You would think by the time you are fifty-ish you would know yourself pretty well. There are moments when I have brilliant clarity regarding who I am and how fearfully and wonderfully God has made me.
And then there are other moments…
These are critical moments when life’s demands seem to morph me into somewhat of a distorted version of myself. You know, that self you become when there is a need or a role no one else can fill (or so it seems)? This is when I can begin multi-tasking like nobody’s business- simultaneously gasping for air and muscling up to the task with a smile on my face. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?
Short-lived moments like this can be empowering. Consecutive years of this behavior can prove to be lethal.
A good word picture of this crazy making phenomena for me looks something like this: You get invited to a wedding, which is always the promise of new love and new life. You buy a fun new dress (am I the only one who often defaults to black?). And of course, you need a new pair of shoes to finish the outfit.
Heels that make your calves look long and curvy are just the ticket! You start your quest looking at 1.5” kitten heels because Lord knows you haven’t worn heels since you worked in an office for someone else.
Surprisingly, all the kitten heels look geriatric (my daughter is laughing and thinking to herself she could have told me that to begin with!) Before you know it you are rockin’ a pair of four inch heels that would make Sophia Vergara proud!
They are shiny, tall and hot (just like I am in my mind with them on-bahahaha)! You are sure that breaking them in in the privacy of your own home will solve that slight bit of discomfort. Negotiating the carpet in your home proves to be no big deal and once your toes go numb you are able to smile and make nice conversation. Dancing may require an adult beverage or two, but you look good! Maybe a little unsteady, but good.
Am I the only one who does this?
Imagine that you have been tricked. There is no wedding. This is your life and these are your (stupid) shoes- tall and hot. There is no kicking them off on the dance floor and no adult beverage can bring your numb toes back to happy.
This, my friend, is when the wrong pair of shoes can make you sick.
This is how I ended up 18 months sick with shingles. I wasn’t really tricked, but I thought I could muscle through the discomfort of a business decision in which I accepted a role that made my toes go numb.
Before I knew it, that numbness had crept up my legs into my chest and left me gasping for air and muscling up to the task at hand. Joyless and going through the motions in order to make things work became my everyday routine for several years running. Lethal.
The good news is that sooner or later you can no longer stay upright when your feet, legs and heart are numb. Good news? Yeah, really.
Let me give it to you straight, dear friend, neither you nor I are meant to be someone other than who we were created to be. Neither you nor I were created to live with hearts that are numb and just going through the motions.
Does life sometimes require us to muscle up to the task for a short season in order to get a job done? Absolutely.
Does God expect us to just suck it up and accept that as our lot in life? Absolutely NOT.
From where I sit today, I can identify the factors that landed me on my couch with a ragged, sick body and a numb heart. (By the way, I highly recommend taking off the wrong pair of shoes before getting to this point!)
The crazy thing is I can honestly say that being that burned out and low was a holy invitation into deep abiding friendship with Jesus. I discovered friendship with you and me is what He really wants. Let me repeat that, deep abiding friendship is His heart’s desire, NOT a joyless woman trying to do good things for Him in uncomfortable shoes who can no longer dance without the aid of an adult beverage (or two).
It is not to say that I had not been communing with the Lord during the six years of struggle. Pressing deeper than ever before into His word and into His love was how I survived. Learning to be grateful even when things continued to be harder than hard brought life to my weary bones. Choosing to have faith in His character rather than giving into the fear that made my chest tighten became a bit easier with all of the practice I got!
But at a certain point, I think God says, “That is enough. I never meant for you to wear those shoes this long. They don’t fit well enough to dance in and you certainly don’t need another adult beverage!” And then my body said, “No mas, Sista. Sophia Vergara probably has numb feet, too! (she just gets paid a lot more for wearing those stilts!)”
When I got out of those tall, hot (stupid) shoes, I entered into the most amazing journey of asking God to give me a new pair – a pair He custom made just for me.
But I had to wait and dig deep and rest (resting- something I was unaccustomed to). I had to wait for the feeling to return to my toes, my legs and my heart. I’m not going to lie- there was some pain involved in the process (think pain when your cold numb toes heat up again).
As life creeps back into numb places, acknowledging your failure and honoring yourself for doing your best even though the outcome was so much less than you hoped for is a painful process.
Acknowledging your disappointment, grieving your losses, laying down things that gave you a false sense of security and forgiving those who hurt you in the process are all painful parts of getting rid of the numb and allowing life to make its way back into your heart.
Honoring your best intentions and valiant efforts, forgiving yourself where you mis-stepped and mis-judged and hurt people, taking the time to learn from your story and asking God himself to make beauty out of the ashes are all divine gifts. In fact, this place of brokenness may be the holy place where your suffering, your hard, becomes the very thing that makes you a more lovely reflection of His grace and loving kindness bringing you back to a fuller life than you ever had before.
I lost many of the things that at one time made me feel significant and secure and successful, but in the process I gained divine gifts that can never be taken from me- like being able to rest, really rest, in knowing I am the beloved of God and learning to live, really live, a much more free and full life.
And as an added bonus, I have a new sweet pair of custom made shoes that I can do some serious dancing in!
They found grace in the desert, these people who survived…out looking for a place to rest, (they) met God out looking for them! God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love! And so now, I’ll start over with you and build you up again…You’ll resume your singing, grabbing tambourines and joining the dance.” Jeremiah 31:3-5 MSG
Is there a place in your heart, a role you’ve taken on, a relationship in your life where you long to have life over numbness?