Two questions haunt every human life according to Andy Crouch; “What are we meant to be?” and “Why are we so far from what we are meant to be?”
Have you ever thought about your own story? The narrative of your own life. It matters immensely!
The ebbs and flow of your life. The storms, deserts, sunrises, and sun sets. The births, and deaths. The times of fire, and those of ash.
How you fit into the greater story. The story of salvation. The greatest love story ever told. The one played out in the gospels, the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.
When I was in Peru I often would ask folks I’d meet at meals “What brought you here on mission?” What I really wanted to know was their story. The narrative of their life. Sounds easy right? Only for many it’s not that easy, and without a relationship with Christ you can’t witness who you are in Him.
People would often lead with what they do. “I am a lawyer, a teacher, an IT consultant, a nurse, and on and on”. Only that’s what you do, that’s what pays the bills, but not who you are – one’s truest self. It’s not what you do that makes you who you are, but who you are that makes you do what you do.
It’s in those moments I saw how people hide. Additionally, someone taking the time to listen to them while making eye contact makes many uncomfortable. They become vulnerable to their naked truth. The truth they can’t share out of fear, shame, rejection, and judgement. Truth that they can’t be themselves for fear they won’t be loved or accepted, but rejected.
This is why many of us skim the surfaces of our lives until we can’t. A tsunami on the inside begins large ways coming ashore that no one can ignore. Perhaps you’ve been there? Like a volcano, we sense smoke bellowing beneath in our soul attempting to stop the lava flow of anxiety with another material thing, activity, relationship, or busyness. Like one trying to balance a million spinning plates, or attempting to hold down a pool of beach balls attempting to stay a float. We keep ourselves busy to the point of exhaustion, wondering why we are always exhausted.
When the time finally comes. We know something in our soul needs tending to that requires our attention, and care. We can no longer run, and hide. We become aware we are in need of restoration, and the Divine Physician. We are in need of the Father’s tender love, and care.
It’s the the moment your soul screams “I was made for more!” The world sees a break down, and a party of tears as falling apart, but what if the beauty is smack dab in the middle of the mess, burning into ash?
One of the most vulnerable acts in humanity is getting naked, and creating life to bring forth new life. Yet, how often do we run, and hide when the naked truth of ourselves is exposed? The moments psychologists call flight l, or fight. The moments we react mostly unconsciously out of our untold story where our nervous system goes into overdrive, and our brains are firing on all cylinders from all kinds of previously made connections that we have no idea about because we’ve become snorkelers instead of deep sea divers. We react to everything foolishly thinking the problem is “them”. It’s never us? Or is it?
If we never go deep, we never uncover what feeds our reactions, emotions, and judgements. We will struggle to break free. More importantly, we never discover the gold mine with in. Yet, the Lord is a bondage breaker, and a healer. It’s God’s very nature to heal, just look at the gospels. Jesus‘ ministry was a ministry of healing.
Yet, many go on living in slavery, and bondage of chains and shackles of all kinds. The list is endless. Today, the Lord is asking “Do you want to be healed?” “Do you want to be made well?” A common question throughout the gospels.
“Healing is an essential dimension of the apostolic mission and of Christianity. When understood at a sufficiently deep level, this expresses the entire content of redemption.” Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth
If you find the courage to be vulnerable, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation, the light will expose the darkest corners where the hooks of the evil have gained a foot hold in your life causing root rot producing rotten fruit. Ultimately a strong hold that is holding you captive. We allow the flies to swirl, and dark spots to stay causing decay in our fruit. Holding fast to the handle of the closet door in fear the bones might fall out if opened. Trust me, we all have a closet full of bones.
Yet, God is calling us to life, and deep down you desire this life.
Even the prophet Ezekiel 37:1-14 in the Valley of the Dry Bones calls forth life.
