The last couple of days I was thinking about the turmoil I see on 'fair and balanced' news programs, political and religious debates on Facebook, multiple fear factor YouTube videos, and the war between the Law and the Spirit in the blogosphere. Someone on Facebook tried to cast fear upon me in regards to Islam and another person said Rapunzel fleeing her captor was a rebellious act. Sometimes I really struggle with using words of grace, because my flesh wants to say, "Oh brother!"
And yet people want to know where we stand on such issues and I believe we all have the freedom to speak up about how we feel without fear of reprisal. Is it abusive of me to say,"Oh brother!" ? Am I uncaring for thinking some people are crippled by fear mongering and narcissistic behaviors? OOPS! Did I just label a behavior in a way that casts judgment? How in the world do you remain steadfast and still quivering in humility before our Lord?
Then He whispers into my ear, "Naaman's handmaid." I remember this story from when a 3rd grade girl's Sunday School teacher taught about being a peacemaker in difficult circumstances. I was a 21 year old assistant to this teacher and yet I felt like I was one of the 3rd grade girls listening to this story. She was kidnapped from her people and forced to be a servant. I would have to imagine this was not what the girl wanted, but there was nothing she could so about it. Somewhere along the line, her parents must have been compassionate parents who raised her to be obedient to her elders, even if she didn't like what they are doing. For this little girl to speak out against her captors could have meant a whipping, death, or imprisonment. She had to obey.
There must have been times when her parents had taught her the reason why we obey those who have the rule over us, even when we disagree. In addition to this, I would imagine they also taught her when it's good to speak up about what we believe, even if it means death. I see in the story that she had discernment to know when to keep silent and when to speak up. Then I pondered in my heart, "How do we speak up in the face of such serious consequences and remain respectful?"
He then whispered again, "Esther." I also learned about Esther from the same Sunday School teacher. Esther knew that going before the King, her very own husband and head of household, could mean death. She knew that coming to him about a law, that he was deceived into making, would be a challenge of his authority in the land. Doing such a thing would have tremendously difficult consequences for the entire land. It was a sensitive issue to question the king and his highest servants.
Esther and the little handmaid were both steadfastly quivering before their authorities. They both spoke up when it meant destruction if they did. They knew there could be criticism from many for 'challenging' the authority of those over them. As a child of God, a handmaiden for our Lord, a servant of the King, a wife, and a mother, I saw all sides of this dilemma.
The still small, yet powerful voice, encouraged me, "You can be both steadfast and quivering."
I sighed deeply and let that sink in to my soul. We have boldness to come before the throne room of our God and know His scepter of grace will be extended. We can know that even if we have a misunderstanding, hurt feelings, anger or even despair, that he will listen.
He listens when we cry out to him in anguish that we don't understand why we are taken into captivity, or that our families are in danger of Haman's laws to 'kill' our families with his legalism. I think He dislikes it more than we do, yet He allowed it. He allowed the handmaid to be kidnapped and He allowed Esther to be forced to marry. In those circumstances is when His power was revealed in their lives. That didn't mean it was right for the army to steal the little girl. It didn't make it right that Esther was forced to marry the king. But God had a higher purpose that was much grander than they knew at the time.
We don't get angry with the little handmaid's story nor are we angry with Esther. We don't accuse them of disobedience for speaking up about what they had gone through or that they shed light on the corruption that was taking place. We applauded them for their bravery!
And yet we live in a world where we are criticized by our own brethren when we speak up about the government and abusive legalism in the households of faith. So here I am, steadfastly quivering at the feet of my King. I am steadfast that I can boldly enter his throne room in quivering humility beseeching His grace and mercy for the victims and their captors.
Did Namaan realize how much the little girl would miss her family? Did he realize how much pain it would be to have her taken from her loved ones? I don't know, but I know God used her to bring him to the prophet for healing when leprosy plagued his body. In doing so he became a believer in the Living God. Is leprosy somehow an imagery of legalism or spiritual abuse?
Did the king know how much a young lady wants to actually fall in love with the man she would choose to marry? Did it matter to him that her heart longed to be with her family instead of isolated in the castle? I don't know, but I do know that her act of obedience and bravery saved the entire Jewish race. Is this an imagery of how we withhold freedom from others?
I don't know why God allows children to be abused, whether physically, sexually, or spiritually. But I do know that as God delivers us, we have the opportunity to speak up about what he has delivered us from. As a believer, it makes me so sad when other believers accuse the testimony of Christ in another. We all make mistakes as children of God, as parents, as friends. Forgiveness for one another frees our own hearts from bitterness so we can be lamps for the Light within us. He wants to shine through our cracks and cast His Light upon the world to show them the way. The Light bleeding through the cracks is naturally going to also show those cracks and we tell where those cracks come from. We tell about the cracks, because if those cracks weren't there, how would the Light shine through?
Why do Christians try to cover the cracks?
"Don't tell anyone how those cracks got there! You'll bring a shame to the ones who caused those cracks."
Then don't tell the story of how the handmaid was kidnapped and forced into slavery. Don't you DARE tell the story of Esther and how her king forced her into marriage. Heaven forbid you tell about Queen Vashti and her mistakes. But through all those details is how the Light shines through to this dark world. You can't hide the Light under a bushel, He's meant to sit on a hill. He's meant to shine in the 'darkness', because it's in the darkness that the Light is needed.
The darkness is all around us and we can't hide darkness. The Light is going to find His way to shine in that darkness. Shall we hide the Light and remain in darkness? Shall we continue to stumble? The greatest darkness of Christianity is that of hiding the Light in the household of faith. Christianity doesn't want it's covers stripped. It doesn't want it's cracks revealed and in doing so it's followers don't want Christ to shine.
Allowing Christ to shine in Christianity would mean we see the clergy who abuse children, who cheat on their wives, on deacons who force hierarchy control over their families, on wives who live in fear of telling her husband that is spanking tactics are out of control, in the world where children are afraid to say they don't believe in hell out of fear of going there. Christianity has become the place where teens are cutting, anorexic, and homosexual without the parents knowing, because they fear rejection and loss of love and relationship. Christians live in just as much dark as the world around it and they have the Answer to their problems living within them. They just don't want to have Him revealed, because it would reveal their cracks.
What are we afraid of? The same thing we all fear, rejection from our loved ones. Because we fear deep down that they won't extend to us the grace our Lord has lavished us with.
Did Haman want Esther to speak up? Of course not, but it was needed to save her people. And here I am, speaking up for my people... I am steadfastly quivering before the feet of our King...
Christianity has cracks and they are there because of the stones hurled at glass houses. Many became transparent and the modern Pharisees saw through the glass walls and hurled stones at what they saw. The walls are cracked and falling apart. And all they need is grace so they can heal. No amount of bandages can heal or cover the cracks or what is inside the households of faith. Only Love covers these multitudes and grace doesn't want to hide, it wants to shine. In doing so, we will know how the cracks got there, but can we offer grace to the modern Pharisees? Can the modern Pharisees stop casting stones and pointing out sin? Jesus covered our sin, why do we want to uncover what He covered?
The Scepter of Grace is such a powerful weapon. It reveals that we are quivering daughters trying to be steadfast in a dark world of legalism. But Mercy embraces each of us as we embark on our individual walkabouts with God. He lavished Grace on all of us and we each have unique testimonies where God's son is revealed and heaven forbid we hide that lamp He has created us to be. Every single crack reveals His Glory.