when shame becomes changed by meeting grace

 

It’s a comforting thought to know Jesus understands us completely and can see into the depths of our soul. Though we might feel shame at what He will find as His gaze scans those deep, dark layers we prefer to keep hidden from ourselves and others.

During my long weeks of obscurity, hidden away from the blogging community, resting physically, I’ve been very aware that only God really knew and understood the sheer weight of weakness, worry and weariness of mind, body and heart I was struggling with. And only He held the key to recovering deep soul peace and restoration in every way.

I was grateful to be able to work through my need for grace without an audience. I was thankful that God not only lured me gently away from busyness but also knew just when I would be well enough to slowly reenter the public arena again.

Shame becomes exponentially multiplied when our guilt is laid bare and dark deeds are made public. So I’ve always had a certain sympathy for the woman caught in the act of adultery, driven unceremoniously through the streets for all to see.

The Pharisees watch carefully, hoping to trap Jesus into acting unwisely. The crowd also hold their breath as they wait to see what the Messiah will do. He pauses, takes His time to react. And when He does it takes all by surprise, as Jesus reveals the forgiving, merciful heart of God, the way He graciously answers our shame and pain.

An unwavering light

His kind, limpid-liquid gaze brushed mine

like fine, pellucid pearls glowing

lantern-bright—a steady, unwavering

light—reading the depths of my soul

 

He didn’t recoil; rather, he looked

with love, compassion, deep understanding

as though he already knew everything good

bad or indifferent there was to know

 

And I barely lifted my head, kept my

sight glued to ground, where I had been

so carelessly thrown, used to feeling shamed

by those whose eyes scathingly sought mine

 

Yet this Man stooped down, wrote silently upon parched

dusty ground, spoke in surprisingly soft, gentle tones

which carried the authority of God Almighty

making cowards of others—drawing gratitude from me

©joylenton

The wonder of it all is that Jesus still works in human hearts like this. His forgiveness, mercy and grace are rich and free, paid for by His own spilt blood at Calvary. And it brings us up short, as we see our need to follow Christ’s example by being loving, compassionate and merciful toward others.

My friend, you and I are precious to Jesus, oh so valuable and definitely worth dying for in His eyes. Let’s reflect on the weight of glory in that thought, and on such tender compassion rendering us speechless, or issuing praise from us.

“Of course, no one believed in people more than Jesus did. He saw something in Peter worth developing, in the adulterous woman worth forgiving, and in John worth harnessing.” Max Lucado ‘God Is With You Everyday’

Seeking shelter

ashes of love file image ~ post on WoJ

Life can leach the life right out of us if we let it. Drain all vitality. Leave us limp and wilted as can be.

We seek a place to feel safe, free from harm, to rest and recuperate. A shelter for which our soul’s long.

My safe place? In my Saviour’s embrace. Beneath the shadow of His wings.

Clinging close to God’s side is where I want to abide.

And all the more as society (read:government-shaped attitudes) cause me to want to run and hide away.

There is no stable ground to be found in this world. All is shifting sand. Fickle and failing.

Those with sickness, disease and disabilities are increasingly marginalised and ostracised by a society quick to point fingers but slow to lift them to help.

Compassion doesn’t often seem to extend to those too ill to work. We are presumed to be lazy good-for-nothings, until proved otherwise.

The poem below was written out of my personal experience of living with M.E, fibromyalgia and other chronic illness for over 20 years.

I wasn’t going to write today, depleted and drained as I am. But God graced me with these words on a subject I feel strongly about.

It is also written in empathy and sympathy for all who suffer and to honour International ME/CSF/ & FM Awareness Day.

‘Silenced’

silenced PJ poem image

My voice is weak

Silenced by the strong

While I have a soul longing

to seek a place of shelter

Somewhere I can belong

Bathe these wounds

in Gilead’s balm

Receive oil of joy

to slip away from harm

Pain penetrates each day

Its probing fingers linger

like a stubborn stain

Leaving me weaker than before

Coated in a covering of shame

Living on the margins

Broken by its borders

A limp-ragged doll, I blink

wary eyes at society

and slink away to hide

Because I’m washed up

by its tide, become detritus

on the shore, breathless

in my distress, dis-ease

But the Healer hears and sees

Cradles His hurting child

Gathers her fragments, lost soul

Breathes new life, new hope

to restore and make her whole

©JoyLenton2015

beach low tide PJ poem pin

A bittersweet life

Life can feel as topsy-turvy as a rollercoaster ride.

One moment we are cresting the waves, reaching for the sky ~ the next we sink deep and plummet to earth with a bang.

Our emotions as changeable as the weather and just as unpredictable.

It doesn’t take much. Just check your phone, tablet or i-pad. See how many notifications, likes, comments, follows and positive responses there are ~ or not as the case may be.

Where’s the stability in a life lived by the varying opinions of others?

