Monday, January 31, 2011

Destructive Pits, Devouring Lions and Girly Emotions

This morning I was awake at 3am thinking about the meaning of my name, consecrated to God. I've been kind of mulling it over in my head for a few days now, figuring God was trying to pinpoint something, but not really sure what it was. But this morning, as I tried to fall back asleep, the Lord wasn't letting go, He wanted me to hear Him. He wanted me to understand what it truly means to be consecrated to Him.

Right now I'm sitting in the prayer room, flipping through my Bible and doing some research on the concept of consecration, already knowing what the Lord is challenging my heart with, but probably trying to find a way out, on a less narrow path. If I was still in college, being faced with a Dudek homework assignment, I'd dive in and write a 10 page paper on my findings, but today I'm resorting to my blog, because really, what the Lord is speaking to my heart is not an in depth matter that requires a ton of research, it really just requires a simple yes. But today I have a flesh problem, and "yes" isn't coming easy. I know I'm not the only one, that's why I feel pretty comfortable being straight up about my heart struggle today.

What led up to these ponderings about consecration? Nothing major, just a battle I was faced with in the dark of night. You see, I have this old friend. He's a boy and I like him, I always have. The problem is, he's not right for me. As a matter of fact, he's wrong in all the ways you can think of, including, he doesn't truly love the Lord. I haven't seen this friend in a long time, years actually, but he lives close and he doesn't know I'm around right now. I've made sure of that. But yesterday I started wondering how my old friend was doing and decided that I wanted to see him. A harmless desire, and admittedly from a completely pure heart, just wanting to know how this guy is doing and where his walk with the Lord might be right now. So I decided to make an effort to contact him. What I didn't know was that the second I clicked the friend request button on Facebook, that the enemy was just waiting to attack me. You know that verse in 1 Peter about the roaring lion? Yeah, it's true. My heart was about to be devoured, and I was clueless.

My innocent attempt at trying to reconnect with my old friend over a cup of coffee, soon became a raging war in my mind. I was shocked, I thought my heart was in a great place, I was surprised, I didn't think the old feelings were even there anymore, and I was plagued with thoughts all night long. If you're a girl who has ever had a crush on a boy, you know what I'm talking about. The downward spiral of all the girly thoughts, wondering if maybe he's changed, wondering if perhaps something could come of this after all. Wondering… and wondering… And for me, wondering is never good. In this case it was terrible, leading me to a place that I knew the Lord wouldn't really appreciate. He'd been doing His job trying to protect my heart from this boy for years, and here in one thoughtless click of a button, I had opened the floodgates of emotions that had never been fully given to the Lord. I'd hung onto them because I thought, maybe….someday…perhaps…

So at 3am the Lord was saying no, and my heart was unhappy because I wanted to say yes. If I'd said no in the first place, then maybe I could have had a full nights sleep, but God likes to wake you up when you're ignoring Him. So at 3am the Lord asked me what my name meant, and I sheepishly admitted that it has something to do with being consecrated to God. And so I sat up and let the Lord talk to me, and remind me that He knows best, and then He asked me one simple question, "So what happened to consecration?"

I thought about it, and I cringed a bit, as I realized that whenever I said I was "consecrated to God" I was taking the easy way in my mind. Kind of like when America says it's a Christian nation. Not all of us are, just some of us. So when I say, I'm consecrated to God, it has not been all of me, just some of me, the parts of me that I feel comfortable giving over to God. But there are other little parts that I wanted to ignore. Like the parts about never being able to drink coffee with this boy again for the rest of my life, unless I wanted to fall into a pit of destruction. Which I didn't want, but for some reason I wanted to play right on the edge of that lovely pit.

So I thought some more about consecration and I realized, my life matters too much to make a simple declaration. It needs to be more than that. When I got on Facebook last night, I should have consecrated that time to the Lord. Whenever I turn the TV on, I should consecrate that time to the Lord. Whenever I'm out to coffee with a friend, I need to also consecrate that time. I don't get to pick and choose these times of consecration. If I've given my life fully over to Him, it has to be all of it, and not just the parts I'm comfortable with. I know it's not easy, and some might say I'm just being legalistic, but I'm not. I love the Lord, and I've felt only a touch of His deep, deep love for me. Why shouldn't I give Him every moment of my life, fully consecrated to Him, set apart for Him alone?

Last night I discovered (yet again) that whenever you give your emotions to anyone (or anything) other than the Lord, things will get messy. Some of you might be thinking that this is a silly post, and that I have a silly problem, but the reality is, when we call stuff like this silly, we aren't taking it seriously enough before the Lord. He wants all of our hearts, including the silly parts, the parts prone to girly desires. He is the only one who can truly fulfill those desires. And my guess is, even if you're married you can relate to times when your heart has taken a silly turn, and not been fully consecrated to the Lord.

