Finding a Cure for The Deep-Down Ache

IMG_1273Jeff Goins just wrote the story of my life in his latest post called How to Stop Getting Paralyzed and Start Making Better Decisions. He doesn’t know it but he is one of many that God has used to push me forward, out of my rut, out of my safety net. And, believe me, it has taken a lot of pushing and prodding to get me to move!

Because I like feeling safe. The only problem is, that sort of approach to life only leads to disappointment. I call it a deep-down ache. Always wondering what if…What if I had done this, that or the other?

I told my husband the other day, it’s too bad it’s taken me so many years to begin to figure this out. God doesn’t require my perfection, just my willingness to follow Him. I don’t need to have all the answers. I just need to trust the One who does.

Every day, I have a choice. I can either stay where I am or keep moving toward what is undoubtedly the riskier but more rewarding existence He has planned for me.

What about you? If you feel God is calling you out of your comfort zone, I encourage you to follow the sound of His voice. Trust that the plans He has for you are good, and keep moving forward. Because this is the only cure for that deep-down ache. The only way to really, truly live.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I Hope

I was young when I learned that trusting people is a bad idea. And this belief has been continually reinforced throughout my life. It’s the reason I am intensely private. And it’s also the reason I write.

Because when I push publish, it pushes me out of the safety of these fortified walls I’ve built for myself. 

Walls can protect but they can also isolate. They can free you from the fear of attack but they can also imprison you and keep you from knowing how it feels to fight and conquer that fear.

I don’t know why people hurt other people. Maybe they think that by wounding others they can somehow heal themselves. But that’s not how it works.

Jesus said, “do to others what you would have them do to you...” (Matthew 7:12)

This verse, known as the Golden Rule, is one I haven’t always measured up to but it is so important. And I wish we could get that. Because I guarantee if we did, there would be no more bombs and bullets. No cursing or criticizing. None of this silent, but just as vicious, passive-aggressive posturing to make ourselves feel more important, more righteous or more anything than anyone else.

I’m no Pollyanna. I know there’s evil in the world. I’ve seen it up close. And it sounds like a small thing when there’s blood on the streets but I’ll say it anyway.

When you’re betrayed by a friend or family member or someone you thought you could trust, and when they look you in the eye and smile because they are taking pleasure in your pain, it’s like shrapnel to the heart.

Those kind of wounds cut deep and they can leave lasting scars. But I know where to go for healing. I know God can be trusted to right all wrongs and I also believe that good will triumph in the end.

And in the meantime, I can pray. I can keep chipping away at these walls, scratching words into stone, choosing hope. Because as Andy says in the movie Shawshank Redemption,  

“Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.
And no good thing ever dies.”

I hope for a new world where people treat others the way they would like to be treated. With kindness, respect and compassion.

I hope for that day when God’s promise is fully realized, when evil is defeated and heaven is revealed.

And when I come to that place, with shackles broken and heart wide open, I hope it’s as beautiful as it has been in my dreams.

I hope.

Taking the First Step

Source: Wikimedia Commons

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples with clear instructions about what they were to do next. The following verses from Matthew 28:16-20 contain the passage that has become known as The Great Commission.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about those words lately, about what they mean for me and you in these modern times. Other than the fact that they saw Jesus in the flesh, we’re probably not too much different than those first disciples.

They were human. So are we.
They were flawed. So are we.
They were afraid. So are we.

Did you notice the verse before the Great Commission?  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.Thomas may have been labeled as the Chief Doubter but he wasn’t the only one.

And the thing that strikes me the most is that, in spite of the fact that there were doubters in the group, Jesus gave them all the same marching orders. He didn’t send the doubters home. He gave them a job to do. 

Maybe that’s because He knew that by putting their mustard seed of faith in action, they would grow stronger and their doubts would diminish as they witnessed what He was able to do through them.

Today, I pray we find ourselves taking the first step toward what He is calling us to do, in spite of our shortcomings. May we be strengthened by the knowledge that the One to whom “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given is here with us. Always.

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Matthew 17:20

 

Unearthing a Dream

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.”  Charles Dickens

We are born into a world full of contradictions. The word paradox comes to mind. And all we need to do is look at ourselves to see the definition personified.

We crave joy but fill up on the crumbs of lesser things.

Our spirit yearns to fly but we weigh it down with worry.

Light is what we desire but we settle for shadows.

And when it comes to our God-sized dream, we want more than anything to be brave enough to believe it. But, more often, we just bury it because it’s easier than facing our fears. 

Maybe we’re afraid of losing joy once we’ve found it.

Afraid of what others will think and how painful the fall will be once we are in flight, in full pursuit of our dreams.

But can this last forever?

