It was January 2010. I was four months pregnant with our son, and we were about 5-6 months into our marriage’s year of survival mode.
Reagan was guest speaking at a church in Nolensville that morning, and we would leave from there to drive to Oklahoma to celebrate Christmas with his family. For a reason I cannot remember, and rather than wake 2 year old Reese, I elected to stay behind in the car with her that morning and begin reading a book that, unbeknownst to me at the time, Reagan had nervously gifted me for Christmas.
To sum up the impact that it left on my mind, and the change that it affected on my life, I would have to share this…
That rough sketch in my journal could be perceived to mean a thousand different things depending on the perspective of the person viewing it. I didn’t come up with it on my own, there’s a similar sketch in the book, and it’s always the thing I remember when I recall the things I read and learned.
What do you see?
I imagine that your perception of it says a lot about where you might find yourself in life right now.
Let me tell you what I learned to see in it. What I see in it now. I’ll also tell you what it felt like when I took it to heart and “jumped” at first.
God has, time and time and time again, been extremely gracious to meet me where I have been, and to use whatever situation I find myself most pressed into, to be the tool that He has used to polish and shape me, my mind, and my heart. For this time in my life, it looked like God using the story of two flawed, driven, passionate people with their own baggage trying to navigate life together without destroying each other. Since our marriage was the thing at the time that I was “feeling” most, our marriage was what He used to plant the seed of a belief that needed to grow deep roots down into the DNA of who I was. And in the context of that book, that picture was intended to depict “me”… no longer holding my husband responsible for my happiness, my security, my identity, or any other felt emotional and spiritual need that my heart required for wholeness. (Let’s jump to the end of that chapter btw… where rather than be responsible for it, because of this new perspective, my husband turned into the most tangible way that I could EVER feel and know God’s love and provision in my life. It ceased to become his JOB, and instead he became the TOOL through which God would beautifully express those things to me.)
The balloon in the picture depicts God, literally carrying me through life, with seemingly no tangible footing underneath. In the beginning, the blind trust required for that type of belief can be crippling to anyone who has had every reason in the world to be living from a place of fear, due to the experiences that they might have lived through up to that point. It’s understandable why people choose to keep themselves anchored to the familiar when safety, security, and significance is the goal. The problem occurs when whatever they’ve anchored themselves to becomes the baggage that keeps them strapped to the fear and shame that they allow to shape their decisions and paralyze their lives.
The word release seems so inadequate to describe what happened when I adopted this belief into my life, but it’s exactly what was birthed on that day. I use the word “birthed” because the release I’m describing has been experienced by me almost as having toddler years, teenage years, and is now being lived out from a place of having some experience under its belt. It feels good and very secure. Confident to a degree actually that is often misunderstood by some. Which brings me to the point of this post.
I’ve been forced into some more soul searching lately. Being confident in areas that I’ve been called to move forward in, which painstakingly appears to include moving beyond those who have chosen not to continue with me, and it has brought with it some wrestling. It turns out that when you reach a place like this in life, when your life’s calling starts being used to affect others and at times, the calling on their lives… one of the potential affects of that, is that you may get to be the recipient of a lot of difficult projecting while others work through their own stories and journeys. This part sucks. It calls for some moments of recluse, private tears, and sometimes painful resolve. I’ve had to check my mindset and heart set by scripture and by trusted advisors and ask God to correct me where and if needed. This is what I landed on…
Call it being a 1w2… (Enneagram friends will understand that… if you don’t get it, feel free to check into it) which isn’t an excuse, but it’s a realistic explanation… but I traced my mode of operation back to Romans 12:1-2 and Philippians 1:20-21. When it comes to decision making, and interacting with/leading others, I’ve learned that these two passages of scripture have been so ingrained into me since childhood, that I default to this and make choices according to how my mind interprets this in light of the situation at hand. I’ll save you the looking it up…
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Whether that means death to my ideas, death to my preferences, death to my ego, and my right to feel defensive because of a persons perception of my motives… all of these are based on the perception of others who are navigating their own “junk” at times, and I have learned to so deeply trust that if I’m pressing into and chasing after the Kingdom, the tough things will work themselves out as long as God is being glorified. A warning for you though… the combination of having a practically wired personality and living from the place described in those scripture passages above may have the tendency to cause others to mistake your resolve for a lack of care. So let me encourage you to be intentional about being sure others know that they are loved, because they won’t assume it. Shame has a way of creating all sorts of divisive scenarios that a hurting and fearful mind will begin to thrive off of. And fear is SUCH a liar, but its an ongoing battle that we’re smart to march into head on if we’re wise, working towards (with eternity in mind) making choices, living from, and believing the God with a track record and a promise of victory, believing every word of Matthew 6:33 and living from its promise.
Larry Crabb says it all better than I ever could. The Marriage Builder was the springboard from which my desire to understand and practice spiritual leadership was born. And what it boiled down to was surrender. Even when I thought it would kill me… Go back with me to that picture, and imagine if I had chosen to trek through the rocks below instead of sailing over them. What an even more painful journey that would’ve been! Yes, it’s scary as all get out when the wind blows you around and it seems like “all” you have to hold onto is a nearly invisible string! But don’t lose sight of what that string is anchored to!
Because it’s anchored to something that could never fail us. Could never drop us. It would be impossible. Even when the journey is frightening and feels alarming and threatening… we only have a promise of life and an eternity of joy waiting if we’ll, in the hardest moments of it, take a deep breath, hold on, and never let go. Move forward in the promise of Philippians 4:6-7. The choice is ours, and it starts now…