5.16.2016

An old lesson relearned. Again.

I always tell my girls, women I counsel, and women's groups, "I will never ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself." I would be a hypocrite if I did! 
This commitment to them provides a high level of accountability for me, which is great! I constantly have to check myself - thoughts, actions, and attitudes - so I can speak, encourage, and counsel with a clear conscience before the person in front of me, and more importantly, before the Lord. 
Success is not always achieved, but it is my aim!

Today, I had the opportunity to practice what I preach.
A define-the-relationship conversation with a friend.
Awkward? Assumptions, misunderstandings, and confusion expressed? Hard words to hear?  Yes. Yes. YES. And absolutely worth it.
She is a faithful friend, and because we were willing to wade through the awkward and uncomfortable - we were able to find the beauty. 
She spoke truth, even though she knew it could cause sorrow or pain. And it did.
The sadness forced me to think - to ask more questions - to reflect on the past - and finally, take it before the Lord so He could help me sort out the details.

The lesson the Lord had for me yesterday was not new, but because I stuck my class notes in a box, instead of reviewing them after the last lesson, I was not prepared to respond correctly when tested again.
Thankfully, in His grace, the Lord quickly sat me down for a catch-up course.
He walked me through the lesson - again - and pushed my thoughts and my emotions back to truth.
Thank You, Lord!
What would we do if You were not so faithful?!?

He reminded me that I wrote about this last year (yes, yes, I am aware of the (my) short memory evidenced by this fact), so instead of writing it all out again, I am sharing the original.
I feel like I need to read it once a month to keep myself in check so that when I am tempted to wish I was different because it would be easier, or change who I am to please man ... I will choose to please and praise God instead.
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The Lord confirmed something important last week after I spent four precious hours at the beach with a young woman in the midst of great sadness and pain.

Ministering to the brokenhearted and walking beside those who want to grow and mature in their faith is what God has called me to do.

My husband and children come first. They deserve, and must get, the best of me.
My extended family and friends follow.
After those, there is nothing that stirs my soul or makes me feel more obedient than sitting across from a hurting woman who needs encouragement, or a young woman who desires to know and love God more.

I am not a fun, frivolous, or light-hearted woman.
I was none of those things as a child.
have fun, I enjoy laughing, and I find pleasure in many things, but my nature is a serious, introspective, and intense one.

I have been told countless times in my life:
You need to lighten up.
Re-lax.
You're too serious.
You're too intense.
Why do you have to make everything spiritual?

I used to apologize (and if I am honest, sometimes I still do), for being me - because someone was not happy with who I was. They wanted me to be someone else. Someone I did not know how to be. And I failed often because it was not authentic or sincere. I was acting - performing - attempting to make them happy so they would accept me ... even though what they were accepting was a lie.

And then the Lord stepped in - with abundant grace - and showed me my flawed perspective.
It felt like He was bent low, looking me square in the eye asking, "Did I make a mistake when I made you, Michelle? Did I overlook something? Or can you believe Me when I say that I made you in My image, and everything I make is good? I created you - just as you are - and I am pleased."

Oh, the shame in that moment. But because He is so loving and kind, He immediately directed my thoughts toward truth and set my feet back on solid ground.

For You formed my inward partsYou knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; 
we are all the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; 
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3

When I am serious and intense, completely focused on digging into the hearts of others to help them discover their own hurts and needs so they can take them to the Savior - I'm doing what He created me to do.
I feel alive in those moments!
To (loosely) quote Eric Liddell, "When I counsel/encourage/support/draw out/pray for a brother or sister in Christ, I feel His pleasure."

I will not apologize for 'being me' anymore because doing so diminishes God's work.
I want to echo the Psalmist, "I will PRAISE YOU because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!"
He has shown me that this is not arrogance ... it is pure, unadulterated thanksgiving and praise to a holy God who designed me for His glory, and His alone.
People who want 'fun and exciting' will not seek me out. And that's okay. I was not created to meet that need. (Though the Lord uses those people to draw ME out, providing much-needed refreshment and encouragement.)
And the Lord has made it abundantly clear that it's because I am not drawn to the exciting and fun that I am home and available for those who need me.

I love ministering to young women, young adults, and my sisters in Christ.
I love the 'ministry of presence' - sitting beside a broken, hurting heart so it no longer feels alone.
I love seeing the "aha" moment when she realizes freedom and joy are possible.
I love seeing repentance, change, maturity and growth.
I love seeing HOPE return after the darkness has faded.

I will never be 'enough' for everyone, or wanted by everyone,
but I am enough for the Lord.
He chose to make me intense and personal and passionate about drawing out the hearts of others.
He did it!
Which means He wants me to do something with it!
And so I shall.

There will never be a shortage of broken brothers and suffering sisters.
I cannot help them all.
But I can try.
One by one as the Lord sets them before me, I can try.
Because it's what He made me to do.

And when I obey, I feel His pleasure.

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