I originally shared this as a spoken word piece at my church’s Storyteller event. I came across it today and thought it might speak to someone in this form, here. Soon I hope to record a few of these pieces so you can hear the way these words sound in my head 😉 In the meantime, know that even in this broken world, redemption is coming.
…Once upon a time, there was a tiny little bird. He was young and hopeful, but oh so tiny! The tiny bird often looked out to the big, strong birds and wished he could soar like them. The expanse of sky beyond his tiny nest made him feel far too small to conquer flying. One day, watching the other birds, he convinced himself he needed to soar to feel big and strong like them. The tiny bird made a giant leap, and soon felt himself falling, falling, falling. He landed hard on a branch below and looked down at his wounded wing. “Now I will never conquer the sky,” he cried. “And I will never soar like the other birds.”
…Once upon a time a widowed woman, lonely and tired, sat in a quiet blue chair missing her husband. She often sat there looking at the beautiful urn on the mantle that held his ash and longed to pick it up and hold it, to sift through death’s dust, just to be closer to her love. She left it there but stared each day. She ached in loneliness, aware of the giant hole left by his life. The silence was deafening and the pain made her heart often feel that it would stop altogether. During the afternoons, she turned off the lights to dull the brightness of day, waiting for night and sleep to come so her heart could get some rest from the aching. But during the days, blue chair, staring at the mantle, heart aching.
…Once upon a time, there was a man who had it all. The perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect car, the perfect family. He wondered what he did to deserve such bountiful blessings. But one day, the man received news that he would be let go from his perfect job, and his purpose as a provider seemed to break beneath him. Soon, they had to sell the perfect house and the perfect car, and his perfect marriage was shaken. He felt that nothing was certain anymore, the castle was crumbling, and he was grasping at straws to feel secure—but nothing seemed to work. Years went by and the man felt as though he lost it all as he became the shell of the man he once was.
– – –
Wings wounded. Hearts hurting. Identities shaken. The “once upon a time” is a war-stricken country, with children covered in ash and no longer able to cry. The “once upon a time” is the illness fallen upon an innocent child. The “once upon a time” is a wildfire that destroys whole homes and whole cities. It’s divorce and a family broken apart. It’s the woman with scars she dares not speak of, in shame of what’s been done to her. It’s the son who turns away and chooses to live life on his own terms, far away from the family and faith he once knew.
The pain is too much to bear. We realize we can’t conquer the sky, or see light and joy, or imagine how life will be made right again.
But listen. Beat… beat… beat. The heart still pumps on. Life flows through the veins. In the winter cold where death seems to reside over the trees and earth, a tiny bud pushes through the hard ground and begins to show that spring will come again.
You see, this is the story of a mighty king who takes our broken things, and makes something magnificent out of the meek.
This is a story of brilliant light piercing through darkness and death.
This is a story of rebuilding the ruins that were shattered around and beneath us.
This is a once upon a time, that WILL end in redemption. Even if earth shows us hurt, and sin overtakes us, and paradise is lost, He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. Listen…
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Beat… beat… beat.
– – –
After days of struggling to fly again, that tiny little bird hears the whisper: “My child, come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” The tiny bird rests and day by day, his strength grows and when it is time, he finally soars. Restoration for what was once broken.
One evening, the widow finally decides to lift the urn from the mantle to move it closer to her blue chair. Her hands shake and she drops the vase, and the ashes scatter everywhere. She weeps as she kneels in the dark next to the urn’s broken pieces. She is struck with the idea to glue them back together, shattered piece by shattered piece. Though there are cracks and holes, she places a candle inside, where her husband’s ashes once lay. The light breaks through her darkness and she feels some relief in her aching. Beauty where there were once ashes.
The man who lost it all finally gets it. His wholeness cannot possibly come from cars and homes and jobs and material things, or even from those around him. He is humbled and looks upward, and even though the pieces aren’t back together, the ground beneath him is sturdy. He is planted like an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His glory. Rebuilding where there was once ruin.
