Jesus didn’t have a senior superlative

…Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24

It’s cyclical with me. Spring is my season of rejection and I feel it acutely. Piercingly. A sense of loneliness and abandonment fueled by underlying feelings of unwantedness. And underneath it all, there’s a hint of betrayal. Invariably, these notions plague me when flowers begin to bloom and trees begin to leaf.

At Springtime.

This year, the feelings began circling towards the end of March. And by the first of April, the darkest of thoughts eclipsed all sound judgment and mind.

Quite aptly, it was April Fool’s Day and no doubt, I was a real April fool.

The unwanted feelings peaked as I unpacked umpteen boxes that had been stored for nearly two years. That’s when I unearthed a journal dated 1989. I was sixteen and what struck me is my present-day mindset uncannily echoed that of the younger me. At least it did that particular day…

As I said, these feelings are cyclical. Seasonal.

And Spring happens to be my time…

IMG_5022

So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view (according to worldly standards and values). 2 Corinthians 5:16

Words penned thirty-one years ago were full of self-loathing. And strangely, despite how far God has brought me, a similar refrain thrummed through my heart and mind last week. The unending chorus wore me down…

“You’re not wise, you’re foolish. Not strong, weak. You’re dull and boring. You’re insignificant, overlooked, and less than everyone else. Second choice by far, unloved, and nothing at all.”

Believe me. I know how silly this is. And immature. And in the throes of Corona Virus, I debated sharing at all. How petty compared to the worldwide crisis. And yet, perhaps my faulty thinking was a by-product of this shelter-in-place. At home with nowhere to go, inward eyes and too much self-focus can be a slippery slope.

I’m too embarrassed to mention what led to last week’s line of thinking. However, that’s where I ended up on April 1, 2020. A full-blown pity party for one all because I allowed myself to entertain a sixteen-year-old mindset. The same outlook (and inlook) I housed a number of Springs in which my heart sustained directed hurts I never really forgot.

As I said, the balmy months are my time. 

And because I wallowed in cyclical feelings of lowness, I wasn’t inspired to make dinner. Instead, I asked Jason to bring home take-out and I’m so glad I did. Because God used a Chinese fortune to snap me out of my momentary lapse of reason.

And by the time April 2 dawned, I was ready to shut down the self-pitying thoughts I’d nursed the day before.

The very good news is this year, my “season” lasted the shortest of whiles. And with each passing year, I find there’s more progress. Better yet, I suspect in a year or two, these seasonal feelings of mine may pass me by altogether.

In fact, I’m sure of it.

IMG_5021 - Copy

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

If Spring is a season of sadness, what I know now is March is my time of “coming out.” Multiple occasions this past decade, I sensed God’s leading to sit still or come out of activity (and out of view) during the third month.

And I’ve tried. Halted my doings for a short while only to go back to what I’d been doing before, and all the more. But I really thought this year would be different. Believed I’d learned all my lessons and that there would be no stopping me in 2020.

But then COVID-19 happened. And is happening.

And because this virus has shut down nearly everyone and everything, I find I’m obeying God’s cyclical command to “come out” in March without meaning to. In a sense, my hand’s been forced…

to stop.

Like many, I’m shut-in and life has drastically changed. No doubt, this sickness terrorizing the land has interrupted many a plan, including mine. But you know, I’m thankful for the pause. No, not thankful for the disease, mind you. I wish it had never come. But in the midst of madness, I find gratitude for the delay has changed my focus.

See, I was on a set course in February, eyes locked onto one thing. And with schools closing, that one thing went out the window. Way out. But then it was like a lightbulb came on. Illumination allowed me to recall the very few goals I set at the New Year. One or two things well, most specifically, my children.

Yet, in the midst of my plan, I had forgotten they were the plan. My kids. But COVID-19 helped me remember. How could I not because they were looking to me every, single day for guidance.

Thus, I formed a daily schedule. In setting up morning time for God and prayer, I remembered a binder I put together months before. It contains focus words for Levi, one per month.

Needless to say, none had been contemplated. Not one. Instead, the notebook sat dusty on a shelf. But the new shut-in itinerary compelled me to resurrect it from the ashes and I thought we’d go in order. However, in a roundabout way, we landed half-way through the book. Wisdom is where God planted us…

I thought it was all about my son. Alas, due to recent childish actions, I quickly understood God’s word choice had more to do with me than Levi. And that’s why the Chinese fortune resonated.

