Note: This is a personal post written by my daughter Dana Summers ***
I wanted to share with you that the Lord has been doing in my life over the last year and half. This has been a trying year for us, as a couple, a family and for me personally. The Lord began this year by revealing to me, by His mercy, what he was doing. In January 2011, as I was sitting in a Bible study, I heard one word to start off my new year: “dismantling”. “What? I knew that this word was for me, however I hoped it was for someone else. What does dismantling mean exactly? The dictionary defines Dismantle as 1. to deprive or strip of apparatus, furniture, equipment, defenses, etc.: 2. to disassemble or pull down; take apart: 3. to divest of dress, covering. He then gave me the rest: Embrace the dismantling, Deal with fear of exposure, Remove walls of protection, Begin to see weakness as strength, Be thankful for the past, repent of regret & disappointment, Let go of expectations, Receive new directions, Receive new wisdom and Restoration.
Apparently I had been holding on to some things and the Lord thought it was time to deal with them. His timing is perfect, I had to remind myself of that over and over. I am not going to lie, this has been a really difficult year/season for me. The Lord didn’t have to let me in on what He was doing. I am thankful that He did, but still do not have total understanding. I have learned not to try to interpret what God is doing but to trust him in the unfolding, because it never looks like what I expected.
I didn’t share what the Lord had shown me with many people, only my husband and my friend Tania. My husband needed to be in the know because it was also going to affect him (lucky guy) and he would pray thru this with me. Tania I knew would cover me in prayer, and remind me to hold on to Him, because I knew a breaking was coming. Why didn’t I tell my friends? Well, because, that would mean dealing with exposure and removing walls of protection and I simply was not ready. I am farther along in the process now and my attitude and perspective has changed.
He told me to first embrace the Dismantling. This should seem simple, simple but not easy. Embrace means to: /ɛmˈbreɪs/ 1. to take or clasp in the arms; press to the bosom; hug. 2. to take or receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly: to embrace an idea. 3. to avail oneself to. 4. to adopt. 5. to take in with the eye or the mind. To be honest, embracing was really hard and it came much later in the process for me. I had no idea what the year would really hold. As life unfolded and we begin to walk thru some very difficult issues, I knew that this season was for a purpose. Again, it does not mean that I didn’t struggle, get frustrated, fear and weep (and by weep I mean curl up in a ball and cry like a baby). I was a real mess for many months. It took me awhile before I begin to trust the Lord in this process. It was not easy, but it was not supposed to be
Deal with my fear of exposure? What? I like my privacy. I don’t like to share personal information until I am comfortable, if at all. What was I going to have to share/reveal, and with who? This scared me initially. Now before you start to think that I must have some really ugly skeletons in my closet and then wonder what they could be, this is not how the Lord works. This was not about humiliation and fear, but about beginning to deal with the insecurities and areas of protection that I have put up and He wanted to remove. He was teaching me about being vulnerable, being open. The idea of being laid bare was scarier to me than anything. To be honest about my weakness, fears and sin was not at all comfortable for me or something I looked forward to doing.
Part of this dealing with exposure was removing walls of protection that I had built. Yes, I had built them. This was my defense, my safe places. No one is allowed in unless I deem it. Should you violate that privilege of entry, the door is slammed shut, maybe never to open again. For the exposure to happen, walls of protection must come down. This is where a lot of wrestling came in. He didn’t just remove the walls for me which would have been much easier. This required participation and obedience on my part. There were specific times over the course of the year that I knew I was supposed to share with specific people, to let them in, to be vulnerable. I really wrestled with this. I knew the Lord was directing me, and I needed to be obedient. This was not a year of sitting back and watching what He is going to do, but it required of me a participation and willingness. Really, it was a breaking.