In our pain, in our sorrow, in our grief, in our times of waiting, His wounds will walk us through our brokenness. Healing is coming. He washes over our wounds in grace upon grace upon restorative, brilliant, mighty, precious, amazing grace.
– – –
Friend, if you are in a season of hurting, waiting or brokenness, can I pray for you?
I am here and am praying for you this week. Send me a message here if I can pray something specific for you.
P.S. Thank you so much to Kari Shea, Hide Obara, and Megha Ajith (all of the Unsplash community) for the images to accompany this piece.
Ya’ll. Let me tell you something. About a month ago, I felt a pressing on my heart to share about my journey with fear. And then the funny thing is, the FEAR took over again (as it does, when we let it). Loud thoughts and insecurities paralyzed me. I suddenly became engulfed with fear–how am I even qualified to talk about this? I’m not a good enough writer, my blog posts are too heavy/vulnerable, my voice doesn’t matter, I am STILL struggling with fear right now, etc. Ironic? Maybe, or maybe the enemy just knows my greatest struggle.
Since a young age, fear has OWNED me. I’ve been enslaved to it. It has found a way of creeping into my daily life and thought patterns, and I’ve let it rule. Something I’ve learned is that fighting fear is a battle. As much as I know the commands from Scripture to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds,” and “take every thought captive,” sometimes it is a lot harder to let the Truth of God’s love seep into the fiber of our beings and release the grip of fear, anxiety, worry, panic, and insecurity.
I watch my 5 year old son wrestle with fear– he tells me before bed about his fear of robot aliens or snakes with chicken heads coming after him in the dark (the imagination of a child!). We look in the closets, and turn on the night lights, and pray over his room and his safety and for him to be super aware of God’s presence with him. But at 30 years old, I am no different! I still need to look into closets and seek out light and pray for a SUPER awareness of God with me, as I wrestle with fear–anxiety on the road about car accidents, or worry for my loved ones when they are far away from me and I don’t know if they are safe. I get tangled up by anxiety and hide myself, for fear of rejection or not being loved. I have breathed through panic attacks in Rome and New York City and sitting in the church pews and even in my own home when my rational thinking flies out the window and I am overtaken with fear. I KNOW FEAR like I know my own reflection in the mirror. But I also have come to know that we are not called to live in fear. And I have found delivery, and freedom, and want to share with you (if this is a struggle with you), that there is another way to live.
I’m going to share a few posts in the coming weeks about some practical and prayerful ways God has helped me conquer fear (and is still helping me, even now). In the meantime, here is a spoken word piece I wrote today at my favorite coffee shop, thinking about this fear, and thinking about the sense of freedom I feel when His love and Truth and peace take over.
What does it look like to give up control? To let go of my pride and thinking I have to have it all figured out? Does it look like reckless abandon, abandoning my dreams, and sitting passive while someone else drives? That thought is terrifying for a control freak like me.
What does it look like to walk in peace? I am not a natural pillar of peace- I run ahead, and rush around, and can’t sit in stillness for more than 2 minutes. I am anxious, I am a worry wart, I am obsessive, and I cannot imagine not having this fear as part of my life. When my thoughts race, I am desperate for this peace that surpasses all understanding, and I go to any source I can think of to find it– wise books, and wise friends, and time in the wilderness soaking in the beauty of creation, yet still I wrestle in the waiting. Peace is fleeting when I look to these sources, so still my mind races and still I sit in fear.
What does it look like to take every thought captive? To say, I can’t do this on my own anymore? Exhausted from living this way, I realize I’m undone. I’m ready. I start to hand each thought over to my Creator, one by one, plucked up and passed over to someone Mightier than me. I release my death grip and let You crush to death my fear, the lies, the sin, the shame. When I find myself still holding on to fear and control, whether it’s a stronghold or a just a tiny pinch, You whisper, “I can handle it. It’s not too much for Me.” Sometimes I laugh, thinking these burdens and fears are too shameful for You to see or too big for You to handle. But even that’s laughable isn’t it? Here I am thinking the Creator and King can’t handle my control issues. But You whisper again, “I can handle it.”
