There are many nameless women of the bible: ‘Lot’s wife’, ‘the woman at the well’, ‘the infirm woman,’ ‘the persistant widow.’ These are just some. God did not tell us their name but He did tell us their story, and I love their stories. Stories of grace and mercy and hope and sometimes tragedy. I know I will write a lot about these women because everyone deserves their story to be heard.
One woman I want to write briefly about today is the ‘woman with the issue of blood.’ I love this story and relate to it on so many levels but there’s just one part of the story that I can’t seem to get away from. It comes at the very end, after she receives her miracle. Jesus turns around and asks who touched him, and the bible says: “Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden…” (Luke 8:47). This nameless woman then had to turn round and confess what had happened to her. She made a demand on Jesus, now he was making a demand on her to come out from the shadows and make herself known. Sometimes shadows, although they are dark, they somehow make us feel safe. You have to understand, this woman had hidden for years. She had to. But now she had been made free it was time to stand up and let everyone know who she was and how she was. There is responsibility that comes with freedom. God doesn’t heal you in order to hide you.
in nehemiah the soldiers reconstructed the walls with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. what a picture! building the future and fighting enemies from the past all at the same time. isn’t this how we tend to live our lives? caught between the past and the present. we get focused on future destiny then we encounter an enemy from the past, pulling us down telling us we’ll never make it. then there are times when we almost get so consumed with our past that God has to give us a glimpse into his glorious future for us in order to gives us perspective on why we are fighting.
we are living in this constant tension. why? we will never truly build the future until we defeat the giants from our past. we will get so far and then we’ll hit a wall and that’s it – no further. that’s when we use the sword. we fight the enemy of lies from the past with the sword he has put into our hand. with the truth that sets us free. if all we see is lies look for truth. but sometimes that truth can hurt. it’s a two edged sword that cuts. deep. it’ll tear us apart before it brings healing. it’ll reveal who we really are and how we really are. we may not like what we hear at first. but that same truth that hurts so much will set us free in order to make us whole and fit to fulfill his great purpose for us.
this process is painful so there are times when God will lift our eyes beyond the past and the present and give us a glimpse into the future. destiny. purpose. that’s more like it. I prefer those words. you see it’s easy to become so consumed with our past that God needs to jolt us and remind us that we have a responsibility to build the future. we can’t let it go to waste. we can’t become self-indulgent while he has put treasure within us. he has given us that trowel to dig up that treasure and use it for his glory and the blessing of the people he has put in our sphere of influence. these people can’t perish while we try and fix ourselves. there isn’t time for that. so we do both. we fight and build. we find a balance. we live in wisdom. wisdom is the principal thing. it will guide us day by day and season by season and will show us what to focus on and will teach us how multitask.
A new sculpture is on display at Tate Modern art gallery. Basically it is a big black box which people can wander into in order to experience utter blackness. The artist behind the project said that he created it in order to allow people to feel the emotions of helplessness and despair. As I watched the report the other day I couldn’t help thinking that quite a lot of people, dare I say, the majority of people, don’t need to walk into a box in London in order to feel this. They probably feel this way when they open their eyes in the morning – they feel surrounded by darkness and all the fear that it brings. These people are all around us. They might be smiling through the darkness but they are petrified nonetheless. One person who had spent time in the container said that slowly his eyes became accustomed to the darkness he found himself in. How true. Some people are truly unaware of the darkness they live in because they have known it for so long.
The art gallery has provided stewards with torches who will come to the aid of anyone who feels overcome by their experience. As children of God we are carriers of similar torches which we can shine onto the people we see who are overcome by the darkness of their world. We can show people that they don’t have to settle for darkness. There is another way. The light that we carry ‘shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]’ (John 1:5 AMP).
Us girls hate clearing out the wardrobe! We put it off for as long as possible then one day we open the door and all this stuff falls on top of us! Then we think, “maybe it’s time for a clear out!”. So we have to go through everything. Leave nothing unsorted. Usually the clothes end up in one of three piles. The first pile is the ‘no’ pile. This is easy. This is reserved for all those cringe-worthy garments we have. The ones that make us say, “what was I thinking???” The dodgy jumpers, the jeans we bought saying “someday they’ll fit me”. Also in this pile is stuff we used to wear and wore so much it is worn done. It had purpose but now that season is over. Time to move on.
The second pile is the ‘yes’ pile. These are the garments that we still need and are useful to us. They make us look good and we should hold on to them.
The third pile is the ‘maybe’ pile and is very often the largest pile and definitely the hardest one to deal with. Here we evaluate each item, scrutinize what it’s worth is to us and can we live without it? Most of the stuff in this pile should be on the ‘no’ pile but we refuse to let go of it “just in case.” We feel attached somehow and hate the feeling of it not being there. Sometimes sentimentality keeps it on the pile. We wore it on a special occasion; it was a special gift from someone. But we have to ask what good is it doing now?
