Living In Freedom As An #IAmNot: My Time Of Surrender

I started this blog as an attempt to be real, an unveiling of my true identity in Christ as I embarked on a new journey of healing, resting in the arms of my Abba Daddy. 

But, as with every journey, you must start by at least glancing at where you have been in order to realize the significance and the importance of how you got to where you are now. After all, nobody wants to repeat the past, but we do learn from it and through His grace we are not defined by our past, present or future. I’m learning on this journey, we are defined not by where we are going in this life, but by Who we travel with. 

For as long as I can remember, I have never, successfully, slept through an entire night. I define “night” as climbing in bed, allowing myself to escape reality and consciousness and truly put myself into a vulnerable state to the non-sleeping, very conscious world. You could say I had a lot of trust and security issues. I prided myself on the ability to always be “on-guard” and the battle cry to protect my heart was my life song for, well, as long as I can possibly remember. 

One of the hardest, most painful lies that I have discovered that I have built my life around is this: 

“I am not wanted” 

And throughout my life, I built up walls because of this belief that was being drilled into my soul that I was not and never would be wanted for who I was as a person – my life is a failure (note the term “being” – for me it was a continual lie I felt “being” communicated to me over and over in my life…not just a single or even a few disconnected events…but a daily reality). In my awake and conscious state I was a mistake, someone that was accidentally here in life and my goal was to simply pretend like I knew what I was doing without drawing too much attention…because deep down I knew I was a failure.  

You see, “I am not wanted” believes:

“I am a mistake.”

“I cannot receive or give love.”

“I can never change.”

“I am hopeless.” 

“God hates me.” 

“God gave-up on me.” 

Not only could I relate to these lies at a very young age, I believed them and built my life around them. 

After all, if we really do have a loving God – you know, the one you learn about in Sunday School…that God doesn’t allow mistakes to happen. That loving God doesn’t and can’t accept failures. That loving God wanted no relationship with someone like me…and I accepted that. I even spent time doing ministry for this God in an effort to apoligize for my failure in life and hope that maybe…just maybe that God would give me a taste of what real love felt like. I saw people all around me that seemed to get it and I didn’t. I just assumed this true rest…the concept of unconditional love was something meant (at least for me) to be experienced in Heaven and not on earth. And yes, I acknowledge now that I allowed myself to become so angry at God that it took looking at the picture of my kids to simply get through the day…but I knew one day they would see what a failure I was too. 

And by writing this post – by posting this blog, I truly believe I am not the only one that has felt this way in life. Yes, you reader, I believe if you can’t relate, there is someone in your little world that has never allowed themselves to experience Gods love before. Yes, people like that do exist and the call to make disciples by simply sharing Christ’s love – that’s very real too. In fact, if it weren’t for the few, daring, authentic and passionate God chasers in my life that literally kept loving, kept calling, kept emailing, kept praying…if it weren’t for these few there is no doubt in my mind that this post would not be a reality. So…keep loving – in the name of Jesus, dear friends, please keep loving those that seem like the hardest to love because they (we) truly are the ones that need to experience it the most. 

I’m going to leave you hanging here for just a minute while I paint a parallel between my place in life and a story I really connected deeply with this week on my journey…

 In John chapter 8 we meet a woman in the brink of a life crisis. Though John doesn’t mention anything about her past (this story wasn’t even included in the earliest manuscripts which makes me even more curious as to who this woman was that this event was added later…it was that important, that crucial, that significant that these men of God changed what was already being shared in order to add this account in…something big is going on here!). The previous day, John records that the teachers of the Law were debating exactly who this Jesus was. In fact, most of the town was questioning, debating his identity (see John 7). I wonder where this woman was in this debate. I wonder who she thought Jesus was on the evening before her life was revealed. I wonder if she had hope. 

We do know that this woman was searching for love. She was caught “in the act of adultery.” 

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (John 8:3-6 NIV)

This woman a few hours previously before meeting Jesus, decided that a man could fill a part of her need to be known, her need to be accepted, and her need to be loved in this way. She knew it was wrong. She knew it wasn’t the way things were supposed to be. She knew she was failing while in that very moment…yet, for some reason, she gave in. Why? 

I’m wondering if this woman, like myself, felt incredibly trapped and defined by the lies that were so drilled into her heart, that she lost hope in the idea of a Savior. 

I’m wondering if deep down, in the depths of this woman’s soul, that she dreamed of a day she could be loved, seen for the very person the Creator made her to be. A day where she could quit trying to find her place in this world, but where she could simply rest and live in peace. 

