Top Hats & Tennis Shoes

Have you ever witnessed a toddler throw down a tantrum that’d make Veruca Salt proud?
Screaming at the top of their lungs, squeezing out screeches in between dramatic breathlessness, pounding the floor or restaurant table with their fists?

We all have, and regardless if it’s in a Target aisle or the seat behind us in First Class, it can be irritating.
However, as you watch the parent attempt to deal with their tiny tornado, when their resolve dissolves just so the red-faced mini monster will quiet down, as they hand over the candy bar or toy they’d tried to say ‘No’ to, when they give in to the outburst, have you ever thought “My that child is loved.”?

You haven’t.

You’ve offered a slightly empathetic smile, you’ve glared out of annoyance, you’ve judged whether or not they’ve been paying close enough attention to the Parenting magazines that litter their coffee table, but I would bet an armful of my favorite vintage gold bangles that not once did “My that child is loved.” skip across your thoughts.

Because love doesn’t always look like getting what we want when we want it.
Does it?

A few weeks ago, the only way to describe it fittingly is, my heart had a miscarriage.

The love that He’d begun growing in that once barren space had grown and was growing into a love that was the answer to so many years of prayers. This love was being rejoiced over and fully enjoyed, this love that was casting a rosy glow towards the future, and then man that was that love stepped out.

And if there was ever a moment that I wanted to throw myself on the floor, fists pounding, feet kicking, face screwed into a sob, and scream at God… well, this was it.

But just before I could rally against His unfit parenting, a pitcher of proverbial ice cold water splashed to shake me awake.

“This had to happen.”
“This had to happen.”
“This had to happen.”

Over and over the same four words rolled and rollicked around and around in my nauseous and broken insides.

Much more than a parent, and a loving-in-the-truest-sense-of-the-word one at that, He is a HOLY GOD who wouldn’t stand for one more day of His kid’s idolatry.

I had put a boy before Him.
And it didn’t stop there.

As I sat reeling (a reeling that’s now lasted twenty-two days) the greed and lust and selfishness and laziness and other golden idols twisted & tied into the very muscle fiber of my heart started quaking.  God was reaching into my insides to rip out the gods I’d placed before Him and He wasn’t being gentle.

I begged against the pain, begged that though He had to refine me that it would be quick and easy.
It hasn’t been.

In twenty-two days I have cried barrels of tears, I’ve laid on the floor with my chin tucked to my knees and sobbed, I’ve thrown up and shaken as I finally see my face in a mirror.
This girl has placed the idol of love, affirmation, worth, value, & control (in it’s various shapes and forms) before her God, the only One who can truly show her love, affirmation, worth, & value in the first place. The only One in control.

And, out of love… heart-shredding, painful-beyond-words, spirit-stripping love, He’s making HIMSELF known.

On the Sunday afternoon the man I love said he didn’t want to marry me, I didn’t know what to do or where to go, so I drove north to to my hometown and crawled into my parents living room. Through a fog I heard my dad say “This morning at 3:30 God woke me up. As I started praying for our family, God moved you to the front of the line. I heard Spirit say ‘Your daughter has never trusted Me, she has never trusted what she can’t manipulate, and that doesn’t go one more day.'”

And then He went to work.

Last Sunday night, gathered with my church family, we wound our way through Acts 8.

“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. ‘Let me have this power, too,’ he exclaimed, ‘so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!’ But Peter replied, ‘May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.’ ‘Pray to the Lord for me,’ Simon exclaimed, ‘that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!'” Acts 8:14-24

With a very sharp pair of shears, God had snipped the marionette strings I was foolishly trying to tie on to the Spirit so that He’d dance at my commands,  do what I said, and give me what I wanted it when I wanted it. So very much like Simon.

And no one would ever look at that child, trying to manipulate her Dad, being given everything she wanted even if it wasn’t best for her, and think “My that child is loved.”

Simon, also known as Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician, wanted to buy the power of the Spirit.  He wanted to manipulate the power of the Lord so that he could have what the apostles had.
But instead of an intimacy with God, he just wanted to throw money at what he wanted and then wrap his greedy little fingers around it.  He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it.  Presto. Changeo.

Good news?
That’s not the end of the story.
As I sit and type, Ingrid Michaelson ironically croons through my headphones: “The battle with the heart isn’t easily won, but it can be won” and indeed it can! Another glance at Acts 8 show us, just a few verses down, a heart that’s been won.

“As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia.  The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning.  Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.  The Holy Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and walk along beside the carriage.’ Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah.  Philip asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Acts 8:26-30

Right there we see God POWERFULLY use Philip to minister to the eunuch which then unfolded as blessing to all of Ethipoia, because God spoke and Philip RAN.

He didn’t try to reason with God or make excuses because he didn’t have the right sandals on that day or because he was tired or felt awkward approaching the carriage of a stranger…
God spoke.
Philip ran.

Oh the difference there is between the manipulative heart vs. the malleable heart.

Do I want to be god or do I want God to be my God?

He has every right to rip my idols out, to tear apart the muscles of my heart, to pull back the fingers of my clenched fists, because He has said, nay, He has commanded, that I place no other gods before Him.  And I did.


What does that mean for right now when everything still hurts and is still broken?

It means a change in how I do life.
It means I give up my demands and get ready to run at His command.
It means I pray for the fullness of this heartache, I literally sit and hurt so that I can experience a very good Dad not give me everything I want when I want it.

Because no one could look at that girl holding on to all of her idols, screaming as they were taken out of her little pounding fists, and watch her Dad stuff them back into her hands just to stop her sobs and think “My that child is loved.”

He’s asking me, He’s asking all of us – to give up our every hope and every vice, to put Him first, and to run.
To finally trust.
To take the hands now emptied of idols and wrap them around His neck.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow…”
James 1: 2-4

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