“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
You may desire life, but your will resists. Suddenly, you remember those moments. The one that says you feared for your life, and thought you might die. The time you were humiliated in front of friends, and family. You were left behind, feeling unseen, neglected, and abandoned, all the while wondering if you’d be found and rescued. Then there’s that moment of rejection, when you stood alone as a team of one, totally heart broken and undone. The times one shoe after another dropped leaving you hopeless, and hanging on to merely survive because you were drowning. Then there’s the spinning tornado of confusion, and powerlessness that almost engulfed you leaving a sense there is no other option, but to run as fast as you can fooling yourself, you have control of your life. I don’t know about you, but I know some of these wounding moments have made a home in my soul.
These moments looking back seem little, and small, the wounds they leave piece our hearts. Much like the words Mary heard about her son, Jesus. “A sword will pierce your heart.” Yet, the Lord desires to heal and raise us up from those places that hold us captive to death and not life. Only the evil comes comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
But we run, hide, build, and create our lives on sand that is slipping away. We fear the spinning plates crashing down and we become exhausted from attempting to hold the balls in the pool down. We become tired, worn out, depressed, burnt out, and empty. For we realize we are drowning and need a life preserver. Like the valley of dry bones we live like the walking dead. Maybe you can relate? I know many years ago I too lived in the valley of dry bones wondering “Is this it?” “Is this all there is?”
The only life preserver who saves is God. He doesn’t for one second of eternity need us, after all He’s the creator of the universe. However, we’ve become our own life preserver. Surviving, and striving on self-reliance. Foolishly thinking we know a better way. I mean seriously how can any one have a better plan? But, have you been inside my head? A ferris wheel that has the answer for every stop. Oh glory, the ride that has the sin of pride holding every seat that belongs to God.
Yet, there comes a time when you gain clarity by the Lord’s grace in a moment of stillness, and decide to receive the ticket off the wheel of self-reliance which is actually maddening, as no freedom is on that ride of knowledge of pride, and control. It’s an illusion the world sells.
Because you’ve tasted freedom, and you know – you will not leave this delicious table. In fact, it’s here you will feast because freedom never tasted so good. You now desire more. You know freedom comes at the feet of Jesus, and spending time looking up. Letting the breath of the Holy Spirit fill you.
However, freedom only comes in the form of holiness which is actually wholeness, union with God. Something we all desire, but are too afraid to face the darkness of our own hearts and lives. Strangely enough though, when we don’t face our brokenness we continue to live in the dark, and in the valley of dry bones. Looking back, and looking deep within is never one and done. It’s an on going journey. One that takes our entire life. That’s holiness.
The freedom you desire only comes from accepting, and receiving the wisdom of love bringing forth new life. For too long you know your hands were closed clenching on self-reliance, and control thinking it’s you who saves. You now know it’s God who saved you in that moment of sheer terror when you feared death knocking on your door wondering if there would be a tomorrow.
That self-reliance is nothing more than you playing God – an idol. You’ve become your own God instead of trusting the one who saved you from the beginning. Clarity comes in understanding that that this idol is linked to so many poor choices. Oh sure some good came out of it, but finally you’re ready to lay down, and let God have His way with your life. You’re all in, and turning back is no longer an option to consider.
When I was in Peru that first summer I use to sit in the middle of this walking bridge often which I’ve previously wrote about on this blog. At the beginning of my trip this past summer I went back to the middle, only one day I noticed I sat in the middle, but on the other side looking in a new direction. Looking out into the unknown which was going to require a new level of trust in God and not me. Somewhat scary, but fear is a dragon I’ve faced down by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can not deliver ourselves, that’s the Lord’s work. Yet, the gospels tell us inner healing and deliverance from all that holds us captive is possible. Deliverance is not an evil word, in fact we are all in need. Deliverance is a good word, we say it ever week during the “Our Father”, deliver us.
