The laugh lines around my eyes prove I'm experientially learning what it means to be clothed with strength and dignity and to laugh without fear of the future. Last year I didn't feel much like laughing, but the depth of learning that took place in my heart certainly wrapped my drooping shoulders in unknown strength. Maybe the gray wings and laugh lines visibly expose the depth of dignity God sows into my life with each trip around the sun.
|The photos in this post were taken on the various hikes I took over this last year.|
Thankfully and humbly, God wired me to perceive the needs of others. Sometimes he even allows me to see ways in which I can help. My love for God and for people runs like a raging river. In times past, I've been able to stay on the Holy Spirit raft with a few trusted people who help me navigate the relational rapids. Unbeknownst to me, my raft had taken on too much water of meeting all the needs of all the people in all the world.
Last year at this time I bailed out of the flooding raft with an angry vengeance. Expectations plagued me. Of myself. Of family's. Of other people's, perceived and/or real. Even of God's, or at least, the case I had built on his behalf.
Words can't express the suffocation I felt. (I know some of you know the feeling.) Not only could I not meet all the expectations, I resented everyone, who I believed, thought I was failing.
My false perceptions were thick, but what kept me under water was my inability to perceive they were false.
I couldn't keep up with Chad's ministry pace.
I couldn't help women understand God's love for them, let alone my love for them.
I couldn't change people's wrong perceptions of me in "having it all together."
I couldn't meet my own expectations of what I thought I should be able to do.
I couldn't even meet your expectations, whoever you are. Believe me, I thought about it.
All the things I knew to do in "counseling" myself seemed to fail.
In a last ditch effort to gain some perspective so that I didn't torch my life and all my relationships, I went to see an actual counselor. I spent much of the year pouring over scripture, asking God to help me believe. I hiked many miles in solitude and silence, pondering expectations, shoulds, woulds, and coulds. Chad and I had long, crucial conversations. I forced myself to bail water out of my raft, and in humility, gave a bucket to a few people because I needed help.
It actually began to work. Honestly, I was shocked because I had tried to fix it all by myself, but couldn't... the ugly, revolving door of self-expectations. But, He didn't lie when he told us that he will be faithful to complete the work started in us. What a relief!
Through pruning and abiding in Christ, my 43rd year of life took me on a journey to a deeper understanding of what I already knew to be true. I am finitely finite, unable to meet my own or other's expectations. To walk in it is freeing. To trust the people closest to me when they say their expectations of me are to love God, to laugh, and to have fun with them: Easy. To let go of the expectations people have of me that I can't meet is also freeing, but it is a difficult choice I continually ask God to help me make.
I've discovered a few things:
Chad doesn't want me to keep up with his ministry pace, whatever that means. He wants me to love God with my whole heart and to be his companion. He cheers for me as we live out our lives side by side. He's secure so he never feels threatened by me when I'm full throttle zealous and passionate. He's kind and compassionate so he encourages me to rest, disengage, and even take naps. We make a crazy good team.
I can't take women by the face and force them to look at Jesus' love. It may surprise you but this is an ineffective strategy for mentoring and discipleship. I can point to scripture, but I can't make anyone read it. I can tell you I love you and I'm doing the best I know how, but it may still hurt us both from time to time. Whether or not women I lead allow me to fail sometimes is not mine to hold. Because I'm surely going to fail, but it doesn't mean I don't love.
I can't make anyone believe or accept my apologies when I screw up as a leader. I can't make people stay and work out relational reconciliation. All I can do is walk humbly, love wholly, and apologize when necessary. People's expectations can be fair and unfair, but I can't bend either way. I must keep on my raft with scripture, truth, and love. Right, wrong, or crazy. I will be all three on any given day. It's not about me or you.
Here is one of the hardest lessons of all for me: It's not always my fault. Do you know how easy it is for me to get out of conflict by simply taking the blame so we can move on? I'm asking God to grow true humility in me which means getting rid of the false humility of being the relational doormat.
|The heavens declaring the glory of God. Psalm 19|
The deeper sense of strength and dignity with which I am starting out my 44th year feels content, joyful, and hopeful. My gray wings and laugh lines point to a journey up some serious mountains. I have a better understanding of who I am. God truly wired me to intuit people's emotions, needs, and sometimes even their motives. I'm grateful for this gift. With this gift, I'm surrendering with greater trust that he is the Need Meeter, the Life Fixer, the People Lover. I'm a jar of clay that carries around his all surpassing power in my life through the Holy Spirit. I used to say that I know it is his power and not mine. After this year, I know this more fully. I'm believing next year I'll know it even more. And the next year. And the next year. And the next year...
I laugh at the days to come with courage.
With each trip around the sun, deeper still, faith, hope, and love.
|The sky above proclaiming his handiwork. Psalm 19|