Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Testimony, Part 4F - Can Openers & Catamarans

That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
[Romans 8:28-30 MSG]

Continued from last week…
The following “Epilogue” concludes a 6-part story that began on 9/8/10 (Testimony, Parts 4A-F).

Can Openers

One evening in August 2007 – after the “river prophecy” in July (see 9/29/10) and before Mario’s passing in September (see 10/6/10), when the outcome of his story was still very unclear to me – I was in Seattle on business, and called a friend from my hotel. I told her I could see how God had used me to share Christ with Mario for a season, but I was still struggling with the pain and confusion I’d been through since he stopped talking to me. Couldn’t God have used someone else to speak to him about faith? Had it really been necessary for me to suffer so much hurt in the process?

As I tried to explain that perhaps it had to be me because of our former relationship etc., my friend interrupted and said, "Gina, God knew what it would take to open your heart."

The minute she said that, a picture came to my mind of a camp-style can opener (just a metal handle with a hooked knife-point on the end) puncturing the lid of a little tuna can, prying it upward just a bit. I knew she was right; I remembered how “shut down” I had been before Mario. I think God knew that neither of us would have opened up to a stranger; and, after he hung up on me, I refused to shut down again. I knew I was risking my heart by loving – and a broken heart is not the worst thing that can happen. Another friend said later, "Sometimes your heart breaks open."

Almost two years later, I was home alone and complaining to God that I really didn’t want to be single for the rest of my life. As I told Him how I felt, I “saw” the tuna can again, only this time there was one of those can openers with a knob that you wind all the way around the outside of the can and then lift the lid off entirely. I felt like God was saying, “OK, but here’s what we need to do… will you let Me continue to open your heart, so I can heal it completely?”

Sometimes we want a human relationship to ease our loneliness, when God wants to work His Love into our hearts in a deeper way so that we can be truly free to love as He loves. In Grace & Forgiveness, Carol Arnott shares what she felt God said to her, as she sought Him to restore her heart and repair her relationship with her mother: “If you are really serious about this, then give Me permission to dig in the garden of your heart. Give Me permission to show you the roots, to bring up situations you need to deal with one at a time.”

“Allowing God to dig in the garden of our hearts” isn’t endless introspection or perfectionist self-improvement; it’s simply saying “yes” to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives – allowing Him to deal with whatever hinders Love, in His way and in His timing. It also doesn’t mean, when things get messy or painful, that we aren’t OK with God. As Pastor John Arnott says, "God loves you just the way you are, and He loves you too much to leave you the way you are."

As we yield to God in the midst of our imperfections, He uses us to shine His light in dark places and purifies our hearts at the same time. God used me in Mario’s life and gave me many beautiful gifts as well. He pried open my wounded heart and allowed me to feel beautiful and loved by a man for the first time in years. He restored parts of my identity that were buried in the past, and exposed the longings of my heart – even though relationship with Mario was not His long-term plan for fulfillment. Through that pain, I gave my life to God more fully; and He continues to heal and reveal His Love, even as His plans for my future come more clearly into view.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. [Psalm 51:6, 10-12]

The Catamaran and the Master Builder

I’m not always happy with the concept of patience, so it helps when God gives me understanding that makes it easier to cooperate with what He's doing. As a Christian, I experience the work of His Spirit both internally – in my heart, mind, and emotions – and externally, in the circumstances of life. I’ve had several reminders in the past few years about the “step by step” nature of the journey, which help me to appreciate why some things He’s promised seem to take a long time coming. I like the 3 versions of James 1:4 quoted here:

The strength to keep going must be allowed to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need. [NIRV] And let steadfastness have its full effect… [ESV] But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. [NKJ]

A friend shared a “word picture” she got for me while we were talking recently which gave me some beautiful insights into how God is working in my life toward a long-term love relationship, and why the process seems to take so long. As I said above, sometimes we want human love to heal our hearts or fill the empty places God wants to fill with His Love. If God isn’t truly first in our lives and our hearts aren’t whole, we can easily be drawn off course in our human relationships.

My friend said she saw the Master at work, building a beautiful boat – she sensed the word “catamaran,” which meant nothing to either of us at the time, so I looked it up when I got home. I almost wept with joy as I read Webster’s Dictionary! A catamaran is a boat with two separate hulls that are joined together by a frame “from above,” and powered by a single sail. It’s a perfect picture of the kind of relationship God has often spoken to my heart - two unique individuals, flowing together as partners in ministry, joined by His hand and following His Spirit in the same direction.