Because it speaks of wisdom. Or lack thereof. And that little piece of paper brought to mind one of the most comforting passages of Scripture I ever read. One I tucked away in my heart many years back.

Through it, God soothed my soul anew. But mostly, He snapped me out of my foolishness.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

IMG_4978

I studied Genesis 3 yesterday morning. I contemplated how the serpent deceived Eve when he told her, “You will be like God.” This statement caused the first woman to look harder at a tree she’d been commanded not to partake of. And because she realized the fruit could make her wise, she gave in to the temptation and scarfed it down.

In studying, I found a nugget of truth hidden within the definition of God. The devil said she could be like Him, so the word means just that – the Supreme God. But also, it can mean rulers, judges, divine ones, gods, and goddesses. Perhaps this was part of the temptation.

But most intriguing, I find this particular word can be used as a superlative, passages describing things to be great, mighty or exceeding.

Superlative stood out because in recent unpacking, I came across my keepsake box. Letters and pictures and yearbooks and such. I thought about how I didn’t receive a senior superlative. Oh, I’m not the only one and I know it’s not important. Not really. But at eighteen, it sure felt that way. Especially because our graduating class was so small. 63, I think.

Anyway, superlative means the highest quality or degree. It means surpassing all others. And perhaps that’s what stung so when I was young. I didn’t surpass anyone in anything. At least not in anyone’s eyes. And maybe that’s what can sting a bit now…

I can’t help but wonder if this was the first true temptation for the first true woman. And surely it’s tempted millions and millions who’ve followed her. I know it’s what tempts me…

Yes, I’m convinced the devil deluded Eve by enticing her to be more. That fruit could make her great and mighty and exceeding, surpassing all others. And when you get down to the meat of it, the implication is that you should be more than you are. That’s what the devil was really saying…

In a sense, he proclaimed Eve to be less than in telling her she could be more than. It was a lie used in the garden, a deception that’s endured through the ages, and what he continues to use today.

The fruit still dangles.

“You should be more,” he whispers. However, today’s tempting fruit doesn’t promise wisdom. Quite the opposite, really. And this particular temptation made me an April Fool last week. 

IMG_5059

We do not have the audacity to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with some who (supply testimonials to) commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools. 2 Corinthians 10:12

I fell for it last week. The serpent beguiled me. Fooled me into the comparison trap. And like Eve who covered up her nakedness, I felt like doing the same. Wanted to cover up everything I disdained about me…

But that’s when I remembered the most beautiful lesson from Genesis 3. See, Adam and Eve hid away after sampling forbidden fruit. They didn’t want God to see them. And though they were ultimately banished from the garden, there’s tenderness in God’s question…

He asked, “Who told you you were naked?”

You know, I think He asks the same today. We can fill in the blank. “Who told you you were __________.” We all have a word we can put in there, my list consisting of everything I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

As to who told me? Well, it was the world. The world told me all the days of my life I wasn’t enough. And if I let it, it still speaks loudly.

It began when I was small. “So and so can do that but you can’t.” Or, “Just because your best friends are popular that doesn’t mean you are.” I can still see her little eyes boring into mine.

That’s where it began. The world entered and I heard every shout. “Pam can’t and Pam’s not.” Negative statement layered upon negative statement. And there were good things, too. Only, the bad far outweighed anything good I ever heard.

Five years back, this all came to the surface. Back then, I didn’t even know it was in me. But March came about and it was like Jesus said, “Come out!” I heard Him in a dream. The only problem is I misunderstood. He meant to come out of everything (activity, view, my head, the world), but I went all the way in. And within months, everything inside came spewing out. A journal entry said it all…

“I hate me.”

And I did. Oh, I despised me. It was July 2015. When I told my mother-in-law, she said I should ask forgiveness. At the time, I didn’t understand. But today, I do. I get it now. Because in hating me, I hated God’s creation. In rejecting me, I rejected His plan for me.

But more, what I’ve come to comprehend in recent days is that hating me is no different than hating Jesus. Because everything I ever disliked about me happens to be some of His qualities…

What I hated about me, and what I’m still tempted to hate, is what the world hated in Him first.

