My call to speak actually started last October when I attended the Women of Joy Conference in San Antonio. It was in that place that God told me if I wanted to be "one in a million," (see Priscilla Shirer's book One in a Million) I needed to get busy learning His Word, His Heart, and His people. It also meant a season of sacrifice and surrender. The following post was born out of that. You'll find it on my blog back from October, but I feel that because it signifies the real start of s(He) Listens, I wanted to share it again with those of you who may not have seen it then. It is also the guest post over at Mindy's place today. Thank you, Mindy, for having me. I can't wait to get to know you better! Here it is:
The waves were rough that day.
I had little Hannah standing next to me in the calf-deep water. Grannie was sitting in front of me, in water that was just a hair shallower. We chatted. We laughed. And we didn't notice the wave behind us. All of the sudden we were smacked with a large, unexpected wave that lifted Hannah off her feet and nearly knocked my 88-pound grandmother under the water. Hannah had already been holding my hand, but since her feet no longer found footing on the ocean floor, the rip tide was carrying her north. I tightened my grip on her and lunged for my grandmother to help her keep her head above water. I had two people who did not have enough strength to battle the wave and undertow on their own, clinging to me. My arms were outstretched, one pulled north and one pulled south. My heels dug into the sand beneath me and I held on as tight as I could, desperate to save them both. The wave passed and everyone righted themselves, hearts beating quickly, relief settling in.
During my quiet time this morning, God replayed this event in my mind. As I looked back at my physical being in that moment, I saw my arms extended in a straight line, each hand 180 degrees away from the other. I saw a cross behind me. And in some sort of weird image that only God can make in order to show His point, I saw myself super-imposed on that cross. I was a sacrifice trying desperately to save two souls, unworried about myself, sure of my footing, but scared for my daughter and my grandmother.
No, I'm not saying I'm Jesus. Not even close. What I think God was asking me was if I was willing to sacrifice my life for those who have not chosen Him. Would I choose to endure waves of pain so that someone else might find life eternal? Then, would I not only live through the pain, but would I be able to eventually choose joy, despite the circumstances?
Can I really lay all that I have down at Your throne? Can I trust You with all that I have and allow You to use me to the fullest extent possible to win souls for You?
Can I let You use my children? Can I let You have my husband? Can I give You free rein over our financial stability? Can I give You my health? My house? My jobs? Will I offer up everything, knowing that I might lose it all, to bring You more glory? Will I willingly seek and find the joy and the presence of Your Hand, no matter what this life may bring?
At the Woman of Joy conference that I attended last weekend, the recurring theme was finding joy in the midst of the most tragic suffering. Steven Curtis Chapman spoke about losing his five year-old daughter. Carol Kent spoke about her son being sentenced to life in prison for committing first-degree murder. Becky Tirabassi spoke about being a teenage alcoholic and her husband's battle with cancer. All these trials. All this suffering. And yet, here they were, allowing God to use these things to win souls for Christ. They weren't martyrs. They were the embodiment of joy because they were living out their purpose. In the midst of it all, at some point, they trusted that God was with them and would lead them, in the end, to victory.
Will I be willing to take the risk to actively surrender my life so that God can use it to the fullest extent possible? Will I die to myself, to my dreams and do whatever heart work it takes to finish the race strong and in His name? Will it be for His glory alone and not for a drop of mine? Will I risk feeling as though I am being torn in two in order to be a part of the most amazing victory in the end?
I don't know if this act of surrender will end in the type of pain these people experienced. I don't believe that God caused these horrible things to happen, but I do think He allowed them to happen so that these amazing people would testify to the power and divine surprises that He gives us in this world. The truth is that there will always be suffering on this earth as we now know it. There will always be pain. It is what we do with that suffering and pain that has the possibility to reveal God's powerful and amazing love, grace, and mercy.
Would you risk it all for Him?
"That evening Jesus' disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them. 'Don't be afraid. I am here!' Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!" John 6: 16-21