“When you follow the plan of God for your life, you will lose people along the way.”
My wise mentor, Julie Gorman, said those words to me. They are words I don’t like hearing but I know are true. Julie is an incredible author who writes marriage books with her husband, she is more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit than almost anyone I know. When she ran full force toward the call of God on her life to help marriages, she lost friends. Some dropped her on social media, some criticized her business plan, some left for other reasons. Julie explained to me this process helped identify who the message was for. Our church, business, writing, creative outlet, mission work, etc. – isn’t going to be for everyone. We can’t be everyone’s flavor, and that’s okay. Here’s the crossroad:
Will we let discouragement win or the will of God?
When Jesus sent the apostles to preach to the lost, he said (Matthew 10:14) “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from you feet when you leave that house or town.”
What he didn’t say was, “Focus on those who won’t listen and become so discouraged about it that you no longer have the strength to take the message to anyone else. Stay focused on those who don’t receive and neglect those who will receive.” Nope. He didn’t say it because it doesn’t work. Some people don’t want to hear it at all, and some want to hear it from a different source, and that’s okay. Our job is to keep going.
Will you faithfully show up to do what God called you to do and say what God called you to say, even when people walk away? Will you have the courage to keep focused on God and people in need? There is fertile soil somewhere, our job is to go find it.
Years ago, I wrote a book about my life. I thought, I love to write, I have an unbelievable story, a book sounds like a good idea. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I labored over the book for years. I wept over pages, dove into memories I hadn’t thought about since childhood, and my love for writing grew in the process.
Books take multiple edits and rewrites, and something unexpected and beautiful happened during the revision process. I rewrote the book again and again. Each edit was less angry than the first draft, every rewrite was a chance for a fresh perspective. I began to edit out certain words I’d written about people from my past, because I genuinely didn’t feel that way towards them any longer. It got to the point where I was no longer writing from a place of anger, hurt, or unforgiveness – I was writing from a place of compassion.
I made sample copies of the book and gave them to a few close friends who’d partnered with me on that journey. One of those dear friends came over the other day and handed me the sample book. She said, “I’m embarrassed I’ve had this so long, I can’t believe I forgot to return it to you.”
I hadn’t thought about that book in a long time. I told her I was tempted to throw it in the fire (I heard every writer feels that way about their first book which makes me feel better), but a part of why I felt that way, I explained to my friend, was that it served it’s purpose. I felt everything I needed to feel. I processed everything I needed to process. I accepted every memory, released every pain, forgave every hurt. I am free.
I have no desire to share that book with anyone, it was therapy between me and God.
I went to Georgia this past week for a conference. I sat next to a woman who became a fast friend. Kelen is a Christian counselor who also happens to be an expert in reading body language. I felt like she could see through my soul by examining the way my legs were crossed. I was a little intimidated but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pick her brilliant brain. Kelen has excelled in her profession for a long time, she said in her experience, unforgiveness is people’s problem 98% of the time.
Ninety Eight Percent.
I can’t stop thinking about that.
I don’t recall the exact words Kelen shared with me, but the imagery I walked away with was an onion. I imagined someone sitting down for counseling with Kelen, thinking they are there for an eating disorder or a family quarrel. I pictured Kelen peeling back the layers of an onion. A layer of defensiveness, a layer of insecurity, a layer of pride, a layer of anger…the layers kept getting tossed aside until she hit the core: unforgiveness.
I sat on the plane on the long flight back to California and I closed my eyes. Most people would assume I was sleeping, but I was doing important work. I was asking God if there was anything or anyone else I needed to forgive and release. I allowed God to scan my heart like a laser. Is there any remaining anger? Is there any lingering bitterness? Uproot it Lord. I don’t want any heart blockages hindering me.
A couple instances popped in my mind, things I hadn’t written about. So I did what writing that book taught me to do (in my head instead of on paper). I felt what I needed to feel. I prayed until anger took a backseat to compassion. I forgave and I released it to God. I threw away the first draft.
I walked off that plane without baggage, light and free, because the airline graciously gate checked mine for me, and because God took some junk from my heart.
Brene Brown writes; “If you own this story you get to write the ending. When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Without me even knowing it, God took my love for stories and writing and showed me how to own my own. God is sneaky like that.
I laid in bed with my husband the night I got back from Georgia. I was exhausted from traveling, he was exhausted from taking care of the kids for five days, but we couldn’t resist staying up late to talk. I told him about my new friend Kelen, my baggage-free flight and how free and light I felt. We talked about the ninety eight percent a lot. “Ninety eight percent!” I kept saying, as if the number would change if I said it with more emphasis.
