Guest Post: “Four Words” By Emily Shiflet

     { I am honored to announce Called to Joy Blog’s first guest post, written by my wonderful friend Emily. She has a beautiful style and I hope you all take to heart her message. This is us, girls. This is who we were, and who we now are. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NKJV). Thanks, Emily, for sharing with us! Your writing inspires me! – Shelbie }

Four words…
…and a dead heart beats.

Four notes sung by holy lips…
…and lifeless eyelids tremble,
stiff limbs stretch,
cold veins warm…
…and the people fear.

They are amazed, dismayed, afraid.
Afraid of the power of four words.

A young girl crowded with loneliness, surrounded by people but alone. Longing for love but fearing…fearing that once people know her, they will despise her, a blushing bride afraid to lift the veil.

There are no doors and the window is barred, I feel the concrete walls closing in, preparing to crush me. The air is stifling-stale. I gasp. Sweat runs down my temples and a deep-seated sob catches in my throat. I must escape or die. The room continues to shrink or else I am going mad. I must escape or die. Through the barred window I catch glimpses of green, of wide open spaces, of fresh air and of freedom just beyond my grasp. My mind struggles to piece together the missing parts of the picture blocked by the bars. The picture eludes my imaginings. I must escape or die. SOMEONE! please show me the rolling green hills where I can rub off my saddle sores and gallop through the wind, a pony who answers to only One Rider.

In a downward spiral, the maelstrom continues: feeling wanted and loved for only a time, times and half a time. Like the addict after a drink, one glass is never enough. The height is followed by a plummet, the ship dipping further and further into the raging sea until it rises no more. Moments of happiness marred by the shadow that lurks behind every fleeting compliment. It will not last…soon they will know.

The lion was waiting for me. He was waiting till it was quiet and I crawled into bed alone. Many a night I put my pillow over my head and cried myself to sleep, thinking that my sobs would drown out the voices in my head. But when I awoke they were always there, ready to pull me down like a millstone around my neck, ready to suck the very life out of me.

Desperate for love, anxious to please, always left empty.
Dry bones are all that is left.
My name…is “no mercy”.
Lo-ruhamah.

When a friend was silent, when an older woman pursed her lips, when my parents were reserved, I felt rejected. It must be my fault. How could anyone love me? Every rebuke seemed to me a confirmation. It should not matter what others think–do as unto the Lord. But the smiles of God seemed so far away. Afraid of man-centered religion I relegated God to the role of indifferent benefactor in place of loving Father. Surely being saved from wrath was enough?

And yet…it did not matter to me that I was saved from Hell because without assurance of God’s love I lived Hell every day.

And when I doubted God’s love, human love became more necessary.

Don’t be a man-pleaser–this said with scorn. So to please man I stopped pleasing men and the drunkard returned to his drink, the dog to his vomit and the small boat teetered on the brink, took one last look at the abyss beneath then vanished in the swirling foam…

Dry bones glisten white in the valley of the dead.
In the valley of the forsaken, I weep and mourn
because I doubt the power of four words.

But from the four winds of Heaven the mouth of God breathes…
…breathes life into dry bones and whispers four words: “I have loved you.”

“Now, child, arise.”

Four words…
…and a dead heart beats,
lifeless eyelids tremble,
stiff limbs stretch,
cold veins warm…
and I fix my eyes heavenward and see the prison has no roof.

“I have loved you.”

the smell of green grass fills my nostrils,

pure sunshine warms my skin,

I cough up water and I sing…I sing of the power of four words.

What I perceived as a maelstrom was actually the Spirit’s Baptism.
The Valley of Achor, the valley of the dead and forsaken, has become the door of Hope.

I have loved you.”
The Son of David has had mercy on “no mercy”.
He has given her a new name.
I am the disciple whom Jesus loved.

“I have loved you.”
welcomed invasion of my heart.

“And when I passed by you
and saw you wallowing in your blood,
I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’”
{Ezekiel 16:6}

It was Love that invaded my prison, Love that saw the begrimed walls and rolled up His sleeves, Love that stripped me of my prison rags and clothed me with redemption’s robes.

Love is messy

love is invasive

but it is this love that will. not. let. me. go.

it’s only an invasive-love that knows my ev’ry thought and loves me still,
only an invasive-love seeps into my soul, sprouts a leak, and floods the streets,
this is a holy invasion: this drop of heavenly love that into a torrent grew.

Love which makes the lover ugly, thereby making the loved lovely.

“I have loved you.”
four words that raise the dead, cover the shamed adulteress,
breathe life into dry bones and set the captives free.

freed by love–now freed to love,

freely given–now freely give,

freed to live, glorious freedom…

…But what of the broken lives, broken hearts, a city of darkness-dwellers, enslaved in their own prisons of fear and doubt and hate?

Oh, we of little faith who doubt
the resurrection-pow’r of four words.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea,
a Great High Priest who’s name is LOVE, who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

– from the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” by Charitie Bancroft –
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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       Emily Shiflet is a young writer–and dear friend of mine–with many talents. She describes her life like this: “I’m a sinner saved by grace, ransomed by love and adopted into the family of God. I’m also a homemaker-in-training, big sis to five, daughter of a Reformed Baptist pastor in the Houston, Texas area, owner and jewelry maker of DesignCraftJewelry, aspiring author, sometime pianist and all-the-time singer.”

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