To the Soldier Who Wants To Forget

Days of remembrance are not meant to be torture.

I see you, soldier.

I see your shoulders, squared in military discipline, weighed down with unthinkable memories.  I don’t know what’s behind your eyes, but every once in a while I catch a runaway glimpse in your thousand yard stare.  I see the pain bubble up, aged and potent.  Old, yet raw.

There’s a hunger for absolution or amnesia that bisects your heart, sucks the oxygen out of your lungs.

I’m just a civilian, not a soldier.  I get that I don’t get it.

I don’t know what you’ve seen.  I don’t know what taunts you, what won’t let you sleep.

I don’t know what part of your heart has been ripped out and left to bake on foreign soil, or what scenes play through your mind and weigh you down with unbearable regret.  I don’t know what ghosts accompany you when you’re alone, what phantom slithers through the rolodex of your mind.  Scalding, searing, wounding, and relentless.

I don’t know.

But I do know something.  Jesus knows.

You are defined by His scars, not yours.

He knew a day was coming when you could not stand what this life would throw at you.  He knew.  He knows and He sees.  And He is not repulsed or intimidated by your pain, your memories, your regret.

He is not, like me, unaware of the realities of war.  He has provided a remedy.

Time does not heal all wounds.  Only Jesus does.

And He uses His word and His people to help.

I see you standing in a sea of civilians who don’t know what combat looks like.  You may be surrounded by people who do not understand, but that is not the same as people who do not care.  There is very little in life more painful than watching someone you care about suffer while being unable to help them.  (I bet you get that more than most people.)

That’s exactly where your family is.  Your church.  Your friends.

We feel the edges of your pain, and we grope, blind and clumsy, trying not to dislodge scar tissue.  And honestly, we’re not very good at it.  No one teaches you how to be the wife, the child, the parent, or the friend of a combat veteran.  We are flying blind, scared to death, and doing the best we can.  The learning curve, as you know, is high.  We fall, a lot.  We’re sorry.

But we can’t do nothing and watch you hemorrhage your life away.

Help us.  Your pain is a locked room, and the handle is on the inside.  No one can enter, no one can help, unless you grant us access.  Teach us.  Please.

  • Let us grieve with you.  We don’t need the details if you can’t share.  Tell us, even a little, what you lost, and let us mourn with you.
  • Let us honor you.  You did what we could not, and that is worth recognizing.  To us, you are a hero.
  • Let us speak truth, and you do the same.  There may be pieces of your story that you aren’t proud of.  (Who doesn’t have those pieces?)  If that’s so, please let it out into the light.  If you can’t (or would rather not) share those pieces with your family, talk to a chaplain, a Christian counselor, or a mature Christian friend.  There is nothing that will shock Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Nothing.  And if you never tell anyone, it will fester, and grow toxic, and poison you and your relationships.  It needs out.  Let it.
  • Let us know how to help you.  Is there anything that you notice contributes to flashbacks?  Tell us.  We can handle that crowds, loud noises like fireworks or popping balloons, and violent movies may not be helpful right now.  Just tell us.  Is there something we could do that would be encouraging to you?  How can we best communicate our needs?  Silence suffocates.
  • Let the healing happen.  Spending your life looking back is living with less than you deserve.  If you need a counselor, get one.  If they aren’t helping you, don’t give up.  Try another one.  If you need a psychiatrist, see one.  It is not weakness to fix what is broken.  It’s courage.

You are not alone.

There’s a whole lot of us, wanting to do life with you.  We like you.  We want to do Saturday barbecues, and Sunday dinners, and Monday football and Wednesday paintball with you.  And all the regular life stuff in between.  Does that sound too frivolous after what you’ve survived?

Life at home doesn’t look like a war zone, but there’s still a whole lot that you can contribute on so many levels.  We want to know you.  We aren’t perfect (in fact, we’re all in various stages of messed up and work in progress), but we can be fun, and we can be sad, and we can be noisy and obnoxious and loving.  We need your perspective, your experience, your story.

We need each other.  We need you, and you need us.  It’s a mutual need, a mutual gift, a mutual blessing.  We were created to crave community, and that is why isolation is so deadly.  Together, we make it.  Alone, we die.

We are stronger and healthier, together.

You are not unappreciated.

Can I just say thank you?

Thank you that because of you, I don’t get it.  Because of you, I’ve never seen war.  Because of you, I can sleep at night unafraid.  A gift like that…it’s unimaginably huge.  The words thank you will never be enough.  Ever.  But words and presence and prayer is all I have.

I pray a benediction over you, warrior.

May you feel the kiss of heaven settle, feather-light, on your eyes that have seen so much.  May you rest your battle-weary head on Jesus, who took your sin and your pain as His own. (Isaiah 53:4) May you lay your sorrow and doubt and anger at His feet and walk away lighter.  May your heart find healing and peace in the truth that His grace is enough. Always.

You are a soldier.

You are not forgotten.  You are not alone.  You are fully seen, fully known.

And you are beloved.

This article first appeared on iBelieve.com in May 2016!

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Imago Dei – Image of God

Imago Dei.

