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.