Out of Place – EJ’s Story
Isaiah 9:2 (NIV) – “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”
The velvet African sky was peppered with more stars than I could have ever imagined. The darkness was almost palpable, and the only light came from a few fiery coals struggling to survive. I could barely make out the faces on the other side of the fire, but I knew there was a very old man and a very young man and I knew they huddled together, whispering truth. This was the second time I’d sat across from these two, hearing the exchange, listening to the young man explain who Jesus is and the power He has over darkness. Deeper in the shadows, completely hidden from view, I knew the old man’s wife waited with bated breath for just one more story. Then quietly, almost imperceptibly, the old man and his unseen wife prayed for the first time. These people walking in darkness had seen a great Light.
Even though we are children of the light, I think there is a tendency to forget how miraculous that truly is. Whether it’s in villages in Africa, clinics in Guatemala, or American suburbia, the darkness of our everyday struggles with sin has a way of weighing us down. When I was younger, I was disappointed in my testimony. I was saved as a child. I was young and without a horrible past – a life rescued from poor sharing habits doesn’t quite inspire great revival. I grew up in a loving, stable, Christian home and went on to serve the Lord overseas. There were no dramatic “come to Jesus” moments in my past. I felt irrelevant. And ordinary. Miraculous was the last word I ever would have used to describe my life, let alone my testimony.
I believe the feelings of being unimportant or hidden can wreak havoc on a believer’s heart. It is one of the enemy’s greatest weapons. If we learn to discount our purpose and place in the kingdom, we pave the way for apathy. And when apathy takes hold, the enemy celebrates. As I grew, I tried to cover up this sense of ordinary through service. Service to the King, and a willingness to say ‘yes’ to whatever He placed before me, helped quiet the nagging doubts that I was just too normal to be important. But outward actions rarely bring about the changes we hope they will! Eventually, our brave faces melt and our struggles resurface. This happened one afternoon as I stood in my inferno of a kitchen on the coast of Africa, thinking that, as Naomi had changed her name to Mara because of the bitter hardships she’d endured, I should change my name to “Not Good Enough”. I was so convinced of my uselessness. And as I watched others leave physical and spiritual darkness to follow our Savior, I found that my own heart became more entangled in a different darkness all its own. I’ve spoken to many women who have experienced something similar. It is a slow fade of a life once lived with great purpose and hope and abandon. The change was so gradual no one could have guessed at the temperature change of my heart. Still operating by shades and degrees, there was no overt sin, no secret obsession, there was simply – nothing. Callouses form so slowly, don’t they?
The sad truth is, the joy of our salvation can dissipate, and we can lose sight of the transformation God is working in our hearts. Like that terribly hungry caterpillar, we can consume the blessings around us until we fall comatose into our cocoons. We let that struggle with sin, that apathy, that silence linger just a little too long, and we run the risk of growing just a little too comfortable in the dark. For me, the difficulties of living overseas, having a medically fragile child, multiple moves, etc., became the outward circumstances that justified the coldness I felt inside. No one could blame me if I wrestled with darkness and sadness and nothingness now. Even children, made for the light, can go from thriving followers of Christ to surviving strangers in His kingdom. The darkness hates the Light. The lies we choose to believe hate the Truth. And the lost will always miss the Way. But the patience of our God is great. His call to walk in the light echoes endlessly in the small new mercies we see every morning. He never abandons us to a life of cold, dark, nothingness. Even when it feels His silence is deafening.
1 Thessalonians 5:5 (HCSB) – “For you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness.”
How do we break this silence? It’s a simple question, but I can so easily forget the answer. It’s broken with words. With the Word. As slowly as the darkness becomes comfortable, it starts to squeeze and pinch and feel a little too tight. Those pinches are the whispers of change. Yet, sometimes we find ourselves in a valley – a trench worn down through the once soft places of our hearts. Old habits can be cruel masters. But when I thought I was not good enough to be His, when I’d forgotten that every testimony is a witness to the greatness of the King, I found I had one more prayer in me. How many of us have come down to this last prayer? The weak cry for God to “restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Ps 51:12). For me, this slight upward glance brought a desire to relearn what it is to be in love with the Lord and His word. And when I had no strength, I grasped at Micah 7:8, “Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.”
Friends, we do belong in the light. Our bodies were made for warm breezes and sunny days just as our souls were made for the warmth of His breath and the presence of His Spirit. And whether the day of your salvation is sweet and simplistic or bold and breathtaking, the testimony God is writing for each of us is deep and complex. See, no matter where we begin, the Author of our stories is the Creator of the heavens. Each of our lives is a phenomenon of truth, beauty, and adventure layered with the mundane and quiet. And when we start to grow uncomfortable and weary in the dark, He orchestrates a new dawning. He did it for the couple in the middle of an African wilderness and He will do it for you. After all, not only do we belong in the light – we belong to the Light. And that, I think, is a pretty miraculous thing.
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to these scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!
Meet EJ Rodgers
EJ Rodgers, RN shares her stories with humor and strength, inviting others to dive into the nitty-gritty of the Christian walk without losing their unique God-given identities. She’s a coffee-loving travel junkie whose life has taken her through seasons of hospital work, missions, refugee ministry, and the adventures of being a special needs mom. EJ currently resides in Kahalu’u, Hawai’i with her husband, four children, cat, and horse. You can read more at www.ejrodgers.com or follow her on FB.