What does it mean to lay it down? We hear that so often and we tell people that they can lay their cares at the cross, lay down their burdens and walk away and let Christ help and heal and deliver them. What does this really mean, though?
I immediately thought, “All right, God, I’ll look online and see what I can find.” He immediately showed me Peter. Who but Peter can fully understand what it means to completely and totally betray Christ and have Him reach out to him, love him, and hug him? While we all consider the story of the Prodigal son to be about us, and rightly so, maybe, just maybe, Jesus told that story for Peter. Maybe He was speaking directly to Peter, understanding that eventually we would see it to represent all of us who betray and abandon God only to be joyously welcomed back.
These are all fresh revelations and considerations to me as I type this. So, why am I here?
NOTE: I usually jump from first person to all inclusive in my blogs, so you can feel like you’re a part of it and apply it to yourself. This blog has a completely different feeling to it. Every time from the paragraph below and on, I tried to universalize the revelations, Holy Spirit made it uncomfortable and I had to go back and personalize it. Truly, even when I tried to deter from the above revelation and discuss the internet revelations of “laying it down”, it felt forced and stifled and I couldn’t move beyond the first sentence I typed. There is something here, some content, that God is bringing to light in me. If it helps and blesses you, please let me know. I find that these kinds of blogs are the most relevant. So, beware that there will be rambling. This is a journey blog. Thank you for walking with me.
First, let’s start with the feelings of being alone, the feelings of being overwhelmed and worthless, because I think we all face that at some point in our lives, don’t we? Well, I face it often, mainly because I am one of those always busy kind of people and I don’t really do the creative things I once did. In fact, outwardly I would be analyzed as dangerously depressed, as one of the signs is loss of interest in things and another is social isolation. Believe me when I say that I have both. Of course, there is a great deal more involved and I am not the least bit in danger of drastic measures because even on my worst day, I am grateful for the life God has given me. The darkness in my life is my own doing. God only brings light, you see, so the issues that I face are caused by my own hands.
That isn’t even the point of this. I digress, as usual. So, I was sitting here thinking about my upcoming graduation from ENMU with an unexpected Associate of Arts degree and I realized that my excitement has progressively waned and I don’t even want to walk in the ceremony on Saturday anymore and I was thinking about the distance and the things that prevent things from happening that I’d desire to have happen, and I was just feeling off and downcast. Not depressed, mind you, but just not wanting to don the cap and gown and see that my weight has increased horribly since a year ago and that I’m just a face in a sea of faces and who even really cares, truly, and this is all in the midst of constant support and encouragement. So, yeah, I get it when I feel like I just don’t care and no one else does, even when everything in life tells me differently. Sometimes, liars try to tell me that I don’t matter. That’s for later, though, a blog for another time.
As I finished up listening to the Glenn Beck show, I decided that I wanted to see what was going on with The Blaze on iHeart radio. I had it set on KLove, and Jud Wilhite was speaking about feeling alone and being called by God and believing that He is with me in the midst of it. Deuteronomy 3:8, “The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” HCSB
It pierced my soul like a sword. I looked up Jud Wilhite on my cell phone and listed to his most recent sermon. Then, for lack of interest in investing while working, I turned iHeart back on to give me some music and inspiration and the song “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crows was on and I shut my eyes (I was and currently am on my morning break) and I said, “Okay, God, what are you trying to tell me?”
You see, the song was at the part that said, “Oh, my soul, you are not alone, there’s a place where fear has to face the God you know. One more day, He will make a way, let Him show you how you can lay this down, ‘cause you are not alone.”
Now do you see it? How in the world do I lay it down? How do I walk away from the travesty of my own destructive choices and actions? I am in dire straits currently, you see, and it seems like it’s getting worse. The sermon I listened to by Jud Wilhite was about the armor of God and standing firm and knowing that testing isn’t about my favor with God. He spoke about how Jesus had just been identified by God as His Son and in whom He was well pleased. And from that moment, God’s Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days.
Into the forge…but who likes to be molded and shaped and forged? The metal isn’t alive. It doesn’t protest. I do, however. The pruning of my dead and dying branches makes me cry out in protest, unless I’m willing to be pruned.
