Giving Up the Pit

Literally every day on this journey of unraveling grace, God reveals something to me He’s been trying to say for a long time.  The question I hear myself ask Him over and over again is, “Why didn’t I get this before?”  I mean really, I know some things take time, but 44 years (Yes, I should go read my own post about John the Beloved’s transformation…what can I say? I am slow!)?

So the other day I was cutting up an avocado.  A friend introduced me to them a year or so ago and I love them.  I love dicing them up in the skin, scooping them out, adding a little onion and salt and devouring them.  As I chose mine the other day, I made sure that it was the color I associate with ripeness and that when I squeezed it my finger and thumb sank into the skin a little bit without it feeling mushy.  From the outside it appeared good, ripe, ready to eat.

I took my knife and sliced all the way around the outside in a circle to make two halves.  I noticed it felt a little hard, but at that point I was undeterred.  Then I began to pull the two halves apart, but nothing happened.  I pulled harder and harder, still nothing.  The skin actually started coming off around the outside of the fruit (I did in fact verify it is a fruit since I usually don’t know these kinds of things), but the two halves were not separating.  They were clinging together like their lives depended on it.

Finally, I had to work my knife to pry them apart.  What I could see then was that the two halves that seemed so resistant to separation were not really clinging to each other, but the pit.  An avocado will practically give up the pit when it is fully ripe.  The pit will come out fairly easy and fairly clean, with little of the flesh stuck to it.

My not-yet-ripe avocado was a complete mess.  I practically had to use a hammer and chisel to get the pit out of the middle of that thing.  Almost half of the flesh of the avocado stuck to the pit when I finally got it out and by then I was thinking, I am kind of scared to eat this.  Anything that puts up this much of a fight has to be dangerous!

Well that message is true for me as well.  All these years that God has been whispering the love and truth of His grace to my spirit, my flesh has been clinging to my own “pit”.  I wasn’t ripe to receive the message.  He was speaking, loving, pursuing and I was unwilling to open myself up and allow my pit and my flesh to be exposed.  I was clinging to them as if my life depended on it!

In His time, however, when I was ripe, releasing that pit and exposing my true self has just seemed to happen.  There’s been no forcing, no chiseling, no hacking away.  It’s simply been a work of God and the natural response, because of who I am – a redeemed child of God – is to hand over that pit.

The Transformation of a Son of Thunder

A few weeks ago I shared about a great listening activity a friend of mine led us in on our girls’ weekend getaway at Riverbend this year.  Just to recap here’s how that activity went down:  we listened to the entire book of First John from beginning to end without our Bibles in front of us, without paper to take notes on, without stopping and re-winding, without talking.  We just listened.  It only took about 15 or 20 minutes.  Then we listened to First John 3, but this time we had paper to jot down anything that seemed to jump out at us.  Then we listened to First John 3 one more time.  Once we had listened we discussed what spoke to our hearts.

First, Second and Third John were all written by John, brother of James, son of Zebedee, disciple of Jesus Christ.  He also authored the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation.  I am probably telling you things that you already know about him, but there’s a point, it’s not just about the facts.  All of these tremendous books of Scripture, God’s Word to us, were written fairly late in John’s life and fairly late in relationship to the other books of the New Testament.  Scholars believe that all five of these books were written between 85 AD and 95 AD.

Let’s do some quick math, if Jesus was crucified around 30 AD that means fifty-five to sixty-five years passed before John wrote a word.  So what was this first-hand witness to the life, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ the Son of God doing all that time?

Mark 3:17 introduces us to John this way when Jesus first called him to be a disciple: “…and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”);”

It is believed that John was the youngest of the disciples and possibly an adolescent at the time of his call.  Therefore, he may well have been under the age of twenty when Jesus died.  During Jesus’ time on earth Scripture records John, and his brother James, at one point wanting to call down fire from heaven on some folks who wouldn’t receive Jesus (Luke 9:51-56).  It also records how John, and his brother James, requested to be seated on the right and left of Jesus in heaven (bold move, don’t you think?) (Mark 10:35-37).  Sounds like Jesus had good reason to call them Sons of Thunder.

Back to our listening exercise on First John, the one thing that all of us in the group zeroed in on was how frequently the word “love” is used in that book.  In fact, the word “love” is a consistent theme in all three of John’s epistles, as well as his gospel.  While the word “love” is not as frequent in the book of Revelation, it IS the revelation of Jesus Christ, Love Himself.

So how did John go from being a Son of Thunder to a messenger of Love?  How did he move from desiring to penalize people for their lack of understanding and exalting himself with Jesus, to a man who wanted nothing more than for all to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you (all) may have life in His name” (John 20:31)?  And how did he become a man who refers to himself in the third person (not the first person, as in the principle character) as the disciple whom Jesus loved?

While Scripture doesn’t record the details of those fifty-five to sixty-five years of silence (or anonymity?) they really make me wonder.  I think Scripture says a lot by the facts it includes, but I think it also says a lot by what it clearly leaves out.  And it certainly leaves out a large portion of John’s life.  The only two things we know for certain are that he cared for Jesus’ mother Mary and he was active in the early church of Jerusalem after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Beyond those two things we don’t really know what John was doing during that time, but we do know what God was doing.

He was lovingly transforming a Son of Thunder into a humble servant of Jesus Christ, into a man not only able to care for the condition of the flock, but a man entrusted with arguably the most powerful vision and message in all Scripture.  He was given the privilege of communicating The End of the story to those of us in the middle of the journey.

I’ve been asking myself, am I willing to live in obscurity for the purposes of God?  Am I willing to allow Him full access to every area of my life to do the transforming work that only He can do?  Just as importantly, am I willing to wait as long as it takes and let God do the work in me in His time?  (Let’s face it, we live in a culture that wants everything immediately…waiting fifty-five years for anything seems incredible if not impossible!)

Going back to the idea of Surrendering ‘The Plan’ from Monday’s post, am I willing to operate on a need-to-know basis and live moment by moment with Him?  Seeking only to know Him, allowing Him to bring me to the place only He can see?  As John stood at the foot of the cross I doubt he saw himself penning the book of Revelation or caring enough about young believers to write letters of love and warning to them.  Only a life of dependence on God, whether its years or decades, could produce such lasting fruit.

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. :))