Stripped.

Have you ever lost a piece of jewelry or watched a similar small but valuable object inevitably careen down the drain, as it slips from your grip. Can you picture yourself in that place of horror, as you watch something you love spiral relentlessly out of your control? Can you stir up your emotions as the thing you once loved is now far from your reach or recovery?

For anyone who has ever had full capacity of their body and then have lost it in some way or another, this is about as close to relating the tumultuous onslaught of emotions as one can get.

It’s never an easy phase of life to have everything you once embodied stripped bare from the frame that once stood strong and proud. To walk into a room where you once shone and prominently placed yourself to be noticed, to hoping that you’ll fade into oblivion and not catch the eyes of those who once esteemed you. To have felt pain and pushed through, and to alternately be pushed to the brink of pain or at least what you you suppose you can withstand.

For most of my life I have identified myself as a victim. A victim of abuse, a victim of depression, a victim of anyone who has ever wronged me. My identity was entangled in every injustice that had flagged my past. Once my emotional healing commenced, and the demons of my past were brought to light in order to be disarmed, a large part of my soul lashed out and struggled through this process of metamorphosis, much like how a fish freshly caught will fight, and flap, and wrestle against its foe, resisting to the end. In both cases, a death occurs, yet in the war within our soul there is a reincarnation. With the bitter, ugly wreckage of the past resolved, one can begin again, anew, with a fresh tablet to fill. This is what Christ does when we surrender our lives to Him and allow His ultimate healing to take place within us.

It’s funny then, how with all this healing and restoration available to us, we still cling to our dusty old rags of the past. How we still want to put on our tattered clothing rather than dressing ourselves in His white robe of cleanly wholeness which He so tries to lovingly extend to us. It baffles me the strangeness of our struggle against and through the process of refinement, though we know it ultimately leads to greater perfection. That somehow, in some illogical way, we still cling to our dirty, broken, and troubled pasts for fear that if we lose our hurts, we will lose our identity, and inevitably lose ourselves. In all this struggle it seems to be that our greatest fear is the fear of what we would be without those broken pieces that we so desperately cling to.

In all this struggle it seems to be that our greatest fear is the fear of what we would be without those broken pieces that we so desperately cling to.

We so often forget that He promises to take the fragmented pieces of our brokenness so that He might replace them with His love, to mold us back together again, to give us beauty for our ashes. It’s like we don’t trust Him enough with the parts of our lives where we need Him the most. That we’ve become too independent in our stories to the point that we’ve jumped the pages and are now trying to narrate our lives when only the author knows how the story must progress to reach the desired ending. We’ve relied too heavily on the resiliency of human nature, forgetting that the only sliver of resiliency that remains in us is because He has branded it into our being. We’re forgetting the source of our strength, and we’re running to our own solutions rather than to His Grand Redemption

We’re forgetting the source of our strength, and we’re running to our own solutions rather than to His Grand Redemption..

It’s funny, really, that for all our striving and all our straining we can only move a fraction as far as we could have if we just relented to His will at the onset. And sometimes His will isn’t what we expect or desire at the outlook; sometimes it calls us into struggle, into messy areas of our lives, or into outwardly perceived road blocks which don’t logically make sense in our feeble minds. He strips us bare. But He also promises to give us far more than He would ever ask in sacrifice. Like Job, who for all his turmoil the Lord blessed in his latter days more than in his former. And one of my favorite passages in Hosea, in which the writer, calling for repentance, so beautifully states that “He has torn us, that He may heal us,” (6:1). Sometimes He has to break us to bless us, as Jacob learned amidst wrestling with God in flesh.

In spite of everything, the way things appear, the struggles we may have to go through in life, whatever the plight, the overarching message is this: God will not break us without wholly intending to put us back together. The whole purpose of brokenness is restoration. God’s will for you in your situation is the same that it is for me, the same that it’s been for all of time. He aims to heal us, He aims to redeem our failures, He aims to make us whole, He aims to make us new, and more than anything He desires to enter into an intimate, eternal relationship with us. And as I am learning through this process of renewal, this at times agonizing season of breaking, pruning, and refinement, is that anything in our lives that isn’t whole and pure and of God will keep us from closer intimacy with Him. All of the hurts we hold onto, the lies we believe, the sin we take pleasure in, the strongholds that chain us, will all inevitably keep us from complete wholeness in Him. He hates separation from man, so much so that He sent His son in the form of flesh to break that barrier once and for all. But He’s still a gentleman, He’s still not forceful about it. He still wants you to choose. And once you do, you open the floodgate for His transformative hand to rest heavy in your heart and life. It’s as if He’s gently coaxing us to give Him all we prayed we wanted Him to have.