I’m grateful to be delivered from fear by God’s love, and power filling me to the point all I could do was surrender, and let Him have me no matter how I shook or looked for my friends, and a room full of people to see. Oh the seriousness of that naked vulnerability in the Lord using you to witness His power is beyond mind blowing.
So I got comfortable looking into the uncomfortable which was a direction that I could not fully see as so much is unknown, but thanking God for capturing me from the fear that held me back in being who He was calling me to be.
Think of the woman at the well. The Lord meets her where she is fetching water in the middle of a hot day. Essentially she’s hiding from shame of her life, as no one goes to get water during the hottest part of the day, but he meets her with love, compassion, and mercy. He prophetically speaks life into her. God’s love always heals bringing forth wholeness. It’s the Lord’s very nature to heal, it’s who God is as the Divine Physician.
Have you every wondered about the seven demons Jesus drove out of Mary Magdalene? What if those seven demons were spirits of Abandonment, Shame, Fear, Powerless, Rejection, Hopelessness and Confusion? (The Seven Deadly Wounds in the book Be Healed by Dr. Bob Schuchts).
After her deliverance she became so free she was willing to say “yes” and follow Jesus anywhere even to the cross. In fact, she’s the only figure present in all four gospels at both the crucification, and resurrection.
So many of us live our life in the tomb of our wounds on the side of crucifixion, and not in the resurrected life the Lord is calling us to. We are held captive to the past, but the is Lord is saying “Where are you?”
It’s relationships that wound us, but it’s also relationships that heal us too. No true healing comes without a relationship with the truine God. Authentic love always heals.
If we never learn to live in the now, and if we don’t look back into the review mirror of our lives then we won’t break out of places that hold us captive, and we won’t be made well without an answer of yes to more of God. We will always react from another moment in time and it’s not this moment. Looking back is not living in the past, it’s a matter of using the resources available to you to bring healing and wholeness to become all God is calling you to be.
If we didn’t look back how would we ever know that the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. We can’t ignore the Old Testament any more than we can ignore our own past.
God is a God of life and resurrection not death. Christianity is a life of transformation moving from brokenness to wholeness, ultimately holiness – union with Christ. It’s a life of freedom! You can not live a resurrected life without the power of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural, you’ve heard me say that before. A silly myth that has made its way inside the doors of the church. We need the Holy Spirit now more than ever in the times in which we live.
We live in a culture of fragmented people who are merely surviving walking around much like the TV series “The Walking Dead”. Looking for the next latest fad to get them out of the funk and the valley of dry bones. Furthering burying themselves with binging on Netflix and Hulu. Treating symptoms instead of tending to the care of their soul.
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, that changes the Eucharist into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, is the same power that still to this very day all over the world heals and yes raises the dead.
Back to the woman at the well. After meeting Jesus, she says yes in her heart and drops her bucket because she knows no fad, pill, or gimmick can replace the life giving water that flows with in her. In fact, the new life that she feels within her over flows to the point that she can’t help, but go and tell tell everyone she meets about Jesus. Do you desire this kind of life giving water?
“I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” 2 Timothy 2:6-8
Today, Jesus is saying “Do you want to be healed?” “Do you want to come to life?” “Do you want to be free?” “I have made you for more.”
Say “yes” because I assure you Jesus, the King of Mercy wants to heal you….
This week make time to sit with Jesus and just be. Do not do. Let God love you and call you beloved son or daughter. You are Beloved & Chosen. Call on the Holy Spirit and let His spirit fall afresh on you and stir the flame and power that already resides in your soul by virtue of your baptism. Ask where you need to be set free from the places you’re wounded, imprisoned, or dead. Go to that place of pain and let the Lord heal and set you free. We are living in a time where fear has blanketed the earth, but the Lord is inviting his children into freedom.
If we desire to truly live and see our parishes full of life then we need to include the Holy Spirit in everything, including the healing of the Body of Christ!
I highly recommend the book “Be Healed”: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Healed-Guide-Encountering-Powerful/dp/1594714762