October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. This is my story...
I always envisaged a big family for myself. Growing up the eldest of four, anything less seemed, well, too neat and tidy - now that I actually have children of my own, I realise that there is nothing neat and tidy about being a parent full stop. Whether you have one or ten, raising children will challenge you to your very core!
I am grateful to say that a big family has become our reality. But if you had told me just how this would be realised, the young girl dreaming of babies and white picket fences would have laughed at you. God has not built my family how I imagined. I am a step-mother; I was a foster-mother to my nephew for several years; I have given birth to three healthy babies. I have also lost one of my babies. I am the one in four.
One in four. When I went for my three month scan, after two healthy and uneventful pregnancies, I wasn't expecting anything but to see my child for the first time. Instead I heard the words that were meant to bring me comfort; meant to make me feel like I wasn't alone in this journey. That this experience was somewhat normal because it happens in one in four pregnancies.
But those words felt just like they really are. Cold, hard, statistics. Just numbers. And none of our stories are just a number to God. We are intimately seen, known and loved.
From the outset, this pregnancy had been different. Each of our kids have been planned and wanted, but this pregnancy was a desire fulfilled. We began fostering our nephew when Isabelle - daughter number 3 - was 15 months old. We'd been talking about when to try for another baby when we got the call from CYFS to attend the family conference about his care. I'd never met him but we put our hand up to have him come live with us. Within six weeks a just-turned 3 year old was flown up to Auckland to join our family and I was about to experience the chaos that is three pre-schoolers! I say it in jest, but truthfully, I was ill-prepared for just how hard and heart-breaking it can be to parent a child who has been neglected and abused.
I went into the journey thinking that my baby plans were just being delayed but it soon became apparent to me that barring a miracle in my nephews life, there would be no more babies in the Walker household. I began to grieve the child I thought I would now never have.
It's hard to explain the grief that you can carry for someone you have never met - someone who is as yet, just an idea. But every day for a year I had to surrender this child I thought would never be to the Lord. I gave away every item of clothing, every toy, that I had kept for the 'next' baby and when I could bear it no more, I asked a girlfriend to pray with me for God to take the desire for another baby away. I knew that I needed to accept the shape that our family had taken and fully embrace the children that were in my home right now. Graciously God did.
After nearly two and a half years of raising my nephew, the journey came to an end. It was our decision but it is not a decision that I would wish upon anyone. My heart felt torn and battered. The grief began again - this time not for a child I wished for, but for a child I had held in my arms. A child I had fought for. A child who had called me his mum.
When people asked me how many children we had, I never knew how to answer. Who knew such a simple question could cut so deeply? I stopped mentioning him and would only talk about the girls. About eighteen months after our nephew had left, two women who didn't really know me asked me if I was sure that our family was finished. "Yes" I had replied, adding that, "God has shut that door."
But God began to whisper to my heart, did I shut that door Aimee, or did you? You see, I had always said thirty was my cut-off for having children. It was afterall when my Mum had her last, so I had always figured that was when I should be done by too! Isn't it funny some of the things we absorb and decide as children?! So here I was, in my early thirties beginning to wonder if the door had really been fully shut on adding to our family. Rather than excited though, I was terrified by the reawakening of a desire that I thought had died, but had really only ever been dormant.
The preceding years had been hard for a multitude of reasons and re-opening this door brought all my hurts and fears up to the surface. For six months I wrestled with God over the disappointments of the past. In that time, God did some intensive heart surgery and hope - the confident expectation of His goodness for my life - began to rise within me once again. I came to realise that while God was proud of my perseverance and the depth of trust that our trials had forged in me, that it wasn't His ultimate goal for me. Hope was.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
When we found out that I was pregnant, this child felt like the symbol of the new thing that God was doing in my heart and life.
And then those words. The one in four...
I'm not really sure how I made it out of the room and back to the car. How I made the call to my husband and then my midwife. It all felt like a bad dream that I hoped I would awaken from.
But I didn't. The next day my body began to naturally miscarry. It would take five full days. Grief was once again my companion. But this time, so was hope. As I made my way down our hallway in the middle of the night, in agonising pain, I heard the gentle whisper of God, Aimee, I know that this is a HUGE disappointment, but know that I love you.
