Over the past month, God has gently led me into a personal desert. He dried up my resources, He took away my crutches and undressed my wounds, so they were open, bleeding and bare.
I had to sit before Him as He gave me a choice - would I stumble around looking for water when He himself was a river? Would I take up the crutches I leaned upon for so long or would I jump into His infinite strength? Would I bind up my wounds with my own fumbling hands or would I trust Him to heal me?
I could not trust Him immediately. ‘I have been hurt before by men,’ I said, ‘and though you are God, you are still a man.’ The words felt foolish coming from my spirit, but they were honest.
He nodded knowingly and took me upon His knee, as a father comforts his child. I sat there and felt as I’ve always felt, small and vulnerable and afraid, remembering the times when my inner self was neglected, taken advantage of, betrayed and violated. My shoulders shook, for when I remember, the pain is as real as the day it happened.
Normally when I remember and the fear overtakes me, I run to my crutches and safety nets, shake off the emotion and harden my heart. Apathy has been a great tool for me - a heart that feels nothing is better than all this pain, right?
And here God was, allowing me no safety nets and whispering (in His soft and kind voice), “It is safe to be vulnerable. It is safe to be intimate.”
For a few days, I sat in my apathy. I wanted to peel away the layers of cold, hard iron I had built around my heart; I wanted to be vulnerable and soft and trusting, like lovely Psyche from Lewis’ Till We Have Faces; I wanted to forgive freely and abundantly; I wanted to expect good things from my Father and not be afraid; I wanted to be free.
But I had taught my heart to feel nothing. I could feel His love surrounding me, crashing over me, cajoling me, but my heart would not budge.
I sat in the desert, with Him by my side and waited, knowing there was nothing I could do. Believe me, I tried. ‘God, I can write - sermons, blog posts, my book! I can serve you even if my heart is caged!’ But He stopped me, and told me to be still and wait.
‘Martha, Martha, come and rest.’
A few days later, I noticed the iron cage my heart was trapped in seemed thinner, weaker. I tried pressing through, and it gave way. I was too afraid to peel it back entirely (the child within me still shook) so I waited in His ever-patient presence.
I can’t say there was a moment when the cage fully disappeared but I have sought my heart through and found that it is no longer bound in iron but a soft and lovely silk. I can’t say there was a moment when I threw away my crutches but I stopped looking for them. I can’t tell you the moment I knew I was beautiful instead of ugly and scarred but I’ve begun to look in the mirror and smile instead of criticize.
I can’t tell you the moment I stopped looking at my problems as my reality and found my footing in His promises. I can’t tell you the moment I stopped worrying about what tomorrow held and found true peace and joy in the now. I can’t tell you the moment I stopped judging the people around me out of insecurity and fear but instead celebrated the journey God is bringing them through. I can’t tell you the moment I stopped looking towards money, the weather, food, outside validation and attention to maintain my happiness and instead discovered a fountain of everlasting joy.
But I can tell you that through this desert journey, He has sat faithfully beside me, speaking promises and never condemnation, speaking love and never judgment, speaking truth and never fear.
I thought God would guide me to a river in this desert, but instead has made a river out of me. He is my source and I am a vessel. Out of me flows endless amounts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As I receive from Him, strength, wisdom, courage and blessing flow from me. As I receive authority from Him, I live as a royal princess, humbly and gracefully serving as He leads me to serve.
I have begun the true art of intimacy - of leaving my heart fully vulnerable to the One who not only loves me but is love Himself.
Our hearts are sacred and valuable to God, which is why so many idols are actively trying to steal them. And it can be so easy to give our hearts away - to money, to fashion, to validation, to ideas of success, to food, to fear, to unforgiveness, to hate.
On this day of my own personal reflection, I want to ask you - if God led you into the desert and took away every personal safety, would you be willing to trust Him?
If you’ve never fasted or meditated before, I highly recommend these two spiritual tools as they are highly effective in removing those safety nets from our lives and allowing us the time and space to truly assess our hearts. And we must - we must - assess our hearts.
“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words.” C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
“Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
“Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” Psalm 26:2
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8