The mini series that is this whisper has been in the weaving process for the last few months, but actually began about a year and half ago in the sanctuary of our church. It began the minute I walked in, headed toward some seats a few rows back, and was stopped by Garth who nudged me and said, "let’s go up front." Okay. No problem here. It wasn't our "norm", but I didn’t give it a second thought. The service began - worship, prayer, a powerful message, but nothing else out of the ordinary. That is until God did something completely out of the ordinary. Our pastor was ending the service with an altar call when God began whispering to me and it turns out, was whispering to Garth at the exact same moment. As the pastor spoke an invitation to the altar, I watched from behind closed eyelids, the Lord paint a picture of a man gathering all the things one might need to build a fire...a large burlap bag full of sticks and a handful of matches - an image of a man preparing a fire for what I knew was sacrifice. I thought immediately of the story of Abraham and Isaac and realized what I was witnessing behind my closed eyes was the story of a man preparing to sacrifice something really significant at the altar. I was so engrossed in what the Lord was showing me, I missed the exact moment that Garth rose up out of his seat and left my side to walk to the front. But I didn't miss what God was doing when I opened my eyes and saw my big, strong Special Agent standing humbly at the front, sacrificing something really big to the Lord.
Pride. It's a word that affects the best of us and the worst of us - the word I'm learning the Lord refuses to work with. And it was the act of laying down pride at the altar that I knew God wanted me to see in watching Garth walk to the front that night. It was something he knew in his spirit he had to do, not because he didn't have a relationship with the Lord, but because he wanted to be in a place of absolute humble assuredness of where he stood in that relationship. I know how much courage it took for him to walk those few steps to the front, knowing all the eyes that were following him - the tough guy who led a group of teens during youth group each week and the same guy who trains agents in crisis type situations for a living. Not even knowing at the time that the action he was taking that night in the physical was a prophetic picture of what was to come in the near future.
The "near future" came sooner than I thought, when months later, I was looking at a painting I brought back from Israel (by Daniel Cariola, pictured above). It’s the story found in Luke 8:43-48 of the woman who bled for twelve years. "And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, 'Who was it that touched me?' When all denied it, Peter said, 'Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!' But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.' And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.'" She touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was instantly healed. What a beautiful picture of healing that story is. But to me, it's also a picture of walking humbly, setting aside pride in "the presence of all the people." As I was studying the details of the painting for what felt like the millionth time, the song, Bless the Broken Road, came on and the Lord started speaking to my heart about something in my life at that moment.
I'd been asking the Lord why the broken roads weren’t mending, when I’ve been on my knees every day praying for what needed to be healed. I heard one word. Pride. He whispered in my heart that the root of the hurt that needed to be healed was pride. In just one whisper, I realized what was blocking the road from being mended. And I realized the Lord was giving me a very clear picture that healing can’t come on this broken road until the pride is shed. So often, things that cause brokenness, stir conflict or accusations, stem from places of fear or insecurity, but ultimately it’s the pride that won’t allow the situation to move from broken to mended. There are so many things I believe the enemy puts in place that don't allow us to let go of what it was that broke us. In so many cases “our rights” stand tall with pride and couldn’t possibly allow for us to be lower than the person standing on the other side of the offense. But the thing the Lord keeps reminding me, is that if we hand our life over to Christ, they aren’t our rights anymore anyway. It’s then that we become free to go as low as the Lord asks us to, all the while knowing He will stand tall on our behalf.
___________________________________________ be low
It’s one of those things though that fall into the “easier said than done” category. I know, I call this a season of accusations in my life. It seems like with every turn, something new is hurled my way to test me. All the what if's...what if I felt wronged? What if the enemy twisted things? What if??? Being low. What exactly does that mean? And God reminded me of a message from months ago when He whispered "be low" to me in the middle of a meeting as I was staring at my newly acquired camouflage notebook. One thing I do know about being low, at least physically, is that it’s definitely getting harder. I don’t feel like I see a huge grouping of 40 plus year olds out there doing the limbo. At least I know I’m not and for very good reason. Being that low, physically, is a whole lot tougher these days. In this case, however, I knew the physical aspect wasn’t what God wanted me to pay attention to...but rather, what does it mean to be low spiritually? In this case, hearing those words in a teaching type setting and staring at a pattern that represents battle, I knew what He was going to teach me had something to do with going low in order to gain victory in the spiritual battle that's raging above us.
