Saturday, July 23, 2011

I Will Not Give That Which Costs Me Nothing

I finished up my journey through II Samuel again this morning, and as always, my heart & mind were attuned, looking for inspiration in the words.  I found that inspiration in verse 24, just as the chapter was ending…

II Samuel 24:24  And the king said unto Araunah, “Nay; but I will surely buy it (the threshing floor) at a price:  neither will I offer burnt offerings (the oxen Araunah has just offered to give David as a gift) unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing…”

In a rather self-centered way, I suppose, I began to think about myself and sacrifice.  What specifically came to mind was a prayer that I began to pray in earnest in the summer of 2006.  That summer, I was a happily (or, at least I thought we were happy) married mother of a four year old daughter, expecting my second child.  I was also acutely aware that I wanted something MORE – something beyond what I had attained in God.  I wanted to live up to my potential – I wanted to use the gifts He had given me.  I wanted MORE.  So, I began to pray, asking God to use me, whatever the cost.  I asked Him to strip away anything that was hindering me.  I asked Him to mold me, so that I could reach others.   I had no idea what that request would cost…

Stripping away meant the loss of the family I had wanted.   It meant the loss of my health.   It meant the loss of security.  It meant acknowledging some painful truths that God had mercifully hidden from me for a long time.  I lost my marriage, not through my own choice, but through a choice that was made for me.  I lost my health, through a series of automobile accidents & a bout with cancer.  I lost my sense of belonging, because suddenly as a “single mother,” I didn’t fit into the culture of my community quite so well anymore.  And then, when I thought I had been given a second chance at happiness & family, I lost that too.  I’ve written enough about the pain of 2010 that I don’t need to rehash the highlights, but I can say this:  Four years after praying to be used, I was sitting in a pile of ashes wondering exactly what I had left to give. 

See, to be used of God is not elevating to the individual.  It doesn’t make you feel like Angelina Jolie on the red carpet.  Truth is, being molded by God into a useable vessel – particularly when you have prayed to be used MIGHTILY – hurts.  Badly.  For a long time.   And trust me on this too, when people are observing your situation, they are NOT thinking, “Wow, she is really being used of the Lord!  I can’t wait to see her come through this and do something great!”  Nope, they are usually thinking something more along the lines of, “Wow, I don’t know what sin she committed that made God so angry, but I guess it just goes to show you that you reap what you sow!”

Yep, to be molded is painful, but I think (maybe, just maybe) I’m finally far enough out of the valley that I can see some landmarks, and reading that verse of scripture today inspired me to go & check out my journals from 2006-2007, written before I knew just how far I was going to fall. 

June 24, 2007:  Lord, give me the tools to help me work for you.  I want to win souls – starting with my kids & expanding to the whole world.  Give me what I need to do that. 

In 2007, I had never spoken in public beyond my classroom.  Testifying in church filled me with fear, and witnessing was something I was always a little too intimidated to do.  Four years later, I have addressed church groups & school groups, ranging from 20 people to 250, speaking about faith, endurance, the goodness of the Lord, and other topics from scripture.  Through pain, sorrow, & faith, He gave me what I needed to do what I could.

August 16, 2007: Awaken my musical gift.  Let it be restored in me.

In 2007, I was really just asking that God make me a better, more anointed singer in my local church.  In 2011, He has inspired me to write around 20 songs.  Four of them I’ve recorded to Youtube.  No, none have been professionally recorded, but they are making their way to churches in other areas.  Who knows what the next four years will bring?

September 3, 2007: Lord, deliver me from my fear of the cancer & heal me completely for Your glory.

In 2007, I was awaiting the first round of treatment for cancer.  In 2011, I am four years cancer-free, after only ONE round of treatment.  He is still a healer.

April 26, 2008:  Oh, when will we realize that we are not alone!  We are in His hands.  Take the step!  Deliverance lies just ahead.

I have learned what it is to be truly alone.  I know the joy – and the pain – of heading up a family by myself.  I know the feeling of a silent & empty home when the children are away.  And yet…I have also learned that I am never REALLY alone.  Never completely.  I know that He completed me long ago-that He has a plan to meet my every need before I ever know that need is there.  My job is simple:  to trust Him to do just that.

I know what you are wondering, dear readers.  If I knew then what I know now, would I have started praying that prayer back in 2006?  If I knew the degree of sacrifice & the depths of pain I would have to endure to be molded by Him, to be shaped by Him, to be used of Him… If I knew, would I pray it anyway?  I will give you the only answer I have:  I’m glad I didn’t know.   And I’m glad that His grace has been sufficient, in spite of the pain of sacrifice.