My heart is very heavy today. This one’s raw and rough, so please excuse grammar and typing errors.
Over the past month, I’ve been collecting and carrying the stories of survivors of some of the most heinous abuses imaginable, and it’s brought me to my knees. It’s one thing to read about them in Facebook headlines or internet articles and click “like” or “share” (if we really mean it). It’s something completely different to sit beside them, hearing their experiences face to face, holding them as they cry or, worse, wondering how badly they’d had to have been hurt to sit there and share without a shred of emotion; sitting there, feeling every fiber of your being on fire knowing that you can’t take their pain away or protect them from the past.
These are sacred moments, truly.
Not everyone has the privilege of this kind of trust, though we forget that when we read enough articles written for shock value. These are true stories from precious, precious people. For example, one of my best friends in the whole world honored me by telling me of his childhood abuse by his own family member and the torment he feels surrounding it as an adult, and I’ve been trying to lovingly walk with him through that nightmare. Tuesday, I served beside women whose daughters were exploited and murdered and those who’d been exploited themselves (sold by boyfriends, escorted, enslaved as an AMERICAN CITIZEN in Japan). I stood behind a young man who was raped at age 7 then regularly used for drugs his mother wanted, beaten with all kinds of objects like 2x4s and aluminum bats (a list he just rattles off like it’s nothing), locked in a small dog kennel, and left in a closet for weeks on end with only bread and chips and water. I also made a new friend this weekend who has only been out of “the life” about a month and a half, and sat with her as she bravely stood with our team and other survivors at the Capitol on Tuesday. Because her dad always had a revolving door of women who he regularly degraded and beat, she grew up having no idea that that is not how she was supposed to be treated, what a healthy relationship looks like.
Can you imagine growing up and not even knowing what love is? To think you know how you’re supposed to be treated, but it’s really abuse and exploitation? Can you even imagine believing that if you love a man, you’re required to sleep with his friends for money? Do you even have a grid for that?
I personally know these people. These aren’t just nameless faces of random sad news stories.
How does one go back to the every day after standing with people as incredible as this?
These people you read about and feel sorry for… they’re real. That rap song about pimps and hoes, those are my friends. That stripper you threw a bill at when just needing a night of relaxation with the guys, she is my friend and she’s up there because a man told her he loved her and that this is how she can prove she loves him back. That porn you watch, 70-80% of those performers (male and female) were sexually abused as children and are in so much pain they don’t know how else to express it. They think performing gives them control and power over those who’d otherwise abuse them like everyone else has, not knowing they’re just being exploited and enslaved anyhow until it’s too late.
I know these women and men and children, and I love them, and I’ve seen what our culture and failed institutions have done to them, and I can’t stand it. I’m one person, I can’t hold them all. A little help here?
Today, I give in and grieve deeply for my precious friends. Tomorrow, I stand back up and figure out what the heck God’s asking me to do about it.
I should know better by now than to hit the “Random Play” button on my music devices.
Somehow, no matter what’s in the mix, God always hijacks the shuffle and does a little voice-over. The honest truth is that God does speak today in even more ways than He did when Jesus walked the earth – He has a whole world of technology to utilize now. He’s there in the still small voice, in the Bible, in nature, in the coincidence, in the encouraging words of a stranger, in the loving rebuke of a friend, in your car stereo, in the prophetic words of a prayer warrior, in the musings of a homeless brother, in that random thought, in that preacher’s sermon, in that moment of clarity, in the off-handed remark of a forgotten conversation, in that moment of eye contact, in the silence, in the art making, in the undeserved second chances and promotions and the doors slammed in our faces, in it all. The real question if you’re not hearing Him is, “Are you really listening?” I’ll leave that one alone for another day.
The way He usually sneaks up on me and speaks when I’m not listening is through music.
Has it ever happened to you? There you are, going about your day and suddenly, a song comes on and rips your heart from your chest. Sometimes, you cry and don’t know why. Other times, memories and musings flash so fast you’re running to keep up. Well usually when I find myself reacting emotionally to a song, I pause a moment and ask myself why. If it’s not just a memory thing, I ask God why He’s choosing to highlight it. And then the flood comes.
