Dear friends: I am broke. I’m not talking the cutesy afraid to check your bank account balance because it is too low broke, I’m talking full on, paycheck to paycheck, cashing in coins broke. How did a college educated, relatively accomplished woman find herself in this situation? Simply put? I followed my heart and listened to the still small voice within that told me to make a change- to do something new. Yes, I fully weighed my options and the repercussions of these choices beforehand and still, against my better judgement went for broke. Why? Because I needed to.
I felt God calling me to draw out of my usual patterns- to let go of the death grip I have over [the allusion] of security in my life. So why did I need to drop an income bracket to do this? The easy answer- I’m hard headed. I have a calculating mind that we have already established can talk me out of anything. So when I asked God to tell me where to serve and I heard ‘Iraq’, I naturally talked myself out of it. Who could blame me? I’m a Christian woman, going to a place that doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for those who identify with either group. And while I’m not seeking a ribbon of honor for mission work, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of doing God’s work in Iraq scared me more than a little. So I rationalized that taking a new assignment closer to home that allowed me to do God’s work would be an acceptable substitute for my cowardice. So what, if it meant taking a $16,000 pay cut? I had lived on less and am smarter now, so I could make it work.
Cue the car accident and added stress and the move that added up to more dollar signs. I started to panic- to question myself. The self-talk that ran through my brain questioned ‘how could you agree to these things without having a safety net big enough to catch your irresponsible downfall?’ I had effectively out calculated myself into a corner. My life couldn’t be rewound to undo any of the choices, to bring back the relatively comfortable status I had grown accustomed to. I recognized how my overcompensating for being disobedient had tuned into a situation that wasn’t what I had anticipated, but I still wasn’t knocking down walls to get to Iraq. I felt in my spirit that it was time for a challenge, but was reluctant to heed God’s call. So I did things my own way and found a set of challenges that I wasn’t altogether asking for.
A few months ago, I was in a Bible study group, openly grappling with a bit of scripture in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 12, verses 7-10 talk about prudence, grace, glory and weakness. I couldn’t see the logical correlation. I didn’t see how if God’s almighty grace is enough for us, how then can our failings perfect this power? I didn’t need to stew in this conundrum for too long because my real life crash course in Paul’s letter was on the way.
Now friends, please do not mistake this as a message on spiritual smack down. I know that the challenges I encountered were my doing, not God’s, but that doesn’t mean that God didn’t use them to teach me something about myself and how God sees me. You see, I know that I can be stubborn and that I let pride get in my way. These are obstacles to my growth, crippling me from reaching my fullest potential. Stopping me short from grasping what will help me step into what is next. I like how The Message translation of this scripture speaks to me on this.
Because of the extravagance of those revelations and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. 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 12:7-10
Folks, that’s exactly how it happened. When worries about my new budget would arise, I lost myself in meditation on God’s provision. I started to search for peace in communion with the Holy Spirit- turned my mind towards the blessings and strength that I do have, rather than operating from a mindset of lack. Do I still have worries about my future and how I’m going to make everything work? Of course. I am not operating out of some blissful, naiveté that God will sustain my missteps forever so that I can go on ignoring what my spirit yearns for. I am choosing to trust in the ultimate truth- one that supersedes my understanding and reason. I am choosing to believe God for all that I need.
Lately, my commuting worship jam sessions (aka- car praise-it’s a thing) have been fueled by a song that immediately lights my soul on fire with recognition that my trust compass is pointing in the right direction. The lyrics are simple:
It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you. This is how I fight my battles. Nothing is as strong as your blood – Surrounded by UPPERROOM
It goes on in an empowering loop that keeps me sane when I want to hide in a cave of blankets and tune out the world. This is the message that I choose to help me push through each day- this simple affirmation of faith is my spiritual reset button.
Sacrifice is generally regarded as a noble virtue. While, I would rather be closer to the Jesus side of self-sacrifice, I know that I will never measure up to that because I am selfish and totally human. The desire to do and be more can be so strong until it smacks up against a reality that you aren’t prepared for. What I have come to realize recently is that the expectation is never to measure up to an impossible standard. The goal of our relationship with God is to live and grow in love. Love for ourselves, each other and most of all love for God.
We all walk our own path when it comes to spiritual growth and whether your next step is starting a new Bible study or building a ministry, there is one simple truth that I hope you will be led by. God is greater than every worry, any objection ,any pitfall that you can imagine. God’s love for us is so big that even when we misstep, we are still guided and sustained by an unsinkable Creator.