“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
— John 10:10
I was recently asked the question, “What have you learned in your life about joy?” It struck me that this is an important question. I pondered for some time before I knew what to say. What had I learned about joy? What did that even mean to me, personally? How did it feel and manifest in my own life? As I think back over my life, one instance comes vividly to mind. I was a child, and it was during the week leading up to Easter. Here’s what I remember:
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. Isn’t that interesting? There’s something that connects joy and resurrection. But you can’t get to resurrection without facing death.
WHEN DREAMS DIE
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. As before, this memory is connected to an Easter Sunday. It was 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 The Gardens. Everyone was dressed in their Easter finery. My older brother was a 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 against 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 famous actress. I began to walk up to the roses and tilt my head ever so slowly to dramatically smell each one. I was fantasizing and glorying in the fact that there was an audience to take in my incredible acting abilities. In reality, 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 I was sure I had drawn a crowd by now) and found myself alone. My family had moved on. No one was there.
I did not know 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, or 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 showoff and you look dumb. Your 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, 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! As I said earlier, I felt haunted, and by that I guess what I mean 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. It was exhausting, really. But over time, because I had lived with it so long, I no longer recognized it as a problem. It had become normal.
RISING INTO RESURRECTION
I didn’t know this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, but 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 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 that was white, simple, and 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 Janes 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 that was so familiar.
Somehow, I caught a glimpse of the scene from another vantage point up 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 Kimmie, 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 that I had believed was ripped out, roots and all. I felt my heart strain against its bindings until it broke free and expanded in fullness, lifting my confidence with it. The kindness of the 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, who God created, and to know that 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 resurrection. Jesus comes to set the captives free and give them abundant life. He really saves.
- A prayer we can all pray this week: Father God, I want a resurrection of joy. Of childlikeness. I want You to come and touch the deepest parts of me. Wherever the enemy has planted a lie inside my heart that has tormented me, show me the truth about what You think of me. Come silence the voice of the accuser in my life, and help me to break my own agreement with accusation. I invite You to come into my life and save me, heal me, and be my Lord and Savior. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and make me Your own. Teach me to walk in resurrection life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Note from the editor: Kim will be leading our Brazil trip in March (along with Blaine Cook and Steve Wilson) and also has a brand-new book for sale in our store. If you’ve resonated with her message here, you can receive more from her while ministering alongside her on the Brazil trip, or if you can’t afford to travel right now, check out her new book Prophetic Community on our online Store.