For a little while now, I've been experiencing an interior shift that I can't quite name except to say that it feels like a gentle nudge to move from a posture of primary preoccupation with myself toward one of giving, offering, and pouring out for the benefit of others. Things I once thought I'd never live without, such as the chronicling of daily life and interior growth on my personal blog, have become less urgent while an awareness of impending participation in the greater mission of Christ has intensified.
As this sense has percolated the past several weeks, I've been content to simply notice its arrival and prepare myself to receive the change it carries. I have felt no need to clutch stubbornly to the way things have always been, and I have felt ready to receive what is new. Slowly, impressions began to form about what those changes could be. Opportunities began to present themselves. Much of this was open-ended and preliminary, and I found myself in a posture of prayer and thoughtfulness about what could eventually emerge.
Then, about a week ago, I found myself feeling confused, frightened, and alone. I found myself feeling small, helpless, and certain of failure. I sat in bed and told Kirk just how little I knew to do. I cried a lot of tears.
The next morning, I met with my spiritual director. I told her I wanted to explore this shift taking place in me and why I had begun to feel so scared and alone in it, when it had been growing quietly and painlessly for weeks. Why had my stress level spiked?
We talked about my experience of God in these places. I felt confident that God was in the nudging, in the preparing of me for this shift in posture, in the ushering in of something new . . . but in the decision-making and the planning and the moving forward, I couldn't sense him at all. I found myself believing he had left me alone to figure it out and make everything come to life. I found myself believing he expected me to get there on my own.
As K. and I kept talking, I discovered this is actually a familiar pattern. I could recall several transition points in my life that I attributed to God's sanctifying work, a prompting toward his intentional growth for my life. I embraced these movements of God in my spirit . . . and then proceeded to "work out" that sanctification process in my own power. When I involved him in the process, it was primarily as though reporting to a figurehead: him a superior to whom I told where I had been and what I had done in the accomplishment of the operation, as though defending just uses of resources given to me and the utilization of my own strong mind and constitution.
K. asked, as she often does, if I could recall a similar circumstance in my history of life experience. Had I ever been entrusted with responsibility and then left alone to carry it out?
While I knew there was likely more than one occasion in which this had happened, one in particular kept presenting itself at the forefront of my mind. In that instance, I'd accepted the responsibility to care for a situation without fully understanding what that responsibility required. In that instance, things got out of control and I was alone in trying to handle it. In that instance, I failed to keep the situation stable, there were dire outcomes, and I was held responsible. In that instance, the situation warranted greater strength than I actually carried, yet I was still entrusted to have been adequately equipped to handle it.
The challenge for me was then discerning where God was when all that happened. I went back into that moment and tried to get a sense of God's presence there. Where was he, and what was he doing? Why did he leave me there? Why did he let that happen?
In my mind's eye, I could see him sitting there with me in the aftermath, listening as I received the reprimand. I could see him nodding at me, telling me he understood the situation was unjust. And yet he did not intervene. He let things crumble around me and did nothing to save it. He let me take the fall and didn't put the truth in place. I carried the burden alone. God didn't lift a finger.
How could I trust he would lift a finger now?
I had to face God's passivity in that moment, and so I let him have it. Why didn't he rescue me that night? Why did he let that burden get handed to me at all? Didn't he see what became of it, how many lies I believed about myself and the rest of the world after that, how many years I believed everything would fall apart if I didn't hold everything together and do everything right?
Maybe we only serve a passive God, a God who spins circumstances into motion and then lets us deal with the rest.
I sat in K.'s living room with my eyes squeezed shut that morning, tears streaming down my face and my thoughts racing with anger and sadness, wondering what God could possibly say to me, wondering if he could possibly say anything at all that would begin to help me understand, that would begin to make anything better.
And slowly, like an onion, I felt him unraveling the cloth strips that were wrapped around my head, covering my eyes, the cause of blindness. Slowly, slowly, he unwrapped them in order to let me see. The weight of the cloths began to fall away. Dots of light began to shimmer on my eyelids. And quietly, gently, I heard him say to me: "My daughter, it is true. I did allow that to happen. I was there, and I did not lift my finger. But you see, I had a greater scope in mind. I saw a vision beyond the story you could see. There is the greater story of your life, and how I've planned to use you. Because of what you've carried, you can come alongside those who also carry these burdens. You can touch them, because you know how they feel. You know what it feels like to be where they are."
It isn't that God was absent. It isn't that he was uncaring. It's that he had a different aim in mind entirely.
In light of this revelation, K. is helping me see that perhaps now, too, I am not alone in what is coming. God does not prepare me for a great leap and then go back to his comfortable house while I make a jump for my life. He is here, the whole way, with me. He will be working his purposes in ways only he can know, in ways that may never be revealed in my lifetime.
As I prepare to take a jump into a whole new realm of being right now, I don't have to figure it all out ahead of time, in order to guard against failure or devastating outcomes. It is not all up to me. I am not alone in this. I can trust that he is with me not just in this preparation to launch, but also as I actually leap across the giant chasm, and eventually as I land on the other side.
Here's to the leaping, hand in hand with God, not having to do it perfectly, not having to do it alone.