Jeremiah 29:11

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The Truth about my Dark Side

Published January 15, 2013 by joypatton

The other morning I was on the treadmill shuffling through songs on my iPod.  In Kelly Clarkson’s “Darkside,” she sings, “There’s a place I know; it’s not pretty there and few have ever gone.  If I show it to you now, will it make you run away?  Will you stay even if it hurts?  Even if I try to push you out, will you return?”

She also speaks truth when she says “Everybody’s got a dark side; nobody’s picture perfect.”  We all have parts of ourselves that we would rather leave in the dark.  Things that we live with in the dark, but know would be repulsive in the light.  Things that we work hard to hide so that no one ever sees how ugly we are.  The Bible actually calls it sin, missing the mark of perfection.  And we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect best (Romans 3:23).  Since Adam and Eve took their first bite of the forbidden fruit, everyone is born with a dark side.

The questions that Kelly asks in the song are the questions we all long to know the answers to: “Do you love me?  Will you love me even with my dark side?”  I’ve been in relationships where my sin has been exposed, and they have decided to walk away.  My dark side was too much.  I was too scary.  In any relationship, you run the risk of being hurt.  My dark side could come out and do some serious damage.  It has and it probably will again.  I want to know that I am worth the risk.

This is where pop culture and theology collide.  As I listened to Kelly sing these words I was reminded of something I had read in Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child.  “Only in a relationship of the deepest intimacy can we allow another person to know us as we truly are.  It is difficult enough for us to live with the awareness of our stinginess and shallowness, our anxieties and infidelities, but to disclose our dark secrets to another is intolerably risky…The greatest fear of all is that if I expose the imposter and lay bare my true self, I will be abandoned by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies…I cannot admit that I have done wrong, I cannot admit that I have made a huge mistake, except to someone who I know accepts me.  The person who cannot amidst that he is wrong is desperately insecure.  At root he does not feel accepted, and so he represses his guilt, he covers his tracks.”

What I’m learning is that the only way to experience true intimacy in a relationship is to let them see your dark side.  If you don’t, you are always questioning whether the other person just loves the pretty parts, the parts you know they will like and accept.  We are afraid to completely be ourselves because the dark side just might scare them away.  But when I know that someone loves me, that they will forgive me, that I am accepted and worth the risk, I am free to be completely myself.  Only when I bring my dark side to the light can it begin to heal.  There is no healing in the dark, only death.  In order to heal, it must be brought into the light.  In order to experience true, authentic love, it must be brought to the light.  In order to be fully known and fully loved, it must be brought to the light.  This is the path to the authentic relationships we all say we want.  This is the painful path that my husband and I have walked together.  He is Jesus “with skin on” to me.

Jesus came as the remedy for the dark side.  Without the work of the cross, my dark side keeps me from the presence of a holy and perfect God.  Darkness cannot dwell with the light.  What happened at the cross was that God made a way for my dark side to be forgiven, for all my sin to be paid for.  Because Jesus lived a perfect life and died an innocent death, there was a way for my sin to be accounted for, so that I could dwell with God in the light of his love forever.  Jesus overcame the darkness when he overcame death.  Because he lives, I can live in the light.  Because I know that he accepts me, I can risk rejection in my human relationships as I learn to tell the truth.

Even if other people reject me, the truth is that Jesus decided that I was worth it.  He saw my dark side, and he didn’t run away.  He didn’t run, and so I don’t have to run away either.  I can bring my sin to him knowing that it has been forgiven and always will be.  I’m not too much for him; my dark side doesn’t scare him.  When I run toward him instead of away from him, he reminds me who I really am, a beloved daughter, a Princess.  He reminds me that I am uniquely designed for a specific purpose (Psalm 139:16); that I am not big enough or powerful enough to ruin his good and perfect plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39).  He reminds me that I can’t use up all of his grace and that I will always have a way back into his arms.  He promises to stay with me.  The only question is will I stay with him?  Or will I let shame, guilt and fear push me back into the dark?

“You know that we’re worth it. Don’t run away.  Promise you’ll stay.”

What would it take for you to share your “dark side”?

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Purpose from a Personal Encounter – Purpose Part 3

Published November 22, 2011 by joypatton

I wish God would just give me the map for my life that showed exactly what decisions to make and where I was going to end up.  I would probably say, “Thanks for the map!  See you in heaven!”  Then I would proceed through all the checkpoints in my own self-effort.  The problem is that I would trust the map more than the One who gave me the map.   But God has more for me in life than a map.  He wants to be in relationship with me, for me know to him and be known by him.  He wants my heart more than he wants my feet.  He wants my faith-effort, not my self-effort.

The Apostle Paul’s purpose came from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  The same is true for us.  Our purpose grows out of a personal relationship and encounter with Jesus Christ.  When I was sixteen and coming out of depression, I had one of those personal encounters with Christ.  One where I knew I had to make a choice about what I was going to choose to believe.  I had another personal encounter and revival with Jesus when I went through a discipleship program at the age of thirty.  Both encounters gave me a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh vision for what God had for my life.  I didn’t go into those times seeking purpose and a plan for my life.  Honestly I was simply seeking to know him more.

Paul was on the way to Damascus to find Christians and kill them because he believed that was the right thing to do.  But when Paul got closer to Damascus, a bright light from heaven blinded him and he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5 ESV) The ironic thing is that Saul was persecuting the Christians in an effort to please God.  The problem was that he knew a lot about God, but he did not know God.  So when God came to him, he did not recognize him.  He was so busy trying to do the right thing that he missed who God really was.  His actions were based on a wrong belief about who God was and what God wanted.

More than seeking purpose or seeking God’s will, the first thing we must seek is to know him.  Often we point to Jeremiah 29:11 when we are talking about finding God’s will.  But one of my favorite verses that we often overlook comes after that.  This is what the passage says:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me.  When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 ESV)

Every journey begins with one step.  Often the journey begins with a step toward him.  Even if you don’t have the big picture map of where you are going, do you know what the next step is that God is asking you to take?   Maybe it’s a consistent time in the Word, a Bible study or finding a new church to attend.  Maybe it’s to rest and take a break from all your self-effort, to stop all of your doing and listen.  Often we overlook this step because it doesn’t answer the urgent question we have about God’s will in our lives.  Seeking God sounds too simple or we don’t believe it would really work.  But the truth is he wants your heart because when he has your heart and you know his voice, then he can take your feet anywhere he needs them to go.  God wants us to depend on him, not just for the big picture, but for every step, every breath, along the way.  Will you trust him for the next step?

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