Wednesday, July 19, 2017

all the things, part 2- Gilgal

I don't know about you, but for a long time it has been difficult for me to piece together the stories and meaningfulness of a lot of the Old Testament. Sadly, but thankfully, I am just beginning to really comprehend a lot of it. I've always LOVED the book of Joshua (maybe because it starts out with God telling him like 17 times not to be afraid and I've always felt like that must mean Joshua wasn't too different from me). So bear with me here as I wade through some huge truths in Joshua, and hopefully you'll grab some along the way!

A lot of Believing God (see first post) hangs on scriptures in Joshua, which has made it come alive for me and I am soaking in so much more than I ever have before. In Joshua 4, when the Israelites first crossed the Jordan River (from Egypt/wilderness) to Gilgal (the Promised Land), the Lord gave them some interesting directions:

"When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.... The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever."

I love this. I've always been a fan of setting up 'memorial stones' in my heart (I first got the concept from Hinds Feet on High Places), and I knew it was scriptural but hadn't done much research into instances of it. I think my favorite thing about this whole Joshua/Gilgal story is the meaning of the word Gilgal: it means 'circle' or 'rolling'. They set up their circle of memorial stones there, and God started bringing His work in them full circle. They had set out on this journey out of slavery, had doubted and stopped believing God, and then had to live in the wilderness for 40 years. Finally, the years have passed, they have Joshua in charge, they have made it to the Promised Land, and God can finally finish the work He started when he brought them up out of their slavery.
In Joshua 5:5-7, we find this: "Though all the people who came out [of Egypt] had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord; the Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way."

I don't want to give away too much, but bear with me here. The Israelites have just crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and now, finally, they were where God had intended for them to be long ago. BUT since they'd lived in the desert so long, those who had been born while they were there had not been circumcised (as God had already commanded). At this point in the Israelites' cycle, they are no longer slaves, they have their own Promised Land, yet they still look like the people of the land they came from. God tells them to circumcise those who were born in the wilderness so that they can once again be consecrated to (set apart for) Him.

I love the way Beth related this to our life- she talks about wearing a label of reproach from your past (I'll get to this terminology later). Beth brings a few volunteers to the stage and has them wear some letters- think Scarlet Letter. There were several, but there are only a few I remember:
One is a D for Divorced.
One is a TP for Terrible Parent.
One is C for Crazy.
That's the one that hit me. 
Many many days, I find myself thinking, "I must be crazy". Or, in the darkest moments, "What if I am and always will be crazy?" First, I dislike that language because I have many friends with mental illnesses and "crazy" puts such a negative connotation on that. Second, I have never been diagnosed with any mental illness. I have always been an anxious person (much more so as a child/pre-salvation), and a very emotional person (thank you, ENFP tendencies and artistic temperament), and "crazy" has always been my fear. I know I am frequently irrational, illogical, and overemotional.

Somewhere along the way, I let myself label Rebecca Stovall as "CRAZY".
It was the shame I liked to pull out and put on when I felt low. Because how could any 'crazy' lady be used by God? (but like, how did I forget Ezekiel in those moments?? Ha!)

Anyway, as I got further into that session, I realized this was a real problem in my spiritual life, and was a way I was giving Satan victory in my life and, consequently, my relationships. It was a way that I was living like a slave, that I looked exactly like the world that I live in- whereas Jesus calls us to be IN this world, but not OF it. We are OF Him! We are consecrated to him and it should be visible to those around us that we are different because we are His. Our hearts are circumcised. Yet I was living in my anxiety and 'crazy' as if my heart was not circumcised.

"I must be crazy" ended right there. No longer would, or could, I wear that "Crazy" jacket. The only way for that to happen was to let God do what he did to the Israelites once they reached Gilgal- circumcise my heart. I understand that can be kind of a weird/freaky thing to see as spiritual, if you don't know much about God's purpose for it, etc. but I believe it is such an image of Christ's ongoing sanctification. He cut off the outer layer of me, cut off my jacket of shame and 'crazy', so that I could look more like Him. I realized this was no small thing. In my heart and mind, I did what the Israelites had done and set up some memorial stones.

