Monday, February 24, 2014

When Costco feels small and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post! We are raising scholarship funds for the 3rd Annual SDG Retreat: More than Conquerors.
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There are some people I wish to avoid.

Especially like those who have hurt me.  I have this issue of smarting for a long time. I hold tight to my anger and I wear it as armor, head to toe.  You will never get in again, I resolve.

Eventually, I realize it takes too much energy to hold onto these overwhelming emotions and I need my hands for other things.  And so like a scarf unraveling itself on a motorcycle ride, I let my anger go with the wind.

But even though my anger has unwound itself from my body, I'm in no hurry, I think, to seek reconciliation or even a nice, superficial conversation.

But then, she walks into Costco.

There's only one way out of the giant store and I have to go straight past her to get there.  And I have a load of groceries in my cart, so it's not a situation I can skirt with grace.  I'm too big to hide behind the cart and the cart is too big to hide.  I cannot out maneuver, so I start to grab my old armor out of the proverbial closet, prepared to give a small wave and even smaller smile.

And then God speaks.  You wouldn't be trying to avoid the situation, would you?

I can only laugh at that moment because I remember the prayer I prayed that morning, asking God if avoidance is the theme I see glaring me in the face in the fourth chapter of John.

Be careful what you ask for, my dear friend.  He likes to answer our questions, especially when the answers propel us to wholeness.

She hasn't seen me yet, but I'm fortified now with a different shield.  It's one made out of love and I genuinely begin to feel compassion for her as I grip my new armor.  I begin to desire some sort of reconciliation, even a smoothing over of things.  There is no room for a harbored resentment or smoldering bitterness in the body of Christ.  

I find my step quickening, a true smile gracing my face, and a heart that longs to show this woman that I still love her.  And I think to myself, Who are you, Jen, and what has happened to you?

Ah, it must be the work of the Holy Spirit.

We have a five minute or so conversation, long enough to where I have to shift my cart over a few times to make room for the masses exiting Costco.  We check in with each other, about our activities, our families, and we leave each other with a hug.

I grab my cart and even though I feel it's heftiness as I make my way out the door, my heart is light.  I feel free.

I didn't avoid her and because of this small act of obedience, I reaped a harvest of reconciliation, of true forgiveness.  A chain of bondage broke in Costco that day, a chain that had taken hold in the body of Christ, a chain that was holding me back and I hadn't even noticed.  That's what's hard about chains.  Sometimes you don't even realize your tied to them.

I think about the woman Jesus meets at the well, how much time and energy she must spend avoiding the stares and the gossip behind her back.  She had five husbands and was living with another man, so she drew her water from a well outside of town.  But that's not the first evidence of the theme of avoidance we see in this chapter.  It's actually Jesus who avoids first, not her, mind you, but the Pharisees.  He's hightailing it out of Judah, going to Galilee, because His hour has not yet come.  His avoidance was out of obedience.

But Jesus, even though He avoided His outcasters, He doesn't avoid the outcasts.

He doesn't take the normal route to Galilee.  Normally, when the Jews travelled north to south, they took the long way so to avoid the area of Samaria.  The two cultures -- the Jewish and Samaritan --  had been smarting with anger and resentment for over 450 years.  The Jews were disgusted by their intermarrying and impure religion, didn't let them lift a finger to help rebuild the temple.  It was worth it to them to add miles to their travel to avoid contact with these lost ten tribes.

But not Jesus.  He's avoiding the Pharisees for the time being, but He's seeking the lost. And He finds her with her broken heart, drawing water from a well, but dying of spiritual thirst.  She's hurting, she needs healing from shame, she needs a friend, but she's not up to trusting anyone, not even Jesus, just yet.

She uses the same avoidance techniques I'm sure we've all used at one time or another.  Throughout her conversation with Jesus, she uses her cultural norms as a false sense of self-protection (4:9), hoping they pave the way for a hasty exit.  She brings up comparisons, hoping Jesus might feel rejected or "not good enough" to possibly do what He says He will do (4:12).  And she wields easily the weapons of sarcasm (4:15) and misdirection so to divert attention away from the pain she feels when Jesus reveals He knows so much about her (4:20).

But Jesus continues to chip away at these walls of self-protection she wears.  He renders her weapons useless.  He makes Himself unavoidable by the generosity of His love and His acceptance.  And the pain and shame is so deep inside her, the need to be taken in and taken care of an insurmountable desire she can no longer repress, she simply cannot help but avoid His gaze any longer.

Somehow, on the outskirts of town, she has finally found Home.

He tells her:
"But the time is coming -- indeed it's hear now -- when true worshipers will worship him in spirit and in truth.  The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way." (vs. 23)
Jesus had told her the truth about herself and even with all He knew, with all she'd done, He did not avoid her, abandon her, criticize her.

He loved her, told her the Father had been looking for her, and declared Himself her Savior (4:26).

The next thing we know, she's off, running back to the town that had rejected her, that heaped shame upon her, that quite possibly avoided her at all costs.  She's free of her burdens, she's been delivered from her distress, she's been captivated by the One who could not be deceived by avoidance techniques.

