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This Beautiful Crushing

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through 
Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel 
that has crushed it.
~ Mark Twain 


by Hillary McFarland

An intriguing story in the Old Testament recounts the life of a young orphaned girl named Hadassah. Initially chosen to become the Queen of Persia because of her beauty, a perspective of this calling offered by her cousin Mordecai also bears wisdom for us. He said,
“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4)
Queen Esther's brave reply, with her own life on the line, bore the fruit of life for her Jewish brothers and sisters. 
“...I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
If I perish, I perish. This resolve and commitment is required of us, sometimes, too. Actually, it's something Jesus talked about as a requirement for discipleship.
     Occasionally people ask why I didn't focus more on the sins of quivering daughters in my book.

Grace, But...

     Many women who experience the type of conservative lifestyle drawn from a belief system most commonly known as Biblical Patriarchy to its followers, which is thoroughly described in documents outlining specific doctrinal positions governing every aspect of life, have dwelt all their lives beneath the shadow of condemnation. Daughters of patriarchy face, every day, the realities of sinful flesh, of mistakes, of selfishness; that they are as worms, and wretched, and as filthy rags who fail to measure up to God's standard of righteousness and what parents or others want them to be. They know they are sinners.
     I know I'm a sinner.
     Everyone else knows it, too.
     But can I tell you what many of them don't know? What many still struggle faithfully to grasp?
     Grace.
     Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, yet it perplexes me why so many teachers of Scripture, as well as authoritarian religious households, promote a Grace, But... theology.
     Grace is such good news!
     Matthew tells us that the Good Shepherd taught in the synagogues (places of religious worship), healed and preached to the people, and ...was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  (9:35-38)
     Can there ever be too much grace?

The Secret of Grace

     “Quivering daughters” know their shortcomings more keenly and sharply than nearly everyone else. In fact, copious amounts of time are spent in self-reflection of sin and self-examination...but these are certainly not the noble, praiseworthy, pure, lovely things we are exhorted to meditate upon. It is bondage. Slavery. Paul talked about this in Romans. Shall we sin so that grace may abound? No. Yet many messages my sisters hear dwell on the sin part and are stingy with the grace part...grace, which is sometimes referred to as “the scandal of the gospel.”
     But the truth is, constant focus on sinfulness takes our mind off of Christ. Constant focus on our failures takes our mind off of what He has done for us. What if we lived according to Paul's command?
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6)    
Consider yourself dead to sin, but alive in Jesus. Focus on the Forgiver of sins, who preached good news and is rich in grace, and trust Him!
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (Rom. 4:4-5)
For those who want to be found faithful and obedient to God, truly grasping and understanding what it means to walk in the Spirit and to walk in grace doesn't lead to temptation or sin. Those who caution Grace, But... actually tighten chains around those already bound. The truth is, living in grace leads to love! It pours out of a heart transformed by the Spirit; where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty! And as we learn to live in grace, we become more like Jesus. He didn't come preaching Grace, But...
     He came preaching grace.
     He came in truth, to open the eyes of the blind.
    He came bringing liberty and freedom for the captive and the oppressed.
     He came with good news.
     And He came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:1-3)
For Such a Time as This    

     Hadassah is a name which, in Hebrew, means myrtle tree. Myrtle has many properties which are renowned throughout the world, one of which is the intoxicating fragrance it releases upon crushing
     Crushing can be messy. It bruises and breaks. But God was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the fiery furnace, and He was with Queen Esther when she resolved to not keep silent, He is with me as I seek to obey His word, and He is with you. You are not forgotten by God, and a message God gave the prophet Jeremiah bears truth for us today. 
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:15) 
He chose our parents. He chose the family in which to place us. He loves our fathers and mothers. He loves each of your brothers and sisters. He longs for them to know the height and the depth and the width of his love, and the riches of His grace. He yearns for them to truly know Him, the true and living  jealous God, apart from the doctrines and traditions of men. They may consider you the lost sheep of the fold, but even if so, remember that it was the lost sheep the Shepherd sought. And He set them apart ~ He sanctified them, nourished, and healed them. With such a touch from God, how could they not be different?
     Consider that in His perfect love and will, God placed you in your family's life for such a time as this. God knew you in your mother's womb; who better than you to love and pray for the family to which you were born?  Let us continue to love, forgive, show the grace we have received. 
     Prayer is a ministry. Love is a calling with rich reward:
“...I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than  others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
    When you are cast out and rejected, even emotionally if not physically, your ministry is not in vain. Don't waste your pain. Continue to beseech the face of God on behalf of your family. Continue to live in humility and obedience, walking in the Spirit in grace and truth. Lay at His feet the hurts and the wounds and the broken pieces. Trust the one who justifies the ungodly, who has called you with a heavenly calling, and dare to focus not on your sin, but on the Forgiver of your sin!  Have the courage of Queen Esther who was once little orphaned Hadassah. Take comfort that He who raised Jesus from the dead can also bring life and restoration; victory is already won, death is defeated, and He is your shield and defense and your very present help in trouble and sorrow and suffering.
    For those who have dwelt beneath the shadow of condemnation, take heart! Jesus came bringing the good news of His grace!

