Chapter Two: A Lost Sheep
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
I always assumed I'd return to writing at some point, but hoped it would be under different circumstances. As time passed, it seemed that returning was more of a daunting task rather than a privilege. What would I say? How would I start? How could I explain why I stopped? How would I even admit that the original purpose of this blog is what I am now in need of? It seemed for every thought, there were around five immediate follow-up questions. A lot how life has been lately. With thousands of thoughts flying around in my mind, it seemed impossible to simply verbalize them. So here I am.
Ultimately, I will admit, this is not where I thought I’d be right now. Nowhere close. Thinking about it makes my whole body hurt. Sometimes it will start with my stomach and feel as though someone wrapped a boa constrictor around my body and demanded it to sqeeeeeeeeeze. Other times, it will start in my shoulders and seem as if someone placed fifty-pound dumbbells right in between my neck and shoulder blades. Sometimes it feels like my head could actually explode and pop off my body. It’s extremely difficult to navigate a devastating life experience and also maintain some sense of normalcy. (I mean honestly, what is even normal at this point?) People are resuming their usual activities, but I feel like laying on the floor and not moving for at least a few days. I feel so alone, even surrounded by people. Of course I know I’m not actually alone, but the gut-wrenching feeling that I am the only one experiencing this hurt is deeply troubling. At times, I word vomit all over whoever is physically near me and I am sure that only a third of it is sensible. Other times, I think about verbalizing a thought and as soon as my mouth opens, about twenty other ones come flooding to the forefront. I feel frozen. Deer in the head lights. I'm so broken and it's definitely messy. But when we are broken, isn’t it always ugly? I mean isn’t that why we want to hide from people and God when we are at the end of our rope? It’s not pretty. I’m talking the ugly cry, screaming, distraught kind of messy.
Nothing about my situation was the plan. And Lord knows, I love a good plan. None of this was what I wanted or dreamed of. I love dreaming and often get my heart set on something so deeply it seems like it was written on my heart. When it doesn’t pan out, a part of me is ripped away. I tend to love like that too. Codependence. Placing your confidence, value, and plans on the wrong foundation will never hold up for long. You wonder how the heck you are supposed to move forward when you lost the very ground under your feet. Maybe you wonder if any of your dreams would have ever come to fruition if something could have gone differently. Perhaps you wonder if your heart will ever stop bleeding. Heartbreak, trauma, and grief can leave you stripped of everything you once thought you knew. It leaves you vulnerable and terrified. It’s like watching your life fall apart slowly and all at once. I understand this, my friend, and you are not alone.
I am devastated, disappointed, confused, deeply rattled, scared, and vulnerable. So what now? How do I get through this? What do I do?
A few days ago, I was reminded that the Lord is our Shepard and we are His sheep. I thought about the parable of the 99. I love that scripture so much.
"If a man has 100 sheep, but one of the sheep becomes lost, then the man will leave the other 99 sheep on the hill. He will go to look for the lost sheep. Right? And if the man finds the lost sheep, the man is happier about that one sheep than about the 99 sheep that were never lost. I tell you the truth. In the same way, your Father in heaven does not want any of these little children to be lost." Matthew 18:12-14.
Well, here I am, a lost sheep. I’ve wandered so far from my Shepard and herd. I was in need of a miracle. It’s a good thing I know miracle-worker. I needed an intense rescuing from my situation. I’ll have to admit that for most of my “sheep-wandering” journey, I’ve blamed the Shepard for my straying. Why did He stop talking to me? Why am I alone? Why do the other sheep leave me out? Why?
The answer is because I shut Him out. I stopped following and trusting my Shepard. Can you imagine if Jesus gave the parable of sheep leading sheep?
One day the Lord will shape that into a testimony, but right now I am in my test. Our tests become testimonies, which bring such glory to God and the kingdom. For now, I’m in the trenches…of my situation, emotions, decisions, hurt, and just life. This is a season of change and pain. The testing of my faith is here (James 1:3). So what happens when nothing turns out like it was supposed to?
I recently read It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst, and oh my goodness, did it ever sum up all of the feelings I am currently knee deep in. I encourage anyone with a broken heart or disappointing situation to take the time to read Lysa’s book. But anyways, the answer to my recent question would probably be another question: who said it was supposed to be that way?
