A friend private messaged me a couple of weeks ago and at the end of her message she said, “I’d love to hear how you are really doing!”
How many times do we ask people “how are you?” and just carry on without listening for a response? I think overall we really don’t want to take the time to hear how other people are – we are so busy with our own lives and our own agendas. We ask that question nonchalantly, almost as if to say “hello” and we continue on with our day walking around wearing a mask that matches the hat we are currently wearing.
Often times when I ask someone how they’re doing and they give the typical pat answer “I’m good”, “Fine” or “Being blessed!”, I will say “How are you really doing?” That question usually causes the person pause. Something about that word “really” changes that question.
That word sets up a safe zone for that person to take off their mask and be real.
So when my friend Cindy said “I’d love to hear how you are really doing!”, it made me pause. In fact, it made me not respond at all. Until now.
So I’m going to ask for a safe zone so I can take off my mask and answer this question for Cindy, and anyone else who wants to know how I’m really doing.
Really…I’VE BEEN DYING.
And if I’m going to be completely transparent, I’ll let you in that I’ve been ill for about a year. I’ll share more about my illness in a few paragraphs, but let me share how I got sick to begin with.
If you follow my Facebook or are in my life at all, you may know a common theme for me is busy, busy, busy. With 5 kids and many commitments, I always seem to be on the go. When I was in high school and for many years thereafter, my mom used to tell me that I need to get my priorities straight. It used to rile up such anger inside of me. Even this past week, I had a sense she was going to say that and I could feel my heart start to race. Thankfully, she didn’t. She’s gotten wiser in her age. *snicker*
I had always thought that because her interests were different than mine, she didn’t understand and shouldn’t have been judging me. It’s my life and I’ll live it the way I want, thank you very much.
Well, mark this day down, the first time I’ve ever put it in writing…MY MOM WAS RIGHT.
When Jesus took me out of my addiction in 2010, I was completely surrendered to His work and the AA program He led me to. I joke that I didn’t even use the bathroom without consulting with God or calling my AA sponsor because I knew my thinker was broke.
When I started to work with my sponsor, spreading myself thin was an under exaggeration of how I lived. I was just one person, and while God had plans for me, those plans weren’t all the same plans I had for myself. In taking on burdens that weren’t mine to take on, I was giving myself a God-like complex. Surely the world would still go on if I wasn’t the one making it all happen, wouldn’t it?
At that time, my sponsor had me write down all the commitments I had on a sheet of paper and she helped me to prioritize it. That was an ugly task. Many of the things on my list had to go. Then, when I wanted to take on something new, I had to decide which of the other tasks were going to have to go to make room for the new commitment.
Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of this. And I lost sight of wholehearted, completely surrendered living. I thanked God for his help and then I did parts of my life in my own strength.
That thinking – broken thinking – has led me to back step. And when we step back, we begin to die. Because, either we are growing or we are dying. And growing in some areas does not offset dying in others. Death doesn’t just occur in one part of our body, it happens to our whole being.
I don’t know how my dying started exactly, but little by little it has continued to infect me.
Over the last five years, I have faced many obstacles and much transformation. From being the victim of rape, to divorce, alcoholism, surrender, sobreity, marriage and blending families. My homes have changed. My jobs have changed. And has I’ve read the bible each day, my entire outlook on life has changed. I am a completely different person than I was five years ago, and if you knew me then and we’re still friends, I’m sure you just said “Praise God for that!” Don’t worry, I would say it with you in unison.
But I’m not where I want to be.
I am still struggling. I am still seeking serenity. I am still at odds with my flesh. Constantly. Continuously. Without rest.
My strength to do the parts of life I’ve tried to live on my own is worn and I’ve needed to surrender because I need to grow again.
That sounds so odd to me. “Surrender” so I can grow.
It’s amazing what happens when I stop trying to control the things I cannot control anyway.
So what does all of this mean?
I’m not completely certain what it looks like, but I’m finally going to take my mama’s advice and prioritize my life. I’m going to say “no” more than I say yes to for awhile. And I’m going to use that “extra” time to focus on God.
When you’re a new Christian, it’s easy to know what to say “yes” and “no” to. We gauge our decisions based on what’s right and what’s wrong. But as we grow and the opportunities become greater, figuring out which things to say “yes” to and which to decline are a bit more difficult. Right and wrong aren’t in conflict any longer. Good and better opportunities lie in conflict.
So for now, I’m going to finish out my current commitments and continue to work on my ministry: reading, writing and speaking, because those are the things that will continue to take me to where God is leading me. And I’m going to gauge my “yes” decisions based on the good and better opportunity conflict.
I’m going to continue my current commitments, but as they start drop off, you may see less of me in a leadership role for awhile. Less of me in the public eye serving. Instead I will be doing much soul searching. It’s not going to be easy. Life transformation hurts. It will mean tears and pain as God continues to refine me. But for me to be healthy for ministry and God’s people, it’s essential I remain healthy.
Last night, after writing this blog I went to the Third Day/Skillet/Mandisa/Brandon Heath concert. I tried to avoid any contact with anyone I knew, opting to sit in the nosebleeds with my husband. Writing this blog, sharing my heart was very difficult and I was a bit emotional. I was…right where God wanted me so He could have all of my attention. During the concert, Mandisa sang her Grammy award winning song “Overcomer” and then reaffirmed that God is not finished with me yet. She shared 1 Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
(Photo: I didn’t need to see Mandisa to hear what God was saying to me – He’s not finished with me yet!)
So to Cindy, and anyone else who wants to know how I’m really doing, I WAS DYING BUT I’VE SURRENDERED WHOLEHEARTEDLY AND I’M READY TO START LIVING AGAIN.
I’d love to hear how you’re doing. How you’re really doing. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me!