Life looks different right now. We’ve all said or thought it over the last few weeks. This time in history will mark each of us in ways we can’t even imagine right now. Our rearview-mirror perspective will show us much more than our in-the-moment view ever can. I hope I can look back at my own life and know I did my best. My best to glorify God in the good and bad of a life pushed into a time where so much was decided for me and my dependence could only be found in Him and who He is for myself and my family.

As I write this, I am on the breakthrough side of a lesson that my heart needed to learn…again. If you read a piece I wrote not long ago called Leaving the Land of Self Protection, you know that I am a recovering self-protector. Trauma in my life has given me a stealthy skill of slipping into self-protection to weather difficult relationships and/or conflict. My word for 2019 was level-up and it played out in wild ways (isn’t that God?) most significantly was showing me there was an elevated way to operate when things got hard. Last year was the revealing and subsequent deliverance from having to live this way. Letting Jesus be my defender and protector is still new to me when I am hurting.

Over the last few days, I have felt the invitation to self-protect. I didn’t catch it right away, but now, I see the signs. I was numbing myself to feelings about anyone else. (If I don’t care, they can’t hurt me…) Also, doing whatever I wanted to feel cared for (under the slippery guise of self care). So indifference coupled with self indulgence are my big red flags that Self-Protection is creeping in.

**Quick note about these two actions: In health, I can put up good boundaries and practice self care. I am all for those actions. In the doing of both of those, I must be seeking the Father for guidance first or I can guarantee I do both from self protection. My biblical litmus is Seek ye first the Kingdom of God found in Matthew 6:33. When I seek Him first, His wisdom for boundaries or self care are good and life giving.

In the morning when I went downstairs to have quiet time, I felt my (fleshy) mind making a game plan on how to act today to preserve myself. This is when I had the full-blown ah-ha moment about the direction my behavior was taking. I sat with my coffee, journal, and worship music in my ears and I let it out. I started writing my most honest feelings. At the end I silently cried to God that I didn’t know what to do with these feelings, but I didn’t want to operate in old habits.

As I experienced all of this, it was in fact Good Friday. Just before Jesus gave up His spirit, and He declared “It is finished.” When He did this, He was ending the reign of terror that sin had on our lives. We get to put our sins to death because of His death. I am not destined to be a slave to Self Protection the rest of my life. I am 100% free from it in eternity, but I am also declaring victory over it in my remaining time here on Earth. My abundant life came at a price, and I will not forsake the cost because it is easier to live out old patterns.

Upon asking God, “what now?” I opened the YouVersion Bible app to participate in the reading plan my small group has been doing together. When I opened the app an ad for a three day reading plan greeted me. It was called Living Hope: A Countdown to Easter, and was designed to be read Good Friday through Easter Sunday. All I can say is the Holy Spirit prompted me to open it. I did and I was immediately blown away by the content! The devotion talked about being forsaken and listed three things to do when you feel that way. I don’t want to give it all away so please go the app and check it out for yourself, but that list confirmed that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. I was crying out to God with my honest words and a heart that knew there was a better way and yet felt drawn to old patterns. However, I was choosing worship and His word in the waiting to receive direction.

I finished day one of Living Hope and then turned to the reading plan that my small group was following and a line from that devotional jumped out at me too. It said, “The victory of Jesus is received where your trying ends.”

I realized my mind had been working to sift through all it knew about my old and new self to come to a conclusion as to what to do next. I was still trying to do this based on my own resources! This is when I stopped and reflected on how my showing up with open hands ready to receive something new is right where He wanted me. Now I am a visual person and the Holy Spirit has full access to my mind’s eye. So He showed me a picture of the poor widow mentioned in two of the Gospels. Here is what Mark 12:41-44 NIV says:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

As I pictured her outstretched hands, poverty stricken and perhaps even dirty, but as humble as a pure-hearted child letting the two coins slide out of her hands to fully surrender herself to be cared for by God, I couldn’t help but see something new in this story.

God looks at the heart and in that moment Jesus looked at a woman who was all in. She knew where her hope was anchored and empty hands are free of false security in earthly resources. But more than that, He delights in watching us bring our “stuff” for the exchange. This action is an act of worship that declares that we know that He supercededs ANYTHING we could bring to the table. He delights in me coming to Him and spewing my very real feelings and honest longings. He knows it is for my benefit to unload on Him. In the unloading, I am emptying my hands to receive a priceless exchange.

With worship music in my ears and eyes closed I continued to see in my mind’s eye a simple scenario of my own hands dirty and ravaged, clutching sharp rocks. When I opened my hands, the jagged stones had words written on them. One said “brokenness” another “self-protection” and another “pride”. I flattened my hands and tilted them down to let the rocks slide to the ground and they landed right in front of the feet of Jesus. I was crying and sad, but He had the biggest smile on His face. He was overjoyed to see me surrender these burdens. To give everything I had to bring so He could exchange it all. He then extended His hand and touched mine, healing and cleansing them. Empty hands are a joy for Jesus to fill. The exchange has nothing to do with the value of the items brought, but everything to do with the heart of the one bringing them. The heart reveals when we are truly at the end of our own trying.

As we continue to wade through difficult times, how are you dealing with disappointment, fear, frustration, sadness, conflict, the unknown, etc.? Are you taking time to be truly honest with God about all of it? If you haven’t, I urge you dear reader, to spend time unloading on God. He is big enough to handle any and every emotion you have. His exchange is based on who He is, not what you bring.