It was late, after Bible Study on a Thursday night.
We were sitting around the kitchen, as we often do, the remnants of snack littering the counter.
My words were stumbling over themselves, like they usually do. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just write everything I want to say so people could understand what I’m trying to convey. As soon as the thought came, I dismissed it. This was family, the people we do Jesus-following beside. They were committed to me, as I was committed to them, to work through all the broken words and twisted up sentences. This is what we do in the Body of Christ.
Our friends were listening intently, asking questions to clarify, and watching me carefully with compassion and love. I told them about the anger. The way this child-of-mine had busted down every piece of self-control I’d ever erected. How my patience was non-existent and panic attacks loosed my tongue instead of restraining it. How I was becoming the worst version of myself with this hardship pressing me down.
And then I said the words that were scraping me hollow. The truth that felt like it was tearing at my insides. It wasn’t my child’s fault that I was angry.
“Nobody can pull anger from a person who doesn’t have any inside,” I admitted. “Still, after all these years of following Jesus, I have all this garbage littering my heart and this hard thing is only revealing what I don’t want to admit is there.”
I looked up to the faces of our dear friends, feeling the shame of sin-stains and the hurt of flirting with darkness too long.
I watched as our friend reach over and gripped his wife’s hand. He smiled at her, then turned his grin to me. “Praise God,” he said.
The room quieted and he repeated himself more emphatically. “Praise God!”
It was slow coming, the recognition of his words. But his voice, his words of knowledge and understanding that were coming right from God’s heart to mine, hit their mark.
“God is so faithful. So good. He’s given you exactly the trial you need to root out this sin in your heart. This hard thing is revealing your heart, so you can surrender more fully, so you can become what He made you to be. Praise Him.”
It’s the opposite of what we want to do, isn’t it?
Praise God for digging up my shortcomings? Praise God for not allowing me to hide these raw, broken pieces of myself? Praise God for laying my sins bare before Him and our church family?
Yes, yes, yes.
Praise God for revealing my heart.
I praise you, Jesus, for not leaving this dark corner in me. I praise you, Father, for not allowing me to pretend another moment that I’m in control when really I am empty and in need of You.
I thank you, Jesus, for the trial of raising older adopted children. I thank You for their ability to break down every barrier I place around myself, so my heart is revealed instead of hidden.
I thank you for the panic attacks. The bewilderment. The emptiness.
I thank you for all of it because it has revealed the places where I haven’t been surrendering to Your Spirit. It has revealed the parts of my heart that are still under the control of the Enemy and fear. It has revealed my desperate need for You.
In the months since that night of reckoning, the night I stopped lamenting over my trials and sin and started praising God instead, there has been a slow changing. Romans 12 calls it being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
In other words, there’s been loads of digging up dirt and facing sin and shining light on some pretty ugly stuff—followed by the healing hands of the Father, who soothes and cleanses and pours grace into my garbage heaps.
I’m tasting the goodness of the Father again. Drinking deep of His unending compassion and the hope that burns His love into the darkest parts of me. And I’m realizing that it’s not just a choice anymore.
It starts with a choice. To praise Him through tears and shame and agony.
But then the choice shifts and love seeps in and it becomes my heartbeat, my breath, my life.
Praise God for never, ever, giving up. Praise Him for pursuing me even when I am quenching His Spirit to cling to my lostness. Praise Him for carrying me right into the middle of a heart-wrenching trial that tore to pieces the walls I had built, and revealed all the ugliness.
Praise Him for being the I-AM. The God-Who-Is-Actively-Present in my life.
Whatever trial you are facing, whatever path you are stumbling down and struggling to stand up under, whatever heartache is revealing your own shortcomings, your own failures… I say the same thing our friends said to me:
You can’t clean up a mess you’re not acknowledging.
You can’t fight a battle you’re pretending doesn’t exist.
You can’t be transformed into the image of Jesus if you’re unaware of your sin.
Praise God that He doesn’t leave us there.
“…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24