Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
“You think you’re a victim. But you’re not. You’re actually okay. Everything’s okay.”
Justin tells me this, in the maddening and awesome way that he does. My heart whispers, “Listen,”even though my first impulse is to wish this all away.
Really? Is this true? Have I believed I am a victim, God? How?
I need God’s interpretation now, or none of this is going to make any sense.
My friend and I have been reading Romans together. It is Romans 10:8 that sticks in my head: “The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”
What is true here, Jesus? How am I not believing in You? If your message is in my heart, am I yet rebelling against your truth, right now?
I spend time for days waiting on God to interpret Justin’s words. I go into my daughter’s room—temporarily quiet, as she is at sleep-away camp for the week. I shut the door; I close the shutters. I press my knees to the ground.
What I learn is not what I expected.
What Being A Victim Can Look Like
In the quiet, the Holy Spirit leads me to the cross. He helps me feel and hear and see: I have been acting like a victim though this mindset is unwarranted, unjustified. There is a lot here I must confess or bury, repent of or push away.
What am I going to choose? How do I turn, God?
There Are Two Kinds Of Victims
Victims of the World
There is more to consider here when we think about the mindset of the victim. Because sometimes we are a victim. After all, this life is hard, unfair. This world—and people—can be cruel. In this case, God fights for the heart of the victim—the victims abused by the world, the victims who need God’s intervening love to help them continue on.
But God also fights for daughters who are victims of their own doing—the daughters who believe lies about themselves, the daughters who live in bondage. The daughters who have yet to claim the freedom they inherit, with Christ’s new life inside them.
To put it simply: living our lives with the attitude of a victim negates the truth of our identity in Christ: It denies that we are “more than conquerors” due to Christ’s sacrifice (Romans 8:37). It denies that Christ was never a victim, not even to death. It denies that Jesus beat death to hell and back and chose us to tell the tale.
If you are a victim of the world, of life’s twists and turns, of cruelty and pain and injustice, God is coming to heal you. This healing may involve you sharing your story in community. (I am doing this as soon as I can.) It may involve you entering counseling. (I have done this, and it turned my world upside down and right side up, in the most perfect way.) But know this: Jesus is here to bring healing to you. He is gathering you to himself. Step forward now, daughter. He has something to say.
Victims of the Self
If you are a victim of yourself, of self-doubt, of lies that you’ve let take root in your heart (I am sad to say that this has been my speciality, for years and years), it is time to ask Jesus to uproot the darkness you feel. It is time to ask him to show you, reveal to you, what it is he sees. God wants to bring wholeness to our hearts. He brings together what is divided. His love for us makes us clean, completely washed and new.
Death Is Victim To Love, Not The Other Way Around
Discovering a new truth about our self is not always fun, but it is good. Every lie God has revealed to me I have broken, by the authority of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to stay in this same place–I want victory. I want life. He has given me everything. I want to say yes to all he has.
But it is a battle to not fall back into the same habits, believe the same lies.
I want to be honest with you. Since spending time with God in solitude, reading Scripture, seeking his truth, asking for his interpretation on what people said, confessing, and repenting, I continue to struggle with the victim attitude. I catch myself feeling it–and I have to ask God to help me stay close–to his heart, his truth, his mercy. I continue to surrender. I try and fail and try again. And I get angry–angry at myself, angry at God. But then, on a walk today I hear Jesus tell me that this struggle, despite its mess, is so much better than me being resigned.
We are not the victim of our own life. Jesus made sure of that.
So, will you join me, as I continue to pray?
Father, we need to know what you think. Let us not reject our inheritance as conquerors, in Christ. Let us not forget the power of your presence in us. Let us listen to your voice. Let us not abandon the truth of who, in Christ, we are.
You are our source of life, our source of love, our source of strength that reminds us we are more than conquerors. We are true. We are free. We are in battle in a world set against us, yes. But you, the God who is for us, is more than we ever need to live lives of authority and strength.
