How to Make Your Life Matter

wordsIt’s no secret.  I may be on the younger side of those entering into a mid-life crisis.  I’m only 40.

No, I didn’t go searching for a new house or go back to school (although I’d love both).  I wouldn’t say we’re in “mid-life” financially, either — a teacher and a social worker-turned-school-staff — still budgeting away.  And my kids are preteens, not college applicants.

No, I’ve entered into a different sort of crisis altogether — the one that keeps you up at night.  I frequently engage with that gnawing friend enemy called “self-reflection”.  Oh, how I wish I could silence her sometimes.  But she always has something to say.  Always.

You can leave the room when you no longer want to hear someone talk.  Or close your laptop.  Or press that red “end” square on your phone.  You can’t silence your thoughts, though.  And no matter what we try to do to escape, we have to return to the conversation eventually… to the conversation that isn’t as quiet as we pretend it to be.

“If we don’t tell our stories, our stories will tell us, Dan Allender writes.  Whether we revisit the past or not, who we are today is profoundly shaped by the events in our lives and our responses to those events.  It’s up to us to decide whether we’ll be passive recipients or active agents in the shaping of our lives… A life that is familiar with its story reveals much about the character of God.”  (To Be Told)

I’m going to trust Allender on this one.  I’m going to trust him that knowing my story — especially the messy drafts before edits — will reveal the very character of God.

It seems a bit ironic… an awareness of my messiness reveals how pure and holy He really is.  Admitting my mistakes presents Him as the Giver of the Clean Slate.  Acknowledging my wounds — and how I’ve wounded others — reveals Him as the Healer.

Yeah, I can do this.  At least there’s a guarantee unlike the quest for greatness here on earth that leaves you unbearably lonely while pushing away the shadows.

Isaiah got it. “God has sent me to give them a beautiful crown in exchange for ashes,
To anoint them with gladness instead of sorrow,
    to wrap them in victory, joy, and praise instead of depression and sadness.
People will call them magnificent, like great towering trees
    standing for what is right.
They stand to the glory of the Eternal
    who planted them.  Isaiah 61:3 

It sort of doesn’t sound like a “crisis” at all.

When You Want to Hide Your Family History

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I read through His Words — unravel the ancient stories — and I’m uncomfortable.  More and more.

There’s relief knowing my spiritual ancestors avoided the perfection game… ignored the game I unsuccessfully played for years.  But sometimes, when I’ve had enough of this modern drama,  I dream that things might not have always been this way.

But they have.

From the first moment woman believed her Maker didn’t fully love her, we’ve danced with brokenness.  We avoid it.  Run after it.  Ignore it.  Foster it.  At least I do.

I wish I could find an anchor of strength from the ancient men and women.  Instead, I find lessons in their raggled and wrinkled stories.  Lessons are hard to learn when your magnifying glass is really a mirror.

I struggle to reconcile my Maker’s lineage is born from Jacob.  Jacob, the Deceiver.  Jacob, the favorite son of his mother.  Jacob, the man who married Leah only to marry her sister a week later.

Ponder Leah’s pain.  Ponder watching your younger sister love your husband.

Ponder physical intimacy with a man who didn’t love you in the least. Imagine the embarrassment and shame Leah knew when alone with her husband.

Ponder welcoming your younger sister into the marriage. I’m sure Leah tasted resentment. Probably choked on it every day.

This is Leah’s story. This is the awful truth.  God didn’t edit it out of His Word — out of His family tree.  I really wish He had.

No, instead, the Author keeps the brokenness right there to reveal a coming Restorer.  He knew we’d need to be reminded of that.  Knew our pain would drive us deeper into searching for Someone.  As my spiritual ancestors seem less and less like heroes, less like role models, the Love Story becomes about Him again.

The story we are to live and write doesn’t truly begin until we face what we have lost and then turn to see the horizon of uncertainty ahead, Dan Allendar writes.  Our story will gain momentum and depth only to the degree that we honestly embrace both loss and fear.  Whether it be our own flaw or the sin of others, God uses the raw material of sin to create the edifice of his redeemed glory.  This point cannot be overemphasized: your plight is also your redemption.

So I reach out my fragments to Him as an offering.  It almost feels like a dare.  “Take this, God, and restore this.  Redeem this.”  But it’s what I’m wooed to do.  It’s what’s been modeled for me — dwell amidst the mess and brokenness and then look to the One who can heal it all.

It’s a painful way to worship.  But the healing might be all the more beautiful.

(To study the full mess, read Genesis 29-30:24.)

Skiing Blind

Image “We would like to picture goodness as being synonymous with safety… We find ourselves caught up in an adventure of heroic proportions with a God who both seduces us with his boldness and energy and repels us with his willingness to place us in mortal danger…”  Brent Curtis, The Sacred Romance
A few years back we returned home from a week of skiing to find spring unfolded all over our city.  It’s amazing what time will do to the hope held underneath the hard, dark cold of winter.  And while it feels almost disrespectful to regress into snow and ice, beauty is sometimes born from the deadest of seasons.  And from the darkness. The final day of our trip was spent with an old friend who stood beside us as we spoke our vows of forever at the altar.  Years later, he holds season passes at a mountain, so it was a natural place to meet.  But what I saw was anything but “natural”.  At least by my own, limited definition.
Throughout the day, I watched blind skiers conquer run after run.  Paired with volunteer guides, they made their way to “safety” through the paths of challenge.  And determination.  And exhilaration.  And, well, trust.

I saw grown women and men donned in neon “BLIND SKIER” vests.  I saw a little girl with braids, my daughter’s age, wearing the same.  They were better than me.  More trusting than me.  As I clutched my poles to ease the fear of steeper runs, blind people were tackling moguls.  Seriously. It was good.  For sure.  But safe?  Um, not really. We crave novels and plays and movies with drama.  We yearn for a plot rich in meaning, for without tension, the story’s not worth our time.  We reserve the right to close a book or walk out on a movie when we can bear the boring no more. But in real life, we hate it.  We hate the drama twisting with unpredictability as it wrings our very hearts.  We scorn the uncertainty of what we can not see, and we’re ashamed of what we can’t control.

“His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I can not.” Jeremiah 20:9

The Master Playwright, He woos the drama out of us, inviting us to paint stokes on His grand canvas like blind skiers adorn a fresh hill.  He beckons forth the fire to match the scene playing out in our lives.  Truth prevails in His Story, and He pulls the truth right out of our hearts — the painful truth burning like a fire within us.

As the winter dying is the unavoidable way to spring, our current mystery and pain will eventually join with now unseen paths.  Meaning, understanding, clarity — they await our current trust, but maybe not until the other side of eternity.  It might not be safe.  And it will definitely not be boring. And on that run is our Master Guide, conquering the swift, the steep, the fear with us.