The Freedom of Forgiveness

Forgiveness. It is at the core of our redemption, it is the foundation on which our faith stands (Ephesians 1:7); yet I struggle with it constantly. I wrestle with its depth and its implications. I want it for myself, but I grip it, bury it, lord it over others when it is time to release it to its rightful owner. I thought about the power of forgiveness as I walked my dog late one evening. I asked God, “Why is it so hard to forgive?” When I contemplate my frustrated response to difficult situations, I try to step back from the triggering event and get to the ‘why’ of my reaction. As I prayed that evening, all of my past hurts played like a slideshow in my head. Every hurt felt tied to my worth. Therefore, every time I forgave, I felt like I was saying I wasn’t worthy of better treatment.

I have battled insecurity my entire life. Growing up in a home where children were to be seen and not heard, I rarely had a voice. Decisions were made for me and there was little room for hurt feelings. “Grow thicker skin!” was my dad’s mantra. I wasn’t taught how to express myself in a healthy way. The message I received from my parents was that I had nothing of value to offer. I wasn’t worthy of being heard. When I was old enough to be heard, I made sure I was the loudest and the meanest. When people questioned my approach, I’d say, “I’m just being REAL.” As if that was enough to excuse my bad behavior. Since then, God has done such a work in me. Three solid years of therapy with a woman who loved me like Jesus and prayed for me like Paul, enabled me to face the brokenness of my past with the Word of God. I learned to believe in the worth that God established for me on the cross, when Jesus decided that I was worth dying for. Knowing helped me to understand why, without it, I was sabotaging all of my friendships and why I struggled to trust anyone. In therapy, we talked a lot about how pain had shaped the way I viewed relationships with people. When I encountered conflict, it triggered responses that came from that pain rather the reality of the new situation. By making me aware of that flaw in thinking, she taught me how to respond from a position of the Truth I know, rather than a reaction to the things I feel. That clarity of mind enabled me to separate my worth from situations of conflict because I knew (from God’s Truth) that I was valued.

It softened me. I learned to respond out of love when I was hurt because I no longer felt the need to defend my worth. It enabled me to extend the benefit of the doubt because my thought life had been renewed, no longer reacting to the wounds of the past. God continues to do work in me. He continues to teach me that I’m not too much, that I am enough. My battle with insecurity has helped me to recognize longing in others and how to create space for it as we learn how to have that need met by God (Philippians 4:19). As women, we can compete and compare. Sometimes we distrust, lack compassion, and lack graciousness. It’s not because we’re heartless monsters. It’s often because we don’t know how to offer ourselves freely. Sometimes I feel so busy protecting my heart – my worth. This isn’t to say that there isn’t genuine love and encouragement and openness in our community, because there is. But there is also pain.

I remember, so vividly, drowning in my own pain. I remember acting out of it and at times, in moments of conflict, I catch myself slipping back into old ways of thinking and responding. I have spoken too harshly, backed out of a conversation, minimized myself, given a look instead of grace, and talked over others whose opinions I didn’t agree with. In those moments, I was either exerting or preserving my worth. It is in that space where my feelings are hurt that I misunderstand someone, or I react with self-righteousness because it’s difficult to see beyond myself (James 3:14-16). Sometimes I forget that my worth is already secure. Sometimes I’m terrified that if I’m open, if I’m vulnerable, someone will swoop in to prove my deepest fears – that I’m not worthy at all. This terror comes on as a feeling and lasts like a spirit — a spirit of offense. Unlike regular offense, a spirit of offense is in direct opposition to reconciliation, to grace, to understanding, and to compassion. A spirit of offense refuses to make amends and keeps (not so accurate) records of wrong. It is one-sided and therefore eliminates opportunity for relationship. At its core it is a lack of forgiveness.

When we’re striving to preserve our worth, a painful event can confirm a lie as truth: I’m not worthy. But it’s not His Truth for us. When we live according to His Truth, we’re able to respond to pain with His forgiveness. That forgiveness isn’t a verdict based on evidence, it’s based on the abounding grace and mercy He has for us. It’s part of how we’re called to love. When we forgive, we are saying “Lord, you’ve already told me I’m valuable. I’m choosing to believe You and allowing them off the hook so I can get back to Your business. Heal me and remind me of Your Truth.”