God's love held me not just in that moment, but in the days, weeks and months that followed.
His love was in the friends who sat with me and cared for me as I miscarried my longed-for child
It was in the meals that turned up on our doorstep
It was in the many people who picked up and dropped off my kids when I was to weak to get up from the couch - who kept life normal for them while I grieved.
It was in the flowers people sent and the words of encouragement that they spoke
It was in His Word and in His sweet presence
The hope that had been forged in my heart in the preceding months had opened my eyes to see that His goodness and His love is always at work. Yes, in this world, we will encounter disappointment (sometimes that word doesn't quite seem adequate), but we do not have to live disappointed because we are ALWAYS loved. ALWAYS seen. ALWAYS valuable.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
There were many other losses that year that God's goodness carried us through. He is not the author of our suffering but He is skilled at weaving it in such a way that it will work for good if we will allow Him too. He is the God who gives beauty for ashes.
We named our precious baby Jordan. It was a statement of faith that we would not let our grief take us back to the wilderness, but that we would trust that God was, and would always be, good to our family no matter what the journey looked like.
And He has been. In August 2015, I gave birth to Lucas. His name means bringer of light. I wanted to call him Lewis which means renowned warrior - Lucas was Dave's choice and believe me I fought him on it! But a few weeks before he was due, our daughter Misha came and sat next to me on a park bench and said, "Mum, we don't need a warrior, we need a bringer of light." Fittingly, he timed his entrance into this world with the sunrise.
There is a time to fight and to contend. But there is also a time to allow God to shine His light; to let the hope of who He is bring healing to our lives; to let His comfort penetrate our brokeness.
I have my moments where the tears still flow for the children I no longer hold in my arms. Where my heart aches for what might have been. But hope anchors me. The hope of what God has planned for my nephew's life; the hope that one day I will behold Jordan and see her in all her beauty. The hope that God has and always will be good to me.
You are not a number. Your grief - whatever the cause - is not a statistic. And my prayer for you today is that as you walk the path to healing, that hope, the confident expectation of His goodness, would indeed anchor your soul and awaken your heart to see His love towards you as it has done mine.
P.S. My nephew's story has had its own beautifully messy ending. After leaving our home, he had two further failed placements but he now has a home for life with an incredible couple who married later in life and were unable to have children of their own. He is their desire fulfilled; an answer to their prayers and the fulfilment of words spoken over their lives. God specialises in writing beautiful endings even if they don't come the way we thought they would. Can I encourage you today that your story isn't finished yet either xx
Right before I left home for University, I was given two beautiful framed pictures of the Greek Islands. For the last decade, these have hung proudly in every flat and house I have lived in. As a student in Dunedin, I would shiver in the cold of the flat and gaze at these pictures, imagining being there. Years spent gazing at these stunning images has grown a strong desire in me to go there.
My husband and I were beginning to save for a trip to Europe when we got a word from God to sacrifice for our future children and save for a house instead. While the process of buying land and building a house has been anything but smooth, I have found myself staring at these pictures again, fueling that familiar daydream of the day when I finally feel that warm, white sand beneath my feet.
The other day I was in that daydream and just felt I needed to hand it to God again. I know He's a perfect Father that gives us the desires of our heart, so I told him "God, I'm laying this down before you - if it were my choice I'd be there next year but I know that you love me so I just trust that you'll make it happen at some point.." The next morning, when my alarm went off, I saw this on the home screen of my phone. I had recently changed the version of my "Verse of the Day" app to the Message bible, as I had never read it before. I kid you not, this was the home screen of my phone.
One day spent in Your house, this beautiful place of worship, beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I was instantly convicted. How many hours had I spent longing for those beaches when I had the Creator of that beauty in front of me all along? How many times had I daydreamed about tasting Greek food and seeing those incredible views, when I have a present invitation to taste and see that He is good?
I have experienced the love of God in such a deep way, that I can honestly say He has loved me more in one single moment than the whole world could offer me in a lifetime. There's no comparison. I have found such peace, such joy, such bliss in His presence that the things of earth grow strangely dim. Yet, the subject of my favourite daydream was something I'm yet to experience rather than Someone greater than life itself. Why is that??
