It was getting to be late in the evening one day last year when my husband and I both looked at each other with tears in our eyes, having just had a very painful conversation with some people we’ve loved for a very long time. We both had the same thought and spoke it out loud. “Leap for joy.” At the time, it felt utterly ridiculous. Yet I knew with my whole heart that it was what our Abba was requiring of us.
Our family left a community last year because we knew we had grown spiritually comfortable and God was calling us to a higher level. I hold only ourselves responsible for getting to this place. There is nothing more disturbing than to have a shocking, tragic life event shake you to the core and reveal to you breaches you have in the wall surrounding your family. For us, the breaches weren’t blazing, obvious, life-dominating sins, but more subtle ones. Our love for Yeshua had come to a place of comfortable lukewarmness. We no longer saw brilliant green vines of new growth and fruit sprouting out of our hearts, but had begun going through the motions, “obeying” God but with hearts not truly and fully surrendered to Him. The slow-rotting leprosy of apathy was working away at us. It didn’t destroy us, but it left enough of a gap for the enemy to get off a fiery arrow straight into the heart of us. I don’t believe we lost our baby because it was God’s original plan for us. I believe it was because the enemy was given a small place of authority (by us) whereby he could strike at our family. Who knows how many treasures are taken from us, not by God but because of our own choices? I don’t believe that even believers are spared from the consequences of breaches in the wall. After all, we have a free will to choose our own course. We can choose to tenaciously guard our authority and not share any of it with the enemy of our souls. We can also choose to let our guard down, to settle in all cozy and warm while sinful heart attitudes slowly chip away at our defenses, unbeknownst to us.
Of course, God could stop any arrows aimed at us, and I know one day we will see just how many arrows He did stop out of mercy on our behalf when He didn’t have to. But the one aimed at Joshua Zion slipped in and struck its mark. It’s only recently, a few months from two years removed from the event, that I have come to the place of admitting out loud that God can turn a fiery arrow into a merciful rescue. He is God, after all, and we just have to allow Him to have the last word in our suffering. Sure, He could have stopped it. But the amount of growth we have experienced since “the great awakening” in our family has been sweeter, fruitier, and more dense than anything we have experienced in our lives thus far. Even knowing we were going to have to get to work right away on the breach in our wall, it still took us almost eight months to get up the courage to move in obedience to the Lord. Ultimately, we chose to do what He had been calling us to do. The price exacted from us for that one act of obedience in this past year has been high and very painful. But I would do it all over again because of the fruit it’s brought.
In Luke 6:22, Yeshua speaks to His disciples. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” I’ve always thought Yeshua spoke these words to comfort those who are persecuted because they share the gospel with sinners. I’ve experienced this kind of reviling many times on mission trips and going around to share the gospel with people in various ministry capacities. While it’s never a comforting or rewarding experience to be scorned by an unbeliever, it’s somewhat easy to let it roll off because, hey, Jesus said to expect it. Our fellow believers all over the world experience this price to a much higher extent daily. Between Passover of last year and Passover this year, I’ve come to see a nuance in this verse that I never understood before. We are blessed when we obey Yeshua’s voice rather than men’s, especially when we know we will be rejected for it. It’s much harder to leap for joy when people who you have called brother and sister cast you aside. I don’t take a drunkard cursing me for sharing “that crazy Jesus stuff” very seriously. But I’m heartbroken when believing friends slander my family. Leaping for joy is not the first thing that comes to mind when your character and integrity are unjustly questioned. Misunderstandings abound even in the body of Christ, and when you find yourself at the heart of one and are blindsided by people you barely know accusing you of things you never did, it’s difficult to turn your eyes to the Lord.
I have been wading through a season of tremendous grief lately. It’s grief not just for myself and the friends who have walked out of my life without looking back, but for all of Yeshua’s Bride who just cannot seem to get her garments white because the discord of the Body keeps muddying its beauty. It’s mind-boggling to me that we as the Body tolerate so much bitterness, gossip, unforgiveness, and division in the church. I’m devastated that we as the Body are willing to throw out years of sweet fellowship without bothering to fight for our relationships. Why do we just lie down and give up on our brothers and sisters? For the life of me, I cannot understand it. It’s not biblical, and I believe it grieves Yeshua’s heart too.
