Saturday, March 12, 2011

Carried By Grace

"Three different times I begged the LORD to take it away. Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all that you need. My power works best in your weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT)

"He has showered down upon us the richness of His grace—for how well He understands us and knows what is best for us at all times.” (Ephesians 1:8 LB)

My last post seems quite long ago! As I last recorded in Isaiah 64:9, I experienced God meeting me in the midst of my many struggles of those “Early Days” and His carrying me through all the years that we spent in Tianjin.  So I have also felt rescued and carried by God’s grace these past few months…

In the fall I went through a dark time of deep physical and relational pain. My migraines were much worse than normal, and I could not seem to break free of them. I felt opposed by the enemy in ways that I had not experienced before, and I was living in survival mode.

Usually I am not able to think coherent thoughts in the midst of a migraine. But one day in November, as I was confined to bed, God graciously gave me a picture of myself.

I was a bird with clipped wings that had fallen out of her nest and carried the daunting task of trying to build a new nest in another tree. I didn’t know where that tree was or how to find it, and the responsibility felt so heavy. If only I was a strong and capable bird… But, I felt completely weak and totally inadequate to complete this assignment. A strong wind was blowing against me, and I couldn’t see clearly. How could I find the tree for our new nest, much less transport everything there that we needed from our old nest?

God spoke gently to this frail, broken bird and reminded me that He knew exactly where I was, and that He did not expect me to carry this huge responsibility on my own. He would give me His rest and protection while I waited for Him to provide His way in His timing.

This picture gave me an inner peace to replace the guilt I had been feeling over not being able to do more in preparation for our move. And over the next few weeks, God revealed the Way He had provided for me.

In Psalm 31:7, God assured me that He had seen my troubles and He cared about the anguish of my soul. Even if no one else did, God knew and cared, and that was enough (see post “God Knows”)

He also enabled my three children to cheerfully carry the bulk of the weight of sorting/giving away/and packing our stuff. I am continuing to thank God for the way He has used them in such huge and practical ways in our move, both in Tianjin and now in our new home in Lanzhou.

And lastly, in answer to the prayers of friends, He specifically used several dear sisters to enter into my pain and pray over me. I was freed from what was holding me in bondage and brought out of the darkness and into the light. Charly then helped me to learn some important lessons about how the Body works and the need to have a thankful heart.

This past week (when Charly hasn’t had doctoral classes in the evenings), we have watched the Lord of the Rings movies. I have been encouraged through the relationships of the Fellowship, to see how different characters supported and rescued each other multiple times on their overlapping journeys. My favorite example is still Sam’s lifelong commitment to Frodo (see “Faithful Friends”). I loved the way that all the main characters shone as heroes in the last episode, “Return of the King,” as Good did at last triumph over Evil.

Throughout the movie series, I found myself relating to Frodo and the times when he wanted to give up and wished that he had never been given the assignment of destroying the ring. I was inspired each time when he chose to press on in his journey, and accepted his part to play in the Battle of Good vs. Evil. I felt his pain and the incredible heaviness of his burden as he forced himself, on hands and knees, up the final mountain. I loved the part when Frodo had no more strength, and Sam picked him up to carry him on his back saying, “I can’t carry your burden, but I can carry you!”

After finally making it up the mountain, Frodo fought with himself over giving up the ring and then fought with Gollum at the edge of the fiery cliff. In the end, both Gollum and the ring were consumed in the fire, and Frodo emerged as a new person, exulting, “It’s done!” “It’s gone!” He and Sam raced away from the crumbling mountaintop and found a safe place to rest. There seemed to be no way for their return journey as everything around them lay in destruction and ruin, because Sauron’s evil kingdom was destroyed along with the ring. Then Gandalf flew in with large eagles that swooped down and lifted Frodo and Sam up. Rescued. Carried home. When there was no other way.

My own experience last fall feels similar to Frodo as he struggled up the mountain with a heavy burden, surrounded by darkness. As Frodo was physically carried by Sam, so I felt carried by the help of my family and my friends. Being listened to and prayed for by sisters in the faith allowed me to emerge as a new person, like Frodo, released from the heavy burden and brought back into the light. I also felt personally rescued by God Himself, like Sam and Frodo, and carried by His grace. We have now made it to our new "nest" in Lanzhou and have experienced God’s goodness and His provision on this journey in fresh ways.

“In all their suffering he also suffered and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” (Isaiah 64:9)
 
“I will cause my people and their homes around my holy hill to be a blessing. And I will send showers, showers of blessings, which will come just when they are needed.” (Ezekiel 34:26)




Jordan helped carry our 74 boxes up 9 flights of stairs!
God will make a way
When there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see.
He will make a way for me.

He will be my guide.
Hold me closely to His side.
With love and strength for each new day.
He will make a way.
He will make a way.

By a roadway in the wilderness He leads me.
Rivers in the desert will I see.
Heaven and earth will fade,
But His word will still remain.
He will do something new today!

God will make a way
When there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see.
He will make a way for me.

He will be my guide.
Hold me closely to His side.
With love and strength for each new day.
He will make a way.
He will make a way.

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