I was torn between laughing and crying when I went to make myself a much-needed cup of coffee and the jug wouldn't work. It was on a long list of appliances and furniture that had decided to give up on us. As I got out a pot to boil some water on the stove (I told you I really needed that cup of coffee!), I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, "You're not moving with junk Aimee."
We've spent the past month packing up the house ready for our move and this phrase has kept resounding in my spirit. It's made me ruthless in my packing and sorting but it's also had me evaluating what I carry around on the inside. Determined that I wasn't going to bring any internal junk with me into this new season, I set aside time for a period of prayer and fasting, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what didn't have a place in this move.
But throughout the fast I felt haunted by the past. Things that I thought I had laid to rest long ago resurfaced and I found myself feeling incredibly frustrated. I mean, haven't we already covered this Lord?!
As I've been unpacking over the last few days, I realised that despite the fact that I thought I had ruthlessly disposed of all our junk, some had still managed to make the move with us. It was only as I unpacked it all in a new environment, seeing it with fresh eyes that I realised these possessions didn't belong anymore.
God has used all our packing and unpacking to show me that there were events in my life that I was not only holding on to, but even holding over myself as a source of condemnation that He needed me to be willing to let go of once and for all. To believe that because of His grace, things could be different - I could be different.
In Joshua 7, we read the account of a man called Achan and his family who were stoned for Achan's disobedience. His sin was that he had taken items from Jericho - items that were meant to be devoted to God; items that God had declared were sacred to Him and belonged to His treasury (6:17-19). God had forewarned the Israelites that taking what belonged to Him would make them liable to destruction and bring trouble. And who knows that God doesn't lie - trouble was exactly what the Israelites found themselves in when they next went to battle!
When Achan's sin was discovered, the penalty was death. He and all his household were stoned in the Valley of Achor, the Valley of Trouble. I know, it's hard for us to fathom, hard for us to read and contemplate what would have taken place and I'm not trying to gloss over this part - but the story doesn't finish there. There are five references to the Valley of Achor in Scripture. Two relate to this episode, and one is a boundary description, but the other two promise that a place of trouble and condemnation will be made into a place of hope.
Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me.
I will give her back her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope...
As I was reading this story, this story of sin, of condemnation and of judgment, I was struck afresh by the grace of God. The Valley of Achor - the places where we have sinned and fallen short - don't have to remain places of trouble in our lives. They can become places of rest, doorways of hope if we will be willing to seek Him out and receive His grace.
Because while the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). As I have stepped into this new year and into a new home, God has been reminding me, teaching me AGAIN that I must see my life through the filter of Christ.
Yes, there are places where I have fallen short, things that I should be condemned for, but instead, God invites me to find rest there. In the very places that the enemy would like me to see as 'trouble' He asks me to see doorways to hope; opportunities for a confident expectation of His goodness in my life.
I've found that when we camp out in our personal 'Valleys of Achor', focused on the trouble we have known there, that we not only lose our expectation, we also close our hands to the gifts that God is wanting to give us and the new things that He is wanting to do. Clinging to my past instead of God's grace was hindering my ability to move into what He has for me. I didn't feel worthy enough to hold what He was wanting to entrust to me at this time. And while the truth is that I am not worthy, the greater truth is that Jesus has made me worthy.
So this year I'm letting go of the past to cling to grace; to open the door to fresh hope so that I can see myself and my life in a new light. His light.
What are you going to cling to in 2018?
The posy sits in the center of my table, bathed in warm sunlight. Every time I pass by it, I whisper a prayer of gratitude for what it represents - for the friend who brought it and the healing that came with it.
We had been the most unlikely of friends and even though we’d known each other since childhood, it wasn’t until much later that our connection was formed. But when it was, it was like we were soul sisters. We laughed and cried on one another’s couches; took holidays together; spent hours on the phone and when our babies arrived, swapped our café catch-ups for mornings at the playground. Together we dreamed big Kingdom dreams, soaking each other’s lives in fervent prayer.
But then one day something changed. We both changed. It was subtle at first, but over time our different seasons – our different struggles – drove a wedge between us. I began to feel like a stranger in her presence. Misunderstood. Lacking. Deficient. Then one year, we both experienced overwhelming losses, and while I in my grief wanted to draw closer, she needed to retreat.
And so, in no uncertain terms, she moved away from me.
I drove home from that conversation in a daze of disbelief; tears streaming down my cheeks. They would not be the last tears that I would cry as the finality of no longer doing life together settled in.
But I knew in the midst of my pain, that I faced a choice. I could choose to live offended – to keep replaying the wrong that I felt had been done to me, or I could pursue forgiveness. In Colossians 3, Paul writes:
…Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
As I wrestled through my hurts, giving voice to my anger, the Holy Spirit graciously reminded me of this truth: Christ is all and is in all. I was His chosen and dearly beloved daughter. And so was my friend. The way that I thought towards her; the way that I spoke about her; the way that I prayed for her needed to reflect this truth. Needed to honour who she was in Christ and His presence within her.
This truth released me to trust God to heal my own heart, but also to believe for Him to do the same for my friend. To trust that in His infinite love, He could take the threads of what felt like opposing stories and conflicting needs to create something beautiful for each of us. Respecting her need for space, I sent her a card apologising for how some of my choices had impacted her. I no longer needed to agree with her interpretation of events in order to forgive; the Holy Spirit was awakening compassion within me for her perspective. Secure in the Father’s love for me, I was now free to wear love towards her.
Over the coming years, the distance remained. And although we occasionally exchanged texts and well-wishes, when our paths crossed I still felt held at arm’s length. Milestones passed and I felt the ache of her absence. Some days the grief and sting of rejection rose up afresh driving me back to my knees. Back to the truth that in Christ, I am dearly loved. At such times I had to choose again to entrust my aching heart to the one who loved me completely; to forgive as He has forgiven me. And as I did, my heart became whole again.
Then one day she arrived with flowers and her own apology. We sat on my couch like old times and the walls came down. The path of forgiveness – the path of love - paved the way for reconciliation.
I don’t yet know what will be written in the days to come about our friendship, but I do know this: the call to live in relationship, in authentic community will never be without challenges. We must continually choose to live loved – allowing His love to fill and clothe us so that we can love others well, even when we hurt. As we do, like my posy of flowers bathed in warm sunlight, things of great beauty will grow in and around us.
Live today with purpose,
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 both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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