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Laying Down

August 30, 2008

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12, NASB).

The day I realized I was losing my mother, the cold started in my fingers and spread throughout my body. Numbness and pain took over completely, and I forgot how to laugh. I forgot joy.

I didn’t lose my mom in the traditional way. No one sent me flowers or a card. I didn’t get lasagna or a gift certificate to Chili’s to help me and my family through the roughest time of our lives. We faced the murky waters of her mental illness alone. I had days where I had difficulty finding the strength to breathe.

Personal loss always feels unique, I think. The grief that overwhelms and threatens to overshadow intimacy with the Lord is a very lonely feeling.

The sorrow consumed me for months. There was no easy solution, no quick fix that I applied to my heart to find healing and wholeness. I daily threw myself before God. I screamed. I cried. I was angry. And I waited for Him to tell me what to do.

One morning I woke up extremely early – sleep is elusive when life is falling apart. I dragged myself upstairs to my prayer chair. My Bible was closed beside me as I sat down and once again brought my pain to Him. In one clear moment, I felt the Lord speak quietly, but firmly, to my heart, as He told me the hardest thing I have ever heard Him say.

On that morning God told me that I needed to lay my mother down at His throne and leave her there at His feet forever.

My mind cleared of other thoughts as I saw an image of me bringing up my mother’s broken and limp body to the feet of God and then gently setting her down. Then I walked away.

This was the most difficult thing God has ever asked me to do. Ever. I felt wave after wave of grief crashing over me as I knew that the Lord was leading me away from her and back to my family.

In that moment, I was Abraham. I gave up the thing most precious to me. My mother and her pain and her illness had become an idol to me. If not, I do not think it would have been so excruciating for me to give her back to God.

And as I gave up my Isaac, something forever changed in my relationship with the Lord. He was no longer an accessory, no longer something pleasant and convenient to me. I stopped looking to God to enhance my life; instead, He began to sustain it.

I know that God did not make my mom sick, but He used that time in my life to break off things in my heart that were keeping me from knowing Him fully as my Lord.

When I am tempted to pick back up the things God has told me to lay down, when I entertain the idea of scheduling my life in such a way that I don’t make time to sit in His Presence, when I find myself starting to believe my old fears and insecurities instead of His Word, then I remember that time. I remember wrestling with God in the night, like Jacob, and now limping through life with a new dependence on Christ.

He has become my everything. And though I would not want to go through the pain again, now that I am on the other side, I can look confidently toward heaven with hands and heart raised as I cry out, “Lord, You are indeed worth it all. I have given you all I have, Father, and I have found you completely trustworthy to hold my life together. Show me your glory again this day, as I live surrendered to you.”

*This was published this month in Proverbs 31 Woman Magazine – I am reposting it here today.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2008 10:46 am

    Jess,
    I was EIGHT posts behind, and now that I’m caught up, I just wanted to take the time to let you know that your gift of making others feel this inexplicable kinship with you is really quite amazing. Reading your words, though I never have even met you, makes me have the same feeling I imagine one gets from getting a letter from a sister… one that by just telling you what’s going on in her own life- can teach you something you needed for that very moment in one’s own.

    yah, you’re gifted, girl. and certainly NOT alone.

  2. Amanda McEwen permalink
    August 30, 2008 2:51 pm

    I had better be getting a copy!!

  3. August 31, 2008 10:14 pm

    Jess,
    This post could not have come at a more perfect time. Some people say things are just coincidence but I have more and more recently been shown by God that there is no such thing as a coincidence. I too have had to lay my Issac down recently and it was one of the most excruciating things I have experienced in a long time. Your words were written so delicately as if they were written straight to me. Thank you sooo very much for this message and for being willing to allow God to speak through you and use you. You are a kindred spirit that I have been blessed to have found on the web and not by coincidence.

  4. September 1, 2008 9:24 am

    I just got my magazine! Your article looks wonderful. Congratulations!!

  5. September 1, 2008 3:09 pm

    Oh, Jess! I am so excited for you that you were published! I know that there will be so many women who will be blessed by your openness and your passionate love for the Lord! I love how He is able to use our deepest pains to bring healing to others! Thank you for letting Him use you as an instrument of healing!

    Love,
    K

  6. September 1, 2008 7:30 pm

    Wow, I needed to hear this today! Thank you for your transparency.

  7. Linda permalink
    September 2, 2008 11:08 pm

    Jess,

    Laying myself down has been at the forefront of my life recently. I know your journey, I can understand your painful process. I started to post a comment and it became the first post of my own blog.

    I will enjoy journeying along with you.

    God sustains. He lifts us up. He gives us hope.

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