Throughout this spring and summer of pausing and waiting, several books have been such a help to me. I hope to share more about one of those books later this week, as I give a special review post for my friend, Cheryl Smith. But another one of those books was written by a woman who found soul and spirit restoration in her garden after God brought her through a long journey with cancer. As she was working with her blooms one day, the thought rang through her mind:
“Must one always suffer to be transformed? Is that the only way?”From the Fire Into the Garden, by Deborah Marqui, Nature’s Path Publishing Co, 2019, pg. 222
And from that question, my thoughts ran to this old hymn by Thomas Shepherd. As I listened to the song, two new stanzas were birthed in my heart, as I asked my own questions of the Lord:
Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone
And there's a cross for me ...
Must this life bear suff'ring's mark
While all my heart be cleansed?
Yes, every step along this way
Is fully clothed with Jesus' grace.
Must every heart bear a cross
And see our flesh be cured?
Yes, Jesus' cross is borne for me
My only crown and jewel.
--bg (1st Stanza from Hymn by Thomas Shepherd, 1693, public domain)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you truly want to follow me, you should at once completely reject and disown your own life. And you must be willing to share my cross and experience it as your own,[a] as you continually surrender to my ways.Matthew 16:24 The Passion Translation
On the day that I was finally able to step outside after my Ablation treatment, I was so eager to get a photo of my own beautiful blooms that had grown during my rest time. However, the reality of what I was feeling is captured in the glimpse of my face that was showing:
And, while the photo made me share a chuckle with my husband, the true feelings in my body and heart were revealed in the grimace that escaped out of me as I tried so hard to keep from falling.
A deeper truth came out the next day, as a friend asked me if I felt anger about the delay and the pain that has been such a constant this summer. Tears trickled slowly down my face, then, but they flowed all the more swiftly when another friend sent me a sermon on Lament. She said she and her husband had thought of me throughout the whole sermon, and how God had been working so deeply in my heart in that very process.
Lamenting is not a new subject for me–you can read a post I wrote about it HERE when I first paused with the thought, almost 4 years ago. But as in so much of this journey with Jesus, He brings us back around to lessons we thought we had learned, to take us deeper into His truth.
It is in this lamenting, in this offering ourselves honestly before Him, that He will truly bring us under HIS authority, under His cross. And that is where the place of transformation happens. We are with Christ, with unveiled faces, looking to HIM for every grace that we so need.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV
And somehow in this place of anger, grieving, and lamenting, Jesus has met me with HIS own dear Words of comfort. He is bringing His transformation to me, to conform me to His own likeness, in ways that I cannot see. For my face is unveiled before Him–fixing my gaze on HIM.
If you are a close observer, you might have noticed that my header photo changed over the course of this summer. The photo of the wide open sky over the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan called out to the deep places of my longing heart. But last week when I read the words at Melissa’s McLaughlin’s site, as she spoke about bearing the image of Christ, I paused and began weeping as she quoted that verse from 2 Corinthians. And I felt something shift in me.
I had kept the tagline,
“Finding a new heart while walking through chronic illness–Ezekiel 36:26”
since I had begun my site here on WordPress almost 3 years ago. In that shifting last week, I felt the Lord plunging me into the next part of my journey here.
Part of my “with-ness” for this year’s #oneword has come to mean a deeper walk WITH an unveiled face before Him. And in that process, He is bringing His own transformation, His own purposes for my new tagline here:
“With an unveiled face, being transformed into the image of Christ–2 Cor. 3:18”
He is asking me to let my true face–the face that has always felt lacking in some sense, but feels even more marred now because of these diseases–to remain open and uncovered in His presence. I pray that we all will become more willing to walk with Him in the unveiling into His precious transforming.
Would pray along with me today?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for being such a loving creator, such an amazing potter. We confess that we have been that clay, that cries out on your potter’s wheel, “Why did You make me like this?” Oh, but Father, thank You for sending Your own son, Jesus, to bear the weight of all that sin has marred and destroyed in this world. Thank You, Jesus, for taking up all of our diseases and imperfections and nailing them to YOUR cross. We come under Your cross now, we receive Your authority and Your healing from that shame. Help us to let You unveil our hearts that we might become transformed, ever more each day, to look more like YOU. We lift our hearts of praise to You alone now.
In the name of Jesus, we pray,
I am linking with: #TellHisStory