It’s guest week here at Facets of Faith and I’m excited to introduce my dear friend, Cheryl Fiorelli to you. Today she’s sharing a tender and personal experience she had as she pursues a life following Jesus.
Pondering the question—what would you give up to maintain your freedom, took me back to a time when the Lord gave me a vision, a dream. Four years ago this vision was a gift from Him as I was worked through the “Surrendering the Secret” ministry at my church. The Lord had delivered me from the greatest sorrow and sin of my life: an abortion I had at 17. His grace led me back into the light I had left behind long before. How like God it is that as I complete this writing, it was 41 years ago today that the abortion occurred!
God knows me, and that I’m a visual learner. Pictures help me understand things more thoroughly so I can refer back to it when I get lost again. So He gave me a picture of His grace.
Because sometimes I forget, like the Israelites did.
They had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea and were beginning to feel the first pangs of hunger. I remember harshly judging the Israelites as they grumbled and complained to Moses in the wilderness of sin. They forgot the miracles they had just witnessed, even as the Song of Moses still rang in their ears.
If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” Exodus 16:3, NLT
Talk about selective memory! What about being slaves, the beatings, the agonizing days of forced labor? Yet today, when I live in the freedom that the grace of Jesus has bought for me, at times I find myself longing for and returning to the “comfort zone” He has taken me out of, as painful and awful as it was!
I no longer judge the Israelites, because sometimes my fear and lack of trust in the Lord, or not staying close to Him, lead me back down that road to my very own Wilderness of Sin. Yet like that wandering sheep in the parable in Luke 15:3-7, the Good Shepherd comes to find me, picks me up and puts me on His shoulders, and carries me and my wounded spirit back to the sheepfold where I belong.
And gives me visions such as this:
I saw a wide wall or trellis, a grotto of sorts. It wasn’t stone or wood but had a slight overarching roof with soft morning sunlight dappling from behind. Huge bunches of grapes hung from this trellis, gorgeous and abundant. There was an outflow of leaves and lovely pale flowers in yellow, pink and blue with deep green leaves and another huge overflowing of grapes beyond that. They hung all the way to the ground in deepest purple and soft green leaves. I saw more flowers and overflowing bunches of grapes, champagne grapes with smoky gray leaves. Then came daisies and graceful bunches of roses in vibrant reds and oranges, yellows…the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in a dream or in waking life.
The “trellis” was a natural sort of formation that blossomed out of nowhere, yet totally belonged in all its glory and beauty. It wasn’t outlandish nor overtly beautiful, yet soft and alive with light and wonder, like the very symbol of abundance and grace-life renewing and growing.
I heard soft sounds. a birdsong, flowing water nearby yet out of sight. Soft sounds that seemed to belong there yet were new at the same time, glowing with a heavenly radiance absolutely real.
I sensed this was the embodiment of the grace of God. Grapes to quench the thirst. Gentleness and beauty to surround and bathe your heart with relief so profound you can’t begin to understand it and yet you grasp it, the reality, the truth of it, deep within your heart and your mind.
There was profound peace. The answer to burning desires. The answer to unspoken questions that needed answers and needed them so desperately.
Oh God! Here, here it is at last, at last! Oh, I didn’t know but now I see it: the exact shape of the emptiness inside me. Oh it was so clear, so soothing to my lonely seeking spirit and it was all there: the abundance, the absolute rightness of God’s grace. It’s been here all along, right where it’s always been. I just couldn’t see it because I wasn’t ready for it, or perhaps I just didn’t know to ask.
I sensed God tell me this was the answer to everything, the Wellspring, the rightness, the certainty of it flowed toward me from the soft dappled sunlight. There can be no beauty akin to it because it’s the heart of God from which came the celebration of the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.
It’s here, I sensed God tell me, every answer you’ve ever looked for.
Drink it in, breathe it in, let it sink into your soul, into your pores. Eat of it, let it quench that burning thirst, that deep abiding hunger, that there was no way to satisfy.
But Lord, there is a way! It’s you! It’s you! It’s always been you! It’s your grace! It can allay your fears, put them to rest. God’s grace in all its beauty and abundance, forgiveness flows out of it. Forgiveness that was for me! It pierced my heart, and drove out all the old bitterness and fear.
Then I see them, the hearts of all of those people toward whom I was holding resentment and anger. I saw them as Jesus sees them, as He sees the broken and beaten down, the discouraged and afraid, wrecked by the pain, rejection and abandonment that they too have known.
And in my heart, I know, with absolute clarity that I can take this grace of God, of which I have partaken, and pass it on to all those whom I need to forgive…so that they too can find what I have found…God’s grace!
His grace is what I give up every time I willingly stray off the path that actually leads to more and more freedom! So what am I willing to give up to keep my freedom? My own will so I can live for His will in my life. I am willing to move forward, to take up my cross daily and follow Him. Every step I take in that journey leads me further into the joy and purpose of being in relationship with Jesus.
When I give up my will for his, I also leave behind living in the shadow and all that goes with it: pain, isolation, purposelessness, loneliness, feeling trapped, deep depression, great anxiety and fear, and the unrelenting grief of feeling far from my Savior.
For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” Psalm 84:11,NLT
Lord Jesus, please help me keep my feet on the path you have set before me, the path that leads to deeper and deeper love and relationship with you. Forgive me for sometimes being afraid, not trusting you, and longing to return to my wilderness of sin. Thank you for always coming to get me when I stray, my Lord and Shepherd. And thank you for your Grace that quenches my thirst and fills my emptiness. How lovely, how very beautiful it is. In your Strong and Powerful Name I pray. Amen.
by Cheryl Fiorelli