There are songs that have done this during different seasons of my life – they come, serve their purpose, then stand as periodic reminders of how God was working in my life at that time. Built-in altars, if you will. There are songs that still make me cry and I can’t quite place why. More recently, though, He’s begun to dump revelation after revelation about many of those – my heart cry for so long has been reflected in these highlighted songs, and now He’s revealing that they were in preparation for the season I’ve recently entered.
Though there are many more, two songs have consistently rocked me every single time I’ve heard them for the past two years. For both, as soon as they came on, before the first word was ever spoken, I inexplicably stopped what I was doing and listened because I knew God was in them. I just knew. And as I listened, He broke me. Every time, same thing, repeat.
At the risk of seeming absolutely crazy, I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that I needed to share an example from earlier today of this happening with these songs. It leaves me extremely vulnerable, and I feel I still need to leave some of the revelation to myself so as to not invade others’ privacy, but I’ll try to be as transparent as possible. I’m going to give you a glimpse at how He speaks to me as these songs play – sometimes it’s the same revelation, others it changes, but here’s what happened today:
Today is my first day back up in Oakland after spending the last 2 weeks with family in San Diego soul-searching and praying for direction. My heart is broken with some things that have happened, and I’ve had some honest, tough conversations with the people I love most (because I love them most, I must). I was terrified to come back – I knew I’d be alone, I knew more tough conversations lay ahead as I continue to set healthy boundaries, and I knew resolution is still up in the air. I have been asking some hard questions of myself and of God, and He’s been growing me in ways I never knew possible. It’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times, and with the intensity of it all, I just resigned to hide behind a pile of work and an empty house to survive the first day back.
As I was doing some work, I accidentally hit the “play” button on my keyboard which is linked to my Spotify. Up popped “White Owl” by Josh Garrels and randomly started a few seconds into the song right as the first line is being spoken. I burst into tears, and this is what God said (and even now as I write, I begin to cry hearing God’s voice again through the song)…
(HIT PLAY, then read on)
When the night comes, and you don’t know which way to go (I see you, Lindsey. I know you’re hurt and confused by all that is happening) Through the shadowlands (I know Oakland has been a dark time for you, and I know you’ve felt abandoned) and forgotten paths (I know you have forgotten who you are. I know you have been asking me to show you where you lost yourself, where you lost Me. I know you’ve been aching deep inside, wondering where those dreams and plans I put in you are and when you’ll ever get to walk them) you will find a road (I promise. My Word is a lamp unto your feet, let’s start there)
Like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye, And use your instinct as a guide to navigate the way that lays before you (You hear Me clearly, really. That voice inside you is Me, and you can trust Me. I am your instinct, let me guide you. Stop looking to others for affirmation and guidance when I’ve chosen to speak clearly. I’ve got you. And all of this. There is a way I’m making through this shadowland wilderness. Walk with me) You were born to take the greatest flight (For I know the plans I have for you, and they’re awesome! All the promises I made to you will come to pass; there is favor on your life, and you will be used for great things in My kingdom. You were made for so much more than what you’ve been handed and what you’ve chosen to settle for. But even more than that, you will have the depth of relationship and intimacy with Me that you’re crying out for. It’s your birthright as My daughter; you were born for My glory. It will be the greatest adventure of your life, just you wait)
Like a serpent and a dove (Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. I’ve let you experience all of these things to give you street smarts and relevance to a hurting world, but I’ve given you My heart so that these experiences wouldn’t harden you) you will have wisdom born of love (My love. I’m teaching you a love like you’ve never known) To carry visions from above (I will show you My thoughts and teach you great and unsearchable things. You have a prophetic gifting – trust it) into the places no man dares to follow (Are you still willing to give up everything to come follow me if it meant I’m the only One who will love you? Am I enough? Do you need a husband? Kids? What if I never gave you a family – would you still want the gifts and call I’ve bestowed? What if everyone called you a freak? What if no one listened to or believed you? Would you still believe Me? Also, I’m giving you words and visions and dreams and the boldness to be My mouthpiece in scary places – the brothels, the streets, the desperate stranger needing to hear from Me, the Christian needing rebuke so that they might get back on track with what I want to do in their lives. You will speak out when others remain silent. You must) Every hollow in the dark of night, Waiting for the light, Take the flame tonight (I’m here. The Light Will come. I told you years ago through Jadie that you were a pilot light – I’ve been building a passion in you to increase that flame. A pilot light ignites when fueled – I’m bringing it. You shine brightest when My passion and compassion are unhindered within you. Stop resigning to be a quite little light of Mine, let me set you ablaze and burn away the chaff and refine you as gold. Let the passion happen)
