Thursday, October 27, 2016

No Longer a Slave to Fear

About 6 months ago, as I was watching my oldest daughter practice in her lyrical dance class, I heard for the very first time the song, “No Longer Slaves,” By Bethel.  The main line in the song, “I’m no longer a slave to fear,” played over and over in my mind.  I felt so liberated by it at the time.  This was who I had once been.  A slave to my fears.  Held imprisoned by the bonds of depression and anxiety over letting anyone new close to me. 

My heart had been broken several years back.  It was a relationship that had been one of the closest friendships I had experienced outside of my husband.  I had given much of my time and energy, love and support, listened to God in times of need for this situation.  But then truth was brought to light, and instead of building and growing together through it, the relationship was severed, and nothing I could do, would fix it.  It felt like a messy awful friendship divorce.  I didn’t understand it.  She walked away and I was left with nothing but confusion from all of it. 

I bring this up not to expose the details of it all, but to share what happened to me afterwards.  A wave of depression, inadequacy to hear God’s voice in the ways I had been, and a deep physical exhaustion hit my body.  When I received counseling, it was pointed out how empty I was, and how I had nothing left to give, and I needed to enter into a season of healing and rest. 

One of the repercussions that came from the brokenness, was my inability to let people in to know me anymore.  I could maintain the friendships I had, and be connected with those women, but trying to make new friendships ended up being a failure every time.  What would happen is I would find someone, and want that person to become what I had lost.  And each time that new person would find a way to build relationship with me, but then I would shut down.  In fear I could not respond anymore, and I would push away that relationship, for fear of what happened would once more take place. 

I would go to church and sit in fear.  Our church would have this four minutes of greeting, a chance to meet new people and build relationships during the middle of the gathering.  Nick conveniently would need to go to the bathroom or get coffee in the middle of this, and I would feel so abandoned, and alone.  I had so much fear and I would sit in my chair, and pretend to check my phone, or my Bible.  Anything to not have to talk to one more person.  I was living in fear. 

As I mentioned before, I struggled hearing from God in the middle of my darkness.  I tried, but the times where He would give me a word to pray for someone, or a verse to share with a friend, a smile to give to someone, they weren't happening anymore.  I used to help in the prayer room in our church, but I stopped doing that as well, afraid I would say the wrong thing and not hear from Him in there of how to pray. 

Our church did a night of prayer every year, and there came a year, that I didn’t want to go.  I was terrified of being in a small group of people, exposing all of me.  Normally I would lead a group, but I couldn’t do that during the season.  I had a friend make sure there was a space for me in her group and my neighbor came with me for moral support.  Me needing moral support?  I was the person that would meet new people and look to connect them and engage them with other people at our church.  I couldn’t even go to the prayer meeting by myself. 

I was a mess.  I was broken.  I was living in fear. 

But in the midst of those dark moments, the Lord began to heal my soul.  From things like hearing Kari Jobe at Women of Faith, sing words over me that spoke truth: “I know that You are for me,” and “Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when it all just falls apart, You steady my heart.”    He taught me a little more what it means to rest with Him.   I attended an anger anxiety class, where the Lord broke through and showed me all the things He had been faithful to do in our lives, and all the things He still wanted to do.  I was reminded He wasn’t done writing our story together – His and mine intertwined as a small piece of His Bigger Gospel Story to the world. 

Then I took a class, called Mending the Soul.  I was asked to do it, for the purpose of training me to co-lead future groups for women that have walked through varying types of abuse in their life.   I came out of the class realizing the training was not for that reason in my life.  It was to give a name to abuse I had encountered, and being able to name that I had been spiritually and verbally abused in this situation.  It set me free – I was no longer tied to these areas of my life that I had heaped internal blame on myself.  I could now call things for what they were, recognize I couldn’t change people, I could only change myself, and set up healthy boundaries for myself in those unsafe places. 

That summer Nick and I made the final decision, to leave the home where all the brokenness had taken place, and start somewhere new.  We bought a house, Nick sacrificed his sabbatical fixing it up for our family, giving me the most beautiful love gift I have ever received from him, and we had a home that no longer reminded me of things from the past, but a home that would be a refuge for our family. 

We moved into that home, and the shackles were no longer attached to me.  I was God’s child – He loved me – He set me free – I did not need to carry the pain of the past anymore. 

He began to do a new work in me.  I for the first time, made a new friend, and did not go dumping all my pain from the past on her.  I did not put the expectation on her to be only what Jesus could be to me.  And I didn’t go running the other way.  And then my heart started to open up to more people, little by little I started to make new relationships and not run away. 

God brought back visions and dreams in my life.  Things He had shown me prior to the brokenness, He tapped on the door of my heart and said, “Remember? It’s time now!” 

I started writing again.  The book He told me to write started coming to fruition.  The dream of a ministry to women, where women could tell their stories of God’s faithfulness in their lives, started coming to life for something new. 

