I started the Lenten season (the 40 days before Easter) with very good intentions and high expectations. In years past, I felt this holy season sneak up on me leaving me scrambling and rushing and in the midst of the noise, losing the significance, Jesus, redemption, resurrection. I mean it is one of heights of the church year and somehow I seemed to lose it in everything else in my calendar. Well, this year was going to be different. I had chosen a book that was a devotional for 40 days with podcasts and such to help bring in Lent and fully experience it (at least what my idea was). I had received materials to help lead the kids through the Lenten season as well. I wanted to give up sugar and diet pop during this season. I had lofty goals, high expectations. I wanted to go through the journey of Jesus. To understand and really to meet Him. Those weren’t bad goals or expectations, but when we celebrated Easter just a few short weeks ago, I had only made it to day 24 or so of the devotional. I made it over halfway through without sugar or diet pop and then caved. I didn’t even start the materials for the kids. I started feeling like I had failed. Once again, I failed to do the Lenten journey. But during the Easter service and the days after leading to today, I realized that God was there the whole time. I didn’t need to have expectations and lofty goals because the focus of Easter isn’t about me, it’s about Jesus. He is the same but everything is different…
Am I losing you yet?
The days following Easter I seemed to have this joy that I hadn’t experienced in a really long time. It was something new and in all honesty, a little unnerving. I just figured there would be a crash sooner or later, similar to a sugar crash an hour after you inhaled your favorite cake (not that I’ve ever done THAT!). I was expecting it and really was wondering where this was coming from. Now, I’m not dumb, I know my joy comes from Jesus and that is an inherent joy that is not emotional. But I felt that emotionally I was feeling and finally living in that perfect place of joy. The joy was overshadowed by where I feel I live sometimes and that is the failing place. The place where one thing happens and you feel like you’ve failed and then negative thoughts come in that lead into a downward spiral of negativity until you kind of plant yourself there with feelings of never getting out. Who knows, maybe I am alone in the feelings like this. But at the end of that day, feeling in the depths, feeling like I failed and sometimes feeling like the cycle is never going to break, I was met with overwhelming hope. Everything WAS different…because of Jesus, not because of ME. The cross and the resurrection took on a whole new meaning.
I was driving the kids around as kind of the last resort thing to do to try and get them to sleep. I was sleep-deprived myself and feeling really worthless with a horrible attitude (nobody has been there? Can I get an AMEN!). I had turned on music which is usually a pretty good place for me to start when I am feeling in the failing place. It usually takes my focus off of myself, which it did, in a big way. I was listening to a song called Everything is Different. Hence the name of the blog post. The parts that stood out are these:
You made a way when there was no way
You covered heaviness with garments of praise
You wrote a song and You’re singing it over me
I feel a dead heart beating now
This revelation makes me want to shout
That Jesus has been sent
And everything is different
You turn ashes into beauty
You are for me, not against me now
You found me somehow
You turn mourning into dancing
You turn weeping into a joyful noise
I was caught so completely off guard and so marvelously reminded of how different things really were. The joy I had felt and the failing place are all covered, Jesus was sent and everything WAS and IS different. I knew that this song was from scripture, but I didn’t know the passage and so I wanted to learn more so I looked it up.
Isaiah 61:3 says:
…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Another line that lead me to scripture was the thought (seriously, think about this), that God wrote a song and is singing it over me. That the God the breathed nothingness in to being would care enough to sing a song over ME? WHAT?!
Zephaniah 3:17 says in the New Living Translation:
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
As I dove deeper in to the scripture, Christ reminded me of so many things. You can read the whole commentary HERE
And I highly recommend it because it is amazing. But basically what I drew from it is taken from the text, The spirit of heaviness they keep to themselves (Zion’s mourners weep in secret); but the joy they are recompensed with they are clothed with as with a garment in the eye of others. Observe, Where God gives the oil of joy he gives the garment of praise. Those comforts which come from God dispose the heart to, and enlarge the heart in, thanksgivings to God. Whatever we have the joy of God must have the praise and glory of.
So, let’s go back to the car. My failing place was suddenly changed to joy. Because things were different, I was different because of the redeeming power of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection. I don’t HAVE to live in that place because He has exchanged all of that for beauty and joy and peace and praise and thanksgiving. I hadn’t failed in that moment to meet Jesus. I can’t fail at that, ever because Jesus is already here. I have already met Him and He has already changed me, I just have to live in to the beauty, joy, peace, and praise and thanksgiving.
That sure hasn’t been the last failing place incident I’m sorry to admit. But, God is teaching me to not LIVE IN THAT place, but to live in the beautiful place. The place where the mourning is changed to praise, ashes are changed to beauty, hearing, HEARING the song that Jesus sings over me as praise. Live THERE friends!
As usual, music is an integral part of the story for me. Here is the song, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT, by Shane and Shane: