I read Matthew 19 this morning. You know, the story about the rich, young ruler? I’ve read it a million times. Probably since I was a tiny child, I’ve known this story.
The rich, young man asks what to do to get eternal life. Jesus basically tells him to follow the ten commandments…don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor like you love yourself. So he says to Jesus, “Well I’ve done all that. What’s left?” Here’s the kicker…Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. Sounds doable right? Hard but doable. But here’s where maybe I’m recognizing a more hidden meaning. In The Message version it says;
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. (vs 22)
Ok, so what if you aren’t rich? What if you are? What if you don’t really have things to sell for the poor? What if you do? Does any of that mean that me or you are exempt from what Jesus is trying to tell us? Yeah, cool. Okay….no….
He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go….
I read it several times. Something started bubbling to the surface. Questions.
What if he is talking about emotional things, intangible things? What if material possessions, see, touch, taste, feel, things are only part of it?
For six months I’ve been hearing God say, “Let go Mitzie.”
For six months I’ve been hearing God say, “I’m asking you to stand.”
Ahhhh. That can be a mind blower! How is that even possible? How do you stand for something but let it go, all at the same time?
For me, the definition of standing is found in Ephesians 6.
God is strong and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil and all his angels (vs 10-12 MSG)
Ok, makes sense. So what is letting go then?
Again I think about things I’ve read about. Specifically Abraham. Genesis 22 tells the story of him and his son Isaac. God asks Abraham to literally place his son on an alter and offer him as a burnt offering. The first time I heard it I was a young kid and I remember thinking, “this God is crazy! He’s nuts! How could He ask that of a dad?” But the actual offering wasn’t the point. At all. God was asking Abraham if he was willing to sacrifice (let go) of his son. In other words, hang on to the Lord more than his own flesh and blood….put God first.
What if rich, as in the rich young ruler, doesn’t only mean rich in gold and silver and a big house? So I read on and I’m reading it with this perspective….
(vs 23- 26 paraphrased) Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich (and people who find their importance and identity in relationships and other people) to enter God’s kingdom? It’s easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle. The disciples were stunned. “How does anybody have a chance of getting into heaven then???”
“They have no chance at all if they think they can do it themselves. But every chance in the world if they trust God to do it.”
So basically it’s let God get the camel through the eye of the needle. Stop trying to do it yourself! (preaching to myself!)
I have spent almost my whole adult life trying to get those that I love to do what I think is the right thing, or do it the way I think it should be done. Follow God this way. Talk this way. Discipline this way. Parent this way. Grow up this way. Love me this way. Talk to me this way. Do dishes this way. Clean this way. Drive this way. All because I just couldn’t let go. For whatever reason I have been afraid of letting God have all of that. Somehow I felt powerful if I controlled it. I can’t imagine how I have exhausted them. And now, he has allowed things in my life that are forcing me to look up and pay attention. My motive may be good but it’s not my job. There’s nothing wrong with wanting good relationships and things in order but it goes way overboard. I can stand on and for God. But I am not trusting Him if I don’t let go of the people I love and let God do whatever he’s going to do in the way that He’s going to do it.
I think I’ve written about this in one way or the other many times but maybe because I’m really trying to “get it.” God keeps showing me a new perspective and a new depth to it. I can’t love well if I am holding on. I can’t love well if I am not letting go. All I’ve ever wanted is to love well. I’ve felt that love inside of me but was never able to get it out the way that I feel it. I think I finally know why. I was holding on. And now I am letting go.
Now I’m letting go….
It’s 2 am and I’m wide awake. I’ve read my bible. I’ve had intimate prayer. I’ve cried my requests and gratefulness to the Lord. What more is needed for rest to find me? I pray some more. I search my heart. I speak out forgiveness for things I haven’t acknowledged an offense for. I speak forgiveness for what I’ve already forgiven but I’ve picked up again. I’m searching my heart for more. Then it hits me. Be silent Mitzie. Stop talking and just be silent. It didn’t take long. He just needed my quiet heart.
Many times over my 20 year marriage I have wondered why it has had to be so hard…why I have had to feel so much pain. What’s the point of this God? Why has so much of my adult life had to feel so broken? I finally heard the answer in the middle of a night of tears.
I gave him to you to drive you to Me.
I knew that he would be your wilderness. Even more so than your children would be.
As much as I wanted to give you someone who would meet all the human needs that you have, I could not because you never would have found me as you have in the many seasons of pain. When you have questioned how long you would have to endure, when you have asked for a way out, when you have begged me for a rescue from your pain, I heard you, but I could not let you run away because I gave him to you to drive you to Me. If he was not there, you would be wandering, living on the surface, finding small pleasures in silly things. You are one I needed to call into the deep. Deep waters. Deep intimacy. Deep love. I needed you to have a deep story. I gave him to you to drive you to Me. He is not the issue. I am your issue. I gave him to you to drive you to me.
I told you at the beginning of this current season that you are in, that it’s about souls. I came to seek and save the lost. I desire that none would perish. You always apply that to others. That is truth but I am talking about you as much as them. You put such importance in others behavior and heart condition. Your motivation is pure in this but leave that to me. That is not your concern. It is mine alone.
I needed you to have this man whom I love in the deepest parts of Me. This broken, wounded, beautiful soul. I am using his brokenness and wounded heart to drive you to Me. I did not make a mistake. It wasn’t some random choice of fate. I. Chose. Him. For. You. Many times you have seen him as your enemy but he is your gift, Mitzie, he is your gift.
