Fragile Lives

Last week, I got to meet a friend’s baby for the first time. As I stood there holding all six pounds and nine ounces of this newborn miracle, I couldn’t get over how tiny she was. They grow so fast that I forget how small they start out. How fragile. How dependent.

The truth is, this infant is in desperate need of her mother. But in the not-too-distant future, she’ll forget that. She’ll start sitting up on her own. Before you know it, she’ll start crawling and walking and speaking and doing more and more things all on her own.

And because she’s using the big girl potty, because she doesn’t need anyone to help her button her pants anymore, because she has finally learned to tie her own shoes, she’ll think she’s invincible. She’ll start rebelling against the rules her parents have set for her because she’ll start to imagine she could create a better life for herself. And she’ll forget that her parents do more for her than her little brain can comprehend.

And when I picture the child this infant will become, I see myself in a whole new light. Because I’ve just described my relationship with God in a nutshell.

I forget how fragile, how desperate, how small and dependent I truly am.

According to the world, I’m an adult. I’m legally responsible for myself. And sometimes that makes me forget that I’m not technically doing life on my own. Sometimes I forget I’m not the one calling all the shots and carrying the entirety of the burden.

Last week at Bible study, one of the girls I’m beginning to do life with pointed out how we’re hesitant to follow God’s call on our lives because we’re afraid to take that risk. Or what we think is a risk.

What we think is a risk.

I was so glad she amended that statement. Because it’s true that following God isn’t risky at all. After all, He’s the one who sees the whole path—the big picture. He knows where He’s leading us.

So why am I always convinced that my way is right? Why can I not see that my arguments with the almighty God are about as valid as a four-year-old trying to explain to her mother why it’s a good idea to have candy for dinner? Why can’t I understand that my search for comfort in the moment only leads to ultimate destruction? That God has much greater designs for my fragile life?

I want to be trusting again. As needy and dependent and perfectly at peace as my friend’s newborn daughter.

I need to be reminded of how helpless I truly am, and cradled close to God’s heart today.
Fragile Creatures

Needing to be Found

“I want to believe the stories, that there really is someone who would search the whole mountainside just to find that one lost thing that he loves, and bring it home.”

These words, penned by Sara Zarr, have stirred in my heart for the past week. Because I just read a novel about a girl who lost her faith only to find it again. Only to let herself be found. And while I’ve never really doubted the fact that there is Someone out there who would search the whole mountainside, I’ve definitely been in the place of needing to be found.

To be perfectly honest, I find (pun intended) myself in that place more often than I’d like. Curled up on the side of a mountain, waiting for rescue because I can’t remember my way home from here. So here’s my confession:

Sometimes I say I’m okay when really I’m not.
Sometimes I pretend to have everything under control when, in reality, I’m in control of nothing.
Sometimes I smile like nothing in the world is the matter when on the inside I’m falling apart.
Sometimes I force myself to find words when the words are slow in coming.
Sometimes I just need to be found.
Sometimes we all just need to be found.

And maybe… Maybe you’re in the place where you really want to believe the stories. That there really is someone who would search the whole mountainside just to find that one lost thing that he loves, and bring it home.

The stories are true. They are more than true. So hold on, dear child, hold on. Though the storms of life are raging outside the little crevice you’ve tucked yourself into, the Shepherd is on His way. He’s searching the mountainside and it won’t be long until He finds you—that one lost thing that He loves—and brings you home.

One Lost Thing

Taking That Step

Once upon a time, a little girl went rock climbing. She was all of maybe ten years old and the climbing wall at the museum didn’t look so threatening in the face of the dirt cliff she scaled on a regular basis. In fact, the climbing wasn’t hard in the least, and when she reached the top she could have stayed there looking down at the crowd of people forever… because the only way down was to jump.

I remember that moment clearly—wondering why I couldn’t simply climb back down the wall, retracing my steps and placing my weight where I could trust it, rather than dangling at the end of a rope high above the museum floor. Because I could have done that. I gladly would have done that. But no, they wanted me to step out over that ledge and simply hope for the best, and I’m sure you understand why I wasn’t really comfortable with that.

“Rebekah, I’ve got you,” my dad said, drawing my attention to where he sat at the other end of my rope and causing me to wonder how he could have so much faith in this system. “Just step out. Let go.”

I shook my head and backed away from the ledge. From the fear. From the unknown.

Sometimes I doubt my Father. And I’m not talking about the one who sat at the end of my rope that day (though I surely doubted him in that moment). I’m talking about the One who has been holding my rope since the day He first designed to set me on this planet.

The other day I had one of those moments where I was really questioning the sanity of God’s plan for my life. It was just another one of those days when I was looking at the path before me and thinking that there is surely a better way. So there I was, trying to rearrange the details of my life, when I heard God whisper, “Rebekah, have I not been faithful?”

Ugh.

“Then why are you considering this? Why do you doubt?”

