God's jewels was written by Joni Eareckson Tada. Well known to most of the Christian world, she needs no introduction.
We have all heard the analogies of diamonds in the rough and how the friction caused by buffing and scrubbing turn them into the most desirable of gems. And she, of course, uses the story of her life as a quadriplegic as an example. I appreciated her transparency.
In this blog, I'm going to share something that I rarely ever share with anyone, for a variety of reasons. But if one can learn from another's mistakes and bad experiences, then I pray that someone will learn something from what I went through. I'm not at all proud that I allowed myself to lose my confidence in my relationship with Christ. But it happened to me, and as far as I can tell, has also happened to many other Pastor's wives before me. I sometimes forget that even though I live in the midst of a loving congregation, there is sometimes a big red target on my back and if I'm not watching my back, I can sometimes fall prey to a scheme of the enemy. Fortunately God took what the enemy meant for harm and brought wonderful deliverance and victory from it, but had He not been on my side it would have been disastrous.
If we are going to truly be Christian, our Father is going to scrub us from time to time. Some Christians run from these scrubbings, as my sons ran from a bath when they were young. As kids, none of us probably liked having our bodies rubbed red by an over zealous mother determined to get every speck of dirt. (In my case things were potentially worse since sometimes she couldn't discern between specks of dirt and bazillions of freckles.) We didn't enjoy being dunked in the tub to get our hair clean and we certainly didn't enjoy a thick piece of terry cloth being shoved in and behind our ears, but we endured it. And most of us would also have to admit that the feeling of being clean of the day's play dirt and curled up in our beds in a fresh pair of pajamas felt really good. Still does!
I have learned to welcome the Lord's scrubbings because I know that there is going to come with it a freshness and cleanness that is going to feel really good when He's done. But sometimes the process is very grueling and painful. (Fortunately the Lord can discern between spots and freckles!)
I went through a time in my life where the Lord undertook a major spring cleaning event in my life. I had four children, three who were still in diapers. Life was hectic! My husband was busy working in the church and driving a school bus part time. Unbeknownst to me, someone in the church succumbed to selfish ambition and pride and soon seemed to view me as a major obstacle in their forward progress. Due to this person's influence, over time, I became convinced that I was more of a detriment than a blessing to my husband's ministry. Because I felt that I was a detriment, I withdrew from the women at church because I didn't want to hurt anyone. I had no idea how this had happened in my life and life became very lonely. I felt detached not only from my friends, from the ministry that I had always loved so much, but also from my husband.
I had always been very involved in ministry with my husband. And through the years we had experienced much success together. I knew what my spiritual gifts were and had learned how God used me, and I was very content in what I was doing. But now i became convinced that all the areas of gifting that I had experienced success in beforehand were actually areas of weakness in my life. It was very conflicting for me. I still reached out to women on my own, but as soon as I did, this church member would move to end any relationship or influence I might have had.
This all was very hard. Life became unbearable for me. So I ran to the only place I felt that I had left to run to. I ran to God Himself. I began to lay with my face in the carpet everyday during nap time, seeking God about how I had ventured so far from the truth. I cried, I soaked the carpet, I moaned and groaned because I did not know what to even pray about. You see, I was always taught to respect those in leadership. In our years of being under leadership, we had always been careful to maintain a posture of respect and an attitude of submission, even when we were falsely accused, mistreated or we didn't agree. We always presented a united front with whomever we were under unless it came to the place of compromising our convictions. Then we would resign and leave quietly. I also trusted my husband's judgement about who was in leadership, so it never even crossed my mind that something might be amiss.
As I spent time on the floor, seeking God about the things this church member had pointed out to me, I didn't seem to be getting anywhere. But one day God spoke loudly and clearly to me. One by one, He went through all my petitions showing me that this person did not have my good at heart, but their own promotion. He reassured me that my spiritual gifts were intact. He showed me that what my flesh and this person was trying to get me to believe and what He, by His Spirit, was teaching me were very much at odds, so I needed to follow my spirit. I began to grow stronger. And even though He clearly released me from this person's influence in my life, He also used that time of total submission and desperation to address some things in me that HE wanted to address. It was if He said "forget what that person told you, but while I have you here, I'd like to do something." Day by day, I sat in the Lord's bathtub as He scrubbed and cleaned. At times it felt as if He rubbed me raw, but then He would pour His healing balm on and I would feel the love and purpose that He had for my soul.
