When Moving Makes You Stuck

I just found out that someone I respect and admire is making a big life decision.   Only this is something that comes a few months after he had lost an immediate family member.

Maybe his leaving is something that he has been planning for some time, or because of a shift in family obligations due to his recent loss. If not, I worry for him.

 When I was grieving my own losses, I was told to not make any big changes in my life while grief and loss were hitting me hard. 

I didn’t listen the first time.  And I paid the price for it.

********

A few months after Anna passed away, my husband started sending out resumes to new churches looking for a pastor.  Perhaps it was just a restlessness that had been there for a while.  But I believe that grieving the loss of Anna pushed us both over the edge, for we lived just a few blocks away from where Anna was buried.

In December, Brent got the call that he was accepted to a new pastorate in Macomb, IL.  He was expected to be there shortly after the first of the year.  Oblivious to Anna’s 1st birthday memorial and Arianna’s 1st birthday, he optimistically moved to Macomb–living with a church family until he found a home for us to move into.  I stayed behind and packed the best I could ­­–as two toddlers found their way in and out of boxes–crawling in them, taking items out of them, and trying to play with breakable items before I caught them.

We moved the day before Anna’s 1st birthday memorial.

 On Anna’s birthday, I was in a new home, a new town, and a new church. 

And no way to place flowers on my baby’s grave.

I gritted my teeth and tried to smile as I stood beside my husband–determined to show our new congregation that I was happy to be there with them.

Then I went “home” and fell apart.

During that first year, Brent was blithe because he had a way to bury himself in the newness of his latest ministry position.  I however, did not have anything “new” to bury myself into. It was just Anthony, Arianna and me.  I was still a stay at home mom – a job I simply carried forward with me –with a little girl in tow who triggered me every time she learned something new. 

I never felt more lonely or grieved.  I had no friends to comfort me and no support system to let me fall apart - until it was too late.

Now  I understand why people say to not make big changes after a loss.  Leaving a job position or moving away to ease grief is an illusion.  I thought it would lift me out of the black sludge of loss that clung to me as it tried to tug me into the quicksand of deep depression.  I thought if I moved away, I could slog off the mud and move forward in beat with the rest of the world, adjusting to the newness around me.

It didn’t work.  No matter how many miles I distanced myself from Anna’s grave, grief eventually oozed its way back to me like wet cement–slathering up my soul and hardening around my heart.  Like her headstone buried deep in Missouri soul,  my heart was cemented in. 



The thick walls that meant to protect me from anguish trapped me inside with it instead. And because this barricade was impenetrable, there was no way to escape the suffocating despair.

I may have moved away...

                                          ...but my heart got stuck anyway.

****

I desperately want to go to my friend and ask him if this is a necessary change or one he wants to do. All I can see is the pain of my own story laid on him - and that may not be his story at all.

All I can do is pray for him and his family, and hope that those closest to him will whisper to him the same words that were whispered to me:  "Be still, Holly.  Wait on the Lord."

I am learning this:

Better to be STILL than to be STUCK.

Let the Books Cry Out...

I have to confess I feel queasy in a Books-A-Million. Well, any bookstore to be honest.

It's the smell.  It wafts through the air the moment I tug open a heavy glass door.

I smell crisp pages of fresh faced hopefuls standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow comrades of unbroken spines.

I smell spineless paperbacks dying in a mass grave called a "Bargain Bin"

But there's one peculiarly odious scent that reeks every time I walk in a bookstore.

The smell of Fear.

Unfortunately, it's something I produce when I walk over the threshold.  It's embarrassing.

I've done my best to control it, but I just haven't found a deodorant that can mask this odor, much less get rid of it all together.

And books...

...books can smell Fear.

As I walk by - trailing that nasty smell behind me - a book screams, "You associate with Tree Killers!"

Another one howls, "You're too late. It's all been written before!"

A chorus of sticker-shocked Reduced Price Books pick up on the agitation. "Away with you!" they shout. "Save yourself from this carnage of cheap priced clutter!!"

"Goes aways!  Goes aways!" wail a group of baby board books.

I try to calm them all down the best I can, but then my smell of Fear turns to sweat and starts running down my spine, arousing even more books to wail.

