If you've been following this blog for any good length of time, you know that my story has seen its fair share of changes. In the past few years alone, I've moved from being a newly divorced woman learning the ropes of single adulthood to being a woman surprised into love by a God whose plans far exceeded my greatest hopes. I've been directed away from the life of the mind (though not rendered mindless, I hope!) toward the rich, deep life of the heart. I've survived a depression. I've moved across the country. I've walked through a spiritual desert. I've been rendered positively speechless.
Threaded through each of these changes is the story of a God releasing splendor in my heart. All this time, He's been after my vulnerability. He's been after my rest. He's been after my relinquishment of control. He's been after my absolute availability.
And now He begins something new.
Over this past month, God has invited me into a new adventure involving great risk and great faith. He has posed a question: Am I willing to leave my 9-to-5 job to begin a new work that offers these same gifts of the heart to other women who are just as in search of life and hope and freedom as I was? He has asked me to say yes . . . and I have.
And so, at the end of this month, I will be leaving behind a regular paycheck to chart a new course. Already it is forming in my mind's eye. Already, new and marvelous resources have sprung up. I'll share more about all these things in the days ahead, but for now I will leave you with the heartbeat and essence of what I'll be creating, with God's help, in the words of a post written almost a full a year ago . . .
"Thoughts on Love, Somewhat Muddled"
I think the whole point of life is learning how to love. And the object of our love can be broken into two categories: God and others.
One way (but not the only way) God helps us love Him is by meeting us in our need. What I mean is, deep down inside of us, each of us have very real hurts. Some of us don't like thinking about this, and others of us like to think and nurse on this too much. Either way, they're there. They exist. We are broken people.
We can be broken from big or little moments, in an instant or over a lifetime, in moments seared deep into our memories and moments we've now long forgotten. Those moments, from the instant they take place, affect the way we live, whether we know it or not. And once we get real about this with ourselves and with God -- face who we really are and what we really think and how we really feel in the most sincere moments of our lives -- God can finally get to work in a true and powerful way. In a life-transforming way. In a way that's far beyond and far more effective than what He can do -- and will do -- when we're unaware of what we need and He has to do all the work Himself.
I learned this in a very real way last year when I was all tied up in knots at work. It took every ounce of power in my body to get myself out of bed and out the door on weekday mornings. The pain of perfection and the fear of rejection was, quite literally, going to kill me. But at the root of it all was one big spiritual mess He'd been working to clear out of me for years.
A lot of what I'm sharing is nothing new. Everyone has hurts, like I already sufficiently covered a few paragraphs up, and everyone is dealing with something that pretty much boils down to thinking their value has been reduced to the mere function they perform -- that what they do is more important than who they simply are.
I know a lot of this, again, sounds like pop-culture mumbo-jumbo. But the thing is, it's my story. And it's what God used to eventually grow me into loving Him more, and into loving others more truly.
Some mornings, the only thing that would give me the strength to face the day was to picture in my mind that I was that woman in the crowd who touched Jesus' cloak and received His healing power because of it. Except instead of being in a crowd, I would picture myself the privileged and private audience in His throneroom in heaven, and that I was -- and am -- His beloved daughter. In this picture in my mind, God's cloak was a deep red velvet, and it extended far down from around His throne and onto the ground, closer and closer to me. In that image, I would reach forward, having been bent and huddled over in pain and shame, and I would clutch at the cloak that beckoned me to touch it.
And that was enough. As I sat huddled on the floor of that throneroom, totally broken and weak and unable to get myself up off the ground, I felt God gently watching me. I felt His invitation to touch His garment. His love extended down to where I was, so patient and involved. And once I touched it, I heard Him saying all He had to offer was all the strength I needed: His love, His sufficiency, His determination of my value. Not the determination of others or even what I concocted in my mind.
Somehow, that helped me get up and out of the door. And on my way to work, Kirk would talk and pray me through it. On lunch breaks and odd moments in the day, he would talk and pray me through it again, reminding me of that throneroom and ushering me back into the presence of God.
Somewhere along about that time, Hannah spoke those words I mentioned a few entries back about my being and bringing "color" -- bringing a life and vibrancy to places where life and vibrancy didn't previously exist, simply because of the heart He had given me to feel and care and listen and love from a place that understood the kind of questions and pain and confusion others were facing themselves, simply because I had been there.
Soon after all of that, something finally clicked. The panic attacks and the anxiety and the terror went away. I spent the next 6 months feeling free and resourceful and beautiful and alive and able to love those entrusted to my care, without reservation.
God began to use me, more than He ever had before.
And this is what I learned. Somehow, in the middle of all that mess, He was forming in me a heart that deeply loves. And feels. And grieves. And prays. And trusts. And, eventually, heals. And then passes it along to others who need to love and feel and grieve and pray and trust and eventually heal, too.
I met with more students in the past academic year who were dealing with their own trust and love and acceptance and parent and future and God and growing-up issues than I ever imagined possible. For some reason, they started coming out of the woodwork. A group of them even asked me to visit their morning Bible study one week, and all I could think to share was what I've attempted to share above: that the only thing that matters in life is who we are to God. That is what saves us, and that is what then propels our lives to helping others see this truth about their impenetrable and ever-esteemed value from God.
Nothing can change the way we matter to God. The only thing that can change is whether or not we really get what that means, and what happens in our hearts as a result. The only thing that can change is whether we will keep living for the approval of others or start resting in the real truth -- that we are more precious to God in our plain and true existence than we can even fathom, and He wants to care for us and fill us up.
To sum up, I guess all I'm trying to share in this whole long-winded post is one of the most precious gems of truth I've learned so far on this journey.
And that truth is: When God meets us in our need, we grow in our capacity to love both Him and others. We love others with the love He has accorded unto us, and we love Him with both great gratitude and utter acknowledgement of His magnitude and sufficiency for all our bodily and spiritual needs. He becomes intensely personal, and, as a result, so do we.