After the teachers of the law had her dragged from her moment of trying to earn acceptance, she was put into a mob of complete humiliation and condemnation. By looking at the words of these men, they had already decided what “women like her” deserved. They had labeled her by what they saw on the outside! They most likely used her as a setup for their own selfish gain. 

If you can take the biggest failure in your life (or your belief that your entire life is a failure that you know deep down is the secret to the way you have been living)…take that and picture another person dragging you into the center of the town and announcing your secret to everyone. 

The secret is out – there are no take-backs here. 

And did you notice friends that these men were so stuck in trying to trick Jesus, that they made this woman STAND in front of Jesus and the crowd. I wonder if she had the strength – I wouldn’t. I wonder if she had friends there in that moment holding her up to Jesus (again, your love for those that seem un-lovable allows them to see (or stand to see) Jesus). 

Now, I’m seeing this event in the woman’s shoes here – most likely fearing for her very life, seeing those that she did so well masking her true identity to standing in the crowd, sweat and tears become mixed in the heat of the day…at that moment, in all reality, if I were her, I would have wanted to die. 

She went from a false acceptance by one man, to a crowd of rejection and immediate condemnation with no room to explain or defend herself. There were no attorneys present that day – yet the Judge ruled in the flesh. 

Again, at that moment when these angry men of really no authority gave the judicial right to Jesus – the very One who actually has the authority over heaven and earth…I wonder if the woman met the eyes of Jesus…I wonder if she saw His eyes through…

Through her sweat of trying to earn love

Through her tears of hopelessness and rejection

I wonder if her eyes followed His as He looked down to the ground and wrote. I wonder if her heart pounded during those moments of silence. 

Folks…this ain’t American Idol…the silence of those moments could only be heard by the thumping of her heartbeat…

The very heartbeat that Jesus heard through every stroke He wrote with His finger. 

As this woman STANDS there, waiting for His verdict…I wonder if in the moment of her mask-less nakedness, if she might have found hope…really searched for hope that this man, this Rabbi, the One that she heard may be the Christ, the Chosen One, the King…oh my goodness…if He really was, what would He say? 

Perhaps the very thought met her with more fear. 

Oh…but it gets better…

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.     At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (John 8:7-9 NIV)

As the woman STOOD there in terror, surrounded by those that had already condemned her, with her fate resting on the shoulders of a possible Messiah she might have been meeting for the very first time (wow – what a way to meet Jesus with your heart already out for Him to see…)…Jesus stands up on her level and doesn’t even say anything to her! 

Seriously?

In a moment that this woman was supposed to be condemned, Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge her! Instead, he puts these men, these leaders who “think” they have the power…he gives them permission to use it…with an addendum…a really, really, really big addendum. 

As the woman…yes, still STANDING…watches on, her heart pounding all the more louder as she hears Jesus say,

“Let any one of you who is without sin throw the first stone at her…”

I wonder if she heard – “Let anyone throw the first stone at her…” 

Shoot – if this were on my DVR, I’d need to replay and go, “Say what?!” 

As she STOOD there, her heart pounding, perhaps even shutting her eyes and bracing for the pain, she was met with a different sound…the sound of rocks dropping to the ground and feet walking away. The sound of Jesus writing in the dust. The sound of gasps and perhaps sobs. 

I can only imagine the utter confusion this woman might have felt in that moment. I wonder if she was still bracing as she saw Jesus rise her to her feet and meet her eyes. I wonder if she was so afraid at this point that she could no longer think for herself. I wonder if she was still fighting inside, unable to rest that this was real – this was actually happening. She was revealed and yet not put to death. She was still living and breathing…

Shoot y’all – this woman was…you guessed it…STILL STANDING!!! 

Oh…and it gets better! 

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”     “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:10, 11 NIV)

Ok…PAUSE – I wonder if she believed this was the Messiah after having this conversation. She acknowledges that Jesus had sent her enemies packing…but what she might have been feeling is accepted and seen for who she was by a man…a real man…for the very first time. It took going through hell to experience standing near a taste of Heaven. 

Jesus tells this woman, most likely on the brink of falling over from standing during all of this…He tells her to “Go”…but not back to the way she was. In all reality, she couldn’t. All of these people could no longer condemn her. She knew she could no longer satisfy her need for love and acceptance in the same way. She also, no doubt, had to know more about Jesus. 

But what troubles me is Jesus’ telling this woman to leave her life of sin. Wow…a tall order for a woman who has been standing for so long. How could she just leave this behind? How could she find real love and acceptance in the midst of her now publicly known failures? 

