The Best Place to Be

 

frost

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”

– P. Yogananda –

Every once in a while, I stumble across something that thrills me through and through with so much joy that I realize what souls were made for.

It’s not always the same thing.

Sitting in the sun sharing Chex Mix with two children whose father abandoned them, loving them in their blunt, innocent pain.

Nina at the nursing home, who wheels her chair up until she rams the piano bench and keeps offering to be my sister, since I don’t have one of my own.

It’s not so much a place or an activity as a pattern. The Lord sets me in opportunities, and I realize with surprise that this is what I was created to do. This is where I belong. This is where my strange, mysterious, unexplainable mix of qualities can flesh out healing and love and joy.

On Thanksgiving Day, a friend and I were discussing personality types over turkey and mashed potatoes. We have very similar personalities, so we were enjoying comparing our in-common experiences with people.

“I often tell people ‘I understand’ when they are telling me about terrible things I have never experienced, ever!” I confessed to my friend. “I know I haven’t gone through those things, but I feel a little of what it must be like.”

Sometimes, that can be a lot of pressure. To discern the pain that someone is feeling and knowing that you have to do something is a big responsibility. Another friend wrote me about a woman fighting sex trafficking, who said:

“I know too much to not do something.”

Story of my life. Like that woman, I know too much not to do something.

Recently, another friend and I were talking about this mysterious piece of me, and I felt a little overwhelmed.

God has given me this strange, crazy ability to be able to deeply feel people’s’ pain, absorb their discomfort, cry their tears, exult in their joy.

And it’s a little scary. I have to be vulnerable–not only to my own life’s trials, but to all the pains and aches and bright places of the lives around me. I have to open myself up to others even when, at times, I long to insulate myself from the suffering of a broken world.

But as I thought about my personality this week, I realized something:

My happiest moments–the times when I feel most alive, full, and complete–are when I am loving God (and loving others through Him) in the context of my design.

That’s the best place to be.

If you’ve been questioning how you were made, wondering why you were given a particular gift…If you’ve been struggling to understand your calling…If you’re afraid of the hard, painful work of sharing love with the hurting and the hopeful…If you’re wondering why your life has played out the way it has, to bring you to this very place–this encouragement is for you.

“Our constant sacrifice to God should be the praise of lips that give thanks to his name. Yet we should not forget to do good and to share our good things with others, for these too are the sort of sacrifices God will accept.”

 – Hebrews 13:15-16, Phillips paraphrase –

I’ve come to believe that it takes vulnerability to embrace God’s gifts in our lives. The point where He made me to be strongest is also the point with the most potential to overwhelm and devastate me.

But it’s worth it.

When I’m doing what I’m created to do–and surrendering myself to coming out the other side changed and even scarred, if necessary–that is when I best worship God with my life.

When I am faithful to my design, my soul sings, because that is what it was made to do.

Maybe you’re wondering if it’s too risky to do what you know God have gifted you to do. Maybe it’s outside your comfort zone. Or maybe it’s your immediate instinct, but it costs you.

Are you afraid to give your special design, your amazing gifts, to God in worship? Are you running from your compassion, your teaching ability, your serving heart, your analytical mind, your artistic talent, your leadership capabilities, because you fear that diving in will cost too much?

I sometimes feel the same way.

But we know too much to stay quiet and unmoving:

“Tell those who are rich in this present world not to be contemptuous of others, and not to rest the weight of their confidence on the transitory power of wealth but on the living God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in kindly actions, to be ready to give to others and to sympathise with those in distress. Their security should be invested in the life to come so that they may be sure of holding a share in the life which is permanent.”

– 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Phillips –

We are the rich of this world–many of us literally, all of us spiritually. As Christians, we have everything we need to do the works that God has prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10). “By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory” (1 Peter 2:3, CEB).

That means He has given you resources and personal gifts that are too precious to waste. And trust me, nothing will give you greater joy than resting in the love of your heavenly Father and then sharing His love in the context of your design.

It’s what He made you to do–glorify Him by doing what He commands with a redeemed heart of love.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

– James 2:14-17, NIV –

If the Spirit of Christ fills us, we are equipped. We are ready. Nothing can hold us back from joyful obedience, when we surrender to His Spirit. He gives us all we need. Trust God with how He made you to love and go take the risk of loving. Put those scary, wonderful gifts He’s given you to work.

It sometimes hurts. It sometimes bursts over you with fullest joy. Sometimes, it is a mix of bitter and unexplainably-sweet.

But the center of His design is always, always the best place to be.


“And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity.”

– 2 Corinthians 9:8, AMP –

Take Heart

Old alarm clock

Have you ever felt….

Like you’ve held your breath for months, years?

That you’re waiting for something that just won’t seem to hurry up? That the watched pot just sits around and simmers and those bead-bubbles don’t boil even when you crank up the heat?

High school or college graduation, that longed-for job, that latest book, that moment of saying “I do,” the day you drive home a car bought with your own savings, that day you cradle a child that’s yours, that day you finally figure out how to fit 28 hours into 24, someday when the eternal stack of books by your bed will be read, that one day when you don’t mess up?

Patience sounds like an awfully nice virtue—until you have to have some.

Waiting sounds like a nice, feminine, quiet thing to do—until you have to sit around and actually attempt it.

What is it about waiting that makes our skin crawl with angst?

I think I know.

That nasty little word.

Control.

