I’ve always been enamored by idealists, the dreamers. The mind-speakers. The norm challengers and status-quo re-writers. The people of second and 99th chances. The ones who stomp in puddles and sing in the rain while everyone else is inside dry, … Continue reading
A reoccurring trap I find myself getting stuck in during this life stage is continuing to act with the same anxiety-ridden prayers and ways of relating to the God I was presented with from some Evangelical circles. The prayers where He needs to tell me exactly what to do, please, because I have to make a decision and it HAS to be the ONE decision He wants for me and I need to make that decision soon, now, because I can’t get it wrong! Afterall, I most certainly can’t spend another day doing something that isn’t your will, Lord!…
I think we do a disservice to both ourselves and to God when we continue praying to THAT God… the God who has prescribed a specific set of instructions for your life- and if you don’t follow them, in order, then clearly you’re not following His will and aren’t living out of His/Her “specific” will for your life.
Is that what God wants for us?
I mean, where do we draw the line?
Do we ask what “God’s will is” for our breakfast choices? Lord, show me if I should eat cereal or eggs for breakfast this morning. Help me, Lord, I need to know!
Is it “God’s will” for you to stay or to go or to move or to switch jobs or to leave the country or…
…I can hear those questions now. They roll around in my brain often (the jobs part, especially, not so much the eggs. I’m more of an oatmeal-on-the-run kind of girl).
But I’m done. To those thoughts and harried, twisted, fretful prayers, I bid you farewell.
You say we need faith like a child?
Well, then start simplifying, Child of God.
God has created each of our lives to have meaning, purpose and significance and S/He gives us gifts to show the world more and more of who She is. I just wonder if God is not so concerned with us “getting His will perfectly right;” rather, that we are finding Him along the journey in which He is walking with you. Beside you. Next to you. Embracing you. Encouraging you, present with you in this season, every season, every decision. Perhaps He’s not disappointed when we go left or when we turn right, U-turn or keep the same path, walk or run, or at our weakest moments, crawl. Yes maybe it truly is about the journey, not the destination. The process of becoming, rather than doing the “specific will.” I’m beginning to think all that He just wants you to know is that in life, there will be some goings and some comings, some dark valleys and some unsullied joy, some mess and some yes, some no-s and some grow, and that somewhere along the way, this journey, no matter how traversed, circuitous, or wild goose chase it’s been so far, he will certainly “lead you beside still waters” and refresh your soul.
And so tonight, as I catch myself praying one of those fretful prayers for the umpteenth time, I will stop. Look up. And remember that the God who has gotten us this far, can surely lead us to the next step. I will stop focusing on the destination and find solace in knowing that we will get there, someday, wherever “there” is, anyway. But what’s most important is the journey He’s taking us through, as we seek His face in the glory of the mountains and trees, seek His love in desert, and seek His heart in the times of uncertainty.
Yes, we’ve got a good Maker. And while we seek Him and take a look at where we are and how we’re doing, S/He’ll be making you, be making me.
For more thoughts on “God’s will for your life,” check out this talk by Donald Miller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggLQwxS-rcI
“If you have a donkey and it talks to you, God has a specific plan to your life. If you are a virgin and pregnant, God has a specific plan for your life… other than that, you kinda get to do what you want… You get to be really creative. The people who understand this CHANGE THE WORLD- the people who understand that me and God get to do something really cool out of the creativity of my imagination and the desire of my heart; they get their entire passion. But the people who say, “I’m so afraid that I’m not honoring God!”- they don’t do anything.”
I received a letter in the mail today from a well-intentioned soul encouraging me to buckle down, get married and “procreate” (their words, not mine). I don’t think it’s prudent for me to share who the letter was from, but it was someone from whom I love receiving hand-written notes. I held the lined yellow paper closer to my face, but cautiously further from my heart, and continued to read. “Please stop and think outside the box.” “You should reproduce yourselves in children…” “You can help the world by producing several more children.” Warm tears made rivulets down my face. A deep cry ensued. Not a weepy cry, but a hemorrhaging cry from somewhere deep inside you that knows you will not be tamed, not succumb to the expectations of others, will grit your teeth and persevere to become the person God created you to be, no matter how hard the growing pains it will take to get there.
