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Make a better place for you and for me.

Some of you know about our recent transition to a new church. This was a huge change for us! We have been attending this church since January, and Husband played bass for the first time on their stage this past Sunday. Because he was serving in that capacity, I sat through our usual "early" church service alone. While I sat there, I felt a sensation reminiscent of our time at our former church, K. There, our family felt disjointed in some ways. Husband served in certain areas, and I served in certain areas; but it often felt like we were performing in side-by-side juggling acts. Here, at our new church (C), our family has begun to experience more connectivity. Although I have some conflicting thoughts (as well as some emotional baggage to unpack) regarding some of the areas Husband and I may feel called to serve now (Where do I even feel called to serve?); seeing Husband on that particular stage with that particular team, offering his talents to the Lord in worship gave me some confirmation that we are right where we should be. And, hearing the excitement in his voice as he recounted his experience (spiritually, musically, and socially) on Sunday warrants rejoicing.

The sermon from that church service is still sitting with me today. One of the elders taught on "The Heart of the Father" using scriptures from Luke. He read the parable of the great banquet from verses 15-24 and explained the basic metaphor for God's invitation to all of humanity. He emphasized the excuses made by the initial invitees (i.e., "I just got married so I can't come") and the immediate reaction of the host to extend the invitation to others who were truly in need. Now, I won't go into a thorough explanation of the parable. I simply want to note a personal revelation that I experienced while I sat there, alone in the crowd.

Upon hearing that the individuals he invited had all canceled, the master/host says to his servant, "Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." Previously, I read this scripture as a reminder that God's heart is for the poor and needy. Upon reading this scripture previously, I also felt deeply compelled to gather and care for the broken. I read this scripture as God commanding, Crystal, go and bringI read it simply as a guide for my own action. 

Sitting in my seat yesterday at church, the revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. I AM THE POOR, THE CRIPPLED, THE BLIND, AND THE LAME. Even as I type those words, my flesh and distorted thoughts tell me that I should not count myself among those who are truly in need. I have everything I need in Him already. I should be beyond this point in my walk. I should no longer require an invitation to his banquet. I should be assisting the Lord with inviting others, not receiving or responding to the invitation myself. Dang, which "excuse" is that?

While I do believe that I must serve the least (and my heart is to do so), I must also experience the goodness of His banquet. I must savor His invitation, His provision, His intimacy. Yes, I should extend the love of Christ to the needy. But, I absolutely must remember that I too am needy and am still invited to receive that love.

So, what is preventing or hindering me from receiving His love at this point in my life? The first word that came to my mind was "pride," so I decided to look up the definition. Pride is a feeling of deep satisfaction derived from one's own achievements. Do I feel deeply satisfied by my own achievements? Yep. In fact, part of why I enjoy being in school is because I experience such gratification from my academic successes. I pay attention in class, read the material, study for the test; and I get an A in the class (Well, more like an A+... 😉). I am a high achiever. I am a performer. Thus, pride is a particularly applicable obstacle to my understanding the heart of the Father as it pertains to my deeds. I recently even told Counselor that I give everything my best efforts. Who am I kidding? Who really gives everything their best? 

While pride may affect me in that manner, it does not fully explain why I struggle receiving God's love. As much as I enjoy my academic successes, I actually often feel like a failure in other areas of my life. I am constantly battling feelings of inadequacy and negative self-talk. Therefore, another word came to my mind. Shame. Shame can be defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. This. This is what is preventing me from receiving God's invitation to lavishly love me. I feel ashamed to still be poor, crippled, blind, and lame. I feel ashamed to still need Him. I feel ashamed that He still loves me when I am so very undeserving of love at all.

In contemplating this enormous barrier that I have allowed to grow between myself and the Lord, I am struck by how this same dynamic has unfolded in my marriage. I have essentially built a wall to "protect" myself from God. In the same way, I have done this with my husband. I have built walls to prevent truly experiencing my husband's love for me. The good news about all of this is that God is really spectacular at tearing down and repairing walls.

"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings." - Isaiah 58:11-12

Lord, You know the areas of my heart that have hardened and are in need of Your healing. I repent for my bitterness, apathy, and indifference; and I ask that You would continue to extend Your invitation to me. Break down the walls of my heart so that I can fully experience Your love for me. Help me to do the same in my marriage. Amen.


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