I am a little afraid to write this post. While God has done some amazing work in this area over the last few weeks, I am still afraid of what he has called me to share. I am afraid of being misunderstood, afraid of being judged, and afraid of saying it the wrong way and sounding silly or trite. I am afraid of the vulnerability and granting friends and strangers insight into the inner workings of my mind and heart, but today my trust in God is greater than that fear so I will leverage that trust to move forward in what he is calling me to write.
This particular lesson started after I agreed to co-lead the next trip to Guatemala. I had been on the trip twice before and was excited to step into this new role yet nervous about what it might mean. I was quick to say I will lead this trip but did not want to commit to indefinitely leading the team twice each year. You see, part of my dream, the vision I had for my life, was to do international mission work with my husband. Since I hadn’t met him yet, if I committed to this team indefinitely how would he fit into the equation? This question lead to others and I spiraled quickly into one of the darkest weeks of singleness I’ve had in awhile. I started entertaining questions that ripped apart my security and assurance of who I was and why I was still single to the point where I was physically ill and wanted to retreat into myself and away from the world.
The bible study I was completing during this time was the book of Hosea. For those of you unfamiliar with this book, it is not exactly warm and fuzzy. God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer, who keeps running off with other men and is continually unfaithful to him. God meant it as a picture of his faithfulness to Israel though they continually run after other gods. I took it as even Gomer, an adulteress prostitute gets to be married and I don’t. It was pretty ugly. But God met me right where I was. There is a novel that is based on the book of Hosea that I had read a couple times before called Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. During my escape from the world, he lead me to this book to read for a third time. The first time I read it was in college. I was dreamy-eyed over Daniel Hosea, the leading man, and hopeful that someday I would find my own version to have and to hold forever and ever. The second time I read it was after grad school when I first started working. At that time, I was learning more about the world of human trafficking and began to work with a local organization that rescues women from a life of prostitution. It stirred a yearning for justice for women and children around the world who have been forced into unthinkable circumstances with seemingly no hope of rescue. When I read it a few weeks ago, God used it to speak words of love and life into the broken places of my heart. The story became less about the romantic love of Daniel and Angel or the redeemed life of Angel and her broken past, and more about the length God has gone to love me. He doesn’t just love those with hard pasts, or those who are marginalized, or those who need justice. He doesn’t love me because of what I can do for him or have done for him, he loves me because I am me. He saw the pain I was in coupled with the guilt over that pain because there are so many worse things that people experience, and spoke his healing balm of love into the questions and doubts for my future. It was from this place of love that he lead me to confront my fears so they wouldn’t have power anymore.
Last week, I started a new work schedule. I work 4-10 hour days and for the last 5 years, my day off during the week has been Thursday. Last week, it switched to Friday so I enjoyed the first of many 3 day weekends. It was during this time that God did the most work on my heart and it was one of the best weekends of my life. My sister-in-law sent me a talk given by Annie Downs at a single’s conference put on by North Point church in Atlanta, GA. It was part of a series called Fear Less. Before the weekend was over, I had watched the entire series and a whole other series I found on their website. I laughed, I cried, and I allowed God to use the questions they posed to dig into the deep seeded fears I had harbored for years. You see when fear is allowed to fester beneath the surface as this great unknown, unspoken entity, it has power over us and the decisions we make without our permission. But fear loses some of its power when we call it into the light and see it for what it is. There are two fears that God called me to face, to name, and to surrender to him. It is also these fears that God has called me to share with you.
Fear #1: I am going to make the wrong choice. I often find myself paralyzed by indecision because I am more afraid to make the wrong choice than to stay where I am and make no choice. This has manifested in my social life, dating life, academic life, professional life, and in my day to day decision making. I find I can sit for hours in front of the TV because Netflix decides for me that the next show is going to come on. I waffle for days before committing to attend a concert, sporting event, or social gathering because what if there is something else that comes up and I’ve already made my choice, and it was the wrong one. At the root of this fear is pride. The truth is, and I know you are all going to be shocked by this, I have been wrong before and I am still here, I have survived making wrong choices. I just don’t like to be wrong. Being wrong means I am flawed, I am weak, and I don’t have all the answers. If I never make a choice and allow things to just happen to me, then I don’t have to take responsibility for the consequences. I can appear strong as I navigate as a victim of those circumstances instead of the cause of them. But in actuality, this is no way to live. Living in fear of making a mistake is not living. In fact, the times I have felt most alive are when I have made a choice without knowing if it was the right one or the wrong one. God used my uncertainty to stretch my faith and expand my dependence on him. He also taught me that not all decisions are black and white, right or wrong, there is room for free will to be His will. As long as I am pursuing Him, he has granted me freedom to choose left or right because he will go with me no matter which path I choose.
Fear #2: I am not doing enough. This is the fear the enemy of my soul likes to whisper when I am most vulnerable. When I am facing another day as a single woman, he whispers that I am not doing enough to put myself out there, to open myself up to opportunity, or to attract a man that could be interested. When I am grieving the pain of my friends who don’t know the hope of Jesus, He whispers it is because I am not a good enough example, I don’t share enough or love enough. When I am grieving the pain of a broken world where people don’t have enough to eat, those they trust are delivering violence instead of love, or they are betrayed by their own bodies through injury or disease, he whispers I can’t do enough to make any difference, why do I even try? My whole life I have been a doer. I make lists and check off accomplishments: good grades, get into college with scholarships, get into grad school, earn doctorate, get a job, get promotion, and so on. So how do I quantify the intangible things on a list to know that I am doing enough? How do I answer the enemy with his accusations? If I don’t speak this fear out loud, if I keep it hidden and allow his accusations to ruminate until they take root I am held captive, limping through life trying to prove to myself that I am enough. But God, in His infinite love and wisdom, allowed his light to shine in the darkness of my fear and expose the lies for what they are. The truth is I am a child of God and THAT is enough. I have been bought and paid for, accepted, forgiven, and redeemed by the blood of Christ. My hope and future is secure though the world around me crumbles, because the One who defeated death dwells within me. He has given me gifts and good works to complete, but does not leave me to do it in my own strength or power. I am no longer a slave to this fear, because I am a child of the God who sees me as I was, as I am, and as who I am becoming and delights to walk that journey with me.
|These pictures may seem random, but they were taken as I wandered|
through the woods listening to worship music and allowing
God to saturate my heart with truth.
Does speaking these fears out loud mean I am cured from them? No. But courage is not the absence of fear, it is doing what is right even when you are afraid. So I will be brave and make decisions, even if I turn out to be wrong. I will be courageous and rest in the assurance that I am enough and will not be defined by what I do or don’t do. I will claim the truth that God speaks into my life instead of allowing the whisper of lies to paralyze me from moving into the best that God has for me, whatever that may look like.
So how about you? Do you have a fear that needs to be exposed? Do you have an area where God is calling you to be courageous despite your fear? I encourage you to share your fears with trusted friends or family. Invite God to calm your fear and give you the strength you need to do what he is calling you to. Here are a couple resources I found helpful on this journey:
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. ~Psalm 46