I continued to read words from pages to which I could find no visceral attachment. “You are in your best childbearing years. Please don’t waste them… You’ve always gone to our Father in Heaven for guidance, so open the door to your heart and let the light shine…”
I continued to cry. I mourned the loss of, apparently, young adulthood, because all of a sudden someone’s talking to me about creating life. A very adult thing to do.
I cried because I think God has called us to serve the least of these. And what I believe that looks like for me is not having a family right now. And if I do one day, I wish to adopt.
I cried because I heard from many influences how “good” it is for women to be Mom-my and wife-y. I haven’t heard as many say to go chase after the thing that gets your blood moving, that gets oxygen to your brain, that says to be contraire, to go another way, to try, to risk failure, to travel, to live with wreckless abandon the story you wish to co-author with God, not the life that someone else has scripted and wished-up for you. No. I’ve heard plenty of voices remind me to multiply and fill the Earth, to be pro-family, but not as many voices remind me that we are already family. One day last summer, I met a gentleman at a volunteer event whom I will never forget. In conversation, he mentioned his wife. I asked if they had kids (mostly because I had moved back to Baltimore and was looking for more friends). He responded, “No; we didn’t wish to have any kids. We wanted to have more time available to serve God in other capacities.” I was amazed. Why did his story seem so shocking? Have we such narrow-minded a view to think we can’t be a family without having children?
Pent up energy, passion, righteous anger, and tears continued outpouring out of my soul. But of all that I was crying about, I cried most of all because I was being encouraged to do something that God has not called me to do.
The biggest disservice we can do is to take someone away from God’s calling on their life simply because you think you know what their calling is or should be. God is wayyy more original and bigger than that.
God may very well call you to family. You may be impassioned to create and raise children in the home. You may be equipped to be a president, a CEO, a full time employee serving God with your forty (or fifty or sixty) hours a week. We, especially women, need to get past this and link up. We don’t have time to tear each other down with who is “doing it better,” “doing it right,” or “doing it wrong.” We only have time to encourage each other to be the best person we can be– the best teacher or doctor or pastor or construction worker and/or Mom we can be. We only have time to respect one another’s decisions and simply observe such choices as that person’s way of following through with what God has placed on their heart. Enough with the comparisons, the critiques, the should’s and the should nots.
You see, the problem with boxes is that they’re secluded. You pack things in boxes. You tape them shut. You store up old papers and things you don’t really need inside of them. They’re not permeable. What was that song we used to sing when we were kids? A circle is round and has no end? I say, let’s trade in our insipid boxes and jump in the circle of global sisterhood that affirms and encourages your other sister no matter how similar or different your lives look. Better yet, let’s not stop there. We live on a circle called Earth. All seven billion of us. It’s time we leave our boxes by the curb for recycling and become the men and women, sisters and brothers we were meant to be, doing our best everyday to create Heaven on Earth, no masks, no masking tape, no boxes, just all of us, anyone who wants it, inter-connected inside of one big, brilliant, beautiful, never-ending hula-hoop circle of love.
Sometimes I still get caught waiting… waiting for permission.
I’m not sure where along the way I developed the notion that you had to ask for permission to voice your opinion, to share your hurts, to offer another viewpoint, to experience different churches, to try different ministries and ways of serving, to find God in ways other than the Bible.
Perhaps it’s nothing more than the “nice-girl-syndrome” that both the church and society often place upon females, being subtly taught to smile, always smile, be polite, share all of your toys, be nice…
But I don’t want to be a “nice girl” anymore.
No. I’m discovering that we were meant to be courageous, be brave, contrarian, strong, and bold… to be women of peace but not passivity, to be women and men of kindness, but not doormats. To be loving, but remembering that the command was to “love God as you love yourself.”
I truly believe that l, and many women and girls too, today, are acting like we are raising our hands, properly seated at our desks, feet crossed around the ankles, waiting to be called upon. Just yearning for one person to call on us, to let us speak, to let us try. I’m absolutely terrified and yet at the same time completely ecstatic to remind that you don’t have to raise your hand anymore. You don’t need permission, because dear Child, in Christ, you are already free. You already have permission. And not only do you have permission, but you actually have a responsibility. To speak out against injustice. To make the church more just and equitable, no matter the gender or sexual orientation. To try. To mess up. To get it wrong. To receive grace and open arms, ready to welcome you in as you spread your wings.
