Peace Giver

I’ve kept journals on and off most of my adult life. For whatever reason, I haven’t journaled much at all in the last couple years. But I go through my old journals sometimes and today I found this one copied below. In it I’m recounting an experience I had with one resident in particular at an addiction facility in Nashville where I served as “spirituality teacher.”

In group today I was talking to the residents about peace. It wasn’t my plan, but it happened and I felt like I should stay with it. “The peace of God,” I explained, “surpasses understanding because it is not congruent with our circumstances. God’s peace can be experienced despite the turmoil or trials we may be experiencing in any given season of our life.”

After several minutes on my rabbit trail I asked for questions and feedback on what they were feeling. Two of the girls raised their hands and said they did not have peace; any peace. It was a foreign concept. One of the girls started to share. I’ve known her for a couple months now, and I know she’s endured much more than most, seeing her mom murdered, experiencing ritual abuse at the hands of a cult religion that actually claimed God was commanding the abuse, and much, much more. She wanted to be clear, that under no circumstances was she experiencing peace, nor had she ever. Not peace with her circumstances, not with her recovery, not with God, not in relationships, not with herself, nothing. My hand went to rest on her arm. This vulnerable honesty was not something that came natural to her and it was more than she’d said in group in weeks. Most addicts have to work very hard to open up and say what’s really going on inside. They’re used to masking their innermost feelings of pain and brokenness with drugs or alcohol. Her voice started to get very shaky, her face and neck blotchy, and the tears started falling as she struggled to get more words out. She told me that she didn’t know how to have peace with God when God was one of her triggers. She said she questions whether God could ever forgive her for praying while she was shooting up, for His help to find a vein. She said she used to pray for her mother to die, and then her mother was murdered. How could God forgive her for that? The tears fell. And fell. And so did my heart, breaking in a million pieces all over the floor.

That was the end of the entry. We became very close, that resident and I, and I was able to have a front row seat as God graciously and lovingly honored her desire to know the real Him, and experience His peace. Over a relatively short period of time I watched God flood her spirit with His, pouring out His Love and Light and Grace into her darkest places of pain.

I am still in awe as I recall the Sunday morning I had taken a group of residents to Cross Point church as was our usual practice. But that morning, after the message she leaned over and said, “I think I’m ready. Can we talk after the service?”

So I found an empty office and all the ladies, now friends and supporters of one another, joined together as she quietly vocalized that she wanted Jesus to take His place Savior in her life, and she wanted to know and experience God as the good, loving Father she had been learning about.

She asked me to pray, and I asked her how she felt about doing the praying, just expressing to God what she was feeling and desiring. Bravely she spoke out, eyes closed, talking to God through shaky tears, giving Him her heart, declaring Jesus to be her Savior, receiving Him as her closest friend and confidant, and choosing to follow Him with her life.

Praise God, faithful and loving, patient and kind. He knows what we need. He knows what our roadblocks are. He orchestrates moments of deliverance for every heart that aches for Love.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“For He will deliver the needy who cry out. The afflicted who have no one to help.” Psalm 72:12

 

 

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Time Out

I was catching a friend up on how I’ve been spending my time recently since stepping out of full time ministry. Besides traveling the world, relaxing at exotic resorts and getting daily massages on the beach, I explained that I’ve been catching up on a whole lot of lost time with God right in the quiet of my own little Nashville home.

Although I spent the best hours of my days working in a phenomenal church for the last 16 months, my relationship with God actually felt like it was on life support. I knew He was asking me to take some time in this next season to really examine what happened to cause this, do a major heart check, and get back into spiritual working condition.

Have you ever gone through a season in life where you poured everything you had into something that just wasn’t turning out the way you though it would? I think it’s safe to say most of us have. In fact, you should read this book if you’re looking for clarity and guidance in this area, or know someone who is.

Whether it’s a job or a relationship or kids or a family issue, ever so slowly your own personal walk with God slips to 3rd or 4th place and your very identity becomes like a faded photo. One day you look in the mirror and can’t even recognize your own reflection or recall who you once were.

Regrettably, in the last year and a half, more often than I care to admit, I was like a hamster in a wheel running myself ragged and never getting anywhere. Through no one’s fault but my own I was in a position that was stifling my creativity and expecting things of me that I just wasn’t designed for. All along I allowed myself to be drawn into the thought that,

this isn’t brain surgery, just keep trying harder. You have to do this. You need to love this. You have to live up to everyone’s expectations and get this right.”

At the end of the day, whenever we try to be something we’re not, we just end up cheating ourselves and the world of something very special.

There will never be another you, so recover who you are and then be the best YOU you can be. I’ve learned it doesn’t do anyone any good to try and be the best someone else you can be.

I’m so thankful for amazing friends who surround me with love and support and who are there for me no matter what. There’s always a reason for the season’s we go through and I do not in any way consider a single moment of the last 16 months to be a waste. I learned more than I ever have about people, about God, about myself, and about love. I’m a better person having come through this experience.

I hope if you can relate to any of this, you will do two things:

  •  Remember that this too shall pass and give yourself forgiveness today. Forgiveness for whatever it is you’ve been holding onto, thinking you don’t deserve to be happy because you screwed things up so badly. You don’t need to make yourself suffer for something Jesus already died to free you from. If God doesn’t expect perfection of us, who are we to set a higher expectation of ourselves than God? Let it go and move forward into the abundant life He has for you.
  • Dream. Recover what it is about you that makes you unique. Take a personality test, do an exercise. Read a book. Allow yourself the time and the freedom to get back to who you are. You were born an original. Don’t die a copy. (I don’t know who made that up but it wasn’t me)