The din is deafening.

Why do I even come here and put us all through this torture?  The books are right.  If it was worth writing, it's already written - and what's left become a wreckage of unwritten reads.

Why should I kill one more tree - just so I can add to the forest of words already on these shelves?

If I did publish a book and it was lucky enough to be deemed worthy of shelf space, I imagine other books slowly inching away so they couldn't brush their covers against mine.

"Guilt by association," one of them whispers.  "We haven't got a chance if we touch her.  Move over."

I snap out of my reverie when I feel the paperbacks in their en-masse glass coffin sneer at me.

"Who's the spineless one now?" they jeer.

Disheartened and defeated, I slump out of the store.

This is my life.

At least, it is now.

I never had this problem until the day I held a pen aloft like Mufassa lifted up Simba in the "Lion King".  With a mighty voice, I cried out, "I am a writer!" upon which elephants trumpeted, lions roared and zebras bent their kn....

Oh wait.

That's not right.

I remember now.

As I lifted my pen to proclaim myself a writer, it slipped out of my hand and poked me in the corner of my eye.

"Oh well," I consoled myself as I rubbed my eye.  "This pain won't last forever..."


Little did I know.


Bookstores which once fueled my determination became my nullification.

*It's already been written.

* You don't have a platform.

* You don't even have the floor.

* You live on a dirt floor

* Why try

* Why bother

* Why worry

But then I hear a whisper.

"Why not?"

And therein lies the stupidity of being a writer.  That dang smidgen of a mustard seed called "hope".

Hope sends me to bookstores to face my fear.  Hope sets me down and has me typing aimlessly till something starts forming and convicts my heart.  Hope tells me that someone needs to laugh; to cry; to reminisce.  Hope tells me that many other people can do these same things for the same readers.

But then Hope snuggles up to my heart and whispers, "But only you have your unique voice and perspective.  Someone needs to hear your voice.

Don't neglect the one in hopes for the masses."

You know what?

I don't have a platform or a following or a crowd or so many people who wanna be Facebook friends that I'm forced to make a Page instead.  I'm not a Promoter, Publicist or a Progenitor.

I'm a Period.

I write in order to write.

Period.

Let the books keep cryin'.

Chucking It All Away...

I’ve put off this post for a very long time.  It’s not a subject that naturally flows.  Besides, I don’t know anyone other than me, who’s had a strong desire to pick up a statue of baby Jesus from a manger and chuck it out a window.

Well,  more like pick it up and chuck it at a closed window, just to get the satisfaction of both sailing a baby Jesus throw a window and hearing the glass break.

Why?

Because Christmas has been triggering for me in the past.  And I don’t just mean the typical family stressors that creep up on many of us at this time of year.

No – my desire to chuck a baby Jesus statue has a lot more to do with miscarriages than holiday mayhem.

I’ve heard from some of my friends who’ve experienced miscarriages say that they’ve avoided going to church during the Christmas season because it’s too triggering.  I didn’t understand what they meant at first.  But with each successive miscarriage, I started to.

By the fifth miscarriage, I was ready to ask them where the nearest escape route was and how to go about creating it.

But I couldn’t do it.  I was the pastor’s wife.   

There’s no escaping that.

Each year where a miscarriage had occurred brought a deeper downward spiral of depression than the time before.  It’s like I could never get back to the “top” from where I spiraled down from.  I could pick myself up and get to a certain point, only to miscarry again and spiral further down into depression. 

Miscarriage one happened two months before my mom died from a two-year battle with cancer. I found it hard to do anything that year, let alone keep my head above water emotionally.  

My saving grace at that point was that my husband was not a pastor yet – so I could gracefully bow out of any holiday plans, parties, and pageants.

By miscarriage three, the doctors were giving my husband and I DNA tests to see if a problem could be pinpointed.

Tests had answers, yet results about trying or not trying again were inconclusive.  We left the hospital puzzled and poor.

Miscarriage four came on the day of my dad’s funeral.  It seemed that he decided he couldn’t live without mom, so he drank himself to death.   So on the day of his funeral, I found myself on the floor of the bathroom that morning…

…and buried two bodies that afternoon.

