Originally posted on Reflections of Grace Blog:
“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.”
Do you sing that song and truthfully think of its meaning and embrace all that it suggests?
What are you surrendering?
A few years ago through a season when God was teaching me to “let go” of those things I could not control; for some odd reason I felt that my obsessing would somehow change the circumstance in another person’s life or even my own. After much agony and defeat, I finally began to get it.
To truly surrender all to Jesus is to really let go.
But, what am I letting go of?
With Easter being the celebration of the sacrifice of His life and His subsequent and miraculous and wonderful resurrection so that I could have eternal life, then surrendering to Him must mean to freely give Him my life, and my control over it, and…
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Guest Blog by Misa Leonessa Garavaglia
So many challenges have confronted us these past six weeks. Three car engines are toast. Health issues are draining our energy. Sinus infection, migraine, recovering from ankle reconstruction surgery, and illusive sleep are plaguing my body. We are nearly drowning in medical bills.
My computer got very sick and needed replacing and we got ripped off from a private party on Craig’s List when we tried to buy a new one.
All four people in our immediate family were nearly in fatal accidents within three hours of each other in a single day. The box containing hundreds of dollars’ worth of my printed literature has completely disappeared.
The Beyond Abuse Radio magnets were stolen off of my car. The list goes on…
On the other hand, my radio show is attracting wonderful guests and the episodes are bringing healing and freedom to many. My work with people one on one is thriving. Individuals are being deeply touched by God and becoming transformed. We have recently found a church home after decades of bad church experiences. My marriage is healing, my family growing closer and friendships becoming deeper. The work that God is doing in me and through me is bringing me great joy. I am privileged to have a front row seat to watch miracles unfold before me. My own walk with God is stronger than ever. My roots are growing deep into His love for me. His presence with me is often a strongly felt reality…
But yesterday I felt overwhelmed.
In my morning prayers I cried out to God. I hit the wall I have often hit before. Once again the belief that I am not going to be taken care of raised its ugly head. It is the LIE that I have battled since I was a child. Growing up with an emotionally abusive, alcoholic father and a mother with mental illness influenced my unconscious belief system. Suffering sexual abuse as a child also hammered the nails of those beliefs into my soul.
No one is looking out for me besides me. I must take care of myself. I must protect myself. There is no one else to depend on. It is all up to me.
Lack of trust and the need to be in control were signature characteristics of my early adulthood. During the challenging early years of parenting, God impressed upon me the gift of His rainbow. Every time I would see a rainbow I was deeply touched by a reminder of God’s faithfulness in His promises to me. It was like being kissed by my Creator. Each time I saw one, I would stop in my tracks to thank God for His promises.
Yesterday I saw a beautiful rainbow right outside my back door. In my anxious state I didn’t pause for even a second to hear God’s voice. Instead, I ignored it and kept trudging along through the cacophony of physical pain and financial worries that surrounded me and infiltrated my energy, stealing away my joy and peace.
I continued to throw myself at my “to do” list and propelled my body forward. I had to be somewhere soon and had hair and makeup to deal with.
Then I saw something I have never seen before. It was a triple rainbow. I have never three rainbows in a row. It got my attention. I called my husband outside and we got our cameras and snapped some photos, commenting on the brilliant beauty spanning our backyard. I finished getting ready to leave and climbed into the borrowed car to drive to my meeting. And then it hit me.
I had been totally detached from God. There was no reminder of promises when I saw that first rainbow. God called and there was no one home. The line was busy, full of anxiety and the activity of my attempts to catch all of the unraveling loose ends in our lives and do something with them. I had plowed right through His message literally written in the sky in front of me.
As I drove down the road my mind finally paused and I heard it.
“I am here. I have heard your prayers. I know your needs. I will never leave you. I have not called you into this work to leave you without the resources to do it. I am going to take care of you. It may not look like that right now, but it is the truth. You can trust me.”
In my mind’s eye, the God who lives inside me reached out His invisible hand and rested it upon my head. He looked me in the face and spoke of His deep love for me.
Yes, I had plowed right through the first rainbow.
So He pulled out all the stops and sent me three more.
It was okay that the first one escaped my attention. He knew the difficulties I was dealing with and there was not an ounce of judgment there. No, instead, He was willing to send something downright spectacular to capture my heart.
