Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the Lord? Isaiah 58:5
I just couldn’t sell it… the thousands of words that poured forth from my heart and soul in the Fall of 2011. No, something wasn’t quite right. So I revised the whole thing in the Summer of 2012. I gave it a new title… My True Deliverance. However, the story remained the same. And the truth is the title was a lie. Because my story was a lie. For at that point in my life, I hadn’t been delivered. From anything. The words put forth were false… only what I wanted to be true.
However, my eyes were opened in September of 2012. The frank words of my husband jolted me. “Can you do me a favor? Can you go just one day without telling a lie? Because when you say you’re fine and you’re not, it’s a lie.” This came on the heels of his flowery description of me. An animated corpse. Oh, don’t think too harshly of him. He was just concerned. He wanted his wife back. The one from earlier days. And had he not spoken truth, perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am today. Perhaps I’d still be his corpse bride.
After this lovely conversation with my husband, my eyes were opened wider within days. For I heard a Bible teacher speak. She said He wants us to have our own story. With Him. She talked of riding other people’s coattails. And though I didn’t realize it then, today I know that’s just what I had been doing. Riding the coattails of other people’s faith. Living off other people’s stories. Trying to breathe the breath of resurrected lives all around me. Having no spiritual breath of my own.
Funny thing is I just knew that book was going to get published. The untrue one. It seemed to be His will. Like the very hand of God directed me to write it. And I believe He did. However, I know it to be a stepping stone today. Because the story written over three years ago was the wrong one. It was the story of a good girl who worked hard. And because she did all the right things, something good happened. For God gave her what she desired most… her homeland. The promised land. But the reality is God didn’t bring me home as a reward. No, He brought me home to die. And that first book, my story, proved to lead to my fall.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
I’ve been pondering the story lately. For months actually and just in general. And in watching a few great movies, I realize the best part is the fall. Because if there isn’t a fall, the hero or heroine can’t rise from the ashes. And isn’t that the most hopeful part of someone’s story? Don’t we find resurrected lives to be inspirational? I do. And so, it’s with awe that I find myself on the cusp of Easter today. In this season of my life, as I ponder the story, I find we’re about to celebrate the greatest story. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In a nutshell, this is what my story lacked for so long. My life was missing Easter. My life was missing Him. Thus, my life contained no life. I was a corpse bride. Just as my husband described. And every single day, I died a little more. For I was chasing a dream. Holding to my life. My rights. My glory. I just didn’t know what was causing my death. See, when I came home I thought it to be my triumphant entry. I rode in on my high horse and came back ready to overcome the world. And when I began to write, I just knew it was going to give me the life I so desired. My passion burned within. In truth, it consumed me till there was nothing left. Life snuffed out. Thus, I walked around in sackcloth and ashes not comprehending that’s what I was doing. My demeanor was my mourning robe. A dim spirit shrouded me. Ashes on the ground.
But Jesus? When He made His triumphant entry, He rode into town on a donkey. And He knew what He came to do. For He came to die. He came as a living sacrifice for us. But He knew the truth. That before He could be resurrected into glory, His death was required. Because only by His death, and life, can we hope for the same. This is Easter. This is the greatest story ever told. And until this becomes reality in our own hearts, we remain dead in our tracks. Lifeless. Animated corpses.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:23-25
God never, ever ceases to amaze me. Over four years ago I thought He was rewarding me for good behavior. That He brought me home as a pat on the back. That was my story. But today I know truth. See, He brought me home to die. Here is where my self-awareness was birthed, and here is where my self-seeking must die. For self-seeking brought nothing but heartache. And spiritual death. It caused me to fall. Hard. Nothing left of me but a heap of ashes on the ground. But today, I choose sacrifice instead. I willingly give my life for the lives of my children. So they may have abundant life. And this act revives me. For I find I’m able to rise from the ashes. Because His word is true… in losing your life, you’ll find it. This is the very thing God brought me home for. Easter becomes real in my heart.
Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke? Isaiah 58:6
Last week was a week of epiphanies. One having to do with me losing my life in order to gain my life. It had to do with putting my dream on the back-burner while I tended to what’s most important… my children. My family. And I’m good with that. I really am. I realized my need to sacrifice something I greatly desire so that I could be a better mother to them. And a better wife to my husband. Because this dream of mine burns me up. When I hold to it, it causes me to die. A little bit each day. Before I know it, I’m like the walking dead. No life within me. A corpse bride. So, I release it. At least for now. I give it up…
Funny thing is, I find this act coincides with Lent. And Ash Wednesday. Though I’ve never practiced these traditions knowingly, I find I am this year. Unwittingly. This is where God has led me. Through my limited knowledge, I understand Lent to be a time when God’s people sacrifice something for a number of days. Me? I’m led to sacrifice my life. The revelation is heightened by Ash Wednesday… a time when ashes are ceremonially placed on heads of Christians usually accompanied by the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Me? From experience I’ve surely known what it’s like to have ashes in my life. But not just on my head, all over. The whole of me being burned up by overwhelming desire of something greater. But this will prove to be the best part of my story. For from the ashes, I rise. Resurrected life. Easter in my heart. A replica of the greatest story ever told. His. A corpse bride rises from the grave…
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3
Funny how God works. Amazing how He puts it all together. See, I began writing my story in 2011. Thing is, my words simply weren’t true. I wrote what I wanted to be. My True Deliverance. But now… deliverance is mine. He delivered me from my tomb. And most recently, He delivers me from myself. For it was my heart that held me captive. And my flesh has been my prison. But He led me to lay down my life. And thus, I find life. And as Easter rises in my heart, I find that I do, too. And in truth, this is the part of my story that’s truly great. Christ. In me. Finally, I don’t have to ride another’s coattails. For I have my own story. In Him. And to me, this is the essence of Easter. From death to life. And till death do us part. A corpse bride no more.
Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7