The more often we forgive, the more opportunity God has to confirm His truth to us and His truth sets us free (John 8:32). He wants to release us from the grip of grudges and soften our hearts. We have access to a God who wants to turn us away from old thinking and toward a life of freedom and hope. That privilege is the right to know God and understand who we are and are intended to be. We’re able to appreciate the gift of salvation when we recognize that we are more precious to Him than rubies (Proverbs 3:15). He adores you. He wants to give you the freedom to live and think and love without fear. Allowing Him to heal you as you release forgiveness is unlike any bliss you’ve ever encountered. It’s in that place of complete surrender that we grow and in that place of growth that we’re able to experience more of Him. Forgive.

No Fear

A WILD Devotional

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 (ESV)

At age 19, God ignited my heart with life-changing faith. So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work! With a genuine passion to know Jesus better, I attended church nearly every time the doors opened. I listened to Christian radio and read volumes of Bible commentaries. And life seemed to go down a pretty comfortable path for a while. So, what was my conclusion? Do right and God will do right by you.

It was many years later that God taught me my most important faith lesson.  It was well after I had married, had two teenage children, and was trying my best to use my life to honor God.  It was at a time when my comfortable path took a sharp turn! I found myself on an uphill climb, then careening towards a jagged cliff! I cried out to God, wondering what I’d done, and what I hadn’t done to bring about the “death” of everything I cherished. It was the lowest point of my life, when my marriage was failing and I would soon be divorced.

In the middle of this crisis, I went to a women’s retreat. The speaker was so raw and real. She shared that we often believe lies about God that affect how we think and feel. Later she asked each woman to spend some alone time with God. I found a soft pad of grass to lie down in … and there I opened my Bible to First John 4:18.  It was like a window had opened and a fresh breeze rushed in. God’s Spirit whispered to mine. He told me through His Word that I wasn’t being punished. Jesus had already taken the punishment for all my sins. And nothing I do or don’t do can ever lessen God’s incomparable love for me or take away His unlimited grace!

God was not loving and cherishing me because of my good deeds, or taking his love away when I did wrong. And the same is true for you.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you always love, always protect!  You never leave us. You never forsake us. You make a way through the wilderness and a road through the desert. Your love redeems heartache and sin, disasters and even death through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

Yvonne Noblitt Bio Photo

Yvonne Noblitt has attended City Church Agoura for the past two years, and serves on the greeting team. As a professional writer, she has enjoyed a career in radio and magazines, Christian education and ministry. She has a passion for sharing God’s love and grace with people of all ages. Currently, she is the Director of Creative Services for Roger Kemp and Company, a media agency that creates, produces and distributes Christian radio programs. Yvonne is married to Randy Noblitt, and together they have a blended family of five adult children, two daughters-in-law, and one grandchild. In their spare time, they love to travel, bicycle and hike, while exploring the beauty of God’s great outdoors!

 

Open Doors

A WILD Devotional by Katherine Hageman

For the first time in fifteen years as a Christian, God miraculously opened the door for me to share some Bible studies with my Mom, twin sisters, and Grams.  My mom had been molested by an evangelist as a young girl, and was turned off to “church.” My sisters were living with their boyfriends, and although Grams took us to church every Christmas Eve, we never talked about the Lord.

When I first gave my heart to Jesus, I went from the “norm” of attending New Age meetings with Mom, to becoming a wild fanatic in their minds!  It took many slow and steady years of prayer and love for my family to trust that “what Katherine had” was a good thing.  They opened their hearts; and God, who plays the best chess game in the Universe, moved mountains so that we could study His Word, together!  

It was during Bible study that we first learned of our “family scripture.” Grams’ confirmation as a young girl in church was– “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord who has mercy on you.’ — Isaiah: 54:10 (NKJV).  My husband, Dean, gave the eulogy at my mom and dad’s funerals, and read that very scripture, declaring it over our family forever.

I was torn when the time came, many years ago, for us to leave this area and move to Vacaville.  I didn’t want to leave my extended family without us the only “church” they cared to have.  But Dean and I knew God’s plans were for us to raise our four sons there, and we thrived there for thirteen years.

