Chapter 9. 1999 – 2004
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From the early years of our entry into Bible College, my heart had been stirred to look behind the masks that I seemed to see everywhere I turned. When I sat in the student lounge waiting for my husband to finish a class, I listened to the same students who had just presented such an amazing sermon in class, argue over silly topics for endless hours. And I observed my own similar kinds of masks as the years wore on.
We watched the leadership in churches walk a fine line between telling their members how to live their lives and yet asking for honesty among each other. I felt lost in how to express my heart. I knew there were so many questions that we had heaped up over the years, but I could see nowhere to express those questions safely, so I did as I thought I was told, and tucked them all away.
However, the Lord saw the longing for truth held even deeper inside my heart, and began to humble my ways of hiding behind walls. As the burdens I carried bubbled through to the surface, I could not keep up a façade of pleasantness when I felt the weight of pain and brokenness that others were carrying. Even though some of my deepest intercessions were for the leaders of our home church, they could not understand my broken heart and weeping in prayer. Conversely, they could not deny the way that God had answered their deepest prayers as I lifted them to the Lord.
But when the intercession became personal, and I felt that God was asking both the woman in leadership that I was praying for and myself to take off our masks and be real before God and with the people of the church, her heart was deeply offended. I had argued with God about sharing those words with her. But God would not lift away the burden, and through Scripture after Scripture, He had confirmed to me that He had indeed asked for surrender to share the words. Even though I was walking that same path of needing to take off my mask to be more real, in her eyes the question became an accusation.
After I shared the words, and they weren’t received, we were even more broken when those in leadership told us that they had already gone to their superiors and were pressing discipline against us for trying to split up the church. The Pastor felt that because of my words, we were trying to usurp authority and take over the church. That was the farthest thing from our minds. And so we knew that God was asking us to lay down our own lives once again.
About a year prior to this, we had felt God’s nudging in our spirits that a time of leaving would be coming soon. Nothing else had happened then, and we had forgotten that word, until now, so many months later. We knew this was the time.
We surrendered our license to preach with the Denomination for a second time, and we called the few churches that had scheduled services for our dramas. Amazingly, it was during a summer break time, and there were only a few on our calendar. Most of those churches chose to cancel when we told them that we had surrendered our license, even though we gave no specific reason.
We felt that trying to defend ourselves would only become a fighting to retain our rights. And in fact, what we heard from the Lord was that He was asking us to lay down our lives, to surrender our reputation for the sake of our brothers.
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit— that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood.Romans 9:1-3 Holman Standard
The words of Paul had become more than letters on paper for us now. We felt the anguish in our own hearts. When others counseled us that we could not just lay down our reputation like that, we already had an answer in place. Yes, laying down our reputation was the one thing we must do, for the sake of Christ and for the love of our brothers.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!Philippians 2:5-8 NIV
And yet, Even though we knew that God was the one calling us out, a wound had settled deep in my heart.
It took many long years before I realized the true healing that God had begun working at the very moment of the wounding. For you see, He did answer my cry to be unmasked. The people who came around me in my grieving were a few close Christians outside of the church, and some neighbors who were not Christians. They allowed me to cry, to weep in grief over the parts of our lives that had been cut off, and none of them asked me to deny the pain in my heart.
The masks were being broken and crushed. More than a decade later, when chronic illness first struck me, and I longed to hide behind a mask again and to just speak “fine!” when others asked me about my health, the mask was so destroyed that I could not find it again. He had accomplished HIS healing in ways I could not have guessed: His truth was what had set me free.
God was lifting me away from the pedestal place of directing and interpreting how other people needed to live. He had begun that process by lifting me away from the church where I could have easily tried to say how that “realness” and “un-masking” needed to be seen. But He was furthering that process by calling us out into a vast sea of multiple churches.
We would settle in a new church for a few months, and then He would call us out again. Time after time, and church after church, we were witnessing a wideness to the Body of Christ that we had only begun to see in our traveling with the dramas. What He began then, He multiplied to a greater extent now.
At the same time, our children were entering their older teen years and experiencing their own lessons from the Lord. They were facing the same hurt of being cut-off from their church friends. But God was taking them on a personal journey with Him too.
In our homeschooling and daily moments, I watched my children making decisions that I was so uncomfortable with. I agonized and prayed over how I should approach these times of “attitude adjustments.” I made so many failures as I often chose what seemed right to me, instead of leaning on the Lord’s mercy. And yet, God was so gracious to use every bit of both: the victories and the failures were all mingling together for God to bring HIS truth to light in each of our lives.
We saw that the move to the small townhouse complex had indeed been planned by the Lord. Our end unit in the townhouse block faced the parking lot, so that most all of the comings and goings there were part of our daily life. My times of gardening in the small plot surrounding our unit gave me even more moments to chat with and find love for those same neighbors.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”Matthew 9:36-38 NIV
It was in this setting that the seeds for prayer that God had nurtured through those intercession years grew into fruit in my daily living. I was surprised at how quickly my words flowed out asking if I could pray for and with those neighbors.
In the past, it had not been my quiet way, and my “churchy-rule” way to spontaneously pray with just anyone outside of the “safe” church walls. But God had taken away those masks also, as He reminded me of the very dream He had given while we traveled with our family in our minivan. HE brought hearts together.
I needed the love of those neighbors, just as much as they needed me to pray with them.
Are you in a place of accusations now? Are untruths being hurled at you?
Are you watching a harvest of “failures” intermingle with a harvest of fruit?
Perhaps God is shifting your perspective of His transforming power in your heart. Can you see the places where He is turning upside-down your views of the ministry of the Holy Spirit?