I’m a girl with “family issues.” I come from a family dynamic with a legacy of being pummeled by the enemy. By the grace of God I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus when I was eight years old, but I lived in a home that was far away from Christ. I kept my faith to myself in order to “keep the peace.” Though I “believed” I did not begin to chase after a relationship with Jesus and look for discipleship until I was in my late 20’s. When I began down that path, the Lord wasted no time zeroing in on my “issues.” I remember vividly sitting in my morning quiet time as the Lord clearly revealed what it would cost me to follow Him. I read these words…
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”. (Matthew 10:32-39)
I remember slamming my Bible shut and pushing it away as my divided heart rebelled against His words. I knew what it meant, and I knew it was true. … If I was going to truly be a disciple of Jesus, I was going to have to reorder my disordered loves. I was going to have to quit keeping Jesus in my private little “faith closet,” and I was going to have to face my “family issues.” I tried to ignore it, but the Lord eventually painted me into a corner where I literally had to take a stand and draw an appropriate boundary in my family relationships. The reaction was not pretty and the wounds inflicted when I took this stand were personal and deep. I lost my status in the family as the “favored golden child” made clear by the loss of my “seat at the table.” Where I once literally sat “at the right hand” of my earthly father at Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners, my husband and I were relegated to the “kiddie table.” (Not kidding!) I struggled inside as I dealt with the pain of rejection while forcing myself to give up my “rights,” swallow my pride, and “go into the lion’s den” looking for ways to love my family even amidst the rejection.
This was probably the single most difficult time in my spiritual life. I was writhing in pain inside. I struggled with my “family issues” and I struggled with allowing Jesus to come first in my life. I struggled with letting Him soften and transform my heart of stone and judgment to a heart of love and forgiveness. I did not do this bravely, charging forth just “me and Jesus” conquering my world of hurt. I was too weak and broken. It was my husband and my church family who bore those burdens with me. Their love and care made it possible for me to struggle with all these issues. They continuously took me to the feet of Jesus to be transformed by Him.
As I read Part 2, Chapter 1 in Multiply, it reminded me of that time. The “messy life” Francis Chan was talking about was mine, and the people who came alongside me to bear my burdens were God’s people. These people prayed with me. They counseled me with God’s wisdom. They didn’t just listen and let me cry on their shoulders, they literally cried with me as they pointed me toward Christ and then helped push me to get to Him. They were the ones who prayed for the Holy Spirit to transform my heart of stone toward my family to a heart of flesh.
I struggled with this mess in my heart for so long I sometimes felt like the fish in the Pink Floyd song “Wish You Were Here.” Just a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl, running over the same old ground! I even remember saying to those discipling me: “I’m so sorry I am still dealing with this. You must be so tired of hearing about it!” Their responses were all the same. They said, “We will walk with you in this as long as it takes! You may not feel like you’re getting anywhere, but we see the Lord working and we’re not going to leave you alone in this.”
When I read what Francis Chan wrote about what you need in order to “bear one another’s burdens” I thought about the people who bore my burdens. They had plenty of messes in their own lives, but they weren’t so distracted that they couldn’t take on mine too. None of them had degrees in psychology or conflict resolution. They only had three motivations that qualified them—they loved the Lord, they loved me, and they wanted to help me get closer to Jesus!
Getting involved in the lives of others is messy and time consuming. I know because I was a mess, and I consumed a lot of people’s time! But at the other end of that is the Lord’s victory! The Lord softened my heart, which allowed me to actively love my family and move toward them for true reconciliation. Out of the ashes came a right relationship with God and a reconciled healthier relationship with my family. But, none of it would have been possible without the church coming around me and getting into my “mess” to help me out of it and into the arms of Jesus. The memory of this over the years has so squeezed my heart that it’s motivated me to reach out in the same way for the same motivations—to help people get closer to Jesus!
In a way it reminds me of a simple illustration. When I was pregnant, my husband and I would go walking up our country road every day. There were pretty steep hills to climb. As my pregnancy continued the weight of carrying our daughter made getting up those hills really hard! My husband used to get behind me and press his hands to my lower back as I leaned my weight back on him. He would help push me up the hill as I walked. He didn’t carry me, I still had to walk, but it was a lot easier to do with him there to help press me forward. This is what it was like when my brothers and sisters in Christ helped bear my burdens. You see, I didn’t climb that mountain on my own. It was God’s people who got behind me as I walked. They put their hands to my back and bore my weight. They put their love, prayers, support and energy behind me and pushed me up the hill toward the Lord so I could get to Him and His healing power. Today, I want to ask you to look around. There are people to be loved and burdens to be carried. Who can you stand behind, press your hands into their back, bear the weight and help push them up the hill to get to Jesus?