You are pursued.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?

Psalm 139:7

I still hold my breath and choke back tears when I hear “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury.  The line that gets me everytime is, 

“There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me”

Cory Asbury, Reckless Love

It made me cry to even write those words.  Why? Because when I look back it overwhelms me to think about the many ways Jesus pursued me. The heartbreaking part was I didn’t know He was pursuing me because I was trying too hard to run away from Him.  

I never wanted Him to see me doing all of the awful things I did just to cope.  There were so many bad decisions and many of them are a blur.  

But He never stopped coming.  No matter how hard I ran. 

I couldn’t be bad enough for Him to give up on me.  I was a mess and I was completely filled with shame, but I was never too far gone for Him to quit. 

ROCK BOTTOM. 

After that desperate prayer naked on hardwood floors, I turned to Him.  I made my way into church.  I was broken in a million ways and hung over when I pulled into the parking lot smoking a cigarette.  

I sat on the back row looking at how put together everyone else seemed.  I didn’t feel like I fit in, and quite honestly I didn’t want to fit in. I’d never heard sermons like this so I kept coming back.  The words were connecting and the Bible was starting to make sense to me.  My eyes and ears were opened, but my heart was Nailed. Shut.  

Each week I made it about 30 seconds into the invitation, and decided to bolt to avoid the pull.  Every Sunday, I rushed out and it was my personal goal to be the first person to leave.  

Betty noticed. 

She literally followed me out each Sunday yelling “Melissa!” so I ignored her because that was not my name. 

One Sunday, she finally caught me and I let her know my name was Michelle.  When she started to invite me to the beach for the young adults retreat, I immediately shut her down and said, “I didn’t come here to make friends.” I turned to leave and left her standing there, smiling. 

Betty never gave up on me. 

Sunday after Sunday, she called my name.  Eventually I said yes and made it to the Bible study. 

Today, she calls me “the daughter she never had.”

I could give you other examples of how Jesus pursued me, but this is the picture that sticks with me the most because she never once quit trying.  She never gave up.  

Jesus never gives up. 

We can run the other way, and He is there.  We can run to Him with sealed up walled off hearts, and He waits. We can be pushed into the darkest places or willingly walk into them and yet His light will still find us.  

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

Psalm 139:8

He is gentle, patient and kind.  He never leaves us. He never gives up. He is always there.  

He will send us a Betty, if that is what it takes and if we let Him, He will send us a Michelle. 

He is faithful to pursue us.  Will we be faithful to pursue others? 

Read Psalm 139 and think of the ways He has pursued you.  Write about it in your journal and thank Him.  

Has a Betty pursued you?  Reach out to her and let her know.  Thank her for her love.  

Do you know a Michelle?  Pray about how you can reach out to her. 

Thank you Jesus that we are loved, intimately known, and pursued.  

You are led.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.

John 10:27 NIV

I told my counselor that I felt crazy telling her about the mean voices in my head.  She didn’t flinch when she asked me, “What do they say to you?” 

I started to list them:  Who do you think you are? No one wants to spend time with you. You are a burden to others.  You are merely tolerated.  You are bad. 

She explained this was negative self-talk.  She encouraged me to think about where those lies came from and also to focus on truth.  For example, what would Jesus say?  He wouldn’t say who do you think you are?  He would tell you who you are and that you can do anything with His help. 

I wanted to know what truth would replace the lies and I wanted to know His voice.  One of the ways I learned to hear His voice was to simply be still and listen.  I would pray and read my Bible to search for verses to help me when the mean voices were loud.  

The more I was able to speak truth back to the lies, the less they taunted me.  At first, it wasn’t easy to listen.  It was hard for me to be still. It took practice and I found the easiest place for me to listen was in the shower under the soft hum of the water.  

How did I learn to hear His voice? 

I’m still learning, but for me the key is to listen and pay attention. Sometimes it is that still, small voice. Other times it may be dreams, journaling, reading scripture, and listening to worship music.

We have to draw near to Him to hear His voice.  

The world is loud.  Social media screams.  Everyone has an opinion.  We are bombarded with so much information everyday.  How can we listen to His voice in the chaos?  How can we know His voice and focus on it? 

Practice. 

As I started listening to His voice, I was able to get more familiar with His ways.  I recognized He was speaking to me and I started to step out and obey.  

For example, one night I went to bed convinced I would never tell my husband my story. I had a dream that night that was so intense, I woke up determined he had to know.  Shortly after that dream, I told him. 

A few months later, I was driving home from a counseling session and I kept hearing “free at 40.” I felt like it meant I would confront my abuser when I was 40.  The thought alone terrified me.  I met with my mentor and I told her my story and shared what I thought God was saying to me.  She listened as I laid out my plans A, B and C.  

She let me explain the plans in detail, and then she told me to trust the Lord to work it out, and she sensed the plans should be C, B, and A instead.  

The night before my 40th birthday, I woke up early that morning and grabbed my phone and quickly typed what I would say to my abuser if given the chance.  I was typing as fast as possible as the words poured out.  

The day after I turned 40, I confronted my abuser and all I had to do was wait and the plans C, B, A unfolded as she had suggested.

Wow, God.  All of this made me want to listen and follow Him even more.  

He wants us to draw near to hear His voice and follow Him. 

Will we listen and let Him lead us?

How do you hear His voice?

