Sometimes healing requires surgery. In my case, it would require a transplant. The next six months was to be a beginning.
October came and went. My job as a stock person for Penney’s was one I enjoyed, even though my body suffered. I hefted forty to fifty-pound boxes full of men’s jeans. I sorted, sized and stacked them on shelves. There were tall ladders to climb to hang men’s shirts. The rods hung from the twenty-foot ceiling in the storeroom. There were dress shirts, suits, ties, sports shirts, socks, underwear, etc. to sort. Then we moved them to floor for display.
I’d always loved taking messes and creating order. Every new box of merchandise was Christmas in the making, but it was taking a toll on my body. Plus, I was up at three in the morning to spend time with the Lord and in the car by five headed back to work. Life consisted of work, home at three in the afternoon, and fix supper. Then there was laundry to do, housework, and back to bed by eight-thirty or nine.
Under it all, fear continued to rumble. The day to day ‘roommate’ atmosphere of our relationship ate away at my soul. The hope God had given, diminished.
In November, I heard about a twelve-week program. The name of the course was ‘Oaks of Righteousness.’ Its goal was to help men and women heal wounds from the past. And then to learn how to walk in true identity as loved sons and daughters of God. Several of my friends were graduates, and I could see the changes in their lives and marriages. I signed up for the class.
There was an introductory meeting just before Thanksgiving. I went, and each of the group shared why we signed up for the course. The directors went over the requirements. Each of us had the choice whether to continue or not. It would be a huge commitment. We would meet two evenings a week. There were reading assignments, writing assignments and lots of heart surgery in the process.
I left that night wondering, “Will I be able to follow through, work and keep up at home?” I had no choice. It was the door God presented and as painful as I knew it would be, I had to walk through it. I was desperate to be whole and to be free.
Because of the holiday season, the class did not begin until February 7, 2002. At home, there was more smiles and talk than before. Mike’s and my relationship seemed to improve, but underneath the coldness remained. My heart cried out on the pages of my journal.
“You are God of the impossible, but my heart is unbelieving Lord. I am scared and feel so alone. I need You.”
That night He led me to Psalm 32 in my Amplified Bible.
1 Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is he who has forgiveness of his transgression continually exercised upon him, whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I kept silence [before I confessed], my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord [continually unfolding the past till all is told]—then You [instantly] forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
6 For this [forgiveness] let everyone who is godly pray—pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely when the great waters [of trial] overflow, they shall not reach [the spirit in] him.
7 You are a hiding place for me; You, Lord, preserve me from trouble, You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
8 I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
9 Be not like the horse or the mule, which lack understanding, which must have their mouths held firm with bit and bridle, or else they will not come with you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on the Lord shall be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness.
“Lord, there are not words to express how much I appreciate You. You amaze me, Lord. How You can speak to my heart with the exact words, I need to hear at the exact moment I need to hear them. Thank You for Your Word that is living and active. Transform me with Your Word Lord.”
I noted in my journal the first flicker of life in a month on December 19, 2001, “Mike winked at me over breakfast. Thank You, Lord.”
The days and weeks pressed on. Nothing much changed, except more hurt as Mike continued to share his pain with me. I came away from those conversations more and more devastated.
At the end of January, we sat down to watch a movie. It was called ‘Medicine Man.’ In the midst of the movie, Sean Connery is speaking. He’s explaining to his new assistant why his wife left him.
“She left me because I wouldn’t allow her to forgive me. She very much wanted to, but I couldn’t forgive myself. Until I do, no one, no one else is allowed.”
It was as if a laser cut into my heart. Could this be a key to our story? Has Mike wanted to forgive me, but I’ve not been able to forgive myself for all the hurt I’ve caused him. I feel unforgivable. I’m sure there are walls a hundred feet high saying, “No, don’t love me. I’m not worth love. I will hurt you.” Oh God, come and help me take the walls down.
The next day we went out for Chinese food. Mike opened his fortune cookie, and it read, “You are doomed to have a happy wedlock.” He laughed out loud. Doomed was not the word I would have chosen, but the message was refreshing. How did You plan that one Lord? You have an incredible sense of humor.
The long awaited first night for Oaks arrived. They asked us to bring a list of expectations to class. Here’s mine:
- Learn how to forgive myself.
- Dismantle the fortress I’ve build to protect myself. Completely surrender to God in faith for His will.
- Find out God’s intent when He created me. Learn how to live true to His image, without guilt, fear, arrogance or pride. Learn how to be me in joy.
- Change of identity. Freed from the victim mentality of an unloved wife. Free of self-pity and hopelessness.
- Break free of self-centeredness–where everything said or done reflects back to me. Taking life too serious.
- Learn new ways to give and receive love.
- Learn how to hear with God’s ears, see with His eyes, and respond to life from His heart of love.
When I got done writing these out, I asked Abba, “What’s Your list look like?”
“Your list looks like Mine,” He said, “except number one on My list is this, I want you to KNOW how much I love you. I want to set you free to love yourself and others in ways you’ve only dreamed. I want to show you My will and surprise you with My love plans for you. They are better than your dreams.”
They’d told us that we would receive a key scripture each week to write out, meditate and memorize. The first scripture was one I’d been chewing on since January 1.
A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Yes, Lord, do that. Take all the hard walls of self-defense down and give me a heart of flesh.