So I came to the prayer room today a little more humbled and a little more grown up, with a little more understanding of the care, love and grace the Lord offers all of His children. I'm 28, but I've avoided my emotions for so long, that it really doesn't surprise me that these silly ones came out last night. Yes girls, they do exist. Give them to the Lord. I did that, and through it, I felt a deeper emotion than I have ever felt before. I felt the Lord's love wash over me as I personally felt an immense grief in my own heart for having run the other way last night. I've never felt grief like that before. I've felt guilt, and sadness and shame, but until today I do not believe I have ever felt such a true, deep sorrow and grief for hurting my Lord. It came from a place of love. Deep love, unlike any I have ever known. If you've never felt it, I'd recommend quitting your job for a year just to go sit in a prayer room everyday and be face to face with the Holy One. It's actually worth it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just a nobody who said yes

As I walked into the Prayer Room yesterday, my eyes drifted over to a couple sitting with their arms wrapped around each other. They were both wearing face masks to protect against germs, and I realized right away that one or both of them must be really sick. I headed over to my normal spot, directly below a heater vent and began my daily routine of sitting quietly before the Lord, waiting on Him to speak to me. Just so you know, it's quite rare that the Lord speaks directly to me in that moment of quiet solitude. I usually wait several minutes and then if nothing comes to me I'll join in the worship, pull out my Bible, or begin praying for whatever is on my heart.

As I sat there yesterday, I glanced over my shoulder at the couple and I began to pray for them. A few minutes later someone caught my attention and I joined my fellow interns for an impromptu prayer ministry time for the couple. It turned out that the woman was suffering from a 6 year battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. My heart went out to her and as I began praying, I felt the Lord speaking to me that He wanted her to know that she was not forgotten and that He had been walking with her through this whole thing. So I spoke up and told her what the Lord was speaking to my heart and then I prayed that she would be able to lean into the Lord and trust Him to be her Strong Tower during this time.

This prayer time was one of the most powerful I have ever experienced because I could so tenderly feel the Lord's heart for this couple. As I continued praying I kept getting the phrase, "You were made for such a time as this." It was coming at me over and over and over again. I knew it was from Esther and I wanted to speak it out to the woman, but I didn't know the message the Lord had to go along with it. I kept trying to speak up in between the others' prayers, but it just never happened. Toward the end of the prayer ministry time I started feeling incredibly nauseous. I automatically assumed that the Lord was giving me a glimpse into the battle this woman was facing so I began to silently pray for her chemo, but the nausea didn't leave me until we finished praying.

Later that night I was thinking about the entire situation and wondering why I never spoke up and told the woman what I had heard, "You were made for such a time as this." I was wondering what I had missed. The phrase hadn't left me all day and into the evening. It was sticking with me, and the only reason I could think of was that I was supposed to speak it out loud during the prayer time. The fact that I hadn't spoken it out was gripping me in a kind of intense way, so I prayed and asked the Lord to send another messenger to the woman. But as I prayed that, I heard, "The message wasn't for that woman, it was for you." I kind of sat there, a little stunned and then just shook my head. I've been diving into Esther a lot over the last few months, and so I figured the phrase must have just been on the tip of my tongue. There was no way God was really telling me it was for me. I was just imagining things. Besides, why would He speak something like that to me while I was clearly praying for someone else? So I shrugged my shoulders at my ridiculousness and then went to bed.

Well this morning, before I went to the Prayer Room, I noticed that I had a couple new comments on my blog. I clicked on them and read some sweet notes from a few of my blog followers, and one of them hit me, really hard. One of my girls, Claire, (the one who I can credit for teaching me all things girly) wrote... "I love how even though you were a mentor, and in a place of authority, you always allowed us girls to see the growth and transforming work God was/is doing in you. You have a beautiful heart and you have so much to offer. You are definitely placed on this earth for such a time as this! God has chosen to use you mightily in the lives of young women! Thank you for the impact you've had on my life!!"

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback to read the very words I had shrugged off the night before (thanks Claire). I began praying and asking the Lord to elaborate a little. If He was really trying to tell me something, I wanted to know what it was. I drove to the prayer room and once again sat in my usual spot below the heater vent. As I sat there, I opened my Bible to the book of Esther and began reading, nothing really hitting my heart. Then I looked over my shoulder where the couple had been sitting the day before, and the moment I did that it was like the Lord burst my heart open and I could see what He was trying to show me. I began weeping as I saw this woman's 6 year battle with cancer in an entirely new light. The Lord was giving me a picture of battles, not just her battle, but other battles, battles of women who have been molested, battles of women who have turned toward men for all the wrong reasons, battles of young women fighting to understand their role in society, wondering if being feminine is really okay. I was seeing battle after battle, and the message in my heart was that these battles were spreading like cancer.