Us clinging to walls, dodging the spotlight, afraid of our own shadow?

I don’t know if I’m speaking to anyone but myself here but I think it’s time to bury fear and unearth the dream God has for us.

And I was reminded as my husband and I worked in our little garden this weekend – I have seen this same plot of ground hold both the dead and the living.

The Lord provides the seasons, the sun, the rain, the nutrient-rich soil. But I, too, have a part to play in how my garden grows. Whatever I neglect will die. Whatever I nurture will flourish.

I have taken this simple concept and really complicated it over the years. But God knows I want to be a nurturer of the gifts He has given me.  

And isn’t that what all His children want? Because our joy is in serving the One who has “made His light shine in our hearts.” (2 Cor. 4:6)
 
We live to glorify Him. 2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us that “we have this treasure (His light) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 

And when you stop to think about that gift – the light inside of us – you start to realize it’s the reason for all the others we are given. 

We’re meant to shine. But the tricky part, at least for me, is getting past the fear that comes from focusing on this clay jar rather than the treasure within.

I’m covered with chips and cracks and sharp edges that need smoothing but that’s not the whole story. And I’m missing the point if I think I’ve got to be perfect before God can use me.

It’s not what I can do, but what He can do through me. Praise God! That’s the point. Good news… it’s not about you either. It’s about “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)
 
And isn’t that the greatest paradox of all?

Losing Control and Finding Grace

So I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair, nervously chattering with his assistant as she preps me for impending doom the crown that will soon adorn my cracked tooth.

Photo Credit

She had apologized for calling me by the wrong name and I told her that was okay. I quickly brushed off the minor infraction without a second thought unaware that it might be a foreshadowing of things to come.

Her: “Your heart rate is 103!” 

Me: “I’m not surprised. I can’t believe how nervous I am.”

I then proceeded to remind her that I had requested the gas. You know. It’s the gas formally known as nitrous oxide and informally known as laughing gas.

I’m not sure why it got that funny little name because, while I have experienced it’s soothing effects, it has never caused me to get a case of the giggles.

Especially today.

Her: “Oh, yes.” Her reply is a bit hesitant as she studies the computer to confirm.

Me: Heavy silence.

I quietly reflect on the situation. My mind starts racing as fast as my heart. 

She didn’t know about the gas. What else doesn’t she know? They seem really busy today. Maybe she is distracted. What if something bad happens to me because she’s not paying attention?

I considered running, but it was too late. She had turned on the gas and the dentist had now made his entrance.

Him: “How are you today?”

Me: “I’d be better if I didn’t have to be here.”

Him: “Me too,” he says with a slight laugh.  

Maybe he’d hit the gas earlier, I thought.

For a person with trust issues, I did NOT need to hear that the man who held the fate of my tooth in his hands might be playing a round of golf in his head. I could only hope that his brain was present and focused – not sitting on a white, sandy beach somewhere soaking up rays.

Photo Credit

Now, for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of having a crown put on, I can tell you that the procedure involves several steps. And in between each step, the dental professionals leave the room and give you a few minutes to panic “relax”.

For some reason, instead of relaxing, I found myself with a heightened awareness of my vulnerability. I kept thinking of all the things that could happen that I had absolutely no control over.

At one point, I remember praying out loud. “Help me, God!”

Here’s where it gets a little pitiful.

By the time the dentist and his assistant came back in the room I was muttering through numbed lips “I can’t calm down!”

Mercifully, the dentist upped the gas because the next thing I know his assistant is telling me “It’s okay, Leslie. Everything is going to be just fine.”

Leslie?

WHO IS LESLIE?!

I had no idea when I woke up this morning that I would walk into the dentist office today with a cracked tooth and leave with a temporary crown and an identity crisis.

But that’s what I’m learning about life. I have no control. I never did and I never will. That kind of power belongs only to God. 

And maybe if I can just keep reminding myself of that fact, I’ll start to relax a little more.

Because I can trust Him. Even when I don’t understand or have all the answers.

Even when I’m crazy scared.

HE is trustworthy and completely capable of taking care of me if I will simply surrender my delusions of control to Him.

After I got home, I was still processing everything when I saw this post from Jennifer White.

I guess God knew I needed that extra dose of confirmation since I’ll be headed back to the dentist in a couple of weeks to get my permanent crown.

Isn’t it amazing how God gives us what we need just when we need it? How, when we breathe His name, He breathes calm into our storm?

And how, in our most vulnerable moments, we can hear His voice gently singing over us, whispering peace. Whispering our name. Because we are His children and He knows us so well, loves us so deeply.

When we trust Him to repair all that is cracked and broken in us, we can rest. Our hearts protected. Sealed with grace.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
Isaiah 43:1
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17