I ache with frustration because—while I don’t usually admit it to myself—sometimes my emotions take over and want to shove God right out of the driver’s seat. Because I can’t see what’s coming up and I’d sure appreciate a chance to steer my life in the “right” direction.

But—do you ever find yourself here?—when I nudge my Savior out of the driver’s seat, I grasp the steering wheel between too-small, sweaty fists and look up to see what’s ahead….

And I’m too short to see the road. All I can see is the big, fat roundness of the steering wheel. My head doesn’t even clear the dashboard of this ride called life.

So what happens when you wrestle for the wheel only to find out that you can’t control the universe after all?

See, the reasoning is that if we control it all, it will be fine.

All the cards will stack up.

All the pieces of the puzzle will click into place.

The jobs will line up.

Happiness will be around every corner.

Everything will be just right, Pollyanna–style.

But that’s just not how life works.

And–you want the truth? If we could truly control it all, we’d mess this world up big time.

Tired of traffic–ah, clear it away with a flick of a finger. And while the economy fails because thousands of workers aren’t getting to their jobs, you can sip your Starbucks and get to your office on time.

Wish you could stop waiting for that new car–why not get it now? Of course, then that lesson in God’s goodness won’t be of any use. Then, of course, your pride might just swell out of proportion. Then, of course, you might miss something even better.

See what I mean? We’d mess this world up royally if we could make everything go our way.

So here’s the thing: My way is not the best way. Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone.

I have a confession. I’m selfish. I don’t like waiting. I like to have everything laid out, listed neatly in my best cursive on a floral day planner, perfectly categorized. I don’t like interruptions. I don’t like changes in the plans. I’m not so thrilled with the curve balls that God likes to throw. I like to see nice, neat checkmarks that tell me my life is counting for something.

Know why I’m okay with telling you this? Because you’re just like me.

Because we all have this bent back to the self-seeking, this from-birth craving to fill ourselves up with something–anything, really–that will satisfy.

So–maybe–when we’re so tired of waiting, we’re really having trouble believing that God will really fill us up?

Perhaps, when we try to wrestle control from an all-loving Father, it’s because we don’t really believe He’s good? Down deep, where our actions spring up?

Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, says this is Satan’s lie, the trap that our first parents fell into:

“I wake and put the feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent’s hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn’t good. It’s the cornerstone of his movement. that God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.

Doubting God’s goodness, distrusting His intent, discontented with what He’s given, we desire…I have desired…more” (page 14).

When we get tired of waiting for God’s good things, we’re saying that we’re not so sure that He’s really good. We’re not so sure that He really gives us everything we need for today. We’re not so sure that He is enough.

Elisabeth Elliot writes:

“‘My people have committed two sins,’ says the Lord in Jeremiah 2:13. ‘They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’

Discontent dries up the soul.” (Secure in the Everlasting Arms, pages 134-135)

In the waiting, is this not what parches us? This soul-drying that happens when we reject God’s gifts and abundance and go to hacking at the dirt with our own dented shovels, forming wells so broken that there’s no way to fill them?

This is how Satan fell–wanting more than the best there was, wanting to rip control right out from under his God.

This is how Adam and Eve fell–lusting for more than God with them.

This is how we every-day fall–rejecting the most glorious Gift, God with us again. No, we may not right-out reject Him. But in every-day living, we put on the brakes and jerk at the wheel and whine to God to let us take a spin at controlling this life.

So, now, we must fall again–only this time to our knees. Crying out for forgiveness, for grace for these hard hearts.

Again, Elisabeth Elliot says,

“And so it may be…God’s order is the reverse of what we expect. He is in each moment, in us , with us….Should we expect to see how things are working together for our good? No, not yet. We see not yet. We only know.

….In the barren places of my life I can be assured that God is there as He is when life is fruitful, and that the time is coming (give me patience, Lord, to wait!) when He will fulfill His word: ‘I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this’ (Isaiah 41:19-20).

Like little children on Christmas Eve, we know that lovely surprises are in the making. We can’t see them. We have simply been told, and we believe. Tomorrow we shall see. (from Secure in the Everlasting Arms, pages 176-177)

So, waiting isn’t just hard. It’s necessary.

It’s not just necessary. It’s what is best for us right now.

Absolutely best.

Don’t chafe against His call to wait. Some of the best things are coming up. But if you don’t wait, you might miss even better things now.

Waiting doesn’t mean standing still.

Sisters, let’s embrace our times of waiting–whatever we may be waiting for–as times to pour ourselves into knowing our Savior.

Because He is always enough.

And that Psalm 84:11 promise–that He will withhold no good thing from His upright ones?

That Isaiah 40:28-31 promise–that He will make us run without weariness if only we wait?

These God-breathed vows are rocks to build a life upon.

So, wait.

So, rest.

Today is given to us to live, not to pass the time until the next thing comes.

Let’s rejoice in His gifts for today–they are the best ones we could have at this time.

Lift up your chin and smile at the day–God’s made it just this way, crafted it just so, just for our good and His glory.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord  in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
  be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

– Psalm 27:13-14, NIV, emphasis mine –

In the movie Fireproof, John Waller’s lyrics come through strong:

“I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait.”

We worship here, girls. While we wait. We serve, here. We give all, here.

Our Jesus, precious Savior–give us grace. Grace for this day.

Thanks to Elbambolo Bambolina and Public Domain Pictures for the lovely photo!

Wishing for more encouragement to be content in this God-given time? Check out Ann Voskamp’s post about the only true happiness we can have!