this is long. this is long because it’s my heart, the whole thing, spilled out on the pages, because God told me to do it, so i did. i pray you’ll bear with me here because at the end, i want your story, the whole sordid mess, because i want me and you to see Jesus in the midst of the whole thing and because we need a people ready and willing to fight to the death for each other, instead of against each other. so this is my heart and if you’ll bear with me, i’ll bear with you, which is logistically impossible but praise Jesus! nothing is impossible with Him. so this is long, because it’s my hard and stony heart made soft and squishy by the ever patient hands of God Almighty Himself.
i have a confession to make.
God and me, we’ve been in a fight.
well, maybe it’s just me who’s been in the fight, seeing as i’m the only one who had to be broken, but i’m getting ahead of myself.
i mentioned how i didn’t want to go to spain, but i decided to go anyway, because when Jesus shatters your heart multiple sundays in the space of a few months about the whole thing, you don’t really have the will to fight anymore, or maybe that’s just me.
so i waved the white flag in resignation, ever waning excitement, and ever increasing dread.
can i make a recommendation? when you do that, when you surrender like that, and you do it because, while you want to serve Him wholeheartedly, you’re not a hundred percent about the task He put before you; will you talk to Him about that? will you be honest with Him about that? because i wasn’t. and all of that welled up somewhere deep inside me and when it exploded – because, my friend, it will explode – it was ugly.
i was in paris.
i was in paris in a plane on the tarmac about to take off for madrid and i could feel it building, the way you see it in someone else when they’re *soincrediblyclose* to losing their WHOLE MIND IN FURY.
that moment, right there, is the moment i decided to have it out with God.
“i love paris,” i told Him. “if i’m going to be in europe, i want to stay here. why am i going to spain? what on earth do you want me there for? WHY AM I GOING TO SPAIN?”
He didn’t answer. the plane took off. i fell asleep, and when we landed the excitement of being someplace new had taken over and i still wasn’t really happy with God but i wasn’t mad enough to go back to it.
we’ve been back now for over two weeks and i’m asking the same questions with the same attitude about the same things. i feel like jonah. i went to nineveh. are You happy, God? i served in nineveh. NOW are You happy?! i’m sitting in the blazing heat and He provided a plant – thank You, God, IT’S ABOUT TIME – and then the plant died – SEE HOW YOU’RE NOT HERE, GOD?
ahem. enter…God. or should i say, this is the time where i finally wear myself out with questions and He raises an eyebrow quizzically, because, as i imagine it, He’s thinking, if you had shut up a while ago, i could have shown you the answer.
He raised His eyebrow last night.
He raised His eyebrow last night with a message from a friend, out of the blue. it was a very sweet one. i offered my thanks, clarified a quick misconception, and added a postscript about something incredibly trivial, and i thought that was the end of it.
His eyebrow went up further.
and i ended up in the middle of a conversation that, so help me, essentially had me drowning. it was one of those ones the southern baptists tell you about, the one where it all boils down to That Great Decision. (testimony and pre-packaged southern baptist cliches not included.)
and i was like, “Jesus. JESUS. I NEED YOU. LIKE NOW.”
it turns out, when you dig for every last scrap of faith you have, the way you might dig for lost coins in the pockets of your jeans or underneath your couch, you will find more than you thought you had. and you will find, the anger you carried was all because you focused on the wrong thing.
can you imagine that?! this blog is called what she saw because it’s about what i see AND I WAS SEEING THE WRONG THING.
if i have ever, EVER made you think i am a good christian, that i do it right, that Jesus is at the front of my mind and all i think about is pleasing Him, let me give you a baseball bat and let’s take it to this myth RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE.
and no protests of “well, no one’s perfect, of course, but you…” no, ma’am. BUT NOTHING.
i am the worst hypocrite if i let you persist in that idea. the worst, i tell you.
i am selfish. i am angry. i am narrow-minded and i am petty and i am a load of other awful things but probably the worst of them all is that i am blind.
i am blind because i saw myself where Jesus wanted me to see a whole lot of other people who needed Him desperately and got my best interpretation of Him.
i am blind because i saw my anger and pain where Jesus wanted me to see other people’s, not because theirs is necessarily worse than me or vice versa, but because He needed someone to minister to them and He had called me.
i am blind because i saw paris and glamour and three weeks i’ve consistently idealized where He wanted me to see the fourteen-year-old girl who walked through the midst of an entire crowd of parisian students as they mocked and ridiculed her, in what has probably been one of the most courageous decisions of her life, and i say that with tears in my eyes and all the humility i possibly can, because i have forgotten that probably nowhere but in paris has He taught me most what it means to suffer for His name’s sake and just the way He did.
in paris, He walked me down my own version of His walk to calvary, and seven years later i sat in a plane on the tarmac about to take off for nineveh, more commonly known as madrid, only miles away from that excruciating place, and i was COMPLAINING?