IMG_5101

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-19

I already gave you my list.  I always felt second. Less than my peers. But when all those feelings are stripped away, I find the very way God crafted me contributes to those lowly feelings.

Because I’m quiet by nature. Deep down, I’m really quite reserved. Submissive and mild mannered. That’s the real me. But most of my adult life, I tried to be other than that. More than how God designed me.

See, the world just doesn’t seem to admire reserved. And meek people often come across as weak people, going unnoticed. This is what I hated about me for so many years.

Today, though, I know the disdained attributes are those that make me most like Christ. And if I hate them in me, that means I hate them in Him. In rejecting what I dislike about me, I end up rejecting Him,  making the words of Isaiah ring true in my life today.

And for this, I ask forgiveness…

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 53:2-3

IMG_4975

God comforts me with 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. And within, I find the similarity to Isaiah 53:2-3. Most particularly, I note that God chooses things despised by the world. Things considered worthless. Because that’s exactly what Jesus was deemed.

And though He was God in human form, the devil came to Jesus just like he appeared to Eve. Yes, Jesus was tempted just as we are.

I can’t help but wonder if it was Spring with Him, too. And I speculate about Jesus’ fill in the blank list, if He had one. Because the world told Him He was a liar. It accused Him of having a demon, of being a foreigner, a drunkard and crazy. The world said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

No doubt, the world had a low opinion of this Man who was God’s chosen. And I can’t help but think if Nazareth High had a Senior Superlative page, Jesus wouldn’t have made it to the list. He just wasn’t all that impressive. Not to the world, He wasn’t.

Because this God-Man was humble and submissive, gentle and mild. He came to serve and not be served and the world hated Him for it. Because the world esteems otherwise. The world looks up to rulers and leaders and gods and goddesses. The formula’s just different.

At the heart of it, the world seeks to be God-like, not Christ-like. This is the tempation the devil dangled before Eve, before Jesus and what He still puts before our eyes.

I know this to be true because it tempts me. I want to have a superlative ascribed to me, too. Deep down, I want to be surpassing and great and mighty. Because the world loves all that…

Thus, Jesus cautions. He warns us. He tells us that if the world hates us, and it does, to remember it hated Him first.

But who in the world wants to be hated.

IMG_5160 (2)

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. John 15:16

On the mount of transfiguration, God had something to say about the One the world rejected. He said, “This is My Son whom I have chosen. Listen to Him!”

And that’s what I’m really trying to do. Because for too long, I listened to the wrong people. The ones who spoke loudest and usually, it was the world. But Jesus is different. He doesn’t raise His voice and isn’t pushy. He won’t force Himself on us.

And so last week, I had to decide which voices I’d allow into my shut-in state. And I think I chose wisely because I chose to shut up the world. More, I also shut me up and finally, I could hear what Jesus had to say.

The first had to do with being hated. The definition means to “love less,” and oh, how that causes an inward groan. Because this is the deepest of wounds, feeling less loved. Loveless…

Unloved.

But Jesus also had something to say about love. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Greater means stronger or more and this is what He’s been trying to tell me for so long.

This is the reason He’s been calling me out and calling me out, March after March. For my protection. He knew April and May loomed and He knew my vulnerability. Thus, He wanted me to know how He feels about me…

Indeed, I’ve suffered some hurts and rejections. And I may sustain a few more before my days are done. However, when those times come, from here on out I can stand on truth. His.

And I can remember this particular Spring, a season in which His voice overrode all others. A time comprehension dawned and I just knew…

See, the world may love me less, but Jesus loves me more.

And if there were a yearbook for forty-seven-year olds, you’d find me on the superlative page. Yes, you’d find my name beside, “most likely to be loved.”

Because that’s what I am.

IMG_5086

“It is finished.” John 19:30

This Spring’s been pretty significant. We finished our basement project, unloaded a building full of boxes, and this past Saturday, our final home improvement project was completed.

It was finished…

This coincided with my season, the balmy months being my time. A cyclical sadness. But you know, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Because cycles are made to be broken. And I’m optimistic this year’s different…

Deep in my core, I believe it. And I think the morel mushrooms my hubby found this past weekend are symbolic of April 2020.

