When I chose Anything for my online summer Bible study, I already had an idea of what my “anything” was and, in spite of the fact that I didn’t want to face it, the timing was too appropriate to ignore it. Without hesitation, I registered, ordered the book, and dug in. In just the first few weeks, I have wrestled, cried, talked to God about my anger, reluctance and fears, cried some more, and my heart is still not fully open to what God is calling me to in this season of my life. When I’m thinking rightly, I am certain that God knows what is best for me, and because I love Him, I want to obey joyfully out of that love. Right now, I honestly don’t feel like I can. I am hoping this study will help change my heart. I am praying earnestly for that.
On December 23, 2014, after having been gone for almost eleven years, I was forced to move back to my hometown. I moved away after an abusive upbringing and then a problematic marriage and painful divorce. I vowed never to return. Very few people make it out of St Joe, and so I took pride in the fact that I had made a life for myself in a few different places, including Arkansas and Florida. I was happy that I wasn’t “one of them.” However, after a failed attempt at teaching abroad due to visa issues, being detained in a middle eastern country because of those problems, and having to come up with several thousands of dollars to remedy the situation, I needed somewhere to go once all was said and done. My hometown was my only option, and so here I am—the last place on earth I want to be, with next to nothing. If I was brave enough, and if I could really say it in my heart and mean it, my prayer would be, “God, I will do anything—even if that means staying here in St Joe.”
I chuckled to myself at the references to “a safe comfortable life” throughout this study. I am more than likely different from others in this study in that I am 43, not married, have no children, or a family support system of any kind. I tease my friends and say that I’m not even a good cat lady because I don’t even have any cats 😉 My idea of a safe comfortable life IS going off to some foreign country, saying yes to something big for God—in fact, that is my desire. I like risk, adventure, and new experiences. What scares me to death is the idea of spending the rest of my life—or even the next year—in this place with so many horrid memories and such a feeling of loneliness. I am so different from everyone here. I feel like a freak. The thought of this place being my “anything” makes me feel suffocated. But, I also believe that God has orchestrated circumstances, especially of late, to put me in a position where I have no choice but to surrender my will to Him. I gave my heart to Christ over thirteen years ago, and I still can’t believe how tightly I grip what I want instead of what He desires.
As Jennie has taught on unbelief, pretending, and shame, and then approval and entitlement, I am beginning to uncover the reasons for my inability and refusal to surrender my whole life to God. While I’m pretty much an open book and couldn’t fake anything if I tried, I do see roots of unbelief and shame in my unwillingness to accept living an ordinary life in the town I grew up in and was a wife in for eleven years. I am ashamed of who I was before I became a Christian, and that is how most people here remember me. I am ashamed of the poor, dysfunctional family I came from, and sometimes even ashamed of the fact that since I chose to sever ties with them twenty-one years ago for the sake of my mental and spiritual health, I don’t have a family at all. I am ashamed of how I did not stand up for myself more in the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and how I tried to protect my ex-husband instead of myself. For those reasons, and many more, it is humiliating to be here. Jennie was right when she wrote, “There is something to humility that is costly.” Costly hurts. However, my inability to shed my shame indicates that I don’t functionally believe the truth about God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I suspect that, until I can internalize and live out gospel truths in a place that is so dark for me, I will not fully know its power in my life, and therefore, I won’t be truly free. Am I going to believe the lies that flood in here in this place full of wounds and heartache, or am I going to resist the fiery darts of the enemy and stand firm believing that what God says is true and what His Word says is true? Can I do that, even here?
I have learned this past week that approval and entitlement are also at play. There is something in me that feels this need to do more, be more, because just being a normal me doesn’t measure up—not necessarily to God or anyone else, but in my own eyes. And affirmations of that burden I place on myself are everywhere here. They are in the tapes in my head of my father telling me all of the bad things I am, and all of the good things I am not; they are in the words of others who, when they realize who my ex-husband is, tell me what a great guy he is. What’s more, I am painfully aware of the lost potential in my life having grown up in the family that I did. This place reminds me of the person I could have been, but am not. If I feel any sense of entitlement in my life, it’s that I have a right to that wasted potential…I have a right to the support and encouragement that everyone else got. This causes me to shake my fist in the face of God, and that’s an ugly, ugly thing. I sat and cried the morning that I read Jeremiah 18:5-6 in our study, and could almost hear God say, “Can I not do with you as this potter has done?” Of course He can. I just have to allow myself to be the clay in His hands. I have to trade my “entitlement for surrender.”
My story isn’t one of a beautiful surrender. It is an ordinary story, and for that reason I almost didn’t share it. Again, I don’t like to be ordinary. But this isn’t about me, it’s about my God and what He wants to do in me and through me—if I will say “yes” to the anything. This isn’t beautiful at all right now. It’s ugly, messy, and it’s lonely. And honestly, I hate it. But perhaps, as a result of this study and how the Spirit is working through it and in me, it will be beautiful down the road. After all, how could it not, if it points to Jesus?