Counting OnGrace

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Casket The Grave And The Tomb

© 2010, Chantelle Henderson

“What a strange title”, you may be thinking to yourself.  Yes.  Even for me it is; well was.
In His infinite ability to impart artistic insight to me, He gave me a word picture [Now that’s a surprise **sarcastic**.  Most of my blogs are a direct result of word pictures].  In the canvas of my mind I saw Him paint a casket, a hollow grave, and a tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest only to be resurrected.  The casket represented death [as the enemy of our soul did not want us to breathe life to begin with].  The uncovered pre-made grave was a vision of me lying in it and being prepared to be buried alive.  And, finally, I observed a picture of me in the tomb, but being resurrected and The Father’s hand rolling the stone away.  It was a very odd word picture to me.  But my spirit understood it far too well, for it represented the sensitive, mending wound, and dark season of my soul.

I now rejoice in telling you that I have come to a place of life resurrected!  I feel alive again.  I am dancing with the Partner of my life.  I am praying again and hungry for more of Him than I indisputably have been of late.  In the contentment of being in a desert for so long, I did not realize just how thirsty and spiritually dehydrated I’d become.  Mirages of a life that was just enough for me to survive day by day, one day at a time, for the last seven months seemed sufficient and fostered enough security for me to keep going. I knew it was bad, but the more I moved out of that mirage of self-pitty and choosing to be alone into His reality, the sphere of the mirage proved to be quite abominable, and closer to being near death’s doorstep [spiritually] than I ever thought possible.  It was my 11th hour and I found water for my thirsty soul among the prayers of a spiritual mother and finding a new church to call home.  For the first time in months I’d just been given water.  Not only was I drinking it, but I was swimming it!

I was participating in the party of self pitty, lonliness, and bitterness the enemy was throwing for me.  I was oppressed, depressed, and any other “pressed” someone could be.  For seven months, I very rarely had contact with those I hold most dear to my heart.  If there was any communication to be found it was in this crazy, virtual, and sometimes delusional world called Facebook.  On that networking site I could make my status sound good and even make people laugh as evidenced by how many times the “like” button had been pressed or a “LOL”.  I could “talk” to friends without the sadness of my voice and the absence of my usual loud, boisterous, and unique laugh exposing the hopelessness I was drowning in. I decided to go off Facebook for a short, short time and wrote a message to my Facebook friends explaining my much-needed discontinuity from my virtual, disingenuous existence.  In the content of that message I further shared that I had to lay down Facebook among other activities in my life that were taking away my time and affections away from Him.  

If only they knew I felt like I was dying on the inside.  Everyone thought I was so strong and yet I was hanging on by a thread.  I had lost my hope, my joy, and desire to be with people, and worst of all, with my Heavenly Papa on a daily or even consistent basis.  Sure, I had a few days here and there when you could have found me reading a Psalm or a Proverb, unspoken prayers (mostly for me asking Him to please bring me out of this desert).  Yet, even in my pleading and begging, I was not in a place to receive the very things I was seeking-His joy and peace; His love and grace; His mercy and life to operate in me to the extent that I would “feel” it.  By my own doing I put up a wall between my deliverance and the place of wanting to give up and die.

So......on to the infamous word picture.......

The casket was clear glass like the one in the movie Sleeping Beauty.  It was intricately lined with pink and dainty but with the finest silk.  There was not a hint of satin.  It was adorned with an indescribable carving of my name.  I’d never seen anything like it.  It looked so beautiful and welcoming.  I stared at it for a minute and considered just resting there for a while.

Just as quickly as that vision came, another one appeared.  The casket I so admired was absent from my grave “pit”.  I was sitting comfortably in a pre-dug grave and looking at the sky wondering what I was doing there but for whatever reason feeling safe.  Suddenly, someone was tossing shovels full of dirt on top of me.  Whoever it was, they were trying to burry me alive and I did my best to avoid each drop of dark, wet dirt.

Just like the movie The Christmas Carol, my attention was instantaneously drawn to the very tomb that Jesus was laid in.  The stone that concealed the closed tomb and any sense of escaping to freedom would only be displayed by small glimpses of the sun beaming through.  That’s how I knew when it was night or day.

