Lying in bed one morning restless with a heavy heart, I knew in my spirit God was asking something of me. I had felt His Spirit stirring in MY spirit for weeks, maybe even months. My priorities were all screwed up! I was doing things He did not want me to, and I was not doing the things He had asked me to do. The phrase I heard a lot during that time was, “Others may, you cannot!” At first He whispered ever so gently, but after ignoring that still small voice for some time, His voice grew louder and Louder and LOUDER! He is relentless in His pursuit of our hearts. He doesn’t give up so easily. He is the ULTIMATE jealous Lover! He is jealous in the sense that He looks at me and says, “She is MINE! I will not share her with the world.” He says to you, too, “You are Mine! I will not share you with the world!”God is the ULTIMATE jealous Lover! Click To Tweet
That’s when I heard:
“I am NOT to be trifled with, Julie!”
Being the word girl that I am and knowing He specifically used the word “trifle,” I looked up the definition just to make sure I absorbed every nuance of its meaning. To trifle with someone means, “to deal lightly or without due seriousness or respect” (Dictionary.com). I was trifling with His Spirit and His discipline in my life–I was quenching the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19). SCARY! He was no longer going to deal gently with me if I kept ignoring Him.
It’s Your Choice
He was clearing away the cobwebs in my thinking and making it clear that I had a decision to make. Would I choose death, or would I choose life? He will always boil it down to either/or. It’s our choice!
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 30:15-20 NIV).
A friend and I were recently discussing this Scripture and the fact that He even had to say, “Now choose life.” That indicates we will actually sometimes choose death. Who would actually say the words, “I choose death”? But our actions say it all the time. I guess left to our own, we would choose death again and again. Yet He always calls us to choose. Each and every day we have choices to make: Will they be for life and prosperity or death and destruction? Oftentimes, choosing LIFE feels like death because it is a death. It is crucifying our flesh. And oftentimes, choosing DEATH feels like life because there’s pleasure in sin for a season. Sin promises BIG but delivers small.
He wants us to choose LIFE because that’s where He is. He wants to be with us. He knows all else will break our hearts and leave us empty.
You Want Me to Do What???
While wrestling with Him in my spirit, He showed me a picture of an elephant and said,
Julie, that elephant is you!
Wow! Thanks, God!
I was a big, fat elephant, weighed down with all kinds of stuff: sin, bad attitudes, doubts, and a critical spirit. I was filling my empty places with things I thought would bring me fulfillment and satisfaction. It happened ever so subtly! My flesh did not want to give some of it up, but those things were lesser loves. God will not compete with my lesser loves. He wants all of me! (Read Hosea, especially chapter 2.)
As a big, fat elephant, God was asking me to squeeze through a tiny keyhole. Basically, He was giving me a visual of Matthew 7:13-14.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).
I couldn’t get through the keyhole without laying some things down and surrendering them to Him. But in His love for me, He would even show me how to lay those things down. He would help me if I let Him. He promised LIFE on the other side of the keyhole, but for some reason, I didn’t trust Him. All I could see was all that I was letting go. He promised if I let go of everything I’m holding onto so tightly that He would bring me out into wide, open spaces where I would be free to enjoy what He provided without guilt. But…there was just one problem!
How would I, as a fat elephant, get through that tiny keyhole? If I could stand the pull, He promised He would pull me through. To be sure, it would be painful. It would require dying to myself: my wants, my desires, and my needs. You see, I had empty places that I looked to Him to fill at one time, but when He didn’t fill them when or how I needed Him to, I started filling them on my own without Him. None of this was a conscious decision. Matter of fact, it felt like I was just drifting in life with my eyes closed.
Do you know that drifting feeling?
- You live on autopilot.
- Get up in the morning.
- Breathe in, breathe out.
- Take care of everyone else’s needs all day long.
- Go to bed.
- Do it all again the next day.
- We are called to serve our families, but IN HIS STRENGTH! We will run out of our own.
“Get in the Circle With Me!”
I was still going to church, praying and even thinking about Scripture every so often. I was just going through the motions. He is in the Holy of Holies asking me to join Him. I was still on the outside looking in, while God was standing there the whole time asking me to get IN the circle WITH Him — no longer on the periphery. He was inviting me to another level of intimacy with Him I had not experienced before.
“Julie, you think you have life right now. You don’t. You are filling yourself with things, people, and experiences that I have not appointed for your life. Some of them are not inherently sinful, but some of them are — and you know it. They will NEVER fill you like I can. Why won’t you trust Me? Lay those things down once and for all! Get rid of the excess in your life–the excess that you are hoping will fill the empty places. TRUST Me! I know it seems that if you surrender all that to Me, you won’t have anything left. But I can only fill empty vessels. You will be filled, but first you have to be emptied! Click To Tweet”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).
He wants us to run our race well and finish strong, but we can’t if we are carrying around extra weight that we were never meant to carry. Some things I didn’t realize I was holding onto, but I knew they had a hold on me. I felt weighed down with all these burdens and things I was never meant to carry. Yet, what He was asking seemed too difficult.
Squeeze myself through a keyhole? No, thanks!
How Did I Get Here?
After walking with Jesus for 30 years, how did I get here?
The stress of life (financial difficulties, multiple job layoffs, a special needs son, another son’s life-saving surgery at two weeks old, months in the NICU, marriage issues, a business venture we felt God called us to that never took off, etc.) had finally taken its toll. I had numbed out just living in survival mode. I was in a season of up and down hormones as well. I also found myself in a new season in life. About a year ago while I was still homeschooling my twins, I started noticing they didn’t need me as much. Matter of fact, they were taking classes at the local college while they were juniors in high school. They didn’t need me anymore — at least not in the way they did the previous years. I remember sitting at the dining room table one morning mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, and I thought, “Is this what my life is now going to look like? I’m sitting at the dining room table where I had sat for years teaching my boys, but only this time they aren’t here.” It was the perfect storm!
Wide, Open Spaces
I have to say I have not come out the other side completely yet. I’m stuck in the keyhole still, but He is still pulling me through. He never gives up on me! I’m laying things down as He so graciously puts a spotlight on them. He’s given me glimpses of the future, and it’s good because HE IS GOOD. He does all things well! The stresses of life will never go away, but I feel like I am beginning to not just survive, but to thrive as well.
Join me in the keyhole as we venture into the wide open spaces He has for us!
Other Scriptures on Wide Open Spaces:
- Romans 5:1-2 (The Message): “By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”
- Psalm 119:45 (The Message): “And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom.”
- Job 36:15-16 (NIV): “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.”
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- Have you found yourself drifting through life? He’s calling for you. He wants you to get in the circle with Him and enjoy intimate fellowship with Him — the One Who knows you best. Don’t settle for the lesser loves!
- Are you an elephant, too? What is it that is holding you back? What is it that is keeping you from going through the keyhole?
- Do you trust Him to let go of those things?
- What are some of the “lesser loves” in your life?
- Do you trust Him for what’s on the other side? I promise it’s good because He’s good!
- Are you outside of the circle bumping into Him every now and then? Or are you IN the circle WITH Him enjoying intimacy with Him?
- How have you seen God relentlessly pursuing you? He doesn’t pursue you to punish you for punishment’s sake. He alone knows what is best for you, and He doesn’t want you to go down a road other than the one with Him. His heart is FOR you!
Nothing we give up for Him will ever compare to what He has for us! They are lesser loves and will never satisfy like He can.
Finally, in the Circle,