I remember sitting in the coffee shop with my spiritual father. I had been saved for mere months and I was getting acquainted with the fundamentals of Kingdom culture. I was an infant needing milk, born into an international ministry serving up steak each Sunday by our apostolic leader, Dr. Don Lynch.
There is language in the Kingdom that is hard to understand without a healthy, familiar relationship with the Bible, and as much as I was reading mine at the time, I was choking on the meat.
“What is apostolic order? I keep hearing that in the messages on Sundays.”
Dr. Josh began to explain alignment to assignment. God’s design is that sons and daughters take a share (koinonia) in an apostolic leader’s assignment. He began to explain grace flow, and as he spoke, I imagined a faucet up in heaven with an apostle arranged directly beneath. I saw God’s hand turn on the outpouring, with the apostle positioned under to receive the grace flow for his or her assignment, and to the extent that a son or daughter was submitted, or arranged beneath, they would be able to receive grace flow from the same Source. To the extent you were aligned and submitted, your work was anointable.
Apostles aligned with God’s will & blueprint, and sons and daughters aligned with the apostle.
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
I Corinthians 11:1
You could be near an apostle in the splash zone and catch some of what God was releasing. You could be off-kilter a few degrees and catch much of the outflow. But I saw that in order to catch the full release, you must be fully aligned. Submission & obedience were paramount.
My brow furrowed as I thought of the implications. I was learning that sonship (or discipleship) was a process of becoming who God created me to be so I could do what I was called to do. I thought of the quote by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10 which says,
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
If grace was a requirement to becoming, and alignment with an apostle was the key to unlocking grace, then I knew the battle would be to submit to my God-assigned leader. Paul also refers to sonship as a race of faith. In my mind that implied that you could run your race either quickly or slowly. I had competed in sports most of my life. My brain was hardwired to train to win.
“So, pace is set by your surrender?”
I had the revelation of what apostolic order was in theory, but it was now my job as a spiritual daughter to walk that out in practice. What does it look like to be aligned with a spiritual father?
I soon realized that the race looked a lot like a battlefield, and surrender looked a lot like dying.
I had been “in the world” for three decades, experienced trauma and abuse, and lived a life of sin and rebellion. I was a mess.
I had done everything to try to escape the pit of darkness and misery that was my life. I had done all the things. Therapy, medication, exercise, nature. I’d even tried out the not-so-healthy coping skills. Nothing helped.
But one of the first things that I learned after being baptized was that there was enough power in the cross to heal me and set me free as if the trauma and abuse had never happened. I had been so rocked by encounter with Jesus that I was willing to pay whatever price to grab ahold of that precious promise.
Freedom was everything to me. I didn’t care the cost.
So week after week, I dragged myself to every event at Freedom House that was available, hungry and thirsty and desperate for more of God. Normally it only took a few minutes before I was a crumpled heap on the floor, sobbing the make up off my face. I received deeply during the Sunday messages, soaking the truth into my bones like life.
And the battle came when something the leader released set my soul into an identity crisis, lovingly nicknamed the “sonship swirl.” It feels like you’re caught up in a tornado and you don’t know up from down and you seem to be spinning around and around as you try to reset on Jesus as your foundation.
A swirl happens when God uses a leader to say something that offends the mind to reveal the heart. It was when the light of the truth shined on some hidden place of darkness in me. Whatever God wanted to put His finger on at the time, the light confronted those places. Places where my heart or mind needed to be renewed, some place where the enemy had a hook in my soul to influence me, some place where I had a wound from my past that needed healing.
It looked a lot like being triggered, and when you’ve been abused, just about everything triggers you.
I would retreat to my home, a wild mess of insecurity and rejection. What would all these mature saints think of someone like me if they only knew what I’d done and what had been done to me? The shame would fall. The depression would fall. Thoughts of suicide would fall.
The pain of a lifetime of sorrow would threaten to drown me. And every time it did, I fought for the surrender.
In the world, you have to be strong to survive, but in the Kingdom, you have to build the strength of will to let go & surrender to Jesus.
When you’ve been abused, one of the hardest things to do is to let go and trust. I can’t tell you how many prophetic words I got that first year saying, “Trust your leaders. Transparency is key.”
I had never known the love of Jesus. I had known the heartbreak of being betrayed. I had known the heartbreak of someone shattering your heart into a million little pieces. I had known loved ones to tell me how worthless I was and how I was never good enough.
