“You are bad. Really bad. You deserve punishment.”
I made that agreement with the Enemy early in my childhood, very early, I would guess as a toddler, maybe younger. Ashes.
The agreements, that is, the lies the Enemy tells us that we receive as truth have a tremendous impact on our lives. I’d suggest more of an impact than most of really understand. Lies are like seeds planted in our minds. The seed is either dug up immediately in which case it can’t propagate or produce fruit.Or, it’s watered and fed – strengthened so the roots go deeper and deeper. Over time, if not plucked by the root, the lie actually becomes our truth. We believe the lie so deeply that we can’t imagine our lives without it. It becomes part of who we are. Not part of who we were meant to become, not God’s vision of us, but a lie so deeply rooted that it’s disguised as truth.
So was the case with the overwhelming lie I believed early in my life. I believed very deeply that I was inherently bad. I was flawed, unacceptable, uninteresting, repulsive, deserving of pain and punishment. Even as I write this, tears flow down my face at the thought of it. What kind of evil tells a little girl such things? The kind of evil that desires with every cell of its being to kill me, destroy – obliterate – my life, my joy, my chance of knowing or loving the God who created me.
Believing these lies led to a long, ever-deepening string of self-inflicted harmful behaviors. At the core, I really believed I needed to be punished for how I was made, and the most effective way I found to satisfy that belief in my mind was to physically and emotionally harm myself. Even after I received Christ, I found that I still struggled to get free of the need to punish myself. I knew God loved me. I knew I was Heaven bound. In theory I knew He forgave me. Deep down though, in hidden places there was the unresolved lie that what Jesus did on the cross what not enough to cover the multitude of sin in my life. I had to pay –myself. His sacrifice just couldn’t be enough, not for me. And, so it continued. Years and years of severe self-harm including incredibly harmful eating disorders.
That’s how the Enemy rolls isn’t it? He tells us such sinister lies. Lies intended to separate us from God. Lies that cause us to doubt the power of the Cross. His entire mission is to cause us to doubt God’s love and true forgiveness. He uses every strategy to trick us into believing that we must carry our own sin beyond the cross. Nothing – nothing – is below the belt. It’s war against a dirty opponent, he does NOT fight fair.
Of course, we are not here today giving praise for a pile of ashes are we? No way! We are giving praise and glory to a God who heals wounds AND scars. The God who can take so much hurt, so much regret, so much darkness and out of it create beauty. Out of ashes He forms purpose; he brings forth power and strength and life! What the Enemy intended for harm, God uses to save, encourage, and free His children! All those years of self-harm and lies are now the beautiful testimony to God’s truth and faithfulness, and they operate to help set other captives free!
I’ll never forget the day life began to spring forth from ashes. I read Ephesians 1:4 that says, “[In His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight." Holy. That word caught my attention. The Lord really caused me to pause and consider that word. For days it swirled around in the back of my head. I read the definition and wrote it in my bible – “holy: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.”
This was a life-changing verse for me. When the Lord gave me this verse for the first time I sobbed. He caused me to dig deeper and in His mercy gave me a revelation that left me floored and freed from that day forward. I realized that day that I never believed I was “good” enough – not for the people in my life, not at things I worked at, not physically, not spiritually, and certainly not good enough for God. Not only not good, I so deeply believed the opposite, I believed that I was “bad”. This verse was the launching point for living in God’s love in a way that I’d never even dreamed possible. I pray wholeheartedly it will be for you too.
Friends, it turns out I was actually right. I wasn’t and still am not good. I’m not good and you are not good either. We were never meant to be good. I am, and you are, holy! Holy! That’s very different from good! The realization that I can never be good enough for God’s love changed everything. Only, because of what Jesus did for me, am I made holy and worthy of his adoration and devotion. Why? Because when he sees me he sees Jesus, perfect Jesus. He sees the cross that bore ALL of my sin! He sees nothing but flawless perfection. I am perfectly holy and righteous in HIS sight because all He sees is Jesus
God never, never, never, EVER, expected me or you to be good! Our suspicions that we aren’t good enough, they’re actually true, but not in the context that we tend to think of them. We consider our goodness or lack of goodness as a measure of our worth and value. The fact is, that in His infinite wisdom, God knew that we could never be “good” enough to earn His love or eternal life.
