My morning alarm is the notification from a popular Bible app with the Verse of The Day. Interestingly enough, no matter what I read in the Bible each morning, it’s the daily verse that sticks with me throughout the day.
A recent verse not only stuck with me, it pricked and jabbed:
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
This is such a great verse, right!? Paul’s words remind and encourage us to prize our lives in proportion to …..
Wait a doggone minute! Let me get real here. Paul’s words upended me and I wanted to un-hear them, at least until I was more settled in my most recent endeavors.
You see, for the past couple of weeks, I have been attempting to resuscitate a dream that I keep starving of oxygen. Not intentionally, mind you. I’m embarrassed to admit it but I’ve been giving this thing periodic CPR for a few decades now.
All over social media there are Anns and Lisas and Beths and Joannas whose words and lives and accomplishments say in one form or another: Believe in your gift and your calling…Step out…Fulfill your destiny and purpose…Don’t let fear silence you…Trust your voice. Say Yes!,
I’ll have what she’s having, please!
Now and then I’ll get invited to write. I’ll get inspired by a friend’s new publication. I’ll get encouraged when out of the blue some random person lands on my blog and comments on how much they love my writing. I get motived by some meme or some testimony or someone’s book launch. Sometimes guilt drives me, guilt for not doing anything significant with my “one life” so, I run back to breathe life into it again!
I gather resources.
I dedicate space and spend too much time decorating it.
I make a plan.
I have conversations.
I dream out loud.
And then, I start writing…again.
But I do it scared because my story is scary and my self-image has a lot of holes in it.
It’s incredibly difficult, with my particular flavor of mental illness, to see myself as valid. It has always been easier for me to find merit and value in others’ dreams; still more comfortable to get behind them in real time. It makes me feel good to help but when the opportunity is over, I don’t feel valid again until someone needs me.
I’ve recently said to a couple of close friends regarding my, until now, illusive writing and publishing dreams: This is like my last round of invitro, if it doesn’t take this time, it’s over. I say it with humor but I’m not really laughing.
So I’ve been piping a little air in the lungs of my dream. I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay to say yes to me…that God did give me a gift…that He has called me to this. I even poured out some pretty vulnerable confessions to my husband in the process of my processing:
I just want all this suffering and hard work; the things I’ve been through and learned from to help others. And, really, something lovely that I could construct from all the rubble, a monument that says something more than At least we all survived.
One of my difficulties is accepting things as both/and. I am plagued with black-and-white-all-or-nothing thinking. I have to work to keep it in check.
And that’s why Pauls words shook my crash cart. I heard him say: Hey look, your life doesn’t really matter…don’t look at it as having any value other than to carry out God’s will. So how can my life and my dream to matter in this life sit in harmony with Paul’s conclusion?
I wanted to pull the plug again. Yes, just that quick, because in a more profound place, in the layers beneath my jumbled thoughts, cognitive challenges, and my gossamer-thin identity this is what I heard Paul say:
You’ve never mattered that much. You didn’t matter then and you don’t matter now. Your story isn’t that significant.
Are you a little surprised by my transparency?
You see, the only thing that gives my life meaning and legitimizes my dream of communicating is helping someone else along the way. If what I experience can be relatable and encouraging, then I’m going to risk vulnerability; I’m going to be an open book. I’m going to pull the lid off.
It’s not always easy to navigate the paradoxes and juxtapositions in life or in God’s word, with or without impairment. It’s hard to see where the thread is being woven into the tapestry of our calling and our purpose.
Lies always seem louder than the truth and confusion always robs us of direction.
You and me–our callings may not seem as crystal clear as Paul’s. It’s certain they aren’t as pivotal. Our dreams may seem like child’s play against the backdrop of the cross of Christ. But, please, if you don’t hear anything else in this glob of syllables, hear this:
Living as a testament to the gospel of the grace of God is unquestionably our calling. The good news is, we are legitimately allowed, invited even, to live our beautiful lives and unique dreams to achieve this–for the glory of God.
I came pretty close to walking out of the proverbial fertility clinic today, allowing Paul’s experience to eclipse mine.
Saying yes to God can include saying yes to our dreams.