She has encountered Love and she desires to share it with those who have not loved her.

And in droves, these people came to see Jesus.  They came to encounter love.  The fields were ripe for harvest and this one woman who was willing to avoid herself and her need for a Savior no longer, was the God-ordained passage way to relationship with Jesus.

Remember, Jesus is passionate about providing a passageway to Him.

When we choose not to deflect, when we choose not to avoid situations He calls us into, when we choose to trade our armor of self-protection in for the very armor of God, we choose to reap a harvest, a harvest sometimes we didn't know existed or that we didn't know we needed.  Perhaps sometimes, we even get the honor of being a passageway to Jesus, used by the very hand of God to usher another into His presence.

May we as the Body of Christ choose not avoidance.  May we choose not to wield the weapons of self-protection and deflection.  Instead, may we choose to love despite cultural norms, despite our own shame and fear, despite our anger and hurt.

Instead, may we reap the harvest and nourish ourselves with the joy that awaits us.

Let's Get Real:  Are you avoiding something/someone in your life?  If you could imagine the harvest you or someone else might reap by NOT avoiding this any longer, what  might that look like?

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Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Kimberly Chase, for bidding and winning! Today, we have this lovely offering from Dawn.  It's not a scarf, but an ear/neck warmer.  Looks to me like something perfect for a not-so-great hair day!
Isn't she pretty!
A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know everyone's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a woven item and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around us, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this item, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Next Monday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
photo credit: SFB579 :) via photopin cc

16 comments :

  1. I'm not sure how I should/could answer that question, but God has me searching my heart. Powerful words here, friend!

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  2. Jennifer, I SO can 'amen!' this line, "Jesus is passionate about providing a passageway to Him." I was thinking during a quiet time earlier that "people don't care how much you know, they want to know how much you care" (Mother Teresa). I want to continue to live out what God's Word tells me, just be a disseminator of more information. People need Jesus to walk up to them in Costco and give them a hug. (Or whatever else He tells us to do...........) Great post!

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    1. "NOT just be......" (typing too fast. sorry).

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  3. I'm avoiding your question. *wink* Seriously, I love this post. Thank you for being brave enough to obey. I admire you so much.

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  4. Maybe it is the name of a new song, or Jody Collins can write a poem ... Obedience is Better Than Avoidance. Because it is true.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

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  5. There are no words to fully express my heart here. This post so resonated with me. See the Lord dealt with me on this very issue and last week I met with a friend after having not seen her for 4 years. Although I harbored nothing against her, in my heart, I felt she would avoid me if we ever were to encounter each other in a store. And so the Lord compelled me to ask her to breakfast & work it out. Can I just say there is nothing that compares with the joy of obedience! Nothing compares with the relief of knowing you have done the hard thing, done what He required & He is pleased. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as it served as such a confirmation to me as to what the Lord was requiring of me. Blessings!

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    1. I love it when God confirms that He is moving, especially when He uses people far and wide from you to show it!! Love that we are two sisters going through the same thing and can share in His revelation!

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  6. Oh this speaks to me- I have a (friend) that hurt me and I try an avoid her as much as possible. But I run into at the school- of course all our kids are the same age. I think I need to let some stuff go!! Thank you Jen for this.

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    1. Praying for you in this process, Jennifer, and that He would orchestrate this as only He can do.

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  7. I love when the Holy Spirit takes over the way you describe. When we are truly not in our flesh but the Spirit is speaking through us. Thanks for sharing this story. I have recently been accused of avoiding someone - for now I have to stay away from people that get in the way of my relationship with Christ. I'm new in my faith and surrounded by family members who are either atheist or Catholic in name only (Toronto is like that) so have to be very protective of my relationship with the Lord.

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    1. Praying that women who would encourage you in your faith would surround you, Laura.

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  8. LOVE this, Jen... And I love when the Holy Spirit "clears His throat" and is like, "Um, Hellooooo!" Moving testimony... thanks for sharing. (And thanks for hosting this awesome linkup/community!

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  9. This is such a picture of how the enemy loves to keep us captive and alone and bitter, but God seeks to set us free and put us in community and fill us with His peace. Thanks for sharing your story, Jen. I pray that God will help me to be obedient and brave like this.

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  10. Such a beautiful story of obedience and reconciliation and freedom, Jen....Thank you :)

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  11. Thank you for this. I've had an experience where a friend hurt me real bad last year. I went through almost 9 months of spilling nothing but bad out of my mouth of her. And I know what she did, no matter how much she didn't follow Jesus in her actions, it doesn't justify my actions towards her. I barely got to the point where I told her I forgave her a month ago. But I don't think I am truly forgiving. But as I sit here, I pray about my relationship with her and I am often getting no in my prayers. Which means this relationship is good for me no more or at least this point in my life. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't love her still. We live in the same part of town. Two different neighborhoods but there is still a chance I can run into her as you did. And I often think of what if? Truly to me, I would hide myself. And I do not know, honestly, if I will ever be comfortable enough. But there's where I need Jesus.

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    1. Praying that when you do run into her, you would feel Jesus around you, that He would be your protection and strength, and you would feel Him leading you in the situation.

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