In order to help me to focus I often write down my conversations with God in letter form. My prayer is in black ink and God’s response to me is in color. The vast majority of these prayers are recorded in leather-bound journals and are always dated.
A couple days ago I was rummaging through my closet and a folded piece of yellow-lined paper caught my eye. I pulled it out from under the book that was concealing it and this is what was inside:
My Beautiful One,
How I have longed for you these past months. Do not fear to be near me, even when you feel that I may disagree with your feelings. It is ok to feel, My Love. I release you to be sad, angry, disappointed if you feel it, but more than anything I want you to be happy and joyful.
I love you. I. Love. You.
I am gentle and not condescending. Next time release upon me the fury of your emotions. I can handle it. It’s better to be passionately upset with me than to let yourself cave in and die inside.
Erica, I am not disappointed in you. In fact, I am so proud of you for your steadfastness and your commitment. You remained true even when you did not want to. You have passed this test.
I want to strengthen you so that when I send you out, you will be a weapon with which I will use to break the strongest chains. You entered the fire so when you step into your destiny you will be ready to face the fire.
I love you with an everlasting love.
(And begin writing your book. You are now ready for it.)
There was no date, but the yellow-lined paper tells me this was when I worked for Grace Center back around 2012-13. At the time that I recorded this conversation, I was struggling to climb out of the low point in my marriage. I’m sure I was encouraged at the time, but clearly, this message was for me now. The fact that I didn’t date it reinforces that fact. I always date my prayers because I like to be able to have specific dates to point back at when I see God’s promises to me come to pass.
I have been afraid to come near to God. There is something I desire and strong feelings that go with it that I have been afraid He won’t approve of. One of the effects of the emotional trauma I endured this year is a deep fear that anything that makes me happy will be taken from me. I know that fear is a lie, but it’s so hard to shake. But in finding this letter, I was able to respond to God’s gentle invitation to trust Him with my emotions, even the one I fear is forbidden.
One line that sticks out to me is “you remained true even when you did not want to.” I cannot tell you how often this year I wanted to just give up on my faith and just live however I felt like living. I did not want to remain true because I didn’t feel like God had been true to me. This year my faith had to be based on something other than emotions. I felt betrayed, hurt, angered, or numb, but I haven’t really had many positive emotional experiences faith-wise. I’ve had to rely on the memories of my past experiences of the goodness of God to get me through. I had to lean on what I knew to be true as opposed to what I felt to be true.
I don’t know where God is taking me. At least I know the next step: Nashville and ministry school. I’m believing that God is going to turn the pain I have endured into something beautiful. I have always had a heart for the hurting. I remember once having a conversation with Jon about how I felt called to reach the hardest and most broken people, but I felt inadequate. How was I supposed to relate to them? Well, that won’t be an issue any longer. I’m going to hold on to the promise here, that through this process, God is making me into a weapon that will break the chains off of people and release them to freedom.
I think it’s funny that the letter ended with instructions that I am ready to start writing my book. I had started to write the story of what happened but stopped because it was too painful. I was still in the thickest of the darkness. So I decided to put it aside until I felt like I was ready. Apparently, God is saying that I’m ready. So I’m going to get back into outlining and writing my story of brokenness and beauty.
Each day since uncovering this letter I have been able to connect to God, hear from Him, and receive His peace. I’m so glad that I learned how to hear His voice for myself. Incidentally, I learned that in the first year of ministry school. I don’t think I would have made it through this year with my faith intact had I not taken the time to develop that skill. I will continue to listen for His still small voice as I move onward toward my healing and the future He is calling towards.
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I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
for He speaks peace to his faithful people.