Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year and Grief ~ A Study: Part 3

I know most people usually write about their review of the previous year a little bit before the end of it, at least, that is how I would do it myself, if it weren't for certain circumstances that usually entice me to wait until a few days after the New Year to get out my reflections. Mainly the fact that it's my birthday today, and the last few days I've been pondering not just the last year, and how it has changed me since my last birthday, but also how it would feel to be a year older.

I don't feel much different right now, despite the fact that a lot of people really look forward to their 21st birthday. To me, my 20th birthday was more of a big deal, because I was no longer a teenager. Frankly, that birthday scared me to death. I had been so much pain and so many changes while I was 19, that I was not only terrified of growing up, but of what possible pain could come in the next year of my life.

And looking back, it's actually quite amazing. I experienced the worst, most acute pain I have ever felt in my life this last April, but even though this may sound weird, it was also the greatest blessing I received this year.

What I went through actually goes back to September 25, 2006, the day a friend of mine from school disappeared. His disappearance greatly affected the entire college campus, and was one of the main contributing factors leading to my decision to leave school last fall.

When I came back home, and eventually moved in with my dad and stepmom, the LORD was finally able to start reaching out to me slowly, pulling me to my feet as I began to realize - for the first time - that I was safe in His hand.

I had been in a severe depression for most of the following year, and last winter -January through April - was a time of much learning for me, and much rest. I can see the plan of God so clearly now in that point of my life. He first brought me to a place, physically and spiritually, emotionally, where I could learn to truly trust Him. Where I could have ground under my feet again.

As I grew in Him, and began to realize how much He loves me, and that my Christian walk has nothing to do with how well I'm 'performing,' but in how much I trusted Him on a daily, moment by moment basis, more and more I saw His work in my life, and was therefore able to understand more about Him, and trust daily even more. I can see God's great provision for me in this, because it meant that when April rolled around, I was for the first time in years at a place where I was secure and peaceful. And perhaps for the first time, experiencing the true joy of the LORD.

A few weeks into April, I found out through the private blog system kept up by students at the college I went to, that a body had been found a few blocks from the campus in a swimming pool that had been covered since Labor Day. Up until this point, there had been no news at all from what might have happened to my friend that disappeared. Since the body had been there for several months, they had to do an autopsy to find out who it was. I spent a very anxious two days, but I don't think I really believed that it could be my friend.

A day or two after the body was discovered, it was released that the body was indeed Paul Shuman-Moore, my friend that had gone missing so many months before.

When I heard the news, through reading the school blogs online, I completely broke down, and for the first time in months I felt so much pain that I didn't know what to do with it.

If this had happened a few months, or even a few weeks before hand, I don't think I could have handeled the news very well. I am so thankful that the LORD was able to bring me to the point that He did by the time that day came, because somehow, and I still don't know how I knew to do this, I was able to completely rest in Him, and trust Him that it was His will, no matter how painful.

The knowledge that everything is always under God's control was something I had been taught my whole life, but this was the first time I had ever claimed that truth for my own in order to comfort me through the strength and love of the Holy Spirit, to give me strength to bear the pain.

The night afer I found out, I was sitting at the computer, just playing solitaire, trying to get my mind off of things, and I had some music from the Gaither Vocal Band playing as well. As I sat there, I couldn't help but think about what had happened, about what I had learned, and I started crying again; but silently, not the sobs they had been earlier.

As I cried, I started listening to the music that was playing, or more specifically listening to the words, and as they began to sink in, I realized something amazing.

The song "Let Freedom Ring" was playing, and for the first time, I realized that despite the song sounding like it was talking about freedom from sin, it was also talking about freedom of any kind, because that's how capable and powerful our God is. I started crying in earnest at that point, because I realized that despite the fact that I knew that my grief wasn't a bad thing, that God expected it, and even wanted it so that He could bring me closer to Him, it didn't have to keep me in bondage. Immediately, I felt wellsprings of joy bubbling up inside my soul, completely seperate from the pain and grief in my heart.

That joy did not come from me, it was the Holy Spirit within me giving me His joy, keeping me from despair despite the horrible pain in my heart.

This truth is something that I have clung to ever since, because now I know that truly, I can be content, and even filled with God's supernatural joy, no matter whatever cirumstance I am in, no matter how grieved I am, no matter how much pain I am experiencing. He is always faithful, and His power can cut through any chain.

Dear believers, do not let past hurts and wrongs and griefs keep you from experiencing the love and joy of the Father. For that, along with anything that keeps us from drawing closer to Him, is bondage. That love and joy is always there, just waiting for us to accept it, so we can experience the freedom and blessings our Heavenly is just waiting to give us, and give us abundantly.

