It was the beginning of summer in 2006 and I was sitting on my back deck by myself. I went out there to drink my coffee and have a conversation with my Creator. I was hurting… mourning the loss of myself and my friends and my marriage. Life was moving forward. Spring had sprung and it was warm enough to have coffee outside in the morning. I had a baby that March and she was getting chubby and smiling her constant smile.
But, I was a mess. Life was calling me forward and I didn’t want to go. Grace was unknown territory for me and I didn’t know the rules. I needed the rules, they made me feel safe, but I had broken them all and I was a shattered cast-out who was going to live though it.
I knew a lot about church and churchiness and what you’re supposed to do when you’re hurting. You’re supposed to praise God in the pain, for what-I didn’t know-…, but I really wanted to do something right.
My house sits up on a hill and my back deck faces the sky where all of my sins were carried out. It faces the sky that blankets all the people who I hurt. I looked at the all knowing sky, who could see everything, and I thought about God. I thought about my failure. I thought about the unknown future for all of us and I winced.
“God,” I prayed, “thank you for rebuilding me.”
I knew He was rebuilding me. I didn’t know what my new life would look like or how He was going to redeem my pathetic mess, but I still acknowledged and said it out loud.
When God talks to me, it’s a voice that seems to come from within, but I know it’s not my voice. It’s an interjected thought that is received exactly the way a spoken word would be received. God spoke up immediately…
“Serena, I removed you.”
The thought struck me as odd and foreign. His voice always quickens my heart. He uses few words and they’re profound enough to keep speaking when the words stop. I didn’t have to think about it for long because I understood it. It took me a bit to accept it, but I understood it.
Removed from relationships. Removed from my religious community. Removed from my old life. Removed from my old comfort. Removed from my old safety…. I was removed and set down in a space of faith or die.
This stole the shame and guilt of ruining something I didn’t know how to fix. This truth gave it new meaning and purpose. My failure tangled with grace and I really didn’t know which way was up.
I once was a dried up piece of dirt until somebody planted a seed of faith. The seed took and the rains soaked me and washed me. I grew into a green sprout, drinking the sun and digging in deeper with my roots. I grew taller and stronger, even though I was surrounded by weeds. Weeds of twisted faith and oppression surrounded me and stunted my growth. Then I was ripped up and sent through a sieve. My hard covering was torn from me and I was naked and exposed. Scared to death until the Field Master’s hands scooped me up and called me a seed. The cycle of life and death continues and I morph with the will of the Field Owner.
He removed me and replanted me and sang over me. The same voice that commanded the expanse of space to divide, and the water to fill the earth, and the land to divide the water, and the birds to fly, and the beasts to roam, and the body of Adam to live is the same voice that commanded my life to take a new form. The breath of His words filled my dead spaces and commanded me to, “Grow.”
It’s God’s grace that gives me life. It’s His choosing that gives me purpose. I am not my own and I know this because I’ve seen too much. I know better. I don’t do everything right. I stumble around with the best and worst, but I know what my purpose is. I know that my life is not my own. I was saved for a purpose and continue to try to live that out. Every breath I breathe is a gift. Every smile, every laugh, every lazy night with my family and good meal from my oven is a gift.
I was knocked down and torn to pieces by my failure. I was on the wrong track and I didn’t know it until I was blinded and disoriented. Then the voice of Jesus spoke grace into me and gave me a new purpose.
‘But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ -Acts 26:15-18
If you are like I was, lost and torn to pieces by your own failure, then consider this message. You are not abandoned or cast out. You are loved. You are being rebuilt. And maybe, you too, have been removed. Removed ‘from your people’ and from the others. You’re a traveler in a foreign land and you have a message. Give in to grace. Fall in to forgiveness. Consider the purpose. The sun will rise and dissipate this dark night that scares and torments you. I have seen the sunrise. I have felt the warmth of new life on my face and I am here to tell you that it’s real.