– Written October 12, 2009 on a former blog after attending the Crossroads Great Banquet, one of the greatest turning point in my life –
This is going to be a very difficult post for me to write, which is why I am not going to write it, the Holy Spirit is. For three days I have prayed, cried, and languished over writing this post. Jesus Christ is faithful though, and I believe it would be wrong of me to squelch the Spirit and not write what God has so desperately laid on my heart. Heavenly Father, As my fingers fly across the keyboard taking thousands of strokes in order to write down the thoughts You have laid on my heart, I pray that the words that hit the screen would be Your words, thoughts, and sentences. I pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ and leave my heart open in a state of constant prayer and openness to You and submission to the Holy Spirit…
“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior, has ransomed me.” Those are the lyrics that have been ringing in my ears for over three days. Some of you may be asking, “What is wrong with this dude? Wasn’t it only a week ago he left this blog depressed, confused, and upset? Why is he back so soon?” The answers to those questions are very simple. They are so simple in fact they are quite complex. Forgiveness, surrender, and grace will answer all of your questions, I promise. I have come to grips with so many things this past weekend that have brought me down hard on my knees. MY own pride, shame, and self-centeredness have slapped me across the face making it smart.
First things first though. What is grace? I have quite recently heard an amazing definition that goes something like this: “God loves me unconditionally. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more and there is nothing that I can do to make Him love me less.” In other words, grace is getting something handed to me that I absolutely do NOT deserve. Why is this important? Because I have tasted grace in the last three days of my life. I am going to come back to this, but I have some other areas to cover first.
What is forgiveness? The best way I can describe it is imparting the grace I am given by God to others. When God forgives us He throws our sin so far away from Him that it will never be seen again. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sin) from us.” – Psalm 103:12. This doesn’t mean He removes consequences, it just means that there is no walls separating us from His abundant love and grace. This too I have tasted.
Before I touch on surrender I have a few things to say. This weekend I have been touched, blessed, served, left in awe, and most importantly I have been healed. For the past 9 months of my life I have been on an incredible journey of growth, change, and healing. There have been so many people along the way that have guided and encouraged me. Most of these people (and you know who you are) have prayed for me and lifted me up to the Father. These people have “stepped in the gap” for me. In other words there were things in my life that created a distance between God and I. Addictions, fears, confusion, anxiety, depression, immorality, hopelessness, bitterness, anger, and shame (and I am sure there are many more) have all stood in the way between me and my Father. Does this mean I couldn’t go before God? No! It means that my vision has been fogged and others have been there to hold my hand and work with me, pointing me towards God. A lot of those things have fallen to the wayside, but there are a few that have not. As many of you who regularly read this blog know, I have felt overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, despair, and confusion as I have walked with God. These feelings however are NOT OF GOD! They are results of uncontested sin, having other people and situations as higher priorities than God, and wallowing in my own selfishness and pride. Now, I want to make one thing VERY clear. If you read over the hundreds of blog posts I have written here, you will notice that I have been on great highs and deep lows while seeking God. In fact a few months ago I pretty much said screw it all because I was hurting and thought my messy life was God’s fault, but thankfully with the love and prayer from wonderful friends who embraced me I bounced back without creating too much damage. I know I talk about her a lot, but as the wonderful lyrics by Misty Edwards state, “Finally I surrender…”
Surrender what you might ask? Well, read all 206 and my previous blog posts very carelfully. Besides brokenness and building a relationship with Christ, what ironically seems to be the other very fluent theme in this blog? The answer is very simple and clear. It’s myself. Isn’t that wild? Here I am always talking about surrender and giving it all over to Christ, which I have been very actively doing, but I didn’t have my priorities straight. Priorities, wow, that is another topic I have learned a great deal about in the last few days. Priorities are described as “what I think is important in my life.” This could be a lot of different things. Obviously my son is one of my greatest priorities in my life, and that is very admirable. But remember reading that list in the last paragraph of all those things that created a barrier between me and God? Well guess what, those have been priorities too, even if it was unintentional. Maybe they haven’t been all at the same time, but definitely at one point and time. Matthew 6:25-34 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” In other words God is in control. There is nothing that we should or even NEED to put before Him. That is surrender, sitting back and working and living by His clock. Those verses talk about physical needs but if you look closely they talk about emotions and feelings as well.
