Unhidden and Beloved

 
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Parables, classics to parents with Christian home-grown children, read by candlelight while snuggled under blankets during a power-outage or as bed-time stories to scare away the monsters in the closet.  The Parable of the Talents, specifically, has had my heart for years yearning to know and to understand and to grasp.  Even now, I don’t think I will ever fully understand, but I do understand more than before and what I understand I ache to share.  It was in the middle of a summer college fellowship, during a rainy and muggy night, that I was hit with a question,

Can you fathom, being Adam and Eve and hiding from the Lord when He called your name?

I looked around the circle and saw heads shaking, unfathomable.  Yet, as I peered into my own heart I knew it was not unfathomable.  I knew that there was a time when if I had heard the Lord walking in the garden and calling out to me that I would have run and hid.  I would have felt naked and ashamed.  I would have fought to hurriedly clothe myself with whatever I could find.  My natural instinct would have been cover because I wanted to sit in my pain and become the lies I believed about myself.  I believed that I was worthless and that there was no way that I could look into the eyes of the One who was so holy, so mighty, so righteous and live.  Worse even still was actually admitting this to those sitting on that red, oriental rug around me.  Vulnerability with Jesus was terrifying, but vulnerability with His children, shook me to the very core of who I thought I was.  This, after a season of my life where the Lord allowed me to be stripped of every relationship and every security I owned.  Emerging from that season left me weak and shaky.  I was unsteady on my feet, as though I had spent forty days in the desert, as though I had fled, heart in throat through the middle of the sea from armies fast approaching, as though my crutch had been ripped away and I was learning to walk for the very first time without it.  I finally had to make my faith my own.  Rebirth. The sense that my entire life had been drowned and I had come up from the water a wailing, helpless child. Suddenly, the confidence I had once known was gone.  Once very bold, I found myself very scared.  I found myself questioning every “skill” I thought I once had.  I completely abandoned my writing because I had sunk so deeply into comparison that my own writing repulsed me.  I fell short without fail, every single time.  I set the highest standards, ones that left me cripplingly dissatisfied with any accomplishment.

But the man with one talent replied to the master,

“I was AFRAID, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.”

Afraid.  He was afraid to use his talent.  I think he was afraid to use his talent because he knew it would force him to be vulnerable.  He would have to be vulnerable in showing the world that he only received one talent, after his own fellow servants had received five and two talents “according to their abilities.”  He would have to be vulnerable in confessing that his ability was the least.  He would have to be brave and he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  I couldn’t either, but the beautiful thing is that Jesus covers the unlovable things in me.  The things that I am ashamed of, the talents that I think are worthless.  Even and especially in the light of what others have, He covers me in the blood of the Lamb who is greater and stronger and mightier.  I can be brave enough to be vulnerable because that’s what I have been called to be.  I do not face condemnation from the Father because of my ability.  I face pure love, the purest the world has ever known, the Author and Creator of love itself.  I have been called to use my talent, though it may be one and not five.  In the end, the only thing that matters is going to be the fact that I used my talent.  And in the end, the only thing that is going to matter is that I stepped out in faith and I did not hide it.  In bringing my one talent to the light, I can only imagine the other one-talent servant’s hearts as they too grow bold and allow their walls to come down and their one talent out into the world.  Imagine a body of believers, each bringing their talent into the light.  Imagine the beautiful and freeing community that would emerge.  Shame over one talent disappears in the light of vulnerability.  God the precious Father does not change His reaction from the five-talent servant to the two-talent servant.  He will call the one talent servant who chooses to uncover that one talent by name and look deeply into her eyes with joy and pride.

He will call the one-talent servant by her true name,

beloved.

He tells the one-talent servant that she belongs.  He inspires the one-talent servant to reach out with love to those around her with one talent and those with five alike because comparison stemming from insecurity has no place in His scarred hands.

