Let Me Live

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Baby Noah miscarried at 12 weeks.  Photo from patheos.com.

 

This poem was written in commemoration of the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Since then, 58.5 million babies have been aborted.

Let us pray for mercy.
Let us pray for restoration of all that has been broken.
Let us love well these mothers and fathers who are in our lives.

Healing is found in the presence of Jesus alone.

I am dependent, but does that make me inhuman?
I am vulnerable, does that make me unalive?
A single cell may be alive, but not I?
My zygotic frame is part of you, and formed from you,
But not you.
I am me. I am fully me.
Yet I need you.

I am dependent.
I cannot live disengaged from the nourishing safety of this, my first home.
(Yet is it safe?)
Can your world’s children live so disconnected from their parent’s care?
They cannot! nor need they.
For they are protected because they are needy.
And what of me?
Does not vulnerability increase protective instinct?
Yet not for me?
Will you treat your pets like children,
And slaughter me, your own kind,
Faster than a rodent fiend inside your home?

I am defenseless.
I can do nothing for myself.
I cannot eat; I cannot breathe.
I cannot run or cry out,
I cannot scream that one caring soul would hear and rescue me.
But I can feel, be sure.
I can feel the pain of my body dismembered,
My limbs ripped apart,
My tiny infant frame dissolved.
You don’t know the horror and fright
Of that sharp messenger of pain and death
Haunting my incompletely fashioned form.
Yet in screaming… throttled anguish,
I cannot make a case for my own life.
Will no one advocate my cause? my life?
I myself will sit in the stand. Try me.
What have I done deserving death?
Simply exist? Simply come to be?
Yet does that burden lie on me?

I do not know, you say, that I am even alive.
Yet is my humanity negated by my unawares?
Let me ask you this: are you still human in your sleep?
I do not look, you say, that I am even human.
Yet even your prophets (or scientists, I should say) confess appearances deceiving.
There is more human in me than Mr. Java, Piltdown, and Peking together.
Yet their case is proposed, pleaded, evidenced,
While mine? Dismissed and undermined, assumed moot.
Is no one there to plead and fight for me?
There is enough of me to effect completely formed personhood;
A human, I tell you, with your likeness stamped upon me.
Is it truly lack of knowledge that does not know when life befits me,
Or simply chosen ignorance to keep excusing murder, oppression, sin?
Search your deepest heart and tell me still you do not know.

O cultured world,
That spurns those who offer their children on the altars of their gods,
While you offer your own on the altars of free pleasure and hidden shame.
A holocaust of worship to the gods of your own making —
Gods whose gifts only take with hands always empty.
While here in this nest I dwell, and watch the hands of infinite love
That perfectly weave together the inmost parts of my mortal frame
Halted by human wisdom claiming superiority to infinity.
Only may those hands receive me hereafter!
When yours will receive me only dead.

Does your mind see only my inconvenience?
What about my eyes?
What about my baby smiles?
My birthday parties and cake-smeared face?
Can you feel nothing but your own shame?
What of my pain? What of my joy?
Can you hear only the snide remarks of others?
Or your conscience screaming guilt to your soul?
Have you tuned out my cooing and giggles?
Oh, do not think of your gain in my death;
Ponder rather your loss.

Your arms may never hold me, but your heart will.
Your arms will ache for years when I am gone.
While my arms will never know warm embraces,
Only the cold, unfeeling touch of the doctor’s metal tongs
Shouting “Death!” to my infant ears.
My poet’s heart will never feel the sun or wind or rain,
But will you kiss them goodbye for me?
My infant ears will never entertain a lullaby,
But will you sing them anyway for me?
My artist’s hands will never paint (on walls or canvas),
But will your hands paint for me?
My will will never get to choose;
You have chosen for me.

Mother, there is one thing only I wish that I could say:
“I forgive you.”
One thing only I wish that I could ask:
“Let me live!”

Letters to My Future Self: Surrender

Dear future Kristen,

I am writing this letter to you coming off of a very difficult season of struggle against sin.  I am hoping that the next time this letter comes to your attention you will have made significant headway in the quest for humility and sacrifice and joy in God.  Right now, though, the struggle is tearing me apart.  On one side I feel God pulling me more strongly than I have ever felt toward Himself, while at the same time in a corner of my heart, rebellion still lurks as a squatter, relentlessly yanking me back from giving it all to Him. I don’t want the rebellion, but my heart still wants to fight against God, while at the same time I also desire to fight my heart. Now do you understand why I feel torn to pieces?

