His Banner Over You Is Love
In case it wasn't clear by now, I'm a big words girl.
I love writing, and I love the feeling of finding a perfect quote. Heck, "Words of Affirmation" is even my top love language.
My love for words stems from the fact that I believe in their power. Power to influence and power to change. Think about God's first recorded words in Scripture, as He is creating the world. Of all the methods He could have chosen (which is oh yeah, anything), He chose to speak the very universe in which we live into existence using words. This means that His words have the power to change reality. I think He has instilled in our words the same capacity.
Consider the words we speak over ourselves, again and again in our minds. In those words lie unspeakable power. Just trace your current mood back to that track playing on repeat in your head. What does it say? Who does it say that you are?
Consider also the act of calling out and declaring a person's gold, even when it's all too easy to see the muck that gold is buried in. That has the power to change the person's trajectory of becoming. Words of life invite a person to become all they were meant to be. Careless or condemning words, conversely, can stifle that process of becoming, creating a person who lives buried, hidden, and trapped in a cage with locks named fear and shame.
I've been in that cage before.
For far too long I'd been looking for my worth in a place it was never going to be found, with a boy. In the blink of an eye, that all came crashing down like the ground was giving out from under me. I was confused and lost and had no idea who I was.
Months later I found myself embarking on the adventure of a lifetime: a semester of studying abroad in London. Though the initial shock of my loss had subsided, the dull ache remained. Along with it, the lies about who I was, engrained from months and months of looking for validation from a source that was never going to grant it. That couldn't.
The lies told me: You're not enough. Not fun or beautiful or confident or fearless enough.
And they told me to stay hidden and quiet, because that was safer than allowing myself to be seen and deemed unworthy.
Though I couldn't have known going into it, London for me was a time of refuge away with God. I thought I was signing up for a semester of adventure and memories but He knew that He was taking me away to give me that, plus so much more.
From the moment my feet stepped off the plane, God was working. He was bringing hope and freedom and truth and the most beautiful friendships, even one friend whose side I'll stand beside as her maid of honor when she says "I do" this February.
The work was gradual, and then sudden. And much of it culminated on a rainy Tuesday night exactly two years ago.
Two years ago this very day was spent exploring the seaside town of Brighton, England. The city was whimsically reminiscent of San Francisco and Santa Monica, with a faint yet lingering eerie sensation, which felt to me like I was wandering about in the movie Inception. Dream-like, almost.
On Monday some friends and I were making plans to leave on a weekend trip to Scotland that Thursday, and at the last minute we decided we'd spend Tuesday in Brighton.
My friend Erin had been trying to contact friends of her parents, an older couple named June and Alex who lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, hoping to meet up while we were there. They got back to her on Monday night saying that they'd love to meet up, but unfortunately they'd moved to a town in England called Brighton.
She told them we'd be there the next day and they told her to come for dinner, and to bring friends.
After a lovely day exploring Brighton, I soon found myself seated around a beautiful dinner table situated in the greenhouse of a lovely British home.
I didn't quite understand June and Alex's love. I was overwhelmed by their eagerness to serve and pour into us, people they barely knew. Strangers. They welcomed us into their home and prepared a feast for us, embracing us as if they'd known us their entire lives. They exuded warmth, and they showed us that hospitality means leaving a person full, both stomach and heart.
We prayed for the food and I was just about to take my first bite of the salad in front of me when June piped up.
"I love to see young people who love the Lord. What are your stories of how you came to know Him?"
I was immediately nervous. These friends didn't know what I'd gone through and shame told me they shouldn't. But there'd be no wading in the shallow waters; we were jumping in.
Nerves and awkwardness subsided as we each took turns listening to each other's stories. Heartfelt stories, with undertones of pain and hurt and brokenness, but also of hope and redemption. Each person nervous to share, wondering if their mess would be too messy but each story received, with love and understanding and acceptance. It was a safe space.
June and Alex then began to pray over each person, speaking over us specific words and promises that each person desperately needed to hear.
Old banners were being broken down: Abrasive. Quiet. Slow. Insecure. Less than.
And new banners were written: Honest. One who sees what others don't. Wise. Joyful. Open to God's Spirit. Compassionate.
These new words were spoken with such conviction that we began to believe them and five sets of eyes brimmed over with tears as life was breathed into our beings.
June spoke words of truth over who I was becoming that helped me believe God had a purpose in all of my pain. That He had used it to shape me into someone who was better equipped to make Him known on this earth than I would have been without it. I felt known and loved and enough. Healing crept in and I began to see myself and my story differently.
Lies were broken down and replaced with Truth.
And in the coming months I'd learn that believing God's truth about who I am over the lies of this world was something I'd have to continually fight for, but something worth the fight.
You see, words' power to change is often not instantaneous. A great quote can inspire, as it resonates with a buried truth that we had perhaps not yet been able to articulate. It, however, will likely not bring about tremendous change in the instance it is read. Words find their power in repetition, when we steep ourselves in them.
Imagine the soft, gentle contours of a rock which has found its home under streams of running water. Those contours did not appear at the rock's first contact with water. Rather, it took years of water running over the rock's surface, softening its rugged edges, and sculpting it into a masterpiece for it to become what it is.
The same is true with words. We need, above all, to steep ourselves in God's Word. To feed on it continually, moment by moment. His gentle, yet persistent streams of love will gradually give shape to a heart that knows and lives in the freedom of the Father's sweet, unfailing love.
Words have power. Which ones do we listen to?
No matter your past, your mistakes, your shortcomings, or what's been done to you, you are loved, and you are enough. No matter your circumstances, your pain, or how alone you might feel, you are seen. You are fully known and fully loved.
Take some time to let Him remind you of that truth today.
A beautiful, Spirit-filled night.
A beautiful, Spirit-filled couple.