Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chapter Seven: On Point

"God often turns us on the heels of crisis to pivot us toward the path of our destiny."
~Beth Moore in Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman

Beth Moore tells the story of her bird dog who also "points" at squirrels. When she and her husband are walking with the dog, it will suddenly stop and go "on point" when a squirrel is nearby. In order for them to continue the walk, her husband must pick the dog up and turn it in the direction they are walking. Only then can the walk proceed as planned. She likens us to the dog. Sometimes we are walking along when a "crisis" hits and we freeze and get stuck. It is in this time that God will pick us up and "pivot us toward the path of our destiny".

It was early May, and our church was about half-way through a "50 day Revival" with several of our sister churches. These churches were joining together, calling out to the Lord to revive our city and turn our hearts back to Him! Services were 4-5 days a week at Destiny Church, and we all pitched in with worship, ushering, prayer, whatever it took to keep this thing running. The worship team from my church had at least 1 turn a week, but I still went every night. If there was anything I needed, it was some "revival". My heart still hurt, a lot. I still cried just about every night. I still played on the worship team with Zeke, and that really sucked. But I was starting to stand again. Maybe the first couple pieces of my Jenga life were being re-shaped. I was meeting new friends and laughing again for the first time in a long time. One of these new friends was Paul.

Paul was a member of Destiny Church, and I had seen him with some of my friends, but I didn't know who he was. In fact, I really didn't make an effort to know who he was since I was still in love with Zeke and I thought that he was dating the youth minister, Rachel, at Destiny. One evening after service, I was talking to Rachel, and Paul was standing there. Rather than be rude, I introduced myself, made some small talk and went along my merry way thinking nothing of it.

A couple days later, I arrived at the church about an hour early due to a miscommunication regarding service times. I was really wanting to change clothes, and I didn't really want to drive home, but Paul convinced me that I should go home, and he and Rachel would come with me. I thought, "Why not? We have the time." Paul sat in the back seat, Rachel in the front, and we chatted all the way to the house. I'm pretty sure that I mentioned Zeke at that time, and that I was "unavailable", but only in passing.

Over the next couple weeks, Paul, Rachel, and several others went out after every service. One night, Paul and I exchanged phone numbers and we began hanging out, even when there wasn't a service. He quickly became one of my new best friends, and while I wasn't initially attracted to him, I felt safe. I think that I told him at least 4 times that "my heart belongs to Zeke", and Paul respected that, saying nothing. We sat together each night at church, and he would place his arm on the back of my chair. Sometimes I would feel guilty, other times I wanted Zeke to see it, to make him feel what I felt in April, but mostly I just felt safe. I felt so safe, that I let Paul talk me into a trip to the top of Sandia Peak, this time driving around the back side of the mountain. We took his truck, and some extra blankets, and made the 45 minute trek. When we arrived at the top, we parked and walked to the lookout point. It was darker than dark, but the city lights shone bright. I stood there, shivering, looking back to that same house where my heart still lingered. I said nothing, but my heart screamed "I miss you, Zeke. Why aren't you here with me?" Paul and I walked quietly back to the truck where we laid in the bed wrapped in blankets staring into the sky littered with stars shooting across the blackness. I don't remember much of what was said, but I remember cuddling up to Paul to get warm. His arms felt so good, but the chaos in my heart and mind was out of control. I ached for Zeke. I wanted him. I missed him. I wished it was him laying there with me, instead of Paul.

It was late when we headed back toward my apartment. The ride was quiet, almost as if Paul knew that my heart was bleeding and that nothing could stop it. He didn't speak until we were sitting at the stoplight in front of my place. "Are you convinced that you are going to get back together with this guy?" he asked, with more than the question in his voice. "I am absolutely convinced," I replied. "God promised me." That was all we would say that night. By that time, the light had changed. Paul dropped me off, and I walked up the stairs to my empty apartment, more confused than I had ever been.

Stay tuned for "When God changed His mind"

Chapter Six: A Crisis of Faith

***Excerpt 2 from my journal***

There's so much chaos in my heart. I just want to hear from you, Lord, to hide in You. I'm sitting on the floor at the foot of the cross where I want to be, where I need to be. So, Lord, will you be here? Will you hear my heart's cry? Lord, you know that more than anything my heart is to serve you....
I've tried my whole life to be righteous; to live a life that is pleasing to you, and I've failed so many times, every time. And while I've preached so many times and believed that it's not about what I do or if I fall, but rather about who I am, I still fall into the same traps...the lies that I've disappointed you, and that's why I'm less than others and I'm struggling through life. Why do I get so defensive? All because I've been trying to be perfect, and I can't. My faith is so weak; my tongue is unbridled, and I'm having the hardest time trusting you. Even though I want that you really do have everything under control, I can't.
I'm scared, Lord. I'm scared that I've already screwed everything up. I'm scared that I can't really hear you. I'm scared that you can't use me. I'm scared to believe that you really do love me, that you really do want me, that you really do know everything that's in my heart...
Why does my heart waiver? Why is it that I can't believe you [about Zeke]? I'm still so scared that I'm missing your will. I'm scared to ask for confirmations because I know that doubt displeases you, yet I need one. I don't want to doubt. I wish my faith were stronger, but all the wishing in the world isn't helping me to stand. I know that my hope is in you and not in Zeke, but I'm discouraged. I know that your thoughts and plans are not mine...but it's hard to wait. It's hard to be strong. It's hard to see others' promises being fulfilled while mine seem sooooooooooooo distant. Trying to be happy for them while my broken heart screams is nearly impossible. It's so hard to believe, because I automatically believe there's something wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong. I'm not good enough. And God, I'm so tired; tired of working so hard just to fall flat on my face. These are your promises. This is your ministry. This is your life. SO why is it so hard? You said that you would do it; that you would hasten to perform your will you? I'm 27 years old, and so far from where I thought I should be...I feel like I've done nothing. Lord, when??? When can I be married? When I can walk into the destiny you have for me? When will I see your promises fulfilled?
You know I'm not trying to complain....I'm ready for you to do it. I'm ready to lay it all down again. I'm tired of fighting so hard...can I rest? I'm tired of trying to figure it out...can you make it better?