A couple years before we moved back, I began to feel a deep drawing to my family.  The move happened suddenly..  The Lord opened all the doors in His perfect timing, again.  Our sons all grown, we now had six young nieces and nephews, and a granddaughter, to love on in Christ!  Our hopes were fulfilled when we arrived home to discover that my whole family, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, desired to come worship God with us in church!  Three years later, and they are all still growing in Christ!  Praise God!

Do you long for your family to experience Jesus in the same life-changing way that you have? Maybe you’re reading this and you know someone in your family is praying for Jesus to become real to you. When Jesus went to the cross, He was separated, “forsaken” for the first and only time by His Father so that we could be accepted into His family as children of God. That’s how we know that Jesus loves each one of us more than we ever can love each other!  Pray and watch the Lord move those mountains.

 

Kathy's picKathy Hageman, by God’s grace, is a mom of four amazing sons, two daughter in loves, and grandma to two precious granddaughters. She and Dean have been married for 33 wonderful years   She’s passionate about teaching and helping women to realize their full potential in Christ.  She has been involved in women’s ministries for many years and leads the “Breakfast & Bibles” City Group with Pastor Becky.

I Don’t Believe in Coincidence

I don’t believe in coincidence.  I believe everything in my life is and was mapped out by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Not to say He doesn’t allow for free will and choice.  He just knows ahead what choices we finite humans will make, since He lives in all time and space.  God is everywhere at once, and is the greatest chess player in the universe!   

I won’t waste your time with fancy words.  I’ll tell you the facts of life.  Well, of my life.  

Why?  The only reason for me to open my book, called “life,” for you to read, is to give you hope.  The same hope that I have. Not just fleeting, momentary, feel good, positive vibes.  Eternal hope.  

We all go through mud at some point in this life.  I have a blessed life.  God has planted so many beautiful flowers in the mud of my garden that I no longer see the mud, except through the lens of how it has helped an amazing array of flowers bloom.  

I was 2 years old when my dad beat me so bad I had to be put in a hospital.  Now, your mind can go in all sorts of directions.  The main one, I suppose, being, “What a monster of a dad.”  I’m not in denial, believe me, but my dad was no monster.  He was a young father who lost control in a horrible fit of rage, in one moment.  He never lost control, physically, again with me.  Ever.  When I was 35 years old, my dad called me up and told me just that. “Katherine, I need you to know when you were a toddler I put you in the hospital because I beat you so bad.  I never touched you again after that.  Ever kid.”   He carried that huge, torturous, bad father moment, knowledge for all those years.  It was a great relief to both of us when he spoke it out.

Unbeknownst to dad, my mom had told me what happened when I was 18.  I never said a word to my tough, larger than life, John Wayne, construction working father.  Nope.  That was not going to happen.

He was too closed-minded, in my view, for me to bring up such a sensitive, wound-opening subject.  

Do I remember any of it?   I remember getting into mom’s makeup.  I remember dad asking me if I got into mom’s makeup.  I don’t remember telling him no.  I also have no recollection of him beating me.  Completely blocked it from my mind.  Too painful.  

I had a psychiatrist do some role play with me over my dad when I was 21. Yes, I had to see a psych doctor for evaluation after trying to kill myself. That was my life.  I don’t know that I really wanted to die.  I just didn’t want to hurt.  So much pain was bottled up inside that I had no clue how to release it,  how to deal with it.  For the first time, a light came on.  I began to understand the affects that pivotal moment had on young, naive Kathy.  By getting into my mom’s makeup, I was getting in touch with my femininity.  I was trying to be a woman, like mom was, and “pretty myself up.”   When I was beaten for that, it spun my young, unmolded mind into a whirlwind of doubt and shame over who I am.  Am I ugly?  Is that why I was beaten?  Am I shameful? Pitiful? Bad?  Since a 2-year old doesn’t have the capacity of mind to understand, it all gets bottled up to deal with later on in life, when our brains can function well enough to take it in and analyze it rationally.

