You moved in closer, only enough to hear the sound of my voice and my cries. Listening and watching a small girl . . . you stalked me – raping my innocence after his wickedness had violated me. He shut me up. You moved in closer, serving me a deadly cocktail of shame, guilt and fear. I didn’t know any better and I drank.
He couldn’t leave me alone – his sin was your entry point – your pleasure. You observed intently, missing nothing. You listened to my pain, pain that left grooves in my mind. I stopped feeling. I hid everything from everyone. I was dead on the inside, buried alive in my own life. You treasured my pain because it birthed a diabolic plan that you would stick around, a very long time, to execute. You thought you had me – an eternal conquest.,
But you were wrong. I grew up like we all do. I made a choice that didn’t include you. You see, I’ve been rescued and redeemed from the pit you sentenced me to live in. He has other plans for me – plans that don’t include harm, plans that will prosper me. He’s everything I’ve ever needed or wanted. He is my fortress. He is faithful and strong. He is my refuge in a storm, and shade from the heat. He is my Rock and my Provider. He is my Comforter, my Hope, and my Advocate. He is my Redeemer, my Saviour and my Lord. He helps me and guides me. He is compassionate and very jealous, very powerful, ever present and all consuming. He is with me and in me and for me. So, there’s no room for you anymore.
I am serving you with an eviction notice; that’s right – no apologies. You’ll need to pack quickly. I will no longer be troubled or harassed by you. You’re no longer welcome here. You have no power or authority over me. You can’t steal anything from me anymore. You’re done. Finished. From now on, I’ll see you coming from afar. We’ll be ready for you. I have the power and authority to trample serpents and scorpions and you, sir, are a snake if I ever saw one. You can move into the pit; it’s already been decorated for you.
“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster.” 1 Kings 5:4
A couple of years ago, I was preparing to run a 5K. I had spent several weeks adding on a block or two of distance and pushing myself a little bit harder every day. I had never run before; I was careful not to push so hard that I might injure myself before the race. I just wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could do it, to prove to myself that I was tough. There was however a life lesson throughout the process which did not manifest itself to me until such time as I would be open to absorb it and learn from it. Unfortunately for me, that time was later rather than sooner. Welcome to my world.
There I stood barely breathing, secluded in the barren field, tormented, scarred and scorched like a sunflower in the midday sun. You came to me. Did you hear my call? For your hand was outstretched and beckoned me. You lead me to a garden that I had only dreamed of. Your kindness touched me to the depth of my very soul, leaving me weak but secure within your strength.
Who am I that you should look upon me with your loving heart, that you should call me friend and lover? In my wonder, I see my reflection in your eyes and I see that I am beautiful. You say of me that I am more precious than all the gold and sapphires. Yet, I know it is because I live in the shadow of your love. Your voice is a melody to my ears and your name the song of my heart. Your words are my sustenance. I am enveloped by your love. You have made me your bride before all who see. Your love radiates from me, a beacon in the darkness of night. You keep me under your wing. Your kiss replenishes my hope, for with you, I am perfect because you love me.
I give myself to you completely: body, soul, heart and mind. Because I am in you and you in me we are one – inseparable, betrothed, woven together into one fabric. You are my perfect love. Your arms warm me in the coolness of the night; their strength rescues me from the thorns. Your love speaks the promise of eternity. You hold me in high esteem crowning my head with your glory. From you flows quenching waters. I thirst for you, my love. You fill me. You perfect me.
Was I not once weather-beaten by the winds? Was I not once a tree stripped of her bark? No more. You are my refuge, my shelter from the elements. My heart, once buried in the tomb of the world, is now alive. Your beauty illuminates my essence. I delight in you. My heart leaps in my bosom at your sight. I cannot contain myself. I am a wild flower blossoming in love. I am a bird gliding and soaring, a river that cannot be contained. Because you take my breath away, again I am barely breathing.
Recently, a friend and I were having a heartfelt talk when suddenly she said, “Let your love out, Hope.” Hmm, I thought to myself, what have I been doing up to now? What does it say about you, or your capacity to love when your friends think you’re holding back during a heart-to-heart discussion no less? I was all in, at least I thought I was. I felt that annoying little lump in my throat when I started getting really personal, but … ahem … I choked that down pretty quick …. Oooooh, now I get it!
Do you have anyone in your life with whom you can just uncork the fermenting emotions you have bottled up so well? I thought I was free of that need to control how deep I allowed myself to go, and I thought I was being pretty authentic; looks like not everyone was in agreement. There is nothing, nothing more important than love and I am often reminded that it does more harm than good to suppress it.
Honestly, I detest thinking that I’m like one of those bottles of aged wine you think you’re about to have a nice glass of when suddenly, you end up pushing the cork down too far! What is it that seems to drive that cork further down with age? Past experience perhaps? Fear?
I recently spent the day with two of my favourite little girls. There we were – sitting together, bird watching, drawing with pastels and chatting – outside of my own head, outside of my fears – I was completely present with Carla and Ané – completely present, living in the moment – and loving them as if there was no risk involved…because there was not.
