Sob. You can see why she has always been my favorite.
I know why I struggle. There is an enemy who has sought to crush my soul my entire life. I can sum it up in a simple story.
In 1992 I was 10 years old, The Bodyguard was sweeping the nation and, if American Idol and The Voice existed, every third contestant would be singing I Will Always Love You and trying to hold a candle to Whitney Houston.
I know I sure wanted to be able to sing like that. I would take one of those plastic toy microphones and climb up into my favorite apricot tree in the way back of our back yard, concealed by a bounty of leaves, and belt it out at the top of my lungs. My great dream was to be a singer. Not just someone with a decent voice, but a Whitney. Someone who, when she sang, gave people chills and they instinctively dropped everything and became enraptured not with just the voice but how she made them feel like she could articulate in song every emotion they had ever felt.
|Can you feel it? Those chills when the music stops and she just|
explodes your soul with that glorious key change? Incredible.
Unfortunately for me, my mom didn't share that vision. One day I took a risk and busted out the chorus, channeling my best Whitney, in our front yard. My mom yelled at me from inside the house to stop it, because I couldn't sing and I would never be a famous singer. Plus, I was getting on her nerves, thinking I could ever impress anyone. Shut up, little girl. No one is listening.
And in my heart, I knew she was right. I was talentless and needed to accept that. I was a fool for thinking I could sing, a fool for enjoying it, a fool for thinking I could ever be a singer. My biggest folly was thinking I could ever be an inspiration to anyone the way Whitney was to me.
That poison spread throughout me. My attempts to impress my parents, to be really good at something and finally feel like I was special to them, worthy of praise and acceptance, always ended with me being told that I was proud, full of myself, just trying to get people's attention. I so desperately wanted to be seen, to be known, to be loved, but every effort ended with the same refrain: I wasn't that great and I needed to get a small head and come down to earth with everyone else. No one was impressed, nor would they ever be. So I could just take that "I matter" pride and get over myself.
I like to think I'm past all that. Grow up! Toughen up! Get over your past. Believe that God loves you. He's a perfect Father! But the voices are still there.
And I actually am not a fool. I know how it works. The voice in my head may be my mother's, but I am wise to the speaker--it's the age old enemy. My mom is not the problem--she is a broken sinner desperately in need of grace just as much as I am. The battle I fight is not against flesh and blood. No; it's against the spiritual powerhouse whose entire existence subsists of crushing the souls of humans, of God's image-bearing and beloved creation.
And he's a crafty fellow, because Satan knows how to shut me up--by keeping me focused on myself.
Because it's still pride. Pride in every form keeps our eyes on ourselves, be the filter that we are of lofty or lowly estate. Either way, our focus is zoomed into us, leaving God and others out of the viewfinder.
I honestly rarely go around thinking I am better than anyone else. But I do constantly think I have some deeply rooted pride that insists I am better than everyone else that I can't see.
So, out of fear that it is there, hidden but driving me, I am frequently silent and stifled.
I am a walking paradox of one who has grown in grace to embrace exactly who God has made me to be yet paralyzed by fear that I'm a beast of pride who is constantly trying to be better than everyone else, trying to distract them from God with me. I'm still that little girl who just wants to be loved, yet every effort to prove I'm worthy of love is met with contempt. "Shut up. You are irritating. You don't matter and you never will. OH YOU THINK YOU WANT TO ENCOURAGE OTHERS? You attention whore. SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP."
[I get that you might be deeply offended by that f-bomb. I just ask you to step back and feel the weight for one moment of what it is to hear that onslaught of worthlessness every day of your life. Perhaps you'd be less offended at the language used to describe how I am accused and more compassionate toward me as I'm hearing the accusations.]
So why am I telling you all of this?
Oh man. Here come the tears.
Because friend, I want to be free. And my Jesus, the great Liberator of captives, is doing just that.
|She didn't know it, but Jesus loved this precious girl.|
He loved hearing her sing. And he still does now.