I would launch into fight or flight mode, just trying to survive. Defenses and walls would shoot up, and asking me to trust and surrender in those moments felt like dying a thousand deaths. It was impossible, if not for the grace of God.
I would sit in my bean bag chair with giant headphones on my ears, trying to drown out the deafening hiss of the enemy’s lies. All I’d known was feeling unloved, and yet leaders were telling me I was loved. I would cry and cry and cry as Jesus encountered me in my surrender, pouring love into a broken heart, healing it little bit by little bit.
I was so new to the Kingdom and the warfare was so intense that it was a steep learning curve that I wanted to sprint up, just to get some relief from the suffering.
And so I would press into God in the crisis. My friend taught me a phrase I would war with, “You love me & I trust you.”
Holy Spirit would bring me worship songs that I would play on repeat for hours, letting my heart encounter the character of God through a melody. I would cry until I felt the heaviness lift, and suddenly I could feel myself step into light. It was those moments of breakthrough where I tasted the joy and love and peace of God.
But in those early months I was a sitting duck for the enemy. I would enjoy the bliss of the presence of God for maybe an hour or two before I was thrown back into the fray.
It was crisis-breakthrough, crisis-breakthrough, week after painstaking week. I was averaging one identity crisis every 7 days. That was usually the time it took for me to wrestle with God and get the breakthrough. That’s what it took to surrender the piece of my soul that was not aligned with my spirit and who God created me to be.
I feasted on the Word and warred with it, swinging a sword at the lies of the enemy. Whatever lie the enemy was throwing at me, I had leaders to tell me the truth, and then I would vocalize that truth into the atmosphere until I believed it.
It took me a year to fully believe I was loved by God. And I have been tasting new expressions of His love ever since. Any place in my soul that had an orphan wound had to be touched by the spirit of adoption and Father’s heart.
The battles were so hard to fight in the moment, but on the otherside, the victory was always so sweet. Each battle I fought I got stronger. I got wiser. I became more aligned with the Word of God. I became more of who God created me to be. I learned to trust the leaders God sent, seeing their behavior represent Jesus and the heart of God for me.
Each crisis was a new opportunity to overcome and take a new leap of faith forward in my race.
I knew that the only way to get out of the battle was to win it. I already knew how to fight in the natural, and I was learning to fight in the spirit.
Each battle I fought, I became more convinced that no matter the problem, Jesus is the answer. He is the truth, the way, and the life.
Each surrender brought me into His presence, and each subsequent battle was just an effort to get back to that peace.
When your soul is tormented, all you want is peace. For me, the presence of God was the only way to obtain it.
On January 10, 2021 I received this prophetic word, describing the season God walked me through:
He said, “Everything you do will be mingled with fire and it won’t be – there won’t be one part of your life not mingled with fire.
You’re like – in your body, yes. Fire. In your mind, yes. Fire. In your sound, Fire. In your dance, Fire. In your worship, Fire. In your writing, Fire. Yea, even in your studying, because this is a year of studying.
Yea, your studying, there’s fire in it. I see you writing in a book and you’ve got to put the pen down. Whoa! It’s too much! Too hot!
But you’re made for it. See, you’ll just begin to understand what you’re made for. And all of the options are being turned off, all of the options.
You’re like, “God’s not good because He’s not giving me a choice.”
No, He’s good SO He’s not giving you a choice.
Sometimes when we choose we make the wrong choice.
Wow, but His choices are Yes, even His choices are Amen for you, Nicole.
Because you’ll be one who is quick to agree, and say Yes! Yes! I agree! I agree! I’ll drink it!
You won’t sip, you’ll guzzle. Yea, but there’s healing in your cup today. It’s okay. It’s safe to drink. Like “I don’t know what else is in there.” It’s okay.
He’s a good God, He only puts good stuff in it. You just have to say yes to Him.
It can feel scary not having a choice. It can feel like you’re a wounded animal backed into a corner. As someone who has gone through the fire, is going through the fire, and will continue to go through the fire, the heat burns. Sometimes it feels like you’ll never make it to the other side. Sometimes you’ll cry and scream and fight and want to quit. But just on the other side of breaking is a soul set free from the turmoil.
On the other side of the dying is finding your life in Him. In His presence, suddenly the thing that was so stressful and so terrifying becomes insignificant as His eyes burn with passion for your purpose. The stress and fear and anxiety and shame and rejection all fade away in His perfect love.
And life becomes a race to get more of Him. He is the reward. He is the answer. He is everything.
Say yes. Say yes. Say yes.