To be a little braggy, I was a top dog my first three years of school. I know for a fact I was one of Miss Lemon's favorite little first graders. She had an awesome claw foot bathtub full of pillows in her room, and if you got the most papers on the board for a week you could take your rest time in the tub. It was so fantastic. (Sometimes I wonder if she ever washed those pillows. Can anyone say head lice? *shudder*) I received so many awards my first grade year that she started coming up with new, exciting ways to treat me, such as drinking a coke out of the bottle while sitting in the school office. Let me tell you a first grader in 1980 felt pretty darn awesome with a reward like that.
I didn't, however, receive the title of teacher's pet in second grade. With Mrs. Riley probably no one did. We sat in rows and dared not utter a word. I'm convinced she's started me down the track of my fear/hatred of math. Let's just say she didn't really want to help me understand how parenthesis work in an equation, but that's for another story. However, in Kermit, TX in the 1980s at the end of every school year, teachers passed out these beautiful certificates called K Awards, and Mrs. Riley thought I deserved the best handwriting award plus a couple of other acknowledgments. In first grade, Miss Lemon gave me a stack of K Awards. So, in first and second grade my desire to achieve for recognition was born.
|2nd Grade, I think, but maybe 3rd grade based on the awesome pair of grown-up teeth that seem to be making their debut.|
|But, this surely is 3rd Grade, maybe. But that short suit... don't be jealous.|
In third grade, I struggled to make friends, didn't win any class competitions, rarely had a paper put on the board, peed my pants in class, and didn't receive a single K Award. I most definitely thought I deserved something. I mean, I had achieved in first and second grade. How could I have been so overlooked in third grade? It was a rough life for a 9 year old. The struggle was real, folks. Do not doubt it.
Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Austin for the IF: Gathering. In the first session, one of the speakers prayed very strongly for God to speak to all of us, "to give us a word." Simultaneously in my heart, I was telling God that if he had something specific I would listen, but that he owed me nothing and I would be content to be in his presence. But do you know what he did for me? Gave to me in very specific, personal ways. He is a good, good Father.
Throughout my life I've been a hard worker, sometimes for the sake of hard work and sometimes for the sake of what I could gain, whether an award or a friend or a pants size. But, God showed me during IF that through the years of my life, what seemed to be an independence or an indifference to people's response to me was actually a wall of protection I had built because of life's disappointments.
You see, I believe it's all connected. What happened to us as children certainly affects how we interact with the world as adults. God showed me that as a nine year old I began to believe the lie that I was overlooked. One would think that something so seemingly insignificant wouldn't affect me, but one would be wrong. As God was gently revealing this to me, I saw glimpses of how I responded to situations in middle school, high school, college, and even now, of how I played off being "overlooked" like a cool cat. I had let a corner of my heart become hard and stoney.
The ironic truth is that I am overlooked by people quite often. As God was working in my heart during one powerful song, he was revealing to me that through all the overlooking, I had begun to believe that he was also overlooking me in order to use other friends, other leaders, and other churches. Through his kindness he was breaking the chains on my life by whispering to me that I belong to him, he knows my name, he uses my gifts, he has me in the place he chose for me.
Please know I haven't been walking around for the past 33 years trying my hardest not to be overlooked. The rotten fruit of this lie recently showed up in my life by way of a discontentment in wondering if I was doing enough or even if I was enough. I found myself constantly looking to the left and to the right to see what others were doing, and to see if anyone was looking at me. It was exhausting, and most definitely robbed me of contentment and joy. What he showed me that day in Austin is that he is enough. Now I've known this in my head for years. With my hands lifted high I could honestly and loudly sing all the songs telling him that he was enough for me. But the beauty of rich, God-revealed living is that he not only wants us to know his truths in our heads, he wants us to experience them in our lives. Through the power of his Spirit, he was moving this grace from my head to my heart, so I could live it, believe it, and proclaim it. Such sweet relief.
To wrap up the weekend at IF, we each wrote our step of faith (where and what) to show how we would respond to what God spoke to our hearts. I wrote: My place is Tucson, and my step is to believe that I'm not overlooked and to lead my people with as much love as I can give. Honestly, I think I've been loving them strongly for a really long time. But, I also know that I've reserved the stoney part of my heart for self-preservation for when someone leaves, or gives harsh critique, or chooses someone else over me. And guess what! People will leave. I will receive harsh critique. Others will be chosen over me. But as much as I know I would not overlook my children for someone else, I know God doesn't overlook me. And as much as I know my children aren't meant to do everything all the time, I know God does not mean for me to take on responsibility that he hasn't given me. And as much as I want my children to find their niche and be filled with such great joy while maintaining soft, pliable hearts, God wants me to love where I'm serving, love the gifts he's given me to use, and to allow him to mold and make my heart more and more like his.
Interestingly enough, when I returned to Tucson, I heard from my women that I love to lead, that they missed me. They, too, wrote on rocks while engaging in the simulcast of IF, and they left their pile of rocks on my desk which was a beautiful display of their love for me. I use the words on their rocks to pray for them by asking God to give them strength, perseverance, and joy as they take their faith steps.
Friends, even if the people around us, people we think should see us, people we long to know can't seem to even remember our names, God never ever overlooks his children. He doesn't seek to give us a job or a platform or a best friend or a spouse or the perfect house to prove he remembers us. He has already given Jesus and his Spirit to prove that we've not been overlooked. He is fully available to us. We no longer need to look to the left or to the right to see what others are doing or to see if they are looking at us. We only need to look to straight ahead to the face of God.
So, if you made it this far, congratulations! This lengthy thing is more like a chapter of a book than a blog post. Thanks for hanging with me until the end. As a reward (ha, see what I did there?) I'm doing a little give away. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment. Answer one of the following questions and then at the end of the week, I'll draw someone's name.
I'm giving away Donald Miller's new book Scary Close. It is so, so good. I read it in a couple of days, and if you know my slow reading abilities that should tell you how good it is! Mr. Miller will challenge you in your ideas of vulnerability and relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will read it again.
Leave comment to enter because you want this book. I promise.
What have you been learning lately? Did anything I shared resonate with you? In what ways do you see you are God's beloved? In what ways have you seen the connectedness of your life?
Many blessings in your faith steps!