I generally just try to keep my head above water while revisiting all of the things I've started and stopped over the years.
When I look back, many times during my life I have found myself pursuing “things” in order to prove that I could accomplish something...anything. I would take on a mission or a project just to numb the feeling of isolation in our law enforcement marriage, or numb the confusion of our spiritual lives being on different paths. Pursuing, progressing or trying new things can be a solid part of your growth in many ways, but doing it for the wrong reasons can invite some deep sadness. In my mind, I defined many of my starts and stops as “failures” and it was tough to get past.
Believe me when I say that these thoughts of failure did not come from a healthy place, they came from a lack of being close to the Lord.
When we try to do life on our own, we are just not protected from the enemy. This enemy is against growth and change. If you give this enemy any room to get between you and God, he will. This divide creates an opening to poke and prod you into believing that you are just not confident enough, not capable enough and not equipped to handle whatever you’re trying to accomplish.
I have tons of stories of random jobs (waitressing, working in a mammography clinic, investigating homes in foreclosure, church administration), creating a business and a non-profit, doing at-home daycare and volunteering for just about anything you can imagine. None of them filled the "swiss cheese" holes in my heart like I thought they would.
Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable? I wasn't.
It has been very uncomfortable revisiting all of the unfinished plans and goals I had for myself. I decided to lay them all out one day and take a good look at what the road blocks may have been. The task of writing those experiences in black and white forced me to face them head on. The biggest challenge was to resist the temptation of scolding myself or feeling shameful regarding all the times that I had failed, quit, stopped or fizzled out. But, I had a feeling if I wrote them down one by one and took some solid time to reflect, (and yes, I did accomplish this - I will spare you all of the details) it would serve as a healthy activity. Within this process, I’ve been able to form and direct the narrative of those stories and state with exuberance that, unbeknownst to me, I had been enrolled in God’s major education of life!
You would never actually choose this path for yourself initially, but hindsight is always 20/20. The rear-view mirror has a way of giving you a beautiful glimpse of all the things God has walked you through. Praising Him and thanking Him for giving me "hind feet for high places!" (Psalm 18:33)
Your “failure” seasons are stories, too. God’s fingerprint is more heavily impressed upon our lives because of these stories. Stories are hope. Stories are strength. Stories are courageous. They offer warmth and acceptance with arms of empathy. These moments of life are why I have compassion, they are why I wear humility, they are why I award grace to those hearts that hurt.
I remember one Sunday, our Pastor taught on the Tabernacle. I usually have a very difficult time with recollection, but this message carried a special meaning that felt like it was just for me. The building process of the Tabernacle with the design specifications and the obedience it required to set it up perfectly was a visual that I could recall. But, what really piqued my interest was what the Pastor said about the oil that was used for the lamps within the tabernacle.
The olive oil used for the lamps had to be pressed between grinding stones that proved to be a genuinely difficult and time consuming job. The lamps had to stay lit continually, so the job of olive pressing never ended. The light that shone within the tabernacle was produced with continual and difficult “olive pressing” work that never ceased. A beautiful light glowed because people were obedient to their task of tending the lamp.
I couldn’t help but to think about all of the grinding and pressing that had occurred in my life up until that moment.
All of that pressing and grinding to produce the oil of my life has been worked out in all of those “failures”. Was it “Easy-Peasy-Olive-Squeezy? Nope, but those seasons in my life created the oil that helps the light of Christ continue to burn bright. Preparing the oil for the tabernacle is similar to God preparing your life for service. You put in the hard work which may be painful, daunting, humbling or even embarrassing at times - and God will prove that it wasn’t wasted.
Yes, it’s sometimes embarrassing. I just want to shy away from people that I knew during those times of “failure” because I feel they may ask questions like, “Hey, are you still selling such and such”, or “how is your non-profit going?”. I know the majority of people ask because they are curious or want to be encouraging. But, there are some who, deep down may be thinking, “she’s always starting and stopping things, why can’t she ever be settled?”
I have a feeling that I will never actually be settled, because the earth is not my home. I am always looking at how to serve more efficiently or devise a plan to change things up a bit. With a sign of relief, I can honestly say that now, I'm confident enough in myself to know that if God breaks my heart for what breaks His, then I will probably be doing a bunch of different things in my life to fill the need and I am soooo ok with that. It may look a little chaotic to some, but I’ve given the authority of my life over to God, so take it up with him if I look a little goofy.
In Psalm 23 verse 5, it mentions God preparing a table for us in the presence of our enemies. This indicates that you will have enemies and that God understands this. Those enemies can come in many forms. Things that you want to accomplish that may become idols, relationships, hopes, dreams and even opportunities can go sideways in a heartbeat. He wants you to be his guest, welcomed and sitting down while feasting and resting.
This verse also points out that God will anoint your head with oil, which, in biblical times, was not only a sign of hospitality, but oil was a protectant (especially for the head of a sheep, and we are the sheep that need protection from enemies) and it makes sense to accept the protection of God during trying times in your life, times of questioning your talents or seasons of equipping that He has given to you. By God, you are covered from shame, guilt, harm and failure. He wants you to feel at home, even in the trial and error parts of your life and he promises to protect you. Easy-Peasy-Olive-Squeezy...
If your heart is in the right place and you have a desire to be a vessel in growing God’s kingdom and caring for His children, then all of your learning experiences, although pressing, will produce the oil that God uses to keep the lights of earth burning. You are a light on earth.
Grace and Peace, Linda
The Ups and Downs of Life...