Faith-Full Friday, peace, rest, Stephanie

Faith-Full Friday Baited, Shipwrecked, Rescued

Hello, friends. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’re here today. I wholeheartedly believe that the message that God has given me for this post is one that you need—and not because it’s an all-around encouraging, feel-good “God is good” message (though those are often needed and maybe even preferred, yes?).

I believe it is a message that some of you desperately need to hear because it is where you are right now. I believe that for some of you, it is a WARNING of what will undoubtedly come. For others, I believe it is a much needed reminder of where you’ve been so that you’re more prepared when you end up there again.

On June 13, Pastor Rodney, the amazing lead pastor at Temple, began a study on The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense by John Bevere (2014). (Here’s a link to Pastor Rodney’s phe-no-me-nol Bait of Satan sermon series that I highly encourage you to listen to: http://www.templerepresents.com/message-media).

Christianbooks.com provides this description of Bevere’s book: “Are you ensnared by bitterness, seized by anger, or held captive by resentment . . . all because someone has offended you? Bevere shows you how to escape Satan’s grip, avoid a victim mentality, practice forgiveness, experience reconciliation, and remain free in Christ.”

I was so excited about this study, friends, because I felt that I was harboring bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness to a slew of people in my life who I felt had offended me. I should also mention that I was even more super excited that my husband and I would be attending this study together, especially since I just knew that David was most definitely holding on to past offenses, too…. (I know, I know. I’m still working on that control struggle, friends).

David and I made our way into the study on June 13 after a rather strenuous battle with our 3 ½ year old who did NOT want to go to church that night. We sat in the back and shortly after we got settled, Pastor Rodney began. I had my book and a pen so I could take notes in the margins because I’m a pretty conscientious student (wink).

About half-way through, David had a coughing fit because of a lingering cold that just wouldn’t go away. He ended up leaving the study and I was so offended because, geez, didn’t he know that he needed to be there???

I wrote down several notes on that first night but one particular note I wrote reads: “How many of you know that God will heal you through people?”

That one question posed by Pastor Rodney hit me hard. After all, I want so badly for God to use me to help people, and Pastor Rodney clearly confirmed that God would use me to help others. I mean, I am a leader in Celebrate Recovery. I am an administrator with ShareHisPeace. I am an educator. I like to give David sound advice any chance I get (like when I mentioned on the way home after the study that I was clearly the number one person who would help heal him since I was his wife—that one hurts to even type…).

Some of the days around this time are a blur, but what I can tell you, friends, is that I started focusing on whether or not so-and-so meant such-and-such when he said “Whatnot.” Or whether or not such-and-such meant so-and-so when she didn’t even look my way when I walked by and whatnot (because she clearly saw me). Or whether or not “Whatnot” that such-and-such had said actually meant so-and-so…. And I really hate to say that the Bait of Satan study seemed to exasperate these fixations. And I pretty rightfully started asking myself, “Is it possible to offend yourself?” I even asked some of my friends this very question. I mean really, do I just think and feel that people are offending me, or are they really offending me?

Holy smokes the way my thoughts and feelings can overtake me, friends, like ants piled on a lone crumble of hotdog bun in a crack on the sidewalk. ThinkFeeler/FeelThinker—here we go. Is it naptime? Bedtime?

And I started struggling in every area of my life because I kept thinking and feeling that at 42 years young, this is not where I should be in life. I shouldn’t have a 3 ½ year old and a 7 year old AT 42. Good gravy! My youngest is not even going to graduate from high school until 2033, and I’ll be so OLD by then! And I shouldn’t have this. And I shouldn’t have that. And I shouldn’t have to deal with this. And I shouldn’t have to deal with that.

Mommy-ing and wife-ing became so hard and honestly, just annoying. For Heaven’s sake how much longer am I going to have to wipe a butt? And how hard is it to put fabric softener in the washing machine?

CR-ing and church-ing became something else added to my already full-of-items-on-a-checklist-schedule and the energy needed to get myself and the boys ready and there seemed too precious to exert though I kept attending in body at least.

And grading papers….Don’t even get me started on grading papers.

Was I angry? Absolutely. This is not the life I had planned. (Yes, I know. Again, control).