The first time I walked into the church, I felt the spirit of Jesus immediately.  He captured my heart in a moment!  I knew!  This was it!  This was what I was searching all those empty years for.   My best friend had called me earlier that day and excitedly yelled through the phone, “Kath! You’re not gonna believe what happened to me!!”  My mind autoed on what guy she would tell me all about next.  Instead she land-blasted my thinking with, “I went to church and was filled with the Holy Ghost, Kath!  You have to come check it out with me tonight!!”  I was intrigued.  I was also put off.  ‘Shrug.  Another “Christian” story.  Boring.’  But there was that something in her voice.  What was it?  It peaked my curiosity.  “I have to tell you, I’ve been to every church in the area, and I’m turned off by churches.” I dryly replied.  She was persistent.  I went.

My husband, Dean, was sitting at the coffee table, cutting a line of ‘coke’, with his good buddy, Bob, who had served in the military with him just months before.  Dean looked up at me in surprise as I came downstairs all dressed up.   “Where you goin’?”  he asked me.  “I’m going to the church down the road.  Ruth invited me and I told her I’d check it out.”  I quickly replied, to end the conversation.  He shot back, “Don’t come home preaching to me!”  His buddy asked me what church I was going to, and I dismissively replied, “I think it’s some Pentecostal church,” (with no clue what the word even meant).  He said something so profound in that moment, something we wouldn’t comprehend fully until later.  “If she goes to that church, it will change your lives forever.”  Then they went back to their lines as if he never said it.  I found out later Bob was a Pentecostal pastor’s son.  God grows us all through many expressions of church but thinking about it makes me laugh, because there are no coincidences in life.

There is another Bob I have to give credence to.  He’s another of Dean’s buds from the military.  Bob came over one day, long before the day I stepped in that church, and while waiting for Dean to get home, he and I casually sat across from each other, snorting cocaine, smoking and drinking and chatting about nothingness.  Then Bob brought up the big taboo.  Religion.  He asked me what I believed, and I easily told him, while doing a line, “I’m Christian.”  Bob laughed, and somberly injected some truth into my stubborn mind that I would never forget.  It would haunt me for a long time.  I kicked Bob out of my house immediately over what he spoke, and told him never to come back.  I told my husband not to let his sorry friend back in, ever.  Bob simply and with ease said, “I would never sit here doing what we’re doing and call myself a Christian.”  ‘HOW DARE HE!!  Who the {expletive deleted} did he think he was? (side note:  my husband was a sailor, and I cussed worse than he did) Coming in my house and thrashing my belief like that.  I checked the Christian box on any and all documents, (back then you had questionnaires on pretty much any form you filled out, that asked your religious belief), and I was just that, Christian!’  

Like I said, Bob’s words stuck with me.  ‘I’m a Christian, right?  Of course, I have to be a Christian.  I’ve received the Lord in my heart at just about every church around here.  So I have to be!’  It was Bob that helped me begin to break down the walls of pride and ask serious questions of myself for the first time.  If you’re out there, Bob, thank you.

Another serious incident happened to me when I was a 2 year old.  Those “terrible two’s,” man!  The rubella measles went inside and swelled my brain, which put me into a coma.  On the seventh day, the doctors told my parents I wasn’t going to make it, and to come say last rites over me.  My Grams flew in from Illinois.  I was sprinkled by a Lutheran minister (Grams faith), and left there to die.  I still have the bald spot from that time to prove it.  Mom said they didn’t move me due to the sensitivity of the illness.  I also have dystonia from that brief, nine day, period of life.  Dystonia sucks.  But dystonia does not have me.  It makes my head jerk “no” when I don’t want to say NO.  The positive is, I’m not saying “yes” to everyone.   

When my dad called to tell me about the beating, he also told me this,  “Kid, when the doctors told me you were going to die, I went and prayed all night long with the Pastor across the street from us on Nyeland Acres.”  Mom had already told me that cool happening also, but I didn’t share with dad how I already knew.  I gave him the honor of the moment, and thanked him for loving me so much to do that.  I always knew that was the reason I came out of the coma.  My dad, who died of liver failure from alcoholism, my larger than life father, who tossed profanity around like it was candy, prayed for his baby girl, and God heard.  There are no coincidences.

I don’t know where you are reading this today, or what you believe about life and Jesus, but I do know that He loves you just as much as He loves me. You are not reading this post by coincidence. He wants you to know that He chose to go through the unthinkable by dying on the cross so that He could welcome you into an amazing relationship and life with Him. If you want to be in a relationship with Him and know what this is all about, all you have to do is ask.

