This morning on the Today show, I saw the story of a man who cut off his arm to save his life. I see these stories on the morning news every couple of years... I remember the one of the hiker who had to cut of his leg, I believe, with a pocket knife because it had become stuck in a bear trap. The guy this morning had somehow (I missed the beginning of the story) gotten his arm stuck in a furnace. I hope he was trying to make a repair or something; I really can't think of any other reason you'd have your arm near enough a furnace for it to become stuck.
Anyway - I missed bits and pieces of the story. I hadn't had my coffee yet, so I'm not really sure if the details would have stuck to my brain or not. But the bottom line is that he cut off his arm to save his life. Amazing when you stop to ponder it in full detail. The circumstances really don't matter. The tool used for the cutting is irrelevant. But the fact that a grown man cut off his entire arm just below the shoulder is mind blowing.
After Scott left for work, I was having some quiet time with the Lord. It's not a daily occurrence, as it should be, but rather what I do when I have the opportunity. My mind was still racing with the thoughts, "Would I be willing to cut off my arm to save my life? Would I have the courage?" My thoughts wandered to the spiritual realm... what are the things that are holding me back from being God's woman? Am I willing to separate myself from them to make my spiritual life more vibrant?
I am fully aware of where my arm in stuck in the furnace. Alcohol is a huge temptation for me. And some would say, "Well, that's not that big of a deal..." But for me, it's become a stronger conviction on my heart that it separates me from the life I want. Alcohol will continue to keep me at my own arm's distance from the Lord. Not only does it keep me from getting up and going to church on Sunday morning sometimes, but it restricts me from involving myself with certain people I have met along the way, knowing that my lifestyle is vastly different than theirs. Probably, though, the biggest obstacle alcohol puts in between me and the Lord is my own guilt.
The guilt is in the awareness that my actions - what I willingly choose to do - keep me from having the relationship I want to have with the Lord. My choices keep me from investing myself with the positive women I have met through my daughter's pre-school out of embarrassment of my drinking. It's kept me from immersing myself into a church and even from being rebaptized. Basically, alcohol is holding me back from many joys through the Lord I would love to experience.
When I think about me - just me, in the core of my soul - and what I'd like to do with what I have, I can honestly see myself working with teenage girls in the church, sharing my story and helping them to see God's love for them even in their mistakes. But I know that I can never achieve that goal with my arm stuck in the furnace. Like that man on the Today show this morning, I have to make a choice.
Wow. This has really turned out to be a self-exposing post. But I am simply trying to be honest.
I read this scripture last week in preparation for my final day at VBS, and it spoke directly to me. Amazingly, Peter was addressing the Jews who had witnessed the healing of the beggar man, crippled since birth. He was explaining to them that he had been healed by the name of and through faith in Jesus Christ whom they had put up to be killed.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins might be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts3:19
As I read these words, I am amazed that they were offered up to the very people who could accept part of the blame of Jesus' death. I mean, when I think of guilt, I can't imagine any greater guilt or any worse sin than being a part of the death of Jesus Christ. But, in a way, when I sin, that's what I am doing over and over and over and over again. So I can parallel myself to these onlookers any given day of the week. But the facts ring true - my sins will be wiped out and the Lord will refresh me.
I just love that word ~ refresh. It makes me think of the cold pool in the heat of a summer day. An ice cold Pepsi Max around 3:00 each day (for me, anyway!!). A cold rag around my neck while at a baseball tournament in 100 degree heat (just experienced that this weekend, so it's still fresh on my mind!). The shade of an umbrella while the sun is high. Ice water. A piece of spearmint gum. The taste of celery. Refreshing. Of course, these are all earthly things, but what I learned from the scripture above is that my Lord wants to be my refreshment. He wants to take all those sins and wipe them clean. He wants to cleanse me of all the pain and guilt. He wants to shade me from the harshness of the sun underneath His arms. He wants to be that ice cold, wet towel I drape around my neck to refresh me in the heat. My only task is to let go of the things that hold me back, and He will take care of the rest.
So, that's what is on my heart today. How far am I willing to go? What of this earth am I willing to give up in order to be the woman God intends me to be? Do I have the courage and strength? Will I release my arm from the trap of the furnace?