Thankfully, I’m pretty good at untangling things, whether fine gold chains or shoelaces. I have a good eye for it, I suppose. Once everything is laid flat in good light, patiently and methodically I look over the whole of it. It’s the reverse of the tangling, you see. Backing out every twist and turn until it is free. It’s tedious but required.
Recently I borrowed garland for a baby shower, pink and gold hearts perfectly sewn together in long strands. During cleanup I discovered one strand, bunched in a heap rather than carefully wrapped for return.
As I surveyed the tangled mess, the complexity was obvious. Fine threads wrapped and twisted around heart shaped paper were a significant challenge, but I got right to it. For almost an hour I stood over the bar in my kitchen, at times holding all of it up to the window to get a look in better light.
The work of caring for our souls is a bit like that; it’s difficult to unwind the tangled places. As I worked, I remembered a recent tangle in my soul.
It started with a few words – exchanges via text. I have no reason to believe it was the intention behind them, but they landed hard, the wounds painful. Powerful emotion rose up in me and I felt as if my chest might burst from its incredible force. Even as I reread the words, I couldn’t put my finger on why the strong reaction.
The swell crested when hubby unknowingly added one more twig to the pile. Tears flowed. It was the sort of ugly cry that happens rarely, but when it does I bury my head in his chest and the words tumble out of me. (Followed by consumption of a quart of ice cream.) After all of that, I can begin to untangle the messiness of it.
My spirit was fragile because of a load of circumstances. The weeks leading up had been rough – with moments of helplessness, grief, anxiety, disappointment and exhaustion. As clarity came, I realized why rereading that conversation was fruitless; these words were not there:
“Daddy loves me more.”
A pronouncement I felt in my heart, “heard” in my mind, but it was never actually spoken. She never said that God, our father, loved her more than me.
It was days later, in Chapter 8 of Romans, that I began to understand why I bought the lie.
For weeks before the encounter, prayer was hard. There was nothing new to say, nothing that I hadn’t spoken through tears for weeks. But I had forgotten that when words won’t come, when I’m too tired and worn out from the waiting, the Holy Spirit of God takes my heavy sighs, my tears and my literal groans and He transforms them into prayers that He speaks on my behalf.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” – Romans 8:26
There it was, the first bit untangled. It’s okay when I can’t come up with the right words; when I don’t even know what to ask anymore. He writes them for me and speaks them to “Daddy” on my behalf – just as if I had prayed them myself.
Near the end of the chapter there is an amazing promise. Check out these verses, quoted here from The Message translation:
“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” – Romans 8:29-30
He called me by name. He knows MY name, ya’ll! He has a plan and it is not random. The book goes on to say that he and I are SOLID, nothing can separate me from God’s love. What is true for me is true for all of his children. He’s on our side. Jesus is in the presence of God every minute, sticking up for us. Another tangle gone.
When I forget the truth (or don’t know it), I’m so vulnerable. But I remember now! He loves me, and he loves you. His capacity is not limited and he is working out a plan that is unique for each of us. Mine won’t look just like yours, but we can both be certain that He’s got us.
I have a visual of the Spirit of God blowing the cloud of sin and condemnation away like wind sending dark clouds out to sea. What a beautiful reminder that even in our imperfect bodies of flesh, the Spirit is always at work.