I was leaving church one day and a woman stopped me. A woman who I had been in a community group with, a few years’ prior, and she spoke to me for the first time in two years. I had thought, perhaps, that maybe I’d done something to offend her because the few times that I’d seen her at church and tried to speak she seemed to look past me. Once I remember thinking, maybe she didn’t see me. But the other few times, I was certain she’d seen me. But in this encounter she hugged me as if she hadn’t seen me in years. She was so glad to see me. I tried to enter into her excitement and hide my confusion. She told me how happy she was for me and how she loved seeing me so happy. I smiled and nodded and returned her hug and promised to get in touch with her for the coffee date she suggested. But I walked away with my husband and said, “well that was weird.”
A few weeks later I was at my daughter’s preschool and a woman shouts from down the hallway..”ASHLEY?!” She was so surprised to see me. Again, I stood bewildered. I smiled graciously and waved back and listened in disbelief as she said, “Wow! I didn’t know that your daughter went to preschool here?!” This woman, she is a college friend. She is no stranger to my face. We had been workout partners at a gym prior to my daughter attending this preschool and I’d passed her almost daily for the past year as we walked in and out of the school. Each time I tried to make eye contact with her and say hi but each time I remember thinking, maybe she has no interest in being friends anymore…maybe she’s just busy…I bet she just didn’t see me.
The Lord had been hiding me away.
There has been a season in my life where I wish I could just pack up shop and move away. It would be easier. For a while it seemed like it would be easier to live away from the offense than to face it. I sat in my car that day of preschool, that day after I’d dropped my daughter off, and cried. Why Lord? Why am I so hidden away? Why do I feel so alone? Where are my friends? Where are the people who love me? I felt like I was in a desert. And I was.
My blessings are deep and abundant. But the Lord was doing something. The Lord is doing something. He was exposing my heart, but not to the world. He asked me to stay quiet and to lean into Him. He taught me about fighting with fools – about what a fool was. And yet I fought Him. I was so frustrated. I was like an Israelite. He was preparing a new land for me and yet burning troubles out of me and restoring my heart. Daily the Lord is still repairing my heart. He is rerouting old thought patterns and showing me His forever perspective and returning to me my youth. But not my desires. His desires. And they’re different.
I used to pride myself on being self-made. I could knock on a door hard enough and it would open. But as I found myself in this season of hiddenness I told the Lord over and over again, “shut the doors that don’t need to be opened, Lord. Just SHUT them. I want to be You-made. Not me-made.” This woman, smart, capable, loving, full of desires, had to just lay them down. I have had to walk through deep and quiet and lonely places that didn’t involve social media, or media at all, but with just a very few people who could see my heart. And I could only believe Jesus. And when the Lord led me to Jeremiah 24 I felt an understanding come over me. Exile. The Lord spoke to my spirit and told me that this, the quiet, the hiddenness, it was Him hiding me on purpose. And then my mind flooded with all of God’s people who have been hidden and exiled. I cried for them. I cried for me.
Allow yourself to feel what they must have felt. They grappled with frustration, confusion, anger, and then as the Lord stripped all that they thought was important to them – even idols – He restored them. He never had any desire to shame them or make them feel any less than they were. Instead He saw them as valued and important and so much so that He was willing to discipline them for a season – so that they could live again. But oh how it hurts to be stripped. To feel unknown. To feel let down. To look at what you thought was supposed to be so wonderful and realize that it has all passed away. To grieve life in the hidden places is excruciating.
But sometimes it’s necessary.
The Lord doesn’t want us leaning on the number at the top of your Instagram feed, the likes on your pictures, the number of phone calls or text messages, the approval of your spoken word, the applause of your sermon, the laughter of your jokes or the amount of pats on your back that you get from your peers. In the last days the Lord will pour out His Spirit on all men and He wants to burn every hurt and offense out of us so that we will operate out of freedom. The world is desperate for freedom.
In Jeremiah 24:6 it says “And even though they are in captivity, I will watch over them. I will look out for their good. And one day, I will bring them home. Then I will rebuild them and not tear them down; I will plant them anew and not uproot them.”
His plans for us are good, for a long life, to further the Kingdom, to bind up the broken hearts and to loose freedom among all people. On the other side of the 40 day fast or the Jordan was life. But before the fast ended or the river parted, much faith was required.
My heart hurts for the season of being hidden. It feels so harsh. To be denied by people who you loved, to feel invisible is excruciating. Guard your heart in this season and arm yourself with worship and the Word of God because the enemy will tell you that your hiddenness is because you were bad, and unloved,and unwanted. But the Lord God will tell you that you are hidden because you are set apart and desired and highly favored and needed for the advancement of His kingdom and in the valley is not just where the hurt is but it’s where you’re allowed to be broken down fully so that He can build you back up into exactly what HE desires.
Lord, for all of my sisters that feel invisible, bless them today. For the women homeschooling their children who haven’t seen an adult in days, lift their chins and remind them of how critical their job is to forming minds that reflect Yours. To the wife who is in the midst of fighting for her marriage, protecting her children, and desperate for her Rescuer, come to her fast Lord. To the single woman who works her 9-5 and feels like she comes and goes, each day, without recognition or affirmation; to the mom who is carrying the financial burden of her family; to the mother who is desperate to be a stay-at-home mom with her children; to the friend who is counseling the broken-hearted and needs refreshing… in every season of quiet hiddenness, your life does NOT go unnoticed by the Lord. He is near. He is ever proud of you. And if you have trouble hearing from Him, let me tell you. I’m proud of you. Your efforts and life are not in vain. Allow Him to tear away every lie, every weakness, every false comfort, every man-made thing that you’ve put your hope in and let the pain of hiddenness birth in you a life of freedom that needs no other thing than the truth of who He sees you to be and says you are. It is a hard world we live in. It is filled to the brim with brokenness and hard places and life is ever-changing, and never the same, and always forcing us to grow and expand. Take heart, He has has overcome the world. Believe this coming from a woman who stood face-to-face with the fact that I have been hidden. And it’s ok. It’s just ok. Your journey is yours. You are allowed to let the Lord love you and correct you and cry and rejoice through the suffering. You WILL persevere. And hope will return again. Because He is faithful. And you are His treasured daughter. Bless all of these women in all of these seasons, Lord, and lead them out of exile. They will be your people and you will be their God.