In ten years of these pictures on my wall, I'd been gazing at a beauty I haven't fully experienced, and out of this a desire had been birthed in my heart for more. What if that very process was what caused the psalmist to write these words?
So deep within me are these lovesick longings, desires and daydreams of living in union with You.
What I'm beginning to understand is the fruit that gazing upon something produces my heart. I honestly think until now, I've allowed some of my deepest encounters with God to remain glimpses instead of gazing. I can finally see why David's prayer was to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord rather than just to see it. He dwelled, he gazed, he meditated. And out of that place of abiding, of remaining, something was birthed in his heart until he was called a man after God's own heart.
One thing I have asked of the Lord, and that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, To gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.
Because of this one revelation, I'm starting to revisit those places where He's given me glimpses. I'm meditating on that which I've seen, and it's causing me to daydream about what I'm yet to see. I'm learning to gaze on His beauty that I haven't fully experienced, and out of this a desire is being birthed in my heart for more.
And as for those Greek Island beaches? After laying that one down completely for the idol it had become, He said to me, "Of course, you will have to visit one day to fully understand that scripture". Now I daydream of the moment when I see it for myself, and laugh at the truth that everyday up till that point, I had experienced the "better than" God.
From the moment we wake up, we are faced with decisions - what to eat, what to wear, should we even get up or should we hit snooze for another 5 minutes (this is not really a choice in my household as the alarm clock comes in the form of a VERY busy 2 year old!). Some decisions we make almost automatically, but others, well they weigh heavy. We want to get it right. We're afraid of getting it wrong, perhaps we worry we'll miss out on what God has for us.
For me, this fear of getting it wrong coupled with my deep-seated desire to honour God with my choices, became somewhat paralysing. I had brought into a false interpretation of Romans 12:2 where Paul writes:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.
His good, pleasing and perfect will. I'd understood this verse as progressive 'levels' of living in God's will that we could experience and not as describing the nature of God's will. So I thought why would you settle for what was just 'good' if you had the opportunity to walk in what was 'perfect'? For someone wired as I am, this self-imposed pressure to not just avoid making wrong decisions, but also to then try and discern whether I was choosing what was merely good or attaining to the perfect, was incredibly dis-empowering. It threatened to rob me of the freedom to make decisions.
It wasn't until we were faced with an impossible decision for our family that tore at my heart and I heard God's whisper - it's ok Aimee, if you think you can keep going that's great, if you need to stop, that's ok too, either way I love you - that I came to understand that there isn't always 'one' right decision. Sometimes (or oftentimes), there are several 'good' options and God trusts us to choose.
God is a sovereign God, He is still on His throne and He rules and reigns. But He has also chosen to partner with us - He has created us in His image and entrusted His creation to our care until His return. And because we reflect Him, we have the ability to think and to feel; to dream and to create - and He wants to see us use these abilities.
He has invited us to enter into relationship with Him and this relationship does not render us powerless; it does not require us to act like robots or reduce us to clones of one another; it does not reduce our lives to a predetermined script. In fact, He empowers us, makes us able to test and approve what His will is.
It's a bit like those 'Choose your own Adventure' books - the ones where every few pages you're presented with different options and where you choose to go next determines the ending of the story. In some editions there were up to forty possible endings! Rather than having one fixed ending, I've discovered that in life there are a variety of possible outcomes and paths that we might go down and they all have the potential to have God-honouring endings. To be marked out by what is good, pleasing and perfect.
The paradox of this freedom and power to test and approve God's will is that it requires complete surrender. It requires us to hold nothing back, to be what Paul describes as a living sacrifice.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.
Such a surrender is a safe-guard to the incredible freedom we have in Christ. God can always work with a heart that genuinely desires to serve and honour Him - even if we mis-step or mis-interpret what His Word says, He is big enough to redirect us and get us back on track.
