Monday, March 9, 2009

Surrender (Part One)

I'll just be honest in saying that this has been a tough year and I'm sorry for the cliche but I feel like I've been riding on a roller coaster. Sometimes having fun, sometimes feeling like I'm going to throw up, sometimes overwhelmed with fear of what's coming next.

I'll go back a little. My husband is in construction and two years ago when we ventured into having our own business we had high hopes and high dreams. He wanted to build. I wanted to be comfortable. Both seemed absolutely within our reach.

Then as you all know the real estate bubble burst, or rather slowly and painfully deflated. All of a sudden we felt like the roof had literally collapsed on our dreams, not killing them but in the mess of rubble, we lost them. I think they're still there but it's hard to think about them when we have bills yet to be paid and interest accruing in ungodly capacity.

Also, over the years of our marriage my dreams have really grown in what I see for my husband and our family. I knew he was called to be in ministry and honestly when we talked about building and making lots of money, I secretly would think "that's what he thinks, God's going to call him into ministry and we're going to leave all this behind." I really did! Not that I was turned off with the whole idea of living the "good life". I do like being comfortable. I do like having a nice car and I definitely do like to shop! But I also knew we were called to something more. It's not like it was a total secret from my husband, what God had planned for him. We would definitely come together and agree about our goals and dreams. He has often heard from God about being called to "feed [the] sheep" and I have often realized that I don't know how God's plan would come about and have recognized that it could include building houses as well.

This past year while on our roller coaster we have had the highest ups, really coming together as husband and wife and learning amazing lessons from the Lord. We've also had the lowest lows and while the lessons during those times have been equally amazing, they've also been unbelievably painful.

Most of the painful ones have had to do with stress. Stress has the ability to bring out whatever is deep deep down in the recesses of our hearts and most of the time that stuff has stayed hidden for a reason. Stuff like pride, fear, resentment, bitterness, hurts and deceptions. And when these sleeping giants are rudely awakened, watch out. Seriously, it sounds funny. We can all laugh about our "crazy" mom's right or is that just me? But when you become the crazy mom, it's not so funny anymore. This last year I have definitely had my moments as a crazy mom. And I have to admit, as a wife, I haven't stayed entirely sane.

So, on this roller coaster, I've had my moments of wanting to get off. Wanting the ride to just stop. Wanting to sleep through it. Wanting to find something to numb the feelings until the end. But every single time I'm feeling that way someone says to me, either directly or indirectly, "press on". Maybe that sounds like the simple thing to do, but it's NOT, or at least it doesn't feel simple.

Then last week I was feeling so incredibly weighed down by everything. My husband and I went for a drive on my birthday and he was expressing to me how discouraged he was feeling. Through everything I have tried so hard to hold onto the promises of God in his word and one of them that I've held so closely to my heart is Psalm 37:18-19, The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in times of famine they will enjoy plenty.

He did not get encouraged by my memorized scripture. In fact he got mad at me for "always using scripture for everything" and he went on to say something about it's our own strength that gets us through. All I wanted to say in this very low place was "No, you're WRONG!" See what I mean about stress bringing up ugly things in us? Instead of recognizing the need to minister and pray for my husband, and instead of having understanding for the dark place he may have been at the moment, I completely turned it around on me and responded with pride and resentment.

We did make up from that fight when we realized we didn't even know what we were fighting about. But God definitely had an unfinished project in my heart. So, here we come to my "aha" moment. I was taking a shower and praying (I highly recommend this time to pray for a busy mom). I very distinctly heard the voice of the Lord say "Lay your Isaac on the alter".

If you don't know the story of Abraham and Isaac, here is a very paraphrased version. Abraham, being old (my daughter says he was 99 and his wife Sarah was 98) was promised a son. God had promised him that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky in fact. Eventually, after trying to accomplish what God had promised on their own and paying the consequences, Sarah did become pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. Then some time later, God spoke to Abraham and told him to take his promised son to Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering. Abraham obedient to the Lord, strapped some wood to Isaac's back and as they walked up the mountain Isaac asked where was the lamb for the offering. In a profound word of prophecy Abraham answered "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." (I think this speaks of Jesus coming and sacrificing himself for us). Anyway, Abraham lays Isaac on the alter and right before he kills him, an angel stops him and tells him not to kill his son and that the Lord has found Abraham faithful. Then a ram comes out of the bushes and Abraham offers up the ram as a sacrifice. Then the angel calls again from heaven and says " I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

This story has always kind of bothered me because, well, I don't like tests. I am irritated when my husband asks me something or throws me some ridiculous circumstance when he just wants to see how I'll react. I've always felt the same irritation when reading this story.

In my shower though the meaning of laying my Isaac on the alter suddenly seemed to make so much more sense. At first when I heard that from God I thought "okay, what's my 'Isaac'?" Our business came to mind. And our home. I thought in a moment of piety "Okay Lord, I give you our business. Take it away if you want to." Then I smiled with a feeling of soulful satisfaction. The Lord said, "Um, no, the business is NOT your Isaac. Think again."

Then it hit. My Isaac is the dream and the promise of us going into ministry. The calling to "feed the sheep" and the dream that my husband will be the man I've envisioned him to be. I cried "Lord, but these are good things. These dreams are not about us, they're about You. You gave me these dreams". "Yes, and you've been trying to accomplish these dreams on your terms and in your way. I want them to die in you so that I can resurrect something that's living and eternal." Okay, I can't argue with that!

Then in my towel I went into my bedroom and read the story I paraphrased above and also read the days "My Utmost For His Highest". What do you think dear Oswald said?

"Lovest thou Me?" Then "Feed My sheep." There is no choice in service, only absolute faithfulness to our Lord's Commission.

Okay, then I argued a little. I said "See God, it's even in "My Utmost" for today. We're supposed to be faithful to the call." He said "You are being faithful when you give it back to me."

(Sometimes I feel like I'm so dense and stubborn. I am really one of God's strong willed children.)

So, I made a decision and made a written declaration to stick in my bible. I dated it March 5, 2009 with something new and hopeful growing in me. A new hope and expectation that God's going to take this and do something eternal.

How heavy the weight that's been lifted off my shoulders. The weight of my husband's spiritual growth. I've become free to be his wife. I've become free to be the mother who's sane. I've become free to live in the calling that's in front of me today.


barefootmommy said...

a wonderful testimony, Jewel, it reminds me of what I was going though last year, and realized that surrender was what I needed most. It's so freeing!

Aaron said...

I really loved how you explained the way that God spoke to you. I saw myself in every sentence. as I read you blog. I realized that it wasn't just about surrender in this case but, He was also asking you to stop being the potter. Their is only one creator and it is He.
I was driving down the street the other day and I was talking to God, praying and stuff. I was telling him(as if he doesn't know) how hard it is for me to transition from one situation to the next. Then as beautiful as His voice is as it sings deep in my soul was an utterance of the most simple prayer that still plays relentless in my mind. "Whichever Way the wind blows, teach me not to fear." As soon as I heard these words, Peace began to cover me from head to toe. I knew that he understood me. He is so good. Heather Thompson

Dejah said...

You are a precious daughter to the Lord and you are deeply adored. Thank you for sharing these moments Jewel. They are so encouraging and just precious reminders of how God has a great plan for us if we can just stay outta the way. So much easier said then done. Until you let go right? I also wanted to tell you I love your wedding picture.


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