Let Freedom Ring
By Gloria Gaither

Deep within the heart has always known that there was freedom
Somehow breathed into the very soul alive
The prisoner, the powerless, the saved have always known it
There's something that keeps reaching for the sky

Even life begins because a baby fights for freedom
And songs we love to sing have freedom's theme
Some have walked through fire and flood to find a place of freedom
And some faced hell itself for freedom's dream

Let freedom ring wherever minds know what it means to be in chains
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
We can be free and we can sing --- let freedom ring

God built freedom into every fiber of creation
And He meant for us to all be free and whole
When my Lord bought freedom with the blood of His redemption
His cross stamped pardon on my very soul

I'll sing it out with every breath, I'll let the whole world hear it
This hallelujah anthem of the free
That iron bars and heavy chains can never hold us captive
The Son has made us free and free indeed

Let freedom ring down through the ages from a hill called Calvary
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring
You can be free and you can sing --- let freedom ring --- let freedom ring!

14 comments:

Night Writer said...

Happy Birthday, Amanda!

It is fitting at birthdays to remember that we were born in blood and water, and in pain, and in shock at our new circumstances. It's certainly doesn't seem lovely, but it is necessary, and very beautiful when you can at last see it for what it is. Similarly we are reborn, too, in blood and water, and many have felt raw and shocked at the new environment, even though this time around it's easier to see the true beauty in it. There's Power in the Blood!

Nevertheless, pain - physical, mental and spiritual - exists, but even what appears as an evil can be turned around for good (Gen 50:20). Your path is not necessarily the path for everyone, but you have been, and are being, equipped to help others get through such difficult times, sharing the blessings and wisdom you've gained.

Joy to you, faithful one.

Uncle Ben said...

Yes, happy birthday!

It is in those moments of greatest pain and grief that we can most truly know God's love and appreciate its power. All is stripped away and yet, there he is. He suffered so that we might know comfort.

kingdavid said...

We share the same birthday; I'd sing you the Casey Jones birthday song, but since you were born 30 years after me, I don't think you'd know what the heck that was all about.

Even at 21 though, you know you have a message to share when two old farts like Night Writer and I can read your post and be touched and see the Holy Spirit at work.

It will be a blessing when we can meet you face to face one day.

Mall Diva said...

Yay! Happy birthday Amanda! Now what else can I say about your post that hasn't been said? Not much, I guess. But this is something that I've been learning too, just how God's love permeates every single thing, even our despair. But joy comes in the morning!

IndweltDaughter said...

Night Writer,
Thank you so much, it is such an encouragement to remember just how much our Savior did for us through His blood!

Joy to you as well, thank you for the encouragement.

Ben,

Thanks for the b-day wishes!
I think it's also good to realize that not only did He suffer so that He might comfort us, but that our suffering can and should be a means of knowing Him better. Being stripped is so painful, but so necessary. It's scary, but more and more often I find myself on the brink of saying "Strip more LORD, strip more!" Hopefully I'll be firm enough in my identity in Christ someday to be able to say that wholeheartedly, but I still have a lot to learn. (Congrats to you too, by the way.) :D

KD,

Lol, no, I don't know what the heck the Casey Jones birthday song is all about, but thanks for the sentiments anyway.

And that's so cool that we have the same birthday! I have a really good friend from school who is 3 hours older than I am, and his name is also David. Did you know that David and Amanda both mean the same thing? "Beloved." It's cool....but a little freaky too now that I think about it......

I'm so glad that you were encouraged by what I wrote though. I'm just thankful that I was able to get into writing what God has been teaching me in a way that other people can understand. Lord knows, I can ramble on dreadfully, so I'm thankful that that tendency doesn't affect my coherency......too much.

MD,

Thanks hun! I'm glad God's been leading you through this learning too. I got a silver bracelet for my birthday from my dad and my stepmom that speaks so much to what we've both been learning. It just has Psalm 46:11 engraved on it, "Be still, and know that I am God." But just those few words are so much, and convey so much meaning to my soul.

Anonymous said...

Amanda, ran across your blog and was so encouraged that you're learning how to walk in and with HIM and not living for men (ie DBC's way of the Christian walk). Being stuck at DBC because of family issues I know people still "pray" for your family. If they only could know the freedom in HIM you have right now... I can only pray my family members can see the bondage they are under.

Love in Him

Only Look said...

Thanks sister. I must have lost your link or something as I thought you had blinked out or something, but I see you are over here. This is very encouraging, especially when these trials just start occuring constantly. You are definately being drawn close to His bosom and prepared for something wonderful from Him in your life.

IndweltDaughter said...

Brian,

Thank you so much for the encouragement, and sorry about the confusion with my blog the last few weeks. A few different people told me that it was acting wierd, but I couldn't figure out what it was. At least it appears to be behaving now.