I sat and prayed and knew that I knew that I knew what it all meant.  When I accepted Christ, that casket sat around for a while and collected dust in the depths of hell where the enemy schemed to make my permanent home.  He wanted it to look inviting with all the seemingly beautiful and extravagant details.  Whenever I wanted to “just stop for a rest”, I would go and lay in the coffin.  When I did, there he was roaring about as a lion, waiting to seal the lid.  I thought I was resting in a beautiful, glorious place, and a princess-and-the-pea bed, while all along it was an illusion of beauty mocking the true glorious and awe-inspiring place of true rest beside calm and peaceful waters.  Many times I stopped for a rest and just when the top of the casket began to descend, His grace would hold it until I could barely escape once again.  This occurred many times on my journey of life.

Once I realized that the coffin was nothing but the devil’s false sense of preservation, I did all I could to not go back there, although many times I did and every single time, there was Love and Mercy to keep me from being sealed in an inescapable coffin had it ever been shut that appeared one way and was only prepared for my spiritual death.  By the time I’d learned my coffin lesson, as enticing as it appeared at times, I had to stay away from it and certainly not stop to “rest” in it.

Looking back and bidding farewell to the exquisite piece of art most would simply call a casket, I walked out of the funeral home and into a uncertain future and wondered around glancing at the grave yard.  There were several tombstones there.  The carvings were things I’d been through that the Lord delivered me from over the years.  It was no coincidence that I was there.  It just couldn’t be.  While the tombstones were different in shape and sizes, some made of marble and others of concrete, they each displayed a battle I’d faced at one point and time in my life.  Sexual Abuse.  Alcoholism.  Promiscuous Sexual Encounters, Eating Disorders, Insecurity, Bitterness and so forth and so on.  They were buried and dead. Upon further observation, I noticed that there were others, but they were un-carved; just blank.  What were they for?  The Lord showed me that they were the things yet to come in my life that the enemy will TRY to use to deter me from God’s purposes and calling on my life; things he would entice me with to open the door to his ability to have things to engrave on the empty tombstones.  It was Autumn so it was a bit cold and windy.  Trying to avoid one strong gust of wind I shifted and an enormous hole caught my eye.  I got towards it with both curiosity and excitement when I finally saw that it was just a “hole” that was being prepared for the next earthly tent’s coffin to be laid to rest in.  It seemed harmless enough.  I thought, “It would be cool to sit inside of it to avoid the wind”.  Little did I realize that it was the wind of the Holy Spirit I was seeking shelter from and had no idea that He was trying to breathe fresh wind into my broken and tired soul. And here I was; settling for a pit full of dirt just out of mere curiosity.  Just when I was getting comfortable, even leaning back on a wall of dirt I began to feel and see dirt-filled shovel loads entering into the pit with me.  I tried to dig myself out, but the more I tried, the faster the pit was filling up.  It was similar to what I always imagined drowning in quick sand would be like.  How many times have I done that?  He’s trying to give me the fresh wind of His Holy Spirit but because my guard is down I settle for something else-some “pit”.  At times these pits seemed hopeless to climb out of.  I really should have known by now not to climb in a pit full of dirt.  Once again, His strong arm of mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness would overtake the grave master and He would pull me out once again, brush me off, and reconciled me back to His loving arms-the safest, most secure and intimate place to be. 

Now it’s time for the tomb.  Eventually life wears you down.  You can’t sleep.  You can’t eat.  You can’t go to the bathroom or brush your teeth.  You are so tired that all you want to do is sleep and yet when you try to sleep, there is no rest.  It takes all you have in you to take your next breath.  While I would love to tell you that my body has never tried to find rest in the casket of giving up and ending it all, the truth is that I can’t.  I can’t say that because it’s not true.  I would also love nothing more than to sit here and tell you that taking comfort in a pit of escape (that’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) has never been a temptation, but again, I cannot.  Not only has it been a temptation, but something I participated in willingly.  Sometimes it was because of anger and resentment.  At other times it was to escape from it all.  After all, it would be the last place anyone would look for me in…..a pit.