Brokenness happened at our school, and instead of running away, God had me run right in the middle of it, and with His Confidence, His Spirit, His Strength, He gave me words to pray over people, for people, words of encouragement, words that were life giving.  He showed me how to not engage in the things that would bring death and more brokenness, and He gave me courage to not be afraid.  I had found myself in Him once more.  It was so freeing and life giving into me. 

I was no longer a slave to fear.  I was a child of God. 

Then my husband’s work got messy.  Still I wasn’t running away anymore.  I listened to him, prayed for him, gave him room to be able to sort through everything.  God gave me everything I needed.  I know the slave to fear could not have faced where things were headed.  But as God’s child with HIM, HE could give me everything I needed.  And He did.  All along the way.  As Nick put out applications, phone interviews, and waited, and prayed.  Nick received face to face interviews, two job offers. 

God directed us up to Seattle.  We got busy preparing to move, to leave everything that we had ever known. 

Things slowly started piecing themselves together.  We had a school, and a rental home, and a church to pursue. 

When we made the move up here, the first month was all about taking care of our family.  I didn’t have time to process anything of my own, it was making sure my children were going to be taken care of.  To see their lives, start to get settled.  And they have been.  They are still.  It’s taking time.

But like the ocean water that had been building up out in the deep, a wave snuck up behind me, and hit me full force and pulled me under the water.  The emotions of all that the move had cost us.  Had cost me personally.  All the dreams I left behind, no longer to be a part of my future.  I sometimes would feel so mad I could punch something.  Nick would (because he didn't feel very threatened by the strength of my fists) tell me to “punch him.”  I ached for the families we would have gone to a new school with together, as well as the families we parted ways with in all of the changes that happened.  I missed being close to my family and friends.  I longed for my church family. 

Before I left, I was no longer a slave to fear at that church.  God had healed me and helped me overcome all of that.  I finally was finding a place in the body, a part of the story God was doing down there.  And then our kids school stuff falling apart mixed with Nick’s work struggles, took an eraser to all of those dreams and hopes, and I was finding that I had to start all over. 

I had dealt several years ago, with feeling unseen, and remember being prayed over that I would know that God sees me.  Now I am in a world, that I am unseen again.  No one knows who I was – who I am.  Who I am in Christ.  The type of person I had been in His church body down in Oregon. 

I started battling fears of rejection.  I also struggled with being at church. Sundays became my least favorite days because I was homesick for my church family down in Oregon.  It got so bad to a place, that I told Nick I didn’t want to be here anymore.  And then it got worse to a place that I didn’t want to be anywhere anymore.  The pain was back, the depression was forcefully knocking me over, and I was starting to feel as if I wouldn’t be able to get back up. 

I didn’t want to be a slave to fear.  I wanted to be a child of God.  I couldn’t hear His voice.  It was scaring me.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I had just finished writing my story and was ready to start serving but nothing was surfacing as a place that would be a way to connect and have purpose with my days while the kids are in school. 

I was looking for business to take the place of Jesus.  In an unhealthy way.  I had been afraid of depression hitting me, and so I felt as long as I was busy, I would be okay.  But when I stopped striving for business, all the feelings and emotions gave way – the floodgates opened and I found myself drowning in them. 

Last night, I felt as though I was beyond repair.  How had I gotten back there so fast?  The place I didn’t want to be. 

Then my husband.  My husband with faith that is life giving in our home, comes to me.  He holds me, prays over me, prays with me.  I try to hide, try to run from the love he is offering me.  Then He prays that in Jesus name for satan to leave me alone.  That I would no longer believes the lies that I am being told, that I am not adequate, that I have no purpose.  That I would stop living in fear. 

Tears start flowing down my cheeks, in the rawness of the moment, and as he continues to pray, I start to come to rest within my soul.  God is meeting me in this place.  He has not changed.  I am still the same in Him.  The circumstances around me have changed…

I question with doubt, “but Nick, all these times we thought we heard God – look how they didn’t work out?  Like how we thought we were supposed to go to Raleigh, or how I thought I was supposed to be involved in ministry to women at church, and how I was supposed to write a book….”

And Nick says truth: “Kari, you did obey God, and look what happened.  There is now a monthly moms time for these women.  Just because you weren’t involved in the final execution does not mean you didn’t hear God.”  And “Kari, God told you to write a book – and look!  You finished writing it and now you are going to have a friend edit it.  You obeyed – and we don’t even know how God is going to use it.” 

The lies start to fall off and be replaced by God’s truth.  By His truth that He is still faithful today!  And He still has plans for me even when it hurts and is hard up here in our new life in Washington.  Just because we moved doesn’t mean we don’t still have things to do with Him up here.  It just is going to take time. 

Today, He brought me back to the piano, to sing the song that He has been playing in my soul.  To remind me, just like the first time I heard it, I don’t have to be a slave to fear, I am a child of God.  So I wanted to share it with you.  This is a raw cut of the song that plays in me over and over, reminding me of my identity in Him that has never changed.