God will not break us without wholly intending to put us back together. The whole purpose of brokenness is restoration.

And this is what He’s doing in my own life. I asked for more of Him, and He answered by proceeding to remove the pieces of my life that had to go. The bordering obsession with physical perfection, the need to control every aspect of my life, the placing of God’s gifts of blessing above the Blesser Himself. Even now, I can almost hear Him saying, “Yes my child, this has to hurt, but it will heal you if you let me open these wounds once more.” Like a skillful surgeon with the scalpel in hand He has been cutting out the things in my life that have not served His purposes for me. My pride, my haughty spirit, my idols (of which there were many), my false gods, my false perceptions of Him, my stubbornness, my lack of empathy, my impatience. The list goes on and on, but beneath them all He’s been revealing the one resistant root that may be the very thing keeping me from the harvest He has for me in this and many other seasons: my independent spirit. This self-reliance I’ve clung to my whole life that has given fuel to the fire of self-will, a defiance that only the chaff of loving and corrective chastisement can break.

Spending the majority of one’s life as a victim will inevitably lead to leaning on the self for security, for means of saving. Yes, I had become my own savior and had rejected the One who’s saving grace I desperately needed more than all my self-escape routes (of which there always were many). Though I have wrestled with God throughout life, relinquishing portions of my will bit by bit, I still had not surrendered the one thing He wanted most: my complete reliance on Him. Recently, as I found myself on the other side of the country, but a day into a women’s conference that was rapidly and overwhelmingly stirring the uncomfortable outside of me, I realized just how much my self-reliance had become my handicap. How the very thing I thought was my source of safety was actually the impediment preventing me from running fully in tune with His leading and guidance.

In those desperate hours of utter brokenness and crying out to the Lord, His Spirit began to gently and lovingly convict me of the many ways throughout the years that I had thumbed my nose at His plans and defiantly interjected my own way in the place of His, all in self-defeating effort to protect myself. And as I sat in the back of that praise filled sanctuary of fellow retreat going women sobbing to seemingly no end, I realized how much I had grieved the Lord by unawaringly rejecting Him as my true source of deliverance for so many years. And what was most beautiful about this whole scene is that there was no condemnation, only gentle and loving correction and a deep desire to rid myself once and for all of this crutch and instead lean wholly on His strength. Soon I was swathed in the embraces of three loving sisters, my roommates, covering me in love and prayer, and I sensed His Spirit beginning a work that night of this process I find myself in the midst of now, of entirely yielding myself to Him and His will, no matter the outcomes that may follow as a result.

And so, though this journey and season of loss has been anything but easy and anything but comfortable, I am finally beginning to see that it’s better not to struggle against the Living, Love defined God, but rather to relinquish and rest in whatever or wherever He’s placing you in this season of your life. Yes, I have lost much; from the outside, arguably everything I once embodied and loved. My whole identity has been forced into a process of reshaping. What I’ve gained, however, is far more than the chains I so stubbornly relented to let go. Though He asked me for my most valued pieces of life, and though I have vehemently mourned their loss as I’ve watched them slip from the clutches of my control, I see now as I look up from my despair, as I wipe the clouded tears from my eyes up to the direction of His loving gaze with eyes of faith, that He is ready to give me jewels more precious than that which I lost. That he is able to reclaim, restore, and recover all that was before and all that I never even knew I had. That His plans far exceed A or B, or any other of my own. His arms and His hands are outstretched, and as a loving Father He is affectionately whispering in my ear, “All is not lost.”

All is not lost, but everything gained, when you lose yourself in Him. So unclench your hands. Let go of that which you cling to. He has so much more with which to fill.

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