Our only medicine, dependence, and lifeline when life goes off the track (or track you thought it should be on) is God. He is the only answer. Even when you feel like He doesn’t answer. He answers in His time, which is best for us, and works much differently than what we usually believe it should. I recognize this is easier said than done, and I fully admit that I wrestle with it. I still feel devastated, disappointed, angry, confused…etc, but I oddly feel a lot of positive emotions too. Ones I didn’t expect to feel right now, but wholeheartedly attribute to the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. I feel peaceful, hopeful, comforted, loved, and often joyful. The painful moments are rough, but they are necessary. Brokenness breeds dependence. My brokenness has led me straight to the dependence of God. Out of everything, the truth of God’s heart and love for me has been revealed in miraculous and tangible ways.
Here are a few lessons I have learned out of my own hurt: God loves me, God is the truth, and He wants the best for me. Even if it means pain. Yes, I said it. Did you know that when you follow Christ there will be trials? There will be suffering. Is it because God is cruel? No, not at all. The very opposite. He loves us so much, but He loves us SO much that He also knows what is best for us. What will build our character, what needs deliverance, what needs healing, and what needs to be taken away. Much like when a parent must take the pacifier away from the child, who is dependent on it and uses it for soothing, God will strip us of what we use in His place. It’s not that the parent wants to hurt the child by taking away the pacifier, rather it’s that the parent knows what is best for the child. The Lord doesn’t cause us pain to punish, but He will allow it for His glory and building of us as followers. Good fathers discipline their children.
What happens when the sheep stray? Well, a few things can occur, but God’s love for you never leaves.
First of all, the sheep needs to cry out for help. He hears our cries. In fact, He is near the broken-hearted. The Holy Spirit will convict our hearts and guide us back to where we need to be, aligned with His heart and purpose for us. This is my prayer for myself daily. It’s a daily faith walk and choice of surrender. But I am just here to be honest about my journey and try to help anyone that may feel alone in their disappointing situation. Everyone’s journey is slightly different and every day is a variation of the previous, perhaps more difficult, the same as before, or easier. Frankly, we are all walking or running somewhere. It is either to or away from God. I can personally attest that the farther away from His trust and love you run, the farther you will feel from home. Through it all, there is nothing that can separate you from His love. We will never be at home on this Earth. That used to terrify me, gripping me with the reality that I could never really be at home while here.
I had the wrong perspective. It’s good news. This life is but a gust of wind. A mere flash. And we can find comfort on this Earth, but not absent from hardships. Our comfort is in the Holy Spirit, our Creator, the Great I Am, and the Shepard, and that we have an opportunity to spend eternity in His arms. We are all on a journey to our real home. His plans, love, understanding, and forgiveness are greater than we could possibly imagine. But the suffering we endure here is never for nothing.
This is not to say I don’t have difficult moments. Moments that take my breath away. Moments where the tears feel like they will never cease. Moments where flashbacks cause my eyes to well up with tears and my heart to pound. Moments where I still question God. I ask why this is happening. I ask how I ended up here. As if I am better at planning? Not to be too sarcastic…but given my current situation…I am CLEARLY not. So why do I still question Him? Because I am a human. I am a sheep. I am still learning how to be a sheep. Could you imagine being a herdsman and having a bunch of sheep try to buck you out of your spot? Take your Shepard’s hook? Lead you?
But what a wonderful God we have. He still extends love and mercy to us. His grace is sufficient. It is still difficult for me to fully understand His grace and often times I forget how desperately I need it. But I do.
Grace is a gift and to fully understand, and accept the gift, there must be an acknowledgement of its weight. For us to accept the gift of grace, we have to understand WHY we need it. We are sinners. Broken. Once you realize that there is nothing you can do to earn it, you can accept it, and live fully and freely in the fact that Jesus loves you so much that He died for you. I often fail at fully remembering the weight of this and the freedom it brings. I mean, how is it possible that someone would do this for me? If you have ever been wronged by anyone, had any human interactions, or actually just maintained consciousness; then, I am sure you can realize how it’s hard to imagine that someone would do that for us. Through our failures, strife, and suffering, we need the Lord’s mercy more than ever before. It’s meaning is truly magnified in times of utter brokenness.
If you are curious about what it looks like to pursue God after realizing you’ve gone astray, please read Psalm 51. This is written by David, a man after God’s own heart, which is after he had an affair with a woman, killed her husband, and his child conceived with her died. Yes, this man, David, was coined with the phrase “A Man After God’s Own Heart.”
David sinned. Some pretty serious sins with serious consequences. And then tried to hide, as so many of us do. BUT, he repented and asked God to give him a new heart. He cried out for the Lord, asked for a renewed heart, and pursued God. He walked with God and continued to pray. God spared his life and blessed him because of His grace, and David’s humility.
