This last year God has been working to help me safely connect with people, in ways that are healthy and not harmful to me. For a long time the “who I am” and the “what I do” parts of me weren’t connected in my outward relationships with people, only in my inward relationship with God. While reading a poignant memoir of someone I’ve always liked, I was struck by a specific comment she made. In the midst of intense therapy she recounted using all her new-found tools but then floundering rather helplessly, unable to break all the way through. When there was nothing else she could do for herself, her therapist reminded her gently, “People. You need people to help you heal.” “Oh, people,” the author replied, “I’d much rather heal without people!” I’ve felt the same way.
Because I believed for so long that it was up to me to figure out how to live, grow, act and mature, I did not grow up in the gentle cadence of walking daily alongside a trusted mentor, free to show all my vulnerabilities, or ask for help. It seemed to me that my assigned role in this world was to help others, not the other way around. God has been healing this area since around the time I was pregnant with Jake and layer by layer, in way after way, I have learned to receive help a little more gracefully, and even to ask for help. I am grateful to all those who gave, even filled our car trunk with food in 1997, gave children’s clothes and adult clothes, brought meals, helped with childcare and loved us thoroughly while we were still awkwardly fumbling to express our gratitude. I was so busy feeling like a failure I’m not sure how graciously I received the love I was offered so freely. I was a prickly porcupine and I’m grateful to all those who were willing to brave the quills to gently teach me about no-strings-attached love.
Even as I’ve grown in this, my primary gifting has been teaching and that has been a “solo” assignment, that is until 2008 when God inspired us with “Married Life Live”. Terry and I then had to learn to team-teach and we both prepare in VERY different manners. It has been a neat growing challenge, preparing messages together and then presenting them in our own way. This year God brought some smart, creative, wonderful people to walk beside me and grow the teaching vision God gave me for the messages I would bring at a retreat. I learned how much fun it is to think out loud with creative others who can run with those ideas in ways I wouldn’t begin to have the time to consider. While He may have given me the messages, they would ultimately be far larger than I could carry myself and He planned to expand them into an entire environment of discovery. I was surprised and pleased to see Him move in this new way. And I gained a delightful (and endlessly patient) friend along the way.
There have been several women who stand out to me in my journey, women who saw something of God’s work in me and then stepped in front of me to make a place for that to grow. My senior pastor’s wife (and much-beloved friend) was the first to glimpse God’s gifting in my life and was the first to call it forth. She saw something I could not see and has continued to fan into flame the calling God has put into my life. She also made a very real place for me to grow and develop (and fall down at times). My praise-filled friend was the one God used to introduce me to a whole new world of women and ministry opportunities. She also introduced me to an amazing and gifted woman who also loves me like a daughter in Christ and has affirmed God’s calling and gifting on my life. She brought me into the largest teaching venue I’ve ever known and has enthusiastically and graciously encouraged me on in a ministry world she is very familiar with. There are so many other friends and family members along the way who have loved me relentlessly, believed in me, walked through difficult times with me and shaped and smoothed the person I am becoming.
Lately, however, I have been surprised by the kind of engagement others have expressed. A much-loved friend at church was disappointed to learn she had missed my piano recital, and requested to attend next year. Really? I’ve never thought to include anyone but the students’ families. Speaking of which, three different families just voluntarily offered to help with refreshments as I planned for the recital, reception and trophies. Last year’s recital was two days after my gallbladder surgery and one special family pitched in with setup, refreshments and clean up. Which brings me to my husband. Have I told you about him? Ah yes, of course I have, but one more thing…. whenever I have a project of any kind, he throws himself into it wholeheartedly, thoroughly and efficiently handling so much that needs to be done. He has been my partner in every way I could have ever hoped for.
A friend volunteers to trim my hair (it needed shaping) and another takes our boys for the afternoon allowing us freedom to just be a couple for a while. And none of this includes the amazing people who volunteer their time and energies to helping us accomplish Married Life Live and other ministry endeavors. Why do they do so? They believe we can all make a difference when we work together. And they free us to concentrate our energies on what we do best. Then there is this incredible team of ladies God has put together to build a new study ministry. It was others who first saw His vision, asked me to lead in developing the course curriculum, and are praying, listening and seeking God for all the countless details we know are coming. I don’t have to figure it all out; I only have to do my part. The entire venture is beyond each of us individually and beyond all of us collectively.
People. Walking with God is not enough, even Adam had that and yet was lacking. God requires that some parts of Himself be discovered through our healthy, Spirit-led interactions with other people. We need them and they need us. I am learning how to set aside the distrust that developed in me as a result of painful relationships. I am listening as God defines my relationships and how to wisely interact with the various people in my life. People are a gift, a gift I’m discovering more joyfully as I learn to unwrap the God-sent packages. People can help facilitate God’s continued healing in us. I’m learning not to hold my breath so much, to feel such trepidation when trusting another person to carry a shared load with me, to trust that if God has truly initiated this new relationship, He will guide us through it.