I once heard a minister say, “We are God’s temple, not His condominium.” In those next twelve weeks, Holy Spirit helped me see that my heart looked more like a condominium. With Holy Spirit’s help, we removed the squatters from my heart. I was blind to them because of fear, shame, or pride. I didn’t believe I was precious and priceless in God’s eyes—unbelief. He also showed me the masks I’d been wearing to hide what was going on in my heart—pride. The awareness of the sin I was trying to hide in my life, fueled my criticism of others. I knew their sin because it also lived in me. Harsh realities uncovered by the truth of His word.
Several weeks into the course, we’d pinpointed unforgiveness. Some we had toward ourselves and some toward significant others in our lives. We uncovered the vows we’d spoken as children that were now reaping destruction in our lives. We wrote down our judgments. We listed the ‘should haves,’ and the ‘if onlys.’ We noted the curses we and others had spoken over our lives. We unearthed the generational sins evident in our families. And, for the next couple of weeks, each person had the opportunity to present their findings to the group.
I was sick with nerves on the day for my turn. My stomach was in knots, my head was on spin cycle, and my heart ached. It felt as if I was going into surgery without anesthetic.
On the way to class, I pulled over in a church parking lot to pray and journal one more time.
“Lord, You alone know who I am. I do not know my own heart. I’ve hidden things even from myself. I give You permission to shine the light of Your love and truth into every corner and closet. Remove the stuff from the top shelf I can’t see and the stuff I’ve buried hoping never to see again. Lord, this is Your day. I want You to have a clean temple. Come with Your Spirit and create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. I want Your will. I want Your plan. I want Your identity for my life.
“Lord, You’ve been knocking a long time. Lord, I open the door and invite you in. Let’s sit down and reason this out together. I trust You. Show me where to start.”
The leader led me in this exercise, but I was the one doing all the talking and praying. As I spoke forgiveness over myself and each of the individuals on my list, I also prayed a blessing on each one. I broke the vows I’d spoken and replaced them with the truth from His word. I relinquished my responsibility to have a perfect family, marriage, and ministry. I turned these all over to God. I let go of all the ‘should haves’ and ‘if onlys.’ I renounced the curses I and others had spoken over me. I came against them with the blood of Jesus and truth.
In the end, the leader prayed for me. She said she saw me clothed in a robe of shame and she wanted to remove it. I was standing in the middle of this circle of participants, and the leader spoke a few simple words. “Lord, in the name of Jesus, I remove this robe of shame.” She never touched me, but I fell to the floor unable to stand. God removed shame, and when I got up from the floor, I was a new person.
As a teacher in the Body, I’d often used an illustration about what Jesus did for us on the cross. Pre-cross, God was in heaven looking down on us and He saw the sin in our lives. When Jesus went to the cross, with His blood, He changed God’s view of us. I used a red umbrella to illustrate the blood of Jesus. Above the umbrella radiated truth, love, joy, kindness, self-control, faith, etc. When God looked down now, these were the attributes He would see.
At the same time, we were under the red umbrella looking up at the perfection of Jesus. While we were grateful for the blood, we still saw all the ways we didn’t measure up. Unbelief, rebellion, lack of compassion, etc.
That day of exposure and repentance removed the red umbrella for me. No longer did I see sin and God didn’t either. Instead, I saw Him smiling down on me without anything in-between. I was loved. I was forgiven. I was His. That day put my feet on a new path of freedom I’d never known. I could love myself and others.
The course continued for another seven weeks. We learned how to replace our old belief system with truth. Part of the assignment was to read a chapter of Proverbs each day. We asked Holy Spirit to pinpoint areas He wanted to uncover in our lives. It was called, ‘The fear of the Lord exercise.’ Through this practice, we learned more about God’s instruction for holy living—His ways. We learned to recognize old patterns trying to resurface. And we learned ways to confront them.
By the time the class ended I felt confident of the future. God was with me, He loved me. I had the tools for success, and with Him I would make it to the finish line of His will.
It would take a book to cover all that went on in those twelve weeks. But I hope you see what God can do when we allow His truth to do surgery on our hearts. God knew I needed a heart transplant for the days ahead. There were tests ahead for my new heart.
~~ How About You? ~~
Have your circumstances lapsed into a death knell? Do you see little hope of recovery? Are you still under the red umbrella looking up? While you are thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice, you look up and see nothing but sin and weakness in your life? Well, God has already prepared a way of victory.
Initially, an ‘atonement’ sacrifice mentioned in Leviticus 9:7 and other places was a yearly sacrifice for man’s sin. Still, the high priest had to make the sacrifice every year because it didn’t remove sin nature, it only covered it.
But the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, ‘washed us, inside and out.’ Our nature of sin is dead. We now have His nature. We are new creations. But they are often gasping for air under the garbage left behind.
1 Corinthians 6:11 in the Amplified: But you were washed clean (purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin), and you were consecrated (set apart, hallowed), and you were justified [pronounced righteous, by trusting] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God.
II Corinthians 5:15 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
There are many programs out to help you uncover what has been hiding your true nature. ‘The Bondage Breaker,’ by Neil T. Anderson, is an excellent resource. If you can find a group and a facilitator to do this study, it will be easier. Having support is essential. But if you can’t get the book and workbook. Sit down with Holy Spirit and let the renovation begin. There is treasure to unearth—YOU!
My prayers are with you. This is not an easy process, but look at it as being the most joyful, as you draw closer and closer to the One who loves you most.