I began asking the Lord what He wanted me to see...and He did just that, in yet another part of the mini series - through the second-open vision I've ever had. For those of you who might not know, an open vision is an image that can be seen with eyes open. It’s an image that looks like reality, but when you try to touch it, it’s gone - it doesn't physically exist. Different than a vision that shows "pictures" behind closed eyelids. The particular open vision I had that morning, was of a small, shiny black worm winding its way around the ring finger of my right hand. It startled me and I quickly tried to brush it off, realizing immediately that nothing fell to the ground. At one point in my life, in my very structured religious view, I would have thought I was crazy and disregarded the whole thing. But the more I live in deep relationship with Jesus, the more I've come to realize the power of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of me and that the Lord can and will, in fact, use different ways to get our attention. Grounded in scripture, absolutely. Fueled by His power - yes. So now, it's times like these, that what I see causes me to want to know more of what the Lord is trying to show me, rather than run from it. What that looks like, is sitting with the Lord in prayer and digging into scripture. There were two verses the Lord put before me immediately following this particular vision that gave me a better understanding of what God was trying to show me.
The first was, of all things, through a FaceBook post...a picture with the words of Psalm 21:8 written across it -"Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you." When I saw this randomly pop up, it kind of startled me. I can't say that I have ever read that verse and for it to show up the day I had the vision of a black snake-like worm on my right hand...well, let's just say it took me a minute to gather myself, I was so in awe of the Lord. But why the worm on my hand? Why the verse that says that my hand will find out my enemies? I turned to scripture and the Lord led me to Isaiah 41:14 - “fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”
My knowledge of the "worm" was limited, at best. Wanting to understand more about it, I came across a message from John Piper that hit deep in my spirit. He said “the American church, by teaching us through lectures, books and teachings, has taught us that we are too valuable to be called worms...they have made it impossible for us to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ with truly amazed hearts. The more beautiful and valuable man is made to appear, the less amazing it is that God should love him and help him. The word to worms who will admit their corruption, humble themselves, and take refuge in Jesus is, 'Fear not, you worm Jacob.' The good news of the Bible is not that we are not worms, but that God helps worms who trust him.” And then I realized, the worm is me. It's us. And in admitting our sin, humbling ourselves, and trusting in the Lord - He will help us.
Later that day, I broke a nail on that same finger the worm was on. It broke down to a painful place and suddenly that finger hurt and was constantly on my mind. I can't help but wonder if the worm and my broken nail were God’s way of getting my attention... reminding me of the brokenness and sin that lives in me that He willingly forgives and loves me regardless. I am a worm, but "Fear not", He helps me. So when I see a worm on my right ring finger, then read the verse that says "Your hand will find out all your enemies...", then break the nail on my right ring finger and finally read a message about how the enemy is causing us to not see our brokenness - I see the Lord exposing the enemy's schemes and I realize God is whispering something pretty important to me.
___________________________________________ at ease
That "something pretty important to me" consists of two words...At ease.
I had a dream recently where in the interpretation, the Lord showed me a picture of the necessity for those with the Elijah spirit that John the Baptist carried, to rise up...the ones willing to bring the message of repentance and purity, challenging the religious. In my dream the “church’s” sin was exposed by those who carried that spirit and walked in humility and purity. The next day, a friend texted a scripture and there was a small phrase tucked in the verses that lept off the screen to me...”And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease." At ease means to make (something unpleasant, painful, or intense) less serious or severe. Maybe it stood out because of the dream and all the Lord has been showing me these past few months - but when I read that verse, I saw a picture of the church today. We've made things a little less serious or severe for the sake of not offending or being as painful. We've removed the need for repentance because it's seemingly too hard. But the thing is, the Lord didn’t call us to be “at ease”, in fact, according to that verse, it makes Him "exceedingly angry." He has called us to go after the hard stuff, clean it out, repent and move forward in purity so we can be free to call others back to their first love.
I believe, in seeing one tiny little black worm on my hand, God was showing what the enemy is doing to cause the church to be in a state of “at ease” and how the so called gospel of "self-esteem" isn't properly healing our wounds. I know for me, the Lord has asked me to step up and carry the Elijah spirit that John carried. It’s not an easy road. It's actually a pretty hard, lonely road. But I believe it’s time to step up, regardless of how it affects me. And I believe it's a reality we have to face if we want to move out of a position of "at ease" and into one of obedience. It really is going to cost us and it really is going to be painful. But the beauty in it is the intense appreciation we gain for the amazing grace the Lord gives us.