God and me, we’ve been in a fight and i think it’s over, but not before i beat myself black and blue trying to wrestle with Him.
i’m shattered. i’m shattered because that’s what He does to me, for my good but more importantly, for His matchless glory; i’m shattered because i had a conversation last night that remembered not only that He does that but WHY He does that; i’m shattered because when i texted friends to pray because i knew my friend needed Jesus but that i needed Him just as much, both in that moment and in my whole life, they not only responded with fervent prayers and courage of their own, but also because chelsea sent me a prophetic word from God Almighty Himself and i cried.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
“it WILL NOT return to Me empty. it WILL. NOT! return to Me empty.”
it reminds me of bethany dillon’s song, “great big mystery”:
nations fall at Your feet
and You have spoken over me[emphasis mine]
He has spoken. He has spoken over me and for me and through me and, well, if ever i harbored hopes of being a gymnast, so help me, they’re answered, because He’s tumbling me all over the place for His glory, so much so i don’t know which way’s which but i do know the only way i want is His. because i tried mine – AGAIN – and it didn’t work.
i read a blog post almost immediately after the conversation i had last night and i saw a song in a version i’ve heard before but had forgotten about.
i had found the blog in question through, ultimately, my real-life friend ameera, who had told me about her friend samantha, so i started following samantha’s blog, and i had been going through bloglovin’ catching up on posts earlier last night when i landed on a post she’d written on missions and prayer (funny, the two things i was most enraged about when God and i – or, well, just me – had been in a fight). and then i saw a comment from amanda, who said she was looking for “some inspiring, encouraging, motivating blogs of women with hearts for the Lord.” and i didn’t want to be too egotistical to think that definition might include me – but i was – and anyway, i’m always looking for more women to sharpen my own understanding of Jesus – even when He and i, or just me, are in a fight – so i went over to her blog and discovered, anew, this song:
[you should listen to it. once you’ve listened to it, then keep reading. or listen as you read. it’s just really on my heart that you listen to this, because it’s so much a part of the story, even if it doesn’t seem like it.]
there is simultaneously a musical simplicity and complexity in this that i could never attempt to explain. i am a product of my own ethnicity; although i took years of formal lessons for piano, violin, and cello, the latin in me takes over, and i live the music. i can’t break down the technicalities. i could if i wanted to, but that, in its own way, would destroy its beauty, its integrity.
i listen to this and this is what Jesus wants our hearts to sing, a song so fierce and unyielding and beautiful we can’t begin to understand but we’re laid flat, overwhelmed, at the mighty force of it. and almost all these musicians sing, if it isn’t the only thing, is peponi: paradise.
the word starts with a soft p, goes on with an unassuming r, but blasts you with the ise at the end, just like ice, water so cold it freezes and the touch, the touch is enough to make you draw back as fast as if you’d touched fire.
or when you burn with fury, angry at the One who made you in His very image, He will dump it over you, in His name, amen, to shock you back to the realization that YOU ARE NOT THE WORLD, even if, when He came to save the world, He came to save you, too, and since He has saved you, it’s now your responsibility, your burden, your privilege, your JOY to go out and take the message of salvation to the REST OF THE WORLD, being that He came to save THE WHOLE WORLD, NOT JUST YOU.
i write that all in righteous anger at myself, because no one needed that reminder more than me last night. no one.
“paradise,” He spoke to me, and i remembered something i’d read a few days before, about how the goal isn’t to get people to heaven, it’s about bringing heaven to people. and amen, i had thought, it’s about discipling, about revealing Jesus to people where they are.
but we can’t stay there.
jen wrote a post about going into the basement, in regards to the whole chick-fil-a issue last week or the week before and another woman commented, “Once everyone is in the basement, that same love that called us there should be transforming us into the image of Christ, to do the works of Christ, to bring His glory into the earth and see His kingdom come. Transformation is pretty radical, not always comfortable, and means – in terms of Christ – that we literally die to ourselves, to our sin and become new creatures, no longer condemned, washed in His blood…. ‘Come as you are, but…don’t stay as you are.’ Right? That’s for all of us. That’s the [g]ospel. That’s basement love, and if we’re gonna go there then I wanna get transformed…. I applaud the basement call, not as a permanent resting place, but as a temporary spot where this work can be done…and then? Wow, when the storm passes and the basement folk are released the world is gonna change.”
“this moment?” i said to my friend last night, “this is why all the pruning, all the breaking, all the changing and molding me are worth it. because then i get to see Him work like this.”
God and me, we’ve been in a fight and i know it’s over because i saw the kingdom move last night and you never, EVER forget the kingdom moving the mountain of you on behalf of another. EVER.
i want to see the kingdom move again.
i want to see the kingdom move, and i knew that when erin and i made our calls for prayer wednesday, begging you, pleading with you, to share with us anything you wanted prayer for.
i want to see the kingdom move, and i didn’t know that when my friend sent me a message last night but i got to see it anyway and JESUS, YOU ARE MORE THAN I WAS READY FOR, and is it too much to ask for a leetle warning next time? on second thought, You call the shots. every last one of them. i will take all the notice You give me, even if You give me none. amen.
i want to see the kingdom move, and i won’t see it if i don’t open my eyes, and hello, friends, this blog is a ministry and sometimes i forget that, but if i want to see the kingdom move – and i do, even if God and i, or just me, are in a fight – then i cannot afford – CANNOT. AFFORD. – to forget it.