Jesus was about to show her through His victory over the cross. He somewhat gave her something to look forward to by instructing her to leave her life of sin. She knew that perfection was so out of her reach. She was going to be reminded of her failure by the entire town. 

Yet…Jesus gave this woman and all of us a way to define ourselves by Who we belong to, instead of our failures. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you  free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1, 2 NIV)

For those that accept their true calling as His Children, we are in Christ. When the God of the Universe looks down at you, even in this very moment, He sees His Child…period. No failures. Not “a” failure. He sees you…His Child. Not only that, this God loves you so much, that He trusts His life giving Spirit to live inside of you…of us. 

I’ll be truthful – I still wrestle with that thought. Gods spirit is in me…this once failure houses Gods spirit…the God of the Universe…the very One that made the stars to shine at night, the One Who saw value in me way before I saw it in myself…that God trusts me this much that His Spirit of life kicks my failures as far as the East is from the West so I can live my life as His Child!!!

Wow. There are no words. 

This woman who once felt trapped, alone, defined by her failures and condemned by everyone…now saw the love of God displayed in a way that was so overwhelming. It had to change her. Jesus forgave her before the cross…BOOM! Instant best seller and that my friend is how her story got back into His story 🙂 

I mentioned a bit of my story above. Gods love ambushed me recently when others helped me dig beneath the surface and really discover who I really believed I was. It was at that moment that I really, for the first time sought a Savior. When I was able to really stand before the many lies of my life that told me “I’m not wanted” I realized how much He fought for me to not only WANT me, but to free me from the bondage of constantly trying to earn my own freedom! I was SO tired, yet had nowhere safe to really rest. 

This is all still really fresh and new to me BUT…for the first time in my life, I can sleep through the night. For the first time in my life, I can be open, truthful, vulnerable and whole. For the first time in my life I really know WHO I AM…and friends, let me assure you of this…

I AM NOT a mistake

I AM NOT unlovable

I AM NOT hopeless

I AM NOT lost

I AM HIS

I AM HIS CHILD

I AM LOVED

I AM HOPEFUL

I AM FOUND

 

…and He is right there, in the middle of your messy, failed life. He knows your failures and He calls you His Child. He offers you a much better way to achieve true freedom. Oh, and He is the only way you can ever really STAND against your condemnation. Let His love protect you, define you, uplift you and hold you securely on His shoulders. Life really is better from up here. 

He helps us STAND.

He helps us SOAR. 

 

Bethany is an ICF trained Certified Professional Christian Life Coach (Christian Coach Institute Graduate), Motivational and Inspirational Speaker, mentor to women and an author. Bethany defines herself as a child of God who loves to use her passion for change to inspire others. She has overcome disabilities, wading through the trials and rewards of marriage and motherhood. She enjoys being a wife to Steve for 10 years and mother to three boys (ages 7, 5 and 2). She is a double brain cancer survivor, a 9 year veteran in the field of youth and children's ministry and has published poetry, featured blog posts for numerous ministry websites and children's ministry curriculum contributions. Bethany is currently working on her first book to be released this Fall as well as various freelancing projects. Bethany always welcomes new coaching clients and speaking opportunities!

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11 thoughts on “Living In Freedom As An #IAmNot: My Time Of Surrender

    • Mary – I think I decided to hold off on the book for a bit. I really wish I could just blog like this for a while! It’s SO much fun! So, maybe a book in the future…or whatever God decides to do!

  1. Oh, for the God Chasers in our lives! I was truly wrapped up in your story because so many parts of that feeling “not enough” resonate. But, for our God, who loves us so! Thank you so much for sharing this part of yourself with us!

    Missy (Small Group Leader & Prayer Team)

  2. I agree with Mary! I felt like I was reading a chapter out of a book! This was awesome 🙂 I can relate to those feelings of failure growing up. I used to not be able to sleep too. Isn’t our God amazing!?!

  3. This was beautiful, Bethany! I agree, definitely could be woven into a book. 😉 This really resonated with me because I, too, have struggled with feelings of failure, felt unworthy of God’s love, etc. I went through this Proverbs 31 Bible study as well and it was awesome. I’m also doing Living So That and had one of those moments a couple of weeks ago where I received a fresh revelation of God’s love. (Reading John, too) I believe there’s no way we can possibly understand God’s love but when he gives us little glimpses we are completely blown away. Rejuvenated, at peace, filled with joy. Thanks for sharing this! Powerful stuff here.

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