In my effort to become all that the Lord would have me to be, I have sought to uncover who I am. I do so hoping that others can see the power of God at work in the lives of His kids; how He loves us, pursues us and never gives up on us! Today, I share what I used to be in order for you to celebrate with me whom I’ve become in the Lord.
I was born into a loud, funny and fighting family. I am the sixth out of seven children born to a hotheaded Puerto Rican man who loved and served the Lord, who was sweet and generous, compassionate and kind, responsible and committed and to a hotheaded Puerto Rican woman who was hard-headed and strong willed. She was a nurturer, a comforter and an encourager and she was very funny. I believe that I am made up of some of their best qualities, but along with their strengths, came some of their weaknesses, namely the hot temper, the strong will and the hard head. (And I love how the Lord takes our weaknesses and turns them into our strengths. He’s just like that!!)
I was sandwiched between three older brothers and one younger and in order to thrive in this birth order, I had no choice but to be tough. I had to be loud and dramatic so that I’d be noticed. I had to have the last word…always. I learned to run fast to get away from them; to climb a tree in order to hang with them and to fight in order to survive among them. When I couldn’t whip ’em (which was never, although I tried), I was able to get the best of them verbally. Being around the boys all of the time made me tough and so I built a wall around me, refusing to show any weakness. To be vulnerable was to be weak and I wasn’t having that around my brothers or anyone else for that matter.
I was raised Catholic and while I’m grateful that my parents introduced me to the idea of church, commitment and God, I never really knew about the need for establishing and maintaining a relationship with Jesus and I really didn’t know much about my religion either. I went to church because I was forced to and when I was grown up enough to make my own decisions, I went to the occasional midnight mass or Easter service driven by guilt or the need to make an appearance. There was always a softness within me for God, however. Now that I look back on it, I clearly had opportunities to discover Jesus but I guess the timing was never right (my timing, that is). It was like I had the key and knew where the door was and time after time I would try the key, but it wouldn’t turn. I would continue my attempts to use that key because I knew that it would unlock mysteries that I needed to be privy to. And then finally…at my lowest point, when I once again stood at the door with my key something incredible happened. This time when I turned the key, the door opened and instead of having to walk through the door, God’s love rushed out and covered me, meeting me right where I was.
And so our relationship began…
Once, while waiting for someone, I found myself staring at a flag on a flag pole. I watched as the wind took hold of it and caused it to whip around. I noticed the sound it made and how it stretched out when a strong wind took hold of it and how it drooped and remained still as the wind died down. As I was considering the thing, I heard the Lord say “Arlene, are you a flag or a flag pole?” I thought that was an odd question and naturally I looked at that flag, all pretty and bright and thought, of course I’m a flag, but before I responded I needed to think about what a flag represents and does (not just the way it looks — God is so much deeper than that) and then do the same with the flag pole. Here’s what God showed me…
- A flag is moved by its circumstances and in doing so changes positions effortlessly and often. It changes with the wind…(Mmmhmm, I’ve been that flag.)
- A flag demands attention; it’s saying something – always; (That would be me.)
- A flag is high and proudly lifted up ; (Who has not thought they were all that at one time or all the time? OUCH!!)
- A flag is raised up and brought down; it’s also folded and put away! (That’s been my experience too!)
- A flag is easily replaced and can be discarded, is disrespected and sometimes stepped on! (hmmmm, no comment!)
What about a flag pole?
- A flag pole stands tall;
- A flag pole is steady and remains so no matter how hot the sun or how strong the storm. Why? Because it’s firmly planted;
- A flag pole is consistent and reliable – it does its job;
- A flag pole can go unnoticed by everyone except its maker who knows that the flag is nothing without it and so the flag pole does matter.
I told the Lord that “yes, I’ve been a flag but I choose to be a flag pole.”
I surrendered and started living for Christ in 1996 and at first I believed my “job” was to be good, read the Bible and God would do all the rest. My heart was in the right place, but I went about it all wrong. I read the books, bought the tapes and heard the sermons but I still flagged around quite a bit trying my best and collecting all of this head knowledge along the way. Oddly enough, I wound up filled with blessings from the miracle births of my children to my ability to stay home with them and so much in between because the Word works – but I was still feeling pretty lost. Why? I know now that it was because I was inconsistent. I was pretty movable, allowing circumstances and people to distract me; allowing pride to be an obstacle to my growth. I still possessed elements of that flag.
Eventually I had enough. I couldn’t help but feel that I had accepted Jesus as my personal genie – getting what I could from Him only to put Him back in His bottle and on the shelf time after time. I began to cry out to the Lord and slowly I began to transfer that head knowledge south to my heart and the Word suddenly became alive to me because it is living. I started to walk the Word out.
God is an “if” and “then” God. If we do our part, then He does His. If we draw near to Him, then He draws near to us. If we would just delight in His commands, then He would give us the desires of our heart. How then do we take on the characteristics of a flag pole? How do we stand, remain steady, remain consistent? How do we become confident without being arrogant? How do we stop the tapes that play reminding us of our past and past mistakes; how do we heal from those situations and people who have hurt us (some by mistake; others on purpose)? I had already discovered that it certainly was not by doing it or going it alone. I can tell you for sure that it is not by memorizing scriptures and trying to be good or by hoping time will heal all — because it doesn’t! Time just covers the wound with a bandaid which when pulled off creates a bigger sore!
I did it the old fashioned way. By recommitting to my relationship with Jesus; by falling in love all over again – allowing that transformation to begin by renewing my mind with His Word; by giving myself to Him completely and by the application of the Word to everything in my life. I found that the process of falling in love with Jesus was a choice and it’s no different than falling in love in the natural. I made a commitment to Him and spent time with Him and those past thoughts and ways began to change as I began to be more like Him…walk like Him, talk like Him, think like Him, love (me first) then others like Him.
And so….here I am today standing tall (all 5’2″ of me), steady and consistent, unmovable, unshakeable; confident, but not arrogant; noticed and approved by the One who knows me the best and loves me the most. Yup, Lord, I am that flag pole!!!