Wanting More

Once upon a time, I chaperoned a youth conference in which the main speaker delivered a message which I will never forget. After all, it’s hard to block the image of a grown man singing Disney music.

Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl—the girl who has everything? Look at this trove. Treasures untold. How many wonders can one cavern hold? Looking around here you’d think, “Sure. She’s got everything.” I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty. I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty! But who cares? No big deal. I want more…

“SELFISH BRAT!”

The whole room burst into laughter at his outburst. It was the perfect opening to a message about entitlement and the self-centered culture teens are living in today.

But you know what? I think the guy missed the mark when it came down to what was really taking place in Ariel’s heart.

Because it wasn’t more stuff she wanted.

What the entire song boils down to is that the trinkets weren’t enough to satisfy the true desires of her heart. The entirety of the ocean couldn’t fulfill the hungry depths of her soul. She wanted something more than what the sea had to offer.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard a lot of people use the story of the little mermaid as an example of what not to do.  I’ll admit it’s pretty easy to take Ariel’s story and preach contentment.  After all, the seaweed is not always greener in someone else’s lake. And, honestly, it’s a bad idea to sacrifice everything in hopes of winning a guy’s affection.

And yet, in order to use the story for that sort of sermon, you have to take the side of the antagonist. Which means you’ve missed the heart of the story entirely.

Hans Christian Andersen, author of the original fairytale, was known for writing stories of great spiritual meaning. So what if Ariel’s longing for the human world represents something deeper than childish discontent? What if the kingdom beyond the ocean waves was really worth sacrificing everything for?

Consider this quote by C.S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Ariel was made for another world. Deep in her heart, she knew that. It’s why she was so obsessed with gathering remnants of the human world. But eventually her broken trinkets weren’t enough.

I find myself identifying with her in this. The world doesn’t satisfy me in the ways I most long to be satisfied. When I look around at the things I’ve collected, I think, “Who cares? No big deal. I want more.”

I long for a world that lies beyond the surface of this place I call home. A world that holds all the magical things of which I can only dream.

Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun… wandering free. Wish I could be part of that world.

A Prayer
by Steven James

This world, stunning though it is,
doesn’t satisfy the part of me
that’s the most hungry…
I have a nagging thirst for more
than this world can provide.

Deepen it.

On Words and Worth and Singing in Silence

Sometimes I fear I place to much value on words. I find my worth wrapped up in them time and time again, and I’m not talking about the words of others (though I won’t shy away from a compliment. Unless you’re creepy. I don’t accept compliments from creepers, just sayin’).

It’s my own words that hold the potential to undo me. Or rather, the lack of words.

I’m a writer. Words are my life. I find fulfillment in pages upon pages of words streaming through my fingertips.

But sometimes… Sometimes there’s nothing but silence where the words used to be. Sometimes I have absolutely nothing of worth to say. I’m terrified of those silences because, when the pages of my journals are blank, when the cursor on the screen blinks empty, that’s when the doubts set in.

What am I doing here, really? Do my words carry weight? Can I possibly create enough of them? Is this yet another story that was born for the dusty shelves of Never Meant to Be?

Every time the silences start swallowing my words, I fear they’re lost forever, which is ridiculous because I’ve gone through seasons like this so many times and they never last. Winter sets upon my writing every once in awhile. The words curl up in their caves and hibernate like bears dreaming of spring. And that’s okay.

That’s what I have to keep telling myself over and over again. It’s okay to not have the words sometimes. It’s okay to dig deep and come up empty every now and then.

Steven James once wrote on the importance of silence. He said that without the silence between the notes, music is nothing but noise. We need the silence because then, and only then, can we finally hear the song.

When I stop trying to force the words, I can hear it. Playing softly in the back of my mind is a tune I’ve long forgotten to enjoy because I’ve been so busy trying to fill it with lyrics that never quite fit.

Some things are bigger than words. Some songs too beautiful for lyrics.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to melt into the silences as they fill our lives.

It’s okay to not know the words every once in awhile… just as long as you remember to sink into the song that has been playing all this time.

spider dance

My Heart is Not as Daring as Your Desire

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

When I read these words, penned by Steven James, I’m struck by the truth of them. The things You want for me are so much bigger than the life I would create for myself. It’s not that I don’t desire Your will; it’s that I’m afraid of pursuing it. Afraid of the path it will lead me down.

