistband which has by that time become rotten and worthless.

How does a waistband become worthless?  It loses its ability to cling, to wrap itself around God’s middle.  Some versions actually translate waistband as loin cloth.  If you go to the commentaries there is much discussion as to whether or not a waistband represented an overgarment (like an apron worn over the priestly garments or an undergarment literally next to the skin).  Was it meant to represent an ornament or intimacy?  I think there is certainly a case for both.

Either way in verse 11 God says, “I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah to cling to Me.”  God made us to cling to Him.  This is our purpose.  Everything in our culture tells us the opposite.  The world practically screams that we need to be independent, self-sufficient and overachieving.  To cling to anyone or anything, to DEPEND on anyone or anything is considered weak and even wrong.

But God says it brings Him praise and glory when we cling to Him.  Whether the waistband is a loin cloth worn next to the skin or an apron worn as an outer garment, they both figuratively represent garments worn around the most intimate parts of God.  Personally, I think this goes back to Jeremiah 9:23 – 24 and the importance of knowing God.  Not knowing about God, but having a deep, intimate connection with Him that bears fruit.

God was crying out to Judah, as He does to me (us), “Cling to Me, Know Me.”  Judah’s painful reply to God was consistently refusal and rebellion.

In this same passage, because Judah refused to cling to God, God calls them worthless (see verse 7).  They were not fulfilling their purpose, they were not glorifying God by their dependency on Him.  Our purpose is to cling to God, depend on Him and then according to verse 11, we will be a people “for renown, for praise and for glory”.  We bring glory to God not by all our strength and independence and self-sufficiency – Judah had plenty of those things – we bring glory to God by clinging to Him.

“Father, may we bring glory to You by surrendering our plans and agendas to You and walking in dependence on You, clinging to You as if our lives depend on it.”

Unmasked

Every time I sit to write there are a couple of nagging questions in the back of my mind: 1) what if this time I have nothing to say?  2) what if what’s in my heart doesn’t make sense on the screen?  Sometimes trying to articulate in the natural what God is doing in the Spirit can be challenging and overwhelming.  And let’s just face it, it’s never going to come out perfectly anyway.

For the past couple of weeks, really beginning with All. Is. Grace., moving to the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears and then particularly walking out of darkness like Lazarus and being angry with God, the content of my posts has been written to share more of the real me.  I am intentionally removing the masks I’ve worn for many years, the masks I’ve hidden behind (even from myself) and sharing Kim.

Increasingly, each post has become more and more like giving birth – painful, tearful, at some point I am not sure if it’s ever going to happen, but then joyful and life-giving when it finally arrives.  From the reader’s perspective I am not sure if anyone would be able to see a discernible difference, but writing has become more of a working out my faith in fear and trembling, than a systematic process.

In fact, as I write each post God has often been doing a deep work on this side of my computer.  As He gives me words to articulate my life there is a growing depth to our relationship because I really am depending on Him every step of the way.  Sometimes I am even having revelation as I type or as I share with friends thoughts and ideas that eventually get published.

So, if this journey is so awesome (and it is), you might be shocked to learn that as I’ve shared without the masks so to speak I have been battling a growing anxiety.  When I first started the blog the Publish button was bullying me around.  I have come to terms with the fact that the Publish button works for me, not me for it.  It is not going to do anything that doesn’t serve my purposes (except for the time I accidentally hit Publish instead of Preview and my post left the Draft folder before I was ready).  In other words, I have made peace with it and we are now friends.

The growing anxiety has come AFTER I hit Publish and my humble offerings have gone out to the world.  As friends read their posts via email, or come to my site or click the link on Facebook, or however they arrive to my online home and partake of my inner most thoughts, my pulse starts to race, my breathing gets faster and knots form in my stomach.  As my site meter climbs and the number of visitors and views grows I actually get nauseous.

For about the last two weeks my stomach has hurt almost constantly.  It’s hurt in spite of the fact that I am getting positive feedback and encouragement regularly (and yes even from people who don’t know and love me).  It’s hurt in spite of the profound closeness I’ve experienced with the Lord in the writing of each post.

While I have shared this with a couple of very close friends, I have for the most part kept this between me and the Lord.  Finally He showed me some of what’s been going on in my heart.  When I hit Publish I am not looking for approval from people or way more importantly from Him, I am actually EXPECTING REJECTION, particularly from Him.  The anxiety is in the waiting and anticipation of the rejection to manifest itself.  Let’s be honest, expecting rejection has been the whole reason behind wearing the masks all these years.  As they come off, there’s nothing between me and you, between me and God.  The potential for intimacy is great, but the potential for pain is huge too.

Instead of resting in His UNCONDITIONAL Love, His TOTAL acceptance of me, the high value He places on me (did you know Believers in Christ are worth as much to God as Jesus Christ Himself?), and trusting I am secure in Him, I have been waiting for Him to say, “No, that post isn’t right,” or “No, you are not cut out for this,” or, “Is that the best you can do?”