So use that voice. Lift up that head. Turn your whisper into ebullient communion. Yes, step out; You don’t become bold and strong and brave by sitting in your seat. No, that’s not for you.
It’s scary, I know, stepping out onto the edge. None of us can hit fast-forward and watch the scenes unfold in our lives to make sure that we’re not just telling ourselves nice things for a moment of comfort, condolences for lost time, but really… deep within my core… I really believe it. I believe we are rising up, each one of us, finding our voices, waving and embracing and opening doors with the hands we used to raise. We’re going to find freedom. We really are. Yes you are going to pursue your impassions and when people disapprove, in due time, you’re going to feel a small self-assured smile come over you. It will be your clue, your token, your sign of knowing you’re doing the right thing. You’re living the way you were meant to live… something to the tune of what Sarah Bessey once wrote: “To piss a few people off and sing freedom to the rest.”
I’m so excited. My desk is gone and my hand is no longer raised. It’s time to head out to recess and sing, hop, skip, run, jump into reckless songs of freedom. Class dismissed.
After days on end of realizing that if I don’t make a change soon, feeling agitated, unsettled, and stuck are going to become the pedestrian emotions of my days.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m extremely grateful for a job, for God’s provision, for a roof on my head, food to eat, crickets to listen to, my new road bike that I never want to hop off of… love and life itself…
But something is desperately missing.
I am not the passionate girl I was once used to be.
Oh I’m coming alive, trying new things.
But some of the dreams I have on my heart are layered in feelings of impossibility, doubt, fear, and one more triple-thick layer of self-defeating thoughts, desperately trying to remind myself that like A.A. Milne once wrote, “you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Those are moments of doubt… they are wasted moments. Those are the most wasted moments we can spend on life, EVER.
No, we don’t have to put up with those wasted moments any longer.
You see, there’s these other moments you get; moments that feel like drops of honey being fed to your mouth by the Hands of God. These sweet, sweet, intoxicating moments of life where you grit your teeth, dig in deeper, love that much harder, push that much further, and simply refuse to let the obstacles speak louder than the dream…
You… you decide to do hard things.
You simply do hard things.
Those are the only things in life that hold any real value; the things you earn only through sweat, sticky fingers, tireless devotion, unconditional love. You might as well do them so when you reach some ripe old age and can’t turn back the clock, you’ll have a fist-full of dreams to release into the sky like peace doves and red balloons- those you pursued, that is, not those you avoided.
And those moments- those moments where you kick yourself in the… rear and realize that enough is enough, enough time has been wasted, enough energy compromised on people pleasing and doubting yourself, and doubting the person God made out for you to be, heart full of unique passions and convictions… those moments where you look your dream in the face and say “yes” it’s possible and you whisper “yes” as you inch one step closer to the dream, even if you’re shaking… Those moments…
Those moments where you are absurdly fearless of the place between reality and your dreams.
Those moments where you truly fathom that life is precious but ever slipping through your fingers, with time that you can never re-live and edit and you know, deep down in your heart, that you can and will live your best life now.
Dwell in those moments.
In those moments where God meets you half way, like half way up the hill you’re climbing on your bike, or half way up the hallway to a job you really hate but are too scared to leave to pursue what you actually care about for fear of its ambiguity or enormity.
And you hear His voice.
You know it’s Him.
And He reminds you to go back over the story, the one He’s been telling time and time again through people like Moses or Rosa Parks or your very self. The story that says trust… have faith… dig deep. The stories that have movement from complacency to action, that take you on some weird, unable-to-be-explained-in-the-present-time wilderness journey that makes you wonder if this is all some sick joke… and you make it to the other side. You make it so that you are able to take the risk. Able to take the test. Apply for the job. Sign up for the race. Make your life count. See the fruit of your journey in the desert.
Dwell in those moments.
In those moments where you decide that being nice is well… nice. But you are DONE with living the innocuous life.
Dwell in those moments.