See, Spring is also the time of Easter. A cyclical time for miracles and I believe one happened this year. The shelter-in-place lended itself to the process and because of it, I see the meaning of the day then, and the significance of it now. 

He faced such accusations before the cross. The world said Jesus did this and that… He was this and wasn’t that. And after dying on a cross, He was placed in an inky tomb. But what transpired was miraculous. The tomb became a womb, giving way to resurrected life. He came out fully alive.

Being shut in at home can be like that for me, too. I went in one way but can come out different on the other side. And I think I will. God help me, when all this is over, to be wiser.

Because I went in foolishly. I listened to the accusations and believed them. Pam can’t and isn’t. And if I chose to live worldly, those statements just might be true.

In following Jesus’ pattern, though, I decide to live other-worldly. I despise the shame, paying little attention to cyclical thoughts. Instead, I bury them in the blackness of my tomb.

Oh, death, where is thy sting?

By putting a sixteen-year-old mindset and worldly thoughts to death, I find the tomb gives way to a womb-like environment. And here, I find such tenderness. Such love. And within, I come fully alive. Resurrected life.

It’s why He gave His Son to begin with. For God so loved the world, He provided a cross, and whosoever shall believe will have everlasting life. New life…

Yes, at the cross, I know I am loved. Thus, at a cross which is foolishness to the world, I become a fool for Him. Because I chose to no longer believe as the world does. Instead, I believe like Him.

And I know the danger. The world may hate me and think me a fool. But you know, this is the kind of April Fool I want to be.

And that makes me so wise…

We are fools for Christ… 1 Corinthians 4:10

letting things go

It always comes to this. Circles. Endless circles leading me back to the same thing. Again and again. It has to do with letting things go. It began in high school. That’s when I let my grades go. They started to slip when I began pursuing other things. Namely, the opposite sex. Because really, that’s the only thing that mattered to me. I simply wanted the love of a boy. Thus, school work slid to the back burner.

Next, my self-esteem went out the window. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to be taken advantage of. You feel like such a door mat, you believe you’re just as lowly. Unworthy. And seriously, if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect respect from the people who surround you. So first, grades. Next, self-worth.

Eventually, you lose your reputation. It’s inevitable. Because one bad choice after another leads to a bad name. So you try to hide who you really are. You shove things down and pretend they never happened. You try to forget and strap on a mask. You hope that if you play the part, you’ll really be the part.

But that’s when you lose yourself.

Because after all is said and done, you don’t know who the heck you are anymore.

The girl you were is gone.

And in the end, you’ve lost all.

11988294_963705063688393_7062078601175352693_n

I agonized over whether or not to include the above. Because the “F” word is in it. But I had to use it. The words are just too powerful to ignore. All that about openly bleeding and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. And how it’s actually the things that kill you that make you.

So I ask myself, what led to my ultimate demise? Did something specific “kill” me (metaphorically, of course)? Because if that’s true, I believe I’ll find my purpose right there. In my death. In the midst of my trouble, I’ll find the real me. The girl I was meant to be.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m reading a book called The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller. This morning’s chapter was about grief and experiencing loss. The testimonies she included had me in tears (not unusual); a woman who lost her eight year old daughter another who lost her husband. Both to cancer. Both losses were much too soon. And both were equally heartbreaking.

And so in light of what these women endured, it’s tempting to minimize my own loss. For more than one reason. But I am encouraged by J. Raymond’s words above. I’m emboldened to bleed openly. And to be honest. Vulnerable. For God’s sake. And for my own.

So I look back. I revisit the place where my life ultimately took a turn for the worse. It’s where I hit rock bottom. And where I let everything go. Including me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m pointed to the military. I spent four years in the Air Force. No surprise, I allowed my heart to be trampled in Oklahoma. But despite my woes, there was a bright spot. Her name was Carmen. My best friend. The very best. We shared everything and I was happy as long as she was by my side.

Next came Korea. Such an unusual experience. And as with my first station, there was bad and good. The good being my close friends. How quickly we formed our attachments. Because we were all thrown together. We shared bathrooms and refrigerators and the intimate details of our lives.

There was Cheyenne and Stacy. Then came Tina and Loree. And Nicole. And oh, I loved them all. I adored being surrounded by my friends. But it was there, really, where I started to slip. In the midst of such love and supportive friends, I lost control. Of everything.