I know that, ultimately, You want what is best for me, but I know from past experience that the refining process is painful. So very painful.

It’s not Your desire that I’m afraid of, really. Those things You want for me… I want them too. More than anything. Well, almost anything. I guess I don’t want them more than I don’t want to face the mountains in the distance. I guess I don’t want them more than I want to avoid the dragons that lurk along the way.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

It isn’t. I’m not the storybook heroine, charging full-speed ahead toward my great and glorious destiny.

I am Rapunzel, clinging to the comfort of my tower.

I am Sleeping Beauty, hands folded peacefully across my chest.

I am Cinderella, sleeping in a pile of ashes because I’m not brave enough for princes and ballgowns.

I say I want adventure, but I’m lying. I want what is comfortable. Familiar. Safe.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

Most days, I’m perfectly happy in my prison because it means I don’t have to be finding my way in this great, wild world. But deep within my heart, there’s this prick of conviction—sharper than the spindle that put me to sleep.

“My heart is not as daring as your desire.”

But it should be. And it could be, if only I would let it.

God, You know that ultimately I want Your will. It’s just that mine so often gets in the way…

I’m torn between the Life You Offer and the Life I Demand From You.

So please, make me brave enough to dare all that You desire.

And when You call me out of this prison tower, let me spring from the ledge with both feet.

Remind Me Once Again…

You know how it is when you keep reading the same thing over and over again in a dozen different places until you start to get the impression that maybe God is trying to tell you something? That happens to me a lot, it would seem.

I’ve been struggling again with embracing the moments. With contenting myself with the journey instead of yearning for the destination. I’d just like to arrive already, you know? So naturally, when I read Hannah Brencher’s latest post, it deeply resonated with me. You should read the whole thing because it’s beautiful, but to give you a summary, Hannah writes of her impatience with God’s plans and how she often wishes He would show her the whole picture instead of revealing it in pieces. And when she thinks about why He doesn’t, she writes:

“He knows I’ll surely bypass the Little Things to get straight to the Big Things. Steer clear of the hard lessons to propel straight towards the goodness. And then never learn how much it means, or how badly I can want something. So bad that I taste it in my tears when I fall asleep in pillow case puddles one night.”

And then there are the words that God whispers to her on those tear stained nights.  “Life will lose its worth if you are only ripping to find the answers,” and “Trust me, trust me, I am the road map much grander than you.”

I marveled at the words. Found myself surrendering everything all over again saying, “Yes, God. I will trust You.”

Then the next morning I got up and picked up Steven James’ book Becoming Real, which I’ve been reading during my quiet times. And there in those pages I found the words, “God doesn’t usually dump the road map for the rest of our lives into our laps and say, ‘See you at the finish line!’ He wants to walk beside us and call out directions along the way.”

“Trust me, trust me, I am the road map much grander than you.”

And I knew He was trying to tell me something with the whole road map illustration. It sounded to me a little something like, “Hey Rebekah, live the journey here!”

Because I’ve been trying too hard to read a map that was never meant to make sense to my mind. Now I’m trying hard to trust that God does know better than me–to convince myself that I don’t need to know that way; I just need to know that God is walking it with me.

Little by little–day by day–I’m learning what it means to surrender. I’m learning how it feels to live.

To Tickle the World

Steven James, in his book Sailing Between the Stars, ponders the roles we play in the body of Christ. He compares a couple of friends to an earlobe and a fingernail before speculating that he might be a whisker on God’s cheek.

I laughed when I read that and wondered, “Why a whisker?” An earlobe I understand and fingernails are necessary, but a whisker? What good is that? I feel that if whiskers were truly important, all of humankind would have them, but as you may have noticed, most (but unfortunately not ALL) women do not. And the majority of men in our culture shave them off. So again I ask: “What good does a whisker do?”

I started wondering why Steven James would compare himself to something so seemingly useless. Then I began to wonder why the rest of us do the same. Why do we look at our lives and think that the gifts God has given us are too small? Why do we look at all the fingers and ears and even eyelashes of our world and think we are somehow less than them because we are whiskers?

