A Walk in My Character’s Shoes

I spent Wednesday morning catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. When talking about the pains and trials we’ve faced during our time apart, my friend said that we’re a lot like the characters in my books—facing difficult struggles without being able to see the big picture.

It’s okay, we decided, to not see the big picture as long as you can trust the Author writing your story. I can trust the Author. At least, that’s what I tell myself again and again. It’s just that sometimes I wish the Author would trust me with some of the details. Like the “why is this happening to me?” details.

But I get the Author analogy. I understand that when I finally reach the end of my story, I’ll be able to look back and say, “Oh, now that makes sense.” But I’m not anywhere near the end of that story and nothing about this makes sense right now. All that feels certain is this sudden urge to write a letter of apology to every fictional character I’ve ever crafted.

Dear Callum, I’m sorry I ruined your life. But there’s a reason this tragedy has befallen you and that is…

Then I would tell him everything his limited point of view can’t possibly understand. But that’s just the thing. He can’t understand. If I tried explaining, he wouldn’t believe me. Or worse yet, he would believe me and he would stop taking the steps necessary to becoming the hero I intend for him to be.

So I think if I were to write him, it would look a little something more like this:

Dear Callum, I’m sorry I ruined your life. I know this is difficult to understand, but you simply have to trust me. There are things you are not yet ready to know, but I’ll tell you everything in time. I love you, honest. That’s all I can tell you right now.

He’d be angry, of course, that I’m withholding information from him. He’d probably yell and shake his fist and tell me how unfair I’m being, and that’s okay. He has a right to be angry. Yes, yes, fume all you want, my fictional friend, but I will only ever do what is best for you. (But of course all hell breaking loose is best for you. Why do you ask?)

And I realize this conversation Callum and I are having looks suspiciously familiar, which is perhaps the point my friend was trying to make when I unloaded my burdens on her capable shoulders the other morning.

Because I’m good at yelling and shaking my fist and telling God how unfair He’s being.

But, you know, maybe God isn’t being so unreasonable after all. Because, yes, the path may be hard and the challenges great, but this all leads to a beautiful ending. So I guess I’m all right. And I guess I can keep on trusting the Author… even when I can’t see the big picture.

The Climb of Faith

There’s something extremely spiritual about rock climbing, at least for me. Nothing quite makes me question my faith like dangling from a rope thirty feet off the ground. Yesterday was my first rock climbing excursion since my rather tragic experience as a child, and I will confess that it was not any easier dropping off that wall the second time around. It’s not a trust issue; it’s a control issue. I knew my friend on belay was more than capable of safely delivering me to the ground, but I felt that this whole unsettling falling sensation could have easily been avoided if I could just retrace my steps back down the wall.

How ironic that the path I would choose is actually the more dangerous one. Because if I had tried to climb back down the wall, David would have needed to give the rope some slack. Then, if I would have fallen, the rope—no longer in lock position—would have slipped right through the carabiner and let me drop to the ground (unless my friend has some super-fast reflexes, but I’m not going to be the one to find out).

In any case, rock climbing is a dangerous sport for a control freak like me because, as I was reminded yesterday, it left me with very little control.

And maybe that’s okay. Because maybe I need to learn to let go every once in awhile. And maybe I need to stop depending so heavily on Rebekah and lean on God a little bit more.

Because maybe God is my guy on belay, and maybe I’ve always needed the Voice of Someone who can see the whole picture saying, “There’s one by your right knee. Right there. Yeah, that’s the one. Now put all your weight on your left foot and push yourself up. You can do it. Just push yourself up.”

Yesterday, my friends got to be the people keeping me from falling and encouraging me to try again when I don’t succeed the first time, but that’s what God has been for me every single day of my life. He’s the One holding me up, tugging on the rope at times to lift me where I need to be (thanks, Dave, for that analogy). He’s the One who lets me back down to try a different path when I realize I’m in way over my head. He’s the One who lowers me down gently when my arms turn to noodles and I just can’t—no, I can’t—climb any more. And He’s the One who sits by my side as I catch my breath, patiently waiting until I’m ready to try again.

And if I can rely so fully on my friends during one Sunday afternoon of rock climbing, I think I can trust that God has my back the rest of the week. So here’s to that great climb of faith my life has turned out to be.

“Climbing.”

“Climb on.”

psalm 56.13

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

Word of the Year

If I’ve established anything in my two years of blogging, I hope it’s that I don’t exactly go about things the typical way. I’m the girl who trashed my list of what I want in a future husband. I’m the girl who doesn’t believe in five-year plans. And when it comes to New Years resolutions, I laugh in the face of 2013. Because there is only one thing I know about this coming year: It won’t be anything like I would expect it to be.

I know people—several people—who assign words to their years. One year they will focus on joy and the next, courage. It’s a great idea in theory, and it seems to be working out for them. As for me… Like I said, I’m not typical.

I took a look through the journals that document this year of my life and was surprised by what I found. Because I had expectations for 2012, and I didn’t find them in the pages of this year. In the midst of  unrealized dreams being realized and falling in love with a new job and discovering Hannah Brencher *squeal*, I also found that birthing dreams is hard and messy and not at all like I once imagined it would be.

