It’s that time again…
The other morning while we were all getting ready for the day, I asked Adam if he had noticed the theme of Lent popping up frequently.
He said, “Zach mentioned he noticed more lent accumulating on top of the dryer these days.”
I was brushing my teeth when he said that and I nearly blasted toothpaste on the bathroom mirror.
Trying to regain my seriousness, I said, “Well, do you feel God leading you to give up anything to listen to Him?”
“Fasting,” he replied, regaining his air of sarcasm, and clearly avoiding the subject.
“Fasting?,” I repeated, drying off my mouth.
“Yes, you know, fasting from fasting.”
“Ha!” I responded. “So glad we could have this conversation. I have to take the kids to school now,” I said with a smile and walked out of the bathroom.
As I drove, I pondered our conversation, for I love Adam’s sarcastic sense of humor. It perfectly balances out my tendency to over think just about everything.
I’ve embraced the Lent season from time to time, although it wasn’t something I grew up observing.
I like the idea of quieting my heart in order to listen to the Lord more in preparation for Resurrection day.
The Lord has used periods of fasting – Lent and other times – to speak truth to me and show me what intimacy with Him truly is.
This year, as I tried to be serious enough for both of us, I heard a strong message deep down in my bones.
It wasn’t to give up chocolate, music or social media. This year I want to silence the voice of fear, shame and control in my life, once and for all.
I am done being afraid! (as grammatically incorrect as that is) Afraid of my thoughts, of what-ifs and what-nots. Done!
I am slamming the door and walking away from feeling ashamed at things I’ve done in my life that Jesus has Redeemed. He has given me a new name and I am His. Nothing I have done or will do can ever snatch me out of His hand.
I let go of the reins to control my life. I naturally want to steer the course for my life and tell Jesus to catch up. I lay that down and yield to His guidance. I commit to diligently steward what He has given me to oversee. But, I will stop trying to tell God what fruit I want to produce and will instead, grow where He plants me.
I believe that by giving up these things, and embracing the freedom that is mine in Christ, I will hear God’s voice more clearly and worship Him more freely this Resurrection Day, and everyday! In other words, I am walking away a winner!
Just in case you want to read more about those shameful secrets I’m walking away from, I talk about them in my book that’s coming out this year. Here’s another snippet…
I remember our small, country Bible church brimming over with kids for Wednesday night AWANA club. I remember the games outside on the basketball course, the store nights, the crazy hair nights, and the hours spent memorizing verses. Every week, we’d sing the theme verse from 2 Timothy, “Approved workmen are not ashamed…”
It’s funny what we remember as adults. Many of the words are fuzzy, but I can remember chanting that chorus loud and proud. Yet, now I realize I didn’t fully understand them, I just enjoyed the sense of pride I had, standing tall amongst sixty other kids, singing God’s Word at the top of our lungs.
Now as an adult, twenty-five years later, I sat in a quiet hotel room one Saturday morning at a women’s conference, and the words of that verse flooded my memory. Like a fresh breeze of warm spring air to my sun-starved face, those words sank in, and they nourished my soul.
The day before, this conference began with me withdrawing $200 of what I found to be our remaining $300 in savings to pay for gas, dinners and any books that called my name at the eye-catching book table. Immediately, shame twisted my stomach at the bare truth of our financial situation. Earlier this year, my husband had heard a challenge from the Lord not to take on any more debt, and so we converted to a cash only budget. God faithfully provided all our needs and confirmed we were walking in obedience.
But by March, our savings were drained.
So as I pulled that money out, my heart flooded with conflicting emotions. I was so thankful we still had food in the pantry and the bills were paid. Yet we’d been broke before due to dumb choices, and it wasn’t fun. That was a test I thought we’d passed, never to take again.
I remembered the verse taped to the wall in my kitchen. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide for yourselves purses that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). The morning I drove to the conference, I hoped that was true, for my earthly possessions equaled $100 at that point.
My mind pondered these things as I sat on the cozy hotel bed and allowed the Spirit of God to speak to me in the quiet of my heart. As a home-schooling mom of three kiddos, that kind of quiet doesn’t come every day. It is sacred. I wondered if I needed to take off my shoes as Moses did, when he entered God’s presence at the burning bush. In that serene moment, I realized I had been living with shame. Reaching the bottom of our savings barrel, again, brought back the dreaded memory of past years of financial bondage.
I vividly remembered the time, ten plus years ago, Adam and I went to eat lunch at Brahms, just down the road from our apartment. We ordered a #1 hamburger and french fries to share, and swiped the credit card to pay for it, not because of convenience, but because we had no cash. No cash on hand. No cash in the bank. I remember watching the next people in line, ordering for their family and pulling out a twenty dollar bill to pay with. And I remember thinking, I will never take for granted being able to eat out again, and pay for it.
There was another time in our history that I had freeze-framed in my mind that came back to life, just like a flashback in a movie. I saw myself, standing beside Adam at the little desk where he would pay bills. It was a Sunday night, before we had children, and Friday had been pay day. After we subtracted our tithe and bill money, we thumbed through what was left for me to buy groceries with. But there was nothing to thumb through. Only a single twenty-dollar bill remained.
There were tears in my husband’s eyes as he looked at me, his heart breaking in half over his desire to provide abundantly for his family, yet only able to give me twenty dollars to buy food. Instead of giving up and getting mad, Adam grabbed my hand, bowed his head and thanked God for that twenty dollars and prayed He would make it last through the week.
Shame is like an intruder with a back door key. It had sneaked in, through doors I thought were locked, and made itself at home next to me. No matter which direction I turned, I felt like shame was staring me down, and winning.
For a moment, shame is easy to believe, because the fact is, I have messed up. I have done things I regret. I have made stupid financial decisions. I have gone against what I knew to be right. So, it’s easy to just say, “You know, you’re right. What was I thinking?”
But then it keeps going with whispers like, You’ll never heal from this. There’s no reason to keep trying, because it’s no use. You’ll never overcome so you might as well give up.
When I took shame out of the trunk, I discovered it wasn’t simply tied to a single financial decision. It reminded me of when I used to reach in my mom’s desk drawer for a paper clip. My mom, an art teacher for 6-12 graders, had all the kids who were kicked out of band and P.E. I guess to keep their hands busy, they’d string her paper clips together and put them back in the box, laughing as they imagined the next person who would reach in to grab just one. Unknowingly, I would reach in for one paper clip and pull out the whole box in one consecutive line.
That’s what my shame looked like. I took out one remnant, only to find a whole string of stupid decisions attached.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ll stay tuned! If you missed the opening story last week, you can find it HERE.