Raise your hand if you set a word or phrase for this year. What about last year? And the year before?
Yeah, me too.
After a few years of riding a roller coaster with an undiagnosed illness, I knew that my word for 2015 was “Live.”
I knew that I wanted to not just be alive, but to live. I wrote a couple of posts about it. I lived really well for the first few months of the year, expecting to see God move in ways He’d spoken to me about. I was ready to live life to it’s very fullest, and squeeze every drop of lemonade out of every slice of lemon served. Oh yeah, baby, I got this!
Then, something happened. Actually, a lot of something’s didn’t happen. Hmm, alright. I still got this… right?
Except, I didn’t. As the year went on and these things that I’d determined in my mind weren’t playing out, I began to panic a bit. Well… that’s a slight under-exaggeration… I freaked, okay?
This is somewhat unlike me, because I’ve been known to freak a time or two (or maybe five), but I freaked in ways that I’ve never even come close to freaking. I began to experience characteristics and tendencies that I had no idea I was even capable of.
Inquiring minds want to know, don’t they? Fine.
I danced with jealousy, bitterness, insecurity, doubt, fear, lack of concentration, complacency, distrust, unkindness, unhappiness, negativity, disorganization, counter-productiveness, lack of interest, isolation, anxiety, disconnect…. seriously, it keeps going, but I’ll stop there. You get the jest of it.
I was dealing with someone that wasn’t even me. At all. I didn’t know this person. And to be honest, I wasn’t super crazy about her.
Like the annoying guest who has long overstayed their welcome, I wanted her to leave the premises, and never return. But, she didn’t. She lingered. And festered. And grew.
All of a sudden, I couldn’t remember when and how she’d arrived. And it didn’t matter, because, hadn’t she always been there? Maybe she had. I just don’t remember. So, whatever… she was obviously staying.
But wait, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like this me. As it urns out, no one around me really cared for her either. She was causing problems, and she needed to go.
By that time, I wasn’t sure how to rid me of her, though. My typical tactics were useless against her force. I began to see, and realize what was happening, and I wanted out. This was all new to me. After trying the normal female response of hiding it in shame, I prayed for God to take it. This wasn’t of Him, after all. This was not part of anything He’d spoken to me… anything I’d been expecting.
Finally, I broke. The events of the year came crashing down on me, all in an instant.
I had unexpectedly lost two friends within months of one another. My dear friend lost her infant son.
I had lost sight of what God had spoken into me during the early months of the year, because they weren’t playing out the way I had expected. I had this plan all worked up in my head (like, ALL. WORKED. UP). And it didn’t work out that way (shocker, right?).
I had allowed the enemy to steal my joy in an attempt to trick me into thinking that God wasn’t moving.
I had given up on a dream. I had given up on answers to my health. I had given up.
In an attempt to “pull myself together”, I began to stand in the gap for my friend who had lost her son. I prayed relentlessly for her. I poured into her… words that I wasn’t even sure I believed in my core at that time, but that were coming to me and I knew needed to be shared. I needed to be there for her. I needed to make sure she was going to make it through her own dark place. (And to be honest, I pray that I didn’t jack her up more than help her… love you big, Daphne!)
And all the while, though I felt depleted, I also felt like God was speaking those words back to me. Almost as if I was walking through this with her, but in a different way. I didn’t lose my precious baby boy last year.
I lost me.
Rather than following the “word” God had given me for the year, I’d done exactly the opposite. I didn’t live in 2015. I died.
No, not “to self”, as God asks. And no, not physically. But emotionally. Mentally. Spiritually. I was a dead woman walking. Going through the motions, as “they” say. Dry Bones.
My breaking point was also my saving point. I confessed to my husband all that I’d been feeling arise over the last several months. He had already known. Of course he had.
We prayed. We saw my doctor. We sought counseling. We prayed again. And again.
The more I talked, the more I realized how much God was in all of it. I felt like I had failed Him in not “living” up to my promise to Him for that year. But He assured me that He wanted me and loved me, dead or alive, because I’m His daughter.
Ezekiel 37 resonates with my 2015 journey of weird so strongly:
He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
It breathed life into these dry bones of mine! It shook me! It gave me renewed hope, strength, and gumption to LIVE!
Ephesians 5 had been on my heart for weeks as well, the 4th verse of which reminds:
Awake o’ sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you!
Oh God, how I want to be raised from this death. How I want these dry bones to be filled with your breath, your life!
My surrender… these scriptures… love from those around me even in my dead state… made me excited to pray about a new word for 2016. I had a list of powerful words that I desired to use: Fierce, Brave, Thrive, Go, Arise, Shake, and more.
But nope. God kept putting a word in front of me that was all of none of these. I laughed when I heard it… mostly out of embarrassment.
“Mmmmm… yeah… no thanks, God… already been there… remember when I wrote about that word in it’s past tense form last year… with a D at the end?”
But He persisted. And I knew. The word?
I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know what you’re walking through… a wasteland of dry bones, a dark forest of thistles, a raging sea. But know that you are not alone! He sees you. He loves you. Dead or alive, or even halfway in between (where most of us live), He will carry you.
That promise you’re waiting for? Keep waiting. God is in this place, too.
Live where you are. Even when it hurts. Even when it’s confusing.
You’re breathing? Then you have purpose. Yes, even if you feel depleted. Even if you just want to crawl into a hole and shut the light out. Don’t succumb. Keep going.
Take the breath, no matter how shallow. Eventually, it will go deeper.
That crack of light? Hold onto it with all you’ve got. Ask for help. No shame.
Yes, I’m preaching to the choir here. I’ve experienced wastelands, valleys, storms, and waiting before. But this past year was different. I believe that He will bring good from it. I feel it.
I’m learning. I’m walking. I’m breathing. I’m already overwhelmed by what He has taught me about various moments from the past several months. Hold my hand and come with.
And that ‘R’ word for this year? I’m working on it.
Are you where I am? Even if you aren’t, couldn’t we all use a little shake up? Join me in one of the most beautiful Bible studies I’ve ever experienced. Suzie Eller’s 30 Days to Life Shaking Study in the Word has us in Ephesians, finding HOPE and wisdom and promises: www.tsuzanneeller.com
I’m linking up at Suzie Eller’s #livefreeThursday today. Brave women, talking life & death. Check it out: http://tsuzanneeller.com/2016/01/21/what-is-sin/