Areas in my life that I see as weakness, I was to begin to see as strength. This is not yet complete in me. None of this is. I have realized that I have spent my life working hard, strategically building my walls and preserving them and keeping people at arms length. Some of this is simply a side effect of being a pastor’s daughter and then a pastor’s wife. Growing up as a pastor’s kid is not the easiest job, however all PK’s handle it differently and have a different experience. I learned early on that it was important to put on a smile, which was natural for me, but I learned to hide behind it. The analogy has been made that it is much like living in a fishbowl. People watch you. Now I realize that this wasn’t always true, but as a kid, it only takes a few people to make a significant negative mark in your life. It was safer for me behind the smile. I had decided not to give anyone anything that they could use against me or my parents. So, as far as they were concerned, I was fine. I do believe that in the ministry it is important to be guarded and careful in your relationships but as an adult. Somehow, as a kid, how I processed what my role was had stuck with me into adulthood. So, as an adult, I have been protective of myself and my family. I don’t like you to get to close to me. I don’t trust you with me. It is that simple. I now see that I have missed out on more than I have protected myself from. It’s not always about having the right answer, but truly being honest, open and connecting with people as the Lord would lead me. This self-preservation that I have walked in does not translate into healthy ministry, whether in the market place, with my neighbors and or families. Being willing to be laid bare for the sake of Christ is necessary in Ministry. I am not talking about pastoral ministry but the ministry that all Christians have been called to. We walk in fear of others, whether we are aware of this or not. There is always loss when we choose self-preservation and fear over obedience and faith. If my life is not my own then. . .my life is not my own. That means all of me, period. This was a real season of discipline in my life. He wanted all of me, not just the part of me I was comfortable with. If my life is not my own and if my purpose is to go where He’s going, say what He’s saying, then why do I think that I get a say in how that is going to happen. “Ok Lord, I will go here, but not there.” “Ok Lord, I will talk to her about this, but not that.” We will say “use me Lord”, then we give Him parameters and pat ourselves on the back for being good and faithful servants. All that He calls us to do is for His greater purpose. Why wouldn’t we want to be part of it? Why wouldn’t I want to give Him ALL of me?
In October we went to a weekend of worship. We really needed to be there. We looked like the ships that have been out to sea for a very long time, roughed up, broken sails and leaking. This was a significant weekend for me. I was not yet in a place of embracing the process and was still really wrestling through some issues before the Lord. After we had been in worship for several hours (which was wonderful) the Lord poured out upon me in a way that I had never experienced before. I was so immersed in the Love of the Father. It was such a tangible, overwhelming awareness of Him. This was not a distant God, this was the Father, loving on me, His child. Awesome. I had never felt so safe, secure, so wrapped in arms of Love. It broke me. I wept, yes, in public. I didn’t care. It was an important point for me in this process, as the Lord had been teaching me about the Heart of the Father and then, in that moment I got it. I had not been abandoned and I knew I was in the palm of His hand. The simplicity of just being with the Father. No striving, no walls, no façade, just us. Knowing that He sees me, He knows me, and He loves me still. I knew His heart was for me. This was a transition point for me. I was able to finally lay this whole process down and trust Him fully in it, knowing that this is for a purpose. His purpose. I didn’t need to know why. I just need to walk with Him.
“Be thankful for past, repent of regret and disappointment”, ouch! What an eye opener this was! Ministry has been a big part of our lives, we knew it was what we were called to, but the road has been less than smooth. Our time in Washington was an intense time of training and growth. We learned so much, were challenged and were blessed with the opportunity of ministry within the life of the church in multiple areas. Even though things were tough at times because of the situation with the church, it was a great season for us in the Lord. When we left Washington we thought that we would move right along in ministry. After a short time, we knew we were not to plant a church. We even had a difficult time finding a church to plug into while we were in Minnesota. Not attending church on a regular basis was difficult for us. So we sat, we waited. After awhile we began to search for ministry opportunities in other locations. We started to question whether we were ever called into the ministry to begin with. Why are we just sitting here? Why weren’t we being used? As the years went by, I stopped wondering. I just accepted that we were possibly done. Now in hindsight I see how this is absolutely ridiculous because we have a lot of years ahead of us, but in that season, in that place that is how I felt. I found myself embarrassed that we weren’t in “ministry”. I slowly begin to see that the Lord had been using us, just not in the way that I wanted. He faithfully put people in our lives to challenge us, teach us, and used us to minister to them and them to us. As Christians we are always in full time ministry. You are always a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the faithfulness of the Father. That doesn’t change. There is always opportunity to serve others. We are thankful for the seasons that the Lord has walked us through and the seasons of ministry that the Lord has trusted us with.
About 10 months before we moved to Ohio, we started attending church again. While there, the Lord really stirred up within us something we hadn’t felt for awhile. We knew that He wasn’t finished with us. We knew and had peace that this season was for a purpose. Then we moved, but we moved with expectation and anticipation that the Lord was going to do something. I didn’t realize how much regret I had felt for some of the choices we had made. Not because they were bad choices or even the wrong choice, but because they didn’t work out the way I thought they would. I had expectations of what He was going to do, how He was going to use us. When those expectations were not met, I was disappointed, embarrassed and I allowed those circumstances to make me doubt what He has called us to.
Realizing this, the next step, let go of expectations, made a lot of sense. I had to lay down my expectations of what is next, what does ministry look like for us, what does Ohio mean for us, what did I want/expect the Father to do. I could not begin to move forward until I had let go of my past regrets and was willing to move forward into what He has for me, not what I plan for me. We all have expectations in every part of our lives and relationships. We even have expectations of the Father. We expect Him to provide for us. We expect the Father to protect us, keep our family safe. We expect Him to keep us healthy. When those expectations aren’t met, it usually can cause us to question Him or even doubt Him. Difficult seasons will come, challenges will be faced. The Father is always faithful to walk us through them.
