Last Sunday night, I returned from my Walk To Emmaus. I had spent 72 hours away from my family, with no watch to record the passing of time and no cell phone to check on their progress. I had to trust things were going well. Not to mention, I was much too busy "drawing near" to God to worry if my girls were taking naps or if Brian was sticking to the menu.
In a nutshell, the core topic is God's grace poured out on us and coming to an understanding of that. Personally, in our hearts, not just in our heads.
If I were talking to someone about going, I would give my mini-testimony over the last couple of weeks. How I read a book that finally made my heart figure out what my head has known all along...that God loves me and seeks me out to be His and I don't have to worry about what anybody else is doing (something I struggle with immensely). I used to think that brown eyes were the leftovers that God gave out and you couldn't be "beautiful" unless you had blue eyes. Isn't that crazy? I never thought brown eyes were attractive. But to realize that God loves brown eyes and that he gave them specifically to me....well, it might seem stupid, but it changed my whole way of thinking. I quit thinking of myself as junk.
I could look in the mirror and think to myself, "God thinks this (stretch marks and extra pounds and everything) is hot." Who in the world was I to say that what God thought was hot, was ugly?
I sent this response to a friend who told me that when she looks in the mirror, she feels like throwing up:
It's almost as if knowing that God was wild about me, so who cares that the kids are acting up or that I've got another zit or that my hair is doing a weird thing or I don't have any makeup on. GOD THINKS I'M BEAUTIFUL. Not just loves me, but thinks I'm stunning...in my sweats and no shower all day. I think when you realize that...you won't want to throw up...you'll be prancing in front of the mirror saying to yourself, "The Sovereign God of the Universe thinks this looks GOOD!!!"
So when I went to Emmaus, I was (finally) on the right track that God actually loved me, not just tolerated His idiot, wayward daughter.
Although I had finally realized how God felt about me, one thing hindering me was believing sincerely and truly that no one else loved me (except for Brian). I felt tolerated, at best. I didnt' think anyone cared about me or even thought about me when I wasn't around. All in all, I thought that people were generally just trying to be "nice" when they spoke to me at church or in Bible study or at MOPS. But what about when I wasn't in the room? Did anyone even care?
But praise God, while I was coming to grips with the depth of God's love for me, I received a huge object lesson regarding the love people have for me. People all over the world were praying for the Pilgrims on last weekend's Walk To Emmaus, and had been for two years. Someone who didn't even know me had been praying for me for two years. People in prison had been praying for me. IN PRISON. As if they didn't have more problems than I did that they would be praying for me. That got my attention.
One of the things I was able to do on my Walk that was so healing to me was finally being able to lay down the burden and guilt of sins that I'd been carrying around for years. I'd only asked forgiveness for it a million times, but I could not forgive myself. Since I couldn't do it, I felt for certain that God couldn't either. To finally believe that God's grace was for me, and even for my "terrible sin", was empowering. God really is who He said He is. Jesus would have died if had just been me and my sin. When I asked Him to take the guilt away (something I had never done before) He did.
I feel so renewed. I never felt comfortable putting my hands up to worship God, because of what other people might think. "Who does she think she is? She's not a good enough Christian to do that....quiet, gentle spirit? She doesn't have a quiet bone in her body." But at my Walk, I decided what other people thought didn't make a lick of difference. I know in my heart that God is riveted to me...not just glancing my way when He gets bored with everyone else. I learned that my own selfishness is what keeps me from having God's best and the best that I could have in my family and marriage. God has been really working on my heart in the submission area and I finally feel like I have a grip on that after a while of thinking I was doing it right. And the funny thing is...Brian has noticed...without me saying, "Hey, did you notice I was being submissive there for a second?"
Of course, I want Brian to be the spiritual leader of the household. So I came up with this great idea. Why doesn't he pick a book of the Bible for us to read through and study and then we'll discuss it. So he picked James. Then I told him I didn't want to read James. (Pretty submissive, huh?) But I read it anyway. Every day for a month, we read it. We never did discuss it really, but I think that's okay. The Lord was talking to me anyway. I can use a passage of James to describe my experience at Emmaus.
James 4:7-10 NLT
7: So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. (Right out of the gate, going to Emmaus is very humbling, because you don't really have any idea what's going to happen or what to expect...you have just give it up to Him. You are sharing a room with people that you may have never seen in your life, sitting at a table with even more new people. There are no watches and no cell phones. Every day there are 5 speakers that speak on different topics. The Devil doesn't want us to know about God's grace and love or any of the other subjects discussed. He wants us to think that we are too bad to be loved by God or people and our sins are the sins that can't be forgiven and the more you hear, the more you learn that's just not true. So the Devil has to go...)
8: Draw close to God and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites. (You can't help but draw near to God...and then there's the promise...He will draw near to you. We learn about purifying grace...how God purifies our hearts and our lives.)
9: Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. (We have an opportunity to lay our burdens down...and I did. I had unfinished business with God. I was carrying grief and guilt that I should have put down a long time ago. I was broken for the wrong I had done and the ugliness I had harbored in my heart and how far I'd let myself get from Him. I was upset that I had allowed Satan to let me think I was not worthy to raise my hands and praise God.)
10: When you bow down and admit your dependence on Him, He will lift you up and give you honor. (There could have been nothing more true... after I was able to lay those heavy burdens down and admit that I couldn't even trust my feelings about things, He was able to prove to me that He [and others] cared about me in a way I could finally understand. It was during the "lifting up" part of the weekend that I really felt the love of others (something I had not ever grasped)...and realized that it was okay to have that love, even though I hadn't done anything to "earn" it. I could have cried for days and days and days after that realization. You don't have to "earn" love, the way I'd grown up believing. People don't just tolerate me. People genuinely would go out of their way for me...which I have never thought in a million years.)
Recently, I was told by several people that my bluntness/honesty was my best trait. Yikes. I've decided that I don't want that to be my best trait. I can still be honest and open, but I'm going to be open about my struggles and what the Lord is doing in my life. I am done pretending that everything is okay when it isn't. The Lord has already answered a prayer of mine and is using me. Telling everyone in the world what I'm thinking every minute of the day or making sure everyone knows when I'm not happy about something doesn't seem like the embodiment of a quiet, gentle spirit. And that's what I want. I don't want to laugh out loud when I'm told that I have a quiet, gentle spirit. I'm still going to be me, just a sweeter version of me.
In all of this I've finally learned...I don't have to prove anything to anyone. Even if I was right and people really don't like me or think about me when I'm not there, it's okay. I'm the "apple of His eye" (Psalm 17:8 NLT).