Fighting Fear: My Greatest Fear

Introduction: 
For the month of June, I decided to launch a series called Fighting Fear. Each week you will hear a testimony from one of my friends. Today, you will hear from Paula Denny. I have known Paula as long as I can remember. We were both Pastor’s kids. I believe I was Paula’s Awana Leader when she was a Spark. We didn’t talk much as we got older. However, our friendship has changed drastically over the past year. Paula and her husband have walked through some painful experiences. I never knew how painful experiences can morph two people who would not necessarily be close friends into dear sisters. We have had some very real and honest talks about each other, ministry, and life. It is truly a privilege to have Paula share today!

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“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

I cannot think of the exact moment or ways in which I recognized and faced my greatest fear, I do know that the process began in the summer of 2014.  I was working for a mission camp, and during that time, I learned so much about myself and faced many fears, however, one stands out.

My greatest fear was allowing the Lord to expose himself through my flaws.  The verse above was presented to me by a camp leader and it hit my soul like a ton of bricks.  We are simply clay pots, we as Christians, are plain vessels, filled with something so much greater than ourselves, but in order for what’s on the inside to be exposed, it must have a passageway. I already knew that the Lord wanted to expose himself through me, and honestly, I believed that he already was.  I never understood the level of vulnerability that was necessary in order for him to be truly seen from within me.

I was afraid to let the Lord shined through my cracked pot because my cracks were my imperfections–Imperfections that we all have.  Every crack in my pot represented sin, sorrow, shame, fear, or anything imperfect that had been or was currently a part of me.  With each strike of imperfection, came a crack to my clay pot.  The flaws that covered who I am show: my shortcomings, my failures, my sorrow, and my shame.  I spent so much time trying to distract from my flaws, why would I want to bring attention to them?  I spent so much time and effort shielding my cracks, because I did not want others to know of their existence, much less put them on display.

This verse kept coming up throughout the course of the summer and it continued to burden my heart on a daily basis.  I was afraid, that in showing my blemishes, I would distract from the beauty of God within me.  I was afraid that my cracks and scratches would be far too ugly for others to see. I was afraid to surrender my current and past shame and sorrow to the Lord allowing him to do whatever he wanted with them.  I wanted my pot to look put together, I put so much effort into making my pot look as though it had no cracks.  In doing this, I was hindering myself from being used by God, because in our weaknesses, he glorifies himself in a mighty way, if we will only share with him our greatest shames and most sorrowful failures, he will use them and take something so disgraceful in our eyes to be transformed into something adorned with beauty and grace.

Little by little, I began to share my deepest failures, the ugliest parts of my inmost being.  I began to recognize their existence and shared them with the Lord, though he already knew they were there. I became more vulnerable with fellow believers. Allowing myself, and everyone around me to see my clay pot for what it truly was. All of my flaws were no longer hidden, I was free from the burden of hopelessly covering and hiding my cracks without an end in sight.

In finally releasing this fear to the Lord, something beautiful happened.  The Father took all of my cracks and scratches.  He took the sin, sorrow, hurt, and shame, that I had been hiding and he used it.  He used it to show himself through my shortcomings.  He displayed his beauty in areas and situations in my life that were damaged.  He showed himself to others through the cracks in my pot.  He brought me comfort and healing through the holy treasure of his grace.  He made my soul feel refreshed and beautiful among his eyes.

Within the cracks of my clay pot, his light shined, so that he was seen.  The attention was brought to him, not to my shortcomings, as I had feared it would.  No one was focused on my cracks, but rather, they were made witness to the glory of God that was shining through the broken pieces of my simple clay pot.  In surrendering this deep fear of my soul, I experienced joy and relief, so precious to my inmost being.

Remember: There is beauty in broken and flawed vessels. There is beauty because Christ shines through. When we are “whole” no one sees the Light. When we share our brokenness it gives other hope to continue on.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

I cannot think of the exact moment or ways in which I recognized and faced my greatest fear, I do know that the process began in the summer of 2014.  I was working for a mission camp, and during that time, I learned so much about myself and faced many fears, however, one stands out.

My greatest fear was allowing the Lord to expose himself through my flaws.  The verse above was presented to me by a camp leader and it hit my soul like a ton of bricks.  We are simply clay pots, we as Christians, are plain vessels, filled with something so much greater than ourselves, but in order for what’s on the inside to be exposed, it must have a passageway. I already knew that the Lord wanted to expose himself through me, and honestly, I believed that he already was.  I never understood the level of vulnerability that was necessary in order for him to be truly seen from within me.

I was afraid to let the Lord shined through my cracked pot because my cracks were my imperfections–Imperfections that we all have.  Every crack in my pot represented sin, sorrow, shame, fear, or anything imperfect that had been or was currently a part of me.  With each strike of imperfection, came a crack to my clay pot.  The flaws that covered who I am, show my shortcomings, my failures, my sorrow, and my shame.  I spent so much time trying to distract from my flaws, why would I want to bring attention to them?  I spent so much time and effort shielding my cracks, because I did not want others to know of their existence, much less put them on display.