This has been a transition year for me in many ways. There have been a lot of areas of my life that were poked, exposed and challenged. I believe a certain way. I think a certain way. Here is the newsflash, not every way I believe is true, not every way I thought is right. We all have a paradigm in which we view life. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we begin a shift in our paradigm.
If I honestly desire for the Lord to have His way in my life, I need to be willing to receive new wisdom. Things will have to change. Sometimes the Lord will speak to us through people that you may not have normally been willing to receive it from. When you write off someone, you are risking missing an opportunity to receive. Yes, we need to walk in discernment with those that speak into our lives, but we need to be willing to hear from whomever the Lord would speak to us through or choose to use to teach us. In this season, there were those in my life that the Lord showed me that I had shut down, hardened my heart and blocked out. I had put up walls, my defense mechanism. I do have to laugh at myself because I really fought Him on this. I really, really fought on this. It was however, a supernatural work. In yielding to Him, saying yes Lord, do what you will, He brought healing. He brought freedom. He lifted the weight and offense that I had carried for so long. I trusted Him in the process. I am not better, smarter, more righteous or perfect than any other person. It does not matter what choices we made in our lives, whether we were rebellious in our youth, or what mistakes we have made as adults, we are all His. We are all sinners, saved by grace. We stand shoulder to shoulder, sons & daughters. There is not one of us that has won the “awesome” pin in the Kingdom of God. It is only because of what Christ has done that we can walk in His freedom.
Through this process I also found myself dealing with issues of rejection and acceptance. I realized what acceptance from others would mean. It would mean that I would have to compromise who I am to be who they want me to be. All that this will lead to is frustration and continued resentment towards them. We are all broken. We all have expectations of others. For me it was the desire to be accepted for who I was. The funny thing is, I wasn’t being who I was for fear of being rejected. So the cycle continued. I believe that the Lord is breaking this is me. He is my acceptance. I need to be confident with who He is in me, who He has called me to be and how He uses me.
I am so grateful for the revelation of the process. There is so much joy, so much freedom in learning to walk without the chains that hold us down. These are not chains that we need to carry, but learn to carry. I believe more and more as this process continues that coming to understand and having a revelation of who we were outside of Christ, should break us at the thought of His Grace and Mercy in our lives. We all are in need of our Savior.
I don’t want to be so caught up in the past, bogged down in frustration and disappointment, questioning God that I am completely useless and immobile. I can just picture myself wrapped up, almost like a mummy, unable to move, serve, see, speak or hear. We can carry around so much stuff, walking in what we think we know, that we completely miss what He is doing. I was not truly free. Here’s the kicker, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. Not our church, not my family, friends, not anyone. Just mine and mine alone.
Restoration: This was the last one. I wasn’t sure if the Lord was going to show me what this was or not. The restoration in this process was not about restoring relationships, which He did, but about restoring my relationship with the Lord, my heart to His. This last year I have been doing a lot of reading and learning about salvation and what it truly is, what Jesus really did and what God’s heart is for me. God is opening my eyes and my heart. This has not been an instant process, but a hunger to search, to read, to grow through the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit to go farther, because there is more. The Lord has opened my eyes to see who I was without him and who I am in Him.
I am now in a place, where I can walk, having confidence that my Father loves me. That He has a purpose for my life, His purpose. We may begin with what we believe is the purpose, plans of God, but we can miss what He is really wanting us to do when we get in the way. I believe that we can easily stop seeking His purpose, but allow our own desires, our own visions or even our own fatigue to creep in and take away from the original design. The great news is that God loved us so much, created us with specific purpose, that He is not done preparing us nor willing to allow us to slip away. The faithfulness of the Father has completely overwhelmed me. I am learning to yield to him, in obedience in all things, not just the things that I am comfortable with. So do I need to be an open book? No. I need to trust His guidance, trust Him with my heart. Knowing that what He calls me to, has greater purpose than I may ever know. I don’t need to understand. I need to be obedient. I need to yield, I need to trust Him.
I do not want to be who I was. I want to be who He has called me to be. I want to be willing to flex, to grow and to be disciplined. So did I have idols? Yes. Had I built my own kingdom? Yes. Had I built walls? Yes. Was this a waste of my time? No. I choose to embrace it. This is not to be just be a season in my life, but a lifestyle. It’s all about Him, it’s not about me. I am not my own, I’ve been bought with a price. I am His. My prayer: Where there is an idol, let it be dismantled. Where I have put up walls, let them be dismantled. Where I have built my own kingdom, let it be dismantled.