Child the time has come for you to go (Yes, I’m in this. The time has come, you’ve been faithful here and my purposes for this season have been fulfilled) You will never be alone (Though none go with you and it feels like I’ve stripped everything and everyone away, it’s been on purpose. You are mine. I love you so passionately that there’s just no room for anything else anymore. I’m a jealous God who’s been pushed aside and replaced for far too long. But I’ve always been there and always will be – ask Me to show you where I was in every situation you felt abandoned or betrayed. See how I’ve either gone before you to shield you, covered you, picked you back up, held your hand through it, or tearfully collected each tear in a bottle. I’m here even now. You can access my throne room whenever you want. You’re not alone for a moment) Every dream that you have been shown (Every. Last. One. I put them there) Will be like living stone, Building you into a home (Home. I know how much that word hurts you. I know the pain that shoots through you, that’s why we created your art show together, remember? It was all about home. We built a home together, and I began to show you what home means. But now, I want to build you into a home. I want you to give up grip on a physical place to cling to and realize that you are My home and since I live within you, you are home whenever you call upon My name. I’m always with you, you are home in Me. Build your home in the altar of praise as the sparrow did, worship me with your whole being, and you will never again be shaken when the time comes to give up your stuff and move. I’m asking you to be portable so that I might use you in radical ways as I did Jesus who did not have a place to lay His head, either. I’m building you into a home so that you always have a Heavenly perspective that your real home is not a structure, it’s in Me and in eternity) A shelter from the storm (I am your refuge and your strength. Remember that Nooma where the dad is carrying his baby son through a storm? Yeah, that made you cry too. I carry you as he carried him, I am your Protector. I will calm every storm, you will not be consumed. But sometimes the wind and waves will come and serve as a way for me to show up strong in your life or for me to see if I am your anchor. Like Peter walking on water to me, don’t look away. Keep focused on Me no matter what is swirling around you and in you, I’m the only way you’ll survive)
Like a messenger of peace, the beauty waits be released (There is beauty in this breakdown. Sweetly broken so you may be wholly surrendered. Look, I’ve given you peace in the midst of this horrendous brokenness. The beauty has been waiting for you to finally surrender your whole self to me: Beauty for ashes. The testimony and ministry I’ve placed within your spirit, you’ve always called it Beauty for Ashes for a reason. Isaiah 61. That is my call to you. But how could you bind the brokenhearted if you’ve never felt the sting? How could you point people to Me without having first known the cost of total surrender? How could you survive if you couldn’t distinguish between the breaking I do and the breaking other men/people do?) Upon the sacred path you keep, leading deeper into the unveiling (As you continue to live at My feet and surrender, I will show you increased levels of understanding. You have no idea what I have in store for you, but it’s all in My timing. I need you to be in covenant with me, purifying yourself and holding yourself to a higher standard not out of obligation but out of love for Me and desire that nothing stand between us. I’m going to keep stripping these things out and purging you, and while it might feel like a death, it is! I’m killing you to save who you will be in Me. Listen to My heartbeat, do as I do, allow me to shape your will and character and habits and lifestyle, die to yourself, and I promise to bring you deeper and deeper) As you’re sailing across the great divide (Life is short. There’s no time to waste. You have a finite time to run the race I’ve called you to run. Before you know it, time will be up and you’ll be with Me. My purpose and will will be done on this earth regardless of if you choose to partner with me on this, but man, I promise it’ll be worth it if you let me use you to bring it about)
