Youth Restored

shutterstock_95623018(1)God speaks to us in a myriad of ways – you know…His word, blinding light, a donkey – and most recently in my life a beautiful seventeen year old girl bursting with energy and love.

You see I went on a women’s “retreat” for lack of a better word for 5 ½ days last week and throughout this whole week of undistracted time with the Lord, He really had an opportunity to talk to me about some things. I was obliged to listen.

This particular time with the Lord dealt with many deep seated hurts, longings, issues. In effect – a life changing experience. In an activity that we were asked to do, I used crafts to create something that I had not since I was in elementary school. I truly felt that it was a reminder of youth, fun, spontaneity. I had been accused of being too serious, too “deep” and told to lighten up more times than I care to admit. As a young teenage mother, I learned how to be practical. Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew how to party. There is a truly big difference in someone being light-hearted and fun-spirited and someone who can get drunk and think they are having a good time. Very, very different things. But I digress…

In the midst of my healing during this last week, a day was spent mourning my youth. Granted, I didn’t even know that I needed to mourn my lost youth. I was the kind of girl who just felt like you had to move on, what other choice do you have? God said otherwise. And into my life walked whom I now affectionately call my “little sister in Christ”. Bouncy and bubbly she showed me a reflection of a part of me that had been missing. Spontaneous fun, laughing, joking – no worries, no responsibilities. She showed me what it looked like to love the Lord unabashedly and without restraint. She showed me how exhilarating it could be to sneak out at midnight and scare the pants off of your sisters in the house down the road. (Haha!)

At the same time God did something for me that showed me how much He cares about the desires of my heart. A longing of mine had been to go to university to study – 1) because I love to learn and 2) because I truly longed for the experience to meet people and form relationships with people from other parts of the country. That is one thing I had always envied about people who went away to college, the lifelong relationships they made (and the friends to go visit on vacation!). Needless to say, on this retreat there were 27 women from 10 different states. I told the Lord that this was like college! And I clearly heard Him tell me that that was how much He loved me. I later found out that this was the first time there were that many women from that many different states at this event. Coincidence? I think not.

He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
Psalm 103:3-5 (MSG)

God crowned me with love and mercy and He renewed my youth. If you see me singing at the top of my lungs in my car or dancing down the street, you should really come and join in. Life is more fun like this. 😉

Written by Jamie Stapleton

She

shutterstock_142613923This may sound strange, but over the past year I have begged God for a meek and feeble request that he might cause me to fall in love with myself. Not in an arrogant and self-righteous manner, but from an attitude of humility, to view myself from His gaze: by His grace. To love myself with each breath, breathing in simultaneously through one nostril awareness of who I am without Jesus: insufficient, depraved and desperate, and through the other who I am with Him: perfected, loved and redeemed. Both are significant to my existence as a follower of Christ, for me to be known accurately, and to be loved wholly.

What follows describes She— the “person” in all of us that we are ashamed of. My hope for this post is that you will find your identity in Jesus and allow Him to shape the “she” in you. Its not an overnight process, but it is a process that every believer should go through. I pray that you will see who you are without Jesus and who you are with Jesus!

She likes to think she knows who she is. Her answer is sure when she feels loved by God. Self-acceptance is relatively easy when her life is together and support systems are in place. At times, she may even claim that she is coming to love herself. When she is strong, on top, and in control, her sense of control crystalizes. But what happens when she no longer feels loved? When her sin is exposed and her failures are highlighted? What happens when her fears come true and her dreams shatter?

As the pretender, she is a compromiser to her true self: insecure in her own skin and using others for how she might win. She adapts to each evolving situation and as a result she doesn’t have a personality of her own. Her identity comes from meeting the needs of others and performing with excellence. Success to her is people liking and approving of her. Failure is being rejected.

Because of her suffocating need to please others, she cannot say no with the same confidence with which she says yes. Motivated by the fear of not living up to others expectations, she overextends herself in projects, people, and programs. Living out of her creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire her yet she will still remain unknown. Her life becomes a perpetual roller-coaster ride of delight and depression. She is preoccupied with her weight and often grieved by the scale. The reflection of her awkward body shape, her puffy hair, and her freckled face in the mirror kidnaps her attention away from the voice of Jesus. It temporarily robs her of the Truth of His Word and she then becomes obedient to the whisper of lies. The amount of time, energy and thought she devotes to acquiring and maintaining the “perfect” image is quite staggering.

She assumes the passive role in relationships, snuffs out her creative thinking, denies her real feelings, and allows herself to be intimidated by others. Preferring to be plain, she blends in– there is less of her to reject that way. She wants only to be safe, to fit in, to be accepted, to be liked. Out of the fear of rejection, she avoids direct speech; she hedges, waffles, and remains silent. She is devoted to a life in the shadows. To her, silence is safer.

She is in me, in all of us. She is a vital part of our total self, but she must be called out of hiding, be accepted and embraced. The art of gentleness towards her leads me to be gentle with others. The hatred I have towards her, the pretender in me, is actually self-hatred. However, God liberates me from self-condemnation with graciousness and an understanding of human weakness that only He can exhibit. He is the one who saves us from her— from ourselves. His name is freedom. His Word is freedom.

Jesus discloses God’s true feelings towards me in the life He lived when He dwelt among us. The understanding and compassion He offered those He encountered then, He also offers you and me.

Naturally, she will forever be in us. I wouldn’t want her to go away. She is a part of me; a part of you; however, she shouldn’t control us. She might get frazzled at times, and start to act out. But the longer we spend time in the presence of Jesus, the less adoration she will need because she will have discovered that HE is enough. In His presence, she will delight in the discovery of what is means to live by grace and not by performance. And she will truly know who she is in Him: loved, redeemed, and His righteousness.

Written by Meredith Nichols