Dear "anonymous,"

Thank you for the encouragement as well, and I pray the LORD can use me to be an encouragement to you. I don't know what your situation is, and I won't try to advise you one way or another. Despite what some people might think, I am not out to "hoodwink" anyone or lure them away from DBC.

I do know one thing though, that whether it be emotionally, spiritualy, mentally or physically, our Heavenly Father never wants us to feel "stuck." And even though I know how hard it is to see people we love under bondage, of any sort, God is the only one who can provide freedom, and He brings each one of us to His freedom in His own way, and in His own time. Don't let misunderstandings discourage you, simply trust the LORD, rest in His hand and in the knowledge that He loves you more than you can ever comprehend. The love of God, and the Truth are what sets us completely free.

Much love in Him
~Amanda

ABIC said...

Anonymous,

I attend DBC and I agree with you that some people may be focused on men instead of Christ. But are you saying that is true of all or most of those who attend DBC? And are you saying that the church somehow teaches or encourages people to look to men instead of Christ. No church is perfect and DBC has its faults. There is clear, strong teaching and leadership and I think the downside of that can be people who set their faith in men instead of Christ. But it's my opinion that not all people (or even most) in the church operate that way and the teaching doesn't promote such a thing. I'd appreciate your feedback on this. I'm not trying to start an argument, I'd just be curious to know your perpective on the matter.

Amanda, do you have any insight to add?

In Christ,

ABIC (A Believer in Christ)

IndweltDaughter said...

Dear ABIC, (nice acronym) :)

Thank you for your comment and questions, and THANK YOU for not trying to start an argument or prove a point. There are things that we agree on and based on what you asked, there are things I'm sure we disagree on, however we are still fellow believers in Christ, and the fact that we don't agree does absolutely nothing to change either of us in the eyes of God. I personally don't think He cares about who's right and who's wrong; I believe His focus is always relationship. Not that He doesn't have standards of what is right and what is wrong, but He doesn't hold our misunderstandings against us and withold a relationship with Him because of them. A truly loving Heavenly Father can overcome any shortcomings we have to fill us with His love, peace and joy. Once we are filled with Him and trusting Him completely, THEN He can begin the work of letting us know what is wrong in our thinking. But the filling needs to come first, otherwise anything we learn is just head knowledge. Knowledge only becomes wisdom through the insight of the Holy Spirit when He applies knowledge to our hearts.

And now that I've gone off on that tangent......

In regards to my thoughts regarding the questions you posed to Anonymous, I think I can tell the differences between where you both are coming from. I don't think Anon was trying to say that everyone who attends DBC places their faith in men rather than God, but that he/she perceives an emphasis on that in the way DBC teaches the Christian walk, and can see it lived out in the lives of his/her family members. Their mention of their family was the only specific reference to people who attend DBC I saw in their comment, and I didn't get the impression that they were insinuating that all people who attend DBC are the same way.

However - provided I am understanding them correctly - I do agree with Anon's assessment regarding the teaching. You are right in that there is "clear, strong teaching and leadership." I am very thankful for what is taught at DBC that is Biblical truth, however, I disagree with DBC's interpretation of leadership within the church, so therefore I see the strength in which they emphasis this particular teaching as a bad thing. I do not believe that the concept of a "spiritual leader" is Biblical, apart from the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I don't know what Anon believes regarding this, but this is my "insight."

~Amanda

ABIC said...

Amanda,

I'd like to know what aspect of leadership at Duluth Bible Church it is that concerns you. There is no question that the Bible teaches that there are pastors who provide leadership in a church, so you can't disagree with that. I'm guessing it must be some particular practice of leadership in DBC that you disagree with. Can you be more specific?

I'm not a 'core' person at DBC and I don't know about the inner workings there, but from my vantage point, it seems pretty innocent. People come and learn the Bible and go home and do what they want with it. I suppose some people might get too attached to the leaders or put them on a pedestal, but isn't that just human nature? It seems inevitable that that would happen to some degree.

My real concern would be if there is something about the teaching or practice at DBC that violates biblical or moral principles.

Maybe you don't want to discuss this in such an open forum, but I would be willing to hear what you have to say. I'm not out to 'convert' you to DBC or anything like that. I am sure there are some people who have left for very good reasons, and I'm also sure there are many who attend for very good reasons (I hope I do!). I'm not here to judge your motives or spirituality.

In Christ,

ABIC

IndweltDaughter said...

Dear ABIC,

I got your email, and I have responded. Thank you for doing so. I wouldn't mind continuing a discussion here as well, but any specifics I would feel comfortable giving in order to respond to your questions I don't want to share in a public forum. Any other questions that you may have, go ahead and ask them here if you would like, but if I feel I can't answer them completly I'll either tell you, or I'll email you and tell you anything my Father might lead me to say.

