"When You Pass Through the Waters . . . " the Cedar Rapids Flood—a Lesson in Repentance
In Aug of 2008, our church was invited to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to take part in a mission to help with the cleanup of their city after a devastating flood in June of that year, to which Kris, our church secretary, and myself responded.
I wish I could say that I had such noble motives for going, such as sincere sympathy for those I was going to be helping, but I must be honest and say that I went in an attempt to distract myself from the misery I was in at the time. I reasoned that if I was going to be miserable, I might as well be useful rather than sit around and feel sorry for myself.
I believe I was in the middle of a course correction from the Lord. That lasted a little over a year and a half. In that year and a half, I had experienced such profound anxiety that I lost much sleep, weight, and sometimes hope.
"I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, And speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor (trouble) as a door of hope"
— Hosea 2
This event all started at the end of 2007, when the Lord confronted me on some specific areas of disobedience relating to my engaging in things that 20 years prior led to sins that tore my family apart. I had reasoned that I was older and wiser now and, well, most Christians I know do these things. I was pretty sure that God didn't mind before the confrontation.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet . . .
— Isaiah 1:18
I was walking down the gravel road near my home, and I heard the Lord say in my heart, "You're a hypocrite" It wasn't a condemning voice but a very matter of fact one. I thought for a moment and then replied, "Your right Lord, but I feel so far away I don't know how, nor do I have the desire to change, and the only thing I can think of is if maybe you could put your fear in my heart."
. . . by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil
— Proverbs 16:6
About a month or so after this conversation, free-floating anxiety began creeping in. It was like a slow-moving tidal wave that became an overwhelming tsunami of fear that would have me drowning in daily terror by mid-winter of the following year. I would get maybe one hour of sleep a night and was unable to eat much at all.
I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim.
— Psalm 6
As I sought the Lord, it became clear that this was the fear that I had asked for. I had no desire to do anything but seek Him. I gave up everything I felt that might be displeasing to Him and sought His comfort every moment of every second of every day.
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.”
— Proverbs 14:27
He Never Leaves Nor Forsakes
He always reminded me of His presence in the process, but He would not let me up easy.
I went up for prayer during a prayer service at our church, and about halfway through the service, our pastor's wife, who didn't know very much at all about what I was going through, prayed for me and shared, "I feel like the Lord is saying that you are not done yet." I groaned with disappointment because I didn't know how much more I could take. As I lamented in prayer, I felt like the Lord impressed upon me that if He let me up too soon, I would go back to the way things were and that to be refined, I would do well to submit to His refining fire.
He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap.
— Malachi 3:2
I was quickly and profoundly learning a valuable lesson of God's jealous love. When we live in habitual or deliberate sin, it is idolatrous and faithless toward our God. He is worthy of so much more than that.
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
— Exodus 20
Lessons From the Flood
On one of the first days of service in Cedar Rapids, we entered a neighborhood that looked as if the end of the world had happened. Block after block of the city was virtually uninhabited. Ten Square miles of the town were affected by the flood, which amounted to 7,198 properties that were underwater to some degree. It was eerily like a ghost town.
We began our work by gutting a house down to its two by fours. A team had been there before us, and we were picking up where they had left off. I was hoping all the physical work would burn up my anxiety, but it continued to wash over me with ever-swelling waves. At one point, I ran outside and hid behind a large tree so I could cry unnoticed. Hiding was easy as there was no traffic and no one in the neighborhood, except our team working on the house. As I cried out to the Lord to deliver me from this awfulness, I turned my head and saw a message painted on the house next door.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you . . .
— Isaiah 43:2
Just one word from God can calm the storm for me, and I was learning in this process to be utterly dependent upon His comfort alone, which was most often via His Word.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling . . .Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,“Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
— Mark 4:37-39
The anxiety had not wholly left, but I was able to pull it together enough to get back to work.
I stood back and looked at the shell of the house we had just completed. There was nothing left but two by fours. I felt like the Lord was giving me a visual of what He was doing in my heart by stripping me right down to the skeletal structure of my being.
The Naked Lady
On another day, while we were dragging stuff out of a house and dumping it on the boulevard for the garbage haulers to take away (another metaphor for what He was doing in my life), I looked down. And Beneath this tree, I saw a strange-looking flower that seemed to have no greenery or leaves. I asked if anyone knew what it was. One of the guys on the team replied, "it is a Naked Lady" I thought he was joking, and so I replied, "Sorry I asked," but later discovered that this was, in fact, the name of the flower.
I decided to look up this "Naked Lady" flower when I got home and discovered it is otherwise known as the Resurrection Lily. I found that this particular flower has a strange lifecycle. It produces greens with no flowers in the fall. Then the greens die off by spring. It appears that the plant is dead, but after a dry summer dormancy, it spouts up these fascinating flowers. The flower spoke to me that this time of correction was about being stripped and made naked, and it would appear for a time that everything was dry and dead, but when the time was right, He would cause me to be resurrected.