Miscarriage five was the worst.  My doctor thought he found the “cure” to help me sustain a pregnancy and boost my HCG levels since they were tanking.  I took a medication that kept me on permanent PMS.  I told my husband Brent that if we survived this still intact, the result would be glorious.

Our small country church celebrated with us, and prayed for us.  It seemed to be the perfect year to be pregnant too.  Several in our own congregation were either pregnant, or had just delivered, or come from a sister church with children who needed nursery service.   It got to be so crowded in our little nursery, that Brent and a couple of others had to take down a wall and move a Sunday School class in order to enlarge our nursery area.

And now – he and I would get to contribute our own small bundle of joy to it!

After the construction work was complete, more nursery bedding was needed, so Brent decided to make the trip into town to get supplies for the nursery.  An hour after Brent left- I started throwing up and hemorrhaging.

While Brent was happily picking out baby accessories miles away...

… I was losing ours.

By the time it was over, my home looked like an aftermath of a battlefield, I’m soaked in my own blood, ambulance services were almost called for, and a friend had to come to my aid and assist me so I would not end up fainting and pass out on the kitchen floor.

I’ll never forget the look on Brent’s face when he came home and saw me. 

That was late summer.

By that Christmas, I could hardly contain the grief that spiraled into anger.  I couldn’t find ways to escape Christmas.  Everyone expected me to be emotionally “over it”, and snap back to my jovial self – as time heals wounds, right?  What makes anyone think that three to four months is enough time to “heal” from anything?

Did I say everyone expected me to be emotionally over it?

Oh my bad.

I meant to say that **I** expected myself to be emotionally “over it”.   I expected myself to pick up and force my way into having a jovial Christmas spirit.  After all, it’s hard to be a Holly and be a Grinch at the same time.

When the spiraling thoughts of depression would threaten me, I’d just shove it down in the pressure cooker I called my heart.  Inwardly I seethed.  Outwardly I looked benevolent.
But that was the year I lost it, emotionally.

I couldn’t escape Christmas and the bevy of songs surrounding BABY Jesus.  Baby Jesus in the hay, Baby Jesus smiling, Baby Jesus listening to the drummer boy’s song, Baby Jesus sleeping peacefully in his mother’s arms.

Baby, baby, baby everywhere.

Then there were the actual babies.  The ones now occupying the expanded nursery.  The cute cherubs in oversized robes and crooked wings and adorable faces of toddlers on all fours dressed as farm animals and sheep.  

Parents were talking pictures. 

Kids were wound up from Christmas sugar cookies and jumping on chairs and running and weaving between crowds of people.  

Some parents were oblivious to the chaos, chatting away with each other.

It was a sea of noise and glitter and terrycloth and fake fur.

And I lost it.

I yelled at the kids to get downstairs NOW!

I yelled at the chattering parents to control their kids and get downstairs NOW!

I gripped out tiny tots who were fixing to put on a play about how happy it is to have Baby Jesus in our lives and I made them cry, and then sent them on stage to perform – acting out the joy of the angels and shepherds when they learned about Baby Jesus being born. 

Do you know how hard it is to act happy when you have tears in your eyes from being yelled at?

I was so angry at myself:

Angry that it came out of nowhere.
Angry for feeling trapped when I didn’t know why I felt that way.
Angry for feeling angry at parents and kids who were jovial instead of serious.
What was wrong with me?
Why did I behave this way?
Why am I lashing out?
Why do I not want to stop?

That night after the last of the parents cart off a now happy sticky sleepy kid holding his bag of Christmas candy, I start picking up trash and stray tinsel that tried to hitch a ride out of church but only made it as far as sanctuary door.

I turn and see a tiny manger scene.  One the church put out every year.

And that’s when I felt it.

The angry urge to pick up the statue of Baby Jesus in the hay and throw it as hard as I could at a window.  I wanted this baby as far away from me as possible.  If I heard one more song about BABY Jesus, one more Bible verse about BABY Jesus- well anything about BABY Jesus, I’m going to lose it.  I’m so SICK of BABIES thrown in my face.

ESPECIALLY Baby Jesus.