Prayer:

God, I realize now that you love me and I believe in You. I want to have a real relationship and life with you. Please help me know what it means to be a Christian and to actually follow you. Show me how you’ve been working in my life even up to this point and help me to become the person you created me to be. Amen.

 
Kathy's picKathy Hageman, by God’s grace, is a mom of four amazing sons, two daughter in loves, and grandma to two precious granddaughters. She and Dean have been married for 33 wonderful years   She’s passionate about teaching and helping women to realize their full potential in Christ.  She has been involved in women’s ministries for many years and leads the “Breakfast & Bibles” City Group with Pastor Becky.  This post is an excerpt from the memoir she’s writing, titled, “I Don’t Believe In Coincidence”.

The Outcome

“And we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan to bring something good into our lives, for we are his lovers who are invited to fulfill his designed purpose. ²⁹For he knew us and loved us before we were born and destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son, making the Son the firstborn among many who will become just like him.”

Romans 8:28-29 TPT

Our church has been in the “Super 8” series this past few weeks. As we have been studying Romans 8,  I keep coming back to one of my favorite scriptures in this chapter, verse 28.  When I think back on many big breakthrough moments in my own journey, I can remember quoting this scripture after the fact.  It’s always easier to believe what God says about a situation after we’ve seen it work out in a positive way.

Did you watch any of the World Series? Wow! What a nail-biter. Game 5 in Houston was particularly intense. The game went on for over five hours and every time the Dodgers scored, the Astros would come from behind. Finally, after midnight in the bottom of the 10th inning, Houston scored a run to beat the Dodgers 13-12. As a fan, this game was exhausting because no team seemed to have a clear lead. The outcome was never obvious. We just had to sit and wait to see what would happen!

When we are in the midst of tough chapters in our story, it’s easy to think that our lives are somehow like this baseball game, too close to rest, a bad thing right around the corner from every good thing, not knowing how it’s going to end up. Sometimes we can’t figure out how a circumstance could possibly come out for good. We can easily begin to feel anxious, stressed out and irritable.  

But the life of someone who believes in Jesus is not like a competitive game, not even close. God has shared with us the beginning AND the end. Jesus went to the cross, rose from the grave and defeated the power of sin and death in our lives once and for all. I love what this verse says in the Passion Translation above, that every detail of our lives is woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan and it is going to bring good no matter what!  He’s already won the game and we can rest in that fact. How? The key to all this is that we are His lovers!

When we are madly in love with someone, our default mode is to trust that they would never do anything to harm us. That is because we are designed to find our ultimate source of love in Jesus, the only perfect lover of our soul who will always be good to us even if things look bad.  When we search for this type of perfect love in other people, it can disappoint because we’re all so flawed. But, when we place our trust in His unfailing love, no matter what is happening in our life, and set our mind on Jesus and not our problem, we can have peace in the midst of any difficulty and trial.   I love what Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all you trust you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  TRUST IN THE LORD ALWAYS, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock!”

I want to encourage you today that you are loved by God and you will fulfill every purpose of your life.  What is the ultimate purpose of your life?  The ultimate purpose is to know Jesus and reflect who Jesus is!  If you don’t know Him yet, that’s okay! He knows you and is ready to talk as soon as you are. If you have questions about Jesus, we’re here to help answer them any way we can. Come to one of our gatherings on a Sunday or City Groups. Be encouraged that your story will show others in your life that God is bigger than anything they face.  

Just as you are blessed by the beautiful stories in this blog, know that God can bless others with your story just as much and more!

XO,

Becky

A Woman Caught

Beeeeeeeeeeep. I jumped in my seat and looked in the rearview mirror. A wide-eyed woman in a large SUV was gesturing energetically with obvious frustration. Her car held close to the rear of mine with unrelenting aggression. Yikes! I thought I had plenty of time to pull out, but I’d clearly made a mistake. Oops. What now? I stared straight ahead as the road widened and she pulled past me in the lane to my right. She was shouting at me. “Oh Lord, don’t let her hurt me!” I thought. She accelerated quickly and turned the other way. Wow. I felt terrible.