And as we surrender our lives to Him - as we trust in the goodness of His nature and His purposes - our hearts and minds are transformed and renewed. Made whole. We no longer measure our options against the world's standards and wisdom, but against His. When life feels like a multi-choice test, we are able to recognise the paths that hold what is good, pleasing and perfect. And then, we can exercise our freedom to choose.
Over the past year or so, my husband and I have had to process A LOT of decisions - life-altering decisions - and I am so grateful that I am no longer afraid of 'getting it wrong.' That I am no longer (or at least less frequently) plagued by decision-paralysis because I know that I have been empowered to make choices.
And with each decision, we return to our posture of surrender, inviting God to confirm or correct the path we have chosen. Expectant that as we seek to honour Him, this life will hold untold adventures.
What adventures are waiting for you to choose them?
Just recently, I foolishly believed a pack of lies. Oh, I can’t tell you how hurt and disappointed I was, aware that I had deceived myself. I knew my motives were not pure and that I had drowned out the voice of truth, but God in his mercy spoke life to me through a bee and some lavender.
In my laundry room one morning, I saw a dead bee in a spider’s web next to my fake lavender plant. I felt the Holy Spirit alerting me to take notice that the bee had been enticed inside and deceived into believing the plant was real!
See how deception works? We can be lured away from the right path by what looks like lavender, may smell like lavender, but isn’t lavender. Getting too close in the first place led to the demise of the deluded bumble bee.
It’s that simple. Deception is that simple friends. A momentary lapse in wisdom, listening to the Devil’s lies and skating on the thin ice of the pond once too often, can place us in dangerous situations, tangled up in a web of deception.
Samson, who’s story we read about in Judges 13-16 was enticed and deceived. As a consecrated Nazirite with a call on his life; he was not to shave his hair, drink wine or touch a dead body. In Judges 14:5 we learn he is near a VINEYARD seeking a wife, when he is set upon by a Lion (he kills it with his bare hands). We read further along in this same chapter that he is in the same area preparing to marry this woman. He notices bees swarming inside the carcass of the DEAD LION; then he scoops honey from it. Enter Delilah who he fell in love with in Judges 16. She enticed him to share the secret of his strength – his hair – which lead to the SHAVING OF HIS HEAD and the loss of his strength. Samson had a weakness for women, he flirted with sin and was more than once where he shouldn’t be. Like the bumble bee in my laundry, it ultimately led to his demise.
The Devil doesn’t sit around idly; he reviews our weaknesses, looks for the holes in our character and is busy making deception appear as attractive and appealing as possible. He tries to convince us that our broken areas are who we are and will always be. He uses any means possible - our personal relationships, our friendships, our ministry – everything in order to deceive us with his lies. God's heart is to lovingly lead us in to freedom with the Truth.
Lisa Bevere said:
“There were many times when truth spoke to me, but I did not listen. Often it called to me, but I did not hear it. I was too busy listening to lies. Unfortunately, if you listen to lies long enough, when truth speaks you cannot hear or bear it.”
Hands up to this. I have listened to lies and deceived myself, as we can all do. I can honestly say the struggle has been tougher as I’ve drawn closer to God and his call on my life. My heart’s selfish motives have at times shouted louder than wisdom and obedience.
After beating myself up a fair bit and feeling like a prize idiot, God revealed to me that he is training me through this school of hard knocks. He is teaching me to recognise exactly who my enemy is and what his strategies are through experience. Why? So that I will know the truth and who my God is. Secondly so that I will rise up and fight, wielding my sword (the Word of Truth) exposing the lies and planned deceptions of the enemy. Not just for myself, but for others,
The enemy is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour, remember? What lies has he been inviting you to entertain? If he can make you doubt your identity in God and your call, he will do just that.
That poor bee had doubtless been buzzing happily from flower to flower without a care in the world, confident in his natural ability to track down pollen. Yet he was lured inside by a fake plant, deceived by what was not real.
That is what the enemy wants for you. He wants to take you off course and out of the game, tempting you with what looks attractive, but isn’t real. Beat yourself up no longer, but be alert to the enemy’s plans and don't be like Samson, overly confident in your natural strengths and abilities. Lean in, be honest, desire Truth, read the Word and listen to the Holy Spirit in order to recognise the lies and deception. Don’t be robbed of your identity in Christ.
