In honor of Easter I am posting one of my favorite writings entitled
It is written as a letter and is actually an excerpt from a new book I am writing.
A few years ago I began writing a series of letters called the “Dear Jen” letters. The “Dear Jen” letters began after a young married couple from the college group I pastored moved away. The woman wrote to me and sent a notebook full of sections and paper. She asked me to continue mentoring them with stories from my life on different topics.
The story included here was written on the topic of joy.
Sunday is Easter. I went shopping yesterday to find an Easter dress and watched all the kids lined up to have pictures with the Easter Bunny at the mall. I had to laugh as they hopped up and down, clapping and squealing as he came out of his “house” to greet them. Most of them were all dressed up. I remember when I was little getting all dressed up for Easter. Mom would buy me a frilly dress, white patent leather shoes, little white lace trimmed socks, and of course a white “pock-a-book” with white gloves. Oh I thought I was so grown up, even now it brings a smile. The gloves and purse were my favorite pieces. There was just something about them that made me feel beautiful and elegant. I kept the tradition going with my daughters. My daughter Nicole particularly liked the patent leather shoes and would wear them sock-less out to play for months afterwards. “Why not”, I thought, “it gives her joy”. I wanted her to have joyful memories, especially connected to Easter.
For many years I was plagued with a memory that haunted me.
I must have been about six years old when it happened. I can still remember every detail. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday; sunny and warm, bursting with the glory of spring. New life was everywhere. My family had been to church, which was our Easter tradition, and then taken a trip to see the roses in bloom at Descanso Gardens. Everyone was dressed in his or her Easter finery. My older brother was in suit and tie, hair smoothed and combed to the side. My sister and I were in our dresses, hair curled and pulled back with barrettes, gloved hands clutching our purses with hidden chocolate treasures tucked inside. My dress was pink that year. I felt like a princess. I just knew I was beautiful and I was certain that everyone who was lucky enough to glance my way thought the same thing. Dad had a new movie camera. He and Mom thought the gardens the perfect spot to take family movies. Dad played director. Mom was set designer and in charge of props. We kids were lined up with the roses as backdrop. It was such a happy day. Dad yelled, “Roll ’em!” as we were instructed to “act natural” and “do something”. I am not sure what I was thinking, but I knew for sure that I was going to be the next Dorothy Lamour or Ginger Rogers because I began to walk up to the roses, tilt my head ever so slowly to leisurely and very dramatically inhale each one. I was in fantasyland and glorying in the fact that there was an audience to take in my incredible acting abilities. In fact, I was in my own little world, which I often was in those days.
It is a place I can still go I am somewhat embarrassed to admit.
Anyway, as the story goes, I was pretending and imagining all sorts of glorious things as time went by. At one point, I turned around to see the admiration on my parents faces for all the astonishing drama I had given (and was sure I had drawn a crowd by now) and found myself alone. My family had moved on and there was no one there. I did not know for how long I had performed for an audience that was imaginary only, but suddenly in that moment I felt crushed. All that time I thought I had held the attention of those around me, especially my parents, when in reality, so I interpreted, I was invisible and easy to walk away from. Of course this was not the truth, but my little six-year-old heart shrunk and took my confidence with it. My mind embraced a critique that went something like this, “You’re so stupid. How could you think that you were special? You’re just a show off and you look dumb. You’re performances don’t fool anybody. You’re invisible because you’re nothing special. ” From that moment on each time I failed at something, made a mistake, miss stepped or misspoke the critic would whisper the message that began that day. Isn’t it amazing how an event so simple can plant such a wicked seed whose roots entangle the heart and strangle the true identity of a person? Sounds a bit diabolical doesn’t it. I believe it is.
I wonder how many of us hold back from being all we are created to be because of a whisperer who appeared one day after such an event.
Years passed and I became a woman. The memory of that day had faded and been buried by everyday life, but the critical whisperer was a permanent resident who did not respond to eviction notices though I sent them regularly! Earlier I mentioned that I felt haunted. I guess what I mean by that is I could never just enjoy my life. I was always second guessing, looking for approval, wondering if I was making a fool of myself. Its exhausting really. Over time, because I had lived with it so long, I no longer recognized it as a problem. It had become…normal.
I didn’t know this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.
I know that now. I don’t live like that anymore. I can’t tell you the day it happened, where I was, or the time of day, but I know what I saw, the way I felt, and the change that took place inside of me. I had children of my own. Life was good. I had begun to answer a call to ministry that had come unexpectedly and I was moving forward in pursuit of adjusting my life to what I knew was being asked of me. It was exhilarating. My faith was deep and my relationship with Jesus deeper.
It was during this time that I had an experience during prayer, which I would describe as a vision; a dream while awake.
I was conscious and coherent. I was not frightened. I suddenly was in a very spacious place. White. Simple. Quiet. I took a few steps forward and found myself standing before a large throne-like chair with a large man sitting on it. He was dressed in white robes and he filled the chair and the room with his presence. I felt safe and comfortable. I could not see his face for he was so great before me. He gestured with his hands for me to climb up into his lap. I knew I wanted to. As I began the ascent I suddenly caught a glimpse of myself. My arms and legs were small and childlike. On my feet were patent leather Mary Jane’s with white lace trimmed socks. When I finally was settled on the gentleman’s lap I looked down at myself and I was wearing a pink dress so familiar. Somehow I caught a glimpse of the scene from another vantage point high above. I was a little girl about six years old and I heard God, The Father, in whose lap I sat, say in the most kind, loving, and gentle tone, “Now Kimmy, show me your pretty dress and shoes. I want to see. You are lovely to me.” The floodgate of emotion for all the years of torment and torture that had been released over me all those years before burst forth in torrents of tears. I felt a rending in my mind as the lie I had believed was ripped out, roots and all. I felt my heart strain against the binds until it broke free and expanded in fullness lifting my confidence with it. The kindness of those simple words was a salve to my soul healing me to the core.
I knew in that moment I was no longer captive to the lies of the whisperer. I would never believe those words again.
I had been set free to enjoy my life, to love the mystery of myself which God created, and to know I have a savior who cares about setting me free at every point of captivity and bondage that has restrained me from becoming what He has intended. I had been healed and set free to be who I truly am. And I am.
This is joy. This is Easter.
Jesus comes to set the captives free and give them abundant life.
He really saves.
It is my hearts’ cry for you, Jen, and for your children and your children’s children to experience the real joy of easter.
Love as always, Kim
Copyright 2011 Kim Maas Ministries. Inc