It’s the absolute worst when you do something wrong and get caught. I’ve been the object of someone’s hostility a number of times in my life, some deserved, some undeserved. I’ve experienced loud and straightforward accusation and the cold shoulder of quiet rejection. I’ve been reminded of failures and asked, “Why aren’t you doing more?” These days accusation often comes through the immature (but age-appropriate) voices of my children who are learning to navigate the small disappointments of life. “Why can’t we watch more television? You are so mean.” “Mom, why are you so slow to tie my shoes and buckle my seatbelt!” A woman’s got to have tough skin! Every accusation results in a self-examining question: Did I do something wrong here? Sometimes,with my children, the answer is obvious. No, they’re too immature to understand my limitations. Other times I really have to question my motives and wonder, is that accusation an accurate description of my heart?

When we started this blog, I felt like I was supposed to post about the women God chose to talk about in the Bible. This post is the first. In John chapter 8, we meet an unnamed woman who was not only accused of doing wrong but was undeniably guilty.

She was suddenly shamed, scorned for the decision she had made, alone with her accusers who had snatched her from her lover’s bed, the angry mob who made it their mission to exemplify “goodness.” They often found people whose failures were “worse” than their own in order to hold their position. These Pharisees wanted to be good but deep down they knew that they were not good, that there was darkness in their hearts. The people looked up to them, listened to them, which gave them a sense of power and security, enough to keep up the whole charade.  

But Jesus very presence was threatening all of that. When He was around they felt inferior, unworthy. He questioned them in front of the people. They brought their morality and knowledge to him but it was their hearts He was after. He wasn’t impressed by the religious establishment. Jesus didn’t use the rules to get power but always seemed to bend them to empower someone else, someone who didn’t deserve it.

Today it was this woman, a cheater, facing her accusers. While God indeed knows her name and her story, we’re left only to remember her as “the woman caught in adultery.” The ancient rules were clear, a woman who cheated on her husband or slept with a cheater, had to die. She made a choice to do something wrong and she got caught. And now everyone knew and everyone looked at her and said, “at least I’m not as bad as that.” She stood there, guilty, a tool to make them all feel better, superior, until Jesus reminded them of a greater truth.

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

And one by one they walked away. Immediately their conscious minds remembered the thoughts, the acts, the failure to be good. As much as they tried to deny it, get out of it, they were living in the darkness. Jesus stooped on the ground, writing with his finger in the dirt, like the ancient Lawgiver writing on the tablets. No one was left to execute the sentence because every person was guilty.

Except one.

Jesus is good, was good, perfectly good, and perfectly qualified to condemn and punish the woman. In fact, He knew about more than just that day’s offense, He saw in the darkness and knew all of the mistakes she’d ever made. But He doesn’t lift a stone. Instead, He asks her,

“Where are these accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Master.” Three little words give voice to our condition. No human being can condemn us, punish us, judge us, because none are any better than we are. Only Jesus. And when we listen to His voice, He says, “neither do I condemn you. Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

True goodness is more than morality. We can be moral and do wonderful things to look good in the eyes of others but it only provides temporary relief. Goodness is about holiness. Holiness is being like Him, for Him, with Him.  Holiness is what we are made for, what we long for deep inside. It’s belonging solely to God and living completely for Him.

I imagine that when this woman faced her accusers and encountered Jesus, it made her desperately aware of her failures. Being in the presence of perfection can do that to a person. Maybe you’ve felt that way about church and God in general and determined to clean up your act before you attempt a relationship with Him.

But you can’t. She can’t. I can’t. He doesn’t ask us to, He asks us instead to step into the light, to stand before Him. We’re like a houseplant in a dark corner, shriveled and dry. When we’re moved near a window and the light shines on us, we come to life, our leaves spread, our floppy stems stiffen and straighten. We grow and flourish. All of our ugliness and deadness is exposed but as we absorb the light, it becomes part of us and we become beautiful.

Jesus says at the conclusion of this story, “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” 

The darkness is the lie, the terrible lie that came into the world at the beginning. It is the lie that says we can be good without God and leads us down a road to nowhere. But goodness comes when the light shines on us, in us, exposing the truth of who we really are. We weren’t born for darkness, our beings require the Light to live. When we experience Him and belong to Him, that light empowers us to live beautifully, generously, truly good.