Nothing that has happened in your 20 years has been a surprise to Me. I knew it all before you were born. I knew the good. I knew the bad. I knew the pain. I knew what it would take to drive you to Me. Do you not know that it is that way with everyone? I know what it will take for all to see Me. I give everyone what they need to drive them to Me. They always have a choice but I still give them the gift. I always give them the gift. He is your gift.
Do you see it now? I gave him to you to drive you to me.
Do you see it now? I gave him to you to drive you to ME…..
What happens to you when you hear that word? Does is make you nervous? Does it stir up fear in your mind? When I hear it I think I literally feel hate. I HATE the wilderness. I have always hated the wilderness. It’s like driving in certain parts of the country where there is nothing to look at…literally nothing. No mountains, no ocean, no trees…just dry, barren, brown earth. I don’t want to go to the wilderness. It’s not pretty to look at. It’s either too hot or too cold. It seems to go on forever and there is nothing to look forward to. I can never see anything but that wilderness. It’s a place of no hope.
Do you hate the wilderness with me now? Well I’m about to switch it up. For having such strong feelings, I am beginning to change my mind. I did a Google image search for “wilderness” and what popped up was not what I expected at all. Every photo was beautiful. What I had pictured in my mind looked more like this….
Ok….so it’s not at all what I imagined it to be by photo definition so I decided to look it up. Dictionary.com says this:
- a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland.
- a tract of land officially designated as such and protected by the U.S. government.
- any desolate tract
- a part of a garden set apart for plants growing with unchecked luxuriance.
- a bewildering mass or collection.
None of these definitions say anything about a land of nothingness. I’m then realizing that my mental definition is not lining up with the facts. I look at the first definition and see that all it talks about is an uncultivated or uninhabited place…no ugliness, no lack of water, no lack of trees or grass.
And then I see number 5…..a bewildering mass or collection.
All of the sudden it all comes into focus. The wilderness is bewildering. I can’t change the wilderness. I can’t control the wilderness. I can’t get out of the wilderness as quickly as I want and I certainly can’t avoid it. It’s confusing. So most of the time, because of my personal ideas and perspective, the wilderness looks more like number 3.
And desolation looks like the desert. By definition it means barren, devastated, deserted, solitary, lonely, having a feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope. There’s that abandoned word again. But that’s it! The wilderness feels like hopelessness to me.
So if the wilderness is bewildering (extremely confusing), then of course I am going to see it as desolate (abandoned by hope). All of this put together gives no positive quality to the wilderness. But then I look at those photos I found of the wilderness….
And I see that I have been mistaken….from the very beginning. The wilderness IS a very beautiful place. But I have been looking at the wrong things. I haven’t been looking at the water and the trees and the lush vegetation. I have been looking at the rocks and the dirt and the thorns that are a small part of the wilderness. Nothing will be beautiful if you look at the wrong things.
Here’s the thing about the wilderness. Things grow here. And they grow A LOT. They don’t stay the same. The trees get taller, the grass gets greener, the creeks change shape as they flow. And things grow because they have dirt to put their roots down deep and rocks to steady their height and thorns to protect from predators. Summer and winter come and go and the shape of the land is changed as the wind, the rain, the sun, the snow cover and uncover the ground. But there are no people who interfere with this process because it is uninhabited by humans and their efforts. Do you see where I am going with this? Are you looking at the rocks and dirt or are you looking at the trees and grass? Rocks and dirt don’t grow. Trees and grass do.
So if you want to find your wilderness beautiful (and I do!), look at what God is doing to try to grow you. Let Him grow you. Let Him change you. Let Him soften you. Start looking at what is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4: 8-9) and you will start to see the wilderness that you are in as something that God is allowing because He loves you and He wants to get closer to you. And if you are growing, then you are DEFINITELY getting closer to Him. The wilderness is not ugly and it is not useless. It is painful but it is never useless.
Today is a raw day. I am raw. I definitely turned a page at the beginning of this year, but along with that, I think I thought that I wouldn’t feel sad or alone or broken anymore. Truth is, I do. Today, yesterday….I feel those things. When I said to God, “Whatever it takes Lord,” He took me seriously. So as He pulls things to the surface, as He exposes truth, as I am faced with myself and what goes on inside me and around me, I break sometimes. It’s hard. It hurts. So I guess the question becomes, how do I process this recurring pain thoroughly so that I am not paralyzed with it…so that it does not stop my life?
I think a lot of times I look for a magic formula to processing pain or grief. I just want to know the ABC’s and get it over with. But I don’t think there is one scenario that works for everyone all the time. Maybe there is, but every time something new comes up for me, I feel like I process it in a little different way. However, the theme that runs through every scenario is Jesus. Today, it seems that the only thing I can do is speak His name….the hurt is so great. It’s all I can do. I trust that He is bringing things into the light so that there is no darkness, but it’s gonna take me a bit I think. All I can do is lean on my Beloved and eventually I will come up out of this wilderness I am in. I know I will because He promised me I would. And He never breaks a promise.
Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
Leaning upon her beloved?
I awakened you under the apple tree.
There your mother brought you forth;
There she who bore you brought you forth.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.
Song of Solomon 8: 5-7