I have long loved writing. Wanted to write. But I constantly vacillate between this quiet confidence of, "God, I hear you. I see you. I know this is your calling, your good plan," and, "I am so full of myself. How dare I try to steal God's glory by writing...about him. FOOL."
Did you see that? The former is first person intimacy with God, speaking to and hearing from him. The second uses "I" language but is actually third person, detached, yet screaming to the core of my being that I am unloved, unworthy.
You know what's so great about Jesus? He's the most persistent buggar. He keeps pursuing me. He won't let me escape this pull on my soul. I keep waiting for someone to read something I wrote and chastise me. Every time I see a comment or text or FB message that starts with, "I read your blog and..." I'm expecting the boom I wrote about last week. Someone finally just speaking aloud what God has been trying to tell me, that I am an attention whore who needs to shut up. That God is disgusted by my constant display of seeking attention.
It never happens. I weep because people open up to me about how judged and shamed they were by the church. Or someone I have long looked up to tells me how broken and struggling she is after being devastated by her church, and she's just identifying with me in my pain and how my openness ministered God's grace to her.
And grace upon grace? I remember myself from my legalist past as a real bitch. Yeah, I said it. Judgmental and cruel. Causing people to shudder when they remember me. Thankful they have distance from me. That is the only way I can see myself, thus I assume everyone else sees the same person.
That silly Jesus of mine keeps telling me, "Nope. Not so much." People tell me they remember me as kind and open, an encouragement. Or, one friend who I feel suffered under my, "Shape up," proselytizing told me that, yes, that wasn't fun, but what she has carried with her is not disgust at me but ache and concern for me, that I lived under such heavy bondage and rules. That she saw her beautiful friend become more and more enslaved to religion that stole the joy of the sweet soul she had long known and loved.
But Jesus has been freeing me. More rusty chains fall, useless and crushed, to the earth. And the Lord wants me to declare my freedom by writing about it.
Jesus has been stirring my soul to write for as long as I can remember, but for the last few months the heat just keeps getting turned up. I can't escape it. I'm feeling increasingly like Jeremiah with the fire in his bones that he cannot hold in. I'm growing weary of resisting but still think the driving force is just that hidden pride again, wanting attention, so I don't say the things I actually feel impassioned to say.
And then, at Liberate, it was right in front of my face: by silencing myself I am actually sinning. I'm avoiding God and running from the freedom and grace he has for me. He loves me and he's given me a gift and a passion for something that not only brings joy to me but that he wants to use to bless others. And, yes, I'm a sinner who wants people to like me and think I'm talented or impressive, but not more so than any other person. But the greatest source of my pride has come from silencing myself so that I can think I'm being humble.
Did you catch that?
God revealed, straight up, that my silence is actually what's hurting me. My attempt to be a good quiet girl who doesn't screw people up with my prideful speaking out is what actually metastasizes the death in my soul. I'm taking the lies spoken to me and feasting on them, and the cancer grows because I embrace it as health and life to be a quiet little good girl.
But it's not healthy. It's killing me.
Because, friend, I keep finding out more and more that God really, really loves me. As my beloved Spiritual grandpa Steve Brown always says, God doesn't just love me--he really, really likes me.
Of the many voices--parents, teachers, friends, pastors--who have called me proud and told me to be quiet, not a single one has ever been God's.
Not a one.
You know what God said? He said, "Get up, my paralyzed daughter. Rise up and walk. And tell everyone!"
|"Why the Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you."|
More chills than Whitney.
He said it most clearly through JD Greear's session on Friday morning at Liberate. He was speaking from a sum of his book, Jesus Continued. [Which is only $2.80 on Kindle today, February 26th, so get dat biz!]
When the session is available to listen to, I'll link it up right here. But what struck me most beautifully from his talk was when he was speaking about how we experience the power and leadership of the Holy Spirit. I did a lot of, "Oh, yes!" and, "Mmm-Hmm." Because, you know, the Gospel, our circumstances, the Word, the Church; all ways the Spirit works. Yup.