We are hardwired for love, security and approval. God put it into our DNA.

He expects us to receive the full approval we need from Him alone. Yet we go chasing empty cisterns when His well never runs dry.

How we hunger for validation. Look for any means to satisfy our appetites. Though, if we look in the wrong places,  it soon leaves us emptier than before.

‘Bittersweet’

Approval, compliments and favour

flow sweet as liquid honey

and we savour their soothing flavour

find ourselves craving so much more

to satisfy a desire inside where we

hide small ~ afraid we’re not enough

Disapproval, criticism and derision

sting brutal, sharp as lemon sour

and we shrink further back

into our shells, craven cowards

who lack a shred of self-worth

in our shrivelled disposition

So we swing ~ from pain to bliss

depending on our mood

and how much, or how little,

we feel loved, cherished and approved

Walls cracked as toffee brittle,

defences crumbling, gaping, split

©JoyLenton2014

“We can be sealed for eternity, Christ-bought and heaven-bound but still live like cowards, locked down by the chains of what people might think of us” ~ Jennifer Dukes Lee ‘Love Idol’

The approval monster is an insatiable beast. Offer him tidbits and he will lick his lips appreciatively for a while, but it won’t be long before he’s demanding a full-blown meal or a veritable feast to satisfy his appetite.

As an insecure child at heart, I have been greatly tempted to seek my worth and value in other people and other things.

Our best and most lasting way to find satisfaction is to see ourselves as we are in Christ. Look in the mirror of God’s word instead of sighing over the reflection in the glass.

When the world says:You’re a failure by our standards; you’re ‘less than’ until we say you’re ‘enough’; you’re rejected, unless you come up higher; you’re unworthy, just because we say so ~ how should we respond?

How would it look to live, love, work and write for an audience of One?

How would we feel if we could truly believe and receive how God perceives us?

I’m not sure as yet. I’m feeling stuck, stalled by situations and problems looming large. Sidelined by sickness. Derailed by doubt.

Yet despite these setbacks, I am choosing to study God’s word, relinquish and demolish my ‘love idols’, apply the biblical precepts, draw help from Jennifer’s book see how to grow into a deeper awareness of how much God loves and pre-approves of me, and discover who I already am in Christ.

And that’s the best way to start ~ with a hungry, open heart toward Him. God is a rewarder of all who earnestly and diligently seek Him.

I’d love you to join me as I chart my stumbling journey into wholeness. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

There’s a growing community here  seeking to live pre-approved. Would you join us? I hope so. We don’t have to live stalled lives, stuck in the people-approval trap. 

We can learn to release all that’s holding us back from living fully, freely and joyfully committed to God’s ways.

“He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon” ~ Psalm 37:6 ‘The Message’

Joining with friends Ruth Jennifer and Lyli

Living freely

Aren’t you relieved there are no identi-kit Christians?

We don’t have to look or sound alike.

Having unity together is more about fellowship and being united in love than having full agreement on more than the fundamentals of our faith.

We are allowed to be ourselves. See wood where others see trees. Sense Holy Spirit’s presence in a variety of ways.

God meets us right where we are, at our point of greatest need.

He chased me and wooed me with His unconditional Love.

It was something I’d never encountered before, but my empty, old before its time, desperate-child heart yearned for it.

Here was safety. Here lay security. Here flowed acceptance and peace.

And I came to faith in a ‘happy-clappy’ environment where joy and exuberance were the order of the day.

I wore ‘Jesus Loves Me/You’ stickers, a big grin, innocent optimism in sharing my new-found life in Christ, and a profound gratitude toward God for the glorious gift of salvation.

So I continued for a little while until mental health breakdown, partial recovery, followed by life’s multiple challenges, another breakdown and a haunting legacy of childhood abuse sucked all the joy out of life.

Depression and emotional pain skewed my thinking, clouded my judgement, and left me lost in the wilderness for many years.

Where did God feature? Was His love enough? Was it my fault?

A slow recovery took place and I had a fresh revelation of grace. I drank it deep into my very being as soul manna and sustenance.

But having begun my faith journey majoring on love and forgiveness, I was still largely ignorant of sin and reluctant to speak or think about it. This woman was already stained by her past, full of guilt, shame, self-recrimination and condemnation. And God loved her anyway. 

Because, wasn’t God a God of love? Didn’t grace and forgiveness cover all?

Oh yes.

Though grace is cheapened if we fail to fully appreciate the price Jesus paid to secure it for us.

Now, a little older (and wiser maybe?), though I still struggle with self-esteem issues and will always veer the conversation round to grace and encouragement than otherwise, it is gradually dawning on me how sin cannot be ignored or swept away.

And I am still getting my head around how to achieve the balance between hating sin yet not hating myself. Maybe you get stuck there too?

My soul seeks freedom from all that chained me and those things enslaving me now.

I want to embrace grace and be free to give it to others.