I think God moves us out of our comfort zones to take us to new places of relationship with Him.  Not only am I learning to depend on Him for the writing itself, but I am learning that the outcome is completely up to Him too.  Yes, I might get hurt in this process.  Yes, I will make mistakes.  Yes, it is possible that no one may ever “get me”, except God.  But to know Him in a more intimate and revealing way and to experience life lived out of relationship with Him, it’s so worth the risk.

And no matter where this writing adventure (or anything else in my life) goes or where it doesn’t, God is pleased with me.  He is pleased with me simply because I am His daughter.  And if I may be so bold, I think He’s actually excited for me and about me.

As I wrap up this post, this is the song the Lord put on my heart, What Joy.  Enjoy! (Sarah Emerson does a beautiful job, but this Mama LOVES to hear her babies sing this song! It’s my blog, I can be partial if I want. :))

Trapped

One morning last week I took two of my daughters to school and then went back home.  While driving home a friend called so I was still on the phone when I came back into our house.  I walked into the kitchen and started my morning chores (that’s code for cleaning up the tornado that blew through the house as the girls got ready for school) while I chatted on the phone.  As I loaded the dishwasher I heard a strange noise in another room.  It sounded familiar, but out-of-place so I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

I walked around the house looking for the noise, keeping my friend on the phone in case of emergency, but couldn’t find it.  After about ten minutes, I was standing in my bedroom when I turned around because I sensed something behind me and a small bird flew right towards me.  It was so strange to see something so familiar, but completely out of context.  The bird flew past my head and into the master bathroom.  About that time the gears in my brain engaged and I shut the door so he couldn’t get out.  I figured it would buy me some time until I could decide what to do.

I got off the phone and quickly got the person in charge of all critter-related emergencies when Dad is not home, my oldest daughter (read here about the deer incident).  I outlined our strategy for Operation Get-the-Bird-the-Heck-Out: she would go downstairs and open the front and back doors while I opened my bathroom door, broom in hand, and swooped the bird downstairs and out one of the two exits.  I thought giving him two options was really generous, and I was sure he was smart enough to pick one.

The moment of truth came, I flung open the bathroom door, but instead of flying out my bedroom door he flew the opposite direction and right into my bedroom window, getting himself stuck between the window and the blinds.  At this point I was clearly in over my head and in dire need of a real critter expert so I called my husband.

He told me to close our bathroom door, closet door, and bedroom door and then open our side door that leads outside onto a little deck off our bedroom.  In my defense, I didn’t think of that first because there is stuff in front of that door that keeps us from opening it.  I can’t even remember the last time one of us went out there.  I prefer to think of it simply as unusable wall space…I have come to COMPLETELY ignore the door, so naturally I didn’t think to open it for the bird.

Once I moved everything and opened the door the bird found his way out in less than sixty seconds.  Once again critter-free, I headed downstairs to get some work done and didn’t think anything else about the whole thing until after lunch.  When it came time for afternoon carpool I went back to my bathroom to brush my teeth.  I opened my bathroom door for the first time since the bird event and could not believe what I saw.  That tiny little, scared, trapped, overwhelmed bird had managed to poop all over my bathroom in the few minutes he had been in there.  It looked like everything he had eaten for a month exited his body in one panicked frenzy right in my bathroom!

When I wrote Friday about some of the ugly part of my story, I shared about reaching a place of brokenness and pain and finding myself angry at God, I was thinking about that little bird in my bathroom.  Just like him I found myself in an unfamiliar, confined, scary place and LOTS of ugly stuff came out of me.  Stuff that had been trapped in my heart for years.  I don’t really want to elaborate any further on exactly what some of that ugly stuff was, but let’s just say it was one of the few times in our twenty-six year relationship I have ever seen my husband look scared.  At one point he actually took a few steps back from me in our kitchen, I think he thought lightning was coming down from heaven.

One of the reasons I trapped that bird in the bathroom was to keep him from getting hurt (e.g. flying into things, getting stuck somewhere, the dog playing fetch with him, etc.).  When God let me get to the end of myself it was because He didn’t want me to hurt anymore.  He wanted so much for me to run to Him, to lay down my exhausting agenda and just rest in Him, cling to Him and trust Him.  He wanted me to truly know Him.

But even when I didn’t handle it well, He was still there.  When He promised to never leave me nor forsake me He meant it and no matter how ugly it got, He didn’t abandon me.  Instead He continued to gently love me, pursue me and persuade me of Who He truly is and Who He created me to be.  Eventually, grace overcame and Love won my heart.

How convinced are you of God’s amazing grace and unending love for you?  Enough to lay down your own efforts and trust Him in every area of your life?

“Father, give us the faith to trust You and rest in Who You are, to lay down our own efforts and pursuits to abide in You.”

