On Sunday night, Kirk and I lay down to sleep through the merciful release of prayer. We had come to that moment through a lot of internal striving in the previous week about Big Things, mostly circling around career and calling. Many good options lay in front of us, but which are the best ones? Which have we been holding onto because of our own designs and desires, rather than the design and desire of God? And within His plans, how do we keep ourselves from clutching too hard, from running too quickly in the wrong direction once He shares His intention with us? What, truly, does it mean to live in Him, through Him, and for Him?
Last week I wrote about fleeing Christ, and I opened that post with a stanza from a hymn we sang in corporate worship. I had come to that church service exhausted and discouraged. The discouraged part came from having received the first four responses to my survey for SC (which is shorthand-speak for the name of my business), and these four responses provided somewhat unfavorable data on the whole. This naturally led me into a downward spiral of questioning myself and what I am doing and whether it's something other people want or even need. (Though Kirk was good to remind me that four responses do not quite make up a representative sample of the whole.)
The exhausted part came through all the spinning and churning and twirling that my mind had been caught up in for so long over SC, trying to make each step that I took be exactly right and trying to understand every parameter it could possibly touch. My mind was exhausted from so much spinning and churning and twirling, and yet I didn't know how to get myself out of it.
When I talk about fleeing Christ, then, it shows up so glaringly in this place: when I run from Him to the power of my own mind, trying to contain all the power and wisdom that will make my life work and cause it to make some semblance of sense. And which ultimately leads to the utter ruin and exhaustion of my spirit. And which, really, is where I spend most of my time.
Thankfully, God was gracious enough to let me see that this had become the pattern of my recent days. He nudged me, asking if this was where I'd stand, if this was where I would root myself forever. I shrugged my shoulders at Him, my head hanging down, so tired but acknowledging that I heard Him and that He must know a better way because He is God, after all, yet knowing myself utterly incompetent to learn what that way was, much less how to get myself there. Gently, He disclosed to me the words of the next stanza:
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
As I lifted my voice to sing these words, I knew there was something to them. Something important that I couldn't quite grasp. Something beyond the width and length and breadth of my own mind's landscape. It was, literally, out of my mind.
Yet I further confess that I don't always know what these words mean, to boast only in Christ's death and resurrection. Sometimes this notion strikes me as ethereal and ultimately paralyzing, since you can't really live rooted in that one place. If you spent all your time boasting about Christ, how would you get anything done? How would you actually live life? And isn't it our gifts, our power to act, and our wisdom to make decisions that get us through each day as living beings? And didn't God give us those gifts, that power, and what wisdom we do have, anyway?
Despite my incomprehension of this truth, I took it into myself and made it my prayer. Lord, help me to learn what it means to boast only in Jesus Christ. I wasn't sure if God would answer this prayer, and I really had no idea how He would answer it, if He did. But I kept asking, and on went the rest of the week. I continued to receive survey upon survey, with your generosity and the power of word of mouth spreading it like wildfire, and yet as more and more surveys came back, the greater grew my conviction that something in there was wrong.
Here is where I will confess two things. First, that my marvel at the beauty of the human spirit, and particularly the feminine spirit, runs so deep that I have been pursuing how to make SC all things for all people, even transcending religious boundaries, upon the conviction that helping any woman get more in touch with her true heart, no matter her current, previous, or future walk of life and no matter her religion or core beliefs, still helps her get closer to God. If we believe Him when He says He cares most about the heart and that it is through the heart that we spill open the wellspring of life, then getting closer to the truth of our hearts ultimately gets us -- all of us -- closer to Him, and I have wanted to be a part of helping that happen. I trusted that He could take care of the rest, meaning all the religious particulars that would unfold from that point forward, because He's just that big and sovereign enough to handle it.
My second confession is that I have gotten quite far in developing SC without having any real knowledge of the content, the actual questions each woman will sit with that will help her spill open that wellspring of life in the first place. This has been a challenge for me, especially in the way I need to use language to communicate with other people about what SC is about. Usually I end up saying something like, "It's about helping women understand their lives, where they have been and where they are going, in light of how they were uniquely created to live." Except that doesn't really get at the heart of it, isn't anywhere close to what I mean it to be, and usually just winds up making people think it's about finding one's purpose in life, particularly in relation to work.
What's really quirky to me about this whole situation is how clear I am on everything else: the context, the format, and even the look and feel of the actual product. I know how all these elements will work together to help facilitate the SC experience and what SC is about, except I still hadn't been able to quite articulate what SC was about.
This all came to a head through the SC survey. In creating it, I had to settle upon a language around which to base all the questions. Because I was still attempting to make the audience as open and far-reaching as possible, this made it challenging. (This is also no doubt why articulating, even to myself, what SC is about had become quite the challenge.) So I elected to use more general terms for the base of the questions: "self-awareness" and "personal reflection."
