Category Archives: faith

Shallow Waters.

I learned a tough, humbling lesson this week: I’m the problem. 

When the year began and God spoke the word “depend” to my heart, I hesitated, but I committed.  It was the direction in which I knew God wanted me to head as I seek to become the woman, servant, and follower that He designed me to be.

Yet even in that commitment, I don’t think I was “all in.”  I said I was and really meant to be, but subconsciously I began to push pieces of my life behind me, pieces I felt didn’t really “fit” with the idea of dependence. Then I happily went along, proclaiming victory in my continued dependence on God in one breath and making clear my perceived ability to tackle the world in the next. I was tiptoeing in the shallow end, so to speak.

Soon I found myself in what has become my most frequent position of late: feet knocked from underneath me, flat on my face, out of breath, embarrassed to be floundering, and oh-so-angry with myself. I walked from one day into the next determined that I’d make the next one better for myself, but managed only to sink farther underneath the load I’d piled onto my shoulders.

Oh, I was juggling things, and those on the periphery of my daily life were none the wiser – but those who KNOW me, those who invest in my life? They weren’t fooled for even a moment.  Thank Heaven for that.

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Today as I write, I’m thinking of one precious friend who has patiently walked beside me, shouting words of encouragement – yet also gently speaking words of truth.  She’s known all along.  She may have used different words, but she’s seen the real issue from the start: I. Can’t. Do. It. All.

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve spoken a thousand excuses to “explain” why it’s reasonable that I’m overwhelmed. I won’t bore you with them here, but have no doubt: every single one of them is true. How my friend must have wanted to beat her head (or mine) against the wall though, as I’ve rattled them off endlessly, refusing to reach in and dig deeply enough to grasp that none of the excuses are the root of the issue: I AM.

It finally started to hit home Thursday, as I walked alongside my friend, offering yet more excuses and then drove home, mentally checking off a half-dozen new ones. (Most people find countless excuses not to do things – how is it that instead, I specialize in finding excuses why I have to do them?!)

As I unwound from the day, it was impossible to miss God’s firm, loving voice saying, “She’s right, you know. You can’t do it all. YOU have to be the change.”

What exactly does it mean that I have to be the change?

It means I have to recognize that dependence isn’t a “have it your way” commitment – it’s all or nothing.  I can’t wade into the shallow waters and call it dependence. No, dependence requires that I walk to the deep end and plunge right in. Jumping or diving, belly flop or headfirst: how I get there doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am depending on something far bigger than myself to hold me up.  The grace and strength found in that buoyancy is indescribable.

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I’ve always considered my independence and ability to do things for myself to be a strength.  After all, if I can do it, I don’t have to bother anyone else or cause them any trouble, right?  And doesn’t God have far bigger things that need His focus than the trivial details of my life?

But this week has taught me that sometimes my strength is my weakness. Being capable and independent is a strength – but not when I take it so far that I consider it a failure if I can’t shoulder everything completely on my own. God gave me the heart of a “do-er,” that task-driven, perfectionistic soul. He designed me that way to bring Him honor and glory. But when I clench my list so stubbornly in my fists and step out relying only on my own power, it’s the very thing that cripples me.

 “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Message)

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I believe God has brought me through a rough few weeks not to defeat me, but instead to remind me that without Him, I’m just running on fumes. Utterly human and intensely flawed, I’m certainly not there yet – but the last few weeks have brought me farther down that road. I can feel the tickling of a new hope waving to me in the distance, a hope that says there might just be beauty and strength hidden within dependence.

I can choose to tiptoe around dependence and spend the entire year in the cycle of the past few weeks – or I can keep pushing forward into that “all in” kind of dependence, that deep-end sort of faith:

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen.
I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.
Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that
cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks.
I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
2 Corinthians 12:9b-10  (The Message)

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God, may we all remember that no matter who or where we are, life is not a solo sport.  We can’t do it all alone. And when you ask us to depend on You, to depend on others – it is not enough for us to declare it with our words or our thoughts, for true dependence is a deliberate, active decision. Help me, God, to stop wading in shallow waters. I want to know the freedom of being wholly dependent on You.

P.S. To my patient, truth-speaking friend (you know who you are) – thanks. I’m so blessed by you.

My One Word Journey.

One word.  The moment that I first knew the concept – choosing just a single word that describes who you want to be or achieve in the coming year – I was instantly “all in.”  Why? Well, on a more humorous level, those of you who have been here long enough know that brevity is NOT my strong suit, so the thought of trying to cram a whole year’s goals into one word intrigued me. 🙂

But at a deeper level, its simplicity spoke to my heart almost instantly. My daily life is anything BUT simple these days. My life is so blessed but various demands on my time often leave me stretched to my limit. I found the thought of being able to surround the year with a single word welcoming and motivating.

Like many of you, I had a word that instantly came to me: Believe. I struggle often with having a complete faith, one that does not question and is not skeptical. I want to trust – I really do. But I’m also oh-so Type A and I want to understand, to plan, and yes, even to control the process and the outcome. And this isn’t just where my relationship with God is concerned – it’s amazing how a heart that is so trusting of everyone can simultaneously be such a skeptic.

Since I knew this is an area where I need to grow, I seized the word in midair. For weeks, I thought I was done and had it. Come January 1st, I’d share my single word for 2012 with the rest of you and forge forward.

As is often the case, God had other plans.

I was driving home from a short visit with a precious friend when God first began to stir up my discomfort with my word: Believe. I didn’t understand at first because I felt the word “fit” me. So I continued to listen to the whispers in my soul, and by the end of the year, I knew believe was not the word that God had for me, yet I didn’t know what word was.  Of course, that stressed me out slightly, because of how could I share my word on January 1st if I don’t know it?  I can almost picture God now – smiling and shaking his head, chuckling under His breath and saying, “My precious Sheryl. I so love you, but My time is not always your time. Just keep listening.”

So I did. And last Thursday morning as I drove to work, God opened the blinders and revealed His word for me for 2012: Depend.

God spoke this to me so clearly that it was almost shocking:
You do not believe because you do not depend

Ouch. But it’s true. I am, and always have been, independent. Add to that the facts that I am single and a goal-driven perfectionist, and the end result is a woman who doesn’t readily depend on anyone or anything.  If it needs to be done, I do it. All the times that I have asked for help and been let down have just reinforced that “do it for yourself” approach. I don’t ask for help often or easily. When I do, it is always apologetically and with difficulty. After all, I’m the one who does, who helps, who can be depended upon. When the tables are turned, I am at a loss and no longer know quite how to operate.

All this can so easily be applied to my spiritual life as well. I sense something that God wants me to do, I grab hold and take off with it – usually leaving God’s timing and guidance in my dust. Predictably, I soon find myself back humbly at the starting gates, trying again under the gentle but firm direction of our loving Father.  I don’t believe that He’s going to answer my prayers or act in the way that I desire because I haven’t yet chosen to depend on Him to do it.

The life-changing power in that one little whisper is magnificent. 

So it is with that, my friends, that I share with you my word for 2012:

May I learn to depend on God and on others more, trusting that they’ll come through. It’s a scary word and it is not without a little anxiety that I share it with you here, but I’ve already gotten to see it at play in a couple of situations and what a blessing that has been!

The One who called you is completely dependable.
If he said it, he’ll do it!

1 Thessalonians 5:24
(The Message)