So, what is it about spending time with adults that make some of us hold back – living in the regret or trauma of the past – living in fear of more of the same in the future? Don’t think for a minute that children don’t get their feelings hurt. Don’t think for a minute that their little hearts don’t get broken from time to time. Don’t think for a minute that the people they love most in the world have never done wrong by them; I have children – I’ve seen them hurting. The difference between child-like love and loving as a adult is the dwelling factor. Children don’t dwell on the past and certainly don’t look at the past as a threat to their future. Children love with all they have. That’s why Yeshua (Jesus) told people that being child-like in love is the only way to greatness (spiritual and earthly success):
3 “Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all]. 4 Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 18:3-4 Amp.
I have an abundance of love inside me. It takes up a lot of room and sometimes I’m sure that cork just wants to pop off, but I unknowingly keep pushing it down. Then, there are times – like when I’m with Carla and Ané – it just leaks out. It’s bigger than I am. True greatness and success is to let it out freely, without reservation, without judgment, without fear, without almighty pride holding us back.
The thing about loving adults is that there is always the possibility that you’ll be hurt or rejected, but that is never reason enough to hold it back. Children love the way God loves … unconditionally …. with no agenda … no owzies… and they do it fearlessly. It’s so important that Yeshua said it 5 times in the Gospel of John. “This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you.” John 15:12 AMP.
If you’re afraid of being hurt or rejected, chances are you’re afraid of loving. The truth is, if you haven’t already, you will be hurt, but you won’t die from it. Let your love out – it’s commanded of you.
Recently, a show aired on television that showed how the ancients refined gold and silver. The refining of metals dates back to 550 BC at Sardis, where the first coins were minted. The refiner would heat the fire to 700 degrees to melt the silver and then pour it into clay jars. The impurities would float to the top and stick to the edges of the pots. How did the refiner know when the silver was pure? He knew when he could see a perfect reflection of himself in the silver.
I have to admit that I often struggle with the knowledge that I have been made in God’s image because at any given time I can take a spiritual look at myself in the mirror and I have yet to see His perfect image staring back at me. After watching this show, it became clear to me that the fact that I do not see His reflection it does not mean that I am not made in His image and it does not mean that I will never see His reflection looking back at me. Refining gold and silver is a process.
Malachi 3:2-3 describes Yeshua’s coming as follows: “For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”
When I accepted Yeshua into my heart, my life changed immediately. My image did not. I became a child of God, but I did not always look like one to those around me, especially in the beginning. The process however commenced immediately.
I look at many circumstances, events – and from time to time – a crisis here and there. In retrospect, I can see that in all of things, God has allowed the heat to be turned up in order to separate the dross from my character by this very process. I am called to reflect grace and mercy, not unkindness and judgment. I am called to reflect courage and faith, not cowardice and fear. I am called to live and walk in integrity, not dishonesty. The purification or refining in my life is a continuous process, one that deepens my dependency on Him, one that brings me into a more intimate relationship with Him, and one that brings me closer to having His reflection look back at me in that spiritual mirror.
Knowing Him is loving Him. Loving Him is doing as He did in the same nature and spirit as He did. His Refiner’s Fire is not limited to the Levites….
When we find ourselves calling upon God to rescue us from the furnace of affliction what we’re really doing is asking Him to save us from an opportunity whose primary function is to bring Him glory and secondary function is to inspire growth in us.
I never find myself asking Him to remove circumstances from my life when they suit me. When things are humming along I’m likely at my happiest though I rarely learn anything in these situations. I guess you could call that “blissful ignorance” and it’s safe to say that I don’t bring much glory to God because my focus becomes self-centred. Candidly speaking, it seems that the longer things go well, the less grateful I am. Why? Because the condition of my spirit begins to degrade – in the Old Testament days that is what they called a “hardened heart”. How many people really spend much time on their knees in worship, praise, prayer and thanksgiving when things are going splendidly?
Then there are those times – when I am being pulled out of the furnace that it seems to me I’m most grateful. It all has to do with mindset – where my focus is – and it’s usually on myself and my comfort rather than God and His promises for my life.
But here’s something new I’d like to try on, (did I just say that?). What would you say if I told you that the best place to practice gratitude is actually in the furnace of affliction? So, why am I not filled with gratitude when God stokes the fire a little? I know that every moment I spend in the furnace results in a spiritual upgrade, but for some reason – the “old man” in me seems to have the ability to resurrect itself when the coals begin to turn red.
Yahweh was in the furnace with Abednego, Meshach Shadrach, but since then He has made atonement for us, He is in us in the furnace – with all-conquering power and glory. Before we even step in there, He knows what the outcome will be and He invites us to come into the fire. I have, on occasion, bowed down to fear rather than accept His invitation.
It’s all in the mindset – like Joshua and Caleb who believed and saw the promise of God while the other ten spies needed see in order to believe. Glory is achieved in the furnace – His and ours. Daniels’ friends stepped into the furnace full on and later came out refreshed and with an attitude of gratitude. God is in our circumstances – we belong with Him.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.