Search This Blog

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's OK to Sit on the Bench

If you know me even a little, you know that I love football! And if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a visual learner... combine the two and you're speaking my language! 

First,  I LOVE THE SOUTHWEST! I attended a high school homecoming football game here in PA this weekend. Lets just say I had no clue it was homecoming until they announced the queen candidates. No mums. (They had never even heard of them... try explaining that to a Yankee!) No stadium decor. No court in dresses or crowns. It was very different! I'm thankful for my over-the-top football and homecoming experiences! 

(High school throwback with BFF Haley - Yankee friends, these are mums... 
ours are small and conservative in comparison to some crazy Texas schools!) 

Now, for the lesson I learned this week about football. 

A football team: 11 men on the field working and moving as one unit. The team is notorious for their sportsmanship, integrity and wins. While many players contribute to the success of the team, the quarterback is typically the stand-out responsible for the team's wins and losses. Every offensive play, he's touching the ball. He leads the offense, calls plays, takes sacks and runs up the middle when necessary.  

Playing the perfect game and in a position to win, a flash comes across the line of scrimmage. No one saw him coming. Just like that the QB is on his back. He struggles to get up. When he finally gets to his feet, he realizes his arm is broken. Not a little break - it's obviously mangled. Call it pride, determination, responsibility, etc. He won't get off the field. He's determined to finish the game as if nothing is wrong. (Unless you're Tim Tebow who played the 2nd half of a football game with a broken fibula in high school, a broken non-throwing hand as a Gator, and broken ribs in the NFL as a Jet... the rest of us probably wouldn't/ couldn't do it!)

The injured QB is now not as effective in his role as he was prior to the injury. He's requiring his offensive line to work even harder to protect his vulnerability. While some may view him as a hero who pushes on regardless, others are thinking that he is crazy and prideful for not coming off the field and receiving the medical attention necessary. If the coach found out, he would likely require the QB to come off and get attention on the bench. Is it wise to keep going? Would it not be better to switch places with the backup and go back in when you're healed and ready? 

I was determined to keep going. A year and a half ago, seemingly out of no where, I was tackled to the ground and instantly knew I was severely injured. I quickly got to my feet to continue... I've pretended like it's fine. I have kept going - kept playing my game - hiding the injury from those who questioned if I was alright. Only a few people very close to me know the severity of my condition. I will say from my own experience, it isn't wise. It would have been easier to come off the field initially. I believe that in my determination and perseverance to keep going that I'v caused others to be injured as a result of my unwillingness to relent. I have fooled a lot of people, but not The Coach. 

When you don't volunteer to take yourself out of the game, 
He is more than capable of pulling you to the bench. 

I've finally come to a place where I recognize I can't keep playing the same game I have been. I need to come off the field. The Coach saw I needed to come off some time ago... 

The last three years have contained a lot challenges. Three deaths, two surgeries (still in physical therapy on a weekly basis), broken engagement, loss of the future as I knew it, family health issues, adjusting to a cross-country move... I still struggle deeply to trust. I can hardly talk to a guy without shaking. The thought of any close relationship frightens me. Trying to make friends is something I dread. I can't possibly let someone else into my life again! I've built walls around my heart so high - and I've been successful in shutting well-meaning people out. Including you. 

A few weeks ago, a piece of news finally did me in. For the first time in nearly three years, I accepted the fact that I am not ok. I'm not fine. I genuinely felt. It has been a long time since I allowed myself to feel. It hurt. I let the tears come. I laid down in the arms of grace. 

He placed me into the hands of people who were qualified to tend to the now-infected wound. Through another person, wisdom informed me that I was struggling with anger. She suggested I needed to first deal with the anger before I could pursue healing. After some convincing, I agreed to vent my "anger issues" by going plate smashing. Armed with a baseball bat and some Goodwill china, I went to work. Initially, I felt like an idiot. This was going to help nothing

Then something finally broke. Much needed - long overdue. I broke plates and smashed through a piece of plywood for over an hour and a half. My brain was numb and lightheaded - no particular issue on my mind - just a release of built-up energy. My body became exhausted and my hand was dripping with blood from the burn of the baseball bat. Physically exhausted and tears running down my face, I took the last plate to the foot of the cross. With one Mulan-type swing and yell, I smashed the plate to pieces and collapsed onto the ground at the foot of the cross. The Coach finally had my attention. I was on His bench where He's wanted me all along. I laid there and cried - accepting my brokenness. I saw myself in the pieces of the broken plate on the ground. I let Him minister healing. It was beautiful. It was freeing. It was broken and still stunning. 

