Last week, I took a couple of days for a personal retreat. I had a lot of things unresolved in my own mind and heart and they were starting to take a toll on me (physically, spiritually and emotionally). Karen suggested I take some time to get away, alone with God, and try and work it out. So, off to the mountains I went, Bible and journal in hand, ready to explore the depths and climb the heights of whatever God needed to show me.
I spent time sitting by creeks and climbing mountains, biking through valleys, praying and reading, begging God to reveal to me the truth of my situation and to work out the internal struggles I was dealing with. I had no idea just how much I had to be shown.
As the time went on, more and more began to unfold before me: past issues that had shaped me (both good and bad), recent events that had hurt me, and Truths of Scripture that were now delivering me. The pieces of the puzzle began to come together for me in ways they never had before. I began to experience healing in ways that were very new to me. I want to share a couple of the revelations God gave me that should be obvious, but are often overlooked, “hidden in plain sight,” if you will.
The first truth that became clearer to me than ever is that we are all screwed up. Really, I mean it sincerely. Not a single one of us has it together, probably nowhere near as much as we even think we do. I’m talking nut-jobs. It’s easy to see it in others, but really, how good are we at calling it out in ourselves? We’ve basically got it together, right? No, we don’t…none of us. Why is this truth important? Because when we realize we most decidedly do NOT have it all together, we can stop pretending that we do. See, if I had it all together, I wouldn’t really need a Savior. Instead, I am desperately in need of Him every single day, not just for my eternal security, but my daily sanity. Much of the problem in churches is that they are full of people who say they need a savior but act as though they don’t. In truth, we are blind to our own weakness. We are gullible, believing just about anything Satan tells us about ourselves (and each other!) because the truth kills our pride and soils our spotless reputations. I had to leave Fantasyland and sit down in the dreadful truth of my own ugliness. That was a painful blessing!
Secondly, I kept being drawn to Colossians 3:1-5a:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death
therefore what is earthly in you…”
Here’s why that is so important: if we are not constantly seeking things that are above and considering ourselves dead, it is so easy to let everything that happens to us shape us. If we get praise, we become prideful. If we get criticism, we become reactionary, defensive and angry. If we are ignored, we get lonely. In some way or another, we tend to get our value from the externals. We can feel loved, hated, abandoned, praised, and on and on it goes based on what others think and the circumstances that come our way. That’s wrong!
When I think about what Paul said in this passage, I picture an unborn child in the womb. It is (generally) protected from all outside influences. Everything that affects the child comes through the mother. Spiritually, it should be the same way. I am dead and my life is hidden with Christ in God. Therefore, outer circumstances shouldn’t affect how I think about myself or how I react to outside forces, replaced by the nourishment and protection of the Father. My defense mechanisms that create walls will come down as I realize the protective covering of the Father is so much stronger and infinitely less damaging.
External circumstances should not affect or determine how I react in the world. What people think of me shouldn’t change how I think about myself nor should how they act change my attitude towards them…after all, they’re messed up, too, whether or not they realize or acknowledge it, themselves. I am hidden in the womb of God’s love, righteous because He has declared me righteous. Accepted because He has accepted me. Successful because He defines success, etc. This is nothing of ME, but all of Him, so there is no room for pride in the equation, but there is plenty of room for grace, for myself and those who affect my life. If I set my mind on things above and get my worth, strength and value from Him, I’m now free to love others, deal with criticism, handle anxiety, overcome circumstances in a healthy way without needing to be or feel vindicated. I can release bitterness. I can forgive anyone who I felt hurt from regardless of their attitude or posture towards me. I can live in freedom because Christ has set me free, *not submitting myself again to a yoke of slavery!
When you understand how messed up you really are, you understand what great news it is that a Savior loves you and has hidden you within His protective care. You get a clear sense of Him working out all the details of your journey down this rugged road called life, up to the mountain tops and deep into the valley…because He’s Lord of that, too!