When the Lies Come Calling

April 28, 2014

Back in late January, I had just returned from a conference for pastors that happens every winter. It had been an interested trip. I don’t experience many things the same way I used to, so each of these conferences, each of my meetings, each of my interactions are markedly different for me than they were years ago. They each require much more reflection for me to work through with God all that he is speaking to me in this new way of encountering things. This is good, but sometimes very hard.

All in all, this particular trip was good. I have learned to go to these things with low expectations and few plans. God has been good at guiding each step, each conversation, each interaction that happens often without any preparation or warning. They have truly become opportunities to walk close to Jesus among my peers and simply trust that he will have me bump into the people and spaces I need to see. It is not always easy as I want to have everything planned out and prepared for, but it is much more fulfilling when I let myself be weak to those desires and find his strength in them.

But one pattern I have noticed in my life, (and perhaps it is true for you too, dear reader) is that often when I have had these moments, these days, these encounters with walking along the side of my Jesus, immediately afterward I experience something that seeks to shove me off-center. Typically immediately after trying to be open to God’s leading, I find myself faced with the voice of the Liar, the Enemy, the one who tries to destroy any semblance of divine peace I have been gracious given by God along away.

This winter conference was no different.

The very night I returned, travel weary but wide awake, I was up writing when the ding from my blog comments alert broke into the dark of a near midnight hour. A person had commented on a blog post and I was awake and unprepared.

What I read left me reeling with the venom of the Enemy. Dishonest, difficult, mean-spirited words poured into my mind as I read a lengthy post filled with the language of anger, self-righteousness, assumption and ugliness. And the Tempter pounded rudely on the door of my soul, demanding his way inside.

The Liar. The one who tries so hard to remind us that we are not bought with a price and belong to the Deep Love of God. The one who speaks just enough truth mixed with just enough half truth to cause confusion. The one who throws a pale on the certainty of walking with God. The one who speaks to our weaknesses in tones that shake our identity in Jesus.

I do not know why the woman did what she did in the way she did. I do not know her intentions beyond what she wrote to me, but as is the case in so many of our stories, through other people- regardless of intention- the Enemy tries to seep through. This night, through the fingertips of this woman who typed, the Enemy tried to break in. Trying to create a certain form of crazy-making that is hard to untangle.

I am always astounded at how subtle and how powerful these encounters are.

I believe fully in being honest (while being wise) about our struggles and losses… transparency matters. And this is one of mine- the temptation to believe that my identity is formed by the voices of others- sometimes especially the dishonest voices. The temptation to believe that what God has said about me is not true after all. And when it comes from a source that presents itself so piously, it can be quite confusing.

This past weekend, I was thinking about this experience from a few months back. As I moved from that January night into February, it was only a day or two before God reclaimed me from the mouth of the Liar, but it reminded me of two things. Two very important things:

The first thing it brings to mind is that we must be very careful with the ways in which we speak to and about each other. Especially if we know that person’s story. If we know that person’s pain and struggle. The pain of this particular woman’s comment was not simply what she wrote, but the fact that she knew some of what I had endured during my Dark Night. And that did not stop the Enemy from using her words to hit below the belt. To take the deep struggle that is my story and my message of hope and to twist it to attempt to inflict pain again. We must be very careful with each other’s stories. Our stories are what matter. Our stories of the Gospel Story that meets and rescues and guides and shows us who God really is. We must handle each others stories with a sacred space, because those stories smell of heaven and we dare not walk so carelessly around them, treading on the footsteps of a Holy God. We must handle each other’s stories with love, with tenderness and compassion, because in each of our stories is the Liar trying to make the redemption and hope themes obsolete. It is so incredibly important and lends credibility to “Christ in us, the hope of glory” when we handle each other’s lives and experiences with tender care and deep prayer. Even the woman who wrote has a story. And regardless of her reasons for writing, God’s desire is to release her, and all of us, from the things we have come to believe that are simply not true.

The second thing it brings to mind is a meme that a colleague posted on her Facebook page shortly before Easter. I don’t typically like memes. I think they are often too simplistic, some of them are simply mean, and others are silly. But this one grabbed at me and has held me close. This meme said, “I am who the I AM says I am.”

And with that truth, the lies that come calling simply collapse.

“I am who the I AM says I am.”

The Scripture makes clear to us that if we are in Christ, our identities are sure. We are only who God says we are. We are not who the Enemy says we are. We are not necessarily even what others say we are.

When I became a pastor, I received many good statements of advice from trusted people. One of those trusted people was my mentor and friend and professor of theology. He looked at me one day shortly before I graduated seminary and left to pastor a church, and he said with great seriousness, “Tell them who they are. Don’t focus so greatly on what they should do. Obedience matters, but ultimately tell them who God says they are. They will become it if they so choose to hear it, and their lives will reflect that.”

When I was in college, I had just broken up with a man I had thought I was in love with. It was a hard breakup for both us, and in my heartbroken state, I found myself on the couch of our residence director pouring out my struggle. I mentioned that I didn’t even know who this man was anymore. After all we had been through and after the difficult break up, I was questioning who was this person I had been dating. She said in no uncertain terms, “Karen, the true person will always be the heart that loves God.” I remember it all these years later. And when my professor told me to tell people who are they are, who God says they are, I remembered her words too. The heart that loves God. That is the truth.

Sure, we are messed up. Sure, we mess things up. Sure, we are broken people. But ultimately, the Scripture tell us that we are who the I AM says we are. His. Beloved. Included. Accepted by grace. Children. Holy and dearly loved.

I confess that sometimes I have forgotten that. For myself and others. But I want to remember it more and more. I want to remember it when the days seem so long and I long for something new. I want to remember it in the dark moments of sadness and grief. I want to remember it when I stand before aching, trembling people who are struggling to know such a truth. I want to remember it when I am wanting to speak words of anger toward someone. When my intentions are misused by the Liar in someone else’s life. I want to remember it when I am filled to the brim with gratitude and joy. I want to remember the Truth even when faced with the Enemy who twists someone’s words so quickly and easily to feed into my soul.

It is so important for us. I believe this wholeheartedly. To place ourselves, including our identities, into the hands of a God who wants nothing more than to release us from these lies that so root themselves into us. That so strangle the life of Christ in us. That so steal from us the real joy of walking with, and being loved by, a God who sealed our identities in blood and new life.

I am who the I AM says I am.

 

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