Monday, August 9, 2010

This Beautiful Place

Sometimes, God meets us in the weirdest places. With the wonderful change that has been happening in my life, particularly the transformation in my heart, I’ve begun to wonder just what is this place where I have encountered so powerfully my Lord.

The more I thought about it, the more I struggled to define this place at all. It is an in-between, a bland and dull desert bordering on wilderness that has often left me feeling lost or forgotten or just completely out of place. I’ve been looking around here for some time, trying to find the signs to point me in the right direction, but there just aren’t any. It is…barren.

Not a student, but not a working professional yet. Not married, not dating, not content to be single…but not desperately single, either. No kids. Not even a place of my own. No misadventures that make for good stories. No wild parties or world travels or anything really of note. No wonder this place is so hard to grasp! And even harder to define.

But some very beautiful things are happening here nonetheless. I am encountering, in new and powerful ways each day, the Lord of my life. He is sometimes Comforter, sometimes Encourager; sometimes Friend, sometimes Antagonist; sometimes Listener, sometimes Speaker; but always, He is Lord.

It wouldn’t be enough to say this place has changed me, that my encounters with Him here have done something incredible. It’s more than that. It has been an entire lifestyle change.

It has been (and continues to be) a place of great healing and redemption, such a powerful transformation that it still takes my breath away when I notice it, even in the subtlest of ways. My heart is free – not aloof or in denial or staunchly protesting any circumstance – but truly free. There is no longer any hate or bitterness, no grudges or unforgiveness left. No worries or fear. No obsession or mindless compulsion. Even no concern as to time or money. Life is completely without burden by the simple submission of letting go. Without burden or hurry or worry or fear, but also without foolishness. My vision is clear; my perspective increases by the day. And hope and anticipation of the future to come keeps my heart buzzing.

I am simply…full. Full in freedom and in grace, in mercy and restoration. Unafraid of my past, which no longer seems painful nor foreign but it part of the intricate tapestry of beauty. I’m not drawn to dwell on anything, nor am I quick to respond any more. My tongue is more controlled, and there are many times I am content to say nothing at all. I do not begrudgingly do anything, but am able to tap into a new heart of service and humility that allows me to get more done than I ever imagined.

And I am so busy, accomplishing much. Serving well. Loving well.

Oh, yes! Loving so well. My relationships are changing, and I’m not sure if that is the condition of my heart or the way I am able to tame and control my responses to things. There are still some slips here and there, and some times when I realize I have not responded as I probably should have, but this is something I have prayed for for such a long time, and it is just wonderful to see this finally developing.

I’m not really driven to list my accomplishments; that is of little consequence, though “taught the vacuum not to catch fire” makes for an excellent status update and conversation starter. Before Facebook, did you know there were entire generations of people who worked hard every day and had no one to tell about it? Because it wasn’t some grand accomplishment; labor is life. That’s kind of how I’m coming to view it, because it satisfies me to work well, to work hard, and to simply let this be. And no matter how much I have to do on a particular day, there is always more than enough time when I let my heart do the planning. I’m not stuck in timetables and to-do lists, but just letting things happen naturally and then being shocked at how much time is left over.

God definitely provides.

That said, I am still pretty psyched about my third book, which I am now halfway through, and this year’s special top-secret Christmas project for the kids, which I am not at liberty to share until December 26th since my sister-in-law is now a Facebook friend.

Actually, I am gaining a lot of new FB friends lately, and it is another answer to a long-time call of my heart. It’s called…“family.” Those of you who know me well and know my story, or even hints of it, can understand that I’ve never really considered myself part of any network of relatives. One side of the family is unnecessarily cruel and standoffish, among other things, and particularly since dad’s death, I never really felt like I belonged there. And during his life, I was not privileged enough to know much of mom’s side. Well, I am coming to know more of mom’s side each day, and I have to tell you – that is where many of my questions have been answered. I see so much of these indescribable wonders of my heart reflected in the beauty of what can only be described as “good folk,” even if they do have some crazies around (hey, who doesn’t?). Hanging around with them, especially in this past month when it seems I haven’t been able to get AWAY from any of them, has just been so wonderful, and I can’t wait to experience more of that and see how this develops. I am honored to call them my friends, of course, but I am more awed by…well…family.

What maybe surprises me most around all of this, these deep changes in my heart and the way life is so different, is that it seems so automatic so quickly. It is easier now to let go than to obsess; it is often my gut instinct. I’m not quick to anger, nor quick to speak. I’m still a little na├»ve and probably a little innocent, but I’m not so sure that is a bad thing. I’m not rushed, and I notice even my footsteps changing. This is the life I have so longed for, and here it is unfolding before me! Gentleness, graciousness, humility, service, and so many other wonderful things. It would be endless to name them all, but I am seeing them. I am feeling them in my heart. And I am just stunned at how simple it all is.