Where you decide to risk failure, point to your horizon and run straight after it, letting doubt, fear, and the opinions of others simply vanish and evaporate to try and trap someone else in a spiderweb. You, you, my friend, have been set free from that web. You are untangled, you are unraveled, you are unfettered, you are free. It may not look like it now, but oh yes, you are indeed free.
Dwell in those moments.
Those moments where you’re an unstoppable lion.. or lioness with a fervor that cannot be tamed.
Dwell in those moments where doubt and fear have been kicked out of the building and all that’s left is open doors, open palms, green grass, room to breathe…
Dwell in those moments where you KNOW, deep within your core that anything is possible, but that you have to go through some… stuff to get there. And you don’t care anymore about what the “stuff” is because you’re committed to making it past the “stuff.”
Dwell in those moments, child, because you’re worth it… and if each of us operated out of the voice inside of us that actually pursues what is meaningful to us, that says the words we truly want to say, no matter how scared you are of someone’s reaction or being labeled as “too emotional…” if each of us sang our songs, wrote those letters, spoke up so that others can actually hear you, pursue the ideas that just popped in your head and refuse to let reason and logic engulf it…. If each of us actually said a hearty, “hello!” to the homeless person on the street holding a sign instead of sitting there squiggling around in the seat of our car, trying to avoid eye contact and the urgency of “what am I supposed to do!!?” If each of us vowed to take off our masks and dulled-down beliefs or feelings… If each of us rose up each day with this fire, this fervor, this passion, we would literally astound the world, ourselves, and each other.
Dwell in those moments.
Come back to them when they feel far away.
And may we always remember to pay attention to those nudgings on our hearts… for the world will be better for you having pursued them.
During my freshman year of college, I heard this talk at church based on a book called “The Dream Giver.” The gist of the story is that God has put dreams on each of our hearts, and through taking the courage to pursue those dreams, and facing any and all necessary conflict, God will not only change us in the process, but use our dreams to serve His purposes to change the world.
I remember walking back to campus that sunny Sunday afternoon with my friends, all jazzed up about the dreams that were filling up my heart, fresh blood filling my veins. And I started writing down dream after dream, some small, and some big, some common and some less common, and I created what has become known to me as my bucketlist.
In fact, if you hang around me long enough, you’re bound to hear me sporadically get inspired by an idea and I’ll shout out loud, “aw man, that’s going on my bucketlist!” (and as a side note, if you ever want to check it out, just come over and use my bathroom. It’s taped to the wall next to my mirror so that every day I am reminded of what I’m living for and, most importantly, who I’m striving to live for.)
Anyway, as you probably guessed by the title of this, a marathon was on that list. I didn’t really know what the greater purposes were behind that dream back when I wrote it on the list in 2006, but I couldn’t shake the fact that I just had to do one before I died.
So back in the spring of 2010, a few friends and teammates from college were doing the Baltimore Marathon and I knew that was my cue. At the time, I was reading this book called “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by my favorite author Donald Miller (if you’re looking for a book that will get you up off of your… chair… I highly suggest you read this). In it, he says, “…humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and fear, otherwise the story will never happen.” The day I read that was the day I clicked “register now.” The story was happening. No more thinking, no more dreaming, no more “one day…” DOING.
And so since that fateful day back in April, I started learning some lessons. Some things I learned pretty quickly. Besides learning right away that 26.2 miles is a LONG distance, I also learned that…
-When you go for a run, don’t lock your car keys in the car unless you want to wait an hour for triple A to show up
-My toenails will probably continue to fall off every other year
-Don’t run past McDonalds after eating ice-cream for dinner… that won’t feel too good.
And I’m continuing to learn stuff. For one, I’ve been trying for three years to race for HopeSprings, a non-profit HIV ministry here in Baltimore. The Baltimore-Towson metropolitan area ranked second in AIDS cases in 2006. This organization was created out of the fact that the church has the call to love and engage in the culture around us. Since my involvement in the ministry in 2008, God has changed my life by showing me His incredible love and grace and beauty that HopeSprings so beautifully epitomizes. After several months of planning, and brainstorming, and dreaming, this year it will happen. You can look for it on the website soon (www.hopesprings.org). This will be an opportunity to race for a purpose and change your life and others’ in the process.
