I have more material possessions than 95% of the current human population on this earth.
I found this coin when I was 10 years old. I was camping about an hour east of Seattle, deep in the mountains, and as I walked barefoot through the camp sites I suddenly felt something underneath my feet that seemed out of place. I looked down to see a square coin, and couldn’t believe my luck. A coin, IN THE DIRT, from half-way around the world.
I’ve been collecting coins ever since. When I go to another country or when friends go, I ask for coins, please.
And sometimes I collect things that celebrate the creative expressions of peoples all over the world. Sometimes, I revel in the art of countries I’ve never been to. I collect sacred moments, beauty, friends.
But sometimes, I collect dying things. Rotten, rotting things. Things that kill and steal and destroy.
Sometimes, I collect pain and I store it away and I hold it tightly and I let it simmer on the back burner and it’s ok for a while…until it’s not. Until your kitchen burns down. Until the flames reach up and up and quenching them is impossible. Until you barely escape with your life. Until your skin bears the scars of your choices.
And I think I’m starting to see the quiet power in releasing. The STRENGTH it takes to open your palms and say, “Here, it’ll only bury me in flames if I keep it.”
(This is what we mean when we pray for “the wisdom to know the difference.”)
This is what Jesus means when he says to “cast your cares on him”. There is almost a violence to it. Because casting well means you get to eat. Casting well means your family survives. And it’s almost like Jesus KNOWS what he’s asking. But he’s painting a picture of something hard, something that takes energy, a task, a behavior that grows more skilled over time.
He is asking you to shove your fingers deep into the heavy, crude nets of first-century Israel. He is asking you to grab them tightly, like your life depends on it, because your life depends on it. And he is asking you to take that deep breath, and ready your entire body, plant your feet firmly on the deck, and with every cell in your body, without a sliver of hesitation, heave those nets up and over the side of the boat and let them sink heavy-deep into the water.
Because if you can’t heave them over the side, you’ll never be able to heave in the abundance God will place inside those nets.
BECAUSE IF YOU CAN’T HEAVE THEM OVER THE SIDE, YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO HEAVE IN THE ABUNDANCE GOD WILL PLACE IN THOSE NETS.
If you can’t give it, throw it. If you can’t release it gently, release it forcefully. If you can’t open your own hands, let someone open them for you. And if you find that you still can’t, even after all of that, it’s ok. Some of us need to WRESTLE.
God knows. He isn’t afraid of letting you wrestle. He’s not afraid that your struggle will affect his sovereignty, his ability to make all things new, his grace.
There is nothing you can say or do to make God love you any more or any less. Because his love isn’t tainted with sin. It is PERFECTLY. HOLY. WHOLE.
And he sees the weight of brokenness you carry on your shoulders.
And he just wants to take it.
It is a daily releasing sometimes. It is a repeating of obedience and trust that changes everything. It is one step, one movement at a time.
God never asked us to do easy things. He never even asked us to do possible things.
How do you move a mountain?
One shovel of dirt at a time.
How do you move a mountain?
You can’t. It’s impossible.
How do you move a mountain and change your life?
With faith in a God who can make all things possible.
Because he is making all things new and he will not stop when he gets to you.
I’ve heard God doesn’t make mistakes.
I’ve heard it is impossible…
Everything about you. Your nationality, your skin color, gender, hair texture. How expressive or reserved you are. How introverted or extroverted you are. Your ability to sing or create art or to fearlessly barrel race horses. Your laugh.
NONE OF IT IS A MISTAKE.
God knew exactly what he was doing when he reached across time and space and birthed you in the darkness and fashioned you into something spectacular.
You are not a mistake.
It is impossible for you to be a mistake. Because it is impossible for God to make mistakes.
I spent my whole life thinking I was a mistake. That who I was was so shameful. The way I theatrically tell stories, how I want to weep for three days every time I watch The Green Mile. How making a space look beautiful fills me up with so much joy I cannot even express it. How injustice makes my blood boil. How my idea of “good church” involves crying with and laughing with and eating with a handful of people at a time.
Because I always thought I should want other things. I should be less passionate. Less emotional. More practical. More extroverted. Less awkward for heaven’s sake (Lord, above have mercy).
But none of these things about me is a mistake.
It’s weird, but not weird at the same time, to say that THE WORLD NEEDS YOU! And it needs ME. And not in a self-absorbed way, but simply because we are here and because we exist means that God destined for each one of us to be here.
The family he placed us in is not a mistake. Your birth order. Gender.
The country we were born in is not a mistake.
Our skin color is not a mistake. And all those freckles you have or don’t have.
God isn’t surprised you made it earth-side. He isn’t surprised you think post-it-notes can save the world, or that you haven’t been able to find a pair of matching socks in your house since 2007.
God knit you together and created you exactly perfect. Where you are standing right now, that earth beneath your feet that bears the weight of your presence, it is sacred because a sacred being stands upon it: you.
You are priceless. Invaluable. Never compared against another. Never regretted by God.
You are not what has happened to you. What someone took from you or did to you. You are not what someone else says you are, or even who you say you are. You are deeply and irrevocably eternal and brokenness is not eternal.