The closet of our minds also need cleared out from time to time. Sometimes we find ourselves lying under a mountain of confusion and through that we know it’s time to sort our heads out. The amazing thing is we have the same old piles for everything in our minds. We have the ‘no’ pile for stuff that we know shouldn’t be there and the ‘yes’ pile for stuff that should be there. Black and White issues. That’s easy.
But then that pile in the middle looms and grows continually. Because not everything is black and white. A lot of the stuff in our minds is grey. Dull boring grey. A mixture of black and white, good and bad, truth and lies, and it takes us to examine and discern each item to see whether we should keep it or throw it away. We come up against the same issues as we did with the clothes. Shall I hang on to this way of life just in case? I can’t let go of this way of life, it’s all I’ve known. It’s maybe not the best way but it’s comfortable. It’s the grey old thoughts that we have to ask for wisdom for in order to separate the colours so we can see clearly. The word is our colour separator. It will wash through the grey and show you what is right and what is wrong. Expect to be shocked by the results. You will see that stuff you thought was ok, it really was black, just mixed with enough white to make it appear ok. Lies mixed with a little bit of truth to make you think you could still hold on to it. But get rid of it! It can’t stay there clogging up your mind!! You need to be free! All those familiar thought patterns, damaging yet strangely comfortable. We hate throwing them out cos what will we do when they’re not there?
But God has a new wardrobe for you. He wants to dress you up in love and cover you in grace and fill you with purpose.
Time to get the bin liners out…
I recently watched the documentary, ‘Wounded,’ on BBC 1. It told the stories of two young soldiers who had been badly wounded in Afghanistan. It really challenged me and gave me a much needed jolt into reality. These young men were amazing. So badly injured, one was a triple amputee and the other was a double amputee and had also lost his sight, yet they were so determined to overcome their injuries and return to some kind of normality. They individually set goals and went about achieving them. Although they will never be fit enough to return to the battlefield, I have heard of many soldiers who have been wounded and their goal is to get fit and back to their comrades in the battle, so great is their committment to their cause.
In God’s word we are likened to an army. We get wounded, often by people from our own side. Yet unlike these soldiers we sit down and refuse to recover from the blows we receive. We wallow in the pain and let it mark us for life. For the few who do go through the process of healing we still say, “I might be healed but I am never going to war again. I am never putting myself in a position where I can be hurt again.” What would happen if every soldier in the world wars had said that? I dread to think. We are called to fight for the King. That means getting back into our rightful place even if that is the exact same location where we were almost killed. We owe our Commander in Chief nothing less.
This blog is entitled “it’s not about me” which is somewhat ironic I must admit as inevitably some of what I write about on here will be about that very subject – me. But let me explain.
It’s not about me isn’t so much a title for a blog as it is my philosophy on life. When I was 15 years old I remember saying to my best friend, who happens to be God, “Don’t let my life just be about me. Let other people look at me and learn something. Let whatever I go through and whatever mistakes I make serve as a lesson to others as either what to do or not to.”
Since then that belief has helped me make it through some pretty tough things. Because no matter how crazy things became I had the notion in the back of my mind that I couldn’t give up. A voice kept ringing in my ear, “you can’t quit there are people who are relying on you. You can’t let them down.” This voice brought comfort when I messed up. It whispered, “it’s ok. So you blew it. Learn from your mistake and show the people coming after you how not to screw up the way you did.” This voice brought perspective when the good times rolled. It would’ve yelled in my ear “don’t be getting too carried away with yourself thinking you’re brilliant. This isn’t just so you can feel wonderful and bask in the glow of your awesomeness. Make this about more than you. How can the people around you benefit from this?” This voice whispered hope in the midst of despair. When I felt I had hit a dead end and there was no way out this voice spoke gently and reassuringly, “you can be free. You can be loved. You can be accepted. Not just because you have been made worthy of all these things and more besides. But because the person next to you needs to know that they are worthy also and maybe you’re the one to tell them. Maybe they’ll look at you and say ‘if she can be free I can be free.'”
Hence this blog. I haven’t started it in order to showcase my incredible writing capability or to impress you with my vast biblical and theological knowledge. It’s simply a way to get out what’s inside me because I don’t have a right to hold on to it. What exactly will this blog contain?? I have no idea. This is going to be as much of a surprise for me as it is for you. So read on and let’s go on this journey together…
She trembled as she walked into the room. So aware of everyone’s stare. “Who is she? What is she doing here? What’s that in her hand?” The air was full of these questions, not to mention the condemning opinions of the great and the good sat around Jesus. Then, smash!! The alabaster jar broke open and she poured the precious liquid onto the feet of her Saviour. There was no going back now. Once that ointment started to pour out she couldn’t scoop it up and put it back inside and pretend it hadn’t happened. She had left her mark. Now the air was full of something else. The gorgeous fragrance of sacrifice and love. And bravery. It took guts for her to walk into a room where she felt she didn’t belong and take a risk.
But she did belong there. Jesus needed her to fulfill a very specific task that until then no one had risen to. This was her job, her time.