One Year Later

This week marks the one year anniversary of me joining the weight loss program which led to me losing almost 60 pounds. The past few weeks have been difficult with traveling, illness, weddings and other celebrations, so I’m at about a net loss of 50 pounds. Ironically, I’m finding it difficult to remember that I’m still 50 pounds lighter than I was last year. I’m still so much healthier than I was. In fact, I obsess about those 10 pounds as if they are all that matters.

While I was in college, I worked with kids on the autistic spectrum at an early invention preschool. To change kids’ negative behaviors, we would make charts. First, we’d measure how often they did something (e.g. getting out of their chair when they were supposed to be sitting). Then, we’d create some strategy to help address that issue. As we implemented the strategy, we’d keep track of how often they did the behavior we didn’t want. The habit we were trying to break would still occur, but as we tracked it, it often would happen less. A child might go from getting out of his chair 10 times an hour to 5. That’s a great improvement, but without tracking, it would be all too easy to focus on the 5 times that he didn’t do what he was supposed to do. Every step in the right direction mattered.

I bring this up because I’m learning that the same thing in necessary in my life. I have bad days; I make poor choices at times and I want to define myself by those decisions. I’m still a very different person than I was, bad days included.

I’ve gone from exercising rarely (like, never) to 5-6 days a week. I’ve started thinking about food decisions with clarity. For instance, when I thought it would be easier to get Thomas lunch at Costco, I realized there wasn’t anything I could get him that he’d finish (and that I’d end up finishing for him). Instead, I waited until we got home to eat. These are little changes that feel like they pale in comparison to bad choices, but they matter. The way that I’m thinking has changed in meaningful ways, even if my behavior hasn’t completely caught up yet.

The difference between finishing the race and giving up entirely will be in whether I continue. Focusing on the ways in which I’m not where I think I should be makes me want to give up. Why bother trying if I’m never going to change? Instead, I can choose to continue by celebrating the real (but less conspicuous) victories. I choose to continue by recognizing that habits take a lot longer than two weeks to make or break (especially when they’re what you’ve clung to your whole life). If perfect is the only acceptable outcome, I’ve already failed.

To say it another way, good isn’t perfect, but it’s still worth celebrating.

One year later, I realize that a change in behavior is unbelievably hard. Making lifelong changes requires a lifelong commitment to change and a great deal of faith. The most important lesson I’m learning now is to see myself with sober vision, which is to see myself the way that Jesus does. I’m not who I was. Neither am I yet who I will be, but I’m on the way with God at work in me. Producing fruit takes time, but as I abide in Jesus, it will happen. Ultimately, this is a spiritual battle for me, so I take Paul’s words seriously:

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us…He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:13 -14, 21)

One year later, I press on for his glory.

I pray that you’d be encouraged by little victories in your own lives, too, so that you’d press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God has called you in Jesus.

A Song for Worriers

Psalm 131

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

Lord, my heart is not proud;
    my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
    or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
    like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
    Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    now and always.

I imagine the Jerusalem-bound pilgrims singing this song as they journeyed to worship the Lord and make sacrifices to him, to celebrate his goodness and provision, to connect with him and find peace in his presence. As they drew closer to the temple, these pilgrims would shed their worries like an old skin, as anxiety has no place in the Lord’s presence. Their song keeps focuses on the one thing they need most with an adamant refusal to get sucked into worrying about things they can’t comprehend, let alone control. It prepares them to meet with the Lord.

Is it really so simple?

As a constant worrier, I was refreshed by this psalm’s simplicity. 1) Refuse to worry. 2) Calm yourself in the Lord’s presence. Many of my worries are rooted in dwelling on my fears ad nauseam. As I approach the Lord, I often forget to take off those nagging doubts and worries, so I don’t experience the peace of his presence. Sure, I need to be real in my fears with God, but dragging my anxious thoughts into his presence can distract me from what I need most.

This song encourages me to not only have times where I pour out my heart to God in prayer over the things that worry me, but also to remember to carve out times where I’ll focus on him alone. I can check my worries at the door in order to allow me to see and experience that the Lord is truly my refuge.

How? I can simply tell my fears to wait when they bubble up in my time with Jesus. It seems so simple, but it’s no different than ignoring a call when you’re having a more important conversation. Some moments are too sacred for such distractions. As I discipline myself to have a sacred space in the Lord’s presence, I find the peace the pilgrims sought as they journeyed to the temple, the peace of a child in its mother’s arms.