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
      And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
      Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4)

12 comments:

  1. Oh Hillary, many hugs for your faithful encouragment in the midst of your own fiery trials! (fiery trials--ahem, from your brave book). You lift up and out with this post and I'll be back for a re-read.

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  2. I couldn't agree more, Hillary! I know the things that have healed my heart are grace, mercy, kindness and unconditional love. I am fully aware of my shortcomings and muss-ups. :-) The Old World held them over me so long, now I just rest in being human, delighting in loving and being loved. Big hug to you. :-)

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  3. i had to stop and not go any farther and absorb this truth that you wrote:

    "They may consider you the lost sheep of the fold, but even if so, remember that it was the lost sheep the Shepherd sought. And He set them apart ~ He sanctified them, nourished, and healed them. With such a touch from God, how could they not be different?"

    this term "lost sheep" has been a huge burden on my shoulders for so many different reasons - i'm so thankful that i sat down to read your post today - Jesus has used your words to begin to crack open an area of bondage. again, hillary, thank you.

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    1. Thank you for that bit about the lost sheep as well. I really appreciate it. I have been considered the lost sheep for so long by my family, that I never thought there was anything good about me anymore. But, God said that he will bring back the lost sheep and that is a huge comfort.

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  4. [T]he Law is not to operate on a person after he has been humbled and frightened by the exposure of his sins and the wrath of God. We must then say to the Law: "Mister Law, lay off him. He has had enough. You scared him good and proper." Now it is the Gospel's turn. Now let Christ with His gracious lips talk to him of better things, grace, peace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. --Martin Luther (commentary on Galatians 3:19)

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  5. yes and amen. God's grace is so extravagant it goes all the way to the death of His Son. We could never match Him in His extravagance...never, never. The farther we let ourselves go into loving and showing mercy, the more we understand that we don't have to fear, that this is not about us saving other people but about participating in the beautiful love of the Father and trusting Him to do the work of conviction and maturing.

    Excellent post, my friend.

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  6. Like Kimberley, that paragraph stopped me in my tracks! I so needed to read this post today.

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  7. This poem still needs a little work rhythm-wise, but I thought I'd post it for now and hope that it is a blessing to others. "Birthright of Grace"/Poems for Him: http://poems4him.blogspot.com/2010/11/birthright-of-grace.html

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  8. How very touching and beautiful~I love the story of Hadassah so much that I once named my beautiful German Shepherd after her. :) Thanks for the gentle reminder of the crushing that produces a sweet fragrance to our Father. Love this~

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  9. Hillary, this post touched me so dearly! I was drawn back to your page tonight after quite awhile. I love the Esther story and lately I do feel that I am resonating with 'the fire journey' and the calling as Esther had in my own unique way. Sometimes the burdens God gives, truly it is so much trust he places on us to do it. I know he knows we can, but goodness sometimes it seems so much. Lately, I have felt such overwhelming peace and can feel the fire that is Pure Presence and it is so purifying, and sacred, and life-changing. Thank you for this note tonight. It really came at such a beautiful time! May our El Shaddai continue to protect you and care for you as you care for a most tender flock. hugs, Jenn

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  10. Great post, Hillary.

    I am so grateful for His Grace! This post reminds me of a conversation that I had with a friend the other day. How sweet it is that Grace is our birthright! No one can take this claim away from us!

    Poems for Him/Birthright of Grace: http://poems4him.blogspot.com/2010/11/birthright-of-grace.html

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  11. Thank you for this post, Hillary. I am so aware of my failings...past and current. It is not that I desire to ignore the areas I need to work on, but it is nice to have the reminder of grace. Criticisms seem to come easily. They also seem to be delivered easily. I need to both hear grace and share grace.

    Your posts read like devotionals. Thank you.

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