In time, some changes occurred. At first I noticed a change in the way I thought about things. Then I noticed a change in the way I reacted to things and people-mainly my husband. Then people in the church began to notice changes in me. And finally, my husband began to notice a change in me. All of the sudden our marriage began to improve-really, really fast! Soon, he began including me in meetings where I had never been allowed before and was asking for my opinion on things. No longer did I feel disconnected from him either in our marriage or in ministry, which for me was a double blessing. I am perfectly happy to just be his wife, but being able to join him in ministry is an awesome privilege too.
Eventually a split occurred in our body that was very devastating and wicked with this church member leading the charge. Many churches would not have survived. But God preserved our body and over the years that followed did some housecleaning of His own. He took what the devil meant for harm and brought much good from it. Today, I wouldn't trade our congregation for any other in the world. Together we have learned some hard lessons, but through it we have gained wisdom. Together we have experienced excruciating pain, but through it have grown together in love. Together we faced a giant and we won!
As a result of all of this drama (I HATE drama), I learned some valuable principles that I still cling to and practice today.
~Take EVERYTHING, no matter the source, good or bad, to the Lord in order for HIM to sort out how it applies to you, or IF it applies to you. This does not mean that you doubt everything you hear, but when questionable things are said that don't immediately ring true in your spirit, allow God to sort it out.
~Learn to discern. If someone seems too good to be true, there is a good chance that they are not true, nor good. Learn to follow your gut, that intuition that God gives you as a woman and as a Christian. Women are so easily driven by needs and emotions that if we are not careful to take notice when we feel a little quickening in our spirit, we may make a wrong turn and end up in a ditch. There are many true people in God's kingdom, but we must watch for gross overcompensation in relationships (someone who is excessively loving or giving of good) because this can, not always, be a signal that there are motives at work that are not completely pure.
~As women, we MUST look to God directly to meet ALL our needs. It's so easy to look to friends or husbands for the emotional, spiritual and physical support that we crave. But when people we are depending on fail us, we then find ourselves in a position that hinders our ability to minister to others because we are so busy trying to overcome hurt and disappointment, that we build a protective wall around our hearts. In order to truly minister to others, we must be able to be vulnerable with others, knowing full well that we might get stabbed in the back but willing to take the chance. But if God is truly the one we look to for provision of ALL our needs, then when people fail us, it won't shake us. Yes, it hurts, but the pain is more short lived because our needs are still all met.
I have learned that for most of my needs, my husband is usually the vehicle that God uses to provide them, but if He doesn't, then I'm not disappointed because I know that God will provide them in some other way. I can't describe what a tremendous difference learning to see God as my only provider has made in my marriage. I'm not putting false hope and unrealistic expectations on my husband. He is free to be used of God in whatever way God chooses, but he finds exceptional joy when God uses him to provide for me.
~Enter the Lord's bathtub willingly. I always seem to know when a time of scrubbing is coming. It may be because I notice that I'm failing or struggling in a certain area of my life. It may be because someone else has brought something to my attention that I wasn't seeing. It might just be a knowing that I get. My first thought is always, "oh, I have disappointed the Lord" and I am sad. But I soon realize that I have come to a place in my life where God wants to scrub a little more of the world off of me and replace it with something good. So I look forward to the times of excruciating honesty because I know what the outcome will ultimately be.
~Keep the big picture in mind. We see our lives so differently than God sees them. We so often want to hurry through the times of preparation to get to the main event. But sometimes, the preparation IS God's main event. God is not in a hurry. He is very intentional in everything He does. And even though we can't always see or understand why in the world certain things are a part of our lives at the moment, in the sweet by and by it will all make perfect sense and we will say "Thank you Lord!."
~Stick to God's timetable. I will often tell my kids something and they will say, "Mom, I KNOW!" But then they run off and prove to me that they don't really know because if they did, they would have heeded what I just said. It takes intentionality and time to learn to put the things God teaches us into practice. And He will provide us tests along the way, not because He needs to see how we're doing, but because WE need to see how we're doing. Sometimes we may feel that we're going back to the drawing table, but God builds in us line upon line, precept upon precept, but when He is done, we can know that the foundation is sure and that further building will not crumble or fall. In all stages of His building, it may feel that He is reteaching when really He is just adding another layer to an already existing truth. I look at God's building in my life like I look at Baklava. There are those thin, flaky layers of crust, one on top of another on top of another on top of another. They're so thin, they appear to be one thicker layer. Eventually you actually get to layer some substance in the middle and then you go back to those thin, flaky layers again.
The end result? We are His workmanship, having a sweet savour to the world. We are built on a solid foundation, not easily shaken, full of His wisdom, operating in His grace, being a correct representation of Him to the world. We have been to the refiner's fire and we've been buffed by His Holy Spirit. We are precious jewels in His kingdom. May we always shine for God.