God has a purpose and a plan for your life – and it’s not just for your life, He will use you in the lives of others! Allow His truth to be the loudest voice in your life.
We sat together on the couch, her head buried into my shoulder as she wept for the things, the people that she was missing. And my heart ached for my daughter as she tried to figure out how to navigate her current season.
Change is hard. Being brave and willing to give new things a go and walk down yet unknown paths can be overwhelming.
As winter has given way to spring in our part of the world, something deep within us rejoices and celebrates the signs of new life. We have ached for something to come and replace the barreness. But new beginnings aren't always looked for or even necessarily wanted; they aren't solely the territory of the dead and barren places. Sometimes, God asks us to allow Him to prune the fruitful things - the things that are in full bloom - in our lives so that we can be even more fruitful (John 15:2).
Over the last two years, God has been bringing restoration and life to areas in my heart and story that I have longed for Him to, but He's simultaneously been asking me to let Him bring about new beginnings - to be pruned - in places where I wasn't looking for change.
He has asked me to resign my position and my ministry credentials
He has called us out of the Church we helped plant to start over after some 18 years of community
He has led us to homeschool when I never even wanted to be a stay at home mum (He sure has a sense of humour!)
And each of these changes has asked a question of me - do I really trust Him in the place of exchange? In the place where I don't yet know what my hands will hold and all I can see is what I'm letting go of?
Pruning seasons can be a unique type of change because we don't always know exactly what it is that God is making room for in our lives. We often only see the gaping whole left that was once fruitful and flourishing. Pruning inevitably ushers us into an in-between time - a time of uncertainty and waiting - just like in the natural, it takes time for the new growth to become visible.
In my own life, the place of exchange has tested whether I really believe that He is who He says He is. Whether I trust His heart towards me and the plans that He has for me. The place of exchange has revealed whether the Scriptures I quote are merely platitudes and bumper stickers or the foundation of truth that I've built my life upon because the place of exchange requires us to live with a deep assurance of His goodness and His love for us.
Jesus makes the Father's heart in pruning us abundantly clear - it is not to diminish us in any way but to increase us. To make us more fruitful. Pruning is not about judgment but preparation. And while it can be easy to entertain the voice of condemnation when we feel like we're being cut back, Jesus offers us this assurance:
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jesus is telling us, You are mine, I have washed you. Don't let the enemy tell you that you don't belong, that you're not valuable because you're being stripped back. Don't isolate yourself from Me; don't try and make things happen in your own strength, Trust that my heart is to cause you to flourish and be fruitful. Come, tarry a moment with Me. Apart from Me you can do nothing, but with Me, you can trust that greater fruitfulness is coming.
The word for 'remain' or 'abide' meant to remain, abide; to sojourn or tarry; to continue to be present; to be held, kept continually. It paints a picture for us of lingering in and savouring the presence of God with us. For me personally, I've found this 'abiding' to be both the challenge and the invitation of the place of exchange. My grief, my disappointment, my frustrations and impatience, the uncertainty can either build a wall between me and God or they can become a bridge to greater dependency, greater trust in His wisdom and goodness and in His time, greater fruitfulness.
If I want them to be a bridge, I must settle the question of trust. Will I trust His heart to lead me and yes, even to prune me?
I've decided yes. What about you?
'But'. It's a word that gets used on a daily basis in my household:
But you said...
But that's not fair...
I don't want to hear any 'buts,' just do it...
And on it goes. This little yet powerful word gets thrown around throughout the day - throughout our lives - and depending on the context, it will remind us of the obstacles, the limitations and perhaps even injustices that we might find ourselves facing, or it can open up another perspective. 'But' has the potential to unlock a new way of thinking; to cause us to focus less on the impossibilities and more on the possibilities.
I've been offering plenty of my own 'buts' up to God of late; dampening the desires and the dreams that I know He has placed within me with a narrative of impossibility.
But I don't have enough [I could write a shopping list for you here!]...
But I just want a break...
But I'm tired of waiting...
But it's just too hard - impossible even...