Talk about redemption. Hear the Lord when he says that He loves you, He wants to redeem you, and renew your mind.
It can be difficult to pursue the Lord completely and leave your past behind. Many of us offer God most of ourselves, or most of what we have, but still cling to a few ideas, people, or things we want to keep control of. I still struggle to stop being a backseat driver. Wholeheartedly pursuing God is laying down your dreams, life, and past at His feet. He calls us to be radical with our following of Him. I must give up my life in order to truly find it in Him (Matthew 10:39). I must give up what I have been carrying in order to accept anything new. Luckily, the burden He gives us is light. I don’t know about you, but I tend to carry a much heavier burden than I have to or was ever meant to. I often fight battles that were never mine to begin with. I am passionate and can easily be distracted with fighting for myself and others. One of the most necessary lessons I have come to learn is that God will fight for me (Exodus 14:14). Until I am called directly into battle by the Lord, I take everything to Him in prayer. After suffering from a loss, you would be surprised at how quickly you can be catapulted into being a prayer warrior. Of course, casting all of your worries onto Him is much more difficult than it sounds. It takes active surrender and deliverance. I ask God to constantly deliver me from worrying and trying to take things into my own hands. There is no amount of control, fixing, or working I can do to amount to God’s miraculous, marvelous craftsmanship in this life.
I’m staying at a dear friend’s house, far from my home town. Tonight, their neighborhood displayed a wonderful firework show in celebration of the fourth of July. We tracked across the neighborhood to the edge of the golf course, just yards away from where they were setting the fireworks off. I’ve never been so close to fireworks…it seemed like they were coming at me. As I stood underneath this extravagant show, I was in awe. I could see each one shooting up in the air and the moment they exploded into a glistening display of color and light. With thunderous booms and bright lights, I heard a voice say: God loves you bigger than this.
What do you mean? God loves me bigger than huge, colorful explosions in the sky? His arms reach wider than the ginormous, twinkly lights flashing so far above my head that I could hardly see the entire show with one steady gaze? What could be more extravagant than twenty fireworks exploding simultaneously…almost so brightly that you have to squint? God’s love. God’s love for you and for me. After everything we do, after we stray, and after we fight Him so hard. He loves us bigger than a billion fireworks.
I am unsure when I will post this or if I ever will. But I do know that I needed to write it. Not saying that I will never doubt it or have moments that I wrestle with these truths. After all, isn’t it crazy how much He loves us? Tomorrow will come with its own worries and hardships. Today, I am content with knowing my Creator loves me more than a billion fireworks.
I am here because God gave me this gift to express my most inner thoughts, while being able to glorify Him through the disorder of this often messy life. I write from a place of raw honesty and vulnerability. I write from the deepest places in my heart, so I can connect to others. Almost a year ago, I was given a passion to write this blog about transparency, healing, and messy topics. My pride led me to believe I was mainly talking to others. The Lord knew I would need this project more than anyone. I am also writing this for future me. I write this to Rachel, who will look back and be able to see how far the Lord has brought her. In due time, God will strengthen me and challenge me to share my full story. For now, I am seeking His will, refuge, joy, and forgiveness daily. And I also write this for you, my friend. The brokenhearted and disappointed. The one struggling with doubts. The one that feels like a failure. The one that never saw your hurt coming. The one that still wonders how you even ended up where you are. You will be okay, I promise. You can be whole, healed, free, and victorious. Every day will be different and come with its own mix of emotions. Just dwell in God's love for you. If one person feels less alone, less terrified, more encouraged, or more understood; then, that is why I am here. Lean over just a little. There are arms that will never get tired of holding you. There are ears that will never grow tired of hearing you. You are not alone.
To my family: I love you. I often fail to show it and I’m deeply sorry for that. You have showed up in ways I never realized were possible. Your love, prayer, strength, encouragement, and hope has helped me every single day. I am so deeply grateful for you, even through the toughest times. Your empathy and understanding have inspired me. You have given me refuge and a whole lot of support. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
To the people that have extended their thoughts and prayers during this time: words will never suffice when trying to express my gratitude. Each and every one of you have touched my heart in deeper ways than you will ever know. Your prayers have strengthened, grounded, and wrapped me with such joy in sorrowful times. I love you all and consider myself blessed to know you.
If you connected with anything I have written about, if you are struggling, if you feel disappointed in your life, if you doubt God’s plans for you, or you are grieving right now…Please let me know. Reach out and tell me as much of your story as you feel comfortable sharing.