He has made everything beautiful in its time.
I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer —
“Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?”
I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation.
It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch.
Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible.
I’ve hated it.
But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose.
Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.
And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes.
Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me.
It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me.
What . . . you, too?
It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing.
Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)
Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching:
- The temptation to teach more than we know.
- The capacity to mislead.
- The capacity to be misled.
- The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions.
And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer.
It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers.
Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit: Writing a book hasn’t been my life-long dream, and yet, I’ve felt pressure to “publish or perish.”
I feel like I’m supposed to write a book by this stage in the game; it has been jarring when readers or friends have questioned why I haven’t. Truth be told, I have a list of working titles, projects that are important to me, ideas with value and substance that I haven’t been able to let go, and yet . . .
I’ve known the interior of my heart, and it’s been all wonky, a glory hog; and sweet sisters, we aren’t made for glory. We’re designed to give glory to the One who made us.
So years ago, in the fourth week of Beth’s James Bible study, piggy-backing on almost 10 years of There you are!-ing, a veil was lifted.
I realized three important things:
1. The check in my heart was telling me something important (or trying to).
It is essential to be honest about your motives when you say yes to opportunity or commit to a project. Are you following the Lord’s leading or are you barreling ahead and hoping He’ll bless you after the fact? Are you serving yourself or the greater good? Is it about you or others?
There’s a part of me that would like to one day write a book, but until it’s for only the right reasons, I’m finding contentment and affirmation in this season. What I couldn’t see in the past that is clear to me now is how God was accomplishing an interior work in my heart. He was answering prayer in ways I hadn’t anticipated or wanted, but in ways that undeniably matured my faith.
2. There is a time.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture because it speaks so strongly to the human condition. For everything there is a season . . . Such beautiful wisdom. I don’t know what your hopes or dreams are. I don’t know your stage of life or your frustrating or heartbreaking circumstances. But I do know that everything is working together for good, for your good and God’s glory. The roughest seasons of my life have taught me the most; the double beauty is they are not wasted. That, my friends, is redemptive purpose.
3. Not now doesn’t mean not ever.
Say it again, out loud. Not now doesn’t mean not ever. Each season of life brings with it its own set of demands and concerns unique for that season. The “urgent tyrannies” that tug and tax a young mom gradually fade until silenced. The role of shuttle driver doesn’t last forever. The onslaught of change at mid-life eventually settles.
You might be in the midst of a season of personal sacrifice, called to give up what you would love to do, in order to love and serve well those around you. Of this, I’m sure: your interests and your passions will likely evolve over time, and what is The Most Important Thing to you today won’t be next year. What you want to do and can’t now, may not be what you want to do but can in the future.
If doors are remaining closed, or you’re running into obstacles when you’re longing for opportunities, I’m convinced that God is at work if you’re seeking Him. Maybe what you think you want is the farthest thing from what Christ knows you need.
While I don’t know the inner battles you’re fighting, I have a hunch you can always use reminding of who you are and Whose you are, and you, sweet Lovie, have something incredible to offer, in time and in season.
You are one of a kind,
known before time,
and loved without condition.
Is there something you haven’t been able to let go? A long-buried dream? I’d love to hear if you’re willing to tell.