A few days ago I opened up my email and saw a message from Thomas, our good friend (who is also the country director for Bring Love In) in Ethiopia, as a favor to us he has been overseeing some work on our 1985 Land cruiser while we are away in America, it is going to be our family car, and we are (or were, rather) really excited to get back from this trip and have everything all finished on our car. Then I got this message from him “Look, your new car!” with this picture attached.
Before I explain about the Land cruiser I have to tell you about something very personal, something that I have been trying to talk about with you but the words seem to come out all wrong and so I have deleted all of them many times. Today I am finally ready to tell it, to share with you some of the season we have been in recently, and a little of why the posts have been so rare here on the blog.
I ask for your patience though, this is a tough bridge to cross, and at times I am going to need to stop and breathe some while I try to dig this out of my heart.
Take a close look at the picture above. That picture tells the story of how I feel our life has been for the past six months, open, stripped, dismantled, while the shinny parts like the windows, headlights and even the bumper are strewn around the shop while we get sanded down to bare metal
The truth is, much of this started a long long time ago, yet for the past season it all seemed to gain intensity, our marriage was getting to be more and more complicated, our focus was all out of whack, and in our hearts a sort of hardness had set in, we it seemed had been through so much struggle in our lives, and had so many wounds, that we had built a wall around our souls and nothing was able to get in any more. Almost like the dam that was built to hold back all of the emotion was finally getting too full and breaking apart sending all of the junk down stream and we were helpless to stop it.
Does that make sense?
Then, as if God looked down and saw our depravity and decided it was time to make a change, he started to work on us like the car here, it was as though we were being torn down to the place where our souls were dismantled and in pieces all around the shop, and we were in the process of getting all of the rust cut out.
Do you see that bar across the top of the windshield? The one that isn’t there? That is exactly what this time felt like for us, important parts of who we thought we were, were being torched off and thrown in the trash because they weren’t able to withstand the load they were made to bear any longer.
It was not until recently, that we were able to understand what God was doing. Through all of these trials, He was actually answering a prayer we have prayed many times, pruning the ugly parts away and revealing to us the love he has for our souls. The prayer to heal wounds from years past, the prayer to bring us so close to him that nothing else mattered, the prayer to take away our selfish desires and replace them instead with a passionate love for Him.
And yet even after we began to see the beauty in what he was doing, there is still this odd, almost torturous void in the middle of all that pruning, as if after He did all the work to cut away the parts of us that He wanted gone, He waited for us to invite Him to come in and be the strength in our structure.
Before I go too far down the road with the metaphors, let me stop and get practical here.
For me, one of the things that had become central to who I was in recent years, is the desire to tell the story of Christ’s redemption to all who will listen, but during this season of digging deep into our hearts I found something inside that place that I now see was not God-breathed, but rather instead much of it was about me and my sense of pride and worth. Almost as though I was telling of His great love so that others would look at me. I am a needy person, I need love, I need affection, and I need praise, yet I was going to the wrong place to get it, instead of finding my worth in Him, I was looking to others.
Ouch! Like I said, some very painful stuff that we have been digging through here, there is so much more as well, but this part is important because this is why I have not been able to write here lately, after seeing these things about myself, every time I would sit down to put words to my thoughts, it would come out all wrong, and I could see my depravity for what it was.
Go back with me to the car, I think there is a little more mileage in that beast.
After all this stripping something else starts to happen, in this picture you can’t see it because the cutting is still in process, but what comes next is a rebuilding, new metal is crafted to fill in the missing pieces, bondo is used to fill in the holes, then primer is carefully sprayed to make sure the new paint sticks and stays stuck, and eventually (hopefully by the time we return in August) what we will see is an old, yet new car, a renewal of life, something worn and tattered by its years on the road will be made beautiful once again, and it will be something that is ready to take on the rough streets of a city that gives no mercy to the cars that dare roam its streets.
What I really like about this car especially is that it was made for these streets, it was built to take on the roughest of paths. Just the same way that God prepares His people for the roads ahead.
Our marriage has been in the process of remanufacture, our life in the middle of culling and pruning, and finally as we get to this side of the pain we now see something beautiful that I am praising and thanking God for. Not that we are all pretty now, by no means are we anything special, but He is beautiful, and after the emptying and cutting we are inviting Him to come in and fill these spaces.
There is something so beautiful about being broken, and emptied out.
I am still not sure what this is all going to look like, and I know the struggles are far from over in this life, but I will tell you one thing, Jessie and I are never going to stop giving our life fully to Him, and our souls are praising Him for the love that He has shown us through this season of pain and frustration. Our marriage is now marked with a desire to have our hearts beat in rhythm with his, we were created to hold on to Him with everything that is us.
For my writing, part of the process in this season meant my going to a place where I was ready to give it up. At one point I finally told God that I was willing to stop writing if that was what He wanted for me, it is something I love very much but if it was not coming from a place of humility and love for God I did not want it any more. Then, after a time of waiting, and almost as clear as day I could feel Him pushing me back to this place, placing my fingers to dance upon these keys once again, pulling me here to tell His story with a new passion.
Where before I saw the ocean swirling around me, and sought to build a firm foundation by digging me feet deep into the sand below me, I now see that God is the rock that is anchored in the middle of the roughest part of the seas, and although the water will still wash over me and I will still be moved by it’s great power, my hands have found the rock, and I am holding on tight with all I have.
Lastly, I need to say something else. In this time I have found a new love for my wife, a respect for her beautiful heart, and a thankfulness for the gift from God that she is. I look forward to a lifetime of sharing His great love along side her, and I praise God for bringing us together. This journey is beautiful because I can grasp my fingers between hers while we walk it together.
God brought about change in us that we did not even know we needed, pulled our marriage, and our souls into the garage and started stripping us down, cutting us to pieces, and re-visioning a whole new kind of love for us. I thank Him for that, but I also have to warn you, be careful what you pray for, sometimes the answer to your prayer might just be the hardest and most complicated work you have ever had to be part of.