Some of the Ugly Part

Jeremiah 15:18 (NASB)

“Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable?”

After about thirty years of ministry this is the question Jeremiah put before God.  At the beginning of their relationship in chapter one, God called Jeremiah and told him that he was consecrated and that he was specifically appointed as a prophet to speak for Him.  For thirty years Jeremiah had faithfully proclaimed God’s truth.  Even when his own friends and family members plotted against him (see chapter 11) he turned to the Lord.

There were certainly times that he questioned God (chapter 4 for instance), but in chapter 15 Jeremiah brings his personal misery to God and moves into profound self-pity.  After all these years of ministry he is in so much pain he actually asks God if He has deceived him and if He is unreliable.  In fact, in verse 10 of the same chapter, Jeremiah regrets that he was even born, implying he regrets he was called by God.

Have you ever gotten to that place where you were so miserable and broken as a believer that you were ready to throw in the towel?  Found yourself in so much pain that you wondered why you ever said yes when Jesus called your name?

This confession might be The Ugly part of my tag line “The good, the bad and the ugly”, but in the spirit of full disclosure and being transparent, I can honestly say I have felt EXACTLY that way.  Many years ago I had a similar Jeremiah moment with the Lord (I can’t remember exactly when because I have tried to forget it, but my kids were very young because I was dressed in the frumpy-puritan-holier-than-thou-functional-mommy fashion of the  1990’s Christian scene…it said everything except God thinks I am beautiful!).

We were at church that Sunday morning, I can’t remember what Hosanna or Maranatha praise song we were singing, but something in me snapped and I sat down.  I couldn’t stand up and sing that song because the words were not true, at least in my life.  And not only were the words to the song not true, but in that moment it seemed like God was not true.  Everything in my life was upside down.  Everything was a struggle.  All the questions and all the fears in my heart were screaming in my head like a siren, “NONE OF THIS IS TRUE!”

Then it got worse…the Pastor stood up, took the microphone and said he wanted everyone to march around the sanctuary while we sang…and he was not taking “no” for an answer.  I have never felt more like a hypocrite in my life!  As I stood up (with my spiritual arm twisted behind my back – I am not proud of this, but I knew then what it meant to murder your brother in your heart!) and schlepped around that sanctuary, it was like a dam burst inside me and with every step I took I got angrier and angrier.

Inside I was yelling at heaven, “We’ve tithed and we don’t have two nickels to rub together!  We have given beyond sacrifice and You are not providing!  We have served You in every way possible and You are not taking care of us!  Why is my husband’s business failing? Why aren’t you meeting our needs?  Are You who You say You are or not?”  Translation – “We’ve DONE all the right things God and You have not rewarded us.  You are not doing Your job!”

In hind sight I realize God was trying to bring me to the end of all of my “doing” for Him.  My flesh efforts at righteousness were failing.  He was trying to bring me to a place of brokenness, to the place of allowing my flesh to die and Jesus to live His life through me.  Honestly, I missed the point of the whole event at the time.  But I did repent for being angry with God, sucked it up and kept doing Christian life the way I thought I should for many more years.  Like every other time, I believed there must be some aspect I was failing in and once I figured it out, everything would come together.  It was a long, exhausting road to grace!

But back to Jeremiah…Jeremiah too had been faithful.  Jeremiah obeyed God and up until this point, he really had done it with the right attitude (unlike me).  Here in chapter fifteen though, it just hurt too much.  He had spent thirty years giving up his life for people who didn’t care and didn’t receive him.  And it wasn’t enough!  They were still steeped in their sin and they liked it that way.  Remind you of Anyone?

At this point in the book and Jeremiah’s life, the rubber was meeting the road.  The Babylonians were at the gate so to speak, Jerusalem was under siege and it was time for the price to be paid.  Jeremiah probably knew that it really was only going to get worse from there and he couldn’t go on…in his own strength that is.

What did God want in that moment?  He wanted Jeremiah, all of him, and He wanted to be known by him.  So He did what God always does, He revealed the way back:

Jeremiah 15:19a (NASB)

“Therefore, thus says the Lord, “If you return, then I will restore you— before Me you will stand;”

No matter what our circumstances, no matter where we are in our walk with Him, God wants us to bring it all to Him – the good, the bad and the ugly.  In every area of our lives He wants us know what it means to be one with the Living God, to have Him dwell in us and to live out of the depth of that relationship instead of our own strength.  The truth is we can’t do any of it in our own strength, there are just times we are more aware of that truth than others.

Is there an area of your life that’s not working and in fact is failing?  How honest are you willing to be with God about it?  Are you willing to take the road of surrender back to Him and find out what it means to truly know Him and be one with Him?  Even if it means laying down your own agenda, your own future? Are you willing to see God’s promises come to fruition on His timetable and not yours? What is it that you really want from God?  Tell Him about it.