the woman in the red dress.

I feel as though I have given up on a life of happiness, or better yet, a life of consistent joy. I have moments of joy and excitement, but a constant of that….has been far too long.  I was trying to think this week of the last time that I genuinely felt excited about life and truly happy, even with the struggles. And that memory of that last time, goes back farther than I would like it to.

But why does it go back so far, because it really shouldn’t? I have a life that I truly don’t have anything to complain about (but yet I find myself doing…, a job I love, people I know who love me and I do love back, a God who has always been faithful even when I have not been, a great living arrangement… So why does my memory have to go back so far to a better time? And why do I keep looking back, and not just living in the now and finding and choosing joy in the now?

Maybe I’m stuck in my sin, or the sins of others. Maybe I’m too content. Maybe I’m not being obedient. Maybe my eyesight has gone bad. Maybe I’m still just not letting go of the disappointment I’ve felt. Maybe the root of that happiness was in circumstances and people, where now maybe I’m being taught for it to be rooted only in God.

I had this vision earlier this year, in the midst of extreme bitterness and anger and fighting with God. I was at one of our church’s evening worship services. I don’t even remember what songs were being sung, but all of a sudden the only thing I saw was a woman wearing a tank top style long red dress on the stage in complete freedom worshiping her Savior, Father, Healer, Redeemer, Friend, Lover with everything she had. She was dancing, and full of God’s light and freedom, and story and grace and love with the biggest smile. She was oblivious to everything else but Him. She was like a dream, but real.

I fought the tears. Because as soon as I saw her, it became very clear to me… 

the woman in the red dress, was me. 

This was the beginning of the softening of my heart after feeling so cold. I will never forget that evening, or this woman because I have never ever seen myself like that. When I was in Northern Ireland, for a training day, they had us do this meditation exercise where we had to picture ourselves at our 80th or 90th (i can’t remember) birthday party. We had to envision who would all be there, our legacy, and what we were like. For some reason, what I saw there, almost 10 years ago, is how I have viewed myself for the past 10 years. What I saw, was a woman with a big legacy for the Kingdom of God, but she was extremely weary. Full of wrinkles, and weary, wet eyes that were full of sorrow and suffering, but with much love. Why that is what I saw, I am not sure, but it has obviously  stuck with me. So when I saw this woman in the red dress, I was envious of her. When I realized that she is me, I couldn’t believe it, but it was so clear that I had to believe it. So I have this new image of a woman in my eyes, that I want to be, that I need to strive for, and fight for, because my enemy knows me well, and I’ve never been a fighter.

But I’ve been hearing whispers that it’s time to change. The time is coming and here, to fight for this woman of God, who though she has walked through the valley of the shadow of death, you don’t see it in her, all you see is freedom and grace and light and worship to the One who has brought her freedom out of bondage and joy. I want that. But I can’t do it alone. I need reminded. And as much as I love to be alone, I need people to fight with me and for me. And I also need to fight with them and for them too.
I’m not as innocent as I was back at my last memory. I have more life experience. I have more hurt. But I do know myself better. I am more comfortable in my skin. I understand how sinful I am, and I understand the make up of my heart more. I am grateful, because those times at my last memory of genuine happiness, helped shape who I am today foundationally. And all the in-between has only made me stronger and shown me more of my need for God.

“So let it go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name…”

So maybe I haven’t given up. Maybe I’m slightly dramatic and pessimist. But really, maybe I just need to let it all go. Like Naomi, in the book of Ruth, I need to let go of my preconceived notions, of my disappointments, of my disobedience, and trust Christ to provide and redeem and turn my bitterness and mourning into joy and celebration.
We hold onto things, because it gives us an edge. But God gives us an even greater edge, an edge that has the Creator of the world and the Power that raised Christ from the dead on our side, fighting for us and with us. And just because I may not always feel happy, it doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t have a life of joy.

“…though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7


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