Family is messy. When everyone knows everyone else’s business, the lack of privacy so you can be alone and lick your wounds is grating. How many times does the Lord force us together so that we can work out our differences and weave together a beautiful unity that puts the forces of darkness to shame? The Body is not just one congregation. So why do we behave like it is? Why do we act like everyone who is outside our “club” is not worth our time or effort, especially when we have invested years and years into those friendships? Who wants to start all over again and why should we? Isn’t there a way to stay connected even when our time face to face is much less frequent? Why do we outright reject people who are stepping out in obedience to God’s voice, even when that takes them away from us (maybe only for a season!) and we don’t fully understand it? Maybe I’m weird, but I would rather a friend tell me to my face that he or she is offended and hurt by something I did. Silently holding a grudge doesn’t help anyone – I am not made aware of my sin and you are holding on to unforgiveness – thus we both are damaged. It’s so destructive to true life in the Body. Yes, confronting conversations are difficult and awkward – I can’t say they are my favorite things. But the ones I’ve had that resulted in misunderstandings being dealt with, forgiveness asked, and hurts bandaged up have been some of the best growth opportunities in my believing life. I have come to be so grateful for those blundering talks I’ve had and the deeper respect for friends that I have gained after being willing to come to the table with them. And the bond of Christlike love and unity is ultimately preserved. Come to the table to talk. Get angry. Yell. Scream. Cry. Work it out. Just do something that shows you are alive and that I matter to you. I know I’m not the only one who craves relationships that are real. Don’t we all crave them? Closeness that is not destroyed on rocks of petty misunderstanding, but requires the blow of death to separate brothers? Why do we act like this life is the only one we’ll know?
These are some of the things God has shown me this past year about my own attitudes and how He wants to change them. Wow, what a short time it has taken for Him to completely upend some false foundations in me!
Limiting the pouring out of your love and heart to only people in your congregation limits your ability to grow. It keeps you from flowing in and out of people’s lives as they move where God calls them, from rejoicing with them and weeping with them as part of your flesh and blood but letting them go with a blessing and not a curse. Don’t let the temporary separation embitter you! After all, you will be together for eternity in My kingdom. Keep a kingdom perspective.
It keeps you in bondage when you can’t let go of people for any reason, but then as soon as they look like they might be headed in a new direction you give them a quick kick in the rear end to send them on their way because it hurts less than to miss them dearly. “Hurry up and leave so I can get over you already.” It enables suspicion and misunderstanding to gain a foothold, where you eventually believe it’s okay to think the worst of people, or even that I Myself support your conclusions.
Based on the conclusions some close friends have recently come to regarding our character, I seriously wonder if Pete and I have some evil twins around here somewhere. The accusations would be funny if they didn’t cause such sorrow. Is this how the people we’ve seen leave our community over the years have been treated? Is this loneliness and lack of mercy what has been served out on their heads from their own brothers and sisters in Christ? Yikes. I’m ashamed for any part I ever played in causing such hurt. God expects so much more of us, the Bride of His Son. If only we could gain the proper perspective.
I would rather know that verse in Luke because of what flows from the mouths of unbelievers, not my dearest soulmates. Alas, here we are, the broken and distraught Body, shooting mean looks and hateful words to each other, crossing our arms and refusing to budge in our rebellious, stubborn, prideful hearts because we think we are right and everyone else is wrong. I’ve been as guilty as the next person. It grieves me. I know our little community is not the only one that has experienced such upheaval. Not by a long shot. The sin of division runs deep and wide.
So, yes, I actually did leap that night in my living room. It was with both feet. I felt stupid. But here we were, husband and wife, losing our reputation in the eyes of man. Having been held captive to the fear of men for so long, we lost their respect anyway. What a moment of rejoicing our Savior must have had when He saw us take this first baby step of being willing to go out into the wilderness with Him, at the expense of what we had held so dear. I’m sure that He never intended for His Bride to be purified by the fires stoked by others in the Body, but for all that He does talk an awful lot about iron sharpening iron in His Word. Perhaps He anticipated the effort of working out our one anothers after all.
For my part, I am somewhat shakily taking steps into a new frontier. It’s one where I do not have to be accepted by anyone other than Yahweh. It’s a place that doesn’t let others’ opinions of me cause me to hesitate when God tells me to do something. I am being called higher and learning the discipline of the Captain of my soul. Despite the cost, this is the place of true freedom.
While I know I can’t force anyone to come to the table to reckon with us, I still stand in my heart for reconciliation and healing of brokenness with my brothers and sisters. I promise not to walk away with indifference, but I am willing to step aside if needs be until time provides some context. Let those who want to leave, leave; I will not demand that they stay. I will admit that I am aching for dear ones I’ve held close to my heart for so long. There are many. I admit it even though I feel completely foolish and people look sideways at me because I still cry over the loss. I know I’m not the only one experiencing loss, either. I’ve been on both sides of this kind of breaking. Yeshua aches for us to love one another as He loved us. He aches for us to remain in Him – unified, together, hugging close so the body odor mingles and we can’t differentiate whose it is anymore.
While I will intercede for the togetherness of the Body, I will not drink the cup of bitterness. The past few days as I have been heading toward the annual time of deliverance, my deepest prayer has been that Yeshua remove my anger and hopeless grief and replace it with only the grief that is in line with Holy Spirit’s compassionate intercession for the Bride. He is healing my heart. This Passover, I open my hands to the Lord.
Perhaps this Passover, we can all remember that mercy triumphs over judgment. Where we have not shown mercy, let us walk out our repentance in the months ahead.
If our Beloved withheld not His own life from us, how can we think He asks any less of us?