“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”
(Hebrews 12:1-2a, NIV)
The last two months have left me exposed. I’ve seen parts of myself I didn’t know existed—and some I’ve been desperately trying to hide.
A few years ago, in the midst of my own pain, I uncovered a closeness with Him I didn’t know possible. I found abundance, intimacy, and peace. My heart was full. Empty of self, full of God. Because God scooped me out of my broken state, I was able to move slowly out of my personal darkness into a more grace-filled existence.
Any good was from God. Not Sarah. I knew that then.
But how quickly I forgot. It was only a matter of time before I let myself get full of me once again. I got busy. Distracted. Slowly, in a quiet and subversive fashion, my reliance on God was replaced with my overachieving ways. I relied on past intimacy with God, that “mountaintop moment,” to continue to move me forward. What I forgot was that intimacy doesn’t grow without time spent together.
In many ways, I was avoiding further pain. Despite how much God carried me through, I still didn’t fully trust Him to heal my crushed soul. So instead of bringing it back to Him over and over and over, I just got busy. I let new jobs, more kids, friends, and family (all good things!) take priority over my time with God.
I didn’t plan it. That’s the sneaky truth about letting yourself get busy. Life will always take over, if you let it.
My schedule became the layers I wore around. A nice, cozy sweater made from college students who needed my help. A jacket of kids who got up early, didn’t nap, and needed a healthy meal. That infinity scarf made from the finest television Thursday nights had to offer.
What began as my attempt to move forward from my pain morphed into a Carhart-sized cloak of control and self-righteousness. Underneath all those layers, I began to believe I deserved some credit—just a bit—for making it out of the darkness. I thought I knew God like no one else, that I had experienced pain like no one else.
But God didn’t let me get buried in the thick overcoat I’d created for myself.
Over the last two months, God began the process of returning me to my exposed state. He has been stripping me of any misconceptions that I can live life without Him. My self-serving layers are being removed, reminding me of my deep need for grace as I’ve been confronted with some really ugly parts of myself. He’s shown me that even we who suffer don’t get to be self-righteous when good comes out of it.
Good = God. All the time.
The only thing my avoidance has taught me is that covering up pain only lets the wound fester. It’s only when we live raw, exposed, broken before God that our souls really begin to heal. It’s only when we see ourselves as the dirty, dusty, self-serving beings we usually are that we will ever fall to our knees and beg God to step in.
And He does. Every time.
It’s humbling, friends, to confess my lack of trust in God after all He’s done. But the reality I’m having to face is that I’m full of pride and prone to wander.
No one enjoys taking a long look at his or her naked self. Living stripped down and raw leaves us vulnerable. But only in this exposed state —souls laid bare—can we really find healing and salvation from ourselves. Not until we loosen our grips, letting go of all we think will cover and protect us, can we really know God, be healed, and experience His grace at our worst.
“I said to the Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
(Psalms 16:2, NIV)