Yes, self-awareness is one of the SC values, and yes, personal reflection is an integral part of the discovery process a woman will go through . . . but, really, those phrases do not fully incarnate the heart of it all, likely because they're so firmly rooted in the self. There's no transcendence there. And the more the surveys went out and came back in, the more I could feel in my gut that this was a problem. SC is not meant to be earthbound, I was slowly coming to see and embrace. But what, in fact, was SC meant to be?
Remember that all of this was taking place last week, after I had prayed that prayer of release in church, the prayer that asked God to teach me how to boast in Jesus, not myself. And remember that the beginning of this post started by saying that it was this past Sunday night, about a week after that hymn prayer, that Kirk and I fell into bed in prayer, asking God to help us let go of the parts of our lives we were directing ourselves in favor of letting them truly be directed by God.
One of the things I let go of on Sunday night was SC. Confessing that I have no idea what this is supposed to be about, and knowing that He was the one who had called me to do it in the first place, I told Him that I was handing it over and would just stand before Him and wait. I would wait to receive it back from Him, if indeed He wanted to give it back, and I would listen closely for His voice, not my own, telling me what it should be.
Remember, too, that Sunday was the day I had that pivotal and paradigm-altering conversation with my bro-ham Bobby, much of which circled around my desire to write. So that night, when Kirk and I fell into prayer, I did the same thing with my written words. I gave them back to God. I told him, Here, you can have them. As much as I want to do this, and as much as I think I probably can, you meant my words for Yourself when You gave them to me. If you want to do something more with them, then give them back to me Yourself. I will stand here and wait. I will listen, also, to what stories You want those words to tell.
That night, I tossed and turned fitfully, drifting in and out of sleep and never fully falling into dreamland until 4:30 in the morning. (This is probably due to my drinking three mugfuls of hot black tea right before going to bed!) But in the middle of all that fitfulness, I heard a voice that was wholly other in a still, small place.
I went wide awake and listened closely, and then I heard it again.
"Soul care," I said aloud, acknowledging I had heard it. Of course. That's exactly what SC is about. That's what it's been about all along, just without my knowing it. It's so completely true and at the heart of it. I can't believe I never noticed that. (And no, "SC" as a name had no previous relation to the term "soul care" at all; it's a combination of two wholly other words.)
And now, for me to consider SC in light of soul care, I'm aware how far I have to go. How much I have to learn. How much I still don't know. I'm still keeping this a matter of prayer, asking God if that was indeed His voice that I heard in that silent night, still standing before Him and waiting, but preparing myself for an even longer haul that may include another degree here or here. And, of course, this also answers the question of religion: SC truly is meant for Christian believers alone, helping facilitate the soul's movement up toward God.
Later the next day, as I washed the dishes after dinner, I stood there praying with God about the other concern: my writing. I'm still standing here, God, I affirmed to Him again, waiting for what You will reveal. And as I stood there sudsing up the glasses, washing them clean under all that hot water and then standing them up to dry on the dish towel on the counter, I heard Him talk back to me:
Why not share what I've been up to? Why not share about this whole long journey I've been taking you on for the past ten years, all with an aim to more fully capturing your whole heart? Why not talk about you and Me together?
Hm. This is certainly something I had considered before, but had always discounted it for a later time because it all still seems so fuzzy. To be truthful, writing this blog for the past year and a half has been quite instructive in teaching me my method of writing. When I hit upon something important that needs to be said, things usually stew around on the inside for a couple days without any words until -- suddenly, as if hit with a beam of light -- it all becomes clear in an instant. I see the post unravel itself from beginning to end, telling me how the story most wants to be told, and then I sit down to write it. These more significant and weighty posts take a long time to write, sometimes a couple of hours (this one has taken seven hours so far . . . ), but I've learned from this blogging experience how I work: I incubate, then I see it in a flash, and then I compose it line by line, sentence by sentence, one paragraph at a time.
I suppose through this blog experience, then, I've assumed that the writing of a book would happen in the same way. Every writer on the planet has a different way of doing things, and this must be my way. And since it is such a much larger project, I figured the stewing process would just take a much longer time, which is why I hadn't sat down with any flash of inspiration for a book idea these days. It's all still just incubating around in there, I thought.
Monday night, however, I got a different sense about all this. Perhaps the writing of my spiritual journey is a journey in and of itself, something God wants the two of us to embark upon together. Perhaps the mystery of the process is intentional because it grows my active dependence on Him. And perhaps that dependence is part of the point. Perhaps that dependence is, really, what it means to boast in Christ.