For the sake of "Being Real": Opportunity vs. Lack
Everyone knows that person. The bouncy-ball-of-sunshine that while you’re spilling your guts, is immediately turning them into glitter. The silver-liners, as I like to call them. Don't get me wrong, most of the time these are kind, well-intentioned people whom the world needs. Otherwise, we'd all be a walking SNL Debbie Downer skit. But perhaps the silver-lining mentality is a bit lacking. Sometimes silver-linings and glitter and empty prayer promises, while pleasant, just don’t cut it. People face real battles every day, real pain, and need to be met with real substantial hope. They need to know that while hardship will come, each trial comes with an opportunity for something powerful to burst forth.
I'm guilty of being a smile-wearing-silver-lining lady. I trust everyone I meet implicitly and tear up at the smallest mention of Susan Boyle. I'm a glass half full of champagne kinda girl. But this past year or so has knocked the stuffing out of me. My attention, which was once drawn to the best in people and situations, has been diverted to areas in my life where I feel voids. Places where people or dreams have left me disappointed. Baby showers and pregnancy announcements were biter-sweet. While I was happy for my friends, deep down, I wished it was me and scared it never would be. Even something as trivial as putting on pants was biter-sweet. While I was happy that they buttoned, most days, I wished it wasn't such a darn struggle to wiggle into them. Lack on lack. You hear that Debbie Downer sound reel yet?
FOR THE SAKE OF "BEING REAL"...
Every conversation I had was a hard one. Any poor chump that simply asked, "How ya doin'?" was immediately filled in on my hurt, no matter where we were or if we just met. As if I was doing them a favor by not being the candy-coated Christian girl, I rambled on about what was hard in my life with no mention of hope. When in reality, I was giving power to fear, aligning myself with pain instead of healing, and inappropriately dumping on people for the sake of "being real."
I wasn't without faith, per-say. I was still meeting with God, daily filling him in on how hard my life was, you know, in case he hadn't noticed. I poured my fear on God like a toddler sobbing on daddy's lap out of sheer exhaustion. I poured but I didn't receive. I had faith but I had been putting it in the wrong place.
Fear is having faith that the enemy can win the battle, instead of having confidence that God already has.
All these mounting fears, the reality I had chosen to live in and express, did not align with the God I know. My God is a victorious one; a living force of love, kindness, gentleness, wonder, healing, resurrection. Sure, I was "being real" but I started to wonder, what reality am I living in? Hopelessness? Perpetual hardship? Fear? That's not the reality of the Kingdom of God, of which I am a citizen.
Jesus preached abundant life abundant, healed the sick, dined with outcasts, and took his boys fishing. He taught us to call out fear, weakness, junk- yeah Jesus was as 'real' as it gets- but he also taught us to receive forgiveness (or courage or whatever you need), and move the heck on. Take some ground, love some people, change the world. That's the difference maker. The Kingdom is hope. The Kingdom is justice. The Kingdom is love. It looks at dirt and breathes it into life. As a citizen of this Kingdom, I am a representative of it’s values.
YOUR REALITY SHOULD REFLECT A LIFE GUIDED BY YOUR VALUES, SO MY 'BEING REAL' SHOULD REFLECT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
To sum it up: my life was not reflecting my values, and it was manifesting horrifically. This slapped me in the face in California. Caleb and I were facing the back half our trip and were talking about my health, or lack thereof, when he suggested getting on some medication that would help me heal but prevent pregnancy. Unfortunately for Caleb, that really messed with the timeline I had for our lives and sent me into full-on self-sorrow right there in our rental Dodge Charger. My sweet husband, seeing this is where I was headed, said something that I think just might have changed my life. He squeezed my hand and said:
“Let’s view this as an opportunity to accomplish some of the dreams God has put in our hearts instead of a hurdle to get to the other side.”
I knew I married that guy for a reason. All the sudden, I began viewing the next year not as a barren time to watch my friends' children grow up without ours, but as an opportunity to get our lives in the healthiest place possible. I saw things Caleb and I could do, invest in, and enjoy that we couldn't do in a newborn stage of life. And I dare say...I was grateful.
Fast forward a week. I'm sitting in a room full of women of all ages and stages when this brilliant author, pod-caster, thick-haired mother of three stood up and shared how quickly time passes. How intentional the Lord is to enter into our every moment and how alert we must be to guard our time and spend it wisely. She read the following words from Ephesians 5:
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Use your opportunities wisely. No mention of lack or comparison. Not your best friend Carol's opportunity to stay home with her children. Or Brene Brown's hypothetical opportunity to partner with Ree Drummond on a new Food Network series called "Food and the Brain: Let's Get Vulnerable." (let it be) We're simply charged to take advantage of the opportunity laid before us, bad or good.
l finish with this: our pastor recently taught about the mindset of David entering into battle. David, having been with God in the secret, having seen God deliver in the past, entered battle focused on the power and glory of God instead of what he lacked. Sure, he was at a physical disadvantage being a young shepherd boy, not a trained soldier, but his reality wasn’t ruled by his lack. It was shaped by God’s strength. Because of that, he ran to front lines and took down a giant with a pebble, and the crowds followed him. He saw the battle as an opportunity for God to do what he does- the miraculous.
I want to be a person that meets each battle with confidence, not in myself, but as a tool in the hand of an all powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God.
When I look at life that way, I lack nothing.
I'm right where I want to be.
There will be Goliath's, daunting hardships that threaten to destroy you, and perhaps it won't always seem like we can overcome. Luckily as citizens of heaven, as children of God, we don't have to worry about winning the battle. We simply have to let God move and do what only he can do- rack up victories, defeat darkness, slay giants. Don't let the voice of fear shape your reality. Let the God whose voice separated the land from the sea, who breathed stars into existence, who raised from the dead, form your reality. I think if we did that, 'being real' with one another wouldn't need to be followed with a "womp womp..." all the time.
BEING REAL IS AUTHENTICALLY ACKNOWLEDGING CIRCUMSTANCES- BAD OR BLISSFUL- AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE GOD MOVE, not an excuse for griping.
Caleb was right, as he so often is. Maybe our time left as a family of two is an opportunity for God to spark dreams into motion in our lives, to deepen our marriage, or at the very least to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Hallelujah. Maybe our church closing down opened the door for new friendships to form, friendships that might last a lifetime. So I'm trying to embrace that. I'm trying to let that be my reality. Let's keep the conversation "real." Be authentic and vulnerable, speak out against injustice, ask for prayer and breakthrough, but let's keep the reality in line with Jesus.
Some people will call this a naive outlook. They might say I'm hushing up hardship with religion, or that I am over-spiritualizing what should be practical. All I have to offer is my experience, and I have seen, with my own eyes, God heal the sick. In my life, God has financially and otherwise provided for me faithfully. I have been abused, abandoned, and felt the sting of death; but I have also felt the love of God, the goodness in His creation, and I have faith that the God I've encountered will work all things together for good.
However, it's not for me to push it on you. I'm sharing my personal experience, my reality, and offering it as an opportunity for you to digest. The bottom line is Life is too short to always to be waiting for the hammer to drop. No matter what you believe, you often find what you're looking for. If you've been trained to expect the worst, you'll probably find it. But if we train ourselves to look for opportunity, even in the painful seasons, I bet we'll find them. Let's shift the focus from fear to faith, from lack to opportunity.