A Very Hard Thing
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
"The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." Matthew 13: 45-46
One year ago, on May 27th, I did something I never wanted to do. It was something that broke my heart open. Something I grieved and mourned and ached and bled over for months afterwards. It was something I had fought doing legally, parentally, and spiritually for years, and yet at this particular juncture, I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit telling me to do it anyway. He had told me not to do it in the past. Back then, He told me to fight and to use my defenses to prevent this very thing, so I was bewildered, confused, and rebellious to hear that He had changed his mind. And that now I was being asked to concede.
"Jesus, you bring me to a new level of trust and surrender with you. You know my heart, Lord, and how brutally I have resisted you. I fought and cried and almost actually kicked and screamed. You are stripping me, Jesus, breaking down my ego and my fierce self-love and self-protection ... when I saw what you wanted me to do, I rebelled and said no. It is too hard. In fact, I am even angry and resentful that you have asked it of me. It is more than I can do. And yet in my depths, I know you are still answering my prayers. I have called out for MORE of you, God. And the only way to have more of you is for there to be less of me. I must die to myself and my own plans and need for control for there to be more of you."
(Journal entry, May 2020)
I felt like a failure on all fronts. I felt indicted and condemned personally and in my motherhood. I fought this holy message inside myself for several days, lamenting and weeping. I sought the counsel of wise spiritual friends who have also walked hard paths as mothers. I poured over my discernment again and again in prayer and with my husband, but couldn’t find any other way to read this message. And so, in obedience, I relinquished my will. Opened my hands, and let my treasure slip between my fingers. Again.
This hard thing was another death. I mourned for months, sobbing in my husband’s arms night after night. Humanly, some days I still work up a defense of reasons for why I don’t really think this was the best course of action, but I can’t deny the fruit that is growing in the fertile soil of my surrender. When I yielded, God flooded in. Not just in this situation at large, but into me and into my son. He provided His presence, His comfort, to carry me through carrying a very heavy cross. And to be accurate, He was definitely the one carrying it. I was just stumbling along underneath it like a small child thinking they are actually doing anything to help their parent with a burdensome chore or a heavy load.
This surrender is still active. I have to renew it weekly, if not daily. The burning, stinging loss has not gone away yet. But the fruit is so sweet – God’s comfort, a relationship that has changed and grown and deepened in ways I had not considered before, and most significantly, the changes in my own heart.
When my first husband left me, the surrender was agony. I fought the tidal wave of divorce with everything I had, but ultimately was powerless to stop its onslaught. I knew something of surrender already. I was powerless then and so I yielded to that which I could not change. God used my divorce to shatter the false idol of my marriage that I had let define and anchor my identity. He taught me that His voice was the only one to say who I was as a woman.
And last May 27th, I found myself holding another idol – this time, my motherhood. Even after John Paul Raphael died, I was still clutching it. I NEEDED this idol to make me feel valuable and worthy and important. I needed to be a GOOD mother and good mothers took care of their children the way they knew was right.
I was asked to choose. Loving the idol or following the Lord. Choosing my way, or choosing His. Surrender was harder this time because I was not powerless. I still had the power to stop and change this situation. I didn't have to say yes, but God was asking me to cooperate with the work He wanted to do. Because the Lord has proved His character to me over and over again, in trust, I opened my hand and let go. I wish it was a graceful, dignified surrender, but my heart was too broken open for dignity. Jesus didn’t mind. I slobbered and snotted all over his white robes as I clung to him and cried my way through the summer until I couldn’t cry about it anymore. He was patient and stroked my hair and just whispered, “I love you, I am here” into my ear.
I can see now the transformation of all facets of this very hard thing. This very hard thing, which in the day to day isn’t always that much less hard, grows beautiful because it is a place where God meets me very deeply and where I see Him at work in my yielding. When we do this, when we offer the Lord our deepest treasures -- the things we hold most dear, closest to our hearts, the things that we would lay down our lives to guard and protect – when we give them to the Lord, we cannot possibly imagine what He has in store. Sometimes He takes them for good and puts something better, far beyond our wildest imagination, back in our hands instead. And sometimes he takes them to his own repair shop and fixes or adjusts that which we were never capable of doing. Polishes them up, gives them a makeover, details them in His own Divine way and returns them with love to our hands in a far more glorious state than if we had kept them to ourselves all along.
In either case, the greatest gift of surrender is God's very presence. The comfort, confidence and faith in His boundless abundance and fidelity to His promise that He is always with us. That I am seen and known. That He loves us recklessly and wildly. That he has plans for our goodness. That we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Do you have an idol like me? False idols are sneaky and can disguise themselves like really good things, even marriage and motherhood.
Join with me in letting go. The Lord longs for your freedom and will never give up on you. Freedom in Christ is the pearl of great price –once you find its great value, it is worth everything to possess it.
Let yourself be loved.
PS - I very humbly offer this video. I wrote this song during my divorce, but I think the text quite appropriate.