And in the midst of the rage I wrote, “Happily Ever After,”

(and originally planned to include this picture of me looking like I was indeed hating life at the time:

).

but when I emailed it to David and Vanessa to read over and approve (and tell me how great it was), their responses were not at all what I expected.

“Has David read this?” Vanessa diplomatically asked.

And David, in utter disappointment and unbelief I think, asked, “What are you trying to say about our family? Are you really this unhappy with our life?”

Friends, Vanessa had to rewrite the beginning of that post and rework a lot of the body of the post for me because I was blind to the damage that I had already done to my husband and myself and our relationship and to the damage that I could have done to ShareHisPeace and our readers.

Anger, bitterness, and resentment dripped off the words of that post, and I hadn’t even seen it. And I was more angry that I hadn’t seen it (Am I not the trained English instructor? Had God not given me the vision for ShareHisPeace?) than that my post had been hijacked by my disturbing thoughts and feelings.

And I couldn’t let go of feeling like I just messed everything up and wasn’t equipped or capable of doing much of anything (being a wife and writer included). I was feeling conquered by my own self, and my heart just felt so broken. And as Solomon, the son of David penned, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22; NLT).

I had nothing left to give.

On June 15 after sending a text explaining the “Happily Ever After” debacle to one of my dearest friends, Melissa Evans (I love her so much!), she sent me the following text:

YES!

But no, no, no! I am supposed to be the friend that helps others! I want to be that friend! I don’t want to be the friend who needs the “Godly friends that guide [me] and nurture [me].”

(Loud, disgruntled “humph” here).

Even though I was going through all the motions and getting some stuff done (I wasn’t too behind at work and the kids were at least fed and had clean, albeit wrinkled, clothes), I was coming unglued. And I couldn’t believe how much I detested that life was not what it should be.

And the guilt flooded my thinking and feeling because what kind of mother, wife, church congregant, leader, educator, member of society, Christian was I when there was so much ugly in me? Where was the faithful servant? The humble believer?

And then the heartbreak and self-loathing and berating began, each negative thought and feeling a link in a chain that was already constricting my movements and cunningly cutting off my air supply.

“You are the worst mother ever.”

“You are the worst wife ever.”

“You are the worst church congregant ever.”

“You are the worst leader ever.”

“You are the worst educator ever.”

“You are the worst member of society ever.”

“You are the worst Christian ever.”

“You are the worst EVER.”

On June 15, I sent Vanessa a text that included, “I just don’t understand how I’ve gone downhill so quickly, and I can’t overcome it.”

I knew something was happening to me, but I couldn’t name it.

On June 20, I received a text message from Vanessa telling me to take a look at a video:

“Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray

Vacation Bible School (VBS), Shipwrecked: Rescued by Jesus (Group), began on June 24, and I partnered with Jamie for Bible Discovery where Jamie gave a Bible lesson and I acted as her sidekick. We also did some sort of activity with the kids that reinforced the Bible lesson. Each lesson went along with the daily Bible point that focused on an issue that Jesus rescues us from: When you’re lonely, Jesus rescues; when you’re worried, Jesus rescues; when you struggle, Jesus rescues; when you do wrong, Jesus rescues; and when you’re powerless, Jesus rescues.

On the one hand I loved volunteering at VBS and getting to see so many kids have fun learning about Jesus (Case in point:

).

And I loved getting to watch Jamie do one of the things she does so incredibly, stupendously, fantastically well—share the Gospel with and minister to children. On the other hand I grappled with thoughts and feelings of purposelessness and overwhelming insecurity that I didn’t fit in anywhere coupled with a fear of what others were saying and thinking about me (because I didn’t fit in).