“Isn’t it amazing,” my husband added, “that the very thing us humans struggle to extend to one another is the very thing Jesus came down to earth to extend to us freely?”
And now I have something else I can’t stop thinking about.
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”Ephesians 1:7
It was winter of 2004. The line on the pregnancy test was so faint that I threw it in the garbage, called my husband and told him it was a false alarm. I was a pastor’s assistant at the time, so I went back to the computer to finish up some admin work. I typed and filed and responded to emails and then, a few hours later, a thought hit me. What if a faint line is still a line?
I dug into the garbage, lifted up the instructions (now wet with coffee) and read, “Any test line visible on the pregnancy test, even a faint one, indicates a positive result.”
I still couldn’t believe it.
I gathered two coworkers, all three of us like detectives getting to the bottom of a case. We were unanimously convinced it had to be wrong. After all, the line was barely visible. We went to the store and bought one displaying the words “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant.” It seemed there wouldn’t be as much room for error there.
I stared at the word “pregnant” but still, the only thing I felt pregnant with was doubt. I hadn’t been married for a full year yet, didn’t God know I wasn’t ready? Didn’t God know I still had insecurities and fears to sort through first?
A month prior, I was helping someone with their baby. I tried to strap the little girl in her car seat, but failed. I couldn’t figure out which clip went where and which button I needed to push to get it to latch. My head sunk into my collapsed shoulders like a turtle and I shot her a look that made my ignorance on car seats more apparent. The mom came over and latched it with ease. A little later that day, I was holding the baby outside. The mom told me that I really should get a blanket and wrap it around her legs. Maybe for other people, those instances wouldn’t be a big deal. For me, they were more reasons why I felt unsure about motherhood. You don’t even know how to latch a car seat! Of course you didn’t think to wrap the baby’s legs in a blanket, your not cut out to be a mom.
I was on bed rest for most of my pregnancy and Netflix didn’t exist then, unfortunately. My husband brushed up on his cooking skills and friends from church brought me magazines and books to keep me occupied. But mostly, I laid in bed afraid.
One night, Brandon and I sat in each others arms while he rubbed my ballooning belly.
“What if I’m a bad mom?” I bursted out.
The words came out of my mouth before I had time to process them. I went on to explain that my mom wasn’t the best example and I didn’t know who to turn to for advice.
Brandon formed his words deliberately as if he wanted me to never forget them.
“Mel, you are not just going to be a good mom, you are going to be an incredible mom. It doesn’t matter what kind of example you had, you have the Lord now. He is the best example of a loving parent. You can learn from Him. Mel, you are an amazing individual and I never question your capabilities as a mother. Never.”
Throughout the remainder of the pregnancy I held onto my husband’s words like an anchor, along with scriptures like Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The fears still came, but Brandon’s words gave me a weapon to fight with. “But I have the Lord” was a powerful comeback to satan’s lies.
You don’t know how to be a mom.
“But I have the Lord.”
Your mom didn’t know what she was doing and you don’t either.
“But I have the Lord.”
You have so much to learn. You’ll always be behind.
“But I have the Lord.”
The voice of truth sometimes seemed like a whisper compared to the enemy’s shouts, but somehow that generic brand pregnancy test brought a comforting thought: A faint line is still a line and a faint truth is still a truth.
That was the season when I learned how to echo the whispers of God in the midst of the enemy’s shouts. The more I echoed God’s whispers of truth, the more muffled and incoherent my fears became. What is that, devil? I’m going to make a terrible what? I can’t seem to hear you amidst the echo of God’s truth, so pure and so good.
I’m glad doubt made an appearance in my life twelve years ago. That season led me to answers about my faith, about myself and about my future that became more certain and resolved than ever before. I’ve learned even tiny doubts that remain in hiding, can cast monumental and intimidating shadows. The best thing is to pull back the curtain. Most of the time, what we find, is that the source of the grizzly bear shadow of doubt is the equivalent of a paper doll glued to a popsicle stick. Doubts and fears are flimsy and unreliable, but they sure know how to puff themselves up and yell like bullies. Even in moments when the truth feels as faint as the line on that pregnancy test, I know now that a faint line is still a line and a faint truth is still a truth.
And guess what? It turns out I kick-butt at the whole mom thing.