I’m learning, or rather re-learning the practice of discipline. As a division 1 swimmer at Towson, I honestly thought I had that part covered. But staying motivated when you have 40-plus girls cheering each other on and a coach who won’t let you get away with skipping a workout and a championship title to defend looked a whole lot different then training mostly by myself for a race with no potential consequences if I didn’t end up “succeeding.”
But most importantly, I have learned that it’s easy to sign up for the things in life that have little to no risk. Anyone can do that. But to live a life worth telling stories about… for that you have to DO HARD THINGS. It’s my new motto now. DO HARD THINGS. When I’m trying to decide whether or not I should do something, I now have this filter where I ask myself, “will this be hard?…” “Yes.” “Good. Then it will be worth it.”
Hard things allow us to grow. Hard things take us outside of the safe confines and familiarity of our comfort zone. Hard things move us from sitting to standing, from dreaming to doing, from complacency to action.
Through my training and racing, I was reminded by how much better off we all are when we connect to each other, when we spur each other on, when we team alongside each other do life together. The first time my boyfriend and I went running together (in the rain nonetheless), I quickly realized that if I was going to keep running with him, I’d have some catching up to do. Literally. Besides the fact that he’s faster than me, he’s also a good 6-7 inches taller than me. I mean, we’ll be walking somewhere and I’ll either powerwalk to keep up with him or let out a friendly, “Brian!” and he’ll smile patiently as we adjust to each other’s strides. By the time we’re a mile in, we’re on different paces and I’m chugging along with my iPod, knowing he’ll be there at the finish line, as if to be saying, “come on, you can do this. We’re in this together.” And so that’s how it would go. We’d run and at the last stretched of my run, I would muster up all the energy left within me and there would be this awesome person just yearning to reach out and give a high five.
It’s kind of how it is with my dad too. For 58 years old (sorry Dad!), he still has so much kick in him that I really have to push myself to end a run by his side. Though I can probably one-up-him on distance now-a-days, this man ran alongside me every since I could remember, always with patience, always with endurance, always with heart.
Similarly, I was going on a run (by myself this time) around my neighborhood back in the fall. And I was about halfway through my run when I looked across the street and there was this man looking straight at me with his hands in the air giving me two giant thumbs up, smiling. And so I took off running. Those last two miles, I was running off of sheer adrenaline and encouragement. I mean, it’s as if God himself put this guy there, along my running route, to give me the motivation and encouragement I needed to bang out those last two miles.
Growing up in the Christian faith, there’s this verse I came across that’s kept me going through many practices and meets. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3). And so I’d be in the water envisioning the “great cloud of witnesses”- people who have inspired me and encouraged me to keep at it-having seen the dividends of hard work paid off.
And when I find myself short on faith, short on energy, going through the hard stuff, the conflict of life, I go back over the scenes of joy of seeing it all pay off, that moment when you’re reminded that every single step was all a part of the journey.
And so I saw a man bring me back to that point, back to that point where we see just why we all need to keep spurring each other on. That we can’t do it on our own. That even if we could do it on our own, it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable. That no one is alone. And it sounds so simple- spur each other on. Encourage each other. Each of us is going to have a time in our life when we are going to want to lay it on the ground, toss it in the trash, hang up the towel, and give up. But giving up is easy. Keeping together takes work.
On the day of the marathon, I was reminded of this again at mile 23. There was this man next to me, paralyzed from the waist down, using a seated bike to race through those 26.2 miles. And I watched him churn his arms as if to say no one is excluded from this “great race.” And I saw young women wearing t-shirts with names on the back of people who’ve passed away that they were running for, all the while Sara Groves shouting to me through my iPod of all the saints who’ve gone before…
At some point, I realized that we’re ALL running this race, but it’s up to us to decide who and what we’ll run for and how we’ll get to where we’re going and when. That time will lapse regardless of whether or not you are pursuing your dreams and we might as well risk something big, something beautiful, or else we will die with unfulfilled dreams and unexplored possibilities. That life without such risks or dreams will result in living boring stories. And I think we are all made to want to live some daring stories. And if nothing else, next time you’re out in the neighborhood, give someone two thumbs up and send them along their way.