Finally! After months of some ugly dancing to the new music of my life, I finally feel as if I have regained my rhythm; just living the thing with smoother, more fluid movements from one step to the next.
Exactly four months ago I started a new job which required moving at warp speed on a learning curve of science, public health, politics, law, and the exercise of communication and management skills that have lain dormant for years. It has been pretty heady, exciting stuff, and the true Lord of the dance, has been infinitely gracious and patient with me.
Everything in my Communication training says I should only share three things I have learned during my brief hiatus from “Just Living The Thing”, so of course I want to share four!
Number one: Sometimes the plan may not be ‘The Plan’.
It is not easy to hear God in the middle of the noise and clamoring of daily life, and when you deliberately tune your heart and mind to listen, the thing He requires you to do may have you busting out a, “Get thee behind me satan”, in response to specific direction from God.
Even after you know it is Him, then the true state of your heart towards God is fully exposed in the glaring light of your decision to obey, or disobey and deliberately follow your own desires, motives and values.
But let’s say you choose determined obedience, even in the face of fear, it is so easy to begin to move three or four steps ahead of God, when you presume you now know and understand ‘The Plan’. Or, you can find yourself completely bewildered and frustrated when the plan you thought was being executed is not ‘The Plan’ at all.
I was so sure I knew ‘The Plan; I would finish my book, publishers would be falling all over themselves to get it to print, and I would be launched into a new career, writing and teaching all over the globe. Not the immediate plan at all!
As a new sense of failure crept in, and some people were almost mocking, I learned that there is an even more advanced test of the state of my heart towards God; how do I respond when I discover that the plan I believe God has for me, may not be ‘The Plan’ at all.
Judas Iscariot failed this ‘state of the heart’ test in spectacular fashion, as I discovered writing a small part of a Bible study for the women’s ministry at my church this summer. Coincidence? I think not!
When it became clear that Jesus had no intention of immediately ascending to the throne of David by capitalizing on His power to perform miracles and His overwhelming popularity with the people, Judas’ heart response was to manipulate the situation; to try to force Jesus to use His power to save Himself from death. However, dying on a Roman cross as a perfect sacrifice to redeem and save His beloved human race from the consequence of sin WAS THE PLAN! Lesson learned!
Number two: Father does know best!
Somewhere in my life the lie got into my heart and head that God would not do what is the very best for me; that secretly, He really does not like me as much as He likes other, more spiritual people, and that living the life He planned for me would make me miserable.
Even though I now know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that is a lie from the pit of hell, every now and then it will raise its ugly head again. Interestingly, that only seems to happen when life is not going the way I want it to, and I try to butt heads with God about it. Hmmmmmm. Coincidence? I think not!
It was so obvious that God opened the door for me to my new job that only neon signs and a note signed by God, delivered by the angel Gabriel could have made it any clearer. Nevertheless, as I walked into a non-Christian work environment for the first time in 30 years, I had to wonder what in the world God was thinking.
Surprise, surprise! In all my working years I have NEVER felt more affirmed, more empowered, or more fulfilled, even when I am dog-tired after a long but completely rewarding day. Yet for too long I kept waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’, for ‘the honeymoon to be over’, for ‘reality to set in’, instead of simply enjoying what God had provided, for however long He provides it. Another lesson learned!
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
Number three: Changing is not the hardest part of changing.
When God lovingly confronts you to change some unhealthy pattern of behavior, actually making the change to a new way of thinking and conducting yourself is not the hardest part of the process.
The hardest part of implementing necessary change is dealing with relationships that you may not have realized were fueled by your inherently unhealthy behavior patterns and now those relationships also need to change, or they will die.
Facebook for me is just a tool; a way to maintain (almost) real-time contact with friends I already have, some from my childhood growing up in Jamaica, who are now scattered all over the globe, and Texas! J (Still love you Juds!) Facebook has never been a gauge or measure of my value, popularity, or the nature and quality of my friendships.
But while the music of my life has been changing I have been ‘unfriended’ on Facebook… twice! Each time I was truly surprised that my heart reacted just as my body would if I accidentally stepped on what we in Jamaica call ‘mackah’ (a thorn); there was a little surprise, some pain from the hurt, and quite a bit of irritation, especially when I hear ‘through the grapevine’ things that are being said about me by people who should know me better. I hate grapevines!
It is never an easy thing for me to not defend myself, guns a-blazing, but instead to simply stay focused and true to the work God is doing and let the chips fall where they may. What I have found in restraint is inexplicable peace, and undeniable freedom in trusting God to finish what He has begun, to a good, and perfectly complete end.
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
And finally, number four: Prayers prayed in parking lots can be pretty powerful!
Yesterday one of my young friends got married. She was as beautiful a bride on the outside as she is a beautiful person inside, and her handsome groom had passed, with flying colors, the test of character and resolve by surviving a grilling (in more ways than one) dinner with her crazy Jamaican friends!
At one point in the ceremony their pastor placed a large hula hoop around the couple signifying their new life of “leaving and cleaving”; that only the two people in the circle of that hula hoop had final say in all matters related to their life in God from that day forward.
For the entire rest of the wedding, all the talk at our table was about missing, broken, repaired-patched-up-with-duct-tape hula hoops and who should not, could not or would not be allowed inside of whose hula hoops. It was hilarious, yet clearly very impacting.
But in the midst of all the hula hoop dissertations, my mind kept going back to the numerous hours the bride and I had spent in parking lots after a “five-dollar-Tuesday” movie or an equally budget-friendly baseball game, just talking about the activity, or apparent inactivity of God in our lives.
It was a safe place to vent and be totally honest about everything that was satisfying and fulfilling, every challenge, every frustration, every desperate need and every disappointment or failure. Then we would pray; deep, sincere and sometimes tear-filled prayers, accepting our realities, re-committing ourselves to continue to follow hard after God no matter what the cost, and asking, but more often begging for His intervention and help.
Watching them make their vows before God and everybody, I could not help breathing a prayer of thanks to God, that He hears, and answers prayers; even prayers prayed in parking lots. And afterwards, at the reception I could dance with great joy and abandon, celebrating the Creator of the music of my life, the Lord of my dance, the One who continually teaches me new steps, to new rhythms, all the while I am …just living the thing.