I’m not a how-to girl, but I used to be.
You know the books or blog posts that boast 12 Easy Steps to a Happy Life. I used to devour them like an addict, but now I know better. Reading them is like attempting to satisfy a parched soul one tiny drip from the faucet at a time. No matter how wide you hold your mouth, how far you turn the knob on the faucet, one drop of wisdom to cover an entire lifetime of wading in the deep end of an empty pool leaves you feeling unsatisfied.
God determines the flow from the faucet and sometimes he kinks the hose. We don’t arrive at a steady stream of wholeness without working for it.
Shrinking life down to a simple list tricks us into thinking we can attain happiness and fulfillment by avoiding places, people and circumstances that make us feel uncomfortable. That’s why I’m not a how-to girl. That has never worked for me.
The first time I picked up Codependent No More and read it, I approached it as a manual to be conquered. I assumed if I followed all the wisdom and advice, I’d be free from the co-dependent nature I inherited from living with an alcoholic parent. In truth, I wanted a quick fix to avoid the shame of being emotionally unhealthy. Or more honest, I didn’t want to be perceived as less than perfect.
While the words in the book made a life-altering impact, I didn’t get healthy by following quick and easy steps. I worked through the pain of dysfunction by admitting it in relationships, forgiving myself and changing behavior one day at a time.
The same way I didn’t learn how to be a parent by highlighting What to Expect When Expecting. I learned how to love and care for my children by being an imperfect mother who often works at forgiving herself and practicing the uncomfortable posture of surrender.
As a seasoned leader (I could have said mature but that sounds old) familiar with the joy and pain of following hard after Christ, I’ve experienced this in giving prophetic words to people. Once the joy and adulation of what resonates is experienced, uneasiness and disappointment quickly ensues. We expect outcomes, definitions and specifics; how-to steps, not hints that God is listening to our prayers and heart surrender.
On some days, I can trick myself into thinking if I follow sage advice about blogging and writing, I will one day arrive on the golden shores of success. But I know better.
God is a personality we experience, not an ideal to be attained by following specific steps and short cuts. He gives breath and orders life, unfolding mystery in exchange for our perseverance. Because He loves us that much.
Salvation is often worked out by failing so we can understand how to succeed.
“Salvation is often worked out by failing so we can understand how to succeed.”
Oh my, Shelly…this captures my week so well. And your honesty about wanting to avoid “the shame of being emotionally unhealthy” really hit home, too. I know that shame. Thank you for reminding me that the path out of it can be painful but beautiful, too, because God is there.
So nice to see you here Patricia, glad my writing resonated with you. Grateful really.
It’s funny where the words of Life hit you sometimes. One place for me recently was in a movie theater watching a children’s movie. (go figure) These words hit my ears and I knew they were for me:
“The cup you are seeking to fill has no bottom.”
I think what you are saying is so true. When we seek answers to fill us, we will find the cup is always needing more. But when we understand God as beyond the best answer man can give – THEN perhaps we’ve begun to grasp the hem of His garment. And somehow it’s enough.
I think God’s answer to most of my questions is, “wait.” That usually isn’t what I, or anyone for that matter, wants to hear. But the waiting is often where the transformation takes place before you get where you are going, at least for me anyway. If we take short-cuts we cheat ourselves of the gift.
Information in and of itself cannot either satisfy or transform.
The beauty of your words, Shelly, mirrors where we live and move and have our being – it is when we are ‘with’ God and taste that we belong instead of merely acquiring information ‘about’ God.
I struggle with this often as a voracious reader. I want to eat books but they never fully satiate my appetite, ya know? His presence is like nothing else.
Yes and amen, friend.
hmmm true. I’ve often been challenged about my strong desire to ‘be comfortable.’ I’m not sure comfort is what God has called us too. Thanks!