Growing up, I missed out on an important lesson – how to live with success. Instead, I became an expert at coping with failure and disappointment.
Years later, when a major Christian publisher accepted my book, “On Unclipped Wings,” I still hadn’t learned. I didn’t understand the impact it could have on others. For every success exposes someone else’s failed dream. Every joy exposes someone else’s sadness.
Well, the threat of litigation put an end to my success, but God used that small window to teach me something profound. To live well with success is to always remember others, to “Rejoice with those who who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.”* It is about intentionally giving dignity and worth, my time, in a world where disappointment is rife.
I was 27 and didn’t know how to cope. I thought my life should revolve around pleasing others, but I was never good enough. I could never be enough. Finally I had a breakdown. Sure, I acknowledged that God was all-loving. I agreed that he had created me unique and beautiful, but I didn’t know how to live it.
All pretending stopped as I lay there shivering on my bed. I could no longer be strong, brave, or even good. It was just me and God, and to my astonishment, he still loved me. And he came to me, just as he has come to millions of others, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 63:1). I would live again.
Six months later I went back to work, and it took another three years to recover, but, I finally knew who I was – BELOVED.
I still can’t quite grasp the enormity of how unprecedented each one of us is. No one out there is like you or me. And each of us is unparalleled. No one has ever spoken with my voice. No one else has my heart and mind.
Yet, it is a fragile fact and evaded my grasp for years, because I had concluded that I didn’t matter, that my voice had little worth. But, in the silence of this past year, our individual uncommonness, our unrivalled uniqueness is hitting home.
The Bible puts it so well. “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” (Psalm 139:14)
It might not be what I want, but it is just as valid and good. Because with God, not every closed road is a bad thing in life. It means that God has something else in mind, something I could never have imagined possible. For with him, this adventure is his plan.
It seems like our lives are being other-directed. We are told how to live it and what to pursue. And those others also come across as unfathomably wise, assuring us that they can sort all our problems. But what about God?
If we stopped to think about it, if God made our ears, that means he can hear us. If he made our eyes, he sees us. He knows what is happening in our world – Covid 19 – and he isn’t standing by idle. He keeps trying to get our attention, saying, “Nothing happens by mistake. Someone’s greed precipitated this pandemic, someone’s disregard for creation and humanity.”
But those others contradict him, telling us, “WE’RE in control. Just be patient. With that vaccine WE will save the world.”
God responds: “That plan is human. Greed will cause yet another tragedy. Greed will keep causing harm.” Our human hearts are bent that way, and no vaccine can ever save our hearts from greed. Only God can.
From Psalm 94:8-11. (Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash)
A year ago exactly, On Unclipped Wings slipped onto the market almost unnoticed. But God noticed. Often, he reminds me how important it was to write it. It comes through Bible verses, or an unexpected comment from someone.
He also reminds me that our stories are entwined. For, whatever happens in my life, or in any of our lives, he is right there with us, holding us up and cheering us on. And through his participation, our stories become his story as well. So when he says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 4:16) it is so very true.
To God, my flickering flame or that gigantic spotlight are both lights worth sharing. Both are important. Both are good.
A “new normal” is coming and I feel lost. It’s darkness and confusion, like Genesis 1 all over again. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface.” But there was God!
He spoke the first ever recorded words in that darkness: “Let there be light.” Light! And it has NEVER changed since then.
Another unchangeable is Jesus, the true “light of the world.” (John 8:12) And in these uncertain times, it is so easy for me to forget that as I follow him, I will “never walk in darkness.” NEVER. Because he is unchanging.
The “new normal” is coming, and I feel so wobbly. But one thing is already in place – Jesus – that constant and unwavering Light. No need to fear.
Sometimes our emotions hurt too much and we hide from God. But, if we could take a deep breath and open our Bibles, we could find God’s comfort. “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) He cares so much for us.
Taking a walk can bring comfort. For me, it was watching a bird hop along a path, trying to escape my approach. Suddenly it stretched its wings and flew away. And God reminded me that I too can get away from those who threaten me. He says, “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4)
Talking with a friend is another way. The Bible says, “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.” (Malachi 3:16) God wants us to share our hearts and hurts, for this too is his comfort.