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.
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.
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)
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)
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.