Latin, meaning the image of God.  A tiny grouping of letters scattered inky over pristine white, 5 terse syllables, but what does it mean?

It means that engraved through your very core, you bear the signature of a God who cannot forget you.  Like any good Father, He can’t help but love you.  He can’t stop thinking about you.  He will go to any lengths to save you.

His were the first eyes to see you, microscopic in your mother’s womb.  Glinting back at Him, was you.  A fragment of His nature runs stitched through your soul.  A piece of Himself, sparkling and irresistible.  He made you.  And He loves, loves who He made.

Hear me in this: you are not a mistake.

You are beautiful and immutably priceless.  You are idiosyncratic, and that’s a good thing.  You are uniquely you, because you are like Him as no one else is or ever will be.  Eternity pulses through your veins because you are linked, irrevocably, to Him.

You are forever and hopelessly His favorite.

You are Imago Dei.

He likes your early morning inclination, your determination, your shy.  He likes your gentle.  He likes your eraser collection, your obsession with old books, your weird quirks, your silly habits.  He likes your night owl tendencies, your flair, your loud.  He likes unique.

Don’t, I beg you, scrub your personality in favor of some notion that your quirkiness isn’t Christian.  Jesus likes quirks.  He likes funny.  He likes YOU.

Align your will and actions with Christ.  Live out Scripture.  But do it in the unique way that’s all yours.  You, love deeply through your individual gift.  You, share Jesus in the way that He’s equipped you best.  You, dare to be Jesus to a world thirsty for Living Water.

We need you to be you.  Desperately.  In a world of chain stores and too many imitations, we need original.  We need genuine.  We need people who are living out the Gospel, authentic and unafraid.  Strong and gentle and able to live outside the lines.

We are not called to be boring people.  Why do we automatically assume that we all have to fit the cookie cutter mold, when never once in Scripture are we told to all be the same?  Never once.  I think we might just assume that because the Pastor or Pastor’s wife or that amazing Christian speaker is (insert description here), that “Oh, that’s what good Christians look like.”  They do.  That’s who they are.  And it works for them.  But you are not them, and trying to be someone that you are not is a sure recipe for disaster.  Be unique.  Be yourself.

I have spent way too much of my life confusing self-transformation with progressive sanctification.  The first is something I do.  The second is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an obedient Jesus-lover.  He will change you, but only in the best way.  Only in the way that makes you more like yourself, more like Himself.  Like tarnished silver transforms as it is polished, He rubs the sin nature and ingrained selfishness off through the tumble and friction of life.  Until one day, His face shines back, clear and beautiful.

Imago Dei.

Doesn’t it awe you when you really think about this: He imprints a part of His very nature on your soul.   When you let it out and live who He made you to be…we see a flash of Him.  It’s beautiful.  When we all live it out …when the church unites…a picture emerges through the jagged and imperfect jigsaw pieces.  Jesus.  “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but some day we will see face to face.” (Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:12).

The Jesus I see in you, and in my family, and my church family, and believers I meet everywhere…it’s all a heavenly glimpse of the One we long for.  When I see Him in another person…it points me to Jesus.  The best parts of you make me hunger for heaven.

Because the best in you…is Him.

And oh, it’s beautiful.

 

This post first appeared on Faith+Testimony May 2016

 

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Dust And A God Who Breathes Life

Dust And A God Who Breathes Life

We are dust until He breathes life into us.

The exhale of His lungs is resuscitation to us.  Does it awe you to know that you are a billion molecules bound together by a single word from the lips of God?

Nothing more or less than a mote of dust suspended breathless and shocked by a crimson strand of grace.  It would change me if I believed that Almighty God really liked me.  Wouldn’t it change you?  His very star-making hands fashioned you.  He saw you before the dawn of creation, and He.  Likes.  You.  Quirks and all.  All creation waits, whimpering and lost, until it finds Him.  Until it finds itself found in Him.  I, heart lacerated, find my soul cool and laid bare before Him.  It’s in the quietness, the stillness, that I hush enough to hear Him.  Expecting a lecture, I find instead His embrace.  He offers, first and always, Himself.

To be held in His heart is to find perfect acceptance.  Not based on our faithfulness, but springing out of His.  Oh, if we could just slow and still and realize it’s not through trying harder that we find His smile, but in knowing through and through that He’s already done it.  Not for a second have we ever left His heart.  Through the years, and the choices, and the day-in, day-out rough-and-tumble of life…He never looked away.  Not once.

  • When I starved for control and the anorexia relentlessly consumed me…He waited, patient, to satisfy me.
  • When my need for affirmation became a raging hunger and led me to places I never meant to go…He lit the way back home.
  • When I doubted His goodness and pushed hard against Him…He leaned in and drew close, patient, gentle, steady.
  • When stupid choices broke my heart, they broke His first.
  • When idols filled my gaze and I reached out again to what would only devour me, He offered Himself, again.  And again.  And again.

As many times as I have needed Him, He was there.  He always is, you know.  The Great I AM is never the Great I AM NOT.  He just is and always will be.  He will never stop being, and being there, for His beloved ones.