Scripture shows us a pattern of such impossibilities encountering a 'but God' truth - however if you're anything like me, you've probably been guilty more than once of switching it round. Of derailing what God wants to do with 'but impossibility.' We allow our obstacles and inadequacies to become bigger than who God is.
I love what Paul Manwaring writes:
This is where the real battle of faith is, the battle of trusting an unseen, eternal reality and letting it transform the way we negotiate visible, temporal reality.
'But God' is not a denial or whitewashing of what we face; rather it is allowing the reality of who He is, of eternity, to reshape how we see our lives and our circumstances.
David models this for us throughout the psalms:
When he had to flee from his son Absalom and his foes were many and people were telling him that God would not deliver him, he said, "But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head." (Psalm 3)
When he felt forgotten and he wrestled with his thoughts - his heart heavy with sorrow - he declared, "But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.. I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me." (Psalm 13)
When he considered God's holiness, that the wicked could not dwell in His presence, he was aware of the grace that enabled him to draw near saying, "But, I, by Your great mercy, will come into Your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple." (Psalm 5)
David allowed himself to express his worries and his fears; he acknowledged the obstacles he faced and the enemies who opposed him; he accepted his own inadequacies and failings but he didn't allow his thoughts to stop there. Time and time again the Psalms show us how David lived not in light of his impossibilities but by the truth of 'but God.'
It is not a sin to see the obstacles we face or to give voice to our fears and our anguish but we mustn't allow them to stop us from encountering God or pursuing His plans for our lives. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul writes:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I don't know about you, but when I continually interrupt God with a narrative of 'but this' or 'but that,' the truth gets distorted and I become susceptible to believing lies; to elevating my problems above the wonder of who God is. And when I do this, I am robbed of truly knowing God and from experiencing the fullness that He has for me.
We need to recognise that our minds are a battlefield - that the enemy would love us to think in a way that keeps us distracted from seeing God's goodness. We must learn like David to process our reality and to then submit it to the powerful truth of 'but God.'
And when we allow 'but' to become an invitation to a new way of thinking - to God's perspective - then we will be positioned to see and experience His goodness in each and every season of our lives.
Where do you need to say, 'but God' today?
Life is very different for my wife and I in this season of our journey. Through it, we are rediscovering identity, meaning and purpose as we travel with weakness and the revelation of ‘the power of weakness and the weakness of power’. The revelation that God works through our weakness and woundedness.
It is both fascinating and challenging to note that Christ’s key point of self-identification after the resurrection and in heaven was His wounds (see Revelation 5:6-14). In the post-resurrection accounts in Luke and John when the disciples were uncertain as to whether the person standing before them was Christ, He identified Himself by simply saying:
"Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
Christ affirmed His identity to the disciples through His wounds. It was what Thomas stated would be the convincing factor for him that Christ had truly risen, that it was truly Christ. Jesus asked them to look at His wounds, to touch them, in order to verify it was truly Him.
His wounds are a source of resurrection life and hope and we too can experience resurrection life and hope through our wounds and brokenness. The cross is a journey through woundedness to resurrection life and hope. In that magnificent chapter in Isaiah fifty-three, it was prophesied that Jesus, the suffering Messiah, would be ‘pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed’ (verse 5).
It took woundedness on the part of Christ, to create our healing. God’s ways are not our ways. The price and pathway for healing, forgiveness and new life, was through His wounds.
The Apostle Paul experienced a powerful ministry, yet he also was a wounded warrior. When the Apostle Paul asked the Father to remove His ‘thorn in the flesh’, He was told that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Paul’s response was,‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me’. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
I have learnt over the years, that my wounds, my weaknesses, become a point of identification with people, through which God’s resurrection life and power can flow and be expressed to them, bringing hope and healing. Therefore, we should not be afraid or ashamed of our wounds or weaknesses (we are not referring to sin but our frail humanity), knowing that the treasure we contain - the resurrection life of Christ, dwells within ‘jars of clay’ :
In our western culture we value perfection over imperfection. This is clearly seen in the medium of advertising and modelling where we airbrush people on and in magazines to cover the least imperfection. In some cultures, an imperfection can lead to becoming an outcast. We must take care even in church culture, in the ‘pursuit of excellence’, to not shun weakness because God doesn’t.