The insecurity and fear worsened when on the last day Jamie asked me to share the night’s message of salvation with the last group, made up of the oldest kids, of the evening. (Kids tend to be brutally honest you know). Unfortunately, although we met earlier in the day to discuss the message we would give and the activity we would do, I had not reviewed the message before VBS began, and I was so focused on helping the groups complete the activity, I hadn’t been paying much attention to the message Jamie delivered, though I knew that she ended with a prayer of salvation in case there were children who desired to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Friends, I rather horrendously fumbled through the message (or at least it felt that way to me). The kids completed the activity where they used paint to place their thumbprints on a sticky note and then stuck it on the large paper cross taped to the wall in representation of how Christ cleansed them of their past, present, and future sins. Before the ending prayer, I asked everyone to take a long look at the cross and those sins because nothing they have done or could do could ever undo that eternal gift. I became so emotional that I couldn’t speak, and an awkward, uncomfortable silence filled the room as I unsuccessfully tried to compose myself. And then when I ended with a prayer of salvation, snot ran out of my nose like water running out of a faucet and annoying sniffling followed, and all I could think was how embarrassed I was, especially when a couple of kids came up to hug me and tell me that it was okay.

The weekend after VBS my family traveled to see my dad. It was mostly a good weekend as I made a conscious effort to be positive and happy, but here and there I found myself thinking, “Maybe we should move here and just start over. Maybe it’s time to take on a simpler life,” as if mountain living would somehow ease the present life disappointment that assaulted me.

We returned home on Monday, July 2, and on Tuesday, July 3, desperation sank in as I realized how much grading I had neglected to do the previous week. Blasted grading! David went to work around 3 and the care for the boys that evening fell solely on me. A car fight ended with a welt on Caleb’s face after David Lawrence whacked him with his Star Wars cap five minutes after we picked up Caleb from school. REALLY? We couldn’t even make it home? And while I was driving?

I sent both boys to their rooms as soon as we walked through our front door, but both refused to stay in their rooms until the Death Star timer exploded, so I did what any desperate and tired mama would do. I sat in the hallway outside their rooms so that they stayed put, and I seethed with how much time and energy I had to invest in refereeing my boys’ poor behavior.

I eventually made dinner and let them come out of their rooms to eat, but more fighting followed, and I very soon had had enough! They needed to just go. To. Bed. Immediately (one of my favorite words to include when I’m dishing out commands to the boys and I’m heated).

After a lengthy and emotional back and forth with my 7 year old who was determined to follow me around (even when I tried to put myself in time-out) and argue with me about how everything was his brother’s fault (isn’t it always?), I called my husband (because venting to him about our boys’ unacceptable behavior when he’s at work is always a good idea).

“I can’t do it,” I said between muffled sobs. “I can’t be a wife, and a mother, and work full-time, and write, and everything else. I CAN’T DO IT!”

Save me, Sleep!

The next day I received a text from David while he was at work: “God Gave Me You” by Dave Barnes.

On Friday, July 6, I told Vanessa that I just wanted to pack some bags and run because life was just too hard and I was tired of life being so hard all. The. Time. Really, friends, the reasonable part of me acknowledged the ludicrosity of what I was thinking and feeling, and as a result, saying.

“I’m living a life that a lot of people pray for,” I reasoned to Vanessa. “I have a husband who loves and supports me. I have 2 healthy, smart, loving boys. I have a job that allows me to pretty much make my own schedule. What is wrong with me?”

“Satan is attacking you.”

I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer in the headlights and my mind filled with chirping crickets.

When I was alone and had some time to think about what Vanessa had said, I wasn’t buying it. I mean, Satan attack me? Me? Like I’m worth attacking? Why would he attack me? Seriously, what was I doing for the Kingdom as of late? Was I not failing God in every area of my life? As a matter of fact, should my thumbprint have even been included on that paper cross?

On Thursday, July 12, I met up with Maggie, and friends, she was prepared for our meeting. She had prayed for God to give her the words I needed to hear because she was so worried about me. She said that she could see in my eyes that I had given up. That I wasn’t just keeping my head barely above water, I had actually gone under the water, and I was drowning a slow and silent death. And like Vanessa, she said it, too. “Satan is attacking you,” and she took it a step further, “and you’re unprepared.”

So that day Maggie shared some of Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God [because every day we have to choose to [p]ut on the full armor of God, so that [we] can take [our] stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV)], and she shared her altar, and she shared her experiences, and she shared her soul.

And I finally started to get it. You know, less deer in the headlight and chirping crickets and more, “Oh. My. Goodness. Satan is attacking me! And, no, I’m not prepared!”

Are you getting it, friends? Because this may be the second most important thing you ever get. (The first being that salvation comes through Jesus Christ).