Like a wolf at midnight howls, you use your voice in darkest hours (Times like these) to break the silence and the power holding back the others from their glory (To proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God…to comfort all who mourn. My heart ACHES for my children all over the world being abused and raped and sold. I have a purpose and a plan for every single one, and if you won’t speak on their behalf, who will? I’m calling you to speak My words of love and restoration to them, I’m calling you to speak My words of truth to the masses, and I’m calling you to speak life and healing and restoration over them, in Jesus’ name. You will call demons out and break down strongholds in cultures of darkness and oppression. You will bring the truth of who I am and how I love to the darkest places of the world. You will release My justice and spread news of what I’m doing to any who will listen. Now is not the time to remain silent – while people sit ashamed to admit what’s been done to them, they are held in bondage. While people avoid topics of sex and violence out of propriety, darkness wins. Start talking. Freedom is in your speech) Every story will be written soon (You will write a book someday, I told you that when you were little. For now, I’m asking you to keep writing the things I show you – tell the stories and testimonies that will bring revelation and restoration to this hurting world. Look to the power of the testimony. I’m writing one heck of a story in you and others for My glory that people would see Me and turn their hearts back. The more extreme the hurt and breaking, the more unarguable it is that I was the only One to save and heal) The blood is on the moon, Morning will come soon (A new dawn is breaking, do you feel it? Many do – this new year didn’t just bring a new calendar but a new movement of my Spirit. Those who choose to follow My prompting will be thrown into realms they’ve never experienced. I’ve set you chosen ones aside for this season. I’m breaking and rebuilding so intensely because the battle requires it. But take heart, you will see My kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven in your lifetime)
(Listen to Me above any other voice right now. Hear me clearly)
Child, the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm (For others as well – those who desperately need safe people in their lives)
And just when I thought the onslaught was over, the song faded into one that He’s used since the day (literally) I moved to Oakland with fear in my chest and sadness over leaving behind the only people/place I’d really called home. I was sitting in my car, lost and terrified that I might be a sitting duck in the wrong part of town, and I’d just turned down my radio because I needed to think about how to get back to my apartment. Right when I was overcome by the realization that I actually lived here now and was not just visiting, that this was now my reality and there was no turning back, I cried out, “God, why did you bring me here? Oh, God – don’t abandon me in Oakland forever!” and I kid you not, the radio seemed to get startlingly louder and this song started.
That was the first time I heard “Home” by Phillip Phillips.
This one’s super straight forward – just imagine God singing it to a lonely, scared little girl in a time of great transition and uncertainty (much like the one she again finds herself in today):
(HIT PLAY, then read on)
Hold on to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home
Settle down, it’ll all be clear (I am not a God of confusion)
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear (partner with Me, not them)
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found (there is nowhere to hide from My grace)
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home
As you can imagine, after this 1-2 punch, I was out for the count. I thanked Him for loving me enough to break through to me at all costs and looked up the lyrics in case He had more to say to me upon seeing the songs in written form. A google search added an interesting rabbit trail on ask.com that said, “The spiritual meaning of a white owl means you’re maturing. It also can mean you’ve been given more wisdom. Lastly, it can also mean developing and evolving as a person.” While this is a secular “spiritual” definition, I still felt God saying, “YES! See? You’re maturing and evolving as a child of Mine, and I’m giving you wisdom and revelation.”
As I write, I wonder if He speaks this way to others (or if I’m just going crazy). I am not under any delusions that He would only speak to me this way; I’m a nobody. In fact, I have no idea why anyone would still be reading at this point because these are the crazy ramblings of a nobody. But if you are, and if He hasn’t yet smacked you in the face with grace in song form, you really ought to give Him permission to and see what He’ll do. Then, right when you stop forcefully reading into things and looking for Him to speak, He will.
And yes, sometimes it will literally be audible.
Artist: Phillip Phillips
Format / Edition: Single
Record Label: Interscope
PHILLIP PHILLIPS lyrics are property and copyright of their owners. “Home” lyrics provided for educational purposes and personal use only. Copyright © 2000-2014 AZLyrics.com