Reflections on Abide
As our Harvest family has been growing in and learning to "Abide" with the Lord while studying John 15, one small group member, Jen Ferryman, shares her reflections on how the Lord is using this study in her life.
My Abide book is open to Day 3 from the week I’m studying and I begin to read.
“Pray and thank the Lord for the various trials that he has allowed you to experience and endure.”
How can I?
Emotional and verbal abuse.
Years of wondering what I had done wrong.
The absence of an integral figure in a little girl’s life.
I have spent my life trying to move beyond this pain. I was abandoned as a child and then forced to set strong boundaries with my father as an adult. This resulted in abandonment as an adult, too. Addiction, mental illness and sheer self-centeredness have denied me what every child craves: a loving, engaged, “with” parent.
Because I didn’t have a father, I have battled with self-worth and identity. Even today I wonder how life would be different if I had a daddy I could turn to for comfort. A grandfather for my children who could tell them stories about me as a child. A man who could tell me the history of my relatives. Someone who reflects my mannerisms, physical features and sense of humor.
I pray for him constantly. I beg the Lord will shatter his heart and give him the courage to abandon pride. My prayers these last few years have gravitated to begging God to do whatever it takes to get his attention. At nearly seventy years old, I begin to wonder what it will take to wake him up after all this time.
Last year, our small group went to see the movie “I Can Only Imagine.” Going in, I anticipated that it would be an emotional film. I even wondered at what level I might relate to it, given the abuse that would be portrayed.
I was not prepared for the wracking sobs that escaped me by the end.
I sat in the public theater having an intensely raw, grief-induced episode complete with ugly crying. As a counselor, usually I am the one comforting others, yet there in that moment, I so desperately needed comfort and support. I clearly have so much healing yet to experience. Thirty nine years of age, I still mourn the fact that I don’t have a daddy.
This semester we’ve had the blessing and privilege to go deeper in our understanding of abiding with Christ. My initial hope was that I would grow in an insatiable thirst for His Word. We all go through periods of waxing and waning in our pursuit of biblical study. With the busyness of homeschooling three children, building an active counseling practice and discipling those struggling around me, I have entered the “waning” phase. The unfortunate reality is that I passionately pour into others and fail to take necessary time to fill up. I hit the ground running and then suddenly realize that the Lord is the last to receive my devotion and yet the most deserving. Because of the nature of my life, I must have a consistent dialogue with the Lord.
“God give me words in this situation. How can I possibly help the profound hurt here?”
“Lord, how can I counsel others when I often feel chaos in my own mind?”
“I failed again, Lord. Help me put time with you first.”
“My children are growing too fast, Jesus! How do I make the most of the time I have with them?”
Among these desperate prayers lies underlying hurt from my childhood swirling through my mind.
“You aren’t worth it.”
“Everyone will eventually abandon you.”
“No one can be trusted.”
Count It All Joy
I made it to Week 2, Day 3 when a remarkable moment took place.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trial of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. Psalms 119:71
This was the day that I could truly give thanks for the trials.
You see, I always recognized that God had a plan for my life. I always gave the Lord credit for getting me to this place. His hand was so obviously carrying me, nurturing me when my earthly father neglected his child. My God said, “You will always be mine. I will never leave nor forsake you. I am the Good Shepherd.” And I frequently thanked the Lord for this.
But, I never thanked Him for the trial, itself.
To the world, this is madness.
Being thankful for hurt and pain?
Learning to regard mistreatment as a blessing?
But for the first time, I can look and see how the Lord allowed the heartache. Without it I wouldn’t have a unique perception and dependence upon Him as the only Father who loves me and cherishes me. My scars don’t make me who I am. But the One who heals me and binds up my wounds allows me to claim Him, just as He claims me.
I am thankful for the trial.
This is unobtainable without abiding in Christ.
Abide book: “How has going through these trials equipped you to help others?”
- The Lord broke me free from the dysfunctional patterns deeply woven into my family. I am not perfect, but God gave me the awareness and tools to change. I am not doomed to repeat the same abusive, tragic behavior.
- I can look people eye to eye and see their pain. I see their own abandonment, fear and confusion. I recognize my own pain in their eyes.There is a two-fold, mutual blessing when this occurs: For them, they know they aren’t alone. I pray they see the light of Christ, giving them hope amidst the darkness of their situation. Secondly, I am the privileged recipient in the redemption of my own broken heart.
- He gives purpose to pain. It is never meaningless. Isaiah 61 says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor; and the day of vengeance of our God; comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion;to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.”
Unmatched beauty to replace the soul-staining ashes.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have this mastered. The Lord continues to dredge up places in my heart where I have allowed bitterness to fester and grow. Our own resentment likes to curl up and bed down for the long winter. In the end, unchecked, it will kill us slowly and taint any relationships we have.
My small group continues to help me in this process. I have experienced healing in a fresh way by living in the small group community. I am free to share my hurt, but encouraged to grasp onto the Lord and his Word with determination. I can’t just wallow in the mire. I am challenged to use it for His glory.
Some wounds bear ugly scars. Pain that has ravaged our souls is bound to leave a mark. Rather, He invites us into his loving arms. He doesn’t provide plastic, faux veneer to our hurts. He balms it and assures us that there is purpose and hope.
He is the Good Father. Abide with Him.