I finally made the connection. The tears welled up and fell onto my cheeks. It wasn’t up to me to take care of myself.
Yes, I have to cooperate with His care for me and do those things that He moves me to do.
I have to see the value in me that He sees and obey His voice when He leads me to eat well and exercise, to pray and to rest, to work when it is time to work, and to play when it is time to play.
But it all comes from His desire to protect me and create the thriving life that He intended for me to live. It is from His heart that all of my needs are met, not my self-effort to figure it all out and then make it work.
This morning I felt God moving me to do some art journaling. I painted a triple rainbow nestled in our little valley of redwoods that graces our backyard. As I was finishing my painting, the music of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” sang out from Pandora.
“Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me
Somewhere over the rainbow
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then oh why can’t I?”
When the song was over, another familiar tune began to play. I belted out the words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
I don’t know when I will have a car to drive. My headache and ankle pain are still with me. The finances, computer, and other problems have not gone away yet.
But it IS well with my soul. The reason that it is well is that my soul is known and loved. I am being held in the tender embrace of my God and He IS taking care of me. And He sent a triple rainbow in my own backyard to prove it.
(Songwriters: Harburg, E Y / Arlen, Harold
Somewhere Over The Rainbow lyrics © EMI Music Publishing)
(It Is Well with My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford)
(Picture of rainbow created by Misa.)
Misa’s Bio: Misa Leonessa is a life coach and spiritual director specializing in trauma recovery, relationships, communication and spiritual growth. She has walked the path from surviving to thriving herself, and has a passion to help people heal from childhood abuse and those who are committed to pursuing greater relational, emotional and spiritual wholeness. Misa is the producer and host of Beyond Abuse Radio where she shares the wisdom gleaned from her own journey and she facilitates workshops and conferences for individuals ready to break patterns of fear and self-protection to find their new inheritance of life, love and joy. Misa has 2 beautiful daughters whom she home schooled from kindergarten through high school and has been married for 27 years. She lives in the Santa Cruz mountains of central California with her husband Lou and her dog Gizmo. Misa loves to write, walk in the Redwoods, and kayak. She also enjoys growing flowers, singing, and artistic expression. Misa can be contacted at
Recently, I was in Costco by myself. I was kind of in a hurry– but how do you hurry through Costco? The store was teeming with the masses of humanity, seriously.
I forgot to eat before going, as usual, and of course I was starving. Being on a organic, grain free way of eating these days, the pickings were small when it comes to the free-food-Costco-hand-outs on every corner of every isle.
Because I didn’t take responsibility for feeding myself before shopping and I become a crazy person when I am hungry, (like I am going to die a slow death if I don’t eat), I decided to partake of various and sundry free food items while I was shopping, to assuage my hunger.
I never do this.
Okay, so I tend to be oblivious to everyone around me when I am shopping. I don’t know why, but I have had friends, as well as my husband, grab my cart away from me and pull it out of people’s way while shopping with them. I always thought they were being rude.
Now, I had combined shopping with eating and that is even more dangerous for me. Seriously, I can stroll around with my cart and literally clip other people’ carts (or them) and block them in the aisle or cut them off while I stand in their way looking at something–and not have a clue.
So, I found some veggie burgers that were organic at a food sampler. I ate one and was so hungry I circled around as if I hadn’t been there 2 minutes before and ate another.
I know you have done this too!
Then I went to the next food booth and had some organic turkey and cheese, followed up with a sip of a vitamin drink on the next aisle.
As I was having my feast with myself and feeling pretty smug that no one knew I was doing this, I became entwined in a cart traffic jam. I was honestly thinking, “Why do people always get in my way?”
I glanced behind me and there was a mean looking lady who had stopped behind me and she was just glaring at me. The look was one of disgust and disapproval. I thought, “Ok Dixie, pull up your skills with people, and smile. She’s probably just having a bad day and wants to take it out on you.”
So, I smiled at her.
At that very moment I realized I was in her way. She didn’t smile back.
Trying to be mature with a compassionate look on my face, I quipped, “Oh, am I blocking you.” And then I moved my cart.
She gave me a dirty look and shook her head and went by mumbling something about stupid people.
I became 5 years old again.
I wanted to cower down behind my cart, or just disappear into oblivion. All my childhood moments of not feeling adequate and seeing myself as ugly, different and invisible came tumbling back into my mind.