I’m hungry. It’s been growing and I feel so dissatisfied with the level of commitment and dedication and attention I’ve been putting into the relationship with Jesus. I’ve been to the wedding feasts and felt His banner of love waving over me and I’ve been in the battle when the fight for the moment is done and He changed my armor into bridal raiment and led me into the courts to dance with Him. I’ve been in the weary places where all I could do was lay my head upon His knee and be with Him. I’ve sat beside the fountain and have had intimate conversations with Him, gentle and strong and sure. The intimacy I’ve shared with Him is still in my mind and it is still a longing of my soul. It’s crying out to Him, pleading with Him to open the gates and let Him in, but my flesh and my fear are keeping it locked.
This isn’t about what was, but rather about what is. I am in a place where I have been more encouraged in my godly life and call than ever before, and yet I am more discontented than ever. The things that lay before me are not the things I ordered, you see, but that matters little at all, because the purpose of the journey, of what God intends to do and where He is taking me is beyond my capacity to understand. Another song by Casting Crowns sings of God asking me to let Him dream for me. His dreams and plans and goals are beyond my own.
Laying it down…how do I do that? How do I lay down the feeling that I’ve failed so miserably and am now under water, not even treading water anymore, and how can I even ask Him to help me? How can I even ask God to come and save me from this mess? I deserve these consequences, you see, and they aren’t eternal, but they are long-term here in the temporal. The feeling of being trapped and burdened is overwhelming me. I can see the future that He has for me, at least a part of it, but I have self-sabotaged so much that I am now under the water I once treaded in.
In a couple of acts, there are no regrets. They were necessary. It was the piling on of these necessary onto the willful and greedy acts of my life. I need to lay things down, put on the bridal gown, and dance with my Beloved. There is a cry for worshipers to arise, a cry for the passionate to lead the way into the courts with thanksgiving and praise. But, how do I lay down the heavy burdens I carry, knowing that they are still things that I must face tomorrow?
Looking at the definition of “prostrate”, which came up when I searched the biblical definition of “lay it down”, I see to lay lowly and be humble, to spread one’s body over the ground, lay flat on the ground, to “sink totally; to deprive of strength; to reduce”, and “to overthrow; to demolish; to destroy; to deprive of efficiency; to ruin”.
Wow. When I consider that many times, my only option before Jesus is to lay down and weep, just pour it all out to Him fully prostrate on the ground, no shame, not loss, just crying out to Him with no reservations, it makes sense that to lay down my burdens and my sins and my regrets and my failures and my sins at His feet would be to fall face down before Him and just let Him take them from me.
The burdens and the sins and the regrets lose their strength there, they are deprived of their power, and they are overthrown and destroyed…if I leave them there. How do I leave them there?
Peter. I identify with him so much it’s almost frightening. I mean, I’d rather be John, the disciple Jesus loved. Now, Jesus loved them all, of course, but John just got it, you know what I mean? He saw that He was nothing without Christ and that he was genuinely and completely loved by Christ and that became his identity. Wow. To be identified within myself by the wondrous truth of the love Christ has for me would be a life altering experience. I mean, I once lived it, you see? Long ago…so very long ago…when He could call to me in the grocery store and tell me to come to be with Him and I would go.
Leaving it at His feet is a separate task, you see? I can lay it down rather simply. I just can’t walk away from it. Peter ran the gambit of faith and failure and gives me an abundance of hope. He spoke Holy Spirit inspired truth and flesh-inspired folly. He was rebuked by Christ for his untamed tongue. He was full of bravado and most of the time he fully lived it out. He walked on water! I mean, really, this wasn’t a placid lake. This was a storm tossed sea! And he asked Christ to let him come out of the boat and walk on water to reach Him and Christ said yes! The fact that Peter sank is neither here nor there. He got out of the boat! What more can I expect from the man?
Peter cut off the ear of a man trying to arrest Jesus. Jesus healed it. Peter swore previously that he would stand with Christ until death if need be and then fell asleep in the garden, couldn’t even take time to pray. Jesus brings that kind of peace, you see? Even in the midst of His own turmoil, His peace covered His followers to the point that they could find rest while He prepared to lay down His life for them. In reverse moments, when facing a raging sea, they cried out in dismay at Him as He slept in the boat. Where can I rest my eyes? In His presence, for He was with them and they could see Him, there was fear and yet in the garden, when He was off with God and choosing His Father’s will and saving me, they were content and peaceful. Surely the climate, the very air, was full of the electricity of the struggle and of the impending darkness. Yet, they slept and so did I.
