This is what God the Lord says-
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk in it;
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Reading these verses the other day immediately gave me a visual of one of our Rosebud girls.
There she sits, in darkness. No, you would never know by talking to her. She’s happy, social, and carefree on the outside. But on the inside her heart is cold, hardened, defensive. She goes her own way. Ignores warnings, suppresses truth. She knows scripture. She can read a verse and tell you what it means. She’ll sing to the Lord on Sundays when everyone is watching. But she’ll also tell you in the next breath that she rejects Him. “These are just stories to me,” she says holding up the Bible. She reminds us again and again that they hold no value for her life. To her, the message of the cross is foolishness. She’s purposefully distracting and unresponsive during family devotionals. So much so that one evening I got another vision of her. Sitting there at the table, I pictured her giving the middle finger to God. That’s the only way I could describe her blatant disregard towards the One who sustains her life. I’ve gotten so angry with her at times that I’ve screamed out, “Don’t you know that God could take away your very next breath?! You aren’t promised another day! If you die tomorrow….”
Oh boy. My responses to her are often so full of anger and without love. It’s not what I am saying. In a world full of lies she so desperately needs to be confronted with truth. But it’s how I am saying it. I think to myself Good grief, you are supposed to be making Christ attractive, and here you are getting all offended and shoving it down her throat! Time and again I resolve to be more gentle and compassionate the next time, knowing that I purposefully have to choose that heart attitude because it doesn’t naturally come.
On other days I’ve caught my heart on the verge of giving up. Why keep telling her about Jesus? She just continues to reject Him. Just let her go her own way. Let her be. You have too much going on to deal with someone who doesn’t even want help. Ugh, my heart is so ugly. I know Satan wants me to dwell on the thought that there is nothing in this for me, and that in fact, dealing with her is burdensome. Jake and I have had a handful of deep talks with her. Each time it’s like going down into the dungeon to sit there with her. It’s draining and I feel weighed down with her unrepentance and blatant rebelliousness. I feel unequipped to know how to reach her, how to connect with her, how to even smile at her when my heart is so turned away from her.
Jake reminds me that we don’t need to beg her out of the dungeon. “Jesus never begged anyone to follow Him,” he says, and he’s right. I know from scripture that Jesus does seek out the lost. He reaches out His hand offering release from darkness and fullness of new life, but it is everyone’s choice whether or not they will grab on.
So far, she’s not grabbing.
On the other end, our other Rosebud girl has responded to the gospel as I wrote about here. In her young teenage life, her responding ‘looks’ different than say what it would look like in a 30 year old. But Jake and I have watched her continue to take steps out into the light of God’s presence. It’s rocky and she’s young. There were weeks in a row when we questioned her genuineness. But day after day it seems that her excitement about God grows, her worship becomes more heartfelt. There are MANY lows in between the highs. Her tendency is to shut God out when things get hard, something my own heart is familiar with. But she always comes back to Him. When He gets too close she’ll push Him away, only to days later run back into his loving and forgiving arms. I know she is unfamiliar with what it is like to have a God who doesn’t keep score. Who loves no matter what. Who is a refuge. Who is safe. Who will never leave or abandon her. She’s never known this sort of relationship before. She’s testing it out to see if it will endure. In church yesterday we sang some lyrics to an old hymn. I know she hadn’t heard the song before, but once she got a hold of one line, she started singing it louder and louder each time it came around. By the end of the song she was belting out this particular part….
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love,
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.
Oh, how all of us who follow Christ can relate to these words. Standing next to her, listening to her sing, I felt a sense of relief that she was able to belt out the tug of war going on in her heart. This tug of war has become a current theme in her life. Days before she had shared with me how God gave her a vision one day when she was looking out into a grass field. She clearly saw two paths, one narrow, one wide. She went on to describe Matthew 7:13-14 in her own words. She said “I know God wants me on the narrow path. That’s the way I should go.”
Our Rosebud girls have come from the same place, the same culture, similar pasts, and dealt with similar patterns in their familial relationships. But their hearts are responding differently to Jesus. One sits in her dungeon, storing up wrath for herself without care. The other has taken a step into the light, lifted her head up, and tasted salvation. The hard part is that these two are the best of friends. The one who is stepping into the light doesn’t want to leave her friend in darkness. But the one in darkness wants nothing to do with the light. Since the one stepping into the light is the weaker, more timid of the two, she succumbs back under all she has ever known - her friend sitting there in the darkness.
For the past few weeks Jake and I have wrestled with the idea of separating our two girls….finding a different host family for one of them. We’ve gone back and forth trying to pick through the good and the bad of staying or splitting. But we keep coming back to this: our ‘light girl’ who is responding to the gospel needs to be able to breathe and to discover her identity without hiding under the other. This is just absolutely not possible with their current living situation in our home. When the two are together, they tend to stay in step with one another….feeding off each other in games of manipulation. Furthermore, we find our ‘light girl’ being pulled back into the darkness, enticed to take part in sin, and taking unnecessary steps backward. Jake and I know that her relationship with God needs to be priority over a friendship. Pretty hard for a teenager to understand. Or so I thought. I brought this idea of a split up to her in the car the other day when we were alone. I explained everything I’ve written here and, expecting the worst, I asked her how she would feel about a split. She said, “I think it would give me an option to come away from her.” Whew! That went over well. I think she’s been feeling suffocated and torn in two, but just hasn’t had the courage to bring it up. She actually sounded relieved at the thought of it.
Of course there will always be stumbling blocks in our walk with God, and we aren’t trying to shield our ‘light girl’ from developing the faith to get through them by initiating this split. We also know that God could eventually choose ‘light girl’ to draw her friend to Jesus. But if that is God’s intent, I know that them living under different roofs will not thwart His plan. In fact, our hope is that ‘light girl’ would so grow in her faith that she does become in a position to take the gospel to those who reject Him….for her that will start back on her reservation. I have so many hopes for ‘light girl’…..it seems that a split might just be the first step in helping her to blossom….
Don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership; that's war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God's holy Temple? (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)