In the first part of my story, I talked about my quest of inner peace, despite the season of life I was in. It has been directly influenced by my closeness with God and my sense of identity in Christ. To be honest, a sense of belonging and fellowship and defining the term “church family” is something I still struggle with and pray for. I still feel nervous before and after church, that uncomfortable feeling of going into a building not sure if you or where you belong and feeling alone in a crowded room. And although there is a sense of connectedness with worshiping beside other believers, my quest for where I belong in a church family is just beginning, with new eyes and an insightful more open perception. As Psalm 130: 5-6 says: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord”. There is a lot more for me to understand and learn but hey, if I got this far into this journey than I can only imagine how much more I will learn and grow with my persistence, eagerness and time. Proverbs 3:5 urges us to trust in the Lord with all your heart and as Beth Moore points out, “if you love the Lord with all your heart, it’s only natural to trust him with all your heart”. I had no idea how much growing my faith had to do until my tough season. It took just that to open my eyes to the difference in believing in my head and truly living it out in my heart within the trenches of raw life.
I had to put my baby under surgery and it was one of the scariest things I’ve done. The baby I almost lost multiple times during pregnancy, who was so fragile that any time he cried for more than two minutes, had a temperature or spit up more than a tablespoon would require a page to the surgeon and priority trip to the Stollery. Going through the risks and benefits and letting go and giving it - my son's outcome - to the Lord was one of the toughest things I’ve done. Through this process, I wrote down every promise God had made to stick with us through the hardest of seasons, to never abandon us and prayed over these promises with intense agony wrestling with my lack of control over life and the real raw faith (which is a lot different to feel when life takes worrisome twists). While the operating room was getting him prepped and under general anaesthetic, I sang his favourite song to him - Jesus loves me - and the peace and strength from God flowed through me as he fell asleep so sweetly in my arms. Total surrender, fearlessness and faith in the rawest of seasons was my only hope, the only thing that I knew would get us by. My mom’s encouraging words, “this too shall pass” were something I told myself sometimes every day.
Feeling utterly alone, no one to help (or at least that I had the ability to see and accept), I learnt to look to the one and only hope I truly had, Jesus. I had definitely skipped too many daily bible readings to count and the fear of not deserving his love and grace after neglecting to foster a closer relationship with him, to expect his love and grace to actually extend to me despite all of this was a fearful and almost hopeless thought. But through this fear of not being good enough I learnt he is just and he is always faithful, despite my weaknesses or undeservingness. Sandra Wilson wrote “that as we increasingly experience God’s mighty power at work within us, we will understand that the issue is not our inadequacy. The real issue is His adequacy. And as we continue to draw closer to Christ, we will have an ever-deepening assurance that the answer to the question of our identity is this: I am the beloved child of my Abba God”.
Just over a year ago, a tragedy put me at the ICU with extended family requesting me to pray for a dying loved one. They didn’t want a pastor, their deep heartbreak made it almost impossible for them to think of words to pray. I have been on the streets, meeting, helping, and praying for people - and I never felt the fire of God more so than at that time. But this was different, I felt completely empty still, felt unable, underqualified and asked God to give me the words as I wasn’t sure how useful I could be to him in this situation. He gave me the peace, love, words and strength to be there for that family that day but it took me a while to process it all. Shortly after that, it occurred to me that just as a caterpillar goes into its cocoon before transforming into a butterfly, God wanted me to be fulfilled in him first, be brought from my rock bottom, wrapped in his love and strengthened my identity in him first and then my paths would be set straight. To focus on my foundations inside myself first. To my surprise, this journey has propelled me back to my childhood and present, with a greater insight into my identity in Christ as influenced by my family of origin, past relational experiences, my perceptions of God as a father, the Holy Spirit as a powerful inner edifying force and as a loved daughter who is accepted just as she is and where she is and loved, who is more precious than rubies. It seemed like every week, the church sermons I would here would contain the same words I’d been speaking and praying in my heart. To me, it felt like God was winking at me, but it also filled me with emotion and confirmed that I am accepted and loved and with Jesus as my saviour, and no one can snatch me out of my fathers hands.
Throughout that season, as I took my time reflecting on my own relationship with God and healing from some old deep wounds, I did have a long absence from church and church-related activities. I know that sounds really bad, an oxymoron in itself. But I felt that it was a healthy decision to take time and really reflect on growing a healthy and real perspective on my own relationship with God and why I felt so uncomfortable at church.
I prayed so much about that and when I decided that I was strong enough to embrace my unsettled confusion on the topic, the first sermon was about just that. In fact, the very direct and courageously honest pastor who was very passionate about his church and his flock, spoke bluntly about a healthy church. He outlined what Jesus’ church should look like and related to people not feeling like they could offer anything but should be accepted nonetheless. He encouraged the people of the church to take a stand and also be willing to have grace with another and be vulnerable enough to reflect on their own accountability to the body of Christ; to be brave enough to keep trying to connect and get involved. His determination and vision of what the bride of Christ should be in accordance to the bible was so inspirational; I decided to start trusting God’s will and his timing for my place and sense of belonging in the church, Jesus’ church, my church. I started praying for the leaders of my church, for the congregation of my church, and for the strength, willingness, trust and patience to wait upon the Lord for that sense of belonging. Ephesians 3:17, 19-20 says, “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love… may you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life”. This has been a powerful raw first hand lesson for me and although God hasn’t caused these trials for me, he has brought good out from them. As Romans 8:28 says, in all these things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We all have a purpose and in the darkest of times when we feel alone, when we know we are alone in this world, know you are not truly alone with Jesus.
With a new season of my life, now free from postpartum, medical stressors, and more profoundly with a courageously honest inventory of how my perception of God, others and myself have been influenced by past or external experiences; I am excited to reach a new season of my life. With a fresh deep foundation in my own identity and the strength and confidence I have gained through the relational impact of my experiences; I feel patient to trust the Lord and be still in Him (although I’m still learning this). I think this is something that will take time to get better at, but realizing the power in it is a pretty empowering start. Sandra Wilson urges us to “continue to draw closer to Christ, we will have an ever-deepening assurance that the answer to the question of our identity is this: I am the beloved child of my Abba God. I am good enough, my worth is precious to Him and perhaps the joy in connectedness will come as I wait on Him. I’m approaching church with a willingness to be vulnerable and put myself out there when it feels awkward to be in a room full of strangers. I write this not as someone who has it all together but as someone who is humble of my journey, of stumbling in amidst a tough season who is just starting to scratch the surface of some big deep-rooted questions. I feel the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart and getting excited for this new season of our lives.
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