stripped, bare, gloriously raw

I knew it was coming, it was inevitable. It came to me while I sat on the train, like a giant wave washing over me, a crystal clear awareness of every single thing that wasn’t quite right in my life.

It wasn’t the first time and it likely won’t be the last. I knew what I was in for when it started to happen. It’s a process I’m now referring to as when God leaves us stripped, bare, and gloriously raw. It’s when He allows for a temporary flood so that everything the water touches can be made clean again. It’s when we know that we better take a deep breath and dive in – with fearlessness and confidence – and be immersed by the surge. Why? Because if you can’t stop the wave, you better learn to embrace it.

remove the accessory fittings of or take apart to inspect or adjust.

I felt that this was what God was doing to me. It’s not like He had to remove anything from my life to see what was really going on, He didn’t have to press pause in order to get a good look. He knew and He always knows. But He had to remove my accessory fittings, the embellishments of my life, and take it apart so that I could inspect and realize what needed to be adjusted.

In 2 Chronicles 20, the people of Judah had just been made aware that a great multitude was coming against them. Once their leader, Jehoshaphat, found this out he was afraid but he “set his face to seek the Lord” (20:3). And then we read that “Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (20:4).

Notice that in two verses seeking the Lord is mentioned three times. This process of being stripped felt like my call to seek the Lord. I had a blatant awareness of all the things working against me –  my schedule, circumstances, mindset, tendencies, and distracted and striving heart. Those things, like my version of a “great multitude” coming against me, needed to be strategically fought against –  not by trying harder – but by positioning my heart so that it was surrendered and seeking.

The process of being spiritually stripped, while unpleasant, is more-so an act of God that I believe displays how perfectly He loves us. This process gets us alone. It nudges us into the corners of our relationship with Him that we have neglected. And when God gets me alone, there is no limit to what He does to my heart and my mind. There is no tool He won’t use to break down the walls I’ve built, there is no height He won’t climb to pull my wandering heart back to Him, and there is no mess He won’t meet me in.

He finds me and loves me right where I am. Every single time.

uncover (a part of the body or other thing) and expose it to view.

After Jehoshaphat committed to seeking the Lord and called the people of Judah to do so with him, they gathered together to pray. Verse 12 is how Jehoshaphat finishes his prayer: “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

In the authenticity of that moment, when Jehoshaphat admits that they are powerless and that he does not have the answer, it says that the people just stood before the Lord. I love Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on this passage, he writes:  “You could have heard the sound even of the wind among the trees at the time, for they were [the people of Judah] as hushed and as quiet as you were just now. Oh, when you know the Lord means to deliver you, bow your head and just give Him the quiet, deep, solemn worship of your spirit” (source).

After feeling stripped, left with this call to inspect and adjust, that’s when I felt bare – standing before the Lord, quiet and still, waiting for His response. And isn’t it true that when we give ourselves the opportunity to be silent before Him, we begin to catch greater glimpses of His heart – that He does mean to deliver us? And isn’t it truer yet, that when we see even the slightest revelation of God’s heart, we are compelled to the sincere, genuine, life-changing solemn worship of our spirits? I believe so.

Examine verse 12b again: “…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” At this point, I found myself quiet and worshipful, but still very much confused as to what God was doing and unsure of my next step forward. But this verse lead me to the question: when God uncovers a part of us and exposes it to view, is our reaction humility and recognition, or pride and avoidance? Jehoshaphat didn’t try and put on a facade when he became aware of his enemies, he didn’t try and act stronger or tougher than he was, and he definitely didn’t just jump into the battle and strive towards success. I admire that. While the enemy knows how to target us and will desperately try to overwhelm us, the Lord reserves ultimate power to use what can overwhelm and instead, use it to give us the opportunity to hand all of it over to Him in humility and trust.

All that was overwhelming me was trying to pull me deeper into a pit of isolation – a pit I didn’t knowingly walk into, but that developed overtime. And yet I realize now that God allowed for my brief but obvious time of isolation so that He then had exclusive access to my heart – stripped and bare indeed.

strong and undisguised.

When the people prayed and then stood and waited, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel and he said, “Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (20:15).

At the end of this process, I am left raw. I have had my accessories removed, God has graciously hand-picked out my anxieties, and in some sort of gracious way, holds them out in front of me so that I can see them for what they really are: burdens I am not meant to carry. Under this realization, I accept what He offers – to remove them from my sight.  I acknowledge that I don’t know what to do, but I commit to setting my eyes back on Him. And in that moment I’m lavished with the comfort He bestows on me. It’s the knowledge that the battle is not mine, but His.

I am free to be wholly myself again. Lightened by joy instead of weighed down by burden. The things of this life that so easily distract and pull me away no longer hold their position. Things, because that’s what they are – just things – take their rightful place again.

And I am raw: strong and undisguised.

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