I was no longer Dixie, the mature successful people person, but now I was Dixie, the chubby little girl that her Dad was molesting.
It only took a moment to be catapulted back to my former self. But that feeling lasted all day. I scolded myself and laughed at myself for taking her actions, look, and words on, as if to define who I am.
“I am not who she thinks I am. Wait, lady, I am not her. I am a mature woman of God now, and I am above letting you ruin my day!” I screamed in my head.
And the feeling lingered all day. On the inside of myself I once again had to face the fact that I am still human and still vulnerable to those triggers that can rob me of my peace, in only a moment’s time.
I am reminded once again that our journey in this life is one of pressing on with Jesus, no matter how many times our enemy wants to drag us back into our past. Satan is ever present waiting for the opportunity to catch us unaware in only a moment to make us think we have lost ground in our maturity in Christ. We must be on guard at all times to know that he is ready to pounce.
I Pet. 5:8 says:
“Be well balanced, temperate, sober of mind, be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring in fierce hunger, seeking someone to seize upon and devour.”
It only takes a look of disapproval to cause us to lose our footing in only a moment.
John 8:44 says of Satan:
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
So, he will use most anyone or anything he can to try to convince us that we are less than what God wants us to be. He will throw the past in your face in a second to try to grip your soul and make you see that you are really no different now, than you were when you struggled with fear and acceptance. It is a lie. Don’t fall for it.
Be on your guard. Refuse to believe what you know are lies. Know who you are in Christ and know that our own feelings, fueled by our fears, can lie to us about who we are– in reality– as His precious children.
♥ I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
♥ I was chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
♥ I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
♥ I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
♥ I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5, 8)
♥ I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
Guilt over our pasts can be Satan’s flaming arrows sent to wound our sense of self esteem. But God has already dealt with all of our guilt; we only need to appropriate His solution for it. To fail to do this only opens the door for the enemy to take over our minds with fear and doubt.
Part of Kingdom living is being aware, that no matter what that person standing behind you thinks of you, you know who you are and how far He has brought you. And to stand in that truth no matter what your feelings are saying.
I have come to know you, my audience, as my friends. I have allowed myself to share my heart with you in my most intimate places. For I know that true transparencies bring true continued healing and restoration in not only myself but in you.
So, today, I just want to share a heart of thanksgiving with you that sometimes is hard to contain. As you know I am a Life Purpose Coach. But I do not write this as a ploy to get more clients. I write this out of a desire to share the wonderful joy that I have overflowing in my heart at changed lives.
Because of the confidentiality and bonding that happens in such a transparent relationship of Life Coaching, you don’t get to share details of the glorious work of God that often. Life purpose coaching is a time of traveling for a while with someone on their journey, allowing Holy Spirit to bring those things out that need to be healed or exposed so the person can move forward unstuck; into God’s perfect plan for them.
I get to assist the Holy Spirit while He changes lives!!
I always explain to my clients that I am just the person running alongside them on the sidelines; doing cart wheels, waving flags, and shouting “You can do this.” But they are the ones who actually do the work. Can you see the picture?
Coaching is what YOU make it. When you make the decision to sign up for coaching, you are ready for finally letting go of your own ways and surrendering to God and allowing Him to open doors you never even imagined or walked in before. It is a wonderful and amazing thing to do for yourself. When someone is ready for Life Coaching, they are ready for God to do a new thing and discover answers to questions they may have had their whole life.
Life coaching guides you into clarity and fulfillment in your life by discovering what you were always meant to do through examining your life’s experiences, good and bad. Coaching will help you if you are blocked, stuck, or blinded by circumstances, yet are committed to moving forward responsibly.
I always tell my clients that you can’t take one step towards God that He doesn’t take 5 towards you.
Almost from the first day with someone I get to see changes in them that absolutely thrill my soul. I feel like I get an inside seat to watch the heart of God at work. What a privilege!!
It has been an absolute joy to get to assist the Holy Spirit while He changes the lives of those willing to take that step of faith. Week after week, after appointments, the minute I hang up the phone or close the door, I get to dance with Jesus in excitement over the joy in faces that show new awakening, and for new life emerging from the past in all of its complexities. I watch giftings and talents uncovered, new adventures beginning, freedom from old strongholds and generational patterns, a new awareness that Jesus is a very real lover of their souls, and a newfound love of His constant companionship.