“Every day is different,” I find in January. “As fickle as the emotions of the four-year-olds I work with. One moment they’re spitting at you; the next moment they’ve wrapped their arms around your hips and nuzzled their face into your side.”

There was a dream coming into being, but there was also opposition and confusion and heartache and goodbyes.

“God, it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” February claims. “I don’t know how it was supposed to be, but certainly not like this.”

Because if I could have chosen a word for this year, it would have been something about stepping out. Something about dreams coming true and hopes being realized. It would have been the year my purpose unfolded and my ministry skyrocketed. And it did. In so many ways, all of those things were true. But God was doing something deeper beneath the surface. Something I didn’t realize I needed until it threaded its way through the pages of my story and, eventually, onto the face of the internet.

Vulnerability.
Approachability.
Trust.

Those were the words God would give me this year. Words I didn’t even realize were missing from my vocabulary until He whispered them into my heart. Those words lingered beneath the surface of my reality, begging to be fully realized.

I had finally allowed entrance to those two crazy guys who only ever wanted to befriend me, but it took a little longer for me to understand that there was more to letting them in than finally agreeing to go to their stupid Christmas party two years ago. That’s where it all began—the vulnerability, the learning to be approachable, the willingness to open myself up and trust that they’re not going to hurt me.

“Here’s to becoming approachable,” I wrote in June.

“Here’s to being vulnerable,” followed in September.

And November hit me with the weight of it all: “I’m going to put myself back in the arena. Open myself to more wounds, more scars. And more grace.”Here's to becoming approachable.

It’s not what I would have thought—what I would have chosen—for this year, but it is what I needed. And I have no idea what my story will be in 2013. I have no words to define this year I’ve yet to know. But I’m certain that it’s going to be something far beyond what I would ever dream for myself. Because God… He’s awesome like that.

Here’s to another year of walking hand in hand with the God who knows me better than I know myself.

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.

The Better Thing

A Very Confused, But Heartfelt Prayer

I want to say that I forgive You, but maybe I should be thanking You instead. Thanking You that You know me better than I know myself. Thanking You that You gave me the best thing, even though I couldn’t see it in the moment.

Because, in a way, You gave me exactly what I asked for—exactly what I thought I wanted. And even though it stung enough to make me question if maybe I thought wrong, it’s exactly what I needed after all.

But then, You always give me what I need. Even when it hurts. Even when it breaks my heart and sets my world to spinning. Even when I’m left asking, “Why?” only to find the why in the form of a prayer I prayed only a few weeks or months earlier. I asked for this. And You said, “Okay.” Then You said that things will only get better from here on out.

And I struggled to believe You. To trust Your promise that this was for the best. To know that Your arms would be there to catch me. But now that I’m coming out of the fog, I see… I see that the view is so much better from up here. That the world seems so much brighter from this vantage point.

I think of all the times I believed I knew the best way—believed my will was more important than Yours. You proved me wrong every single time. Not out of spite, but out of love. Because You saw where my path ended. You saw the destruction that waited up ahead. And You guided me—sometimes gently and more often with a forceful tug—onto the better path.

And here I sit once again, in a place more beautiful than I could have imagined when You first said, “Let’s go this way.” And as I look over the view You’ve set before me, I realize there’s really nothing to forgive. So here is my prayer of thanks… For caring enough about me to not give me what I want. For knowing me better than I know myself. And for always giving me the better thing.

The End of the Story

He left a steady job, sold his house, and said goodbye to the woman he planned to marry, all because God called him to some country he knew nothing about. In obedience, he pursued this calling halfway across the world trusting, but never truly knowing, that God had something glorious in store.

He was in the country a whole two weeks before the government sent him home. He was angry, confused, and more than a little bitter. Why? he wondered. God, why did You send me here? Why did You make me sacrifice so much for nothing?

But his sacrifice was not for nothing. Because even as he struggled to find answers, someone else was searching too. Someone else was reading the Bible he left her. Someone else was finding herself found in the One True God. But our friend didn’t know this – almost never knew this. In fact, he could have spent the rest of his life thinking his sacrifice was in vain. Except this new believer tracked him down to thank him. She came to his house to tell him the story of how God spoke to her through His Holy Book and how she was called to minister to her people – something this man had not been allowed to do.

Often, our sacrifices seem to be in vain because we don’t know how the story ends. We don’t know the impact of our love and prayers. We don’t know if the words we’ve spoken bounced off a hardened heart or seeped into fertile soil. We just don’t know. And so we get frustrated. Disappointed. Angry, even. We look to the heavens and ask, “Why? God, why did You send me here? Why did You make me sacrifice so much for nothing?” When all along, our sacrifice is making a bigger impact than we know.

So be encouraged, my friend. Your questions are not the end of the story. Something much greater is at work. And while you may not find your answers this side of eternity, one day you’ll know how the story ends. Don’t give up just because the call may not make sense in this moment. God could be using you to bring hope, change lives, and touch nations.

You just never know…