The Stories We Can’t Tell

 

…anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar. …
Dreamscapes #8Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”  Psalm 139:1-2,6

There has been something that has been on my mind a lot lately, something that happened in my spirit though it took me a while to realize and began to understand what it was, and the reason it happened was purely the grace of God. And, I believe, a result of just doing my best to be obedient and do what I believed the Holy Spirit was leading me to do; ministering to you, tackling things that I wasn’t really comfortable tackling— as I talked about some last week.

You ever have God do something in you, you know it was really good but you’re not exactly sure what it was or why it was significant— and harder yet—trying to put it into words? For me it kind of boiled down to this:

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.


These words have been in my heart lately and that’s why I started with this psalm. As I write this I am still struggling with trying to understand what happened and the significance, so, as I have said so many times before to my church, when the Lord is trying to teach me something that is often what I teach on— because then I know it has to come from the Lord and that’s it’s fresh, even if it’s only half baked.

As you may know; I love to tell stories and I love to write. Stories help me to get my point across in a way that people remember and even enjoy, while writing helps me to sort things out in my own mind, it’s therapeutic. Writing and telling the stories of my life helps me to bring order to my life, helps me to deal with things that may have bothered me and— like I have told you in the last few weeks— telling our stories helps us to redeem our past.

It’s taking something that haunts us, that was meant to harm us and turning it into a weapon for good; that story becomes our testimony; the Gospel of Jesus Christ come crashing into our lives, the Holy Spirit eclipsing the flesh, the good chasing away the evil, the Kingdom of God overshadowing the power the evil of this world once held over us— that’s the redemption of our stories, that’s the God of eternity, the God of history becoming the God of our present, and altering our future regardless of our past.

That’s why we can say as in Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Untold stories

But what about the stories that we can’t tell?

A few weeks ago in the church I pastor, at the end of what was the culmination of my series on overcoming the hurts and pains of the past, breaking away from the dead who would drag us back and keep us bound up in fear, doubt, condemnation and guilt—much of it aimed at overcoming the pain of past sexual abuses— I had, like I said, something happen in my Spirit that I didn’t recognize at first, at least not for what it was.

I got done preaching the message “See Her” About the woman that people had labeled as a sinful woman, yet Jesus had seen beyond that hard and false exterior that had been forced upon her and saw the person deep inside that she wanted to be, saw the healing that needed to take place and ministered to it, forgiving her and setting her free.

Jesus had ‘searched her heart and he knew her’— just as the psalm says—and loved her into wholeness. I finished the message and turned things over to the worship team as I normally do and took my seat to join in the worship and, in the midst of the worship, I was overcome with emotion and just started to weep, and I wasn’t sure why. I knew something was happening in my heart, that the Lord was doing something, I wasn’t sure what, but it felt like the Spirit was just washing over me and taking care of something.

Next thing I knew worship was over and the worship leader is looking at me like; ‘okay, your turn.’ So I went up with tears still streaming down my face, normally at this point I give one last thought and then close in prayer; I looked at the faces looking back at me and all I could do was say— let’s just pray—close my eyes and bowed my head. I have no recollection of what I prayed but I think the Lord was in it.

Afterwards I was totally wiped. I thought, okay Lord, this has been a very emotional morning, this last few weeks has been very emotional for a lot of us as, things have been being acknowledged and ministered to that have been swept under the rug for far too long, so yeah, it’s going to be draining as you allow the Lord to use you to bless people. But I quickly realized that this went way beyond that.

The reason I was feeling the way I felt, the reason I had lost it at the end of that series and why I felt so totally emptied—drained— yet freshly empowered to begin a new thing at the same time; was because the Lord had healed me as well, he had ministered to my heart as well; the minster was being ministered to.

The reason I didn’t recognize it was because I was redeeming the stories I can’t tell.  And I didn’t recognize that this was possible.

You see, the amazing thing about our God? He knows us better than we know ourselves and if we trust him, if we follow him into even what seems to be the scary places— ‘the last thing I want to do, the last thing I want to face’ -places— we find redemption and grace.

I had told my church that I didn’t have the stories of sexual abuse so whatever ministry was to be born of this was going to have to be theirs. I never considered myself a victim of sexual abuse but the Lord knew better. The Lord revealed to me that I was a victim, not directly, but I, like so many, was also a victim— anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

You think you are carrying someone else’s pain you think you are feeling someone else’s hurt, you pray for them, you protect them and you wish that you could have done something to have prevented it, and you hate yourself for not being able to prevent it, you just wish you could make it go away—but you don’t recognize what it is doing to your own heart.

When you get the worst news you can possibly get as a parent—twice— and when you learn that your childhood home was far more dysfunctional than you ever imagined and that things were not as safe for all your siblings as you thought they were, when you love people like they are your family and know the secret pain they carry from things that are taunting them from their pasts—when you carry these things but you cannot share them, you cannot tell the stories because they are not your stories and above all you must protect those you love, those are the things that eat you up; the hurt is yours as well.

So, what I learned is, those are the things the Lord knows about and wants to heal as well. Those are the things the Lord cares about. In my obedience to minister to and tackle an issue that nobody wants to talk about, that I certainly didn’t want to talk about, I was ministered to as well, by the Holy Spirit himself.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  —Romans 8

The Lord searched my heart, and really, I am just left standing in awe of our God.