I get to do this!!
I praise Him with all my heart for choosing me to get to walk hundreds of journeys with His children and to have a first row seat to watch it all unfold in His perfectness.
Many times I have wished I could just share everything I have experienced with everyone I meet because I get so excited at the awesomeness of what He does in personal lives. He and I rejoice together and I feel Him smile at me when I get so excited and He is the only one I can tell everything to.
It humbles me beyond words. For so many years I felt like God used everyone but me. I always felt like an imposter. It took a while (my whole life to this point, actually), for Him to bring me around to see my own gifts and callings. It took many more years of pain and healing to finally get to this point of finding what He was preparing me for all along.
I have been through many horrible years of childhood incest, spiritual abuse, divorce, my own child being molested, poverty mentality, extreme loss, wrongful thinking, and 5 years in the desert to finally find who I really am. I guess that is why I know that He is no respecter of persons and all it takes is a willing heart and sometimes someone to guide us into the right path. His desire is to bring us all to that place of knowing we are walking in His will.
Learning to trust Him in what He has called me to do; I can now see how all of my trials led me to this place. He knows what to do with us and what we need to open our eyes to His reality and not our own.
Joy and excitement jumps within me each and every time someone I have been assigned to have their eyes opened to how deeply and completely they are loved by Jesus and as I watch a deep relationship formed between the two of them, I marvel at His goodness.
Sometimes a client is so excited in their new found freedom they desire to share it with the world.
So, I want to introduce Donna, a client I am actually still working with but she has given me permission and says she would be honored if I would share her story in a recent poem she wrote. She recently shared this poem at a convention, and when she was done the tears flowed freely among herself and many attending, as they could relate to her story of pain and then hope. There is so much I would like to say about Donna, but I am always mindful that it can only be shared in all of its completeness by her.
It is her story.
By Donna Hines, through our Lord
One day I decided to go down to the sea,
To see if I could find the part that was missing of me.
I went down to the cliff and gazed off the rocky shore,
I could not visualize me. I couldn’t see me anymore.
It was gone, that part that held my dreams,
It slipped beneath the surface where shadow and light mimic moonbeams.
Dark waves crashed overhead causing ripples of fear,
It dissected my soul and caused me to disappear.
I was lost like Peter, but beneath the sea,
Dark, quiet motions as I screamed silently.
Where was God, where was Jesus, where was Holy Spirit,
Was that me gasping and who was there to hear it?
Thrashing, turning, convoluting my form;
Struggling for control in my personal storm.
I had to let go and stop the struggle,
I had to give up; I had no more air bubbles.
It was then that I knew I had no answers,
I was a puppet with the minuet dancers.
I thought that I could direct my life,
And found out instead I only directed the strife.
Jesus is the beautiful lover of my soul,
He gathers my pieces, He makes me whole.
He gives me a path, a direction to take,
What ocean I swim in is not His mistake.
Arm over arm I delight in the waves,
It is beautiful Jesus I rest in, it is Him who saves.
Awesome God, O Great I Am, you are where I find that missing part of me.
I am deeply loved, have always been cherished, never chained and unequivocally free!
Donna is sharing almost daily with me all the wonderful things that are transpiring in her life right now, as God has been revealing her gifts to her; Gifts that were always there, but buried beneath years of struggle and pain.
Can we not all relate to this poem?
Our answers lie in Jesus, always!! It doesn’t matter what the issue is when a client comes to me. It always goes back to filling the gaping hole within their hearts with Jesus.
He will move you into His perfect plan for your life as well. Can you imagine finding complete fulfillment in what God has called you to do? Seek Him for His plan for you, if you don’t know what it is yet.
For it was for relationship with Him that we were created.
The names have been changed to protect the guilty. For they have already been forgiven.
We read about each other’s journeys, memoirs and daily exploits. We picture others lives as victorious and grand.
Why, because many of us share only those parts of ourselves we want people to know about, right? Many of us are learning to be more transparent and vulnerable and thank God for that!! It is only as others see those parts of our lives that we keep hidden that they can identify with us and it gives them hope as we find our way. The truth is:
WE ARE ALL A MESS!
A beautiful mess…
We all have a story.
