Branded.

Night falls early in these parts, so I imagine the deed was done early one evening.  The ‘deed’ being the scrawling of an ugly word with an even uglier meaning, onto the front of a car.  By scrawling I really mean scratching.  Leaving a permanent mark.

 

 I don’t know the victim of the ‘crime’ – the owner of the car at the time.  She obviously had upset someone.  Maybe a jealousy was playing out in a very real way.  Maybe it was a spiteful prank gone wrong.  I don’t know – but I do know this – she didn’t deserve to be branded in such a scarring way.

 

 We are now in possession of the aforementioned branded car.  A long time loan while its current owner is overseas.  I can’t help but notice the unpleasant word every time I get in or out of that car.  It looks very out-of-place the few times it has been parked at my boys’ school.  Their ‘private Christian College’ school.

 

 In the bible, in John 4, we read of a woman who was branded with the same word that appears on our car.  The Samaritan woman with a bit of ‘baggage’.  Jesus approached her at the well and asked her for some water.  Now this was not the common practice in that day at all – not common for a Jewish man to speak publicly to a woman, much less a Samaritan woman, and even less common to talk to a Samaritan woman with a past like hers.

 

 In his book ‘Powerful and free, confronting the glass ceiling for women in the church’, Danny Silk looks at this interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman and notes that ‘Not only does Jesus talk with her, but he also talks with her about theology – a topic expressly forbidden to discuss with women.  In one conversation, Jesus literally sliced through years of rabbinical law and cultural norms with the extreme love of God that sees the treasure in every human heart’.

 

 The people around the Samaritan woman would have had all manner of labels stuck on her.  All sorts of branding.  Yet Jesus was able to look into her eyes and see her simply as a child of God.  He saw in her purpose.  And hope. A future.

 

 He saw the treasure that is in every human heart.

 

 He looked past her past, and saw what she could be in her present.  And she did use that information he shared with her; the fact that he revealed his true identity as the Messiah for the first time, to her, she went back to her people and shared the good news with them.  She brought people to him.  There must have been some point in her thinking when she realized ‘if this man the Christ sees me, then I am worthy’, for her to have gone back to her people with enough confidence to share her story with them, to bring others to Him.  All it took was for her to see herself as the Lord saw her – worthy.  Daughter.  Beloved one.

 

 We all wear labels of some sort.  Some of these labels are positive, some are negative.  Some stop us from seeing ourselves as God sees us.  My husband and I have to look past the label on our car.  We know that this branding doesn’t affect how the car drives, its effectiveness in doing what it was designed to do.  We have to choose to not focus on the negative connotations of this label.  What if we all carried this on to every area of our lives?  To every dark and hidden corner of our hearts?  What if we all worked on trying to rip off every label that has been imposed upon us, by simply accepting the Father’s love for us.

 

 Jesus sees the treasure that is in every human heart.  We are his children.  What if we start walking in that?  What if we start living that out?  We are loved with an everlasting love.  We were created in His image.  I think it is time to start ripping those labels off – time to help your friends and relatives see themselves as God sees them.  Cherished.  Beloved.  Designed while we were in our Mother’s wombs for a purpose.

 

 I’m gonna start tearing off some self-imposed labels and others-imposed labels…..how about you? Are you in?

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Life’s pretty full on, isn’t it?

I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed and was struck by the thought that so many people I know are facing hard times at the moment.

Disappointments.  Sickness.  Health scares.  Family breakdowns.  Accidents. People letting people down. Financial issues.

There’s a whole heap of sadness just hovering over precious lives.

And if you’ve been a reader of this blog at all you’ll know that life’s been a little tough for me just lately.  I’m very real about the cost and the price that comes with following God, and choosing to serve and walk in obedience.

But along with the trials that I’ve been facing, and along with whatever you’re facing, there is no doubt in my heart and my mind and my soul, that God is so very faithful.

If you’re a Christian – your only chance is to hold into hope.  Cling to the promises we have in Him.

