I was reading Christopher’s History lesson the other day. We were learning about the founding of Jamestown, about John Smith, and about the consequences of decisions. John Smith had to be tough with the settlers, as most of them did not want to work but rather dig for gold. John had to rebuild the fallen sticks of a half-hearted, half-done fort after the Indians had destroyed it and injured many. John had to make an unwavering rule: You don’t work, you don’t eat! John had to be the driving force or this settlement would have failed as Roanoke had. John would train men to work, to build, to farm, and to hopefully lead (though few would). He would also work hard to establish respect between the Englishman and the Indian, and life would all begin to work. A settlement – growth – looked promising! There came to be around 500 settlers for this new Jamestown.
John Smith, before winter, would be injured in an explosion and have to travel back to England. He would have to leave this growing settlement and these 500 people. I wonder if he had any idea what would happen? The “gold-diggers” would resurface and the laziness and prejudices of a class of Gentlemen would show their faces. Work would almost cease, respect for the Indians – whom they traded for food with – died quickly, and the winter was still coming. Christopher and I read about how the Indians would no longer let the settlers come out of their fort; they were trapped – held captive due to their selfish actions. Inside, the settlers were beginning to feel the cold of winter and the desperation of a low supply of fire wood and food. The goats, chickens, and horses that used to provide eggs, milk, and work aid would now become their food. The houses that kept them warm would now become their fire wood. And, as the winter wore on, the very shoes on their feet would become their dinner. They called it the Starving Time. A mere 60 or so people would survive that winter – a remnant.
I pondered this history yesterday as I was praying. I could recollect a few Starving Times of my own. They seem to follow very abundant ones. There will be discipline, building, and growth. You will think you have gone “on the heights” with God, and then a phone call can buckle your knees, harden your heart, and sway your mindset. You can come up with a whole lot of excuses on why you would “stop” growth in this particular situation or with this particular person, and you can get up even feeling justified. Then you try to go on, but you find your heart’s not in it anymore. Your purposes have wavered and your focus has skewed. Before you realize what has happened you are striving to feel alive – to stay alive – in Him any longer. You begin, in desperation, to eat rations while you remember the riches at the table of your Father, and you wonder how in the world it got this far! How could the riches of your blessed life turn to rags and dust in your very mouth so quickly? Would you ever learn?
That is how it was for me yesterday. I was praying God’s “higher ways,” when two things happened out of the blue, and I could literally feel the heart harden – rock solid. It’s been almost 17 years of walking in Him, and I still can’t let His love just freely flow. I still want to hold onto His grace instead of extend it. I still want to be picky about His forgiveness and healing instead of generous. I am still the sinner in need; the one who forgets that He will gladly leave the 99 in order to save the one! And He wants me to be the one to go with Him to do it! Instead I harden, I make excuses, I bow out.
So, I pray – again, again, and again – let the walls fall down! “Die Self!”
I head outside to sit on that front step, the one I have come to love as it provides a place for Him to have all of me. I sit in the cold as I look out over a white sky not yet colored by the hues of the rising sun. I look at the pure white of the snow lying still on the ground. I still in the wide-open quiet, and I think of…walls. I think of how they have kept me from so much, from so many, for so long. Too long! The places I am supposed to go, I have not gone. The things I am supposed to be doing, I have not done. The people I am supposed to be loving, I have not loved. All because I have hard, tall, surrounding walls. As I pray I start to realize that I don’t just have walls surrounding me, I am now a part of the walls. I live in the walls. Like Rahab.
Rahab was a woman of the world and culture around her, but she had an ear and an eye to hear and see the things of the God of Israel. Rahab lived in the walls of Jericho. Rahab had a window. She could look out of that window and taste the hope of freedom, but at the end of the day, she would close the curtain and return to her home in the wall. Some days she might even sit all day long looking out that window, dreaming of possibilities, but when night would fall, she would return to her home in the wall. I felt like Rahab yesterday; I felt not just behind a wall but part of one. 17 years of having the freedom of Christ available to me, and I am still just looking out my window. God help! I almost couldn’t get up. I asked Nathan to pray because I was too much and I knew I needed to just get less – humble. And quick!
Here’s what I had been praying before the walls were felt all around:
I guess I would pray You take the desires away altogether, for they are a thorn! But then, what would I be laying down? Would I settle for a sacrifice that cost me nothing? David wouldn’t. The Apostles and martyrs didn’t. Jesus did not. So, even the tears and pain and discomfort become the blessing because they are what I can give in order to honor my Savior Who gave all to me. Would that I remember: every time I hurt, He bore the pain. Every time I cry, He cares. Every time I long, He fills! Every time I wonder, He knows. Every time I humble, He lifts. Every time I lose, He restores. Every time I sin, He forgives. Every time…He Is!
These words, and then this chance to live the prayer. I felt the fight between flesh and spirit. I wanted out of the walls; I wanted more than the window scene. I wanted more than a life redeemed by a red chord; I wanted to live a life redeemed by the red blood of Jesus poured out for me! I wanted to love like He loves! I wanted to be able to go with my Father as He went out to find the one! So, I kept praying! I was willing to go long and hard, not knowing when the hard would let up, but I would keep going…lower. Then…
Nathan called to testify of blessings that had come our way. Then another. Then more! While he was talking, I could hear another voice in the background, “I love you.” I began to hear a song, and I had to proclaim, “O, how He loves!”
I sat down with the kids for morning devotions. Christopher read words of…love. God has loved you; you love others.
“I love. I love you. You love. You love Me…love them and you love Me. Love, Father.”
I went on a walk in the cold. I walked, I prayed, I surrendered. I asked to let the walls fall down! And what would I give? What would it cost me? I was willing! The window seemed to be getting bigger, but I knew if I looked back I would feel the perimeters of that wall again. How can we make it fall forever?
Lent is upon us. A time when we let worship cost us something, as David did, and hopefully come into a deeper dependance on our Savior Jesus. I have given up time, food, and drink in the past. What this year? Whatever it was, I didn’t want it to be about…it! I just wanted to have more of Him and less of me! So, what was looking like too much in my life? Ahhh, I knew. (smile…a little chuckle…it might be yours too…it might not…wink…)
So, I will let go of this one thing for forty days or more, and I will grab hold of Him even tighter. I will walk and pray – specifically – for forty or more days. I will lift up my voice in praise, and I will believe that the walls will. fall. down! I will believe that the Enemy will be under my feet! I will believe that Jesus will still crush Satan’s head under His feet as He lives and breathes in me! I will believe that I can live in the freedom that Christ gave His life for. I will believe that I can love like my Father does!
Father, where there are walls erected to keep me separated from the very people You would have me love – fell them, in the Power of Your Name! Jesus! Amen!