And how beautiful.

And how counter-cultural. Can people really live like this in 21st Century America? Apparently so, because God is the same today as in the Garden. Now, that’s incredible!

Through it all, as well, and for the past several years, I have spent many nights praying for purpose, for that thing that will make me feel like I belong or am valued or whatever words you want to put to purpose. I thought it would come through this or that thing that I would eventually do, but it completely took me by surprise. Sometime last week or so, I suddenly felt it in this fullness – purpose. And it has nothing to do with finding a career, moving out on my own, making a statement in the world, or anything I ever thought it would center around. It simply is. It is in fullness and in God. I just can’t help it, but I feel fully purposed.

Even though it seems I’m not doing anything.

I am getting kind of a little crazy, too, if I’m being honest. There are some things I would like to try, things I might have been too afraid to pursue just a few months ago. I’m doing more things by myself, which is very cool, but I am also exploring the new self through all of that and pushing my boundaries a bit because I know I have boxed myself in for too long. On a serious note, I keep coming back to my yearning for a graduate degree, for pursuing a track in counseling that will enable me to serve others who have suffered immense trauma. I want to open a trauma center one day, and I strongly believe God is placing this calling on my life. But I am bound by a sense of stewardship, so I have to figure out financing before I do anything crazy like return to school. On the lighter side, I was thinking the other day that it might be fun to go boating. I was on the Maid of the Mist once, but that’s different than just encountering nature on the water, if you know what I mean. And I thought maybe karaoke would be fun. Something out of my box, something that requires me to fully shut off and let go and just enjoy myself. I am preoccupied a bit, maybe, by the idea of exploring this new freedom – where life is just life and a blessed gift from God instead of the way I’ve been living it for too long.

It all comes back to attachment. I’m going to get psychological for a moment, but I think this will make sense. One of the things we study about children in particular is attachment style, which is formed rather early in life. It’s why you can’t leave a baby screaming in a crib for hours, and we all understand that. Children with secure attachments, with parents who love them unconditionally and relate to them with appropriate nurture and firmness, tend to be more successful and less fearful in life. They are willing to explore a bit, to strike out on their own, to make friends, and more because they know that when they come back and if they ever need to, home will be there. Children with insecure attachments – the abused, the neglected, those with too permissive parents or too corporal parents, etc. – are fearful and tend to cling to what they know because they fear change, they fear letting anything be different because nothing is ever the same. They are less likely to risk because they don’t know if they can ever go home again, if home will ever be there.

I have found my secure attachment later in life, now here in my mid-20s, as I understand the safe love of my Father. I feel completely safe, completely secure, and that gives me the wings to fly and the heart to take risks. That is making a HUGE difference, beyond my wildest imagination.

I just can’t say enough what it’s like to not carry the heavy weights that have defined my first quarter-century. It is…indescribable. Wordless. And I am always speechless because of this great thing God has done, and is doing, in me.

I have compared some of this lately to a bad cold or a sinus infection, a universal experience that I think everyone understands. In the throes of sickness, we often sleep fitfully. We can’t breathe too well, or sometimes at all, and that keeps waking us up and preventing our bodies from finding rest. Then, when the fever breaks and our airways start to clear, we seem to do nothing but sleep…after the illness is over! Well, I finally feel like I can breathe after 25 years, and I am EXHAUSTED. I have been sleeping better in the past few weeks than ever before, but I’m still exhausted. (And great dreams, most of the time. A couple of nights ago, I woke up singing the most beautiful worship song that has never been written and of course, by the time I had enough consciousness to compose it, it was gone.) Not really worn out or overspent or anything like that; just exhausted and understanding my desperate need for rest. It kind of makes me emotional, too, which is actually part of the beauty here, too – things are really touching my heart in powerful ways. But yeah, I am absolutely loving the Sabbath and the rest. It is part of God’s beautiful gift here.

Which leads me back to the original question, one I finally found the answer to late last night and honestly busted out laughing in the dark. Where is here? Where is this place where I have so wonderfully and powerfully encountered the Living God? This place that I’m not sure I want to let go of, but that I am equally as anxious to see radically transformed? This place that is calling me out, through my heart, to do more good in the world and to serve in ways I haven’t imagined yet and am not even sure where to start? This place of wilderness and desert and barrenness with no visible signs pointing in any direction, no map to take me out of here, and nothing really of note going on?

This is the honest-to-God proverbial middle of nowhere.

God has met me even here. And it is beautiful.

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