Small Steps

March 6, 2014

“The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.”         ―Eugene H. PetersonThe Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way

I love this quote. I love it because it comes from one of my favorite reading companions. And I love it because it reminds me of my ordination mentor who, like Eugene Peterson, has a holiness about him that is neither pretentious or manufactured, but comes only from having been present with Jesus long and hard and often. And I love this quote because I think it’s true. Really, really true.

One of the pieces of my journey with Jesus last year was learning there is a difference between trust and clarity. You can read about that here. This has not been an easy thing to learn, to continue to learn. It has required me to respond to life in a way that I haven’t before. It stretches me to believe not simply in the acts of God, but in the character of God. To know that whenever I am stretched to walk in a direction that doesn’t make sense in my head I need to remove all the rationales I make up and just do it.  

I recently explained to a young friend that, for me, learning to trust God has not simply been an act of sheer will. Well, sometimes it has been. But mostly, it has been God gently opening me up to the possibility that he will indeed gently lead me. I used to be so afraid of making the wrong choices. So terrified that if I picked wrong, it was all over because after all, one wrong move and life was not the best it could be. I agonized over choices, so afraid. So deeply afraid. I often see people doing this now and I hurt for them. It’s a horrible way to live.

Because when we live in such fear and anxiety, we rob ourselves of knowing the character of God. I do believe in wisdom and in making wise choices, but once we are in a place of desiring wisdom, I think trusting that God will gently lead is so important to living with him in peace. In many ways, my son has taught me this. He’s now three years old. He’s wonderful and energetic and full of the bounce and climby-ness (I just made up that word) of a preschool boy. And often this means he will take off in a particular direction forcing his dad and me to jog beside him. Because he doesn’t know where he’s going. He just goes. Usually with laughter and smile and excitement. And eventually when he must turn, his dad or I gently take him by the hand or sometimes by the head and “steer” him in the direction we want him go. He gladly turns that way and takes off again, giggly and oozing joy at the wonders of freedom and life. There’s a reason Jesus told us to become like children.

One day as I experienced this, it hit me. Hard. As though God was pulling back my obsessions with perfection and showing me how he wants to be in my life. Who he wants to be. He made clear to me that we are pursuing wise, pursuing the pleasure of God, this is what he does. He jogs beside us, gently turning us, channeling us in the way he has for us. So we can be free- full of the giggling wonder of love. My son experiences this freedom and joy simply because he trusts his dad or me will correct him in a loving and kind way, setting him free again to run, totally secure in who we are. And that’s how I’ve come know Jesus in my life.

It doesn’t always make sense to me- the new direction. It has caused me to encounter things I didn’t expect. People I wouldn’t naturally choose. But it has set me from the blinding paralysis of needing to always make the “right” choice not out of love, but out of fear.

Recently, I experienced yet again the non-sensical suggestion that I speak to someone about my son’s illness. I do not normally ask for prayer for myself. I rarely share the depths of everything that is happening in my heart or soul- even here on ordinary sacred. But my son’s struggle has been so heavy. So hard. I have felt so weak sometimes as I have labored beside him to find the healing that is making its way here. And so, it surprised me when a new friend expressed to me her longing to carry some of my burden. And it surprised me even more when I found myself sharing details of the struggle, and the ways in God spoke to me in it.

I was surprised at the depth of my sharing, the strength of her concern and the sudden confirmation of what I had dared not believe about God’s work in my son’s life. The nudge to speak to her revealed what the Spirit has been wanting me to embrace. Apparently I just needed that voice of confirmation. I am deeply grateful for this new friend’s words and presence and willingness to hold the light of Jesus out to me in a small moment.

But it is in the hesitations and the questions and the reflections that her words spoke truth to my tired soul. The willingness to walk where Jesus leads, and listen hard for his voice. The pauses that come from trying to live into trust and work toward understanding the heart of God. The ways I am learning to trust that He will walk, jog, or run beside me, letting me feel the freedom of real love, and to guide me gently so I move in the directions He wants, with the lightness of grace and joy lifting my feet. That it is not about perfectly making the perfect choice in the perfect way and at the perfect time, but about finding perfection in Him, even as He nudges me in ways I’m not sure I want to go.

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