His Beauty for My Ashes

I arrived back home from Israel early Friday morning after 30 hours of traveling which consisted of two flights, 5 movies, half a novel, 3 naps, 2 terrible airplane meals, and a three and a half hour bus ride.  Upon arriving home, I laid in bed exhausted and nauseated from my travels.  My mind began to retrace the memories that had just been created and I began to cry as I became overwhelmed with all God had done in Israel. Truth be told, I am still in the midst of processing everything that happened.

There are things that happen that are ordained by God and I truly feel that this trip was one of those things. 

When I was a tiny little third grader, my teacher visited Israel and brought us all back stories as well as bookmarks which featured a picture of the Jordan River. I decided that when I was 27, I would go to Israel and be baptized in the Jordan as well. Years passed and I still held unto that dream until I was about 21.  At that point, 27 was only a few years away and my life showed no sign of being able fulfill that dream.  I wasn’t even going to church anymore at that time and I was living in what was some of my darkest moments.  I was severely bulimic and had just finished 5 months of inpatient treatment and I still showed no sign of actually being able to recover from it.  One of my therapists actually had told my parents that I may never recover.

I was hopeless.

A few years later, I was 24 years old and I had somehow managed to get myself even more entrenched in the eating disorder.  I laid in bed on one particular night that I will never forget.  I began to pray, beg, and plead with God to save me. Just then, I had a vision. In it, I was deep within a cave and covered in ashes.  Jesus was searching for me in the cave and I kept pushing myself further and further away from him and deeper and deeper into the darkness.  Finally, I stopped pushing myself away and he found me.  He knelt down and looked at me in the eyes.  I saw him take his hand and he wiped it across my face, removing the ashes. He then wiped the ashes on his own face as I wept in his presence. He did this until my face was completely clean saying “I’m giving you my beauty for your ashes.”

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisonersa crown of beauty
instead of ashes…” Isaiah 61

Over the next few years, that verse became a life source for me as I began pursuing a life free of the eating disorder that had tried to destroy me.  I spent countless nights walking around, declaring that promise for myself for hours on end when I felt powerless to the bulimia.  I would cry myself to sleep some nights with that verse resonating within me.

Finally, the power the eating disorder had over me was broken and I was set free.  A ten-plus year battle had been won and I no longer had to live with it’s sickness hovering over me.  I began coming to life again and old dreams were starting to re-bloom, even dreams that I had given up on or forgotten about.

Last November I received an email that stated I was accepted to go to Israel with a Bethel team.  I was 27.

A few short months later, there I was. In Israel. The land where Jesus walked and where I had longed to be for so many years.  We were visiting a synagogue that had be built over one of the original synagogues that Jesus frequented when one of the leaders approached me and asked if I would read something from scripture for the group. They wanted me to read from Isaiah the same chapter Jesus read out loud in the very synagogue we were standing over.   Isaiah 61.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

The very verse that Jesus had spoken to me in the vision, I was now reading for a group in the very place he also read Isaiah 61, where he first publicly announced his ministry.  My mind raced back to that vision and I began to cry at the thought of how strategic that moment was. I left the synagogue to sit on a bench to process what had happened and I felt as if Jesus was sending the message that he hasn’t only restored me back to my beginning, but to His.

I find this hard to write as I feel that there are no words to really express what happened in that moment., but I felt that something in my life shifted.  A door was officially closed and another opened before me.

Jesus never forgets his promises. Not even if we forget.

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3 thoughts on “His Beauty for My Ashes

  1. A truly moving story, and you are so right in that Jesus never forgets His promises to us even if (or more like when) we do. Loved the verses from Isaiah by the way because these are the very words God shared with me as He led me to write on His behalf every week via a Monday Morning message. Guess He knew what I needed to hear today … almost one month after you wrote this post. Thanks 🙂

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