God demonstrates throughout Scripture and history, that He marries power with weakness and frail humanity to bring about His redemptive purposes. Just look at the twelve Jesus chose! This equation is seen in His working through men and women in Scripture such as Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David, Peter and many more. God is greater than our wounds and weaknesses!
The word for ‘weakness’ in 2 Corinthians 12:9 is astheneia (as-then’-i-ah) conveying the meaning of lacking in and needing strength due to weakness or an infirmity, whether of body or soul. Also it can convey the idea of being frail. It derives from the word asthenes (as-then’-ace) meaning to be weak, feeble, and infirm. This word is not a reference to sin, but simply to our human frailty which God works His power in and through, so he gets the glory.
We need to embrace our humanity as much as we need to embrace His resurrection life; to allow God to infuse our weaknesses with His power because only then can we offer a broken world hope.
I can testify that God really does do much more than we could ever think or ask! I know, because He has restored my identity and is making me whole.
Growing up I was incredibly shy; I felt trapped in my own emotions unable to elucidate who I really was – it was like drowning internally. In my heart though, I was a risk-taker and a dreamer of audacious dreams. My biggest battle (aside from my identity) - was fear. Fear of having to lead anything, fear of standing out, fear of shining, fear of succeeding, fear of failure – basically, fear with a capital F.
In 1997 when I was with Youth with a Mission I took the Myers Briggs (MBTI) Test which reveals the 16 categories of basic personality types. My results informed me I was an introvert, an “ISFJ”. My Team Leader called me a ‘wounded extrovert’ believing certain areas in my life and upbringing had affected my true identity and who I was in God.
I spent years thinking my personality wasn’t acceptable, holding a belief system that being outgoing, extroverted and excited about many things were negative qualities. I thought my worth and value could only be found in being quiet, orderly and introverted.
When my Dad died in 2013, I had to face my fears whether I liked it or not. Flying to the other side of the world, I dealt with more than I ever thought possible. I was also reunited with people from my long distant past.
My life, you see, was compartmentalised – there was my past in the UK and my now in New Zealand. It was as though I were two different people with two entirely separate lives. However, by confronting my past and those fears, God brought me into a place of freedom and healing. I felt I now had the permission to be my ‘whole’ self.
But who was that? I was more outgoing and no longer trapped or ‘drowning’ in my emotions, but I still did not know who I was or what my true identity was. It was like starting over.
If I thought I was in for an easy ride following my Dad’s death, I was wrong. Three years followed of unrelated fiery tests and intense struggles. I felt I was in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Yet, in this season I said yes to leadership (after 20 years of ‘who me?’) and doors of ministry started to open.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”
This Easter Sunday, God set me free from one particular struggle I’d been wrestling with. “It ends today”, He told me - and it did, I haven’t looked back! God did the miraculous – He released this prisoner, spoke love and identity over me and made me whole.
Subsequently, I found freedom in yet more areas of my life because of those struggles I encountered. God brought so much restoration to my life whilst I was in the valley. In that place, He told me who I was in Him, who I was to Him and what my destiny was because of Him.
My identity was not found in what others may have labelled me, or desired me to be. It wasn’t in my past, it wasn’t defined by my struggles or circumstances, nor conditional on my ability or strength. My identity I learned could only be found in God and who He says I am.
I am no longer introverted and shy, or unable to express how I feel. I am alive, free, affirmed by God and the person I was created to be. I re-tested for the MBTI recently with very different results – as an “ENFP”. Yes, I am an extrovert, no longer wounded. The test was an encouraging indicator but my true identity is in God.
God knew us before we were born, we are wonderfully and fearfully made - and our identity and security is in Him - He is the one who lovingly takes our broken pieces and makes us whole.
It is never too late for change, God restores, renews, revives and speaks life into our identity because He loves us and fights for us. In the valley He is the Good Shepherd who comforts you and leads you along right paths.
I believe and pray that He will brings wholeness to you also, no matter the valley you are enduring or the battle! Your identity is in Him.
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One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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