“Lord you searched me and you know me… Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”  I do not know how to pray as I ought, I do not know what all the enemy has planted in my heart, I do not know  why I have such grief, why I have such fears, why does this bother me, why can I not express my frustrations, what is it that eats away at me like a cancer and I can’t explain it let alone counter it —but Lord, you know, you understand, you know exactly what is in my heart, you know exactly what I need— Holy Spirit intercede for me and the very will of God will be done.

And his will is that his children are whole and that they have a “peace that passes all understanding”.

 

 

See Her

woman-with-tear

 

There is an amazing and even startling story in the gospel of Luke (chapter 7:36-50) about a “Sinful Woman” most likely even a prostitute, who crashes a dinner party. She is desperate to find and somehow thank the man who had made her feel human again for the first time in as long as she could remember, the carpenter from Nazareth who was passing through her town.

She brings along her only possession worth anything, a bottle of perfume she had saved up  her illicitly earned money for, but when she arrives she doesn’t know what to do. Everyone is staring and whispering, she doesn’t care, here he is, she starts to sob. Her tears are falling on his feet as he reclines at the table so she does the unthinkable, she gets down and wipes his grimy feet with her own hair and kisses them. —Scandalous.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Everyone is embarrassed and offended, but not Jesus, and not the woman.

There is something very powerful going on here as she finds herself on the floor intimately washing his feet with her own tears and she now knows what she can do with the perfume, it wasn’t silly after all to lug this bottle along, and suddenly feeling overwhelmed with the love that had compelled her to bring this gift to Jesus, even at the risk of humiliation, she completes the spontaneous act of love by doing something she had never imagined doing for anyone, she willingly kisses his feet.

He has not pulled away in repulsion and she does not want this moment to end, she feels a love welling up in her breast that she has never experienced before. So she lingers face down at his feet, still too ashamed to look him in the eye yet too overwhelmed by her feeling of love to care what anyone else thinks.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?

Jesus turned and looked at the woman, Jesus saw her, he had no doubt seen her before and that is why she was now here. He had seen her as the person she knew in her heart that she was, the person she wanted to be, and that had empowered her to become that person. His seeing her had set her free.

And that is why this scenario playing out before them now is not scandalous at all to Jesus. Jesus is in no way being lecherous and allowing a woman to embarrass him along with all the self-righteous sensibilities of everyone there. Jesus Is not bound by cultural biases, Jesus is not tainted by the perverted carnal lust of the flesh, he doesn’t see with the eyes of generations of fallen man who sexualizes everything possible about the opposite sex. He still sees the beauty and purity of what God had originally created to be beautiful and perfect.

Jesus was seeing this woman with his heart, his heart is pure therefore there is no lust involved. Remember the garden, what Genesis says about Adam and Eve? “they were naked and unashamed?” Man was not created full of selfish lust; we took that on ourselves later. As the perfect man, Jesus was seeing her with a heart of purity, and he could see her heart, she was beautiful, she was loving—she was a person. And now he is challenging Simon to do the same. “Simon, do you see this woman?” Stop looking at her with the eyes of your flesh, with the eyes of judgement and perverted perceptions, stop seeing her with disgust and thinly veiled lust—see her heart!

‘She is doing what she is doing out of love, she is doing what you failed to do because you failed to see who it is here before you, you failed to see me—she has not, and because of that, her many sins are forgiven, she has found peace.’

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

‘She sees me because I saw her.’ – Isn’t that what saving faith is, him knowing me, and I knowing him?

Grace

Jesus tells her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Now this sends the religious in the room into a tizzy. “Who does he think he is and what has she done to deserve forgiveness!?”

Well, he is God, that’s who. And she has not done anything, really, she has not proved her loyalty, her obedience, she has not submitted or done any penance, she has not even confessed or spoken a word that we know of for that matter—yet she was forgiven, more than forgiven, saved. Because what she did do was show her love and gratitude in the most sincere and honest way she knew how.

She has given up on pretending long ago. We don’t know her story but it’s not hard to guess. It is likely that she was forced into this lifestyle, an adolescent girl who may have been assaulted and left soiled rendering her unfit for marriage in a culture who placed a young girl’s virginity at the top of the list for marriage criteria, as Jesus’ own mother found out. She may have been sold into prostitution by her own parents who valued money more than her. She may have been forced into the companionship business as an indentured servant or even outright slavery in this Roman province, in the Roman Empire if you were not a citizen proper, you were just as likely to be a slave.  She may have even stolen this perfume from her master, more holy irony.

Either way, she felt left with no other options, no one would ever see her again as anything other than a sinful woman. She was just an object to be used for selfish pleasure or to be scorned as beyond redemption and surely deserving of reproach—the more reproach the better—she doesn’t deserve anything more.

Then comes the teacher from Nazareth. He sees her, he sees the scared little girl that has long ago hidden behind the painted eyes and exotic dress of her trade. He sees beyond the mask of lewdness forced through a tincture of stubborn hardness and anger. He sees the pain and humility—he sees the tenderness that has looked desperately for an outlet, for a heart that would return the love she longed to set free—that cried at night when no one was around and she could no longer ignore it; ‘What have I done to deserve this? Why won’t anyone help me, why can’t anyone see the real me?’

“Simon—do you see this woman?”

No doubt this startled the woman, her first instinctual reaction would have been at this point; “No, don’t look at me, I can’t stand the way people look at me!” Jesus changed that.

Who is he asking you to see?