I will return and take away My grain in its time And My new wine in its season, And will take back My wool and My linen, Given to cover her nakedness.
— Hosea 2:9
I sincerely felt exposed as if everyone knew my sin and shame, yet I understood that it was all for good.
When I recounted this story to a friend recently who was going through a similar process, she asked, "Would God really put us through that?" As if God would never give us that kind of discomfort to which I explained that on the other side of all of the pain, I learned to love and respect Him more than I ever have before.
"My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”. . . Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
— Hebrews 12:5,6,11
I learned in that process that the terms of His covenant are reciprocal. And it was during that year and a half's time that I learned about His covenant name YHWH in connection with this.
At a women's conference, the pastor's wife called me out again and said, "the Lord wants me to tell you that He is "Yahweh" and explained that she wasn't sure what that meant.
I knew a little bit about the name but made a point to further prayerfully investigate. I learned that YHWH is the covenant name used in Scripture when God deals with those with whom He has a relationship. This revelation was comforting in that God affirmed that He was still in a relationship with me, but I also knew that there was something more.
The "something more" was that God wanted something from me in the way of loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment. God sacrificed His one and only Son to restore the covenant that once was between God and man (me included). The piece I was missing was my responsibility to that relationship, which was reciprocation. God displayed His love for me in such an incredible sacrificial way, and I was living as if my sin was not a big deal to Him. I was not reciprocating my love and loyalty to Him the way He had to me by behaving the way I was.
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
— Hebrews 10:29
I had a dream one night about this. I dreamed that I was going to a church function of some kind, and I had made a salad, but I had left it in the hot trunk of my car where it had sat for many hours. It occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't serve it but then reasoned that it would probably be alright, and perhaps no one would mind or notice. As I entered the church, I noticed a bar off to the right, which seemed strange, and I tried to pretend I didn't notice it. I then placed my salad on the table, and the atmosphere became dark.
I asked the Lord what this meant. He said, "The bar in the church is you trying to live with your foot in both worlds. You're pretending not to notice that you have been doing in this matter that you know is wrong. The salad is your service and gifts to me that are spoiled and tainted, and yet you serve them anyway, thinking no one will care or notice. Well, I care, and I notice." He then proceeded to tell me that when I walked into the place of service, I was standing on was and is Holy Ground, and I would do well to take off my shoes. (Put off my sin) He told me that I was never again to bring myself with the filth of my worldliness into that place.
I must tell you that I trembled for a time whenever I served. I learned the necessary humility and respect in this. Oddly enough now, it has caused me to serve with much more boldness than I had before.
"Chastening is a part of the peculiar heritage of all sons and daughters of God. The great Husbandman does not prune the brambles outside His garden-wall, but He does the fruit trees within. Better far to be His wounded trees than the unwounded thorns of the wilderness"
— G.H. Knight "In the Secret of His Presence"
". . . many of the trials which He sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself. Let this jealousy which would keep us near to Christ be also a comfort to us"
— Charles Spurgeon "Morning and Evening" devotional September 12
God's Judgment Is Good
Toward the end of this season of correction, one morning, I was sitting on my bedroom floor looking out my window towards the west. I saw a double rainbow, and His faithful promise came to mind.
"With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the Lord, your Redeemer"
“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you
— Isaiah 54:8,9
"The rainbow, the symbol of the covenant with Noah, is typical of our Lord Jesus . . . When the sinner's conscience is dark with clouds, when he remembers his past sin, and mourns and laments before God, Jesus Christ is revealed to him as the covenant Rainbow, displaying all the glorious hues of the divine character and betokening peace . . . God's rainbow is hung over the cloud of our sins, our sorrows, and our woes, to prophesy deliverance . . . punishment must fall in terrible drops upon the Surety. Until there is a real anguish in the sinner's conscience, there is no Christ for him; until the chastisement which he feels becomes grievous, he cannot see Jesus. But there must also be a sun; for clouds and drops of rain make not rainbows unless the sun shines. Beloved, our God, who is as the sun to us, always shines, but we do not always see him--clouds hide his face; but no matter what drops may be falling, or what clouds may be threatening, if he does but shine there will be a rainbow at once. It is said that when we see the rainbow the shower is over. Certain it is, that when Christ comes, our troubles remove; when we behold Jesus, our sins vanish, and our doubts and fears subside. When Jesus walks the waters of the sea, how profound the calm!"
— Charles Spurgeon "Morning and Evening" devotional
It was the closing argument in the flood of judgment that had just gone over me.
I conclude with the reiteration that I have learned to love Him more deeply than ever, and I am forever grateful for His love, His discipline, and for putting His fear in my heart.
. . . I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.
— Jeremiah 34:20
I have learned that God's Judgement is His mercy calling us back home to where we belong.
God is good all the time!
GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS!
Oh How He Loves Us ~ Kim Walker
© 2013 Tamarajo