If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, then ask Him to prove himself to you.  Put yourself in a place of openness, and just wait for the transformation. He’s real.  He’s kind.  And He’s there for each and every one of us.

Isaiah 41:10.  Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.

Whatever darkness you’re facing.  Whatever questions you have over your future and your beloved ones’.  Hold onto hope.  Hold onto those words we have from someone who loves us far more than we could ever imagine or dare to believe.

He is strengthening me.  He will strengthen you.

He is holding me with his righteous strong hand.  He will hold you.

Dear friend, hold onto hope.  Just cling to it.  Cling.

 

Loving (and hurting ) Deeply

I’ve been quietly working on a blog post in my head. Grabbing little thoughts and inspirations from here and from there. I don’t know if anyone can relate, but you see the thing is, I feel things very deeply. Part of this is because I’m a woman. (And any blokes reading this immediately go duh). Part of this is just how I’m wired, my personality and God-given gifts.

I was going to write a blog post asking for help for how to diminish this ‘feeling deeply’ part of my life.

I was going to grab your ideas on how to work on turning my feelings off, of growing thicker skin and of not minding it so much when friendships aren’t reciprocated or when people don’t follow through on promises or when something hard and bad happens to my husband or children.

But you know the more I started to gather my thoughts and try to put into words my helplessness and frustrations at myself…….the more I felt that gentle tugging of the Holy Spirit.

Be still.

Know who you are is who you are for a reason.

It is ok to feel and to feel deeply.

I think it comes down to something as simple as this……how deep is the Father’s love for us…..how vast beyond all measure indeed……there is no limit to God’s love – we are promised this in the His word……as much as that love is so deep – what can I give, but to give all of myself?

How can I love my friends, and my family, if I’m not loving with all of myself.

And the deeper the love, the more fulfilling the relationship. The more honest. The more relate-able we are. The more help we can be to each other.

So really, the question that I really have, is not on how NOT to love deeply, but on how to handle the hurt that comes with it. Hand in hand – loving people deeply brings such amazing rewards; deep and meaningful friendships, cherished moments, shared joy, but there is also sadness and heartache that comes with loving people as we’re simply human at the end of the day.

And so far I’ve come up with – We can use hurt to build up barriers to prevent us from reaching out, or we can use hurt to propel us forward. To learn from. To change future behaviours/ reactions. Both actions are hard. Both actions are done intentionally…not just as a side effect. Both reactions are things I have knowingly and willingly done. And not just in the past – but recently. My husband and I have some people in our life who aren’t the best with communication. A lot of the time we have to repeat information, sometimes that information is misconstrued, oftentimes that communication is one-sided – us making the effort, time and time again. So what have we done as a result of our hurt and frustration? We’ve chosen to stop making an effort ourselves. This has then become a no-win situation. We’ve built up the barriers to prevent us from reaching out.

But what I’ve realized from this reaction is that no-one wins……no-one benefits and no-one learns anything. We certainly don’t, because we’re the ones holding on to the ‘big ball of ugly’, and other party in this scenario is clueless as to our hurt and our frustrations. So nothing changes.

I am rather slow on it……I take my time to learn these things you know….but I now know that hurt does nothing as long as it remains hurt. As long as those feelings of powerlessness and frustration remain – the hurts wins – division wins – and the enemy wins. Because he doesn’t want us to be united. He doesn’t want us working together. He doesn’t want joined forces, abounding in love….because that’s the very thing that is going to change the world. That’s the thing that makes me as a Christian, stand out from another who is not.

So I’m learning that what needs to happen is we need to change the hurt into something else: a chance to re-evaluate ourselves, a chance to learn from an experience, a chance to do better next time, a chance to see the good in all.

The hurt can’t win. The hurt can’t take over our hearts.

I do believe that we were made to love deeply. We are loved deeply. Hurt comes hand in hand with loving people – but the rewards of loving people far outweighs the damage this hurt can do – I’m learning that we just need to be intentional with how we react to this hurt….

fionapic