Stay tuned for "On Point"

Chapter Five: Jenga!

***Excerpt 1 from my journal***

"God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him..."
Psalm 18:20a (The Message)

Jenga! One of the most popular games in the nineties consisted of nothing more than a set of blocks, yet it provided hours of breath-taking and thrilling entertainment. You see, the goal of the game was to strategically remove a block from the tower and place it on the top without toppling the entire thing. Everyone had a different strategy; some chanted, some "hmmmed", some hands shook under the pressure. Only a "master artist" could grow the tower to twice it's original height, and woe to the one who caused the tower to crash. They would be surrounded by screams, laughs and friendly taunts.

It struck me, as I read this verse, that our lives often feel like a Jenga tower. Everyone is pulling pieces from our foundation in an effort to form us into their expectations, all the while creating an increasing instability. Before long, we come crashing down, lying broken in pieces scattered by the force of the fall. The reactions of those around us are diverse. Some will shout, some will laugh, some will shake their heads in disgust while others will try to put us back together again, just to pull out the pieces to make us fall again.

But there is One who has a different plan! You see, while Jenga may be a fun game for adults, in the hands of a child the blocks represent endless possibilities. There are fortresses to be built, houses to be formed, barns to be raised....same blocks - new shape.

At a time when my heart was shattered in pieces, I had a dream. In the dream my pastor was asking me, "Why are you crying?" And as I was beginning to respond with "My heart is broken", I woke up and I heard the Lord say, "Not breaking, reshaping". It took a couple days for it to sink in. God had a plan for my pieces. And though I feel that I can't make it through another day, I hear His voice faintly calling, "I have a plan for you, for a future and a hope."

Father, I come to you in pieces, my heart shattered. I lay myself before you and that you will restore and reshape me into the woman you have called me to be. Let me rest in You, knowing that You alone are my security. I choose to trust that you are the "Master Artist" and Architect of my life, and that your plans are sure.

Chapter Four: Not Bent, Broken

Why is that you can never just "break up" once? First there was the break-up with Zeke, then again with Zeke. But then it was his family.

I'll never forget that night at the Flying Star. Sitting alone opposite of Ben, Jill and Kelly (of course Zeke was not there), as if I were on trial. While exact words escape me, the gist of the conversation was something akin to "Zeke doesn't love you, so we don't either." I may be exaggerating, maybe, but that's the message my heart heard loud and clear.

Then there was the weekend that the band was scheduled to lead worship at a youth camp. Considering that the "band" was Zeke and his family, I felt that there was no way I could go with them. How can you lead worship with disunity on the team? Makes sense, right? Wrong! I was crucified for my decision to withdraw. After all, I had "given my word". How were they going to use that against me when the decision was made when we were still planning our wedding? I decided, instead, to go to Chicago to support our sister church. While I enjoyed my first visit to the Windy City, my heart still ached. It was a deep ache, like I was missing out on my destiny, and so I cried....again.

The next week was my birthday. What a weekend that was. My parents were scheduled to come down to meet Zeke, and the plan was that he would ask for my hand in marriage. Instead, they came down to find their very broken daughter, struggling to enjoy her favorite day of the year. We took the tram to Sandia Peak (my first time to the top of the mountain) and ate an early dinner. It was freezing, but I made myself walk to the edge of the mountain to see the city. As I stood there, my eyes became glued to his neighborhood, a place I knew well. Why couldn't I just let this go? Why was my heart still bleeding from this? What was wrong with me. I picked up a few rocks, and as a symbol of surrender, I threw them all over the edge. I watched each one tumble, one by one down the desert peak. Was this enough? Was that all it would take to get my life back? Looking back, I wish that I would have listened to my mother that weekend who, in the wisdom only a mother has, said that God's plans are often hidden by our agendas, and that I needed to let Zeke go. But I couldn't....I wouldn't.

When I was in college, I took a pyschology class. It was my favorite class as it explored so much of the science of human nature. I was particulary fascinated with a lecture regarding the tendencies of abused women and why they stay with their abusive mates. I distinctly remember asking myself, "How can they be so broken to believe that these men are their best option?". My professor taught that there is a bell type model which shows that the women actually believe that the "good" qualities in these men outweighed the "bad" qualities, therefore they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater "good".

Was this why I couldn't let go? I believed with all my heart that Zeke was a good man, anointed and called by the Lord to great things. I believed that he loved me deeply, and was just a little confused. I made so many excuses for him, even when the "other woman" showed up.

It was the first weekend of April. I had taken one of my many trips to Phoenix, and came back for a Monday night service. We had a special speaker, and I was on the worship team that night. So was Zeke. He walked in and we made eye contact, as we often did. There was a sadness in his eyes, possibly regret, but I just couldn't read him anymore. We made it through rehearsal, when I saw his parents walk in, accompanied by a pretty hispanic girl. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and believed that she was just a family friend. After all, Ben and Jill and Kelly were all laughing and joking with her as well. But when worship ended, he sat down right next to her and put his arm around her, whispering in her ear, making her giggle, just like he used to do with me. My already broken heart screamed "Enough! Isn't it enough? I can't possibly break anymore!" And my shaky smile quickly melted into more tears.

But I still wouldn't let go....