And then the nausea returned and I realized that I had felt this nausea before. I had felt it after being hurt by a man in Greece. I had felt it after getting leered at in the streets of Brazil. I had felt it the many, many times I talked with young women and heard the horror stories of sexual abuse and of being ridiculed for being born a woman. And I had felt it in the midst of battling temptation to give in to some false pleasure to mask my own pain from not understanding who I am in the Lord. So as I sat there this morning, weeping and engulfed in nausea, I knew I was just beginning to feel the heart of the Lord weeping over His beautiful daughters, His marvelous creation. And I knew that the Lord really had spoken to me the day before, "You were made for such a time as this." Only this time the message didn't end there. It went on, "The cancer is spreading and the battle is raging, but I made you for this. I made you to be a voice and to help fight these battles."

Then I looked in the margin of my Bible and saw where I had once written, "Esther was just a nobody who said yes." And I realized that's me. I'm just a nobody who is saying yes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just another chat with God

Three weeks ago I decided to do something totally radical. Well, radical for me. I decided that I was going to cut out all sugar from my life for a period of time. In order to make this practical, and not overwhelming to my Starbucks loving self, I decided that I wouldn't be overly strict, and if there was a special event like a dinner date or a birthday party, I would allow myself a small portion of whatever sugary goodness was available. Why did I decide to do this? Mainly just because I wanted to be healthy, but also because I felt like this was a good opportunity to spend some extra time talking to the Lord about my true longings, instead of my sugar longings.

As you can imagine, 3 weeks later I have discovered many health benefits to this new lifestyle. Yesterday I stood on a scale and discovered that I had lost 9 pounds. Now, before anyone gets bored and thinks this is another blog to convince you to stop eating ice cream and drinking flavored coffee, don't worry, it's not. This is a blog about self-discovery, or rather, discovering my true self in the eyes of the Lord. Read on my friends...

If you know me really well, you might know that there are certain topics I don't discuss with the entire world, my weight being one of them. The fact that I lost 9 pounds has happened before, and it's never been publicized to anyone. But today something shifted, and the shame of my weight struggles is no longer something I have to hide with humor or a shrug of the shoulders. This morning I was talking to the Lord, just having a pleasant conversation with Him, thanking Him for the many blessings He has poured into my life. In the midst of that dialogue, I thanked Him for the shedding of 9 pounds. And in that moment He stopped me, and He asked me this question, "Elisabeth, what's so special about these 9 pounds? You've lost 9 pounds before. What's the difference?"

I was a little taken aback, pretty certain He was the one doing the asking, but wondering why, since He's supposed to know everything anyway. But I thought about it and I realized that there really was a difference. In the past when I have fluctuated between losing 20 pounds and gaining 10, losing 3 and gaining 13, I was always "trying" to lose weight with one real motivation in mind... the eyes of the world. You see, I've never really cared about myself, but I've cared about what others think about me. In the world we live in today with diet ads all over the television screen and supermodels smiling at you from grocery store check out lines, it's no wonder I hated what I looked like.

I can quote you all the right Scriptures and preach you all the right things to tell you that it's not about what the world thinks, but what God thinks, but until I've let that really seep into my heart, it's not going to matter. It's all been an issue of comparison and self-hatred for me, masked by sarcasm and hard work, to prove to myself and others that I still matter in this world. I've never consciously thought of it that way, but it's all there. It's in the way I feel about myself when I look at old pictures, and the way I ignore the voice telling me not to take a second helping at the dinner table. Whether I want to admit it or not, I've never been comfortable in my own skin, and so I've fallen prey to the world's view of who I am and what I look like. When you're motivated by the world's standards, diet plans, exercise routines and even motivational self talk don't last very long. They are all temporary fixes to a much deeper problem that can only be answered by the One who created us.

So the answer to my Father's question about what's different this time is simple. This time, I didn't start this sugar free season because I wanted to please the world and feel good about myself. This time I started the sugar free season because I have tasted the Lord's pleasure over His creation of me and I have felt His love wash over me in the moments when I've begun to succumb to the world's pressures. He takes joy in who I am. A few months ago I never would have understood that but my heart has been changing and instead of just loving and caring about everyone else in the world but myself, I'm finally loving and caring about myself, the way He created me to.

So why am I breaking my silence on this issue? Because I know I'm not the only one. It doesn't necessarily have to be about weight. I've talked to enough girls to know that there is a lot of hurt in this world, and that a lot of that hurt is caused by a lack of understanding of who we are in Christ, our eyes focused on this world instead of the Kingdom to come. For years the Lord has been stirring my heart to intercede and help draw young women to freedom from self-hatred and other issues, but before I can completely go there I have to be willing to admit to more than just myself, that I have my own issues in this area. And it's true, I do, which gives me a passion to pray and talk to others, but for the first time my passion is being fueled by a true sense of self, found in the Lord and not hidden by a mask of humor and sarcasm.