And I’m so scared that I’m going to hell for feeling that way.  And even more scared I was going to hell because I felt justified in this anger and justified in wanting to sail Baby Jesus right out the window and right out of my life.

And I could not stop myself from feeling this.

I wish I could say that I prayed or found a scripture that gave me consolation and comfort, the anger subsided and suddenly all was right with the world.

I did not.

At all.

For a long time.

But…
…I didn’t chuck a Baby Jesus statue out the window either.

So I consider that a victory.

Time is a blur, so I can’t tell you the moment I had my “’Come-to-Jesus-Meeting’-Throw-Down with God” – I can only tell you that I had it.

It came as a result of reading this scripture in a devotional:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, [f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-16

I got stuck on the words “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize…but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are…”

A surge of anger swept over me.  I might not be able to chunk a Baby Jesus out a window, but I sure could throw my Bible at wall.

So I did.

As I watched it slide down the wall and crumple to the floor, I screamed:

You KNOW what it’s like to be me?  You KNOW?  How can YOU empathize for me??  

GOD – You have a Son!  You always have!  John 1 tells us that Jesus is the Word and that he’s always been in the beginning with You from before Day One!  You’ve never been without Him in some kind of way – except when he was crucified and even that was for a little while!

Jesus wasn’t just your Son – the Bible says that he was the exact representation of You.  Jesus himself told Philip that to see him was to see You.  That’s why parents love it when they see their traits when they hold their newborn baby.  They coo over whose eyes the baby has, who’s long fingers, etc.  

Every human longs to see their traits passed down to their children.  It can’t be helped – and YOU have YOUR SON who represents You exactly and completely!

I'll NEVER have that.

You’ve NEVER been childless.  You’ve never been barren.  How can you empathize?  You do NOT know what it is like to be me! 

You have him breathing in Heaven, and You had Him breathing life on earth as a man.  I haven’t even had a son or daughter breathe life on this earth for one second.  How could You possibly know what it’s like to be me?  Or to know how I feel?!??  

You’re GOD.  You are the “Our Father”.  I’m NOT a mother and I guess You’re letting me know with losing all these babies that I need to take the hint that I’m too screwed up to be one.”

I buckle to the floor and sob uncontrollably.  What is the use of loving a God who does not understand me?

It’s hopeless.
****

As I lay on the floor shivering from my soaked shirt and sticky wet strands of hair, I felt Jesus whisper in my heart –

 “I do understand you, Holly.  I know what it’s like to have empty arms.  I AM both Son of God AND Son of Man.  While I walked this earth as a Man, I knew heartache and loneliness and longing.”

Longing?  Really?

As I laid still and thought about it- I pictured the man Jesus walking with his friends and their wives.  Going to their weddings.  Rejoicing with them over the radiant bride and beaming groom.  And while they went on to their new home, Jesus went to whatever home happened to be greeting and hosting the Rabbi for that night.

No place to lay his head.

No place he called his home.

His friends had homes and families and chores and routines.  He had friends who were fathers working to hand down their trades to their sons – teaching them by working side by side; even as Jesus did when he learned carpentry from Joseph.

Jesus knew his purpose was far greater – but I’m sure it did not lessen the chill of the night; the lack of someone to snuggle with.  He was totally complete in the Father- but since he was bound in a physical body – it wasn’t the same.

He knew what it was like to feel the joy of a child’s arms slipping around his neck.  He was given no children of his own, but he laid his hands on dozens of other little ones to bless them and keep them in God’s care.

His hands on earth felt soft fuzzy heads and looked into the eyes of pure trust and love that only a little child can give.

But then they’d go with their families back to their own homes and all Jesus had to carry with him was the memory of how it felt to hug them and look into their eyes.  And then it was on to the next home to rest in – the next town to preach and heal in.  Over and over again.

No home. No routine. No simple family life.  No little arms filled with hugs day after day.  His purpose far greater – yet at the same time, he was denied the marital and parental joy that all mankind is allowed to experience one way or another on earth.

The Son of Man- a part of the world.

The Son of God – apart from the world.