The Illusion of Security

Some time ago, I received notice that a loved one was the target of an unstable person’s anger and possible conspiracy. The threat was legitimate enough that the police were involved. I was informed, along with others, just in case we were in danger as well. I can’t explain the depth of the fear that crept into my life with this news. The best way to describe it is that fear oppressed me like humid summer air, settling until it was everywhere, covering my skin and filling my lungs. I was afraid to leave the house. I was afraid to open the windows for any length of time, even when it was stifling. I was afraid to spend time with the aforementioned loved one, just in case I would be in danger, too. My life drifted towards lockdown.

Shortly after I began living in fear, I had a realization that completely changed my understanding of the situation. I saw that I was gripped by irrational thoughts, just as this crazy person was. My mind kept drifting back to the thought if I were careful enough, if I just did enough, if I just avoided enough “dangerous” situations, I could keep myself and my family safe, all of which are no more rational than believing a rabbit’s foot will bring me luck. I can take steps to be safer, but the truth is: someone who wants to hurt me will find a way to do so, no matter what I do. Paradoxically, this realization freed me from living in constant fear while inviting me to find peace.

Many of us have things we do to make us feel more secure. We think, if we have money in the bank, or lock our doors, avoid certain places, or watch our kids like a hawk, then nothing bad can happen. The trouble is that bad stuff happens all the time. Everything we do only makes us think we’re safe; however, the world isn’t safe, no matter how careful we are. We saw this clearly (yet again) in the school shooting last week. Our security is only an illusion when it relies on the things of this world.

This shouldn’t be surprising, after all, Jesus promised his followers that the world was unsafe, especially if you choose to follow him. Thankfully, he also encouraged his followers with these words:

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, Who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Matthew 10:28-31

Jesus tells his followers in essence: “God sees you. He knows and values your lives. No matter what happens in this world, nothing will pluck you from his hands.” When we’re in danger, it’s only temporary. Even if a person kills us, they cannot take us away from Our Heavenly Father. Our bodies may be in danger, but in Christ, our soul is safe forever. It’s not that the danger disappears. The unstable person is still out there somewhere. But the power of Jesus’ words is that they dwarf what any person can do with the magnitude of what they can’t do. That is real security.

Such security is freeing. When I realize that I can do everything I’m supposed to and still not get what I want (or avoid what I don’t want), I am forced to find security in the only truly safe place: Jesus. My faith isn’t in superstition (if I do something, it magically makes something else happen), it’s in his power to provide, protect, and overcome. Real security doesn’t oppress, it alleviates and brings with it peace as refreshing and welcome as the fall breeze that sweeps away the summer heat.

Hallelujah.

As I stood on one leg with the other foot propped up on the toilet, like a clumsy, backwards flamingo, I chuckled thinking about how early on in relationships you worry about shaved legs. Eight years into my marriage, I hardly notice unshaved legs until I realize strangers might notice. Since I was invited to a pool party playdate and was already too late to shower, I opted for to dry shave my legs. Not a comfortable move, but typical last-minute mom grooming.

Anxiety-fueled thoughts crossed my mind, “You could just stay home. It is easier. What if going isn’t even worth the trouble of getting packed and out of the house? Since we’re new to this group, people would probably not notice if we weren’t there. Seriously, just stay home. The Price Is Right is about to start!”

In spite of all that, I packed up and went.

As I’ve been reading the Bible lately, I noticed how often concepts like community and meeting together come up. Specifically, I think of Hebrews 10, as the author talks about holding on to our faith and continuing to draw near to God, he says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).

Psychologists know that the quality of our relationships has a profound impact on our quality of life. Likewise, the Bible says the quality and depth of our community makes a huge impact on our faith. We can’t cut out community and continue to grow in our faith. Neither can we cut out community and have the kind of faith that will carry us through really hard times. Most people “know” this, so why does the command to meet together even come up repeatedly in the Bible?

Community is hard. It takes effort to make time in our schedules and deviate from our routines. It’s awkward to find common ground with people you don’t know well, especially if you’re the new person in the group. People are messy, difficult, and disappointing. And I’m just talking about me. There’s so much uncertainty when you’re starting and discomfort as you get close enough to reflect one another’s flaws. When I’m surrounded by close friends, I can’t hide from myself anymore.

Staying home from the playdate would have certainly saved me from razor bumps and the risk of someone seeing my saggy, post-baby body in a bathing suit. I also would have missed the chance to sit around pool side and laugh with other moms about our kids’ quirks and the crazy things we did in order to get bathing suit ready that day (apparently, I’m not the only one with odd last-minute grooming habits). Not everyone becomes a bestie, but we can stir each other up towards love and good works as we continue to meet together. We can encourage one another and speak wisdom into each other’s lives. We can grow as we embrace life as God called us to live: in community.