We are chosen. We are loved. We have what it takes to make the choice this day to listen to the One who loves us. You, who says, “I will always find you. But seek me. Seek me and there you will be found.”
We hear you. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
How do you find yourself feeling like a victim? Is it warranted? How do you need God to come for your heart?
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com
Four eleven-year-old girls running around the house. Hiding and shrieking. Sneaking up on each other and laughing. First half-day of school. Middle school orientation in the books. Tweens going on teens. Not yet wearing make-up. Giggly. Ukulele playing. Hide and seek. Dressing up the dog.
This is innocence still.
I can’t help but mourn its slipping away.
Parenting two teenagers has made me feel vulnerable and strong, unqualified and wise, overwhelmed and confident, all at the same time. Two boys in high school, and this one, here with her posse of friends, is the youngest, just eleven. She represents to me what once was–the purity of the young, the vibrancy of day by day.
I am wiser now; things will change.
More laughter and screams. Abby’s latest Sardine hiding spot is inside the organics rubbish bin. Literally. Finally found by the other flip-flopped three. She has snagged my phone and been taking photos of herself as she waits for her friends to find her. Texts the photos to me on my computer. Crazy. This girl will always surprise me.
I am wondering if I will remember the love between these four girls–their laughter, their innocence, their kindness, sun shining bright upon each face. Let me not forget innocence, youth, so easily.
This morning, before the playdate, I come across an old video of my daughter. Six years old. Attempting to blow out her single “number six” candle on her pink princess cake but she’s laughing too hard. Her brothers at the table cracking up, cheering her on.
My heart aches a bit as I watch the screen. Both happy and sad. Tension of holding on to memories of the past and being grateful for the now.
Maybe the definition of “growing up” needs tweaking.
Father, I feel the tension of anticipation, of change–why must the purity of childhood fade?
*images by Abby
This summer I read a bookthat eases the uncomfortableness a bit–this awareness of time passing, of things ending, of people I love leaving. All Things New, by John Eldredge, (releasing next month) reminds us that all that we love on this earth, all that is precious, all that we hold dear, will never go away. In heaven, it will be restored, made new–more beautiful than we can imagine.
What we love most won’t be left behind.
God restores everything He makes. He renews all things He’s dreamed of. He brings life to all people, all creatures, all the beauty He’s made with his words, his two hands.
So these beautiful girls: I imagine how I will get to see them again, but with eyes made new by God. I will hear their laughter, experience their hearts the way God sees them. In each aspect of our lives–relationships and creation–heaven will make everything whole, brand new.
Relationships severed now healed. Hearts once broken now whole.
We don’t need to be afraid of growing up or of growing old, of missing out or of missing what we love most. Heaven, through Jesus Christ, wants to redeem every single thing God loves, each person and thing He has made.
In heaven, our imagination is going to break open wide when we see what God has been dreaming up all along.
There is more than what our eyes can see. It is the unseen, the beauty coming, that is even more true than what is now. And that is amazing. More amazing than we can imagine. But I like imagining it, even still.
What about you? How are you wrestling with time passing, with being grateful for the present while trusting God with an even more beautiful future yet to come?
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com
The five of us return from Kenya today–a mission trip with a team of twenty-four others people, adults and kids. I scratch out these words on the plane ride home, my thirteen year old son asleep on my right. Two of us in the family are sick now, but they both will tell you the experience was worth it.
When you spend a week with a few hundred orphaned children, ages three to fourteen–and you see how they are loved and how they know they are loved–you can’t help but be forever changed.
The Holy Spirit inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). And a desperation for God is magnified in rejoicing and in truth and in song. Our team leader, Monte, led us with one main objective–give God our heart, trust Him with it, watch Him lead us, and then love on these kids.
And my heart was broken wide, which surprised me. For I remember, before the trip, thinking, how can something so amazing happen with such a simple promise: “Love these kids, and be forever changed”?
How do we let God make our hearts break?
