As I’ve set up my dorm room the past few days, the issue of light has been central. My roommate and I refuse to use the awful, dreary florescent overhead light to brighten our white cinder block residence hall. That has meant strategically placing three lamps throughout the room, since the command hooks refused to hold the Christmas lights to the ceiling. And while the lamps make our room about a million times homier, it also means there are places the light doesn’t reach.
It’s funny, because that’s exactly what’s going on in my heart.
Satan works in the things in the dark. In the secrets of our heart. And only Jesus brings light and freedom to those deep, tumultuous places.
I’m good at processing things in general terms. I die to my flesh and then I erect graveyards in my heart to remind of where I came from. But these graves in my heart become the breeding ground for darkness. The specific people, circumstances, feelings, actions going unconfessed. I know that the Lord knows them, so I assume that’s enough. Speaking it to myself makes it real; writing it means that someone else could read it and know the specific failings of my heart, the deep brokenness in my journey towards more of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit changes these places, has victory over the lies, brings new life. But the stones have to be turned over first. The darkness cannot be given a foothold. We cannot take our gaze from Jesus.
“Maddie, center your heart on Me. I’ve given you freedom that only comes from a place of abiding in My love. You need to feel secure and trust in My truth.”
“We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. . .I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part. Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith in tact, and can face the world – and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on Him, uncompromised.” 2 Corinthians 1, MSG
The Enemy likes to speak this lie to me that if I don’t speak things or confess things or write things, then it doesn’t make them real. I hate using people’s names in my journal. The places of total vulnerability is hard because I don’t want to be honest with myself; Jesus already knows, can’t He just change my heart without my having to admit it to myself?
That’s just one of the little lies Satan likes to speak to my heart. Here are some other ones: it’s not “go have sex with that guy. . .” it’s “forget that the Lord’s promises of marriage are faithful, that waiting is for my good and His glory, that my desires are from Him.” It’s not “when you feel out of control, go do drugs to escape from your world. . .” it’s “subconsciously eat and then feel guilty, feel like your worth is defined by what you can control, let your mind be consumed with physical things and what you are doing about them.” They are a little harder to recognize, and typically hide themselves in the specifics – the names, the emotions, the actions I’d rather ignore. Can’t I just say I’m struggling “being content in Christ” and call it a day? Nope.
Because they do sneak in. I don’t invite them. They aren’t welcome. But I’m living in a broken world, in a continually redeemed flesh.
And it’s only God who keeps me focused on Him, uncompromised.
When I was little, my sister and I used to love playing this game called “roar.” It was something akin to a tickle version of hide-and-seek. My dad would go and hide somewhere, then as we would go to find him, he would sneak around to catch us. We simultaneously tried to avoid being caught by him, but we also wanted to get as close as possible. My sister and I would tiptoe around the house, waiting for Dad to grab us from behind, yelling “roar,” tickling all the spots he knew best, and then freeing us as we squealed, screamed, giggled, and wriggled our way free. . .only to do it all over again.
If anyone else had ever tried sneaking up on me, shouting, and grabbing, it would have terrified me. It was the fact that I knew I was being surprised by my Dad, and his tickles, laughter, and love, that made all the difference.
I love it when Jesus “sneaks up” on me. He pours out blessings that I don’t expect. He reminds me of prayers I’d forgotten about. In His goodness and faithfulness and love, He comes up behind me and moves so beautifully in places that I’d given up on. I laugh and smile and let gratitude wash over me. The Lord gives us good gifts; I’m learning how to expect Him to surprise me with His power and grace.
But when the lies sneak it, it’s not as pleasant. I’m not smiling or giggling. And as much as I want to say that they don’t sneak up on me, that I’m always focused solely on Jesus and centered on His love for me. . .I’m not. In my flesh, I really am nothing good. It’s all struggle and distraction apart from Jesus, y’all. I’m learning what it means to find His strength in my weaknesses as I push past my gut, which is screaming to keep the things in my heart in the dark. To stay away from the specifics. To turn my eyes upon Jesus, just so that I can ignore what I’m really feeling and seeing in myself.
I have to be honest with my Jesus. I have to be honest with myself. Because how can I preach the Gospel of grace and radical salvation and immeasurable, undeserved loved, if I’m not seeing clearly the depth from which He pulls me? How can I expect His light and freedom to dispel the darkness if I’m not willing to carry the lamps over there?
I have to center and root myself in the security and goodness of His love. And I can only do that when I look down at the places of dark, rocky ground that I’ve buried in my heart and let Him overwhelm them with His brilliant light!
Praying for y’all as you go to the deep places of your hearts, with Jesus.