God and you, are you in a fight? or maybe not? either way, my name is annie, welcome to what she saw, i’ll be your server today, and we’re serving all-you-can-eat Bread of Life and unlimited glasses of Living Water. our nickname for this place is the river jordan because it looks like and is a brazen hot mess but this is where Jesus washes us mercifully clean of the leprosy we see on the skin, of the leprosy we don’t see on the heart, and the whole thing goes rushing downriver, right down to hell where it belongs.
my name is jonah and i griped the whole way to, through, and outside nineveh; our name is naaman and can’t we wash in a different river?!; His name is Jesus and while i haven’t finished reading jessi connolly’s ebook, He told me to be quiet and say something, so i am.
i want to hear your story.
i want to hear the whole thing.
i want to hear as much or as little as you want to tell, but i hope you share a lot because the first part of be quiet and say something is to be. quiet., and for once in my life, i actually want to do this with every part of my hard and stony heart, so God and me, we’ve been in a fight but we’re not anymore.
i want to hear your story, and i want to hear it right here because this? this is community, because where one or two are gathered in His name, there He is, because He doesn’t just save us, singularly, He saves us, collectively, and i learned that at church so i can’t take credit for it, but hi, this is church, too, and there’s a seat for you, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter if you and God are in a fight because God and me, we’ve been in a fight, and the miracle of it all is He can change that, and He did.
i want to hear your story in the comments and i plan to publish it because we all need to know we’re not in the trenches with our messes, fighting alone. He’s here with us, and so are countless others, like chelsea when i wanted to see the kingdom but didn’t know it and erin when i wanted to see the kingdom and did know it. but if you don’t want it published, just say so, or you can email them: i understand; He understands; there’s no shame; sometimes the stories are too ground up yet and need some percolating before they’re piping hot coffee and ready to serve. i get that. that’s why i haven’t been able to talk about spain even though i’ve been back two and half weeks already. it’s all in His timing; not mine, not yours. no one knows when the coffee’s ready but the Maker of said coffee and today i’m His secretary and i’m taking notes because He said to be. quiet.
but He also said to say something, so when i’ve read your stories and He’s broken my heart over them, and i mean straight up shattered, even worse than the mirror i accidentally broke a few days ago while in a mood as black as spiritual death, i will say something.
i will say words that don’t suffice, but the Holy Spirit will groan on my behalf for the words i can’t say and on your behalf for the prayers for which you’ve asked, for the mountain you need moved (even, and especially, when it’s you), for the stories you were so insanely and embarrassingly courageous to share, and which you did because you need Jesus and friend? He’s RIGHT. THERE. He is right there fighting in those very trenches in which you thought you’d die, fighting fiercely because no one wants more badly to see you perish than the enemy.
you know, that enemy.
He is right there when you have given it all up as lost. He is right there when you have thrown it in His face, accompanied by choice words you holler out loud or in your head. He is right there when you choose not to listen to Him, again, and He is right there when you decide enough is enough, you just can’t do this anymore.
He WILL NOT forsake you. that is a PROMISE. the psalmist writes,
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
He will do it not because we deserve it, because we don’t, but because He loves us, with a terrible, beautiful, incomprehensible love; He will do it because He said He would, and that ought to be enough for us, but so often – how often? – is it not enough?; He will do it because if He didn’t it would make Him a liar, and He would violate His own integrity, and He cannot do that, He cannot break His own nature, because He lacks nothing to even break it for.
because He is I Am.
independent of all we could ever do, all we could ever say. He does not need us. He never did.
but He wants us.
He wants you, and you, and you. yes, you. you in the corner; you in the spotlight. you caught up in an illusion; you, heartlessly disillusioned. you, you, you. yes. YOU.
and because He does, can i make another confession?: i do too.
so spill it. spill it because He didn’t make us to wander by ourselves in hopeless searching. He made us to pursue Him and His heart and His heart is for people, and you – yes, YOU – you’re a people behind that computer screen and i’m a people behind mine and His heart is for US and WE need to start tearing off masks and shattering façades if we want to cultivate any shred of a hope in a day that we’ll see the defeat of the enemy, yes, that enemy, at the mighty hands of Jesus, which would wreak a work in us if we would just put down our arsenal of piercingly dangerous weapons and just LET HIM WORK.
so that’s what i’m doing. i’m at the end of whatever rope i thought i could lasso my life with and i’m throwing it down because to hold on to it is the greatest sin of all: to choose me over my God. but i’m choosing to lay it all down for His sake, for His kingdom, for His matchless glory, and throw my all with Him and with you in the trenches because this is what we need, me as much as you, as much as anyone.
so tell me your stories.
and in Jesus’s name, i will lift them up for His redemption, for His mighty hand to move on your behalf.
because God and me, we’ve been in a fight, and we’re not anymore, but it took me realizing that God?
well, He’s all i got.