“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3 ESV
The alarm interrupted my morning slumber, and seconds later hubby was nudging me to crawl out of bed. Even though I had eagerly anticipated our women’s retreat, the temptation to just stay in bed after a long and tiring week was pulling me back under the covers.
Once my feet finally hit the floor, I moved through the motions of getting ready. By the time I had added a touch of jewelry and makeup, I felt the excitement of a day spent in feminine surroundings and the hope of a touch from the Lord seep in. I grabbed my Bible, a pen, and whispered a prayer that I would focus on who and where the Lord wanted to lead me.
Smiles and genuine delight greeted me as I stepped up to the registration table. There I drew a surprise Scripture from the woven green basket tied with a bow, and clutched it to my heart. My mind immediately drifted to my best friend who is serving on foreign soil. He is our keeper. Both hers and mine.
“Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper.” Psalm 121:4-5 ESV
These treasured Scriptures from past years, I’ve tucked in special places to recall the Lord’s personal word to me that minister throughout the year.
After grabbing a cup of coffee and a cinnamon crumb muffin, I found a seat. I recognized only one face there amidst the purple and green dainty touches decorating our table, but I had prayed the Lord would direct me where He wanted me. I needed to stretch myself. Reach out first in conversation with these women taking me out of my comfort zone.
Worship started and I was carried into the Lord’s presence. We were one glorious voice giving praise to our King, our Savior, who would meet us there and uniquely touch a spot in each of our hearts, mending, applying balm to our wounds, yet asking us to let Him carve out a spot in those fragile parts where He desired to work.
I must admit that I was a little disappointed to see we did not have a designated speaker but would be listening to personal testimonies from three women in our body. I thirsted for something new, a different voice carrying a specific message just for me. How could I doubt that God’s ways are mightier than I could imagine, and He would use the words of these handpicked women to reveal truths to me.
Did I realize that I was more than the choices I had made? More than the problems I’ve caused in my life, in my family, or my circumstances? Did I believe I am loved beyond measure? That the Creator of our universe, the one who formed me in my mother’s womb loved ME more than I could imagine? Could I move into the love He gave me when He allowed His Son, Jesus, to die for me? Oh, I know the Scriptures and the familiar words swirl through my mind but penetrating my heart was a deeper work.
I scribbled notes across my floral decorated program as the Lord opened my eyes and heart.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.” Joel 2:11-13
What was holding my heart captive? Tender words from the head of our women’s ministry caressed yet challenged my presumptions. Fear, rejection, betrayal, guilt. Thinking I am not enough or that I am a disappointment. The sting of realization hit but healing balm soothed the wounds. “You Are Not in chains to these thoughts,” Kathy said, “because of Jesus.
The enemy’s lies trap us under the “what ifs,” “regrets,” “would haves,” “could haves,” she said. These lies and doubts lead to fear and doubt and become a twisted belief planted in our minds by the evil one. From there, it’s just a small leap into believing we need control our lives, our circumstances, and our children to keep the fear, the possibility of shame or lack of someone’s respect at bay. We wobble, hold our breath, press the panic button just waiting for something to crumble.
I was in those words. They identified my motivations. Kathy shared and I knew my only escape was to loosen the grip on my desperate need to control so that I could grab hold of God’s hand. I had to trust God, believing He loved me no matter what.
A quote Kathy shared revealed the “heart surgery” God desires to do in our lives when we try to hide the shame, fear, and doubts. Oh, they will come to the surface.
“God uncovers what I try to cover so He can can cover it,” she said. “He covers us with with Jesus robes of righteousness.”
Tears trickled down as I felt the Lord’s gentle touch on my heart. He longed to give me what I truly desired and not a counterfeit facade. The room went silent as we sat at Jesus’ feet and allowed Him to lovingly begin His work.
So much to take in. Words to meditate on in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Encouraged in ways I never expected, I left the retreat with a lighter heart and a committment to inscribe 3×5 Scripture cards with every verse on love that speaks deeply to me.
Isn’t it interesting that God gave me the word “Love” for this year? I’ve fumbled with it, stumbled over it, knew that I had to experience it first from Him before I could share that abiding love with others.
His love is without measure and comes to us in ways we least expect it. “I’m captured by the wonder of it all” (lyrics from “How Great Your Are” by Phillips, Craig, and Dean).
What is God speaking to you personally about His love? Will you find His covering complete and “Beyond Measure” for your life?
As a P.S.–Earlier this year, I was privileged to be part of the launch for Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book, “Love Idol.” That book speaks the same truths about seeking others’ approval, fear of shame, and forgetting who we really are in Christ and how much He loves us. We are preapproved and set free in Him. Check it out.
From My Heart To Yours,