One of the reasons I told Mario that fulfilling God's call on my life was "non-negotiable" is that I'd been touched by reading Rolland & Heidi Baker’s testimony, There Is Always Enough. As a young woman, Heidi knew she was called to work with the poor. She was engaged to a good Christian man whom she loved very much, but there was a problem: God had not called him to serve the poor overseas. Heidi says God asked her to lay aside her engagement and marry Rolland Baker, a third generation missionary. Rolland was 12 years older and not Heidi's first choice for a husband; her former fiancé was a godly man, but not God's man for her.

Heidi & Rolland's ministry has planted thousands of village churches among former Muslims in northern Mozambique, and touched countless people around the world. What if Heidi had only cared about her own ideas of happiness? Would she be as happy as the wife of a businessman in the U.S. as she is today? (LOL - I've heard her speak many times, so I know her answer is "No!") What about all the people whose lives have been transformed as Heidi & Rolland fulfill their God-given destiny? Some choices have consequences that reach far beyond our own individual lives.

Mario spoke Spanish and was willing to consider traveling with me to Central America from time to time - but marriage to Mario might have hindered my faith and quenched my spirit in significant ways. He could be terribly cynical, stubborn, and unforgiving - when I last saw him, he hadn't spoken to his father in 35 years. And I was a "sensitive princess" with a "Pollyanna" spirit! (see 7/9 & 9/29/10 postings) People can change, but only by choice; God doesn't make our choices for us, but He sees the end from the beginning. If we're wise, we'll ask Him for His plans.

Apart from God's wisdom, we tend to try to figure out how to make things fit our own desires, instead of letting God build our lives - putting all the pieces into place as He sees fit, and bringing any permanent connections "from above.” In spite of my heartache, eventually I felt God's hand of protection in preventing a relationship with Mario that would not have been His perfect will for me. "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain." [Psalm 127:1a NIV]

There was another part of this “word picture” that was very significant: my friend said it was clear to her that “the Master Builder” was not in any hurry to complete this work, because every piece of beautiful wood He put in place brought Him great joy. She said it was as if He would work on a piece of the boat, polishing it just so, and then stand back admiring what He had just done. He took great pleasure in each part of the process, not just the end result.

Do we want our lives to glorify God? A masterpiece takes time to create - it's not thrown together in haste. I'm finally willing to admit that some of the really painful parts - like sawing, sanding, pounding nails into place - are at least as important as rubbing smooth oil with a soft cloth over the finished surface to polish it.

God wants our hearts, and He enjoys working with us to make our lives His masterpiece. He's a brilliant craftsman, and He’s not in a hurry. He is pleased with what He's doing! He loves what He sees in us, every step of the way. And when the future arrives, it won't always be smooth sailing, but we'll be ready for the waves. We'll recognize the Master's touch by then - He is also the Sailor, and the Wind in our sails.


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
[Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV]

Song by Klaus Kuehn, “Holy Spirit Move”
CD: Healing Waters

Song by Kim Walker, “I Surrender”
CD: Here Is My Song

P.S. God Heals the Past

Have you ever felt discouraged that you "can't change the past"? Well, you can't change what happened, but God can heal so that your feelings about what happened are completely different.

I experienced a healing like this in the summer of 2007: I was facing into a corner in my kitchen, about to open the refrigerator, when suddenly I remembered getting on a bus for Denver, when Mario & I were breaking up in the Fall of 1981. As that memory hit me, I was flooded with feelings of rejection and despair, mingled with profound sadness that he still refused to talk to me for all those months in 2007. The deep pain of that ancient wound was so dark and intense, I honestly felt, well, "cornered" where I stood. Recalling a spiritual exercise I'd been taught for "inner healing," I cried out - almost defiantly - "OK, Jesus, where were You?!"

In that moment, I "saw" Him getting on the bus ahead of me - smiling and waving, like "Come on! Let's go!" I was devastated by the break-up with Mario, but Jesus was happy and excited about going to Denver. Then it hit me: I "got saved" in Denver in January 1982. Jesus was excited about me getting on that bus because He knew that in a few short months I would meet Him there...

[Note to readers: I’m planning a break from “Personal Testimony” to write on other subjects for a few weeks – when we come back to my story, “Part 5” will pick up in Denver, Fall of 1981.]

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. This week's writing really touched my heart. I too have closed off my heart to love but I know I have to open up my heart to God for his healing touch. God bless you. May
    his healing continue. Much love to you!