In the face of danger, even with Christ by my side, peace is elusive. I am in the very eye of the storm and He is with me and He is telling me that I am not alone and that I must trust Him and I must lay it down and leave it at His feet and trust Him, despite the storm, despite the appearance of danger, despite what my eyes are seeing. Trust Him enough to leave it all behind.
The Prodigal came to his senses in a pig pen. Am I not in my own pig pen? As Peter felt the shame of his betrayal and denial of Christ in the most vital moments of declarations, Jesus was aware of his shame and said, “And tell Peter,” because others would have gladly left that vile betrayer out of it. Understand that even Judas would have been summoned, had he not taken his own life.
I can’t even begin to imagine the feeling Peter had upon seeing Jesus again. The shame he felt upon even hearing that Jesus had, in fact, risen from the dead was overwhelming, I’m sure. “He’s risen, and I’ve failed Him!” Agony and despair and loss and tragedy. Peter didn’t even run very fast. John was able to overtake him in his excitement. Jesus had promised and had delivered!
Jesus is alive!
Later, Jesus appeared to them. It amazes me to no end that Jesus waited for Mary at the tomb. He could have left the angel there, as he did for the others, but no, for Mary, He lingered and He waited and He offered this woman who was rejected by all before she met Him the love that He always held for her. “Mary,” He said, and in that instant she recognized Him, because His love was poured out in the way He said her name and how could she possibly deny that familiar tone of reckless love when she had been so starved for love for so long?
Digression. It’s my gift. As I mentioned, this blog is one of those “journey” blogs that many get weary in and stop reading. And that’s okay.
Peter and John heard of His rising from the dead through an angel and Peter had to be woefully nervous and concerned. Would it be the same? Would it even matter anymore? How he had failed Him! He had let Him down! How could he ever be in His presence again?
I’ve felt that way. And, in the life of Peter, Jesus reassures me of His absolutely boundless love.
Ray Boltz sings a song, “He’s Alive” and it says, “Back inside the house again the guilt and anguish came; everything I’d promised Him just added to my shame. When at last it came to choices, I denied I knew His name; and even if He was alive, it wouldn’t be the same. But suddenly the air was filled with a strange and sweet perfume; light that came from everywhere drove shadows from the room. Jesus stood before me with His arms held open wide; and I fell down on my knees and just clung to Him and cried. He raised me to my feet and as I looked into His eyes, love was shining out from Him like sunlight in the skies. Guilt in my confusion disappeared in sweet release and every fear I’d ever had just melted into peace. He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive and I’m forgiven, Heaven’s gates are open wide!”
Peter, at that moment, laid it down and left it. He left the betrayal and his failure behind forever. Yes, he was aware of it. The action didn’t cease to be. It had happened and billions of people have been made aware of it over and over and over again. However, I have also been made aware of this moment, and the seashore moment, the fact that I can see clearly that Peter did, in fact, lay it down forever. Peter leapt from the boat and swam to shore to have an intimate encounter with Christ.
So, maybe that’s what it means to lay it down and leave it. It isn’t that the acts or even the consequences will go away quickly or at all, but rather that I can still leap from the boat and swim to the shore and be with Christ as His beloved, as His friend, and not feel distance or as though I need to earn the right to worship Him, speak with Him, seek Him.
In the forge of God, I am hammered and ignited and molded into His call for me. In the palace, I am equipped and rested and guided into His will. In the garden, I am seeking Him with my soul torn open and my heart grieving. In the boat, I am called to trust Him in the storms that the boat will reach the shore and that I can walk to Him on the water. By the tomb, I am instructed that He is alive and that I can believe His words and His promises. In the house, I am called to Him, to be forgiven and restored, to be held and comforted. In the upper room, I am called to worship Him, to receive Holy Spirit, to not be silent. In the streets, I am to follow Him, to be His hands and feet, to be salt and light, and to be love to all.
At His feet, I am to lay it down and leave it there and just be with Him. Just be His. Just beYOUtiful. There is nothing else that I can do, truly, if I want to leave this distress and burden behind and leapt into His arms and dance with Him again.