Surrender: Circumcision of the Heart

SingleForASeason

Ah, circumcision… one of the many reasons I am glad to be a woman! Unfortunately for me as a Christian woman, I still have to undergo circumcision, but mine is a proverbial circumcision; one of the heart. And when I say unfortunately, what I really mean is fortunately because, painful as it is, circumcision of the heart is ultimately for our betterment.

The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. -Deut. 30:6

What’s with all this circumcision talk, Aurora?! Well, I recently had revealed to me an area of my life – a stronghold in my heart – that needed to be cut away. For quite some time now, I’ve been due for a fresh circumcision of the heart; a cutting away of a dark corner of my heart where idolatry has been permitted to reside for too long. My frequent readers can probably already guess which area I’m talking about.

Most of us, whether we’ve ever attended church or not, are familiar with the story of Moses delivering the Israelites from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea on their way through the wilderness to the Promised Land (thanks, Ridley Scott). What some people may not know is that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years under Moses’s leadership and, eventually, when Joshua took over as leader, God commanded that the younger generation of Israelites be circumcised before they could leave their wilderness of wandering and enter the promised land of Canaan.

The older generation had been circumcised, but the younger generation born in the desert had not yet been committed to God through this obedience to the Old Testament Law. And so the younger generation of male Israelites underwent circumcision – a “cutting away” – so that they were ready for the Promised Land.

Although in the Biblical Old Testament, the Israelites were circumcised to identify themselves as God’s people, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul explains that physical circumcision is no longer necessary under the New Covenant. Instead, hearts of the followers of Jesus are figuratively circumcised as a part of the process of sanctification (i.e. becoming more like Christ).

During the Passion conference earlier this month, Christine Caine asked each of us, “What does God want to cut away in you?” What area of your life is unsurrendered? What shadowy corner of your heart needs to be penetrated by the light?

“Are you willing to cut away some weights? Some good things but not God things?” Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. -Hebrews 12:1

Often we stay in the wilderness of waiting because the pain of walking through to healing is more painful than the pain inflicted by the initial injury. And so we put on our band-aids and develop our coping mechanisms and convince ourselves that we are just fine. We put on our blinders and convince ourselves that we are not still in the wilderness, but through this self-deception, we never deal with the root issue, and so our deepest wounds never fully heal.

As Christine Caine spoke this message, I sensed God convicting me yet again about my love life. Since my broken engagement, I’ve had a revolving door of men – no one too serious, but enough interested men coming and going for me to use the continual influx of attention and affection as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with my heart’s bruising: a now deeply-ingrained sense of rejection and undesirability.

I have not allowed myself to really sit in my singleness; to feel the weight of it and truly accept the wilderness season God keeps trying to allow in my life – not to wound me further, but to heal me! Behold, I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her there. -Hosea 2:14

So I’m going to continue my season of not dating. I don’t know if it will be the full year; I am going to reevaluate my heart’s healing at the end of every quarter. At this point, all I know is that I need to commit to a season of waiting; to rest in my singleness and learn to be content being alone on a Friday night. To be content without one boy or another lighting up my phone with cutesy text messages. To reinstate God as my first love and rid myself of the idolatry of all these pseudo dating relationships.

There will doubtless be many opportunities to break from my fast of dating, and I hope to keep you all entertained with these stories of “missed opportunities”, but I hope to view these as chances to practice discipline, self-control and faithfulness. I desire to walk in healing and faithfully live out the path God has laid before me.

So in 2016, here’s to being single for a season but no longer single for a reason!

Authentically Aurora

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Identity: Remembering Who You Are

Princess - Daughter of King

My dreams are not too big. They are too small.

Sometimes I wonder if the hopes and dreams I have for myself are unrealistic and unattainable, but hearing the story of Levi Lusko at the Passion conference reminded me that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His dreams for us are often bigger than the dreams we have for ourselves.

We operate in the visible realm, but God operates in the spiritual realm. We set our eyes on earthly things, but God is concerned with heavenly things. He has eternal purposes in mind for our lives, and He is the God of “infinitely more”. God is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine (Eph: 3:20-21). Our dreams are too small.

But often, in order to bring God-sized dreams to fruition, we must first undergo a time of refinement. It’s possible to walk through valleys of suffering without any good coming from them, but if we fix our eyes on God, He will create purpose in even those circumstances that feel purposeless. What the devils intends for evil, God can use for good (Gen. 50:20). No season of life need be useless.

There is purpose in the pain. To take away our suffering is often to take away our ministry. And there is purpose in the waiting. Seasons of waiting are how we are refined. As frustrated as I felt after being convicted of my impatience to prematurely leave the sheep field for the throne room, I was also encouraged to be reminded of God’s good purposes interwoven into even the most painful of circumstances – be they the heartache of a broken engagement or simply the monotony of a paper-pushing desk job with seemingly no end in sight. There is purpose in the pain, and there is a reason for the waiting.

An important revelation for me at the Passion conference was that our Identity is not our Calling. We live in a culture where people tend to believe that what we do defines who we are. Sometimes when I’m in a stagnant season of life where I don’t feel like I’m doing much good, I start to believe that am worth less to God. But my Identity is that I am a Daughter of the King. I am a daughter of God, and my calling – my anointing, the good works I have been ordained to live out – are secondary to my Identity as His child. Our level of intimacy with God may ebb and flow over time, but once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, our relationship with God remains constant, and therein lies our core Identity: unconditionally loved children of the God of the Universe. 

