There is so much freedom in being a willing follower of God’s unpredictable direction. This path often involves insights and divine inklings that come out of nowhere and wallop you over the head while you’re deep in prayer or standing in line at Target. I would love to report with a hint of self-righteousness that I have chosen to follow these promptings each and every time they’ve reared up. To confess to recognizing these calls for what they were is even a stretch. One of my spiritual gifts is seeing the missed opportunity long after it has surfaced in my life and doing some head scratching about why I didn’t tune into God’s booming voice, let alone His faint whispers.
I’d like to think I have a willing heart and a minute possibility of a reckless faith. I’d love to stand during the sermon benediction and know that when I headed out into the world, post Sunday ritual, I would be alert and ready to identify the fork in the road with the blinking sign that reads “Deepened faith this way”.
We sang one of my favorite Hillsong tunes last week…
My whole life is yours,
I give it all,
Surrendered to your name
Have your way,
have your way.
I stood there almost unable to sing the words.
Did I really offer everything to God?
Could I say that I was ready for Him to reach into my life and unfold happenings that could make it uncomfortable and hard?
Was there really complete unabashed surrender churning like a hurricane in this heart of mine?
If I was being completely honest here, I would tell you that I totally have an agenda when I pray. I’m thinking that God knows this. Yet, He continues to bless me, which I am eternally grateful for because I don’t deserve it. I am willing to share my faith with others (only if it doesn’t feel super uncomfortable in certain social situations). I am able to serve my fellow suffering humans in the world (if it coincides with my kids’ vacations and my husband’s travel schedule). I am even capable of enduring some sacrifice and hardship (if it doesn’t create fear and panic that things won’t go back to normal after a crisis).
There have been some faith leaps in my past. We risked a move to New York with our small kids without knowing what it would hold for us. There were countless evenings my husband and I sat in the tub until the water turned frigid, talking about this possible detour God was cooking up for our family. It was horrible timing in that we’d just finished building our dream house and had only been in it a year. Yet, we jumped into our new East Coast life and it was incredibly rewarding. We learned a lot, including the fact that we were Northwestern folks at heart and needed to return home. The whole thing was a wonderful adventure and we were so thankful that we trusted God in the scary process of moving across the country.
Our departure from New York and return to the homeland involved another act of faith. We had no idea what my husband would do for a job and where we would live. It turned out that God would provide for us in spades, which included the same company relocating us a second time in a three year time-frame. He also provided land to build our dream house a second time, complete with children who seemed no worse for wear in our cross country transition. These experiences were some of the first instances that we had prayed as a family with a physical leaning in to hear what God wanted us to do. You’d think that these drastic results in our journey would produce a desire to lean in more and more, but it really hasn’t. It’s been a long time since I stood on the edge with my arms in the air and no net below me. I don’t even remember what it feels like.
Yet lately it seems that my restless heart is preparing for reckless faith.
This kind of revelation frequently brings numerous trips to my local Barnes and Noble for some Christian section loitering. A book that jumped off the shelf into my hands was Anything by Jennie Allen. The gist of it is that she and her husband decided to radically follow God’s call and pray the prayer:
“We will do anything you want us to do. We’re all in, even if it means giving up life as we know it.”
I was in awe of the bravery and boldness in spirit in this prayer. I also couldn’t imagine at this point in my own life being open to a complete shake-down of everything I know in my own luxury filled, convenient life.
Money and a good latte protect us from a lot of things. It is too easy in this country for blessings to become rights, for stuff and money to become what calls the shots in our lives. And before we know it, God’s gifts have replaced God himself.
I am half way between being a stuff person and a person on the edge of pitching all the stuff. Camping on the porch of indecision is almost worse than committing to one or the other. It is usually dictated by the time of year and my current stage of transition. New beginnings require a massive purging. Cold winter months and hunkering down involves something short of a bad episode of Hoarding. I’d like to think that if my favorite salad bowl from southern Italy crashed to the floor in a spirited game of inside tag, I wouldn’t yell and wave my arms in a lunatic fashion. But I know that certain possessions in my life represent irreplaceable experiences and I feel that holding them tightly will hold those moments closer to my heart. I also have a slew of creativity paraphernalia because you just never know when a collage masterpiece will require giant balls of purple yarn and mid century buttons.
My friend Father Bruno, who accompanied a friend and me to Italy this spring, carries all he owns in a small backpack. He is usually rotating two shirts—one on the drying rack recovering from wine and tomato sauce stains and one on his body, ready for adventure. As an artist and teacher, he carries his sketchbook under one arm and tucks a black Sharpie behind his ear. He goes where the wind blows and is pretty much ready for any kind journey that involves planes, trains and automobiles. What an existence! I like to believe my post-college self would have embraced this life if I had been self-assured and confident enough, but I was quite busy dating all the wrong men and working at a job I didn’t love. My post forty self (meaning this one) is much too occupied with motherhood duties and suburban routines to contemplate simplifying and seizing spontaneous mission trips and travel to the underside of the world.
But there’s the giant pink elephant named What If that lingers not only in the living room, but in the deepest corners of my yearning heart.
What if I was bold enough to pull my kids out of school for a month and serve somewhere in the world while home schooling them? It’s only 30 days. I’ve had my wheels churning on this for weeks and it isn’t going away. Sure the logistics are insane, not to mention the momentary freak-out session that would ensue with my girls upon hearing this plan, but I can’t help but think God is working some sort of life changing experience for us as a family. Don Miller, writer of Blue Like Jazz (and personal literary hero of mine) uses the phrase inciting incident:
The inciting incident is how you get character to do something. It’s the doorway through which they can’t return, you know. The story takes care of the rest.
Miller’s last book revolved around him changing the story of his life. In his quest for a better story, he found a renewed purpose and passion in his day to day:
Every story is built around a character or characters. This part is easy. By God’s design, you are the principal character of your story because you are the only character in any story you can control. You are the storyteller and the principal character all in one. The story may be about something other than you, but you have agency and to deny that is to tell a really boring story. The first of many keys to living a great life is to take full responsibility for our lives.
Here’s the thing. I’m not only responsible for my own life, but I’m in charge of showing my precious daughters the art of living a story that is pleasing to God and uses all the gifts we’ve been given to maximize joy. I recognize that our seemingly sleepy suburban lives are not enough to form a life full of amazing stories, no matter if a person is 41 or 10.
*Visit Lara’s personal blog Modern Prairie Girl*