Being the Son of God did not stop him from the temptations to dream of a different life – or to even BEG for a different life and purpose.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus begged the Father THREE times for a different life, a different purpose.  He never wanted to throw me or anyone away from salvation to God.  He just wanted to sail himself out that window. 

Chuck Baby Jesus and the manger and being the Lamb of God right out the window.  Throw it away – give him some other task, please.  Don’t make him go through being the baby with a sacrificial purpose.  The pain is too great.  The cost is His life. 

He’s sobbing in the garden, his hair and shirt soaked with his tears and his blood. Let there be some other way.  Any other way.  He didn’t want to be The Way anymore.
And yet…

…he kept coming back to one sentence every time.  “Never less, not my will – but Yours.”

Did Jesus know what it was like to experience a barrenness of His own?

Yes.

He was tempted in every way we are:

·         Tempted to give up

·         Tempted to feel resentment

·         Tempted to lash out in anger when wounded

·         Tempted to fall apart when betrayed

Tempted in every way and more than I will ever experience in my lifetime.

I never thought about the struggles with loneliness or desire.  I think that I get so busy thinking about the deity of Jesus, that it somehow blankets the 100% humanity of Jesus. 

I just kept seeing him placing his hands on small fuzzy heads and petting them.  It can’t be helped.  All babies have hair that is so soft and fine, it’s the sweetest and most beautiful thing ever.

Did he know what it was to feel the physical effects of being barren like a woman?

No.

But did he know what it was like to feel the ache anyway?

Yes.

Did he ever experience a miscarriage?

No.

Did he know what it was like to hemorrhage and bleed out?

Yes.

And that’s the thought that has occupied my mind ever since.   

I still haven’t received a counter to my “You have a son!” yet.  Maybe it’s because God chose a different route for me to have the son and daughter I have today.  Children who need me.
And I who need them.

No matter what – having them in my life, didn’t recolor the miscarriages I went through.  I still get triggered by Baby Jesus’ – and oddly enough, it’s more now when my children are older, than when they were very young.

God doesn’t give me a pat answer, or magically take the strong emotions and make them die down.  It is what it is.  I’m going to get triggered. But I know who to run to with boldness when I do.

Baby Jesus statues are safe this year.

But I still don’t own a manger.


It’s a work in progress…

Learning to love myself...

I wrote the following in response to another's web-blog, and then realized, I didn't want to lose what I had written.  So am re-posting my reply here. I need it for myself. Sometimes I forget so easily even deep lessons God has taught me...
 In her blog, the writer was talking about how God loves us and how we should look at ourselves in love ("fully-dressed of course") and tell ourselves the same thing as we look in a mirror.
 This was my reply...

I know you said to look at yourself fully clothed- but I wanted to share how God changed me totally - when I looked at myself fully UNDRESSED in a FULL LENGHT mirror at home.

I've fought all my life with self-image (who hasn't among women, right? lol)  And I was sad because my marriage was falling apart, esp. in the bedroom.  I blamed myself - mainly.  Told myself that I wasn't as pretty and sexy as women on TV, movies, and even ones described in books!

One day as I was crying out to the Lord about the state of what was happening physically (or really - not happening) with my husband...I felt a still small voice say, "Holly - do you know how to make love to yourself?"

Well, THAT's a strange question!

The voice continued, "Can you stand to look at yourself absolutely bare and say, 'I am lovely in the LORD's eyes AND mine.'"

Ummm...no.

I'm not sure I believed either statement.

After all I've got cottage cheese thighs,  sagging c-section belly,  double chin - you name it. If it can droop off my body, it will.

"Try," the small voice said.

If a tortious wore clothes, I think he'd get his clothes off faster than me.  I trembled as I took off each part of my garments. After all, one more bare part meant one step closer to seeing myself with eyes wide open.  Could I stand up to my own scrutiny?

At last the deed was done, and there I was in all my glory.

ha.

The voice said, "Do you love you?"

"No."

"Do you love seeing you like this?"

"I said NO."

"If you cannot make love to yourself, Holly - if you cannot stand to see yourself naked - then why do you expect your husband to love what you cannot?"

I stood there stunned.

