We were asked at the renewal that we just came from to make some “commitments” (which is hard for some of us who flee from most anything that requires commitment for fear that we will fail, but that’s another post altogether).
We were to ponder and pray and listen for God to speak in regards to what He was seeking to transform within us throughout the week and how what we felt Him shifting would play itself out on the following Monday morning when we were no longer in “renewal” setting. It was obvious that real life was waiting, so how would our time together with one another, and mostly, with the Lord have affected the everyday-ness of our life.
In an attempt to not oversimplify but not write a ridiculously long post – one of my RUDE awakenings throughout the week of being in God’s presence and the presence of some other folks who invited us to engage with them in the process of a “deeper life,” was that I felt clearly convicted that I had traded in my DELIGHT at being a daughter of the King and walking with Him into hard places and feeling privileged to do so – to attempt to lead a ministry. The exchange has been stinky and it’s taken the best parts about doing all of this with it. It has left me tired and frustrated and burnt out and bitter and hurt and lacking in so many places. I was offering the people I was certain God has asked me to serve, a very manufactured offering, because my cup was bone dry – there was nothing there worth anything to offer. I found myself scary dry and scary numb toward some things that should move this girls heart.
One of the largest regrets I have about ministry is that sometimes it hardens things that were so soft and vulnerable and nurturing in some far off distant place in the past. Some of that is “theirs” to own (whoever “they” might be)…for instance my heart remembers soft and vulnerable before it seemed like everyone was watching and knew how you were supposed to do things and were dishonoring in their conversations about how wrong even your best attempt at following Him passionately and serving people is. It was that way before ministries fought and competed for credit instead of working together to help the people who needed it. It was that way before people who loved Jesus didn’t act like Jesus very much at all. AND THEN…if I am honest a whole big lot of it is mine to own…It was that way before I took my eyes off Him and put my eyes on all the needs in front of us and our inadequacy to meet them. It was that way before I was able to walk past a half naked hungry soul and that feel like a “normal” part of my world, without needing to respond. It was that way before the pictures in the newspapers of murdered bodies lying on the ground no longer made me sick to my stomach or burdened in my heart and I was able to flip the page without much feeling about that at all. It was that way until I allowed my guilt over what other people thought a missionary should be to dictate what I did whether I felt God leading in that direction or not. It was that way until I began behaving as though I believed that working for God might be the same thing as pursuing God. It was that way before I thought that being a “missionary” had now become part of my “identity” instead of a really humbling piece of my journey through this life. It was that way until one day I realized that I had gotten so far from the girl I was when I came here to do this that I honestly wasn’t sure whether I really knew myself at this point at all. There’s a whole lot there that takes some “owning” from me as well.
Sure there are places that have grown and changed and shifted. There are places that are better as a result of the journey, but I think sometimes moving forward from where you are requires naming what you hate about where you are. I think this is that.
Somehow naming it and saying it and calling it what it is – liberates. There it is, honest, and out in the open, I am far from who I desperately want to be.
So now what??? Well, I think that’s where the “commitment” of what would change on Monday morning after our renewal time together comes in. At the risk of this sounding like I’m binding myself to some “law” I’ll never be able to keep, and using some tag line that has become an easy way to bury someone with guilt, I was certain that some things were going to have to change in my world. You know what I decided. I deserve an hour in the morning to seek God. I deserve a pretty place to be able to do that. I desire a cup that overflows with Him and things that would honor Him and if that’s true then it’s going to take some devotion on my part to bring that cup to Him for His abundant filling. So I decorated my patio. I bought myself a table and chairs. I was gifted with some gorgeous flowers to plant in my flower boxes. I bought some more pots and some other flowers that I just loved. I created a space to meet with God. It won’t be magic. It won’t create something I couldn’t have created in a corner of my bare room – but I want to be intentional about meeting with God and delighting in that again. I figured He was deserving of my time and energy in creating and decorating a place where we would have a date each day. So I dedicated that corner of the patio to be my “prayer chair.” Many other things will inevitably take place there but at the beginning of my day whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour or longer, I’ll seek Him there. I’ll put myself in position of surrender and listen for His lead. I’ll remember that my identity is in being His daughter…NOTHING else. I’ll be still and I will allow Him to quiet this heart that can hear the criticisms and opinions of others so loud some days I think I might go nuts. I will bring Him my mess and ask Him to start here with me first, change this before I invite or serve or “work” for everyone else who “needs” Jesus, I’ll remember that I’m pretty desperately in need of Him as well.
This prayer was one that was shared at the “renewal” and will become a regular part of my morning time…it speaks of morning, but it also speaks toward new beginnings and I feel like that also is where I am at this point in the journey.
AT THE DAWN
Our first glimpse of reality this day – everyday – is your fidelity.
We are dazzled by the ways you remain constant among us,
in season, out of season,
for better, for worse,
in sickness and in health.
You are there in watchfulness as we fall asleep;
You are there in alertness when we awaken…and we are glad.
Before the day ends, we will have occasion
to flag your absence in indifference…
but not now, not at the dawn.
Before the day ends, we will think more than once
that we need a better deal from you…
but not now, not at the dawn.
Before the day ends, we will look away from you and
relish our own fidelity and our virtue in mercy…
but not now, not at the dawn.
Now, at the dawn, our eyes are fixed on you in gladness.
We ask only that your faithfulness
permeate every troubled place we are able to name,
that your mercy
move against the hurts to make new,
that your steadfastness
hold firmly what is too fragile on its own.
And we begin the day in joy, in hope, and in deep gladness. Amen.
I desperately want to be honest with myself and with my God about who and where I am and how desperately I need Him – and today at this dawn – I think I make the commitment to start there again…knowing that I will no doubt fail…and that He will NO doubt still love me. Amazing!! Absolutely amazing!!