Justified

The last few months of my life have been an adjustment to say the least. I moved to a different state. I started a new job. Everything I had left behind and was coming back to was different. At one point it seemed that I was “finding myself” as they say. I was trying new things, meeting new people. I was gaining all this life experience that I had no interest in during medical school. But in all this “finding myself” all I found was that I lost my identity. I lost who I was, and I had no idea how to get back.
Over the last few months I have had wonderful, beautiful experiences, but I also got caught up in the whirlwind until I no longer had a leg to stand on. I compromised some of my standards. I made choices that I’m less than proud of. For the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t just not right with God, but I was all wrong. I felt like I couldn’t even show Him my face. I knew that I had let Him down, but this time was worse than all the others. For the first time I couldn’t even talk with Him as I went about my day. I felt guilty asking Him for favors or sending up a little prayer. I avoided church on my one Sunday off because all I could think was that I didn’t deserve to be there.

All of these notions were wrong.

And He made sure to show me that.

You know how God protects you when you’re in tune with Him? You know that extra guarding you get when you run under His wing? Well, somehow I still felt that protection, even after running away from Him and betraying Him and disappointing Him. He was trying to make it clear that even though I ended up down this weird path that wasn’t consistent with who I am or who He intends for me to be, He wasn’t just going to give up and let me go. He made it abundantly clear that my mistakes don’t discount His love for me, and they don’t erase the fact that I am His daughter.

So finally I started to get the message, and I made my way to church, where I do belong, because I am a sinner. And that’s where He sealed the deal with the message from Acts that day: 

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (13:38-39)

He has justified me through His love and through His blood. Nothing I try to do on my own can do that. No law gives me that. Only the blood and the love of the Savior can justify me, can purify me, can give me redemption, can make me new once more.

I walked into church that day beaten down, broken, ashamed. I walked out ready to be renewed. And with that I ended up in Abouna’s office pouring out my heart, pouring out my shame and my mistakes. And I walked out redeemed. The thoughts of my shortcomings, the images of my sin, the voice in my head telling me I am worthless and terrible were finally gone. All that was left was the knowledge that I truly had been made pure again.


So here I am, once again, in a coffee shop, trying to put into words my experiences with the hope that maybe one person will read my thoughts and realize that you are royalty. Your Father won’t just leave you when you’re down for the count. He didn’t for me, and I guarantee He won’t for you.

Just remember, no matter what you do He could not love you any more or any less.

So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
– 1 Kings 19:10

Walking this road, living this life, I am meant to be set apart from others in this world. I am not meant to be like everybody else. And sometimes this path will be filled with loneliness. Even Elijah – Elijah! – felt lonely. The man who raised a young man from the dead, the man who brought fire down from heaven, felt lonely, and scared. It’s clearly not unusual, clearly not something I alone struggle with. Being in a land where it seems that “I alone am left”, I find myself feeling lonely. I feel like no one is here to support me or protect me or at least be here for me. But what I sometimes fail to realize is that God is aware. And He is near.

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
– v. 9

God was there. God knew that Elijah was going into the cave and was about to let the self-pity settle in, and instead of leaving Elijah to mope God’s word came to him, offered an ear to listen, offered comfort where he could find none.

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice [a delicate whispering voice].
– vv. 11-12

And so God took Elijah out of his cave of self-pity and woke the man up. Nothing wakes a person up quite like tearing winds, earthquakes, and fires. But then after all of that, He came quietly, delicately, speaking to Elijah.

Is this not so typical? How many times has God done this in my life? He takes me out of my slump, wakes me up, and just when I think I may fling myself from the proverbial mountain because of the quakes and fires, He speaks ever so delicately to my heart. I never noticed this translation before: “a delicate whispering voice”, but it makes perfect sense when you think of who God is and how He works.

I am about to give you a little insight to my past here in hopes that it will help make this message more tangible.

When I was in high school, I had a very teenage heartbreak. There were winds blowing and quakes shaking inside of me. I will never forget how hard I took it. I will never forget how I could not make myself stop crying even though I had been sobbing nonstop for hours, curled up on my bedroom floor. And then God asked me, “What are you doing here, Marina?” And I begged, I pleaded for Him to make it stop, to hold me and making the crying stop because I was just so tired. Then instantly, the winds quieted, the quaking stopped, the fire extinguished, and my crying finally ceased. He held me, and I could actually feel it. He spoke delicately to my heart and quieted the storm in my soul.
This is a night that I will never forget, even when I am 75 and the Alzheimer’s has kicked in.

brokenheart

More recently than that, God set me back up on that mountain. There was fighting, crying, hurting, all winds, quakes, and fires. I was experiencing weeks of unbearable tempests. And again, God spoke to me, this time through Abouna Bishoy, saying, “What are you doing here, Marina?” Things became clear. The storm quieted. And a delicate whisper eased my heart for the first time in a month.

God will not leave us to wallow in self-pity. He will not leave us to die of loneliness in a cave somewhere, but instead He will wake us up. He will shake us. Then He will delicately whisper words of comfort to us.

Sometimes we need to be woken up by blasting winds in order to be ready to hear the still small delicate whisper.