"You need to love YOU, Holly.  Whether your marriage survives or not - you can only take care of you.  This issue you have with your body is only the symptom of the greater problem.  You don't love yourself.  Not inside - not outside.  No part of you is pleased with what you see or think or feel.  You're always saying, "I can do this better," or "If I would just do ____ then things would be better."

"You need to learn to bare your soul to YOU, Holly.  Bare your heart to YOU. Bare your body in LOVE to YOU.  Otherwise, you cannot obtain the intimacy you crave, no matter how hard you try.  If you cannot come naked and unashamed whether it's a naked heart or a naked soul...in the relationships you love and trust  - intimacy is not going to happen.

So - the first thing you need to do is stand here and say, 'I love myself.'"

"That sounds narcissistic."

"I know it sounds foreign.  Say it anyway.  'I love myself.'"

"I know You love me."

"You know that in your head, Holly.  You need to know it -feel it- from your HEART.  And the only way you're going to get there for both of us is to choose to believe that you are lovely, precious, and beloved in my sight.  Just as you are.  Cottage cheese thighs and all."

That made me smile.  What a goofy God we have.

"Say it.  Say, 'I love myself'.'"

"But I don't believe it."

"Your heart doesn't believe it...yet.  But sometimes it takes repetition from the Knowing in the mind to sink down deep into the heart.  The more you say it, the more it's reality will deepen."

"But aren't I suppose to say, "God loves me...and then, I love..."

"You automatically discredit 'God loves me' right now.  You say it as in "He has to love me. He's God."  You know that I love you.  You tell yourself this often.  But because of your own disbelief in yourself and even in your own loveliness in my eyes- you dismiss every compliment that comes your way.  You reject it by telling yourself that he or she is just being polite.  If you cannot accept the compliments of other flawed fallen humans - you should see how you cower in front of Me  - the absolute Perfection of Love.

You say what you know - the Sunday School\Church answer.  But you reject it out of your heart as soon as you say it.

We need to get to the root of this problem, and the only way to do it is to tackle it at its source.

So say it.  Say, 'I love myself.'

(mumbling) "I love myself."

"Say it again."

"I feel stupid.  OK?"

(Sigh.)

 "I love myself."

"I hope you do this every day.  Not dressed - but undressed.  Love every single part of you - just as you are for that day."

It was the strangest conversation\prayer I've ever had. Certainly not a typical "church dialog" type of prayer!

But I did it.

I stood in front of the mirror each day and mumbled that I loved  myself.

A few weeks later I was saying it a little louder, and a little more confident.

And the strangest things started happening.

I gave myself grace to be human.

I stood up for myself.

I stopped letting others take advantage of me.

I lost weight. And not because I stood in front of the mirror each  morning like this - (although it helped) - but just because I wasn't EATING my depression about myself and my circumstances.  I didn't need that comfort like I used to.

OK - a little comfort.  But just the same, I wasn't eating a huge helping of Comfort.  My portions got smaller...just because.  That alone was weird.

And cool.

I stopped running into bed with the lights completely off.  One time, I didn't even turn OFF the lights.  My husband was shocked.

And pleased.

Really, really pleased.

I opened up my heart to my friends more.  Learned that it's okay being messy me.

I also learned that they assumed that I was a 'goody two shoes' because I didn't share my struggles and troubles with them.  They thought that *I thought* I was good with life and lovin it.  Lord have mercy - it was just the opposite! I had felt alone, isolated and ashamed.

Now with my heart bare before trusted friends, my little cup of acceptance was filling up.

"I love myself."

While life isn't a bed of roses, and I'm still in marriage counseling...I've come a long way from the former me I was four years ago when I gulped down the words, "I love myself."

Now it's:  "God loves me for who I am.  I don't have to do anything to earn His love or anyone else's for that matter.  If someone wants me to do something for them in order to gain their love or approval - that's not love.  That's abuse.  I reject that.  God loves me...and you know what?

I love myself."

Amen.


Do As I Do - Not Just As I Say...

It's been a while since I've written publically, but this has been on my heart for a while.  Even now, I'm not sure if it's correct theologically but I thought I would write it down anyway.  Maybe someone will read this and either question or clarify for me, what I've been thinking about recently.