Surrendering to Vulnerability

 
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Most Sunday mornings, when I find myself driving alone to church, I sit in my car for a few minutes to gather my thoughts and try to clear my head.  I try to clear my heart.  The week winds down and often leaves me exhausted and burdened, yet Sunday mornings are for savoring.   Sunday mornings are for refreshing and precious time with the sweetest Savior.   Something about the church itself is a refuge and a hiding place, a sacred place to meet with God the Father.  And as I sat in my car last Sunday morning, it was a struggle to clear my head and my heart.  The grey skies felt like a reflection of the churning deep in my soul.  Each cloud, a different thought looming over me and preventing my soul from lifting its face to the bronzing sun.  My heart held up sorrow on top of its already weary frame.  The week was full of difficult conversations and difficult relationships, which always weigh especially heavy on my heart. I walked slowly into church because I felt uneasy.  I felt insecure and vulnerable and I was hurting, yet I couldn’t place a finger on what sparked the pain.  My head felt chalked full of lies.  Insecurities I thought I had long since beaten overwhelmed me.  It wasn't until we started singing “I Surrender All,” that I started to hear my heart beat a little stronger.  It was then that the Lord spoke to me about what I was truly surrendering.  It's easy for me to say I'm surrendering the flesh.  It's easy for me to say I’m surrendering my past and my future.  

But the Lord was calling me to surrender more than the clichés.  

Surrendering all means the really ugly, messy things too.  It means surrendering anger, bitterness, grudges.  It means surrendering rights and reputation.  It means surrendering defenses and hurts, guard walls and protection.  I cannot stand before the Lord, palms upward and sing about surrendering all while holding on to the feeling that I have been wronged in some way.

Last Sunday morning, surrendering all meant surrendering any rights I felt entitled to, including how I was treated and how I felt I deserved to be treated.  It meant surrendering my reputation and being okay with being misunderstood.  It meant surrendering my longing to control others opinions of me.  It meant literally stripping my heart of every desire that was tied to my name, every wrong, every identity, every hurt and the apology I thought I deserved.  When I stood there, stripped of it all, I was truly vulnerable. 

I realized that I have nothing to lose by loving those who  have hurt me.  

Forsaking the rights and entitlements I think I am owed remove the built-up dam in my heart that hinders a river of grace from pouring from the Father through me.  It hit me then, standing there, that vulnerability doesn’t always mean exposing dark secrets, sinful pasts or present struggles.  Sometimes for me, vulnerability means choosing to open my heart to love in hard places.  It requires pushing back the safe walls behind which I try to keep my heart and lowering guards meant to keep my heart well.  It means placing myself in places where pain has the opportunity to creep into my heart, places where I’ve been rejected, places where I’ve been shown I’m unloved.  Sometimes vulnerability calls me to dive into the places where I can’t quite manage to fit in or feel accepted.  Vulnerability means choosing to pursue friendships with some of the most difficult people.  It means purposefully charging into loving hard.  It means laying down my life, physically but also emotionally.  

And in that, there can be no "giving up" just to protect my heart, because I want to be completely spent for the glory of Jesus even if that means that I become an emotional sacrifice. 

Freedom from Comparison

 
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"Millennial."

The word feels like an accusation.

We are the generation who, upon being presented with the image of perfection over and over and over again, are the ones swept away by a current of crippling dissatisfaction.

I was there.  Crippling dissatisfaction consumed me.  I would wake up in the morning with dread pitted deep in my stomach because I felt that I could never measure up.  I could never achieve the impossibly high standards of perfection that I set for myself and I was chained by it.  And some days I'm still there. I still wonder if I have ever been good enough, if I will ever be good enough. 

At the bottom of the very dark pit of comparison, hopelessness creeps into my bones.  And I am always tempted to stay.  I think a lot of us are.  We remain trapped and victimized by comparison and unhealthy goals forgetting all too often that truly, we can never be satisfied with our own work.  We can never be satisfied with anything on this earth and we can never be satisfied with the image we try to portray.  No matter how ceaselessly we strive for perfection we will never obtain it.  But what if this design was crafted for us? What if we were never supposed to obtain perfection on this earth?

Jesus tells us that we can do no good thing apart from Him and it's because of this that I can tell you, there is radiant, beautiful, powerful and wild hope, even in the inability to obtain perfection.  There is beauty in realizing that those standards cannot be obtained and that there is a love that shatters comparison and dissatisfaction.  It is magnificent because it is unconditional.  No matter what we do, or do not do, no matter what we do well or do not do well, that love remains the same.  We are called to have eyes set on eternity because in the broad scheme of things, our millennial identity is not going to impact our Kingdom identity.  But right now, we can use our millennial identity to further glorify our Father.  The urgency is this, that this opportunity will only exist on this earth.  So, let’s let that free us to do what we have been called to do now, while we have the opportunity.  Let’s see His unconditional love as the freedom from the fear of what others think and freedom from the fear of failing.

Let’s see His unconditional love as freedom to try hard, to love well, and to shirk off the heavy weight of comparison because we serve a God who came to break chains and to set captives free.