So I am leaning into His love as I think. question, talk about sin’s effects and outworkings, see how fallible and tainted I am and yet (marvellously) so dearly loved and cherished by our heavenly Father ~ just as you are too.

******

Here is a ‘Prayer Whisper’ which God poured into my listening heart last February. It still speaks volumes to me and I hope it will bless you too:

file000402181324“How easily you can fool yourself that you’re not sinning. To justify your actions with excuses and cover-ups.

Allow My Holy Light to shine upon your thoughts, words and deeds. Do not be afraid of its consuming power. It will not harm you.

I seek only to burn off the dross and detritus you carry. Such things weigh you down, sully your relationship with Me and sour your interactions with others.

I want to set you free, even from those burdens you have barely noticed as such ~ so familiar have they become.

It is only in the cleansing which follows letting go and laying down that real change and transformation can happen.

Bad habits pollute your mind and body. Once you are able to set them down before Me, you can begin the process of breaking free from them.

Open yourself. Be real before Me. I already know everything about you. Seek to live freely and lightly in the liberty of My Presence.

My purity and power are available to enable and equip you for the next stage of your journey.”

********

“The fact that God is love, that He is pure, holy and righteous is the reason why He is angry at sin. It violates, distorts, and destroys what His purpose is. Wrath is inevitable to a God of love, otherwise the love would be tenuous and weak” ~ Charles Price ‘My Daily Journey with Christ’ 

Joining here with Diana and other questing souls as we are #LivingtheQuestions and #LivingintotheAnswers

This week’s question:”What’s with all this talk about sin?”  You are very welcome to hop over and join in the discussion.

Also linking with Mel and Laura

Being framed

Although it’s an inescapable reality, I try not to write much about or dwell upon my life as an M.E and chronic illness sufferer.

It can feel intrusive enough already.

Each day brings fresh reminders of pain and limitations.

A life framed by feelings I’d rather not have.

They can make life miserable indeed.

Though sharing misery is not really my goal or mission at all.

My emphasis is more on God’s grace to sustain, strengthen, heal and restore than on how it feels to be sick.

But I am making an exception today by sharing a poem that was originally featured on my other writing place Words of Joy and is mentioned in the current post there.

It was written at a time when society’s impressions were being greatly influenced by governmental views and decisions and is very much a poetic lament in support of all who live with such experiences.

Sadly, there has been no let up since.

It speaks of the unwarranted stigma and shame that sufferers can experience.

I hope you will come away from reading it feeling better informed and aware, with some insight into the lives of those with ‘invisible illnesses’.

Being Framed

I’ve been framed, boxed, categorised,

sifted, found wanting in society’s eyes

I’m not the woman they think they see,

but an inner person that’s really me

Viewing the image the mirror provides

if I dare to risk, turning away with sighs

Decades of illness have left their mark

and it’s hard to bear living in shaded dark

My eyes need rest I urgently seek,

the brain is foggy, body made weak

Pain and deformity cripple the frame

and it’s hard to remember inside I’m the same

A woman with dreams and a heart to express

all that’s buried within, though under duress

I want to be seen as I feel inside

but external appearance causes me to hide

Days without number I face my fears

that grow as hard to scale as our home stairs,

that this won’t go away and I might not be healed

that the inner joy may be forever concealed

For it’s hard to stay cheerful, harder still to be bright

in a world that pushes us out of sight

We’re the invisible people, out of the game

our only identity is pain and shame

Huge in number, if weak of voice,

the nameless ones who cannot rejoice

until labels and badges no longer apply

and we don’t have to keep asking you, “Why?”

Why not believe us, why not accept

this could happen to you, being sick and wrecked

Your body a tomb for a spirit that’s chained,

a livelihood lost, prison sentence gained

Eyes that accuse, hearts that are hard

do nothing but continue marking our card

Treated with scorn, hostility, derision,

our whole future residing on whim of decision

Fear haunts our days and disturbs our nights,

energy drained further to keep fighting our rights

Please, won’t you listen and heed the weak

as you hear our stories of the justice we seek?

Please remember we are people too,

not numbers, statistics, a warped world view

Lives are at stake as bodies fail,

strong in intent, though our hearts quail

Life in the Slow Lane can be no life at all

when it grinds to a halt against a brick wall

If you know someone who has M.E,

please help them and tell them you see,

you witness their pain, you understand the need

and you won’t turn away, you will pay heed

All we ask is for people to see who we are,

recognising this disease will take us far

into a future where compassion can reign

instead of resentment, sadness and shame

©JoyLenton2013

Despite the negative tone in the poem above, I am very much kept positive and hopeful by God’s continual outpouring of endurance, strength and love. Some days may be really challenging but His grace is always sufficient for every need.

This topic is being aired today as I am guest posting on my friend Mia’s site. I’d love you to come on over and read the full post here.

Day 5 of 31 days of #poetryforthesoul