And I wonder if our gifts were meant for more than meets the eye. Because I have a memory of whiskers that is as fresh as the air I breathe in this moment.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpa had a beard. A Big, Soft, Bushy Beard flecked with browns and reds and silvers. I remember chasing my cousins through my grandparents’ house when a pair of arms would reach out of nowhere and engulf me, drawing me into my grandfather’s lap. I would brace myself for the attack even before the warning left his lips:

“WHISKERS!”

As his chin burrowed into my neck, my little hands would reach up to pull on his hair and shove at his face in attempt to break free. “Stop,” I would squeal through the giggles, while secretly loving every moment of our familiar game.

And that’s the memory that gives me pause. That’s the memory that makes me swallow my laughter at Steven James’ words about whiskers. Because when I look through at it that way, I can see that being a whisker in God’s Kingdom isn’t as bad as it first appears. And when I close my eyes, I can’t picture my grandfather’s hands or ears or eyelashes. But although it has been more than ten years since I’ve seen that glorious beard, I still remember the scratchy feel of Grandpa’s whiskers on my neck.

Suddenly, I’m feeling that my gifts truly matter and that there are no small roles in the intricate story God is writing through our world. But mostly, I’m realizing that whiskers aren’t useless at all. In fact, if I could choose the role I was meant to play in this story, I think I’d walk right up to the Divine Director and say:

“You know, God, I’d really love to be a whisker on Your cheek. Yes, I think I’d like to spend the rest of my life leaning down to tickle the world with Your lavish, ludicrous love.”

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

As the day draws near for the official launch of Beyond Waiting, I find myself delving into the fairytales once more, comparing what the world tells me the stories are about (Prince Charming) with the adventure that comes before their “happily ever afters” – which, in case you didn’t know, is actually what the story is all about. So here I am, thinking about finding deeper meaning in the fairytales, when I come across a passage in Steven James’ Sailing Between the Stars that talks about a fish launching itself into the air:

“At first I thought it was somehow unnatural for fish to jump like that: They’re fish, right? They’re just supposed to swim in the water. After all, that’s what they’re made for. But as night fell and the starts began to bespeckle the sky, I realized that for a fish to leave the water isn’t breaking the rules at all – it’s just exploring the true extent of what it really means to be a fish.”

So, what do fish have to do with fairytales? Remember the Little Mermaid? You know… red-headed girl who trades her voice for a pair of legs? Yeah, that one. Now, the common misconception is that Ariel traded her fins for the sake of some guy, but that’s only partially true. See, long before her prince entered the scene, Ariel dreamed of a life outside of the sea. From the day she was able to poke her head above the surface, she was enraptured by the sun and the shore and the ships and the objects she’d never known existed. And from that moment on, the Little Mermaid dared to dream an impossible dream.

She yearned to trade her feet for fins – if only for a day. She longed to experience the life of a human – if only for a moment. Her friends and family told her she was crazy. They told her to get her head out of the… waves. She’s a mermaid. There are certain things that mermaids can’t do, and dance along the shore is one of them.

But somehow, Ariel found a way. She made great sacrifices – took an incredible risk – to pursue the dream that beat in her heart. Because Ariel, like the fish in Steven James’ story, knew that she was meant for more than merely swimming. And she dared to explore the full extent of what it means to live.

Maybe you, like myself, have been guilty of becoming content to stay beneath the waves. Maybe you’ve forgotten what it is to dream of the shore. Maybe you’ve allowed yourself to become consumed by the mundane task of flicking your fins back and forth, back and forth, propelling yourself along the currents of a life that doesn’t bring joy to your heart.

Let me remind you that, somewhere beyond what you may be able to see in this moment, there is a dream worth dreaming, a life worth living, and a vision worth sacrificing for. I pray you’ll find the courage to poke your head through the surface of the sky, fly like a fish, and dance along the shoreline of your dreams.

#7 – Aware

Lord,

I regret many things,

but I do not regret this moment with you.

For it will have been a lifetime well-spent

to have lived this single moment

aware of your presence.

Steven James

Lord,

I waste so many moments caught up in the mundane.

So many hours focused on the trivial.

How much time I spend aware – truly aware – of Your presence

seems so small in the scope of my life.

So I revel in this moment that I too often ignore.

Help me become more aware of Your presence today.