What voices are accusing you today? What’s keeping you in the darkness, discouraging you from approaching Jesus and receiving His favor in your life? Maybe your spouse or parents always remind you of what you don’t do, maybe it’s a boss who’s just never satisfied with your work. Maybe your children, like mine, are young and immature and express demands much easier than appreciation. Maybe you are the one holding yourself to unbelievably unrealistic standards for your life. Maybe you’ve been told God can’t love you until you get it together.

Jesus says, “They don’t have the right to condemn you. I don’t condemn you either. Walk in my light and be my light. Stop living in the darkness.” He made a decision to step in our place and experience darkness on our behalf when He went to the cross. He silences the voices and calms our fears so that we can get back on the road, doing what we are made to do.

My friend, today I pray that you can walk confidently knowing that He is with you simply because He loves you, no matter what the other drivers think.

All scriptures are taken from the Message Paraphrase.

A New Story

The photograph above sits on my fireplace mantel. In it I am laughing, head back, delight and joy in every line across my face as I dance in my father’s arms. I love this photo. It was taken on my wedding day, nearly 7 years ago. It was a day filled with quiet confidence, pure love, overwhelming gratitude and confident expectation of the future.

My Father and I stood behind two large closed doors, waiting. Waiting for that song, a beautiful melody of piano and guitar that would beckon us to walk…his hand in mine…only to give me away. We look at each other smiling, nervously he squeezes my hand, tears welling in his eyes, his lip quivering, fighting back the tears he whispers, “I remember when you were just a little girl…” Deep breath in as if to pause time and stop the tears from falling… “I have always loved you”. I squeeze his hand tight, look into his big brown eyes and know it is true. He loves me. We stay still, waiting and I know I have to pray now…I have to thank God…I speak calmly and certain, declaring the faithful love of God for me, my dad, my husband to be, the joy that we have in Christ, the power to love well, forgive and find ourselves more grateful today then we ever could have imagined …and then the music fills the space, the doors open…we take another deep breath, look at each other one more time, the unspoken words linger between us, we smile… Yes, my father loves me.

That day in 2010, my wedding day, was a day of redemption. A day all about second chances and new beginnings, about grace and love, hope and fulfilled promises.

Eleven years prior to this day, I had walked down another aisle, wore a different white dress, dreamed of a different future and prayed a different prayer. My father would not walk me down that aisle. He would not hold my hand and give me away at that ceremony. I didn’t ask him to.

My heart was filled with hurt, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. In my experiences and encounters with my father as a child, I was left longing. Longing for the affection, attention, and intimacy that any and every young girl desires. I wanted to be “daddy’s little girl”. In my mind, and in my feelings, I was not loved. I was not valued. I remember broken promises and in their wake I was left with a broken heart.

My dad had his fair share of hurt, anger and disappointment as well. I now know more about his story…and yet, at that time, I only had eyes and ears for my own story. I did not know the depth of his pain. His longing. His story. And it is not mine to tell here. All I know is that I spent my life, over 30 years, carrying around the weight of the pain and I had to blame someone…so I blamed him. With an unrelenting spirit to defend my brokenness and in an effort to find restitution, I made him pay for his brokenness. The brokenness that ripped into my heart and created in me a defensive, disrespectful, spiteful attitude. An attitude that cut into his broken heart and deeply wounded both of us in the process.

So, that day, in 1999, I decided he had not earned the right to walk me down the aisle. He had failed me. He had hurt me. He had not loved me the way I longed to be loved. So I put up my walls. I chose to hate. I gave ultimatums and spoke harsh words. I did not care about his feelings, only my own.

The reception was no different. I don’t know if I said 2 words to my father. Not sure if I looked him in his eyes. I certainly did not dance with him. As we prepared to leave that evening for the honeymoon, I saw him. Waiting to the side, his body tense and uncertain, I knew he wanted to say goodbye, maybe even hug me. I avoided his gaze and slipped into the car leaving him there, wanting him to know, “You don’t deserve my love.”

Writing a New Story

In order to hear new words and write new chapters in my story I had to be willing to let go of the stories I was clinging to, the stories and the words they spoke that were defining me. In letting go and telling the truth about where I had been, what I had done, what I had believed, and ultimately confessing that these stories were defining me…only then could I be carried away to a new truth. To a new story.