Recently I had two different people tell me they really hated what an angry person I am. Ok folks, here’s where the rubber meets the road. By hearing this I became upset and honestly could not see it being an issue with me. I thought, “They have a lot of audacity to tell me something like that especially since I’ve put up and listened to them vent, be angry, get upset, and the whole nine yards.” I was beyond humbled this weekend to discover exactly what they were talking about.
I left my life, my friends, my computer and internet, my cell phone, and every other distraction in my life this past weekend and went to a men’s retreat. For various reasons I am not going to say much about the retreat, but I will tell you how it greatly impacted my heart, mind, and spirit. I was surrounded by men. Hurting men. Confused men. Angry men. Prideful men. Immoral men. Christian men. Non-Christian men. Addicted men. I watched all these men very closely all weekend. I saw prideful and stone cold hearts completely shattered and watched as the Holy Spirit flowed among us and filled each of our hearts in a way I have never seen before. I watched business men, Harley riders, wealthy men, poor men, prideful men, addicts, and Godly men fall on their face before Jesus Christ and surrender or re-surrender their hearts and soul all while literally bawling their eyes out. Yes, I was one of those men. I can say that I saw the face of Jesus Christ for the first time in a VERY long time. We were a real group of men, with real lives, real problem, real trials and struggles, real situations, real jobs, and real hurt. I watched and interacted with these men, most of whom were complete strangers to each other, yet we rallied around each other in a matter of hours as if we were best friends. There were hugs, prayers, laying of hands, sharing of tears, and 100% comfort.
Readers, I have seen the face of Jesus Christ in all these men. I have been convicted and have learned more than I can even begin to share in this measly little blog, but I am going to share with you the highlights of what I have been shown and where it is all taking me. For the last I don’t know how many years of my life I have been a user, a taker, and thief. I have stolen innocence, used my friends and family, and taken all I could get out of life at everyone else’s expense but mine. In the many years of this “process” and these “acts” I have felt complete emptiness, worthlessness, lack of ambition, shame, and disgust for myself. Some of you may be shaking your head in disbelief, but others of you know exactly what I am talking about and have seen right through it. Yes, I have always been here for my friends, but usually in effort to get something out of it. Whether or not it’s intentional or not is a whole other topic, but really doesn’t matter at this point. On the flip side of all that I too have also been used, hurt, and tread upon by both people close to me, and mere “friends.” Again we could debate intentions or whether its karma or consequences, but again I say that at this point and time its irrelevant. The point to my even bringing it up is I have harbored bitterness, anger, and anxiety over it, all of which have never been fully released and surrendered to God. All these situations, past events, and emotions that result from all of it are a barrier between me and my Abba, and up to this point people have “stood in the gap” for me. However, I believe with all my heart that recently God allowed certain people to be removed of their duty of “standing in the gap” for me in order to open my eyes.
When I wrote the last post in this blog I said, “I feel like my heart, mind, and soul is a roller coaster right now. You don’t even realize how easily I could use that as an excuse to throw everything God has taught me away, but I’m not. I am determined to seek out my Abba and get to know Him even deeper.” Since I am the author of that, allow me to paraphrase in a more down to earth way: I need clarity, my life is a mess, and I have no idea what God wants for my life…BUT I am willing to go find out!! I have done just this, although I didn’t realize it at the time when I left to go to this conference. There was no thought of God completely blowing me away and stripping me of my pride and selfishness. My anger and holding onto the past was selfish of me. My carrying anxiety on my own was selfish. To sum it all up I was carrying the SHAME of my selfishness, pride, and vain ambitions and the results of that was anger, self pity, building my ego, and being in complete confusion.
Once I realized and came to grips with ALL of that with the help of some very Godly men who prayed with me and for me, I crucified it. I wrote my shame down and burned it. I threw it on the alter and sacrificed it before God. I wept over it. I cried out to my loving heavenly Father and put it entirely in His hands.
As my readers, friends, family, or enemies reading this you may have a lot of questions. You may also be scorning these words. Some of you may be rejoicing with me. Others I am sure are now skeptical of me. All of those are ok. They are all understandable feelings and reactions. I want to pause from writing, and I’d ask you to stop reading until you watch the following video…
Some may think that is the stupidest thing you have ever seen or it was lame. But if you are like me, or been through what I have you are probably crying right now. Those tears could be because you realize you are hurting and that is what you desire, or if you are like me they are tears of complete joy remembering what God has brought you through and where He has you now. He fought for you, and He did not let you go. Call me a sap, I don’t care, but I can’t help but cry every time I watch that skit. That girl is me. That guy in the robe…well…that is MY Jesus he is portraying. That thought brings me to another wonderful YouTube video I was introduced to. Who is this Jesus guy? And what is so special about Him? Well….take a look….
