If I’m being completely honest with you…
then what you’re about to read might make you want to click on something else and go about your day in the quickest of fashions. How ‘bout that for a catchy intro, hmm?
Ok, but wait….let me explain. I’m about to share a piece of my heart with you, and to be quite frank, it doesn’t come easy for me. As a matter of fact, it will likely be littered with shame and guilt and confusion and well….all sorts of other forms of mortal captivity.
Now, before I completely run you off, if you give me just a moment more to expound, then you can determine whether or not you want to run.
First, let’s go back a lot of years.
I need to set the scene for you. In the first five chapters of 2 Chronicles, King Solomon, son of David, built a house for God. It was a promise made, by God, during the time of David. The chapters are full of all the intricate specifications for the most beautiful temple ever made. The amount of care and detail that went in to this temple was astonishing to the 153,600 Israelites assigned to help with the building, and especially to someone such as myself, who has no clue what it means to ‘panel a main hall in juniper and cover it with fine gold and decorate it with palm tree and chain designs’ (3:5). This place was unimaginable. A place graciously fit for presence of the Holy One.
Now, flash forward to chapter six.
King Solomon, the Wise, had finished the temple. He built a bronze platform in the outer court, stood in front of the entire assembly of Israel, got on his knees with hands raised to heaven in surrender, and began to pray a prayer of dedication. In his request, he makes six “if/then” statements to the Father (some translations are when/then statements…conditional clauses nonetheless). We are going to focus on the last clause.
“If they sin against you- for there is no one who does not sin- and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you.”
Here’s where it gets a little icky.
The past several years of my life have been nothing short of captivity….entanglement and sin and confusion. Oh, I sinned (‘for there is no one who does not sin’), but you know those sins that you think no one will ever find out about, big or small? The ones that you just kinda brush under the proverbial rug? Guess what. There is no rug. The rug is a lie. The rug is a really big lie. You’re actually just brushing everything into the hidden corners of this container we call HEART. How do I know? Because my container got way too full of junk one day and exploded. Although, months prior to the explosion, my life seemed great to everyone on the outside. My sin and shame was packaged a lot like happy little, Bob Ross trees. I mean, let me just tell you. I was able to leave an incredibly unhealthy job. I then got my dream job. Moved into a beautiful house, in a beautiful city, full of beautiful people. I even got to do some traveling with my new amazing job. No sooner did we hit U.S. soil then BOOM! Just like that…dust, sin, shame… hatred…. confusion….lots of really gross stuff just started spewing everywhere, and I literally had no control. None. That was the worst part. I had no control. My hair started falling out in large patches. My physical and mental health was a mess, and everyone could see it. I tried with everything in me to hide it, but to no avail. Dr. visit after Dr. visit, medicine after medicine, vitamin after vitamin, parasite cleanse after parasite cleanse. Every morning I would wake up, pulling out handfuls of hair. I literally had patches of hair just gone. I had never known such shame, and it was my greatest captor. Shame.
“You’re good, Father. You’re kind, Father. You’re safe, Father.”
For months, every morning, I would look in the mirror before washing (also known as: pulling out) my hair, and I would say those three sentences over and over again, and then after the washing, I would fall to my knees in my bedroom, arms raised, head down, and I’d beg Him for forgiveness and freedom, no matter the outcome. (I even anointed my balding head with oil a few times. Can you do that to yourself? I don’t know the rules, but I totally did.)
You see, I had given my own self over to captivity. I was my own worst enemy. In some ways, I was a victim, in others I was completely responsible. But no matter how you look at it, shame was holding me captive in a grave dug by years and years of “under-the-rug brushing”.
But Solomon said IF. He said ‘IF [we] turn [our] heart in the land to which [we] have been carried captive’ (note the heart posture, here…TURN!) and ‘IF [we] repent and plead with you in the land of [our] captivity’. IF [we] repent with all [our] heart and all [our] soul in the land of [our] captivity to which [we] were carried captive’…..” If…..Solomon said if. “If” is a hypothesis that needs a conclusion. Praise God for then.
Then. Then, what?
‘Then’ is the hero of the story.
Then comes our conclusion. “Then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, [our] prayer and [our] pleas, and maintain [our] cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you.”
BOOM! Just like that….conclusion.
We dig our graves day after day, and yet He hears us, even more, forgives us. What we must do is turn. Turn our containers called heart, and pour them out in surrender. The crazy thing for us is the beautiful, intricate, incomprehensible temple of Solomon’s day now dwells within us. Because of Christ, He dwells in us. Because of Christ, we can repent and be heard in the land of our captivity. We can repent with all our heart and all our soul, and He maintains our cause and forgives.
Guys, I’m not trying to give you fluffy language here, or some kind of fruity hope that ends up failing and leaving you with wide open wounds.
What I’m telling you is that the thing that you are captive to…the place that is holding you down…the obsession that you are sweeping under the rug…the moment that you think NO one could ever find out about….that “shame” is no match for King Jesus…what I’m telling you is that Solomon knew a good God. He knew a God who keeps His promises. He knew that if we but turn, dear friends, If we just turn and surrender THEN forgiveness and healing comes. It may take hair loss and a bit of chaos for you to remember who is really in control, but of this I’m certain…He is Emmanuel.
I’m still walking through my wilderness, but I know who is with me.
I’ll end with this.
Not long ago, a musician named Molly Kate Skaggs re-wrote a bit of the old song, “Ain’t No Grave” by Claude Ely. I encourage you to look it up and give it a listen. There is a part in the song where she sings, “If You walked out of the grave, [then] I’m walking too.” Honestly, I don’t know that it could be said any better.
Let’s follow Him. Let’s get up out of our graves and follow Jesus.