I awoke at 3am with that familiar feeling that it was once again time for some pruning in my life. It has been a rough couple of weeks. No, nothing major...at least not from an outside perspective.
See, we're in our focused prayer month. We set aside the first part of the year for seeking God's Will for the next year. It's always a time of great hope of the blessings we know He's going to bring, but it's also a time of pruning for the fruit He wants to bear in our lives. Do you know that pruning HURTS??
We are in specific prayer about something "big" that will expand this orphan ministry, and I was in high hopes that He'd deliver it NOW. But, instead, every time I seek Him, He leads me to confessing my sins and asking for a new tender heart with right desires. Almost every day during my quiet prayer and Bible time, this is the same place He leads me. One day, without trying to, I ran across THREE Scriptures (ones I've rarely seen) that said the same thing: Confess your sins...God will replace your stony heart of sin with a tender heart with right desires. So, I can take a hint. :) I began to pray for this new tender heart.
As the days of focused prayer passed, a horrible "unearthing" of things began. Old memories of hurt..angry feelings of things long past. Pretty soon, my heart was a mess of sewage that I hadn't realized was hidden deep inside under layers and layers. (And I was becoming a very grumpy person to be around!!) Still, the digging went on...imagine it as digging up things from a pit. Soon, up from the pit came a huge heavy weight of RESENTMENT...much too heavy for one woman to lift. I began to pray for God to lift it for me. Days of prayer passed before I noticed that there was something under the resentment...more to dig up! Just behind resentment lay a series of REJECTIONS...both little rejections from elementary school (amazing how those feelings can stick with you!) and big rejections from people in my life who hurt me deeply...the kind of hurt that is raw and exposes nerves and arteries...the kind of hurt that heals very slowly and leaves an ugly scar that never goes away completely.
Here I was trying to devote my month to seeking God, and instead I found myself exhausted and dirty from all the digging! By yesterday I was ready to throw in the towel and quit this focused prayer time (it was much much too difficult this time!). I sat during my Bible time and just stared at the cover of my Bible, not even having the energy to open it. All I could think of was this mess I was sitting in, and all I could seem to grasp from Him was: confess your sins and let Him give you a new tender heart with right desires. But, to be gut-level honest with you, although I hated the slime of that pit, I couldn't seem to get my hands to let go of the rejections.
That brings me to 3am today. I woke up, and I knew it was surgery time. I began to ask God to please please please help me to pry my hands off of all the rejection and resentment. I began to envision Him opening my heart and taking out the junk...like delicate heart surgery. And then I said, "NO!" It all came together in one moment... I didn't want my heart opened and this stuff removed. No, I wanted a whole new heart! Ahhh, yes...confess your sins and let Him give you a new tender heart. So, I just asked Him outright for a whole new heart. Right there in my bed at 3am, He began the process of a heart transplant.
BUT WHY???? Remember how we're in focused prayer? Remember how we are seeking His direction for this new year? Remember the "big thing" we are praying and believing Him for? I cannot get into details yet (maybe soon!), but this "big thing" will expand orphan ministry on many levels. It has the potential to reach many orphans. It will play a huge role in rebuilding the wall of orphan ministry. We know He's led us to this...we know it's for HIS Kingdom...so, why in the world did I have to go through this major detour to dig up such deeply buried awful slime in my own heart? I'd much rather be about the big business!
Let me share a picture with you. It's not one I've shared with many people. I usually share the hundreds of happy pictures of our daughter. She loves the camera, and she is almost always so joyful that she makes the best subject for photos! :) But one day I grabbed my camera to catch this moment...
This was about a month after being home. This is the face of grief. She is 3 years old and doesn't have the words to vocalize what's in her heart. Instead, she would "go away" into her own little world far far away from us, and silent tears would fall down her cheeks. This was her grieving process...grieving for the familiar orphanage she left, grieving for the many goodbyes she's had to endure in her short life, grieving with the uncertainty of whether or not we will leave her someday. Lots of hurt in that little heart.
My friend who has been instrumental in orphan ministry once gave a speech that I took several notes on, and I've gone back many many times to those notes. And this morning at 3am one of her points came screaming out of my brain as if I had finally put 2 and 2 together! She said that orphans need a home that can foster FORGIVENESS because forgiveness is the key to their healing.
Why have I been struggling for many days over the "unearthing" of so many painful things from my heart? It wasn't a detour. No, it was a direct route. Sometimes God prepares a road for us to walk that leads through strange and seemingly awful places. But in that uprooting of all the painful memories of rejection and resentment, I was being placed in similar shoes that the orphans will be placed in. In a small way, I was feeling their pain and understanding a glimpse of where they are coming from. It's not enough to pray for them to find a forever home, and it's not even enough to GIVE them a forever home. We have to pray for them to have a forever home that will foster forgiveness so that they can heal. We cannot take away their past, any more than we can take away our own pasts. But we can hold them as they grieve, and we can walk beside them as they learn to forgive all the feelings of rejection and not let the rejection turn into resentment. We have to feel their pain and walk their road and lead them ever so gently toward the Master Physician who specializes in heart transplants.
But first we have to undergo our own heart transplants. Mine was this morning. Healing is not always quick after surgery. Please pray for healing and for my strength to return in due time.
And the "big thing" we're praying for? Well, I believe THIS is the big thing. We learn to forgive so that we can lead them to forgive. We excavate all our old rejections and resentment and anger. We learn to LET GO, and we ask God to give us new tender hearts so that we can lead others on that same path. Unless we've been orphans ourselves, we can never fully grasp their pain and sense of rejection, but we can lead them to forgiveness with the compassion that comes from having dug up our own pit of rejections and resentment. We can point them toward our God who specializes in giving NEW hearts.