Oh, yes, we are all growing and maturing if our walk is with the One who loves us the most. But when it comes to outward appearances we are all quite private, mostly, and we are all too embarrassed to allow others in…especially when it involves our offspring straying from what we think and sometimes KNOW they should not be doing. When we look at others lives we tend to look at the children, who are many times all grown up, and we are aghast that they live real lives, with really bad choices sometimes.
We are all part of a family; some with young kids and some with grown kids and grand kids and some who are elderly and tend to live their lives through their offspring.
We can’t control them all, can we? If you have tried to control them, how is that working for you?
After giving them an upbringing the best we knew with what we had in that season of our lives it is now our job to then let go, and let them find their way with occasional counsel from us—but only if they want it!
Actually, if you are like me you have discovered that you can’t control anyone or “fix” anyone at all—even our children. It is a walk of surrender, trust, and waiting on God to see Him move in those we love.
This is why I am quite amused by the sitcom Parenthood. It is a combination of stories of a family and extended family of each child, grandchild, and the parents; all living their own lives– but intertwining those lives back to the a original family of mom and dad. It follows their ups and downs and daily drama and how they all relate. I know our lives are like this in real life. In our family, when we all get together we all talk at the same time, just like in the sitcom, and there is always drama, and somehow it all makes sense.
So, rather haltingly, because I have not written this way before, I have put together a story, using false names, to relate what I have seen in the struggles of so many that I coach.
Mr. Squirrel, Mrs. Squirrel, and their delightful children; Hector, Missy, and JoJo. Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel found God when they were very young and vowed that their family would serve God all their days and that they would not have kids like those worldly animals outside the Church of the Forest. Their kids would be different.
Every Sunday the Squirrel family all scampered off to the little church in the forest, to fellowship. . Hector, Missy, and JoJo were raised in the Church of the Forest’s nursery, and then Youth church of the forest, and then they graduated to where the adult animals gathered, Big Squirrel Church.
The squirrels made really sure they always sat among their kind, meaning all the other squirrels, so as not to allow their children to be influenced by those questionable Raccoon and Rat families.
This is how the Squirrel children were raised and they were not allowed to even talk to the ones on the outside of their forest circle, lest they be tainted by the world…in fact, they were tree schooled so they would not have to be out in the world at all.
What? “How could he desert us and join those heathen”, said mom and dad Squirrel. “He surely knows better!”
Soon Missy and JoJo, following Hectors lead, began to want to do other things more interesting to them on Sundays as well. They became fashion conscious and began to wear questionable furry things over their little heads that made their ears stand out, and they revealed a little too much in Mr. Squirrels eyes.
They painted their little faces, and wore fashionable acorn hats. Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel were horrified, and tried to put up boundaries, and banned them to their rooms at night.
But Missy and JoJo would sneak out and join the wild ones of the forest and saw many tempting and delightful things that were expressly forbidden in their home. They felt so grown up.
They even went to see forbidden movies in the forest amphitheater after hours, like, “Dirty Weasel”.
Mom and Dad became aware that their control in the lives of the baby squirrels was slipping. The children began to run the forest with questionable characters, such as Mickey, the Ferret, who claimed that God wasn’t real and influenced them to join him smoking berry joints.
And then there were the horrid frog brothers, Castor, and Juice! They loved to hang out and jump around intoxicated on the spirits of mushrooms and were totally indecent creatures. They were the bad boys of the forest, and everyone knows that girls have a soft spot for the bad boys. The squirrel kids thought they were so cool, and soon, they defied Mom and Dad Squirrel to join their friends in swinging from trees and eating tainted nuts and flies, supplied by Mickey, the Ferret.
Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel wondered where they went wrong. They lost sleep. They prayed. They fasted. They beat themselves up. They withdrew from their friends out of shame and failure.
“How could we not see this coming? Didn’t we pray enough? Where did we miss it?” They cried.
They felt shame and didn’t want to share with others what was happening to their perfect little family.
They decided to just pray– but they just couldn’t stop giving their kids ultimatums and demands to straighten up and fly right because that was all they could think of doing! They felt so out of control.
But Hector, Missy, and JoJo ignored their pleas and just kept growing up and doing their own thing, rebelling against authority with the rebels of the forest.
