“Thankfully, there is one other possibility, and that is that God has actually given you a supernatural grace to live opposite your circumstances. Have you experienced this type of grace from God that allows you to live in the peace of knowing you are obeying Him, even when those around you don’t understand?” -Bill Johnson
Beni Johnson posted this little excerpt from Bill’s devotional book, “Meeting God Face To Face” on her Instagram page awhile back. Although I would have said “amen” to it at just about any time in the past, it resonated in my heart at a deeper level because of the rather strange journey I have been on in recent years.
I’ve lived in the place of supernatural grace at many points in my life but never as often as I have over these past few years. And never have I had to fight so diligently to protect and preserve that place of grace. That’s because never before have I followed Him into circumstances that were so incredibly painful and perplexing. And believe me—considering I have followed Him into plenty of things that have made absolutely NO sense—that is saying something!
Learning how to stay under that umbrella of supernatural grace has been essential for survival. When I was under “the grace umbrella”—I was good—really good. But the instant one little toe wandered outside that covering, the weight of decades of weariness and waiting—or far worse—came crashing down upon me.
It’s been hard for me to articulate where I’ve been on an emotional and spiritual level during this time. Being in the midst of an absurdly long and incredibly uncertain transition after, oh, nearly two decades of wandering mostly in the wilderness, might start to bring some context. Or maybe it was more like spending a few years in a place of almost ZERO revelation and direction, while encountering slammed door after slammed door—all of this after believing He had finally called me out of the wilderness. Or maybe it was more about a weird sort of forced sabbatical that gave me time and space to deal with the fallout of so many long lonely years on the frontlines of a battle few saw or believed existed. Then again, maybe it was just more of the ongoing pruning process described in Psalm 105:
“God’s promise to Joseph purged his character until it was time for his dreams to come true” (Psalm 105:19 TPT).
All I can say is I must have needed a lot of purging and pruning.
I’m sure I still do. But I also think I’ve actually managed to learn a thing or two while huddled under that umbrella of grace:
- I’ve learned boundaries. When your soul is weary, you have to pull back from a lot of things. I wasn’t able to reach out to check up on folks or initiate connection as often. It took most of my energy just to keep standing. This brought some surprising and difficult changes to relationships that, it turns out, were not so mutual in terms of effort and energy. It was sad, but brought necessary correction and balance. I also wasn’t able to be as available as some would have liked in a ministry sense. Many times, God surprised me by supernaturally energizing me, or even just nudging me to do things I didn’t think I could possibly do, but when that wasn’t there—I had nothing to give. In those times, I learned to let myself off the hook regardless of people’s expectations. When you attempt to give what you don’t have for the sake of people pleasing, or even to meet an important and legitimate need He isn’t asking you to meet, you step outside of “the grace umbrella” and jeopardize your longterm impact and fruitfulness. That is never a good thing.
- I’ve learned restraint. I’m super transparent and tend to reveal too much to too many. People who haven’t been God-appointed to walk with you during a particular season usually only hear or see whatever little slice of the story is in front of them at the moment. My most vulnerable times—the times I’ve had to REALLY fight to get back to that place of supernatural grace—have been when people I love and respect, but who only have about 5% of the picture, draw conclusions that hurt rather than help. It can be soul crushing. But I realize I’ve played my own role in that. My emotions have been all over the place and people react to whatever random pieces of the story spew out of my mouth in any given moment. Unless the Lord reveals more, they only see what they see and know what they know. It has been a learning experience for me to guard my heart more carefully and to be more selective about what I share and with whom. Even those I’ve previously trusted as mentors and prophetic voices are not necessarily the voices God would have me listen to in this moment. When you are in the transition stage of labor, you need to be VERY selective about who is in the delivery room. I’ve let in the wrong folks at the wrong time more than once. This is still a work in process, but I am learning.
- I’ve learned timing. Speaking of timing—it is EVERYTHING. There IS a time for every purpose under heaven. An appointed time. A specific time. A perfect time. HIS TIME. There is a time to hold on and a time to let go. A time to move forward and a time to wait. A time to speak and a time to be silent. A time to be hidden and a time to be seen. My timing is getting better—a lot better.
- I’ve learned to have grace for myself. There is something very humbling, but also freeing, about giving yourself permission to be where you are—especially when where you are is quite messy and easily misunderstood. Don’t get me wrong—this season has also been marked by many times and many ways He has stretched me WAY beyond what I considered to be my limits—but He has also been incredibly patient and kind in the areas where He knew I needed compassion, rest, and healing. As a result, I’ve learned to be just a tad more patient and kind with myself.
- I’ve learned confidence. This is the biggie—at least for me. When His promises are all you have in the midst of circumstances that don’t look anything like what He’s promised, you discover what you really believe. You find out WHO you really believe. You find out what He really thinks about you. The more I focused on who He is, and the more I allowed Him to remind me of who I am, the more confident I became in what HE said regardless of what I was currently seeing. Sure, I drifted at times—too many times—-but I kept coming back to one simple truth: I was where I was because I FOLLOWED HIM. Being able to rest in that one certainty gave me a confidence that ultimately boosted my faith beyond anything I’d ever experienced.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. While many things have been incredibly confusing and difficult, things under that umbrella have been downright delightful. It IS wonderful to walk in the supernatural grace and confidence that come from knowing you are obeying and following Jesus—no matter what it looks like or what anyone else thinks.
After all this time, I’m happy to say the season is finally shifting. Although I’m grateful (so very grateful!) there is much I will miss about these past few years. But there is even more I’m taking with me. Because I’m taking the lessons learned under a very special umbrella…
The all-season, storm-withstanding, refuge-providing, always covering, protecting, shading and shielding …
Umbrella of grace.
And those lessons are timeless.