Two things really captured my attention, however. He said that one way we experience the power of the Holy Spirit is through using our gifts, and I heard the Spirit say, "Write, Tami," but I pushed it down as probably just my prideful heart rearing it's ugly head again.
But then he said we can experience the Holy Spirit through our spirits. He quoted Nehemiah 2:12, a part of the Bible I love, where God tells Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, but I never caught something: God put it on Nehemiah's spirit to do it. There was no Bible verse that Nehemiah read and then did--it was something the Lord wanted Nehemiah to do so he put it on the man's heart. And Nehemiah didn't go tell a bunch of people, trying to confirm if it was really the Lord--he just recognized the voice of the Lord speaking to him and heeded it.
And God said, so clearly, "I want you to write, Tami. Stop worrying about if you're supposed to be successful or important in anyone else's eyes. Stop fearing that my plan for you might be to help a lot of people; stop worrying that I might actually love others through you and open up Pandora's box of you being noticed as a result. Just let my love flow through you. Heeding me speaking to your spirit right now is for your joy.
Because, sweet daughter, you are already successful and important in my eyes. You have the all of the glory and righteousness of my Son. Go forth with me, with my Spirit inside of you. The rest is just details and you get to experience me even more in all of those details. Come what may, I love you and your life is not your own. Stop hiding, baby girl. Rise up and walk into the light and tell everyone how I got you there."
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic1 called Bethesda,2 which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.3 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, r“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
sNow that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews4 said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’”12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him,“See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Goodness, I love Jesus. He knew healing the invalid, living his life for others, would lead to his death--people who find their righteousness in the Law really detest those walking in freedom--and yet he did it anyway. Jesus was about doing what his Father wanted, not living under the fear of what his obedience would cost him. Again, it's not just that Jesus died. It's that he lived.John 5:1-17 [emphases mine]
God wants me to write. To push through the fear of discovering secret pride. To believe the truth that God loves me and it is finished and it's his joy for me to write and, by his sweet grace, for you to see him and enjoy him and experience him through my writing. Because I matter. I matter so much that Jesus didn't just die on the cross for me, but he lived for me. And he loves me so much that he wants me to experience the joy of doing, of writing and telling you about how good God is and you get to experience him and his joy through me doing that!
Oh sweet baby Jesus, that last line read, "...experience him and his joy through me dong that." Praise Jesus for proofreading. Because dong. lolololol
I have much more to say about Liberate 2015, but this was a really important place to start.
A dear friend, a woman whose very existence is grace to my soul, the same one who first told me about Liberate almost a year ago, asked me what one thing was reverberating through me since the conference. I told her this in response:
JD Greear talked about how we're not going to hear from God through the Spirit if we aren't using our gifts, and it just set the wet concrete of me avoiding God's call to start writing and speak aloud what he's showing me. He wants to minister joy to me and others through that and I'm missing that joy by succumbing to fear of man. ENOUGH. "It is finished", for me, for right now, means the end of my paralysis. I'm the parable in which he commands the lame man to walk and he wants me to tell everyone.
And she said--and you'll see now why she's pretty much the best, so go read her stuff already--so wonderfully in response:
LOVE IT. WRITE! SPEAK! WALK!!
So there you have it. Death to the lie that I am anything other than an important, beloved, precious daughter of Jesus. One to whom he has said, "Rise up and walk, and tell everyone."
Ok, Lord. I won't shut up. May everyone see how good you are, because I'm free. And so, so, so very deeply loved.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.You know what gives me more chills than Whitney's effortless chord progression? That God himself says, "I will always love you. I cannot love you any more or any less than how completely and perfectly I already love you."
So I repeat: I won't shut up because I am so, so, so very deeply loved.
And so, my friend, are you. So let us rise up and walk together and tell everyone of our great Healer and Liberator.