The Raccoons were not like the Squirrels and she knew the rest of the church family would gossip and talk about how they, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel, could possibly tolerate a raccoon in their family. And for that matter they wondered what else was hidden in the Squirrel family that the animals at the Church of the Forest didn’t know about.
And, oh my, what would people think? The whole forest knew the Squirrel family were the most upright in the forest!!
Next JoJo met Squirmy, the hot little rat who ruled the underworld of the subculture of the forest. He loved to mock the system of religion in the forest and had his own ideas of how he wanted his life to go and JoJo found him fascinating. They defied JoJo’s childhood teachings and warnings and soon they found out they were going to have a little squirrel-rat in the spring—outside marriage.
Mrs. Squirrel fainted.
Now, Hector, was out swinging one day and he noticed this hot little fox, Francesca, sitting on a log. She was petite and feminine but lived on the other side of the creek. She was everything he was taught to not become involved with. And she was very promiscuous….and had a really bad reputation among the creatures of the forest and she smoked berry joints and drank tainted mushroom water. But Hector was smitten and he began dating her at the Pine Needle Bar every night. Soon they were in love and eloped before Mr. And Mrs. Squirrel even knew about the relationship.
Mr. Squirrel drank a mushroom brew when he found out and was out of it for days.
Now, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel became very discouraged. Was all their years of teaching and protecting and controlling in vain? They were now judged and condemned by the church creatures instead of supported and prayed for. They were so embarrassed by their children’s choices they stopped going to the gatherings all together.
But when they were ostracized by most of the animals in their church (whose kids were not grown yet, or they had no kids) and found themselves alone, they finally began to look to God for answers. God taught them that all their children had been taught the right way to live. Now, they had to let them go to learn on their own. Even if that meant they would fail.
The word said they would eventually come back to their roots of learning right from wrong. But even if it was not in the parents timing, God would bring them back. They discovered if they tried to fix their children the result would be that they only pulled away more. So, they defied what the gossips were saying and began loving their children and their families and accepted them into the fold. The revelation that they could love, even if they didn’t agree with some of the things their children did, actually made the kids all want to be around them more.
It was love in the end that brought them all back together. Oh, there is plenty of drama, and always some crisis or another, but Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel found that since they couldn’t fix their kids, that God did a much better job.
And you know what, Squirmy, Rastus, and Francesca, ended up wanting more information about God…and one day showed up at the Church of the Forest with their spouses leading the way.
The moral of this story?
It says in Isaiah 54:13 Amp.
“And all your children shall be disciples [taught by the Lord and obedient to His will], and great shall be the peace and undisturbed composure of your children.”
I know there are so many whose children are still out there living lives that do not line up with where they should be.
And it scares us.
And it hurts our pride.
It somehow reflects on us in our own minds.
So, we suffer alone. This is not good.
We need each other!!
Jesus promises us that as we lean into Him and trust Him that He will do His work in our offspring and He gives us peace in the meantime. Even though our children are a part of who we are, there comes a time to let go and trust that whatever they are doing, and wherever they go, that He will keep them and move in their hearts.
Thus says the Lord: Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord; and [your children] shall return from the enemy’s land. And there is hope for your future, says the Lord; your children shall come back to their own country.Jer. 31:16-17 Amp
I love the church. If you know Jesus then you are the church too; One of the many members of the Church, the Body, of Jesus, who is our Head. But I was brought up spiritually in a church building for many years, and I loved it.
Somewhere along the way I lost the mentality that I was there to grow in Jesus.
Oh yes, I was taught that I was the temple where Jesus lived, but I was also taught I had to be in a building to truly walk with him. It took me too long to realize that being a ‘church lady’ didn’t mean I knew anything about the heart and passion of God.
Oh, I yearned for it, so put on the face that I already had that passion filled relationship with Jesus, and had the pious face down pat, as if I had it together. I had the Christian-ease language down pat, too. For many years I was very involved in just about everything that was happening in the church building.
I was involved in potlucks, gospel sing alongs, committee meetings, bake sales, car washes, retreats, conferences and any other spiritual sounding activity that was advertised in the church building. Then I started a women’s ministry and it grew and grew. I absolutely loved it. I had a place and felt loved and accepted. I loved the people, the busy-ness, and the routine. I was really good at doing church and I looked the part, too.
I had a good heart.
