It’s like breathing deeper. Or flying. Or laughing for a long time.
This new sense of freedom.
Crazy how the layer must peel away.
And in each new layer of freedom how the heart soars.
How I think I’ve arrived.
Only to find out weeks or years or months later that there’s a deeper level not yet lived out.
Last year it was in my body.
In my thirties it was in my mind, emotions, and spirit.
Yesterday it was a paradigm shift again, but more than that it was a very real change in how I do life.
Here’s the thing. Until my thirties much of my effort was centered around being good. I wanted to be good for God. To do it all right. As I’ve written before, that almost destroyed me, that crazy realm of perfectionism. And in one of those oh so sweet moments amazing moments, the God of the Universe chose to whisper to me, “Paula, all your life you’ve tried to be good. Get to know me, and I will make you good.”
And thus began the journey of letting go of the self-pressure to perform and clinging to the promise that the God who created me would complete His work in me and make me something better than I was.
At that time I remember thinking that life was really just about surrendering to the One. Moving when He directed. Instead of a myriad of rules I couldn’t keep straight, figure out, or live up to, there was one guiding word in my life: surrender.
And here I sit, about ten years later realizing that there was another layer of performance that had not yet been cleaned out. And that there have been times I’ve been paralyzed by it.
See, when life was about following the rules, there was a lot of pressure to do it right. When life became about following the Spirit, I wanted to do it right.
Somewhere in these last ten years I slipped back into the old rut of striving with a new face called living out God’s will.
Don’t get me wrong. I still want to live in God’s will.
Hang in here with me so I can explain.
Sometimes I’ve gotten so stressed about my ability to hear God or discern His will that I was held back in fear that I hadn’t heard correctly. Here’s an example:
Last fall my fabulous agent and I made the decision for me to focus a few years on writing category romance. It’s not the great American novel, nor it is the life-changing non-fiction work I dream of writing, but it is a genre I can write in the chaos of having children at home (or launching into the next stage, which frankly is way more momma work that I ever dreamed). It’s also a genre where I’ve been traditionally published and won some recognition.
So last fall I wrote a romance.
For the first half of the book I fought myself constantly. Somewhere deep inside I wondered if I was in God’s will. There had been a direction in my heart, wisdom in counsel, but not one of the rare, audible stamps of approval from Him. I doubted my decision, which made writing unnecessarily difficult. About half way through the story I began to see the unmistakable fingerprints of God flowing in the threads of my story, and my heart was at rest. Unfortunately I spent way too much energy on second-guessing myself before I finally came to grips that I was okay, and God was fine with my choice.
The last month or so I’ve been meandering through a book by Graham Cooke. I read a bit at night, pink highlighter in hand, and wonder if I’m retaining the concepts as I fall asleep. Over the last year I’ve also been memorizing the 14th chapter of John in the Bible, wondering if those deep magnificent concepts could somehow go even deeper than my cognitive understanding and change me. Wondering. Not knowing if I was learning or changing or growing or not.
But God is faithful to change us even when we don’t know we’re being changed. HE never stops working in us, even when we don’t know it is happening. Evidently my Spirit and His were processing when I didn’t even realize it because yesterday it all came together for me, and suddenly I felt it–that breathless, wonderful, want-to-laugh-out-loud-in-joy sense of new-found freedom.
It wasn’t even very different from how I’ve been striving to live, it just took out the striving, which is really what living with and for and in Jesus is all about, right?
Peace. Rest. Confidence. Joy!
Here’s the bright and brilliant and breath-taking truth: I am freed for forward movement.
Here’s what I mean. My focus, my “job,” my only real goal in this walk with God is (or should be) getting to know Him. Growing in intimacy.
But I’ve spent way too much time focused on getting guidance, on what I’m supposed to DO instead of who I am in and with HIM and who HE is in and with me and who we are together.
Relationship. Beautiful, glorious, breath-taking relationship.
The kind where you enjoy life together. You talk about stuff. You laugh and celebrate and sometimes cry together. You simply BE in oneness.
See, when I am focused on relationship I’m not striving to figure out how to live life, I’m simply living it! Moving forward as I feel in my heart I am to move. Always pliable, surrendering to His nudges, but not striving to know His will, not struggling with decisions, not paralyzed by fear I might have misheard or made a wrong choice.
Just moving–walking, leaping, dancing, running, whatever the mood of the task or moment–forward.
I can trust that when the God wants to redirect or draw my attention to something I haven’t yet discovered, He will. Jesus said His sheep know His voice, and God told the prophet Isaiah, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
I can trust my God to lead me. I can trust myself to know His Voice (and HIM to straighten me out if I miss it). I’m a grown-up and free to walk forward directed by who I am and who HE is in me. God doesn’t want to micro-manage me. He doesn’t want me to be afraid of every little misstep.
He wants me FREE and in motion!
The wonder of that–the joy of moving forward without constant questioning and too much striving to be sure I take perfect steps–makes me want to run forward and be brave and do new things and be comfortable with the old things I’m already doing.
And I have. But I’ll save that story for tomorrow.
May freedom fill your heart too,