8. You have neither heard nor understood;
from of old your ears have not been open.
Well do I know how treacherous you are;
you were called a rebel from birth.
9 For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
so as not to destroy you completely.
10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another
If we think back to what it was like to be a child, or if you have children now, we understand that there comes a time in every person's life when we disappoint our loved ones, and they disappoint us. This observation might not seem profound, but there is something to learn here. As children, no matter how much our parents told us to talk to them about our lives or ask for help, we often did the opposite. We hide every mistake and the changes we experience from the people who promise to love us no matter what. This makes sense to us at the time because we want to live our lives without judgment or disapproval or knowing we're letting anybody down. Ironically enough, we get older and hope our kids and loved ones will always trust and confide in us. Deep down, all we want to do is protect them and let them know that no matter how far they stray, they will always be our loved ones, and nothing they do can change that. It's a balancing act between being who you think your loved ones want you to be and being the version of yourself you want to hide, refine, or eliminate. We find ourselves "protecting" our loved ones from our mistakes. If it's true that our flaws can't make our loved ones love us any less, aren't we just protecting our mistakes from our loved ones?
When you think about it, it would seem more logical to allow ourselves to be imperfect around the people we love and feel safe around. The devil tries to use shame, pride, and guilt to sabotage any possibility of connection and healing. We live the illusion that we can control and protect our little worlds when we only isolate ourselves. This is especially true in our relationship with God, as well. The devil tries to make us reject everything we know about being loved and forgiven. He wants us to find identity in our faults so that it would keep us from reaching out to the ones who can help and accept us. As children, it was scary admitting a mistake to our parents or teachers. In hindsight, we understand how much easier it would have been if we had asked loved ones to help. If we see how blinded we were, caught up in guilt. It almost seems silly that we tried so hard to hide the mistakes we made as children. We now see that whatever we thought we were hiding, the adults in our lives had already been through it and knew we were going through it.
In the same way, God knows every mistake, every sin, and every doubt, before we even experience it. He knows every pain and emotion you have felt along the way. It might surprise you that even your secret lifestyle started from the feelings and desires God designed within you. This doesn't mean God intended bad for you, but when He gave you free will and sent His only son, God showed us that He is not ignorant of what it means to be human. Far from it! He gave us the freedom to make mistakes and included instructions on how to deal with them. This does not include "fixing" or healing yourself, but rather He beckons us to come back to Him when we stray and call on Him when we struggle. As children, we are not meant to carry our issues and burdens alone, and similarly, we cannot heal our lives by power and might.
Instructing someone to stop hiding and come with their issues to the altar is easy. It's easy to tell people repeatedly that God loves them. In the end, surrender and return to God are not measurable simply by church attendance or mimicking Christian practices. Nothing is wrong with those things, and this is not to say that outward habits don't make a positive change in people's lives. It is surrendering and bringing yourself to the feet of God; it is a deeply personal daily journey that starts from the inside.
God's word may seem to convict or judge when someone whose heart is just opening arrives at a place of surrender. Many believe God redeems, but they feel it is reserved for people who already are Christians or live what appears to be a Christian lifestyle. How can someone come to the altar and feel like they are returning to God if they never felt like a child of God? By the time we may feel ready to turn to God, we may be broken and beaten. We might be thinking to ourselves, with such great conviction and condemnation, there's no way to enter into a relationship with God. Maybe you are hungry for a relationship with God, but you believe that He won't truly let you in unless you wipe your muddy feet from the world outside. In part two, we will discuss what it might feel like to arrive at that door, ready to surrender, paralyzed by the fear of conviction. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen! JM