I was so drawn to God and yearned to serve Him and thought that is what I was doing. But over time, more serving, and more ministries later it all became a checklist or a substitute for a deeper passion.
It became a “doing” instead of a “becoming.”
I still love the church. I just missed the whole point God was yearning for me to see for many years. If you have read my book, Climbing Out of the Box, you will see where it led me. However, I digress.
Somehow I loved becoming the church lady and mistook that title for becoming godly.
It felt so good to be in the church clicks, though. And I saw others left out of those groups to which I turned a blind eye.
So, I busied myself in those good works of bringing food to the sick, planning baby showers and helping at funerals, and teaching Sunday school. It can feel so good to be needed that it can become a substitute for a passionate pursuit of God.
Don’t get me wrong; Service, fellowship, and giving are wonderful and a part of the calling for every believer, but serving and doing do not equal a relationship with God. They do not get us closer to the mark, and sometimes can become a wall we hide behind. And so we pretend we know what we are talking about and every Sunday we sit in a pew, staring at the backs of heads, listen to a sermon, and go home.
And wonder why that gaping hole in our hearts is still there.
Every Sunday morning parents hand their babies over to the good people who work in the nurseries. Then they go serve in hundreds of places within the building. They may never even make it to the service, but it is okay because they have been to church. Some have hidden there for years.
So many of us are “doing” like crazy.
My coaching business over the last few years has been full of women and men, who were dying on the inside. Service and hospitality was not cutting it for them. Hearts are broken and lives are hurting. They longed to know that Jesus really loved them—somehow they missed that part while they were busy doing. They are worn out with good works without realizing how to have a one on one with Jesus.
Yet we keep signing up for one more thing.
Hoping we will find Jesus there.
When we get the church lady thing going it is easy to pretend we have it all together. I did. Everyone thought I was so together and many wanted to be me. I dressed fashionable, and had a sweet smile on my face. My kids were impeccibly dressed, and we were the ‘perfect’ family.
But inside; well that was another story.
My marriage was falling apart. I had been molested as a child and had not told a soul yet. I had not even begun my healing and was convinced I would go to the grave with my secret. So, I had to get even more busy to outrun the ugly truth.
Soon I learned I could fill that need to be validated by being in the church clicks and there was always a need for one more worker to keep it all going.
I became addicted to ministry to fill my gapping hole of need.
Ministry took the place of a passion filled relationship with a very real Jesus. It wasn’t until I lost it all did Jesus finally break into my religiosity and reveal Himself personally in all His glory.
And when that happened? I was doing nothing in the church– I had lost it all. It was in the wilderness of my life that I met Jesus face to face…when everything and everyone else was gone.
Only Jesus didn’t leave.
That is when I learned that I am the Church. You are the church. We are all the church body.
Getting off the merry go round of hiding behind our good works is about laying down all pretense and facades. It is about stepping outside the lines you have drawn around your spirituality and seeing what God has for you.
When we only ascribe the term ‘church’ to weekend gatherings or institutions that have organized themselves as ‘churches’ we miss out on what it means to live as Christ’s body. It will give us a false sense of security to think that by attending a meeting once a week and work ourselves to the bone; then we are participating in God’s church.
But if the church is something we are, not someplace we go, how can we leave it unless we abandon Christ himself? We can’t. We may join other believers anywhere, but it doesn’t define our personal love relationship with Jesus.
If we think only of a specific congregation as our part of the church, haven’t we separated ourselves from a host of other brothers and sisters that do not attend the same gathering that we do? Are we not called into the market place?
If you have hung your spirituality on inward files with neat little answers for every situation, hang on, because God is probably getting ready to blow the lid off of your box.
You may need to allow Him to restructure your thinking a bit of why you do what you do; with all the strong essential elements of your faith still there, just rearranged to reflect to you more clearly the heart of God.
Scripture does encourage us to be devoted to one another not committed to an institution. Jesus indicated that whenever two or three people get together focused on him, they would experience the vitality of church life. Out of that body life, of course comes service. But if that is what defines your relationship with God, you will soon become a “church lady” too…..Or maybe a “church man.”
I pray that we all are renewed in a passion for Jesus no matter where we find real fellowship with other believers; a genuine concern for each other and a willingness to serve the world with God’s love, which can only come from, not service, but relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that relationship we will be His hand extended to a lost world.