Can you see how Satan so quietly snuck into my life?

Do you see how he used some of the things I love most in this world (like my family) to almost succeed in destroying me (although he was actually defeated when Jesus emerged from that tomb)?

Do you see how he attacked me through my predominate personality traits, thinker and feeler, that I normally use to worship and love God?

Do you see how a lot of his activity centered on exploiting what has been one of my greatest struggles—worth?

Do you see how my fight hasn’t been with me; the child of God me, the forgiven and potentially-if-I-so-choose free me; but with Satan who manipulates my sinful flesh that sometimes chooses to rebel against God and His will for me?

He is crafty, yes? [“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made”] (Genesis 3:1; NIV).

He’s a Jason Vorhees, a Michael Myers, a Freddy Krueger hiding in a closet or under a bed or behind a shower curtain, waiting for the exact right time to come in for the kill of the unsuspecting victim. Only unlike Jason, Michael, and Freddy, Satan comes in again…and again…and again.

Do you see how Satan baited me, friends, because whether or not I feel like a good one or an effective one, the truth is, I’m a disciple. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I have repented (and do repent) for my sins and have asked (and do ask) for His forgiveness. I have made a commitment to represent Him well through this blog and in other areas of my life, and when I fall short (which is daily, friends), I praise Him for His gifts of mercy and grace and I trudge on. And, friends, I am part of the 99 going after the 1. I am a threat.

Do you see how Satan left me shipwrecked, friends, in my thinking that I didn’t belong and that I just couldn’t even go on?

But do you know what I don’t think Satan counted on? The rescue.

Over the past few weeks when my woes and sorrows left me weak and paralyzed, I still felt Him. When my hurts felt too painful to bear and bare, I still felt Him. When I tried to pray or read my Bible and I just couldn’t, I still felt Him. When I sat on my couch and said to Him, “I just can’t today,” I still felt Him.

Not one time did I ever feel that He had left me because while I was drowning, He was with me, and while He was with me, He was tossing me life preservers.

Vanessa, Melissa, David, Maggie, the VBS kids (and others), the texts, the songs, the conversations of support and encouragement, the reminders of Jesus’s love, grace, mercy, sacrifice. The reminders of my worth in Christ. The reminders of the REAL Truth and all His promises….

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10: 24-25; NIV).

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11; NIV).

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; NLT).

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20; NIV).

Unfortunately, there were times when I chose shipwrecked and said, “Thanks, Jesus, but I’d rather have a pool noodle instead of the life jacket you’re offering.” There were times I chose to keep treading water while I had on ankle weights, but He kept sending those life preservers that I eventually grabbed, and now my head’s above water again. I have been rescued, and God is restoring me once again, just as Peter said:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10; ESV).

Because when Satan attacks, friends, Jesus rescues….

“My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective

So where am I now? Well, first and foremost I’m not bearing anymore; I’m baring. I’m having conversations and sharing my feelings. I’m steadily getting back into reading the Word and am starting to extensively study “The Armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-18. I also have several books on the way on spiritual warfare. And most importantly, I think, I’m praying again, friends. [“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41, NIV)].

Really, I’m preparing, friends, because the threat lives on and Satan is crafty. But most importantly, I’m resting. And no, I’m not talking about sleeping though I think Sleep and I will always be good friends. I’m preparing to continue the good fight and I’m resting in His peace that when I fall overboard, there will be life preservers. In fact, they are there before I even fall….

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father,

I praise You for Your never ending love, mercy, and grace. Forgive us for the times we refuse Your rescue, for You rescue us so perfectly. Thank You for giving us what we need, Your Word and Your disciples, so that we’re able to fight and rest. Use us, Father, to further Your Kingdom. “Praise be to [You, the] Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from [You]” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; NIV).

In Jesus’s Name,

Amen!

When I visited Maggie, she told me I needed a song that would help me rise in victory on days when my negative thinking and feeling (and Satan) attempt to throw me overboard, so on July 14, God and I chose a theme song especially for me.

I hope it energizes you, too, and encourages you to choose your own song. And I’ll see you on Monday for Yvette’s Monday Mayhem.

“Beautiful Day” by Jamie Grace

 

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