It really would have been easier for Garth to stay in his seat. It certainly would have been easier for the healed woman to stay hidden. But in both of those stories, there was beauty in the humility and healing in the brokenness. Stepping out of "at ease" - walking into the miracle.
______________________________________ welcome mat
And slowly it all began to come together in my spirit...
I understood what God wanted me to see when I saw Garth walk to the front and when I saw the worm on my hand...it just really doesn’t matter if I’m right. God absolutely cares when we are hurt, don’t get me wrong. He is an incredibly loving, gracious God who goes to bat for us. But He doesn’t play the kind of games where we are allowed to put ourselves before others. When I look at the woman in scripture, I see a woman who had to get rid of any kind of pride she might have had, to have just one chance of healing - for that one touch miracle. And that’s exactly where I want to be - like the woman getting low, maybe even crawling on her knees to get to the place on the road where Jesus was. It’s a picture of a road that was likely not an easy one to travel...she maybe got trampled on, pushed to the side or felt discouraged. But she persisted and her victory came by going low. Pride simply can’t be a part of the equation if we want the miracle we've been praying for.
Being low in humility is a whole lot different than being low because the enemy shoved you to the ground. Choosing to be low is what allows you to ultimately rise above. Like a sniper who positions himself flat on the ground in order to get the most ideal opportunity for a clean shot while remaining undetectable to his enemies. In this season of accusations, the Lord is continuously reminding me to rise above the mind games the enemy is trying to play. Going low, to rise above. In our flesh, it can feel a whole lot like being a floor mat. It can become exhausting or lead to anger and bitterness if we allow it. But if we view it in a spiritual perspective - the Lord’s perspective - it takes on a different meaning and moves us from a floor mat to more of a welcome mat. The enemy's game will always be to try to get us to stay in a place of viewing ourselves as a floor mat - he’s been trying his very hardest with me. If we grab hold of things in the flesh, then we open ourselves up to the age-old issue of pride. We become incredulous that someone would say or do something we perceive as against us. But if we operate out of the spirit, we put it in the Lord's hands and He in turn puts our welcome mat out. Instead of offense, we see an opportunity for growth. Instead of condemnation, we see loving correction. Instead of pride, we see humility. And then, by the grace of God, I believe we see our miracle.
I’ve been trying to write this one out for weeks and have been struggling. I couldn't figure out why, until suddenly I realized this morning, it’s because it's a hard message and I’m not all the way through it yet myself. Being low is really tough and requires a whole lot of sacrifice. When the Lord asks of me, are you willing to walk to the altar with the "something" that is the most precious to you, I want to say, yes, I'll start gathering the sticks. But it doesn't always happen that way. Because the thing about being low - you get dirty. Maybe you get trampled on a bit or pushed to the side. It’s really not fun. Probably it hurts a bit or causes cramping from being in a position your body isn’t used to. It doesn’t allow you to look or feel perfect. I think so often we don’t go to the Lord, because we really don’t want to know. Deep down, I think we know that if we give our heart and ears to the Lord, He’ll do what is best for us and begin cleaning us up from the inside out. And what that means for us is going low, staying low, being low. Admitting our flaws and imperfections, recognizing that our “self esteem” is rooted in pride and not the picture of us the Lord sees and desires.
But the thing is, being low is what gives us the best shot. It’s the best vantage point to take out the enemy. And it’s absolutely the best position to reach out for that one touch miracle. It’s being a worm and, out of humility, being willing to admit it. It's being the woman willing to crawl on the dusty earth for just one chance to touch the hem of Jesus' garment. Then God has something to work with...after all, removing our sin is His speciality. He won’t do it if we don’t go low and ask. If we do, the world just might need to watch out. The enemy won’t have a fight. We won’t be holding onto grudges or saying hurtful things out of spite because we feel entitled to it. We will no longer esteem ourselves as higher than the person we’re standing across from. Instead, we go low and we forgive. We go low and we serve. We go low and we love. That’s the position that sets us up as snipers of the enemy. Taking pride out of the equation, the enemy is suddenly disarmed.
The enemy can keep trying to break us and sometimes it feels like he has. But only for a second, because all broken nails eventually grow out, and the Lord in all His graciousness steps in and mends the broken road. And then, when He's used it to make us stronger and whole, exactly at the moment we're ready, He'll put out the welcome mat.
"For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him
who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite." - Isaiah 57:15
"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14