Every time I agreed with hell, the enemy was right there waiting for me to give up and die in my misery, depression, and lack of will to fight.  Before I knew it I woke up one day in the tomb.  It was the exact tomb Jesus was put in after his crucifixion, burial, and eventual victorious resurrection.  I stood there with a choice to make.  Am I going to stay here and die or am I going to fight to partake in a promise of life more abundant?  I began to scream out to God for help.  I needed a lifeline and I needed it yesterday!  Once I said the word he gathered together an army of prayer warriors, some who knew I was in a tomb, and others who had no idea but were obedient and faithful to remember me before the Father as He led them to do so.  Because of their prayers and the awesome power of agreement, the stone began to roll away.
I found myself recalling His rich words of a future and a hope from my Bible which is worn with torn pages, highlighted scriptures, and sticky notes.  The Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance: 

Romans 8:11 (Amplified Bible)-And if the Spirit of Him Who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, [then] He Who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also restore to life your mortal (short-lived, perishable) bodies through His Spirit Who dwells in you.

We cannot begin to comprehend that realm of power because it is not our own.  It is being found in Him.  It is found in knowing that no matter how badly you want to “check out” He will move Heaven and earth to keep you from believing there is no hope.  Just as a earthly mother (also known as a mama bear), He stands in front of EVERY AND ANY THING that would try to harm you.  Even as parents, however, there is so much we can do before it comes to a point that we must let our children make their own decisions.  We have free will so He will not force Himself on us.  He’s a Gentle Man and able to do mighty things in the midst of our season in the tomb, but it’s up to us to tap into that power.  That supernatural strength.  That supernatural, eternal, all knowing, all sufficient love, grace and mercy that it will take to roll the stone away. 

I yelled out to Him that I wanted that stone rolled away.  He wasn’t finished with me yet (as if He didn’t already know).  That I desire to be closer to him more than ever.  With each word of truth.  With each prayer of a sister warrior.  With each memory of Him not letting me die when I shouldn’t have lived.  With every ounce of strength I had in me because of Christ Jesus and that Name and His blood, the stone was pushed away.  Hallelujah!

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in me – in YOU.  Once that revelation hit me, I began ripping of my shredded grave clothes and putting on the new ones He then gave me-Resurrection clothes.  He bestowed on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes.  He gave me the oil of gladness instead of mourning. He restored back to me a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Is. 61) .  The stench of my grave clothes was completely taken over and consumed and with the beautiful aroma of my brand new wardrobe.  It was a time of  being covered in the blood of Jesus Christ, The Anointed One.  I was being clothed with His righteousnesses and peace and joy.   You could compare me to a beautiful bride seeing her Beloved face to face for the first time as I walked down the isle.  It was an isle of forgiveness.  An isle of revelation.  An isle of repentance.  An isle of releasing jealousy.  An isle of denying hatred and bitterness access to my heart.  With each step I took toward The Lover Of My soul, tears streamed down my face and my heart and spirit felt like they were about to blow up with an explosion of His love for me because I could not contain it.  I couldn't even begin to describe that for which there are no words for in any tongue or any nation.  Only when I cross over into eternity will I know and maybe not even then.  It overwhelms me to think about it.  I was out of the casket, the grave, and the tomb.  Determinately I kept walking towards him and away from my isolation , when I reached the altar of his love and mercy and beheld His face, the veil was lifted and we continued to enter into the Holy of Holies.   

Now I stand outside the tomb.  I see how many times I’ve come close to being there permanently and my soul now cries out for His salvation, wisdom, peace, joy, hope, and all things that pertain to life and Godliness more than I ever have before.  I want all of Him that I can get.  No matter how I’m feeling I want my soul to yell as loud as it can, “Hallelujah!  I worship You.  I agree with You.  You are my Keeper.  No matter what, I choose to praise You and worship You because You know the end from the beginning and You know the number of days I have yet to live.”  How will I do this?  
One second, one minute, one hour, one a time.

So there you have it:  The Coffin.  The Grave.  And the tomb.  Where are you?

*I'm attaching a youtube video of one of my all time favorite songs, "Faith", by Jason Upton.  I listen to it when I feel like all hope is lost.  It's actually a spontaneous song of worship during a time of darkness in his own life.