We took the month of December off of school, and boy did I need it. We got through about 5 days of Advent readings. I really dropped the ball in that area this year.
This year of tight schedules, running around, feeling like my new job was that of air traffic controller to these 6 kids and a husband in my house. The margin available for error is small these days. My errors, though, stay the same, and I’m constantly in catch up mode.
So I did what a lot of introverts do when they are over-spent. I retreated, became introspective, reflective, and pretty much became a horrible friend. I let commitments that meant a lot to me drop. Through all that, one of my dearest friends was moving to the other side of the globe, and I could barely make myself return calls to her, because I knew those calls were setting up our “last goodbye” for a few years. I didn’t want to say goodbye, so I retreated. (We did eventually say goodbye, and I’m still recovering.)
As I took the month to pause, and regroup, I found myself terrified by what I saw in me. Writers block hit with greater force than it has in years. I started to question God about some big things, and then I stopped showing up to hear his answers, because I figured I already knew what they were, and I didn’t like them. I went into avoidance mode.
God, in his goodness, still pursued me. He even still worked through me. As I timidly walked into obedience in one area of my life, and started ministering to some other women, as well as my own daughter, I started having these amazingly deep conversations and was able to encourage people to seek Jesus’ face, as he is the author and perfecter of our faith. Through these acts of ministry, God was relentlessly preaching to me, using the words that I was speaking to others.
I don’t think God gets angry when we quietly back up with timidity. He is patient. I find that with many of the women I speak with, they are afraid to pray what is really on their hearts. They want to present their best to God, and appear before him unblemished. They want to get their act together, and show God that they are listening and obedient.
Everything changed in my spiritual walk with God when I learned to present to God my ugly. When I tell God the truth about my feelings. When I show God my hardness. When I question him out loud. When I tell him that I’m stuck in this trap of feelings and fear, and I can’t get out.
Because he always gets me out of the trap. And I never have done so on my own. Hiding the fact that I get trapped in fear and self-sufficiency is just an act of pretense, and God wants intimacy. My real father is an alcoholic, and our relationship over the years has it’s bulk in pretense. He pretends he’s fine, for my sake. I suppose he feels he is protecting me. What he never seems to realize is that our relationship would grow if he would just share his struggles, instead of hiding them. I see no point to a relationship based on lies. I don’t like to pretend to have a relationship, with pretend information.
But in order to be honest with me, he has to be honest with myself. I continue to find myself in his shoes, as I face God. If I want to be honest with God, I must face the truth of the ugliness within myself. And that is easier said than done.
I think God feels the same way. I think sometimes when I avoid spending time with God, it’s because I’m weary of pretending that I’m good, or having the right words or the right attitude. It’s just the lie that I have to be good, and show my good to God.
We don’t go to God to please him, but to be changed by him.
If we go to God to present this person that we wish we were, then the relationship lacks depth. It has no intimacy. We must come out of the darkness, into the light, and share the parts of our heart that we’d rather not.
The ugliness in my heart that I was struggling through, and God wouldn’t let me hide, no matter how much I tried, was on the topic of dependence. I’ll likely be writing about this a lot in the new year. It goes back to when I was beginning to have good days after my car accident, and I prayed to God the silly prayer, “I’m getting better. Pretty soon I won’t need you so much anymore.” Then I heard my pride, and my stupidity, and instantly repented.
So the question I’ve been asking for the last several months is “What does dependence on God look like when there is no crisis?” When I’m in crisis, I’m on my knees. I’m asking God for the practical. I can only handle the present.
But when the crisis is past, we take joy and pride in “getting our life back in order.” We work hard to make sure we aren’t put in a position of dependence again.
And it felt like God was asking me to step out in faith. He wanted to use me for his purposes, and I knew, I knew that would mean trouble. I know that would require dependence. I was thoroughly enjoying “handling stuff” myself. I was in a pattern of self improvement and taking steps towards independence. I was failing, but not failing bad enough to really reach out for God as much.
Praying “Whatever you want, Thy will be done” when I was a preteen was fine and dandy. It changed my life and God brought me into a world I had never even imagined. As a teen, young adult, and even a married woman, I have learned to pray “Thy will be done” and open my arms to whatever God wanted to do through me.
But now I have 6 children. They depend on me. They hold such extreme value. They are more precious to me than I could have imagined. Must I also hold them up to the Lord and say “Thy will be done?” God turned my life upside down every time I have prayed that. He turned it upside down in such a extreme, but life-giving way. He changes everything.
But these are my children.
And if I pray “Thy will be done” now, will he catch me?
I no longer wanted to be a writer. I no longer wanted to reach many for the gospel. I started turning inward, and it scared me. I just wanted my quiet family to be safe and secure. I didn’t want to become big, and live under the criticism of others. I didn’t want my words overanalyzed, and mis-taken. Being misunderstood through my writing has happened before, and it’s one of the most painful things I’ve lived through. I’m not a good enough writer to avoid it.
I began to believe that if I were to hold my family, my writing, my all to the Lord, and say “Thy will be done” that one of my children would die. I know that sounds crazy, but let’s be honest and let the crazy all hang out. I saw so many people telling stories of God’s faithfulness during the hardest of trials, and if I wanted a big ministry, it would mean God would show up big, and the biggest way he could possibly do that is through the deepest hurts. And that’s the greatest hurt that I could imagine. Stories of mothers losing their children, and how God showed up started flooding my ears on a daily basis, taunting me.
So I stepped back. I asked God for promises that if I gave him just me, he wouldn’t touch my children, and he gave me none. He reminded me that my children are already his to do with as he wills. He just asked me to trust Him, and his goodness. My imagination paralyzed me.
I know God is good. I know he loves me. I know he is present with me always, because his presence is so thick and gentle in the midst of my home that he cannot be avoided. He continued to let me speak to others. He continued to let me speak truth to my friends and women around me. Every time I encouraged one of them, I was preaching the gospel to myself. Every time I shared with them a verse, it was one that God was giving to me.
Faith is sometimes declared as a resolution. I have only experienced that in an emotional state, but from a spiritual-real-life-gritty perspective, I have learned that faith is never something that I can conjure up within me. It is a gift that God places within me, and I slowly yield to it’s goodness. Sometimes I feel like a hardened child, who slowly relaxes within the strong embrace of her Father, and when I take that shaky deep breath is the moment of faith.
My word for 2016 was Abide.
I think I could easily use that same one this year. Though from a slightly different angle, the word I cannot escape for 2017 is it’s synonym: Dependence.
The last few months, I’ve joined a writing group called Hope*Writers. It has become a huge new source of encouragement and iron sharpening iron. I haven’t felt so supported in my writing and crafting well since I was in college. One of the dear friends I have met there, Heather, who is also a writer, encouraged me with these words over our Voxer group. I replayed them over and over, and wrote them down: “God gives us the grace to walk through hard things, but he does not give us the grace for our imaginations.”
We can live in the “what if.” But truly, living there is not living at all. God gives grace for hard and concrete situations. He will be with us in the dark, and in the pain. But God will not give us a pretend-relationship. He will not give us the answers to all the “what-ifs.” He simply says “follow me.” It’s faith. Faith not that everything will be perfect, but that God’s grace will be greater, sweeter, and more sustaining than anything Satan can throw at us.
I’m going to be learning this year what dependence looks like in all circumstances. It will be the focus of my personal study this year.
As you, dear friends, walk into the New Year as well, and examine resolutions, goals, and this past year, I’ll leave you with this quote shared I happened across yesterday:
“God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan only things we can do by ourselves.” -A.W. Tozer.