Well, I guess it’s because this past year has been a bit of a rock climbing experience for me. Scaling the wall wasn’t difficult at all, but I’m still standing here trying to muster the courage to jump. I’ve realized how often I’m tempted to reach for those familiar footholds. To navigate life on my own. But all the while, God is asking me to jump. And I’m standing there shaking my head and shouting, “Are you crazy?”

“Rebekah, I’ve got you,” God promises. “Just step out. Let go.”

You know, I don’t really remember what took place that day at the museum. I’m not sure if I finally took that step on my own or if my dad gave a gentle tug on the rope, sweeping my feet out from under me and leaving me with no other choice (he at least threatened to do just that, because that image stands out in my mind like an actual memory would). I do remember not falling to my death. And I even remember thinking that (dare I confess this?) the ride down was actually kind of fun.

I also know that I’m standing here today, faced with the same choice. And, you know, I’m thinking it might be best to simply close my eyes, take a deep breath, and step out into the expanse before me.

Ready. Set. Go.rock climbing collage

Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy (Say it One More Time)

Last week I shared a verse with you because I found that it really spoke to me. Judging by some of your responses, I’m not the only one who misplaced that joy God offers in Psalm 16. It’s not the first time I misplaced it. And it won’t be the last.

See, I lost sight of it again—mere days later. I’ve been all go, go, go; busy, busy, busy; just trying to get everything done before Christmas vacation and I’ve lost some of that Joy to the World they sing about this time of year. And again, I didn’t even realize what I was missing.

So wouldn’t you know that I picked up my Bible and opened it up to Acts 2—that familiar passage where the Holy Spirit falls upon the believers, and they start speaking in basically every language known to man, and Peter stands up to say, “These men are not drunk!” (Thanks for clarifying, Pete.)

It’s the sermon where Peter quotes that awesome passage from Joel about how God will pour out His Spirit on all people and their sons and daughters will prophesy. I’ve always loved that scripture. It reminds me of how amazing the transformation that takes place in the hearts of believers is.

But Joel isn’t the only passage Peter quotes in that famous sermon that drew 3,000 people to repentance, and I didn’t need to read the footnote to know the reference for the second chunk of scripture He shared.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16. He quoted Psalm 16. And I said, “Okay, God, I get it.” But I didn’t. Not really. Because I’m still having a hard time recovering that joy in the midst of the busyness that has overwhelmed my heart these last few weeks. So I say it again and again: Joy. Unspeakable Joy. Joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Because maybe if I say it enough times—maybe if I think it over and over and over again—it will finally be down in my heart to stay.

Choose Joy

Holding on for Balance

You would think by now I would be used to the strange ways in which God reveals Himself, but I really wasn’t expecting Him to use a self-balancing unicycle. Of course, until yesterday, I had never even heard of a self-balancing unicycle, so I guess my surprise is sort of easy to explain.

But there I was at my friend’s house, watching him demonstrate this fascinating contraption that propels itself forward without pedals. He explained it as a segway without handlebars.

Now, I should probably point out that it’s not entirely self-balancing. While it won’t tip forward or backward, sideways is an entirely different matter. The trick to riding it, Dave said, is to swivel your hips. You can probably imagine the amount of entertainment that ensued. Then it came time for me to be the entertainment.

I was off to a rough start, muttering something about the self-balancing joke, when Dave came up beside me and offered his arm for balance. And then, rather shakily, I was off—propelling forward across the yard. Dave walked alongside me, my hand clutching his arm. Then he sort of jogged alongside me and my hand was merely resting on his sleeve, just in case.

Maybe I was distracted by the fact that I was finally moving, or maybe I simply relied too heavily on Dave. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t long before the contraption wobbled and my fingers curled around Dave’s arm once more.

I felt like a child again. Learning to walk with my hands wrapped around my mother’s fingers. Learning to ride a bike with my dad holding onto the handlebars.

Then I started to think of trying to navigate life without God at my side.

I imagine it would look a lot like trying to ride that unicycle without holding onto Dave’s arm. Because despite his assurances that I was a natural, I knew he was the only thing keeping me upright most of the time. I knew I never would have gotten to the point of balancing on my own without first having his arm there to rise and fall, counterbalancing my weight and inspiring the confidence I needed to keep pressing on. I’d have been lost without his gentle reminders to shift my hips and lean forward—always lean forward. The simple truth of the matter is this:

The only reason I was able to start going at all was because I knew he was there to catch me at the first hint of trouble.

And it reminds me of all the times my life has gotten a little shaky and I find myself clinging to God’s arm, struggling to stay upright. It reminds me of all the times I’ve been distracted by the world around me, forgetting those crucial truths that have brought me this far. Just like with the self-balancing unicycle, I jolt upright and reach for anything that will keep me from falling.

That’s when I hear His voice in my ear. “It’s all right. You’ve just got to shift your hips and keep leaning forward—always lean forward.”

And I know the only reason I live so freely is because I have Him by my side. His arm is the one I cling to when the world rocks so crazily that I forget how to steer.

I take more risks than I would without Him because I know He’s there to catch me if I fall. And I feel the smile spread across my face when I’m finally moving forward, almost on my own. But I’m not ready to let go, no sir. I pray I’ll never let go.