I start with this scripture after Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples:

John 13:13-17

13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Verse 15 caught my eye one day because I was pondering an entirely different subject - and as I did, I remembered this verse:  "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

Why is this scripture so important to me?

Because of this verse:

Mathew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
First of all - you might think I'm weird, but I like the scripture that says in verse 17 the disciples worshiped - "...but some doubted".  Pretty interesting to think you can still doubt and worship God at the same time.  I'm sure there would be those who would argue that it's not "true worship", but what the heck is?  Let's be honest.  How many people can truly worship God with absolutely NOTHING ELSE trying to crowd into the mind at the same time? Worry, doubt, fear, boredom, feeling aloof, depressed, etc. It's a constant battle to discipline the mind to quiet these and concentrate on the goodness of God.  So I like this verse because it's a HUMAN thing to do -worship and have some conflicting emotion that is opposite of worship.

And the other cool thing is Jesus didn't point it out.  In past scriptures we can read things like:  "Knowing what they were thinking, he [Jesus] said..."  But this time - He didn't point out the doubt or question their hearts or give one last parable.

Instead, He told them something greater - something that would eventually turn doubt into belief; He could already see the Day of Pentecost, where the disciples doubts taken away, as well as all those who heard their testimonies and believed in Jesus Christ - resurrected - Son of God - their Savior.

He tells them something that so many of us can quote with our eyes closed:
"Go and make disciples of all nations..."

I'm going to stop there because this is the true crux of what I'm thinking about right now. As I've reflected on these scriptures and the following thoughts, it took a lot of shame and guilt away.

The scripture says:  "Go and make disciples..."  not "Go and make converts..."

What's the difference?

It's a HUGE difference.

I don't know how you were raised in your upbringing, but I was raised to believe that I needed to tell everyone about Jesus and His saving power. Only, it wasn't in a way that supported long-term relationship building, but more like "Smack a stranger in the head and dog him into becoming a Christian, otherwise he's going to hell and you helped him go there."

I never understood this theology and as time went on I was afraid for those who became "Christians" by such means, because the one who lead the other "to the Lord" goes away proud and a little less guilt ridden because he or she accomplished the "task" that needed to be done (according to their denomination's practices) and the new "convert" has no clue what happened, or how to be discipled . He or she was lead in the "sinners prayer" - then watched the other one walk away.

Creating spiritual orphans was never Jesus idea of following Him.

I didn't get it.  Why "lead someone to Christ", and then walk away?

My denomination heavily touted bringing people to Christ, and then glossed over what to do after that.

"Invite them to church!" they'd say.  Well, that 's a first step, but even then it's not promising.  Nothing like having a total stranger say, "Hey, where do you live? I'll come pick you up!"

Ummm...no thank you, stranger. I barely know you, and right now, I barely know Jesus. 

[Think about it. No matter how grateful you might be to the man or woman who stops your child and leads him or her to Christ, would you be cool if this same person asks for an address and a phone number where he or she could be reached?  Sadly enough, there's enough wolves in sheep(s) clothing to look like a saint but act like a devil.  Stranger danger is still stranger danger.]

So what in the world am I suppose to do? I don't want to abandon anyone - I don't want to make them feel uncomfortable by offering to bring them to church - and I'm not sure they'd come any way by themselves...

...sigh.

It wasn't till I read the above verses back to back, did I finally get it.

I started pondering, "What examples did Jesus do that I need to follow in His footsteps with?"

And I came up with the following:


  • First - Jesus never chased anyone
If anyone had the right to say, "Do you know Jesus?" - it would be him.  Even when he called his disciples, he didn't say, "Do you know Me? "  He simply said, "Come follow Me."  

They dropped everything they were doing and followed Him.  That was it.  No prayer - no confession - no conviction - just "Come follow Me."

LATER, He did ask his disciples about whom others said that he was - and whom they said that he was [Matt 16:13-20]  BUT NOT AT FIRST.

You know why?

Cause He needed to make DISCIPLES not CONVERTS.

A disciple is a LONG TERM commitment forged over time and friendship.  It is truly learning a "do what I do and not just what I say" kind of relationship.  And I think most denominations that want the short-version-of-conversion, and think they are practicing the Great Commission.

