Two years ago, when I was sixteen, my family and I uprooted our lives and moved from a rural country town to the city. I've been thinking back to that lately because it was a tipping point in my life. It broke all of the shaky foundations I had been leaning on and shattered me. I don't talk about it often and I think it's because I learned too many things the hard way. I'm still emerging from, growing from, the wreck that used to be me.
Recently, I found a short-term "bucket list" of sorts that I wrote in youth group when I was fifteen, standing on the brink of that life-altering change:
1. Push yourself to do things you think you can't do
2. Blaze some new trails
3. Read the Bible more intentionally
4. Don't be afraid to be genuinely, authentically yourself
5. Stand up for yourself
6. Be artistic in different ways
7. Invest in relationships that count
8. Rest your brain! (aka- quit overanalyzing everything)
9. Invest in prayer
10. Keep laughing-keep telling stories
I couldn't have known what was ahead, yet I've grown in every one of those areas over the pat two years (and I'll expand on these in future posts). It was a process of relinquishing old ideas and misconceptions about myself, life, God and rebuilding again around my identity in Christ. It hurt. It still hurts at times.
A buildup of callous will numb feeling; moving ripped away all of what I thought were the most important pieces of myself, my identity, and constantly threw me in the face of all of my pent-up fears. I needed it. My security had been wrapped up in my friendships, my grades, my church, affirmation from others and so many other things that were not God. I knew my Bible and my theology well, but I had a shallow relationship with God. When all of my "security" disintegrated, I became an open target and fear pounced; I became incredibly insecure because I had no identity left. I became afraid of rejection, failure, honesty, close relationships; things that had been laying hidden and dormant in my life until my support system collapsed.
Fear is a strangle that steals joy and the sense of a deeper meaning in the experiences of our lives. It keeps us riding a hard edge and we could reach out and into all we have been called to experience and to be, but fear draws up a barrier. It has the ability to keep us safe in a fundamentally destructive way. What you've missed, in the end, will cheat you out of what you could have been. Change, surrender, is an avenue of faith.
It isn't easy. It's a long journey and the tearing away may leave some scars. Surrender is painful, but necessary in order to experience God fully in your life. I'm still walking my own journey and sometimes old fears creep up to confront me, but I'm more grounded now, rooted in faith. I can't stress enough the impact and importance of prayer and surrender during that time, and always. Praying through the fire, keeping eyes locked on Christ, builds trust and deepens relationship. God can handle anything you have to say, anything you are struggling with. That said, don't wait until the fire to pray. Build a strong relationship with God now so your foundation will be firm. Don't allow open, unguarded loopholes for fear to crawl through.
And so, I'll end with these words, which speak better than my own:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God so when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, them, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."
Ephesians 6:10-18, NLT