Dealing with chronic pain and surgeries my whole life has caused me to become excessively tough. Many of you have prayed for me and have blessed my family and I with words of encouragement when we were facing yet another procedure. For that I'm exceedingly blessed. To cope with pain, I've had to force myself to get out of bed. You really do have to learn how to block the pain and the mental struggle or else you couldn't function. Those who have chronic pain know what I'm talking about! I've gotten very good at it. 

This is an effective strategy when you're dealing with physical pain. Not so much when your heart and emotions are what's injured. Trying to block it and keep going is very harmful to one's health, relationships, spiritual wellbeing and purpose. 

In the last two weeks I have learned, 

it is OK to sit on the bench

The bench is not a sign of weakness or not being "qualified" or "good enough." On the bench, The Coach can have our full attention. We can learn new strategies. Observe team dynamics. Assess areas of personal improvement. Receive correction as well as encouragement. The time on the bench allows the injury to heal. Healing would never come to a QB with a broken arm if he kept trying to take sacks each week. 

Psalm 23 says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures." Makes. He doesn't suggest. He doesn't ask. He doesn't request. He can make us lie down. He needed to get me to sit on the bench so He might have my full attention. 

So, I'm not putting on a mask anymore. I'm not going to continue intentionally building my wall. For the first time in my life I'm not So-and-So's daughter, not his girlfriend or his fiancĂ©. I am Heather. I'm learning what that really means. Like in the movie Runaway Bride, I'm learning what kind of eggs I really like. No, I am not ok. I've been so consumed with being tough and pleasing people - not wanting anyone to think I'm weak. I've been the injured QB on the field everyone is raising an eyebrow at. 

So, I'm on the bench. No more facades. I'm hurt and I will go back in when The Coach sees fit. Until then, I'm on the sideline. I'm learning, healing and growing. I am sorry for pretending... It would have been better to let you see my weakness and receive your help and encouragment rather than faking my way past you. Please forgive my pride. 

Maybe your life has been one trial after the other. Maybe you're in a place of loneliness or depression. Maybe you've refused to acknowledge your injury. Are you wondering how on earth you got to this place and what you might possibly do next to fix it? I'm begging you to lie down in green pastures willingly. Take a clue! Don't have Him make you. There is nothing wrong with lying down. No shame in saying I'm not ok/I need help. 

Building a wall, shutting people out, trying to keep playing on your own - those things only hurt the team. They no longer allow you to work together as one. We are called to live in community. To bear one another's burdens. To rejoice with those who celebrate and mourn with those who hurt. Let people do that for you. Besides, pride and self-sufficiency only sadden The Coach and make Him question your ability to be a team player. 

Come sit on the bench. Accept rest. Receive healing. Don't try to be tough. You have nothing to prove. We are all weak - helpless - messy - ugly causes if it were not for the love and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Isn't it frustrating when a family member is ill and they refuse to see a doctor? Don't be that person! Allow Him to tend to you. One will never heal if they refuse to see the Healer.

Trust The Coach. You don't know... He may need to pull you out so you're ready to go in to an even bigger and better game. In the mean time, It's OK to Sit on the Bench. Join me. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Drop Your Rocks

This month has been a whirlwind - thanks for bearing with me and praying for energy! And a big thanks to those of you who've been praying for my tired heart this week. God's got it and healing is coming. 

The new Secret Keeper Girl Show is out on the road!

Since Mom got to come for Mother's Day, she sent Dad to PA for a belated Father's Day!

I survived yet another death-defying trip down the rapids at Extreme Grace!
(Green jacket in the back. And yes, that's a poor freshman girl at my feet who got thrown out of her own raft! Last year the trip down the river took 4 hours... this year 1.5. You do the math.)