Because I know my true security comes from the feel of His arm beneath my hand—the knowing that He will be there to catch me if ever I should fall.

And so I navigate life—a little shakily—but ever so certain of the God at my side.

The Five Year Plan

A friend and I were recently talking about the problem with the question, “What’s your five year plan?”

See, it sounds like a decent question to ask someone in an interview, but here’s where the question falls short:

What was your plan five years ago?

If you tell me that you’re actually living it, I’ll be surprised and more than a little impressed. Because I, too, thought I had a grasp on what I’d be doing with my life today. But if you had told me five years ago that I would have stopped working at Advancing Native Missions for any reason other than marriage, I would have laughed in your face.

Five year plans aren’t bad in and of themselves. It’s good to have goals. It’s good to have an idea of where you’re going in life.

But when you’re so caught up in those plans you made five years ago that you can’t see how God is reshaping your dream, your plan becomes a problem. Your goal becomes your god.

And that’s where I was a little over a year ago—living the only dream I had ever dreamed. It was all I ever wanted from the time I was eight years old and read a story about Amy Carmichael and her beautiful brown eyes that saved the lives of countless children. I know, I was a rather ambitious eight year old. But those ambitions remained for the next ten years until I could finally touch them. I was there. Doing everything I ever dreamed I would be doing.

And then one day I realized I wasn’t dreaming anymore. Maybe in my heart of hearts I still wanted to be an Amy Carmichael, but somewhere along the line, my idea of ministry had changed.

When you dream one dream for twelve years, it can be absolutely terrifying to let it go.

I wrestled for months with the knowing in my heart. The knowing that it was time to let go and move on. But I was afraid. I was ever so afraid of dreaming a new dream. I was absolutely terrified of giving up the familiar.

This was uncharted territory I was exploring. This was never in the plan. Well, it was in The Plan, just not my plan.

And in the past year I’ve learned that it’s okay to throw my plans out the window. It’s okay to admit that I may have been wrong about the timing. And that maybe my dream wasn’t supposed to last five years after all.

Because I’m not the girl I was five years ago. Nor am I the girl I once imagined I would be.

But I’m finally coming to terms with that. I’m finally deciding that maybe this is where I was meant to be all along. And maybe life has grander adventures in store than the ones I conjured up with my limited imagination.

Today if you ask me my five year plan, I’ll tell you to ask The Man Upstairs. Because I’m done making plans for Him to interrupt. I think maybe it’s best if I just let Him lead me step by step.

Washed in the Waters

The other day, I had to tell the story of Naaman from memory. Why? Because it was depicted on a coloring sheet at the preschool where I work and I have a class of overly curious four year olds. So there I was, wishing that someone had been clever enough to include this particular passage of scripture in the story Bible we use in the classroom. Wishing the coloring picture had been of Jonah or Esther or one of those other classic stories that I can tell backwards and forwards and maybe even upside down. But no, it was Naaman. Why? Because God apparently had something to teach me.

I decided to tell my class that Naaman was sick and his servant girl (whose unwavering faith in God I praised) suggested that he go see the prophet Elisha who told him to wash himself in a pool of water seven times and he would be healed.

I thought of that story again today and looked it up to see how I had done in my spontaneous retelling. (Leprosy is a sickness, right?) The thing that jumped out at me was something I forgot… or maybe something that had simply never seemed vital until today.

Naaman’s reaction when Elisha told him to wash himself in the Jordan River (Yeah, it was a river, not a pool. I must have been thinking about that guy in the New Testament. Technicality. But I did get the number right. So do I pass the test?)… Well, it’s a pretty interesting reaction. Naaman actually gets mad.

“I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy,” he says in 2 Kings 5:11. The next verse explains that Naaman walked away in a rage. Imagine that. This guy actually gets ticked off because Elisha doesn’t come out looking like Obi-Wan in his over-sized robe while waving his hand in the air and saying, “You do not have leprosy.”

Naaman started walking away from his miracle because it didn’t come in the form he was expecting.
It was supposed to be over with a wave of Elisha’s hand. This whole swimming lesson was a bit ridiculous. Because it’s not like Naaman had never bathed before. Leprosy wasn’t something you could simply wash away.

He didn’t understand that all God really wanted from him was obedience.

Thankfully his servants pointed out that he was being ridiculous and convinced him that it was time for a bath.

In Naaman’s defense, I’m willing to bet that his doubts weren’t entirely misplaced. I imagine that he had tried many remedies. After all, he was a wealthy, highly respected man who probably had connections to some pretty successful doctors. But none of them had a cure for his leprosy. Nothing he had ever tried before actually helped.

Now here he was again—justifiably skeptical—standing at the edge of a river where the God who doesn’t play Jedi mind tricks asked him if he really had enough faith to be healed.

Naaman immersed himself in a promise.

Once…
Twice…
Seven times.

And he was healed. Instantly.

And that’s when Naaman knew that there was no God in all the world except the God of Israel.

May we all have to faith to immerse ourselves in God’s promises and let the waves of His love and mercy wash all our impurities away.