Why do I tell you all this?  Well, I think it’s because this is by far not the last time you will feel pressed by sin. We are still in our fallen bodies and that wretched flesh still lives inside of us. Yet at the same time, we have the Spirit. He wants different things than our flesh and actively fights against our flesh to destroy it. (And He will destroy it, hallelujah!) The result? We become a cosmic battleground where God fights the wars of His kingdom. It’s Galatians 5 all over again. “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” It is the reality of the Christian life.

Thankfully, Paul gives us some help.  Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The flesh is still there, but it’s straight-jacketed as long as you are walking in the Spirit.  But the problem is that the flesh is like Houdini. As soon as you stop intentionally walking in the Spirit and letting Him keep it restrained, it finagles a way out of the straight jacket and back into rule of your heart. The other dangerous thing about the flesh is that you love it. It feels good, even though it’s end is the way of death. “To set the mind on the flesh is death…” (Romans 8:6).  Like Tozer said, it is an opaque curtain of self that keeps you from seeing the glory of Jesus (and therefore being transformed into His image), and it is so intertwined with our hearts that to rip it away and crucify it hurts like hell. But truly, the path of the flesh is the path of hell – forever death without ever being able to embrace the beauty of Jesus.  And you will know the death of your flesh now, or forever death then. Choose death now.

But how?  How on earth do you kill that slick, parasitic con artist that will destroy your faith and steal your joy and leave you hopeless and empty and begging despite all you have given it?  You choose to say “yes” to Jesus no matter what He asks for or requires of you. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If you belong to Christ Jesus, if you are His, if you are a blood-bought servant of Jesus Christ, you have crucified the flesh. Why? Because the Spirit of God dwells in you and you walk with Him. Note: that does not mean you can never sin again. But it means that as long as you are walking by the Spirit and saying “yes” to Him, you will not sin. 

However, to do so you must learn to surrender.  In our Christian subculture, we often entertain the idea that surrender is a “one time thing” we do in a moment of emotionalism, but I don’t think that is true. True surrender is life as sacrifice.  That’s what Paul means in Romans 12 when he says, “Present your bodies to God as a living sacrifice.” You don’t surrender once. You surrender every single time that you must again choose to say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to yourself. Your decision of surrender lies not in saying “yes” once in a moment of emotion, but in choosing to say “yes” over, and over, and over and over again, no matter what He asks for. 

The question that remains: Why should you do so? Paul answers that question as well. “Present your bodies… which is your reasonable service.” Why? Because Jesus deserves it!  “I make my appeal to you by the mercies of God, present your bodies.” See what Jesus has done, understand that He deserves your “yes”, and then choose to say “yes” to Him.

I say this to you now, in light of the struggle and the sin that I’ve seen in my own life lately because I know that God reveals sin to us progressively.  As we fight and defeat one sin, another is brought to our attention. But I want your future struggles to drive you to God and cause you to submit to Him out of thankfulness, rather than causing you to run from Him. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes sin runs deep. But grace is always there and always accessible because the God of infinite grace never leaves His children. Never. Ever. You must believe that.  Never forget that He loves you and wants to hear your voice, so don’t stop talking to Him, even when He seems far away or you feel like you’ve failed him again. Maybe you have, but He still loves you! He wants you to run to Him! Believe that!! Keep holding on to hope — hope will not put you to shame as long as it is in Him and His Word.  

One last thing: sometimes choosing to obey gets really hard and tiring. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to produce any fruit and isn’t going to make any difference. But I promise you it will. If nothing else, it is worth it for Him alone. He says, “Do not be weary in doing good, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not.”  He says, “Keep doing good. Keep doing good. Don’t give up. Sow good seed, no matter the blood and sweat and tears it takes to sow them, because God will make them grow.” The joy of reaping will be worth the pain of sowing. You have to believe that it’s worth it. Because it is.  

Soon the clouds will clear, and the dim reflection you now know of the Lord Jesus will give way to unobstructed, face-to-face fellowship.  And in that moment all the pain you experienced in striving to please Him will be utter sweetness, and any trite sweetness for which you sacrificed His fellowship will be as bitter as wormwood and gall in your stomach.

So stay in the fight till the final round. Jesus is worth it.

Yours truly,

Kristen

Each Strand of Sorrow Has a Place

crossstitch1 (1)If you really look for them, you’ll see them: the little fingerprints God has left all over our world, all over every day as if to say, “I’m here. I’m here too. Did you see Me there?” It’s easy to forget Him, to lose sight of Him, to live as though He doesn’t exist.  In fact He is here, and subtle tracings of His ways are found in everything and can draw up our hearts to Him. But are you looking?

