Hiding the Past

Crawling under furniture and hiding became a regular habit when I was a little girl.  Car seats. Theater seats. Beds.  Tables. As I grew up, however, the physical hiding turned into emotional hiding. Anywhere that I could escape from fear of the unknown or angry voices or unacceptance.   I have a vivid memory of my father stopping the car on a frigid night in December to pick up a couple of teenagers he knew.  They were walking home with their St. Bernard from a concert at the school where he taught.    (Don’t ask me how the two connect.)  I leaned my five-year-old self over the back seat as the teens and the dog hopped into the backend of our old blue Rambler station wagon. That dog, who was probably 3 times my size,  met me nose to nose.  Terrified, I managed to crawl partially under the front seat of the car.  And then there was the time I attended a drama production that my older brother performed in, and the moment he walked out on stage, I stood up and promptly yelled, “Hi, Bruce!”  The laughter was so loud that I crawled under the theater seat to sequester myself from the embarrassment.

The emotional hiding began early.  When I was three, my beautiful mother began her lifelong struggle with mental illness, and I had people – both family members and friends of the family- tell me that her problems began when I was born.  In fact, what I heard over and over was this: “Your birth was really hard on your mom.  We think it had something to do with her problems.  She probably shouldn’t have had another baby.”  And then, at the age of three, I was shifted between relatives for a few months, while the rest of the family put on a brave and normal and prosperous front.

Being told I was the problem + being sent away equaled insecurity.  At a tender stage of life, the overwhelming desire to be loved and accepted took over.  I used to hide in the closet when signs of my mother’s mental illness surfaced, wondering when she would be leaving next. All I wanted was a constant, like the North Star, something so that I wouldn’t feel like the earth was shifting underneath me.

Don’t we all yearn for love, acceptance and a constant?

In the gospels, Jesus performed a miracle when He healed the 10 lepers.  But it was much more than a physical miracle.  Lepers might have been living, but to their families, they were declared dead.  Leprosy was looked upon as a spiritual disease, a mark of sin. In Leviticus 13:44, it is written: “he is a leprous man, he is unclean.  The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his infection is on his head.”  Lepers were cast out of a city, or a family, or a tent camp as long as they were diseased and instructed to declare themselves, “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever they went.  Yes, if you had leprosy, then God must surely be displeased with you.  I would have found a rock outside the city gates and crawled under it rather than endure the shame.

The fact is leprosy is a spiritual condition. We are all born with leprosy of the soul, sin, that eats away at our relationship with God Himself.  That’s why it was so significant that Jesus sent the lepers to the priest BEFORE He healed them.  During Jesus’ time, only the priests could speak “clean” or “unclean” over people.

The lepers were healed on their journey to the priest.  Make no mistake, Jesus sent another message.  That message?  He had power over the most dreaded disease of all.  He trumped the authority of the priests of the time.  He declared the unclean “clean” before the priest did. Because He could do that.  He was God in the flesh.

Nine lepers went running off and never came back.  Only one returned to fall at the feet of Jesus and thank Him.

Will you be the one?  The one to praise God?

Because Jesus turns the painful past of our yearning- for acceptance, love and healing, into a present journey of Joy with Him.


Keeping It Clean

I love my new stove. I can’t even remember the last time, if ever, I owned a brand new stove that I picked out. The last 10 years of my life were spent in military housing mostly. But that’s another story…

My new stove is stainless and has a ceramic glass top (Samsung if anyone wants to know. I highly recommend Samsung.) The only problem with the stove top is that it is black. I should have read the directions first about keeping it clean. There are special cleansers that have to be used on it, and if you let spills sit, the top gets speckled and dirty PRET-TY quickly. And forget something like spilled spaghetti sauce that has hardened. That’s an hour job. Awww, but when it’s polished with the correct cloth and cleanser, it shines so that I can see my reflection in it. If I maintain it daily, the surface is protected, which keeps the upkeep of the entire stove in tact.

God reminded me that my soul, my being is like that stove top. When we read God’s Word regularly and spend time with Him in prayer, He shows us the dust and spots of dirt that need to be cleaned away. Maybe big spills of emotion have been internalized for a long time and a mess hardened our hearts. God showed me just yesterday that I was hardening my heart to grief. Through the Bible, God’s Holy Spirit reflects right back to us the instructions of life, the right way to view ourselves, the grace to fall and get back up again. And just like that stovetop, it’s easier if we are proactive in reading how to keep ourselves shiny.

James writes this:

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

(James 1:23-24 ESV)

Dear readers, don’t forget what God says about you! You are loved, redeemed by the price of Jesus’ life, precious in His sight. Knowing those truths enable us to live and give to others that same gift of love. I pray that you will be drawn to the beauty of God’s Word, that you will look to Christ to clean away the spills and then mirror the reflection of Him.