One Way Out

It has been well over a year since my last blog post. It’s not that there haven’t been things to say, but let’s just say…life happened. Busyness mixed with good intentions and a good old-fashioned dose of procrastination meant that this wasn’t the first placed I landed in pouring out my heart. Other projects, duties, obligations, and responsibilities took precedent.

So…something big must have made me come back here? Not exactly. I guess I just felt I had something to say again and I’ll purpose to do it a little more often. Here goes…

Some days I feel like running away. Some days I think a fresh start someplace where no one knows my name sounds deliriously enchanting. This “someplace” would have no obligations to speak of – no laundry, dirty dishes, grocery shopping to be done, and meals to be cooked. There would be an endless supply of great books, an amazing view of some peaceful body of water from a sunlit wrap around porch, and the occasional perfectly placed rainstorm which would drive me to the big cozy chair with the fuzzy blanket in front of the roaring fireplace. Some days my family would accompany me to this little slice of heaven and other times, well…they wouldn’t.

Alas, my life is not destined to be the stuff of the inner pages of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

So where does my desire to run come from and what exactly am I running from? Good question. My answer is a work in progress, but I think the simple answer is that I’m running from myself.

I’m running from the things inside me that say I have to measure up, that I have to be everything to everyone. I’m running from being disappointed and disillusioned at the things I see that I don’t understand. I’m running from the things that say I have to build order out of chaos, energy out of exhaustion, and confidence out of doubt. The things that say hold your head up high when all I really want to do is lay flat…or sometimes curl into a ball.

I’m running from my own insecurities and the box I’ve put myself in. You know the box, don’t you? It’s the one marked “perfect” and we undoubtedly all have one on a shelf somewhere. Maybe for some of us it is neatly sorted and tucked away in the back of a closet, resolved. Maybe for others, its about ready to drop off the shelf, hit you on the head, and spill it’s contents all over the floor of your life.

Now, don’t think the last year of blog silence has made me dark and angsty. Let’s just say that God has been doing some work on my box. He pulled it off the shelf and He asked me to sift through it and to get rid of some things (trust me these aren’t hand me downs you want) and to reorganize the others. Turns out that I spent a little too much time in that box and God wants me out of it.

Let me clarify…the box isn’t me thinking I’m perfect. Oh, far from it…I am not perfect. Ok, well sometimes I think I am. Like when I clean the house…nobody does it better than me. Or when my husband and I try to recall the details of the same incident, nobody remembers it right but me. Or when the bed needs to be made, nobody does it right but me.

But, that stuff doesn’t go in the box, that stuff is just how I’m wired. I’m a person of order and I am a perfectionist. I’m trying for my own definition of “perfect”…the perfect I need to live and breathe in so that I don’t lose my mind. That’s more of a contented order, than perfect, really.

My “perfect” box holds both the blessings and the curses of who I am. It holds all the stuff that tells me that I need to be perfect. They are totally subjective, but they are the things that plague me…self doubt, insecurity, lack of confidence, fear, fear of failure, fear of success (apparently there’s a lot to be afraid of), worry, desire, and anxiety. My box also holds the blessings, my gifts and abilities.

But…let me tell you this, when I pull all that stuff out of the box and lay it out for refining, it is so much easier to look at the curses than it is the gifts. I can look at the doubt and fear and say yup, I have them. I can look at the worry, and say yes, I do that.  But, when God asks me to recognize that in my box are also my gifts, I need deep breathing exercises. When He tells me to recognize my gifts of leadership, writing, teaching (I’m hyperventilating as I list these), encouragement, hospitality, organization, and loyalty…I would sooner crawl into a dark corner than really look at those gifts. I’d sooner spend all day with the curses.

Why is that?

Well, again, not that I’ve arrived at the answer, but I’m in the process of arriving at the answer for me, so that’s something, right?

I think the answer is that, it is so much easier to stay inside that little box and link arms with the curses than it is to have the blessings pull you out. It’s easier to be content with how flawed you are, than to be stretched to be more. It’s easier to run away to the Land of No Obligations than to stay put and do the work the gifts call you to. Because when you give those gifts time and energy, they have a way of taking on a life of their own. When you allow yourself to admit that you have them and want to use them, it is terrifying. And, when God gets a hold of those gifts (because He will when you let Him), watch out!

So, because in my world of contended order, I like things clean and tidy, I have taken to wearing gloves when I sort through my box. One says grace and the other says mercy. And in the center of each glove, right smack dab in the middle, is a nail piercing. It reminds me that these gloves of mercy and grace were a gift, purchased for me by my Savior, bought at a very high price…His life.

Grace and mercy lay hands on every single blessing and every single curse in my box. It all sifts through the fingers of those gloves. As I pick up the curses, He reminds me that every single one should draw me to my knees, because He knows what plagues me and only He can free me from the chains that tie them to me. Only through Him, can I release the power they hold over me. And as I hold the gifts, like precious treasures, He reminds me that I should seek His glory, because He gave them to me and great gifts never get packed away in a box and shelved…they get used.  He gives me permission and freedom to do that.

Now, with all that said, with all my sifting and sorting, I must admit that my box still gets messy now and then. New curses (often sins, in case you hadn’t noticed) get added and blessings abound. Sometimes I can’t keep it all together and I just want to run away again. So, I often have to put those gloves back on and do the work. I have to exercise my faith, by choice and deliberately.

But, guess what? Every time I go to do the work, there is a brand new pair of gloves waiting for me. His grace and mercy is new everyday and there is a lifetime supply…an eternal supply to be exact.  And…God even asks us to come alongside others and help them sift through their own box and all its contents.  I wear my grace and mercy gloves then too – because well, there is always going to be someone with a bigger box than yours and they need all the help they can get.

Jesus comes alongside me and my box – and you and yours – with grace and mercy, and whispers…”You are worthy because you are Mine and I love all of you, blessings, curses, flaws, imperfections, gifts, abilities…let Me sort them out…I want it all. Receive forgiveness, find freedom in mercy, and rest in my grace.”

When life gets the best of me, when the illusion of perfection rears its ugly head, when doubt and insecurity plague me, when the potential to use my gifts is daunting and the stretching scares me, when I get to use my gifts for His glory, when I am not enough and even when I am, there is only one way out of the box…Jesus.

There is nothing that I, or you, or we need to run from when there is One that we can run to…the One who waits with arms outstretched.  Arms that stretched out wide as He hung on the cross for you and arms that stretch out wide, ready to receive you with grace, mercy, and relentless love.  

There is One Way to navigate in, out, and around it all…Jesus.

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23

If you do not know Jesus personally and would like to learn more about how to have that special relationship with Him, please visit:  http://www.harvest.org/knowgod/

God very often ministers to me through music and this song perfectly captures my heart for this post.

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