Every moment, every circumstance, every encounter of every day of your life is a little thread colored by grace that your Father in heaven is weaving into the tapestry of your life.  You see it from your linear perspective, and puzzle at how He will weave it all together; He works from His own, multi-dimensional sightline so that every thread is a vital part of what He is making you to be, and how you will reflect His glory. He does it so that He can hold up your life before the world in ages to come and say, “Do you see it?  Do you see the incredible beauty that I can weave together?  Do you see the immeasurable riches of My grace in kindness toward this child in Christ Jesus?” (Ephesians 2:7)  And you’ll look back and say, “I see it now! I couldn’t see it then, but all the time You were weaving that blue one into the sky!”

One of my pastors recently gave me this analogy.  “My mother,” he said, “used to cross stitch.  I remember when I was little sitting on the floor and looking up at her while she was working on a particular piece and being so confused at how it would become a picture.  I could only see the tangle of threads and overlapping, disoriented colors on the back.  But then she would turn it over, and for the first time I could see how all those messy pieces of yarn were working together to form something beautiful, something good.”

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), do we not?  We may not be able to see, but faith can never see, can it?  It wouldn’t be faith if it could.  No, faith trusts in the darkness. Faith says, “God, I cannot fathom in my mind how You are going to work this into good, but I trust You. I trust You because You said You would – and You always do what You say” (Numbers 23:19). Faith remembers that it is only seeing the back of the cross-stitch, but a master Cross-stitcher is doing the work. Of all the masterpieces He has worked on, He has never yet pulled a single wrong thread.

So, Friend, let’s step back into your life. 

Where are you right now?  What station of life are you in?  What happened today that made you happy?  Angry?  Despairing?  Look for His fingerprints, trust His promised goodness, hope in His grace.  Believe that it’s all bigger than what you can see.

Are you walking through the valley of the shadow of death, that dreaded chasm of deep darkness?  Do not fear calamity: Your Shepherd is with you, right beside You to comfort and encourage. He might seem far away, but He has promised that He is not. In fact, that dank darkness is often where He draws close and we learn most of Him.  Lift up your head in hope that you will walk out on the other side knowing far more of Him than you can presently imagine, and that knowing Him will make it all worth it.

Does your life look like the same thing over and over again, an endless cycle of monotony that you seem unable to escape? It’s okay. Rest, trust. There’s a lot of blue in the sky.

Who are the people in your life right now? They are there on purpose. Invest in them. Love them.  Humbly allow God to use them to teach you what He wants you to learn.

It’s really about humility, isn’t it?  A sweet, humble faith that doesn’t have to figure it all out, but just rests on the God it trusts. Rests because it knows that God is doing this on purpose (Ephesians 1:11); God is good (Psalm 145:9); He never does anything that will ultimately harm me (Hosea 6:1); I am forever safe in Jesus (Romans 8:32-33); He will not keep back from me anything that is good for me right now (Psalm 84:11); and He will give me everything I need to keep my head above water and learn to walk more deeply with Him (Psalm 23:1).  Abraham was the man of faith; He lived this way.  God said, “Pack your things and leave Ur, and I’ll tell you where to go.”  He didn’t ask questions, He didn’t second-guess, He simply went (Genesis 12). God said, “Do you see the stars? Can you count them? It’s going to be just as hard to count your descendants.”  Abraham didn’t remind God that Sarah hadn’t had much success with children in the past, and even were that to be remedied, she was far too old to start now.  No, “He believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15).  God said, “Take your son, your only son [and the promised son of the covenant] whom you love, and offer him as a burnt offering to Me.”  Abraham didn’t fight, but “rose early in the morning” and went, believing that “God was able even to raise Him from the dead” (Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:19).  There were times when Abraham’s faith wavered, but even in those moments, God did not abandon His friend or His plan. God kept every one of His promises, and through Abraham’s greatest Offspring, He blessed the whole earth.

That humble faith is the same reason that we obey God’s commands even when our flesh screams to us about what it wants.  We look up to Jesus and believe that His way is best, and bow to His will, resisting temptation because He has promised that He is better, so much better. 

What about you?  Over what are you fighting Him?  What has you wrapped up in worry and frustration and discontentment?  What do you need to place in His hands, perhaps for the hundredth time today, and rest that He knows best and will do what is best in His time?  Will you patiently wait for His time?  Elisabeth Elliot once said that “waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”  So lift it up again.  And again.  When it threatens to weigh down on your heart again, lift it up. And open your heart to your Father, and let it go. You can trust Him.  He will always, always, always be faithful.

“Oh grant me wisdom from above to pray for peace and cling to love,

And teach me humbly to receive the sun and rain of Your sovereignty.

Each strand of sorrow has a place within this tapestry of grace.

So though the trials I choose to say, ‘Your perfect will in Your perfect way.’”

— Keith and Kristyn Getty, “The Perfect Wisdom of Our God”