I think my favorite thing about this whole Joshua/Gilgal story is that Gilgal means 'circle', 'rolling', or even 'to end'. They set up their circle of memorial stones there, and God started bringing His work in them full circle. Then he started rolling away their reproach, circumcising them, and healing them.

"When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day." Joshua 5:8-9

When I realized the reality of my 'crazy jacket' and allowed God to remove it, my cycle started over. No longer will I go from a promise, to miracles, to unbelief, to "crazy", to repentance, and back. Yes, I will still fall and still need to repent daily and hourly. But this lifelong cycle of letting Satan hold me back so strongly has ended. Now my cycle can be promise, belief, miracles, belief, and back- with repentance throughout. I'm done with disbelief and disobedience.

I know this because I've had opportunities to exercise it and I have already seen the miracles.

During the process of Casey looking for and accepting a job, there were some people who spoke doubt over him/us. I know they didn't do so maliciously, and for the most part they meant well. But no matter their intentions, the "Maybe you should just ___," and "Are you sure ____?" almost wore us down. Other people were pouring unbelief on us, simply because they wanted us to be safe or sure or whatever it was. There was one specific night, shortly after I listened to the Gilgal session, where we just sat on his couch and held each other and cried and prayed because it looked like nothing good was coming. It looked like God wasn't working, or hadn't heard us. I remember so vividly the moment that night when His Spirit whispered in me, "No. I'm believing God." I felt like one of those guys on American Ninja Warrior going up the Salmon Wall. Like everything was trying to push us back down, to keep us from getting to where God wanted us, and I just had to keep pushing upwards, saying "NO!" to the doubts. "NO, I'm believing God!"

Not 48 hours after that, Casey received a call from one of the dozens of schools he had emailed and applied with- one of only a couple to respond to him- and was offered an interview. A week later, he had the job. Not only is it *A* job, it is *THE* job. He will be in the Jackson area. At his new school, he is surrounded by other God-lovers, one of whom is the head coach he will be working closely with. And although it wasn't in the job description, he has been offered additional opportunities to assist in coaching high school in addition to junior high! It is truly our dream come true and prayer answered better than we knew how to ask for. It is nothing short of a miracle.

Oh, and a hilarious little tidbit- the apartment complex he will be living in is the one I lived in two and a half years ago, where he broke up with me. He will be in an identical apartment, just one building over from where I lived without him in that dark season. TALK ABOUT A GILGAL! What a hilarious, amazing full circle that has become!!

At the end of the Believing God study, Beth quotes Ephesians 3:17-19 in a cute little chant. I can't find the exact translation, but in the ESV, the verses say:  "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

As I listened to that chant at the end of all those sessions, tears filled my eyes. Not just at the goodness of God over the whole study, but at the particular chant. I learned it when I was 9 years old. You see, when I was 9 years old, everything happened in my life- I came to Christ, I started piano lessons {and am now a music teacher}, I started gymnastics {and coached for seven years}, I went to MC for the first time {where I obtained my undergrad degree and met Casey}, and I attended the Great Kingdom Caper VBS {which sparked my love for England, and led to me studying abroad there and falling in love with it and hopefully one day returning}. That year, my Sunday School teacher Ms. Cathy taught us that chant. I realized as I listened to it that she must have learned it from doing the Believing God study and that 15 years ago, she believed God for me. When I was so young and knew so little, she did what she could with what she had and prayed for a room full of fifth graders. And even if she did that whole study and learned the chant for no other purpose but to bring Becca Stovall's 24-year-old heart to its knees on a sunny Friday, it was worth it. It means so much to me that she, along with so many others, have believed God for me along the way, when I was unable or unwilling to. What a beautiful Gilgal that is, for someone else to believe God for me until I came full circle and was able to myself.

I've always loved the number 24 and believed that somehow God meant for it to mean big things in my life. He told me at the beginning of my 24th year that this would be a big one. That it would be full of miracles, and it certainly has been so far. If nothing else, I think God knew this whole time that this would be the year of my big Gilgal. That this would be the year that I clung to Him tightest and believed Him for the smallest and biggest and deepest things.
I cannot thank Him enough for that, for being a God who finishes the circle.

(go forward to all the things, part 3)

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