The gift of His presence can feel like a curse to lips parched for blessings and eyes glazed with pain.  When we feel the need to tack on a happy face with Him as we walk through hell-scorched valleys, it’s no favor.  But does He ask us to pretend?  Never.  This life…it’s not a waltz through the park, and He knows it.  Being honest with Him is the only way to find strength in His presence through the dark places.

It is easy to feel the splinters in our crosses, and hard to remember that He carried them first.  It is easy to shock at the blood from our own wounds, and hard to remember that Jesus’ blood obliterates every sin, and will heal every wound.  White-lipped and dizzy, He drenched the dust of Jerusalem with sticky red and bought your soul and mine from hell.  “It is finished,” He said, and there is nothing we can do that will ever make it unfinished.  Nothing.  Like a wayward child, I toddle away, again and again, and always, He rescues, pursues, restores.

What does He see in us?  Not the sum of our choices, but the faces of His favorite children.  The One who can forget any sin, can forget exactly none of us, even the seemingly least significant, noticed, and worthy.  In fact, He can do anything but forget us.  We are caught in the cup of His hand, and we teeter so close, so forgetful of the glories of lavish grace.  We are amnesiac people, so easily distracted, and I feel the tug to forget like the incessant yank of a toddler.  Here I stand on the cusp of radiance, my toes nearly singed by glory, and my mind skitters over the grocery list, the to do list, and oh, I wanted to paint my nails.

Friends, I get it. Our eyes, tarnished by a patina of self-absorption, need Jesus.  Oh, how we need to turn our eyes and our hearts to Jesus.  If we could just do that…the mountain of weight we drag into His presence might shrink in comparison.  And the weight of promise in His name – the Great I AM – would settle buoyant on our souls.  And yet, I clutch my fist full of wishes and heave them to the summer sky, begging for blessings and protection and affirmation to cloak the skeletal cold of my distrust.  They flutter like snowflakes to the warm ground and melt in the heat of the moment, cold and momentary company for a heart that needs, more than anything, Jesus.

I have no need of blessings without the Blesser.  The protection I most need is not against some malicious evil doer, but the capricious and selfish nature of my own heart.  What affirmation is enough?  I am already His.  His child.  Seated in the heavenlies.  No circumstance will ever strip that from me.  When I remember who He is…I remember who I am.  And who I am…is inexorably linked to the Great I AM.  I can’t separate it.  Twined irrevocably, my identity is lost until I find it preserved in Him. (Psalm 103).

Dust?  Yes, we are.  But only before He breathes the breath of life into us.  You – undeniably His pride and joy – are so much more than the dusty labels you place on yourself.  Single.  Married.  Young.  Old.  Success.  Failure.  Businesswoman.  Mother.  Teacher.  Daughter.  Friend.  Strip them all away, and you’ll find the only one that sticks through all eternity:

You are God’s beloved child, forever.

 

 

 

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To The Soldier Who Wants To Forget

To The Soldier Who Wants To Forget - www.searchingformyeden.com

Days of remembrance are not meant to be torture.

I see you, soldier.

I see your shoulders, squared in military discipline, weighed down with unthinkable memories.  I don’t know what’s behind your eyes, but every once in a while I catch a runaway glimpse in your thousand yard stare.  I see the pain bubble up, aged and potent.  Old, yet raw.

There’s a hunger for absolution or amnesia that bisects your heart, sucks the oxygen out of your lungs.

I’m just a civilian, not a soldier.  I get that I don’t get it.

I don’t know what you’ve seen.  I don’t know what taunts you, what won’t let you sleep.

I don’t know what part of your heart has been ripped out and left to bake on foreign soil, or what scenes play through your mind and weigh you down with unbearable regret.  I don’t know what ghosts accompany you when you’re alone, what phantom slithers through the rolodex of your mind.  Scalding, searing, wounding, and relentless.

I don’t know.

But I do know something.  Jesus knows.

You are defined by His scars, not yours.

At iBelieve today, I am privileged to honor our soldiersPlease join me!

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Imago Dei – Image of God

Imago Dei -www.searchingformyeden.com

Imago Dei.

Latin, meaning the image of God.  A tiny grouping of letters scattered inky over pristine white, 5 terse syllables, but what does it mean?

It means that engraved through your very core, you bear the signature of a God who cannot forget you.  Like any good Father, He can’t help but love you.  He can’t stop thinking about you.  He will go to any lengths to save you.

His were the first eyes to see you, microscopic in your mother’s womb.  Glinting back at Him, was you.  A fragment of His nature runs stitched through your soul.  A piece of Himself, sparkling and irresistible.  He made you.  And He loves, loves who He made.

Hear me in this: you are not a mistake.

You are beautiful and immutably priceless.  You are idiosyncratic, and that’s a good thing.  You are uniquely you, because you are like Him as no one else is or ever will be.  Eternity pulses through your veins because you are linked, irrevocably, to Him.

You are forever and hopelessly His favorite.

You are Imago Dei.

I’m over at Faith+Testimony today talking about what it means to be made in the image of God.  I’d be so honored if you’d join me!

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