This verse kept coming up throughout the course of the summer and it continued to burden my heart on a daily basis.  I was afraid, that in showing my blemishes, I would distract from the beauty of God within me.  I was afraid that my cracks and scratches would be far too ugly for others to see. I was afraid to surrender my current and past shame and sorrow to the Lord allowing him to do whatever he wanted with them.  I wanted my pot to look put together, I put so much effort into making my pot look as though it had no cracks.  In doing this, I was hindering myself from being used by God, because in our weaknesses, he glorifies himself in a mighty way, if we will only share with him our greatest shames and most sorrowful failures, he will use them and take something so disgraceful in our eyes to be transformed into something adorned with beauty and grace.

Little by little, I began to share my deepest failures, the ugliest parts of my inmost being.  I began to recognize their existence and shared them with the Lord, though he already knew they were there. I became more vulnerable with fellow believers. Allowing myself, and everyone around me to see my clay pot for what it truly was. All of my flaws were no longer hidden, I was free from the burden of hopelessly covering and hiding my cracks without an end in sight.

In finally releasing this fear to the Lord, something beautiful happened.  The Father took all of my cracks and scratches.  He took the sin, sorrow, hurt, and shame, that I had been hiding and he used it.  He used it to show himself through my shortcomings.  He displayed his beauty in areas and situations in my life that were damaged.  He showed himself to others through the cracks in my pot.  He brought me comfort and healing through the holy treasure of his grace.  He made my soul feel refreshed and beautiful among his eyes.

Within the cracks of my clay pot, his light shined, so that he was seen.  The attention was brought to him, not to my shortcomings, as I had feared it would.  No one was focused on my cracks, but rather, they were made witness to the glory of God that was shining through the broken pieces of my simple clay pot.  In surrendering this deep fear of my soul, I experienced joy and relief, so precious to my inmost being.

Remember: There is beauty in broken and flawed vessels. There is beauty because Christ shines through. When we are “whole” no one sees the Light. When we share our brokenness it gives other hope to continue on.

Song of the Week: No Longer a Slave to Fear,
by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser

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The Beckoning for Reckoning

 

Thinking about it was driving me mad. The question of “why” haunted me like the Black Plague. “What did I do?”, “How could this happen?” The questions were numerous and the answers were nil.

 

I couldn’t take it anymore. I told myself that instead of asking questions, I need to think of the situation as dead. I couldn’t raise this relationship from the grave. It was out of my hands. I had done what I knew to do, but I could not fix it. For my own sanity, I viewed everything about that season of my life as dead.

 

I know that sounds morbid, but when someone is dead, you don’t try to pick that person out of their coffin. Their life is done (unless God wanted to work a miracle). The same was true for me. I had tasted not a physical death, but a death nonetheless. There was only silence, unanswered questions, and deep grief.

 

Yesterday in church, as we sang “Resurrecting” by Elevation Worship. I thought of many relationships I know of that have experienced a severing. A severing between a wife and a husband. A severing between a parent and a child, and a severing between close friends.

 

These severings have resulted in a death. The death of a marriage, the death of a unified family, the death of a friendship.

 

As I continued to sing, I got choked up. Broken relationships are not something you get over, but you can get through it. You learn to live without “them”. It’s like a heavy spot in your heart. You don’t always think about it, but when you do, it brings tears to your eyes.

 

Then I thought about how God feels. He knows that hurt too well. When Adam and Eve sinned that broke their perfect relationship with God. They experienced a severing in their relationship with God. That sweet fellowship, sweet union shattered into a million pieces. The repair was more than Adam and Eve could fix in their finite bodies and wisdom. But God, in order to reconcile His children back into fellowship, severed His perfect relationship with the Son. So, the morning Jesus stepped out of that grave, death was no more. He won. One severing brought death, The second severing brought life.

 

God’s heart is for reconciliation.

 

This side of eternity encompasses death and brokenness, but I never have to be without hope. If reconciliation does not come in my lifetime, I can cling to the fact it will in the next. God sent Jesus to reconcile me to the Father. I know that nothing is too hard for him. He can reconcile my broken relationships and those broken relationships of my dear friends. If not now, then later.

 

  • “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 5:10

 

  • “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” Colossians 1:19-22

 

  • “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

 

… and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation…

The Faces I Cannot Forget

***This is dedicated to the Iraqi family I met in Jordan almost a year ago, and to all the refugees scattered all over the world…

I attempted to write a poem about your suffering … 

Then I realized….

I don’t know what it’s like…

I don’t know the fear you lived every time you heard the whistle of a missile. 

I don’t know the panic you endured when you’d hear the destruction of another home… praying it wasn’t someone you knew…. 

I don’t know how many tears you cried… Or how many you couldn’t anymore after you lost loved one after loved one, friend after friend. 

I don’t know how many unseen wounds you carry around on a daily basis… 

I don’t know how if feels to not only lose friends and loved ones, but also your country….

I don’t know how it feels to lose a livelihood, freedom and choice…

I don’t know how it feels to be at the mercy of another people group – another country…

I don’t know how it feel to be stripped away from the language you and your family have spoken for generations, and now having to learn a new one…. 

I’m sorry I have not understood … I cannot imagine your pain… I don’t know what it’s like to suffer like you have, but I know one who did… 

I pray that in the midst of your pain… in the midst of this dark hour… you would know you’re not alone… The one who made you… The one who fashioned your eyes, hands, feet and body…. loves you. 

And until I meet you, you are in my heart… please don’t give up… you have a story the world needs to hear… the lessons of traveling through this dark valley needs to be taught…. 

I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your courage…