Overall, the bad outweighed the good in Korea. The bad being unhealthy relationships culminating in two abortions. Thus, Korea became a dark blot in my memory. A time I chose to leave behind. And unfortunately, because my friends were intricately woven into that era, they didn’t make the cut.

In the end, I let them go. One by one.

Sadly, this was the pattern of my life.

Letting things go.

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Kahlil Gibran

For me, letting go had everything to do with chasing love. Because that’s all I ever wanted. And so I cut away me. I fashioned myself into what I thought a particular person wanted me to be. From the very start. In high school, I liked heavy metal. In Oklahoma, it was rock climbing. I assumed another’s tastes so that I’d be appealing.

But the tragedy is, I never knew myself. I never knew my own heart before I began giving pieces of it away. And in the end, I whittled away so much of myself, there wasn’t anything left of the girl I was. Not one thing original about me.

God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. William Shakespeare

I did the same with Jason. I fell in love and I wanted him to be mine. So, I tried to take on his likes as my own. I strapped on a mask called “good girl” and never looked back. Today, though, I realize my error.

I cut away too much. Too much of me. And too many friends. Nearly all of them.

And today, I grieve their loss.

But look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus thought of His wounds: “Here, Thomas. Look at My wounds. Touch My scars. These are the proof of My resurrection. I bear the marks of death, but I am alive!” Jesus knew His wounds were beautiful. At the places where I am broken, the power of Christ is authenticated in me for others. Where I have submitted to the crucifixion, the power of the resurrection is put on display. I can say, “Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Founder of The Praying Life Foundation

I had such a thought today. It was staggering. And so deep, I know it didn’t originate with me. No, with all my soul, I believe God deposited truth in my ear this day. It has to do with everything I’ve let go. From the get go. See, I lost my self-worth early on. I’d lost every ounce of self-esteem before I even considered abortion.

But a miracle took place after I lost all. I encountered my husband, a man who continually tries to build me up to this day. He affirms my self-worth. He tries to restore my brokenness and loves me unconditionally. Through him, I encountered God. And through God’s word, I find evidence of how very much I matter to Him. My life matters.

But I still don’t believe. Why? Why do I choose to stay where I am wallowing in my lowliness? And this is what He whispered today… could it be that if I dare believe He values me, that I’ll finally have to accept the truth. That all lives matter. Because if I finally take God’s words to heart and trust that I matter, then that holds true for everyone else. All lives matter.

Including my unborn babies. The ones I got rid of. The two babies I chose to let go.

And this thought stopped me in my tracks. It brought forth a cry I didn’t know I had in me.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

This is truth. I am worth more than many sparrows to my God. But by accepting this fact, I have to truly face what I did. And that means I have to grieve. I have to mourn the loss of two lives.

What’s worse, death came by my own hand.

And I don’t know if I can live with that.

So, I am halted.

I stay right where I am. Paused.

Unable to take another step forward. Not till I accept God’s truth. That I matter to Him. And so did my babies.

Mended Heart Challenge

  • Designate a specific time and place to express your grief with Jesus.

I read the above this morning. My mother-in-law has been telling me I need to participate in a post-abortion recovery retreat… when the time is right. That time may be coming. Because this keeps coming up. Endless circles lead me here. Again and again.

I had babies and they are no more.

And I haven’t grieved their loss. My loss. I don’t think I deserve to. Because I’m the reason.

But deep, down, I grieve daily.

And so, I go back to that post I saw on Facebook. About the things that kill you making you. And I reread Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s words:

“Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story.

It’s abortion. This is my wound. I carry the scars of a womb that remains eternally pregnant (Jeremiah 20:17). And unless I am resurrected from this death I carry around in me, I’ll be of no use to God. People will never see the life of Christ in me. Not unless I rise from the opening of my tomb…

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

IMG_2110

If I could just go back to the girl I was at sixteen. To the time I first began letting things go. Like my grades. And then my self-worth. I’d caution her. I’d tell her know your heart. I’d say take time to know yourself. I’d assure her that she matters. That’s what I’d say.

Oh, little girl, be strong in who you are before you start giving pieces of yourself away. Because some things are irreversible. Some things you can never, ever get back.

Yeah, I’d tell the younger me to really think about it.

I’d say consider carefully what you keep. But more importantly, consider what you let go.