In Mark 10:18, “Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially] good [by nature] except God alone.” In Romans 7:18 it says, “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.” Just to be sure we get this, Luke 18:19 tells us that, “Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially and morally] good except God alone.”
Does that rock your world?! It rocked mine! Even Jesus, the son of God, as perfect as they come, truly flawless said He wasn’t good! He tells us that no one is good, nobody, that God ALONE is good! No wonder I was missing the bar over and over and over again! No wonder I was in a constant state of disappointment over my failure! No wonder I felt a constant need to punish myself for not being good enough! It. Is. Impossible. To. Be. Good. Do you understand that!? Take a moment to really let it penetrate because it’s pivotal!
That moment, the veil was lifted. I’d been led into truth. Light exposed darkness and lies were revealed. From that point on, the Lord just continued to strip off lies and replace them with the truth of who I really am. He began to transform my mind to truly believe and receive the truth of, and depth of, His forgiveness. God helped me begin to show myself kindness instead of harm. During that process, there was a dramatic change in my approach to food and exercise. I’d been set free. I no longer used food or exercise as a form of punishment.
Shortly after that huge victory, the Lord spoke another milestone verse to me. It really became my “life verse” and has helped keep my feet on the right path over and over again. The Lord spoke Roman 12:2 to me, “2 And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be [a]transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”
It was this verse that birthed real, total freedom from the bondage of food I’d been held in. I began to understand that I could truly walk in freedom from diets, plans, restrictions and obsession with food and my weight.
In God’s stunning, amazing, awe inspiring fashion, I was divinely introduced to Katie at the very same time. He furthered His healing work in me. In ways I never dreamed, He began connecting our hearts and purpose together. And, in doing so, He fulfilled a promise He’d given me. During the deepest, darkest point in my eating disorder, at a time when I was nearly overcome by it, He spoke a promise to me. It was such a strong word from Him that I couldn’t deny I’d heard correctly, though I struggled to believe it. Despite my doubt, I knew I needed to journal it.
In the midst of my despair, He told me that I would be a spokesperson to the hurting. He gave me Isaiah 61:1 that says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me To bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, To proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives And freedom to prisoners…”
Friends, you reading this today is the fulfillment of that promise. It is God’s faithfulness in action. In a time when I could see no light, no hope, no way out, God planted a seed among ashes. If you are there today, feeling discouraged, desperate and hopeless, I am here to speak to you with the Spirit of God upon me. I am here for YOU to tell you this good news! I am here to encourage you that God can and will heal your wounds. He will reach the deepest parts of you that need care and healing. He will set you free! If you ask, He hears you! Sometimes He doesn’t answer in the time-frame we desire, or in the ways we expect, but He does answer!
If the Lord can take someone like me, someone who was seemingly beyond repair and restore me to the point of speaking publicly into the hearts of women like you today, He can restore anyone! Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t lie down. Stand up! Stand up today, and reach your hands to the God who loves you and desires abundant, free life for you. Cry out to Him and ask Him to begin speaking His word and promises into your life! And, then you claim them. With everything in you, you claim them as yours. You write them down, you speak them, you walk in them. Even on days when they don’t feel true, you cling to them as your lifeline.
I thank God that you are here at Dashing Dish at this moment. It’s not an accident. God intended for you to read this at this very moment to encourage you. You are in the right place. There is hope for you here. There is God-inspired truth for you here. There is knowledge and instruction for you here. I thank God for every single woman who reads this and I praise God ahead of time for the good work He’s begun in you. In Jesus name, I declare that it will continue to completion, deepen, and yield gorgeous fruit for God’s glory. Sister, in Jesus name, I declare that even in this moment ashes are being exchanged for beauty. May you begin to blossom today!