I do not want my blog to become a place where any believer or church or teaching is bashed, but I will not shy away from saying what I believe to be the truth in the Word of God. I pray that the only thing people can accuse me of is being honest, because it is not my desire to discourage anyone. When I write things that I know will be controversial, I pray to the LORD to give me wisdom regarding what to say and what not to say, so that nothing I write can personally hurt anyone. I can't control how people react to what I write of course, but I can rest myself in the fact that I have prayed about what I've written, and believe it to be what God wanted me to say. (That doesn't mean I get it right all the time, because almost everytime I write something, I'll read it over a few days later and realize "oh, I shouldn't have said that." But I am learning, and God is faithful to teach me patience and wisdom when I rely on Him.)

~Amanda

Another BIC said...

Hello Amanda and ABIC
Amanda
I love that we can have joy in grief. How unworldy is that! But God works that way does He not? I have had the most intense joy in the very middle of my most intense grief. He only can work that miracle. And He went through it before us! Glad you are with Him and becoming like Him.
ABIC (re: your last blog)
Hope you enjoy some of the encouragement on this blog. May I be of help to you....I hope this may add to what Amanda has said?
The Bible is very clear as well that an elder's role is functional in nature for the good of the whole. (This will benefit you, the individual.) This means they make functional decisions for the body. They also should teach the Word as it appears and as they carefully exegete it (NOT putting their "take"/application into the interpretation).
Their role will become unbiblical when they spiritually rule over you. This will show when they cross those clear and direct commands of the Word and give you their "take" or convictions about your situation. They will want to see you "submit" to their thoughts even when your thoughts are different, though Scriptural, and you are convicted of them. This moves their ruling over you with THEIR position even when YOUR position in Christ and the Word allows you to have different convictions about your situation. The Spirit is your Lord....NO mediation here. Leadership is a Biblical Truth of action much more than position. Human beings naturally go the opposite: position much more than good actions ( another unworldly way of His). Christ said, "Not so with you [discipes] for the rulers of this world exercise lordhip over them."
You will notice that Paul did not want to cause GRIEF so he said he did not lord it [his position]over them. Instead he called himself a "helper of your joy". A helper comes along side and helps by showing the example of the Spirit fruits linked with the Word.
Thanks Amanda for sharing YOUR joy :)

IndweltDaughter said...

Another BIC,

Thank you so much for commenting, I very much appreciate what you said. For a long time I have known what I DISAGREE with about leadership: the lording over and using position to manipulate the flock, as can happen when a leader is given too much power. But I've been having trouble knowing how to verbalize what it is I DO believe regarding leadership, especially since God is still very much shaping me in that area.

What you said really hit the nail on the head for me though. Is it really that simple? A difference between leadership in action and leadership in position? There are so many verses in the Bible that if I'm just reading them by themselves, out of context, they can seem to be referring to a position of leadership, instead of an action of leadership, which just doesn't line up with the illustration of a shepherd. A shepherd appointed by God to watch over a portion of His flock must lead by example - action, and the sheep submit to GOD by following that example, but ALWAYS comparing that example to the ultimate example of love in Jesus Christ. And a shepherd should NEVER take the place of spiritual rule that only God should hold. When that happens, it can either be because the sheep hold that elder in that position in their own mind, when the elder isn't desirous of that at all, but I'm understand even better now how that can also occur when the elder takes more of a position of leadership instead of acting out leadership by example.

I think if an elder views their leadership as the opportunity God has given them to help, to be the answers of prayers to others, and not as a position, then there won't be as much danger of them identifying with their ministry. Their identification will be solely as a child of God doing God's will for them, through God's guidance and power. When this is the case, they hopefully won't take it personally when questions are asked, or see those questions as a challenge to their positional authority. An elder is NOT supposed to be a mediator between the individual and God, which means it is a VERY GOOD thing when questions are asked. Questions from within the body simply shows that the individual is taking their relationship with God seriously, and not simply hoping that by following someone else they are doing God's will. The Christian walk isn't a "doing," it is a "being." We don't DO relationships, we HAVE relationships, the most important one being our relationship with our Heaveny Father, through Jesus Christ and His Spirit within us.

Also, in regards to some leaders I have had in the past, I still greatly respect them and love them with a sisterly love, even though I know longer view them as leaders over me POSITIONALLY. This fact has nothing to do with how I view them as my brothers, or their worth to me or to God. Submission on my part should not fulfill their ministry, just as following them should not fulfill my spirituality.

Thank you for posting this, you've helped me connect a few dots regarding things that have really been confusing to me for a while. I still have a lot to work out, but this difference between position and action I think has gotten me on the right path towards understanding it more.