Today, I’m staring down the barrel of yet another birthday. It comes with breathtaking inevitability and astonishing swiftness; they all do, anymore. Long gone are the days of proudly counting the months or the half-years (“I’m ten-and-a-half…and three days!”). Instead, I just wonder where the time went, if I have anything valuable to show for it.
I don’t mean to sound maudlin. It really is just a number that means very little in the grand scheme of things. But the collection of experiences, the nuggets of knowledge gained, well, those merit examination. There have been far more challenging experiences than lovely ones over the years, and even now I find myself starting over yet another time, with a completely new – and mostly unknown – set of parameters. It’s enough to make a girl cry sometimes…and it has. Oh, it has.
But it has also made me strong. It’s made me cherish – and actively seek out – beauty in its many forms. It’s cemented and deepened my faith in God in ways ease could never accomplish. It’s taught me that honest communication is the single most important ingredient in ANY relationship. And it’s shown me that the enemy of our souls uses the same tactic every single time because it WORKS, until we get wise to him and say, “No more.”
I’m talking about fear, y’all. Sometimes he throws paralyzing, heart-stopping fear at us, you know, the obvious kind. But mostly, he’s more subtle than that. Mostly, it’s fear that masquerades as “wisdom.” The refusal to open our hearts back up after being badly hurt, disguised as “protecting” ourselves – that’s fear. Convincing ourselves that we’re happy with status quo, with ordinary, with unrocked boats, when really, we just don’t want to fail – that’s fear. Finding fault in everyone we meet so we don’t have to trust them – that’s fear, too.
I get so frustrated when I see people bound up in these invisible chains, believers and non-believers alike, but especially believers. What frustrates me is not the people, but the fact that we should know better, should be able to identify this stuff, and so many of us are oblivious. Some of us are so bound that we refuse to acknowledge it when we come face to face with it.
I heard someone say once, “There are facts, and there is Truth,” and that has stuck with me ever since. We serve a God whose name IS Truth, so I began looking at the “facts” of my life against His plumb line, and I realized quickly that soooo often, the two do not mirror each other. I want the Truth above all else, and I live by that tenet, no matter how difficult the process of getting it is. That has pushed some people right out of my life, made others exceptionally angry that I wouldn’t budge, and has also brought me into relationships with the best people I know. It has taught me that my identity can only be found in Him – and He is actively engaged in showing me every day. It has encouraged me to live life in fullness and intentionality, not just endure until the sweet by and by. And most importantly, it has taught me to quickly identify when fear is setting its subtle trap, to call it out, to throw it out, and to choose the better way.
I don’t know if I would have learned all that if the first 46 years of my existence had been cushy and soft. Maybe I would have. Doesn’t matter. I’m here now. And hard years have never dulled my sense of adventure, my optimism, or my goofy appreciation for the absurd. I am more hopeful now than I ever have been, even though I have no idea what my future holds. But as I’ve said before, I know Who holds my future – and Who holds me. There is nothing to fear.
If I could have any birthday present I wanted, it would be for you to come live fearlessly alongside me – especially if you know Who holds you, too. I’d want you to embrace the excitement of knowing that there is good, good stuff ahead, one minute down the road, 40 years down it, and every point in between.
Come celebrate the Truth with me!