I’m finally back into a normal schedule! School started a couple weeks ago. I am teaching an all-girl's high school Bible class. We are going through And The Bride Wore White. It is a purity curriculum. I’ve got girls ages 13-18, from every sort of background, and each with very different life experiences. As I began the study, I noticed the judgmental glances. The “I’m not that bad” thoughts that could be read on the faces of my girls as another was vulnerable enough to share. I prayed the Lord would give me a way to level the playing field – to somehow get all of us on the same page. This is what He gave me:

When the girls walked into class that morning, I handed each one a rock. I didn’t explain what it was for or why they had it. I simply began reading the Word.

John 8:1-11 

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.  As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.  They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

            The Pharisees were correct in their recollection of the Law. Leviticus 20:10, and Deuteronomy 22:21 state the penalty for adultery was stoning. Essentially the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. Theologian William Barclay, in his commentary of John has this to say: “The dilemma for Jesus was this. If he said that the woman ought to be stoned to death, two things followed. First, he would lose the name he had gained for love and for mercy. Jesus talked about love, and mercy, and forgiveness. But to condemn her to death would indeed discredit his teaching. Second, he would come into collision with the Roman law, for the Jews had no power to pass or carry out the death sentence on anyone. On the other side, if he pardoned her, it could be immediately said that he was teaching the people to break the law of Moses, and that he was condoning and even encouraging people to commit adultery.” (Barclay, Commentary on John, Vol. 2, p. 2)

Now I ask you, where was the man?  Why was this poor girl alone? After all, it does take two to tango! Was she betrayed by the man who was in the act of loving her? Was she still naked? Can you feel the disgrace? The humiliation; the chilling breath of impending condemnation and death? I can only imagine what this girl was thinking – what she was feeling. Don't you see the tears streaming down her face? The fear and brokenness of her heart? 

Our Savior responds brilliantly to those trying to trap Him, “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” The word Jesus used for sin was the Greek word “anamartetos,” which means without a sinful desire. Have you ever had a sinful desire? Me either ; )

One by one her accusers drop their rocks (giant boulders is more like it) and she is left alone with Jesus. Was she relieved? Was she even more terrified to be alone at Jesus’ feet? Or did she find some sort of shelter there? Beautifully, He didn’t go into the why of her sin… He didn’t ask what on earth she was thinking. He didn’t plague her with questions or condemnation. Instead, forgiveness with a challenge is extended.

I am confident that in that moment, the woman didn’t need anyone to point out her sin. I’m sure she knew full well what she did. How she messed up. Jesus covered her sin and leveled the playing field between “sin” and “more sin.” Although she was caught red handed, it didn’t change the fact that everyone else in the circle of accusers had experienced a sinful desire at some point. No one was more or less guilty than the other. 

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Maybe you’ve been caught red handed in the act and should be dealt the consequences of your sin. Or maybe you’re the one hiding behind your Bible with a sinful desire. The truth is, we are all damaged goods. No one less guilty than the other. Consider when grace has been extended to you. When you didn’t get what you deserved. I imagine this experience shook up the poor girl to the point that she didn’t do it again!

It is simply human of us to judge and accuse. I challenge you to drop your rock. If you are blameless and completely pure (you’re not – only Jesus is) THEN and only then can you condemn. As Christians, we live in the beautiful land of beginning again. All mistakes, heartaches and sickening sins are covered at the cross of Christ.  

Needless to say the girls got the message about their rocks. They knew why they were holding it. I challenged them to do something with it.

-       Some of them felt guilty and chained to self-condemnation for a mistake they had made. They wanted to throw the rock at themselves. Instead they prayed – took a walk and threw the rock into a stream.
-       Some were guilty of judging and accusing another girl. They offered the rock to the girl as an apology; a way of making restitution.
-       Others still carry their rock with them every day in their pocket. “It’s a reminder to me not to judge other people. I want grace – I need mercy. I know she does too.”

What will you do with your rock? You want others in your life to lay theirs down. Will you? Can you put it down and walk away? There doesn’t need to be words. Just a surrender. Jesus already leveled the playing field.

 Drop your rock.

Have you been watching the Get Lost video series? A new video will be released each week. Dannah Gresh, her daughter Lexi, Friend Chizzy and myself will banter through Get Lost.  Watch it here!