There are NO shortcuts to making disciples. Making and keeping disciples is HARD.  It means that someone or several have to see you day in and day out.  Messy hair, bad breath, days when you are tempted to blow your gasket, days when you get a deep revelation, days when you feel like a fool.

The original disciples had the best Teacher and Lord, because even though he was tempted - he didn't sin.  (I have no clue about the bad breath or bad hair day.  Maybe he always looked groomed and smelled like daisies.)

But for you and me - discipling others and being under another's discipleship  is hard because it means being: HONEST -COMMITTED - LOYAL - DEDICATED - ACCOUNTABLE - CHOOSING TO LOVE

No wonder so many find it appealing to make a convert and not a disciple.  It's easier to shove Jesus down someone's throat than try to live Him out day after day with eyes that watch all the moves as they slowly come to know Him through you.

And when we look at Jesus example of showing others who He truly was on earth...

...He never chased down the rich young ruler who turned away sadly from Him [Mark 10:17-27] by saying..."Come back here!  Don't you know who I AM?  I'm Christ - the Lord!  You need to know Me!  You'll end up in hell if you don't!  Let's pray together!! Don't run from Me!"

He didn't do that. 

He watched the young man walk away.  He never said a word about who He was.  He wanted to know if the young man recognized Him.

And like I said, He didn't go through the streets or the seaside calling others by saying "I'm the Christ! I'm your Salvation!  Come to Me before you perish!"

He drew others to Himself so differently - ways no one expected.  He made disciples - not converts.  

And not everyone liked his method of discipling - the longer they spent time with him.  Which leads to...

  •  He spent so much time with His disciples that they got to know Him pretty well.
There are verses which say that He had disciples that turned away from Him.  Especially after He told His disciples that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood.

Okay - lets be realistic here.  If you heard someone say that this is the way you get to be a disciple - without knowing the true meaning of this - wouldn't you be grossed out?  I know I would.  I'd be wondering if I was following a Savior or Ozzy Osborne.  Ummm...sounds gross. No thank you.

But here's the thing about being a True Disciple...once you've walked with someone for quite some time, you begin to recognize his/her pattern of relating and being relational. The twelve disciples knew that Jesus talked A LOT in riddles and parables and alliteration - basically to weed out those who wanted a surface relationship. ("Hey, if I hang around Him, I can be popular too!") Sadly enough, I experienced small doses of that when I was the wife of a pastor.  Once that "title" was gone...it was "goodbye!"

So the disciples  knew that what Jesus was saying wasn't literal - even if they didn't know in the moment what this truly meant.  They knew it meant more than what He was saying out right.

And here's the weird verse that tells how many disciples turned away and stopped following Him: John 6:66

(Seriously - look it up.  It's really weird.)

A true disciple hangs around - simply because he/she has spent time with the one who is discipling him/her.  The one who disciples hangs around because he or she knows that you just can't leave your friends hanging high and dry on a wing and a prayer. Which leads to...

  • Jesus and His disciples were in it for the long haul
They were committed and dedicated to each other -- the disciples with as much as they could do as humanly possible - even through their fallacies and Jesus with His perfect leadership and example.  

We don't have to wait to be perfect before we disciple another, and the other doesn't have to know all the lingo and scriptures in order to be discipled.  What both have to be hungry for is relationship with God and with a community of believers.  Which leads to...

  • Jesus didn't have one lone disciple.
While Jesus could have done this and not fallen into any of the human traps we can - He lead by example by surrounding Himself with a group of disciples, so that we remember not to have an enmeshed relationship between being the one who disciples and the one who is being discipled. 

If we do not meet as a community- but instead simply rely on ourselves - we can create co-dependency.  This is a relationship where one individual is needy and the other is the savior who supplies the needy.  This gives both a false sense of identity: one finds him/herself unworthy - the other finds him/herself having exaggerated self-importance(which is a mutation of a healthy identity - one who has Value and Worth in Christ).

The Great Commission does say "...make disciples..." not "...make one disciple at a time..."

I know this is a lot to take in.  It is for me too.  But I figured I'd get this stuff out of my head and onto online "paper".

If you read all the way through, I'd love to know your thoughts.  :)



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