I labor and wrestle. With sweat from my brow and the intense pain of giving up control, I release the burden. You call me into FREEDOM. And I taste it. It’s close. With a cry of life, I sense Your sweet love wash over me and my lungs gulp for air. I taste Your goodness and mercy. New life. I realize the old way I was living was not what You desire or designed for me. There is a shift, and I go from that clinging to an unbridled release– Lord, take everything! You keep telling me, “I can handle it.” And I believe You.
Thank You Jesus.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine.” -Isaiah 43:1
A few months ago during a sermon, one of our pastors shared the following quote that really resonated with me:
“The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” -Bruce Marshall, The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith
Tim shared this quote to support the idea that our deepest longings point us towards God, even though on this earth we oftentimes seek to fulfill those longings in foolish, temporary, unfulfilling ways.
That Sunday morning, it was almost as though something clicked into place for me that I’ve been coming to realize for a long time. Throughout most of my life, I have built my identity around other people–what they thought of me, trying to meet their expectations (whether stated or assumed), keeping the peace, helping others with their problems, etc. I also have used accomplishments and success, my ability to mother/friend/write/perform well, and my good works to give me a sense of worthiness or to attempt to fill holes in my heart. But the truth is, (and what Tim shared reminded me of this)—God is the only One who can fill those places. Everything else that I try to pack into those holes will come up short of His goodness.
After hearing that sermon, when I found myself running to anything in this world out of a place of desperate need (ie: calling a friend when I wanted to process something; using food, drink, Netflix, spending money on coffee or new stuff to lift my mood or numb feelings of sadness; keeping myself far too busy to slow down and take space for stillness), I stopped. I tried to peel back that layer of the onion and look a little further by asking myself, “What is the deeper thing I’m longing for right now?” And often times the answer pointed back to a desire for a sense of worth, a place of belonging, something to make me feel less sad/tired/alone, a feeling of being loved. And while sometimes the things of this world hint at being able to fill those desires and needs, I am now trying to run first to God.
Last night, I shared a spoken word piece at a Storytellers event at my church. This piece, entitled “Progression of a Heart,” has been rumbling around in my heart for the past few months and it felt really freeing and beautiful to share it yesterday with a group of supportive and encouraging people.
I want to share it here to encourage you– this “chapter” is where I currently am in my posture towards the Lord, but there were 4 prior chapters that I summarized in my journey. And as a good friend shared with me last night after my piece, I can’t wait to see how God unfolds chapters 6, 7, 8, 9… there is surely more work to be done as I journey on, but for now, here’s my heart.
Chapter 5- Fill Up My Empty
Hello, my Father. My best friend. My shelter. My anchor when my soul is untethered. My comfort when I ache. My husband in this single mother season. My source of Truth when lies start to creep in.
You. It’s always been You. You are the only one that can heal a heart that was once more holes than it was holy, or place a heart of flesh where there was stone. I no longer need to numb. Or hide. Or jam those puzzle pieces into place.
Lord, continue to fill up my empty.
When I want someone to tell me that I am worthy, You tell me that You fearfully and wonderfully created me in YOUR image.
When I am weak and vulnerable, You tell me that Your grace is sufficient for me…Your power is made perfect in my weakness.
When I desire intimacy, You remind me that You formed my inmost being and before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely Lord. There is no greater intimacy than to be known at that depth.
When I am weary, You take my yoke upon You and replace it with a lightness that I can shoulder for that moment.
When I am lost, You show me that You are the way. You help me put one foot in front of the other as I wait for You to show me the next right thing.
And when I want a love story and to have my heart fought for, Oh Lord, you remind me that You love me with the fiercest, greatest love. You’ve already fought for my heart, and you PURSUE me passionately.
I am in awe that the Creator of this universe is wrapped up in my universe and delights with me and grieves with me and shows me who I am.
I will go wherever You want me to go and be whoever You are making me to be. I am free. I am wide open. My heart is all Yours.
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” -John 4:13-14
Friend…if you find yourself running to things of this world, don’t be discouraged. I am praying that you would start to run to the source of Living Water that can heal wounds and fill up your empty, too.