God loves us and has good plans for us, but fears and doubts sometimes keep us from believing that God has gifted us for His Kingdom work. If I’m honest with myself, I often worry that I am the problem; I am the reason I am stuck in this season of waiting instead of walking out my anointing. God wanted to do great things in and through me, but I am beyond hope of healing. I’m afraid that I can never change; I’m doomed to this intense personality with all its flaws. I’m afraid I’ll never fully recover from my bitterness and cynicism. I am shaped by my past, never to fully heal. I am not married because I am not marriageable. I don’t have a job I enjoy because I am incapable of being a joyful person. I am the problem. God cannot make me usable, and that is why I am stuck in this season of waiting.

These are lies from the pit of hell. God is good. He loves me, and He has good plans for me (Rom. 8:28). He has begun a good work in me that He is carrying out to completion (Phil. 1:6). I am being sanctified, little by little, day by day, being grown and developed and refined to be more like Christ.  Who do I think I am, to be powerful enough to thwart the plans of God?! How ridiculous, ignorant and narcissistic to believe that I am capable of getting in God’s way; that I am beyond God’s power to redeem! While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come. It is God Himself who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

It’s imperative that, as God’s children, we know what our Daddy says about us. When Christine Caine spoke at Passion, she told a story about when her daughter was in kindergarten. Evidently, one of the boys in the daughter’s kindergarten class called her “dumb and ugly.” According to the teacher, Christine’s daughter – instead of shrinking back or crying – threw her shoulders back and declared, “No, I’m not. My daddy says I’m smart and beautiful!”

And that made all the difference. We must know what God our Father says about us. We are not beyond redemption. We are not beyond the hope of healing. I am not too broken and bitter and hard-hearted to be used by God. He is able to transform me, and He is able to use me for good purposes in this broken world. Yes, Lord. Take my imperfect ability and do a perfecting work!

Authentically Aurora

Perseverance: Tired of Waiting

Wait with PerseveranceSometimes when we finally figure out “what we want to be when we grow up”, we want to start that job immediately. Being disciplined through years of preparatory schooling or training can be frustrating. As soon as we know who we want to marry, we want to get married right away. The season of engagement is difficult. And sometimes when we figure out our calling or anointing from God, we want to start living out that calling NOW.

God, you’ve shown me what you want me to do with my life! I’m ready to jump in and start making an impact! I want to make a difference! You’ve already appointed me for these tasks that will enact positive change in the world; now set me free to make them happen!

But we can’t make things happen ahead of God’s schedule. No amount of maneuvering or manipulating situations will work if God hasn’t opened the door. Believe me, I know from experience! But when God wants something to happen – a career or a relationship or any number of other things – He will bring it around in His perfect timing.

During the Passion conference, Alisa spoke to the choir about how King David was anointed as Israel’s king when he was still a shepherd… and then he kept working as a shepherd for many years, even after being anointed for kingship. In fact, David was asked to minister to King Saul by playing music for him – King Saul, who sat on the throne David had already been anointed for! But God was allowing David to go through a time of preparation so that, once he ascended to the throne, he would be ready for all that was to come with the weight of that responsibility.

Think about your life’s dreams. If your dreams were handed to you today, would you be ready? So often, our calling becomes a craving, and we begin to despise our current circumstances. I know I do. But when our passion becomes greater than our purpose, we’re sunk. We are a generation that craves significance. But we are also a generation that despises the season of preparation.

The process of preparation most often occurs in a place of privacy. It purifies our hearts (i.e. building integrity when no one is watching), and it readies our hands for greater responsibility. Shepherd-to-be-King David drew his confidence against the giant Goliath from his experience of God’s past faithfulness in the sheep pasture where David protected his sheep from lions and bears.

Alisa reminded us that our calling remains consistent regardless of our context. David was a shepherd his whole life, first for sheep; then for the people of Israel. Even after David had been anointed as king, he did not despise the sheep fields. He remained faithful in the season he was in. We tend to measure our significance by the scale of our impact, but God measures it by our stewardship of what we’ve been given. If we are not faithful with the small responsibilities we’ve been given right now, why would God give us responsibility over greater things? We need to be faithful to live out our callings in our current context.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 5.31.12 PMChristine Caine came and spoke at the Passion conference, and she absolutely wrecked me. I’d never heard of her before this year, but she has quickly become one of my favorite speakers. As an orphan who was sexually abused the first several years of her life, Christine now serves as a public speaker who motivates her audiences to live as Victors rather than Victims. She challenged us that we all want to run to the spotlight, but, “If the light that is ON you is greater than the Light that is IN you, the light that is ON you will destroy you!”

God wants to build our character. If we don’t let him build our foundation before giving us our dreams, our weaknesses and insecurities will destroy us. Whatever God has given us as our sheep field to steward is the most important place of our refinement. All God asks of us in the sheep field is to be faithful.

We want to do spectacular things for God, but – if we’re honest – many of us don’t really want to serve God. We have tendencies of a selfish, narcissistic generation. We say we want to serve God, but only if it’s doing something great for the Kingdom. That is not the model of service. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many. He who wants to be first must become last and a servant to all. We are only ready to serve God spectacularly when we have a humble heart and are ready to serve in anonymity, choosing to find delight in the mundane while our character is refined.

God, please work in me to purify my heart. Equip me with patience. May I persevere and find delight even in the mundane. May I ready myself for the good works I know You have called me to walk in. I pray that I would trust You and stop maneuvering, believing You for good things. God, free me from the fear of living an insignificant life. If I live humbly for You, I know: My. Life. Will. Be. Significant!

Authentically Aurora