Stand in this today. Say it out loud. Because a thousand voices are telling you otherwise. Speak this truth over yourself and your children and all the people…that you are not a mistake.
God doesn’t make mistakes.
I’ve heard it is impossible.
It is impossible for you to be anything other than exactly what God created. And this is not something to fear, it is something to rest in.
I took a walk to the sea-salt water with my daughter today. She is 9 months old. And a year ago, when I first learned I was having a daughter, fear overwhelmed me. Because I had deep dark scars and mothering a girl terrified the still-broken parts of me.
We walked along the road. Mercy riding on my back in a carrier, gravel smacking together under my boots; the soft sound of mud too. Dirty drips of water squeezing between blades of spring grass.
It was a perfect evening for a sunset walk. And my soul padded along to the pace of my steps, perfectly present in that moment.
Life happens in the now, a friend of mine said. Right now, this very moment, this is your life, your next breath is the future, your last breath was the past.
I drank in the moments. The feel of a baby against my body. The way I could tell how she looked back and forth at everything. Is there anything more sacred to watch than a child delighting in newness?
I thought about my healing. And how sick I felt over the repeated jargon we use describe the immensely spiritual and emotionally painful wrestling with abusive people. Abusers, toxic people, narcissists…it all falls so horrendously short.
Soul-stealers I thought. That’s what they are. Like the dementors in Harry Potter.
We turned a corner. And Mercy spun as best she could to watch a black cat laying flat in a patch of sun.
Down the hill. And there we saw the water, heard the hum of boat engines, laughter from across the water.
I walked to the edge, you know, where land meets shore? It’s always such a reverent moment. Like even the dirt doesn’t dare get too close to the sea, it keeps to the edges of the sand and watches in awe at all the happenings of a small beach. Earth contains the sea, cups it into the deepest crevices and lets it fling itself into the depths and shows it all the deepest parts of itself. The sea knows things about earth we never will. Earth and sea. They are intimate friends.
And there we stood, Mercy and me, drinking in the smell of the salt stuff in the air on our skin, the way the birds were settling in for the night. It’s all for you to enjoy, whispered the Holy Spirit. That voice I’ve come to love and crave.
This is what I know: there is an unspeakable joy present in the lapping of water on a shore.
We turned to walk home. Already, the sun felt lower, cooler.
And Mercy sung softly in her little baby voice and I knew she felt it too: God, here with us. It has taken me a long time to learn how to welcome God into the everyday walks. He hovers, ever-present in the air around us, like a bright-winged eternal friend.
And then I smiled, because I just knew deep, deep down, something in me healed…
Fear is rarely release all at once. It is the daily, momentary surrender that changes us so. And it is the daily, momentary choice to refuse to hate, to turn your face to the Son and let him carry us.
We are not just persons. We are souls. And if souls be pained, then they must be healed by an Eternal Healer.
And to be healed we must let him heal us…
No matter your story, no matter the type of abuse or level of abuse you might have endured, all sin wounds. And simply because all sin wounds, there is grief in the world.
Here it is: the truth about pain: it must be grieved before it can be gone.
Brokenness doesn’t go away. It must be forced to leave. If you let it, pain it will turn your heart to ugly stone. It will rot your soul until all that comes out of you is the stink of hurt.
Hurting people, hurt people.
If YOU are hurting people. And if you find that you cannot apologize or open your heart or show true emotion. If conflict follows you and relationships fall into the crevices of pride…if you lie a lot…then you have pain in your life you haven’t grieved and it’s eating you whole. It’s eating you a hole.
Maybe your grief isn’t that complicated. Maybe it’s impossible. Maybe you can’t even say what happened to you. Or maybe you’ve let fear own you.
It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter even one second out of eternity.
Because Jesus already paid it all, didn’t he? And when he died the blood he spilled reached all the way back to the first light of the first start beam, and all the way ahead to the final light when the last beams fade.
God isn’t in time. He’s over time. So when God bled he covered all time.
Life is full of lessons. Some lessons change you for the better. Some…some you wish you’d never learned.
These are the hardest moments in life. These are the moments that teach you to cling to our Heavenly Father in ways you never knew you could.
1. The people you love the most, will hurt you the deepest. The people you spend a lifetime trying to impress, to endear to you, will hurt you in ways that no one else could. They will laugh at you and manipulate you and lie about you and bring you to tears on your wedding day. They will refuse to celebrate you, and use all the things and people you love most against you: including your own children.
2. Just because a man says he is safe, and volunteers at church and has kids and a wife you adore, doesn’t mean he is actually safe. That man will teach you that fear is stronger than your physical ability to react. Stronger than even instinct. And that gut feeling you had for so long…it was real.
3. Loving an addict and seeing the best in them doesn’t mean they will change. You can’t make someone change. You can only be there to cheer them on.
4. Love of one’s self is often disguised with masks of generosity. I’ve found that some of the most outwardly generous people are deeply selfish. And nothing is harder to change than pride.
5. The most dangerous abusers hide in plain sight and go to extensive lengths to cover their behavior. And they are really, really good at lying. And even better at manipulation. But eventually they make themselves known by the trail of brokenness they leave behind in the dust.