I've been contemplating for a while now (on and off since my last post, actually) what I should write about on here, but nothing ever really tickled my fancy. Sure, I could tell you about the ins and outs of my days as a single foster mom, but honestly, that would be as much of a bore to write as it would be to read. Sure, we have our struggles and our victories, but it's really just a normal life... Or as normal of a life as we can muster. The real newsworthy stuff is much deeper down than that. It is buried under the chips of plaster that have started collecting at the base of the wall that I have built up around myself.
My wall is my pride. My pride is my wall. It's a beautiful wall. All dolled up with lovely murals and intricate tapestries. Artwork that shows what I want people to see. What I want myself to see. All of that lovely artwork is on both sides of my wall... Fancy, huh? The problem is that I've been staring at these beautiful images for so long that I have started to truly believe them. I began to think that they depicted the real me. All the while, I have continued to build my wall higher, reinforcing it wherever there may be a weak spot and ensuring that I am protected from the prying eyes of those around me, even those closest to me. Wait. Did I say wall? I meant fortress! If I continue to build, I will very soon have turrets and towers that overlook a moat filled with crocodiles, sharks, and piranhas. View from a distance, but swimmers beware!
It has been hard to see this wall for what it is... A blockade, an excuse, a hindrance. When you put so much energy and effort into something, it's difficult to admit that it was all for naught. But it is. My pride is hurting me. It permeates every area of my life; work, friendships, raising kids, loving others... It keeps me from truly trusting those around me because I am afraid they will see the real me. It keeps me from opening up and building true friendships with people because I don't want them to get too close. It allows me to be complacent with shallow friendships that never truly scratch the surface, and surely won't go the distance, even though I yearn for something more meaningful. It keeps me from reaching out to others in pain for fear of being asked to share part of myself in return. Most importantly, though, it separates me from my Creator and Savior. I accept the fact that God knows my inner-most thoughts. I know that He alone knows me fully, better than I know myself. There is no hiding from Him, no pretending in front of Him. No, the pretending is for the sake of others. I have strived to make others think that I am someone I am not. Why? To impress, to placate, but mostly to be accepted... to fit in. For the majority of my life, church has been where I have friends. It's my home base. It's where I know that I will have someone to sit with and someone who will be there when I need a hug. In high school, it provided my social circle. It's where I belonged.
Years of seeing my church partly as a social club, though, has ingrained in me the habit of being a "good Christian girl." Being seen as a prayer warrior, someone who is in and knows the Word, a servant, a leader... It was my goal. That has been the artwork that I have so carefully been painting on my walls. Not don't get me wrong, there have been times when God has gotten hold of me and every bit of my "act" became something genuine and heartfelt. However, as I have gotten older, busier, more jaded, those times been coming fewer and farther between. And then came this weekend...
This weekend was our Lifeline foster family retreat at Shocco Springs. Traci did an amazing job planning a time where the kids got to play and the parents got to learn and fellowship with others who go through the same things we go through on a daily basis. Friday night was great and the girls and I went back to our room for bed looking forward to Saturday. God, however, decided my learning for the night wasn't over. Two times Friday night, Big Sis woke up and tried to get in bed with me. The second time, at 2:00am, after putting her back in her bed, I just wasn't able to get back to sleep. I honestly don't remember how or why blogging came to mind, but I pulled out my tablet and started writing. The first three paragraphs of this entry are what came out. I was looking at my life and seeing it for the sham that it truly is. One would think that this would have brought on some sort of emotion, but not quite yet. It was merely a fact. Something I had to accept for what it was so that I could begin the process of changing. The problem I faced, though, was knowing how to change. After staying up examining my life until about 4:30, I was finally able to get a little more sleep before the morning came.
As expected, I had a great Saturday learning and sharing with my fellow fosters, but my mind would wander back to what God had laid on my heart during the night. I would find myself thinking about the next steps in this journey and not being able to really come up with a game plan. I figured that on Sunday, I could write some more and maybe that would give me some ideas. Pastor Paul beat me to it. Today's sermon was about strongholds and spiritual warfare. Every single word that came out of his mouth was anointed by God for ME. There may have been some others who needed that lesson as well, but I know for sure and for certain that God timed everything this weekend and even beforehand so that I would be primed and ready to hear. Not just listen, but hear. And I heard.
Here are some of my notes from Pastor Paul's sermon today:
-A stronghold is built when we fail to deal with sin in our lives.
-There is no earthly solution to strongholds.2 Corinthians 10:4
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."
-How do we destroy strongholds?1. Step into the fight... You can't be indifferent!
2. Rely on God's provision... GRACE! (James 4:6)
3. Surrender to God. (James 4:7)
"But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
-**Commitment does NOT work unless it is preceded by surrender!!
(Sunday, 2/10/12; Pastor Paul Lawler, Christ Church United Methodist, Birmingham, AL)
Whoa. God spoke, that is certain. And I've realized something... Other than pride, I have some other strongholds that need to be dealt with. Until these are demolished, I will continue in a fruitless journey. So next step? Surrender. I've struggled with this concept for a really long time. Surrender means giving overe every aspect of my life... finances, thought life, job, future, relationships, dreams, hobbies, entertainment, etc. I cannot just pick and choose the areas in which I will surrender. That's not how it works. He wants all of me. Everything. Up until now, I have held back, scared of what changes this might unleash in my life. Scared of the loss of control, and scared of being held accountable for the life that I've been living...
Now, since I'm being completely honest and just laying it all out there for you, I might as well tell you the other big reason I have held back on surrender... I honestly haven't believed that it would work. I have, for quite a while now, been unsure about the power of prayer. It wasn't working for me, so I just figured that it didn't work. Maybe for other people, but not for me. I would pray that God would take this struggle away and it would never get any better. I would pray for comfort and I would feel no different than I had before. I would pray for help and no help would come. Well, no wonder! My faith was non-existent and my motives behind it were selfish and certainly not pure! Before today, just the thought of praying a prayer and having a stronghold broken without me actually having to do something would make me laugh internally. Inner-dialogue, "Rrrright. Been there, done that. I never feel any different. It doesn't work. I have to figure out a way to fix this. I just don't think that just praying about it really does anything." Because of this mindset, I have always preferred comfort, advice, etc from other people, I have always sought out people to help make me feel better because I have never experienced the healing comfort of Christ. I've never let Him comfort me. I have always thought the concept of feeling Him wrap his arms around you was impossible. The list of my doubts and insecurities would last much longer than anyone's attention span, but I can assure you that they are there. And just because I've had a break through doesn't mean that I still won't struggle with some of them on a day to day basis, but I plan to try living a different way now... By faith.
Today, at the altar, a song resonated with my heart. It wasn't playing in church, but it played through my head and its simple message overwhelmed me.
I surrender all.
All to Jesus, I surrender.
I surrender all.
Let this be my prayer each day as I start a new chapter in this life. Living by faith and not by sight.