I really hope you watched that entire video. If you did not, you missed something VERY important. THAT is my Jesus. That is who I serve. THAT is who I have shamed, hurt, and betrayed the deepest. “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2. What is that verse full of? Grace! That is grace! That is where I stand! I am free and those dark chains that bound me are gone. That gap has been closed. Is there more in my life God wants to see change? Yes, more than likely there is, but the ROOT of my problems has been addressed and very amazingly dealt with.
At the end of the conference I did something that may seem very silly or insignificant to some, but in my heart it was huge, and what followed just blew my heart away! We were asked to stand up and give an account of what God had showed us this weekend if we felt let by the Spirit. I knew I wanted to share something so I rehearsed a “speech” in my head. When I got up to talk, I was completely humbled. I struggled and stumbled through what the Spirit solemnly laid on my heart (not what I had rehearsed), then at the end I reached up and took out both of my earrings. As some of you know, when I was 18, I was kicked out of my parents’ house. As an open act of rebellion I pierced and gauged my left ear one night with a safety pin and sewing needle. Last February I had my right ear professionally pierced and gauged as a symbol of the pain and suffering I was going through. Notice a trend? Yep, myself. At the end of that short “speech” I gave I stepped down on the stage to where there was an alter set up and threw both those 12 gauge earrings on it as a public sign and action of surrender. THAT was both painful and overwhelmingly humbling. But, it doesn’t end there. A man that I have come to hold very much respect for came up to me afterwards and asked me if he could have one of those earrings as a way of carrying my burden as a brother in Christ. Not only was I honored, I was humbled even more. The friend I was with asked to take the other one. That is the body of Christ. Those are true brothers in Christ.
I know this is an incredibly long post, and if you are still reading it you are probably thinking something along the lines of, “Ok, so you have had this awesome ‘God’ experience, but how is it really going to take effect in your life? What difference is it really going to make? What are you going to do now?” Well, I’m glad you asked! There are actually quite a few different things I plan on doing, and I’ll touch on most of them but am not going to go into a lot of detail simply because I have left my life 100% open to the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit and my plans may not necessarily line up with His as time goes on.
The very first thing has to do with forgiveness. I have written several people in both my current life and past life letters. In these letters I have confessed my sin before them and asked them to forgive me. There were a couple letters that I also extended my forgiveness TO them. I assure you, every single letter was very painful and difficult to write, but I am confident that this is something God is calling me to do simply as a way of breaking me. There are others I have gone to and will go to in person and ask for forgiveness. This is where I plan to start.
The second thing I want to do, although I am sure it will not come second in sequence at the moment due to lack of funds, but I am going to get a tattoo on my forearm and I have some significant ideas in mind for it. I know I always said I would never get something I couldn’t cover up, but this is going to be visible on purpose to be an open reminder to me of this time of brokenness and for others to see and if they ask me what it means I can share with them what God has done in my life. I should still be able to cover it with sleeves thought in case I ever go into the professional world. LOL
Thirdly, it is actually a mixture of several ideas. I know I am getting involved with a couple men’s groups, outreach ministries, and stuff like that, but all are still in the making. I would encourage anyone to get a hold of me if they want to join a group with me or even start a group.
And lastly, but really most importantly, as I grow DAILY in my relationship with Christ, I aim to be the best friend anyone could ever ask for besides Jesus Christ. A true friend. No hidden motives, just someone to fight with, grow with, rely on, and be there for you. Yes…that includes YOU.
I understand if you think I’m nuts. You may not share my views, beliefs, or ideas, and that is ok. I am still here for you and am not going to judge you. However I will love you.
If any of you are reading this and I have overlooked you in any way as far as coming to you, I want to publically apologize to you for any way I may have wronged you, hurt you, used you, or simply have not been a friend for you. I’m not perfect and definitely a work in progress, but my goal is Jesus Christ.
I would like to close this post with another YouTube video. Make sure you watch the whole thing…I promise it will shock you…
Thank you all for your love and support. I love you all, friend or enemy it does not matter, because I love you with the love of Jesus Christ and I will stick by that no matter how easy or hard.