You are chosen.

When I met my counselor for the first time, I told her I had a problem that I needed to fix as soon as possible. I also said I never wanted anyone to know and she assured me everything I shared with her was confidential.  In that first session, I never told her my problem. I only told her about my symptoms.  She knew I was falling apart, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her why. 

It took another session or two to find the courage to whisper the words, “I was sexually abused.”  

If she had looked at me then and said, “Michelle, you are going to share your story with others, and talk about it and write about it,” I would have taken out my checkbook, paid her and left to never return.  I had no idea then that it would be something I’d long to talk about and share in the future.  I didn’t realize at that time what made my heart pound and filled my eyes with tears would become my passion.  

I remember the first time I thought, maybe, just maybe I could help someone else. I had no idea what it would look like and some days it feels like I am still figuring it all out, but I know it’s my passion. It is not easy and I still struggle, but I know He is with me. Back when I drew this picture, it was hard for me to believe it.

You are chosen.

I was trying to understand it all, and sometimes the mean voice in my head would whisper, “You were chosen to be harmed.” It took a while for me to realize that was a LIE. Sometimes we have to acknowledge the lie is there so we can discover the truth. The truth is God can take our deepest pains and use us to make a difference in the lives of others.

You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done.

Genesis 50:20 NCV

You are chosen.  You may not have any idea of what he has chosen you to do and that is okay.  For now, just know that you are chosen. 

Before He made you in your mother’s womb, He chose you.

Before you were born, He set you apart for a special work.  

Jeremiah 1:5 NCV

Remember how awkward middle school was, especially in PE?  The coach would pick two people and they would take turns picking people to be on their team.  Do you remember the excitement and relief you felt when they pointed at you and picked you to be their team? 

God has chosen you.  He has picked you to do something special.  That is why you are uniquely you.  

What do you think He has chosen you to do? Ask Him. Seek Him, and go after your dreams.

Stay in your lane.

Sometimes I find myself watching others and thinking He must want me to do what she is doing or maybe I can be like her!  No!  It is so easy to get off track when we are focused on what others are doing instead of what He has called us to do.  When we are trying to do what they are doing, how can we do what He created us to do? 

You do you.  

The other trap for me is when I think God can’t use me because someone else is already doing it, saying it, writing it or thinking of it.  This kind of thinking will not only cause us to get off track, it will shut us down.  Anytime we are tempted to look at others and think we have to do what they are doing or we don’t need to do anything because someone is already doing it – Stop.  

We have to get back in our lane, keep our eyes on the prize, and remember the promise:  You Are Chosen.  

You are a gift.

One of the biggest lies I had to overcome when I first started going to counseling was that “I was a mistake”.  I honestly don’t recall anyone ever telling me that I was a mistake, and yet it was deeply seared into my being.  

As my counselor helped me to unravel this lie, I came across this verse in the bible: 

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3 NLT

When I looked at my children, I believed that verse was true with all of my heart. They were truly a gift, but why did I struggle to believe that verse when I looked in the mirror?

Why was it hard for me to believe that I was a gift?

Why did I think I was a mistake and a burden to others? 

My counselor helped me to explore all of the paths that led me to doubt and I chewed on that verse for a while. When I felt like I was a burden or a mistake, I would speak the words of truth.  

I am a gift.  

Children are a gift. 

You are a gift. 

It is a simple promise and yet it is so big. You are a gift even if it doesn’t feel like it.  It doesn’t matter how you were received or how you were treated or celebrated.  

Children are a gift.  It doesn’t say children are a gift when they are wrapped in shiny packages and delivered to perfect people in wonderful circumstances. 

It simply says, children are a gift.  So, you are a gift even if you were yelled at, or abused.  You are a gift even if you had health issues or experienced the pain of a divorce.  You are a gift, even if you were abandoned or neglected.  You are a gift even if you were told otherwise.  

Honestly, I really had to wrestle with this. As much as I wanted to believe I was a gift, the mean voices in my head would tell me, “You are not a gift! How can a gift be a mistake?  How can a gift be sexually abused? Are you really a gift?” It made me want to doubt the truth, but anytime those thoughts popped up, I tried to focus on the promise. I wrote the truth on an index card and carried it with me. I listened to songs (like Gold by Britt Nicole) on repeat because music is a great way to embed truth in my heart. Over time, I believed it: Yes, I am a gift. 

I love to shop for gifts, especially when I know it is something you will love. I will go through great efforts to get it, and I will be so excited to give it to you.  

It will be a gift no matter how you receive it or what you do with it. If you sell it, trash it or regift it that doesn’t change the fact that it was a gift given to you.  It certainly doesn’t change the heart of the giver.  

Yes, the world is imperfect and it is filled with imperfect people, but The Giver is perfect and He never changes.  He gives good gifts, and He says you are a gift. 

Do you know that you are a gift?  Can you imagine being wrapped in the shiniest box with a big bow on top? Look in the mirror and look at the gift.  YOU.  

Exercise:  If you struggle to believe that you are a gift, take a moment to think about what gave you that impression. Pray and ask God to show it to you, and to replace the lies with truth.  Write out the promises and/or draw them.  When I was in counseling, I used colored pencils to help connect with my inner child to revisit the lies and replace them with truth.

As you replace the lies with truth, focus on the promises and let them sink in starting with this promise:  YOU ARE A GIFT!