Being swept away in the river that was my story was frightening. My irrational fears told me that if I let go of my “truths”, those branches on the side of the river that I was clinging to for dear life, I would surely drown. The truth is, by holding on to those branches, those faulty thoughts and twisted truths, I was slowly drowning myself. And the fight was exhausting.

These “truths”, as faulty as they were, were my identity. As broken as I was, it was all I knew. And I just knew that if I let go, I’d die. The familiarity of those stories and my feelings about them were my reality. In them I found a strange sort of comfort, an unrealistic sense of control and a certain responsibility to hold them close. I felt unloved. I felt rejected. I felt unknown. I felt alone. And if I let go, the massive weight of these words and their perceived power were sure to drag me under and suck the life out of me. So I clung to the shore, grasping for air, fighting the current, my strength to hold on being challenged with every wave that washed over me. My will to live, slowly eroding.

I called out to God. Over and over. I called out, “Save me! Rescue me! Help me!” All the while clinging to those little branches. It never occurred to me to let go.  It never crossed my mind that if I let go of the story I was telling myself I would be carried away to a different place. That maybe the river of His grace, like my story, could hold more than turbulent waters and crashing waves. That maybe the river, like my story, could carry me to calm waters and resting places.

His promises came to me. Timely words in the middle of my mess. Words that would redefine the story I was telling myself about my future, my worth, my purpose.

I will lead you beside quiet waters and when you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Psalm 23:2 and Isaiah 43:2

In the midst of my hurt and brokenness I was not going anywhere. I was stuck. I wasn’t moving. I was clinging, holding tight to the truths that I had named, blaming God for not rescuing me. Blaming God for the pain, the hurt and the haunting words that filled my mind. And as I wrestled those waves, he was patiently waiting for me to let go. Through his word He reminded me that when I pass through the rivers I will not be swept away but rather I will be held and led to quiet waters, calm waters, restoring waters.

Letting go, it’s more than just loosening your grasp. It’s trusting that when you do, God’s going to hold fast to you because of who He is. Usually when we hold on to our past, it’s stories and voices, it is because we are not really sure about the character of God. We are not altogether certain He is good, loving, kind, and forgiving.

You can only trust God as much as you know you are loved by God. -Brennan Manning

The journey of letting go of your old stories must be accompanied with a new reality. A new truth. A new journey.  The journey of embracing and becoming your truest self is directly linked to your response to God’s offer of grace. The gift of life with Him. He took the first step by sending His son, Jesus, to the cross and accepting you exactly as you are. He is good and can be trusted with the decisions of your life. He is loving. He will sustain you, hold you, help you, protect you, grow and empower you. He will never leave you. You can let go now. His plans are for your good. When you trust Him, He fills, satisfies, leads and provides.

And the hard stuff, He will use it for your good.

And the voices of shame and condemnation, He will replace them with words of kindness, compassion and love.

And the determination to protect yourself, He will be your rear guard and your front guard, protecting you with his mighty hand.

And the uncertainty of the future, He will lead you and guide you in all your ways.

But we have to let go.

Once we determine that we are going to let go, we are also admitting that we are not in control. The future is unknown. The twists, bends, and turns on the river ahead are uncharted territory. To us. But not to God.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. -Corrie ten Boom

There is no need to be afraid. We have a guide, a captain, Jesus.

His promises are certain. A solid place for us to land. Bedrock under our feet. Steady and sure.

He will never leave us or forsake us. He will lead us by his righteous right hand and no matter where we turn, whether to the right or the left, we will hear a voice behind us, saying this is the way, walk in it.

IMG_0662Nicole Edgmond is a mother to two daughters, and a wife to Jason. She has counseling experience working in both the church and clinical setting. She holds a Master’s in Education (Southwest Baptist University) and a Master’s in Clinical Counseling (Liberty University). She is the director of Embraced Ministries and has worked with clients in her private practice since 2011. Her passion is to meet individual needs for authentic connection, intimacy with Christ, emotional healing & to help people in the pursuit of their God-given purpose. Nicole leads a City Group on Tuesday nights called, Stories, and hosts “Gather,” a time for women to come together and grow together in Jesus. To find out more about her City Group and many others, click here.