I watched the counselor take notes, glancing up at me from time to time as I unloaded my life story- all the things I’d done, places I’d been, plans I had, and worries about the future. I fed her lots of information but held back my heart. I didn’t want her to know how exhausted I was, how much I ached inside, and how badly I missed our home in Asia. However, I made sure she knew all about what I’d done for 15 years serving overseas and that this Sabbatical thing wasn’t really my cup of tea.
I didn’t like being ‘sidelined’ for a season; it felt selfish to ‘rest’ and that was SO not me. I had acquiesced when the idea of a Sabbatical was proposed by my husband and our supporting fellowships, but I certainly wasn’t pumped about it. I didn’t want to leave ‘the work’, plus our kids were thriving and our marriage was doing okay. I was a flurry of activity, wrapped up in programs, projects and people, half of whom I loved, and the other half who stressed me out.
I sent emails consulting with teams, visited new mamas in the local hospital, met with local ladies to study the Bible and managed to half-heartedly homeschool my children who were also attending local school.
I saw myself in the place where I was right.
I was on track, doing good in the world, and pressing in to more than I could handle. I pushed myself to keep going. But inside, I was running on empty.
More writing on the clipboard, as I rambled on about our ministry back in Asia, and then the counselor sat upright, “Mmmhmm, I’m gonna stop you right there.”
Talk about uncomfortable. And stop me, she did.
She had me visualize myself in the throne room, running back and forth to Jesus*- bringing him friends, bringing him flowers, bringing him Bible materials and all sorts of ministry remnants. In and out I ran, smiling, eager to please my Savior, but sparing no moment to spend in his presence. With my eyes closed, I felt embarrassed, my heart raced, and I clenched my jaw. I fought back tears, and heard her say, “Just. Stop. Bring yourself to Jesus, sit at his feet and JUST BE.”
I was exposed. My sin laid bare, I sat silenced. All the guilt, stress, anger, fear, pride, and control that had built up year after year shattered as I knelt at the feet of Jesus. There was nothing I could do but let go and ask Jesus to redeem my wilted little heart. In that scene Jesus laid his hands on my head and with a whisper said, “I make all things new.”
And so redemption was mine. It wasn’t an easy turn-around. I had a lot of patterns, behaviors and views that distorted the way I believed Jesus saw me, especially if it meant NOT going back overseas. Those ways of thinking needed to be changed and so I had to press into the truth of Scripture that I was deeply, deeply loved, no matter what I did. I had spoken those promises and truths over young women in our community, but did I really believe Jesus could love me if I wasn’t learning another language or living in a village?
I had to move from the place where I thought I had been right, and let new life grow, clinging to the promise that Jesus could make all things new.
During our Sabbatical I continued with counseling, took walks, sat with my thoughts, read poems, swam, and read Velvet Ashes posts that challenged the place where I was right. I woke up every morning with redemption on my mind and walked into the throne room to let my Savior do the work I needed him to do on my hurting heart. This poem still gets me a little choked up and reminds me of that whisper I heard four years ago…
The Place Where We Are Right
From the place where we are
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
I will say honestly to you, my sister, that I was a bit of a mess, and I didn’t quite know it. On the outside, no one would have guessed- I wore busy-ness very well. The truth was, I was worn out from effort after effort, gripping tightly to burdens that were not mine to carry. But where the ruined house once stood, I can say with genuine laugh-out-loud joy that flowers have grown in fresh soil and I know, I KNOW that I’m relentlessly loved by Jesus.
It doesn’t matter how many languages I speak, how many degrees I have, how many people I’ve led to Jesus, and what people think about me. The place that is right…is with Jesus, and there is no place I’d rather be. That is my redemption story.
Has there been a time in your life when your world got ‘dug up’? Have you ever been so caught up in the approval of others that you lost your own sense of identity?
*The ‘throne room’ scene comes from a book called, “Sensible Shoes” by Sharon Garlough Brown about personal revelation and the spiritual journey.