A Heart Adjustment

Yesterday I finished an intensive three-week course at our church called the Life Training School (LTS for short). It covered basic foundational teachings about who God is, how He functions, and what it means to walk with God in every area of our lives, teachings that were both simple and incredibly profound. While it presented good information, the course was more about genuine encounter with God than it was about knowledge. We joked that perhaps it should be called the Life Transformation School instead (which is actually what I originally thought LTS stood for already – oops), after we heard testimony after testimony (around fifty of them) of how God had encountered individuals during those three weeks. Someone aptly compared the course to a three-week chiropractic session for the heart, where every time we met, God shifted something else back into alignment with His ways and character.

Some of the testimonies we heard were incredible and there’s a part of me that still struggles with comparing myself to others, comparing my testimony to theirs. The final night we met, though, as I reflected on what God had done for me during the week, I pictured myself handing God my testimony, small and handwritten, and Him saying “It is enough”. So here it is – not as funny or flashy as some, but uniquely mine and a testimony of a real God working in real ways in my life.

LTS Testimony*

I showed up at LTS, unsure of what exactly to expect. Because I knew I would be coming straight from work most evenings, I was a little afraid that I would be too tired to receive or really engage in the teachings. God met me so faithfully each time we gathered, though, even on the nights when I walked in tired or distracted by the day. I feel like the realization of His faithfulness in meeting me, even when I did little more than get myself into my seat, set the stage for some of the most significant shifts in my heart during the course.

A huge part of LTS for me was learning to embrace the simplicity of choosing God. The teachings about bitterness and about the walls we build around ourselves highlighted the impact of my choices. Although I realized how some of my choices led to years of hurt and wrong-relating, I was deeply encouraged by the realization that just as that hurt came from simple choices, I can just as simply choose forgiveness instead of bitterness. I can choose to believe what God says rather than the lies I have heard. Over and over, I can (and did, during these three weeks) choose life instead of death. Not that this will always be easy, but it is simple. It does not require me to figure it all out (I appreciated Graham’s analogy, comparing our ability to receive from God without understanding exactly how He works with our ability to eat and receive nourishment from food without understanding all the complexities of how digestions works). As someone who tends to overthink and overanalyze, this was a significant realization for me.

LTS also drew out some lies that I still believed about who God is as a Father. In particular, I realized during that first week that I still believed that God plays favorites. Of course, if you had asked me, I would have told you I believed that God loves all His children equally. As I listened to and processed the teachings about God as Father, though, I began to realize that the way I lived and the ways I interacted with certain people revealed a persistent belief that God really does like some people more and that I would always be excluded from a certain measure of His affection. During LTS, I repented of this wrong belief about who God is and chose to believe the truth that God is a good Father and that as a good Father, He loves all of His children. During my one-on-one prayer time, God affirmed His love for me and for the unique ways that He has made me. At one point, He showed me a picture of His hand pulling a rolled up sheet of yellowed sheet music from a box and spoke to me about the beauty of the song that He has is singing through my life, a song that He specifically and very carefully chose for me. That picture drove deep the reality that “God made me the way He likes me and He likes me the way He made me.” I believe that as I learn to walk more securely in that truth, it will not only affect the way I interact with God, but will also impact my marriage and other significant relationships in my life as I continue to let go of striving and other aspects of the persona I have built up to protect myself.

*This is the testimony I wrote and handed in at the end of the course.

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The Homesteader of My Heart

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I remember my first glimpse of our new backyard, the way that my heart (and my feet) sunk a bit as I surveyed the gray sludge covering what we hoped to make a garden. The clay soil was packed so tight, so impenetrable to the delicate roots of new plants. Could a garden ever grow there?

Over the spring and summer and even into the fall, though, I worked with the soil. Before planting anything, I added a thin layer of compost and tilled it in. I planted seeds and seedlings, watching as their roots slowly broke through some of the clay. I mulched around all my plants with straw, sprinkled chicken manure fertilizer, and dug in more compost. Our house faithfully saved all our fruit and vegetable scraps, lugging stinking buckets of them to the compost bin and mixing them with straw and leaves. At the end of the season, I pulled out all of our old plants and tilled in the straw by hand. We drove around the neighborhood one Sunday afternoon, filling our little car with bag after bag of our neighbor’s leaves, later spreading those leaves in a thick blanket over the whole garden. In the spring, after rain and snow and time have broken them down, I’ll till those in, too, along with more compost.

It has been a process of adding and tilling. Of adding some more and tilling some more. Of waiting.

As I look over the resting winter garden (barely recognizable now under its blanket of snow), I am so aware of the slowness of this process. In just one season I saw definite improvements, a gradual loosening of the soil, better growth in the second planting than the first, but it’s just the beginning. A garden like this needs long-term commitment. It needs a gardener who will faithfully, slowly, work to amend it over the course of years, not just days or months. It needs a homesteader who is willing to claim it and say, “This is my land,” before they see any fruit.

The process of healing and growth in my heart right now feels equally slow, marked by a similar pattern of digging and adding and pulling things out by the roots. But my heart has a homesteader, the Homesteader. He lay claim to this territory long before it bore any fruit, naming it as His own while it was still tight-packed with the mud of fear and hurt and striving. He knows just what this soil needs. And He is committed to it for the long haul, for years, not just days or months. As I feel my boots sinking into the mud of this messy healing process, that reality feels so comforting to me.

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“Beautiful Things”

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

– Gungor