During our time with the kids there were no construction projects, no Vacation Bible School, no set schedule or plan other than this: be open, listen to God’s whispers, let Him lead, notice what He is showing us–about Himself, about His children, about love. And that is what we did.
We joined the kids at their school each morning at 8 am. We visited their classrooms and supported the teachers in the lessons. We played with the children; we joined in their games. We sat and listened and encouraged the teens telling of their stories. And yes, we fell in love with them.
These orphans own nothing of monetary value–their notebooks, filled with hundreds of pages of notes and instruction, are stuffed in weathered backpacks with broken zippers or disintegrating plastic shopping bags stored on the floor underneath their desks. Many wear uniforms ripped and torn or falling apart. Socks have holes in the heels where the foot rubs the back of the shoe.
All of the students have either no family at all who take care of them, or a mom who is unable, due to the difficulty of women getting jobs, to provide funds for her child to go to school. But there is love in this school, and joy here. The kids and the teachers are a family, and they worship God with a gratitude and a freedom unlike anything else I have ever seen.
The children’s passion for learning–their determination to persevere, their commitment to giving everything their all–comes from a gratitude to God for what He gives.
Oh, they are loved and they know it.
Friday morning the team stuffs itself into one of the classrooms to worship with the kids. The children lead–their voices exuberant and beautiful and loud. It is a cacophony of jubilation–of singing, one song blending into another, and dancing and clapping and jumping and laughing. Here, in that room, we glimpse the kingdom of God. Brothers and sisters basking in the delight of the Father.
Behind me, I feel my husband, Justin, place his hands on my shoulders. We feel the Spirit moving and we can hardly stand for the joy that fills this place.
Justin tells me later he asked God, just for fun, how much He loves this moment–this moment of children and teens singing and dancing and shouting out praise. And that is when Justin, the Spirit rushing over him, almost falls down. The Father is ever-present with us. In His kindness, He helps increase our awareness of Him. He pours out His love on His children who know Him and love Him and adore Him– expressing themselves in praise.
Yes, this is when God’s Spirit comes even more, rushing in.
When we are present to God’s love–open and eager to receive it–we will not be disappointed.
Saturday morning, a few hours before we begin the eight-hour bus ride to Nairobi and the 18 hour plane rides home, we sit and process together what God has been doing in our hearts this trip. We listen for God’s voice, and this is what I hear Him say to me about the children and the Achungo School:
“This is a holy place. I am praised here. I am known here. I hold my children close. These children work hard, and they give Me the glory. They know they are loved. They know they are not forgotten. There is no striving–only gratefulness. They respond–the work of their lives–with gratefulness. So their hearts are protected. . . When they leave the grounds of Achungo, it is important that they take Me with them. For they will feel less protected. They will be distracted.
Remember what is true. For in my truth they will carry themselves, my message, as my light-bearers, all over the world.”
And then I ask God what my role is here, in going forward, after this trip. And this is where it gets personal:
“Be protected with my truth. And walk in my truth. And spread and uphold my truth. And be my light-bearer in the world.
Pesilia [one of the teen girls with whom I connected] called you a mother. Be a light in how you mother. Uphold my truth in how you mother. And work from a heart of gratefulness for what I give you. I uphold my name in your home, and I send my angels to guard your home. Keep my name sacred. Practice Sabbath and keep it holy. Rest in Me–and then work hard, with zeal, knowing that you work from a plce of abundance and not scarcity.
Let yourself be filled by Me. This is your main job–and then you love. And you feel freedom–the joy of your Lord in you.”
I come home sleep-deprived and heart restored. Sometimes it takes stepping out of my ordinary, too-busy-for-distraction life to appreciate a different way to see, a truer way to love.
My heart continues to ponder what God has for me to learn from this visit to Kenya. Those children have changed me, and my heart is heavy. I miss them. What more are you doing, God?
Heading off on an adventure with no script, trusting God to guide us, might help our hearts pay attention to what matters most.
What adventure are you saying yes to? What is God showing you?