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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Stepping Stones

Sometimes things just need to be put in a way that penetrate – that speak to you in only such a way as YOU will understand. “Speak a language all your own” as they say. I had one of those experiences today.

I’ve been trying – wanting – to write this blog post for a few days and it just got stuck in transit. There were threads in my head that didn’t want to unravel to become a tapestry. I think we’re getting there. I guess we’ll find out together.

Stories and stepping stones. That’s how you can summarize what’s been on my mind. We all have stories and working up the courage to share those stories is series of stepping stones. But before we can even BEGIN to think about sharing our stories we have to come to peace with them. And when you start getting down to that level things get a little weird. Personal. Intense. Scary. Choices need to be made: will I let God do His work in my heart and be used by Him for His greater good or will I stay in my comfort zone and go on as if my story doesn’t matter? Because when you get down to it those are your choices – stripped down to the bare facts. And that’s what I’ve been facing. And getting there is a series of putting more stepping stones on the path.

I think each story has at least 1 scar attached to it…probably a lot more than that. We talked about scars on the retreat. “My scars are my greatest place of ministry IF I’m not afraid to show them.” “It’s a scar because there’s life. Share the scar with those who are bleeding.” “You don’t need to know why; you need Him to be I AM!” “Someone needs hope and can get it from my scars. TELL HIS STORY THROUGH MINE.”

Nice sentiments, challenging statements, and scary prospects. And since I’ve been back from the retreat I’ve waffled on the fence, teetering between ‘why’ and ‘trust.’ I am still working through coming to peace with one particular part of my story.

Folks along the way are trying to help. I’m back to building the bridge between my head and my heart. My heart knows but my head doubts…at least on the surface….and gets scared when the emotions get stirred. But lately there has been a litany of little lamps to light my path. A statement here. An image there. A challenge. A Psalm. And a word picture. All in less than a week.

At small group last week the question was asked “has there ever been a time in your life where you’ve heard Jesus say to you what He said to the disciples when He walked on the water: “It is I. Do not be afraid.”? Corrie (name changed) was pretty bold and spoke right up (I loved it!). She shared about previously being in an abusive marriage and getting out of it. And she said something that made me cry: “If someone can benefit from my story then I’ll keep telling it. I don’t care.” Cue the Kleenex. Add a stepping stone to my path.

After she shared I started…through garbled tears. And I first had to thank Corrie because her statement was challenging me. And I did it….I shared my story….or a small glimpse of my story….about stepping out of the boat and telling my secret (or one of them) before the retreat and the overwhelming warm reception and encouragement that followed. To say I was shaking is an understatement. I almost left the room to breathe and give my brain a break. I put a stepping stone on my path.

Fast forward a few days to a conversation I was having with someone about this very stuff. We talked about changing the picture – instead of seeing God as passive and an outsider waiting to respond He was instead urgent in His response and came on the offensive. Or as she said, it’s spiritual warfare stuff – Revelation kind of stuff – chariots and horses and armies – all coming to protect His kid. That helped as did a video she shared of a church drama to the Lifehouse song Everything – and focusing on God reaching out for His kid and not being distracted by all the things pulling at the girl being fought over. I continue to mull over the line ‘how can I stand here with You and not be moved by You?’ Am I THAT hard hearted? I pray not!

Being fought over. Let THAT one sink into the marrow of your bones for a few. God is fighting for you. He wants you – us – THAT much that He sends His armies on huge chariots with the strongest and fastest of horses – because there’s urgency…He wants to get to you as quickly as possible and take no prisoners enroute. Add a stepping stone to my path.

So then Sunday rolled around. It was one of those God moments. My mind had been ‘busily blank’ the day before – staring into space, thinking about stuff but not able to pull it from the stars to form some kind of semi-coherent thought. Someone had shared Psalm 46 so in an effort to kick start something I wanted to read it. Instead I ended up reading Psalm 40 and didn’t realize it until 2/3 of the way through. It was one of those ‘God things’ because for the next hour it seemed God and I were having a conversation about things…about the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of sharing my story. Let me share a quick glimpse. For context I was reading from the NASB:

Psalm 40:1-3 – I waited PATIENTLY, He heard me AND my cry. He pulled me up, set me on a rock (security and safety), giving me firm footing. As a result He put a song in my mouth – one meant to be heard – and He will use it (v 3). “Many will see and fear and trust in the Lord.” THE STORY IS TO BE TOLD!

v 4-5 – the joy of trusting in the Lord – His vastness of blessing

v 6 – just simple acceptance – not works needed to be in right standing with God – no sacrifices for forgiveness – just acceptance

v 7-8 – response to God – “I delight to do Your will” – the only right response after being rescued

v9-10 – I will SHARE THE STORY – It’s about Him IN the events, not just the events – the story is continually being written – share the most recent chapter.

V 11-16 – protection from the attack that comes after freedom – the enemy WILL attack to try to gain lost ground – God does not hold back! He rescued (v 1-2), He will rescue again (v 13-14)

v 17 – continued reminder of correct status – broken, needy, and reliance on the Deliverer

And my reflection after all that: I was in the pit. Notice how it didn’t matter how I got there. God doesn’t ask why. He doesn’t scold. He knows why already – sin! He just moves to the rescue – doesn’t ask for signs of repentance before rescuing and protecting – He just acts. There is URGENCY on His part. The forces of darkness may try to hold Him back but He IS acting and WILL rescue – and wants to use the struggle to teach me. He ‘could’ rescue immediately but then the appreciation – the strength from the struggle – wouldn’t be there. He wants to teach us through the struggle. So what is He teaching me? What does He want me to learn that will strengthen my relationship with Him?

Add a couple stepping stones to my path.

And as if that wasn’t enough….is your brain full already too?!….today hit.

There is a FB devotional room I belong to and today’s devotional just tied Sunday together and put a bow on it. Remember…the question has been ‘why’ – and fighting inside between the head and the heart, trying to find peace in the process. And then I read this excerpt written by Toni:

“My beloved, you are my beautiful creation. I made you just as you are to shine the light of who I am to others. You think you are ugly because you see the hard shell mask you wear to hide the pain.”

“You are My beloved.”

“Remember that little girl who laughed out loud without shame, who loved to walk on her tippy toes and sing and play dollies? The girl who loved being read to before bed? The girl who just wanted to be loved? That’s the real you. The pain and suffering you went through made you of even greater value to Me because it caused you to understand pain so you can help others who are suffering. You can show them that they are My beloved as well. ”

“Nothing was wasted. Nothing was outside of My plan. Even those who brought you pain were part of my plan. It was painful to let you go through those times, but like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, I could not help you as much as you wanted Me to. You had to struggle and become strong so you could fly.”

Did you catch that morsel? NOTHING WAS WASTED! NOTHING was outside His plan! He knew…He saw…and He knew how He would redeem. And even the why. Even the why….He answered that question, too. He was there….the great I AM was right there….not an innocent bystander but letting His plan unfold…and He hurt when things happened to me. He didn’t abandon me, He wasn’t late, or caught off guard…..He was I AM…and He was RIGHT THERE!

So now that this piece is being laid to rest a little more…it’s time to put another stepping stone on my path. About sharing that story……

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