I’m still learning how to do this well and I have a long way to go. But the more I show up in spite of my fears, the more I see God’s hand at work in community. That alone is worth the risk and razor bumps.

Don’t Think

Oh, Facebook. I have a love/hate relationship with you. I love reading interesting articles that my friends post (even when I don’t agree). I love seeing pictures of kiddos as they grow. I love reconnecting with high school friends who are much cooler than I remember. But recently–you broke my heart. I’m used to seeing vacations I’m not taking and meals I wish I were eating, but this was different. You showed me celebrations I could and would have been a part of in another life. You reminded me that life goes on for others. You made me remember what I’m missing. And it hurt.

After a few tears, I remembered something I read this summer in Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. Her former improv troop’s motto was “Don’t think.” The point being that when performing improvisational comedy, you don’t have time to think; you need to go with what is handed to you in that moment. I’m sure improv actors have prompts they wish someone would give. I’m sure they think of lines that would have been perfect if only they had thought of them in the moment. But that’s not the way it works. If someone stops to think in the midst of a performance, the whole dynamic changes and it ceases to be improv. You just have to take the scene as it is and keep going.

While I am a big proponent of reflection in general, there is a downside (as I experienced on Facebook). I can get caught up thinking about what used to be or what I wish were true now. I overthink and get lost in my head. When I spend too much time thinking, it paralyzes me from living in the moment that’s been handed to me. Worse yet, it can make me resentful of the life I’m living. I whine, “Why aren’t things like that?!”

In Psalm 42, the author remembers how things used to be:

My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!       
Psalm 42:4

What good times: surrounded by people, overflowing with joy and giving thanks as they celebrated God’s goodness together. When contrasted with his current state: tears for food while being taunted by enemies, it’s easy to see why the broken heart, but it’s not the end of the song. The chorus immediately follows:

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!          
Psalm 42:5

The psalmist realized he was discouraged and overwhelmed because he was focused on the life he no longer had (and might never have again). As I read this psalm, I see the antidote to overthinking is “Don’t think.” Don’t think about what you would do if you could change things. Don’t think about how things used to be. Don’t think about what other people are doing. Don’t think about the life you don’t have.

Instead, think about what is right in front of you. Think about God and his unchanging goodness. Think about what we can praise God for right now. Think about the reasons we can have hope today: he’s Savior and God! When I approach the scene I’m in with the knowledge that God is ever present and always good, I cultivate the eyes to see the blessings right in front of me, just as the psalmist did. I’m freed up to enjoy life as it comes and continue moving forward. Maybe things won’t look like what I’d imagined and hoped for, but I won’t miss the lovely, everyday blessings. I won’t miss the joy.

Like the psalmist,

I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Still.

I had a follow-up appointment last week through my weight management program to calculate my resting metabolic rate. Basically, a machine monitored my breathing to determine how many calories I burn a day doing nothing. I was pretty excited to do this, since it gives solid data as far as eating goes and I was secretly hoping I could eat more than the tiny amount of calories allotted in general [Woohoo, I can!]

When I arrived, the program director sat me in a comfy chair and explained the process. All I had to do was sit for 10 minutes with my nose plugged, breathing “normally” into a tube.

Easy, right?

breathing "normally"

I had the doctor hand me my phone for a post-test selfie.

After everything was set up, I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I adjusted the tube in my mouth. I adjusted the nose plug. When I was done with my actual fidgeting, I mentally fidgeted, wondering whether I could reach my phone. I thought of other lab tests I’ve had to take that I didn’t enjoy, like the glucose tolerance test during pregnancy. I realized it wouldn’t be so bad with a smartphone. I thought, “How often do I get a three hour break now that I have a child?” But here I was without my phone in hand, just sitting and breathing as normally as possible with a tube in my mouth and my nose plugged.

After what seemed the longest minute or two in history, I realized ten minutes is an awfully long time to sit and do nothing. I honestly thought I couldn’t make it to 10 measly minutes.

Being still is exceedingly difficult.

As my brain continued to wander, I remembered the verse I read that morning. Moses was speaking to Israel as they fled from Egypt. The Egyptians pursued them and it looked like Israel would be overtaken, captured once again, and brought back to slavery. It was to this anxious audience that Moses proclaimed,

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

Once I remembered that verse, the time I spent hooked up to the machine dramatically changed. It was still awkward and uncomfortable, but I started meditating on what it means to be still. Being still seems so passive, but a better way to think of it is being steadfast. It’s standing firm in one place and refusing to move, even when the world is pulling you in twenty different directions.

More importantly, I realized that stillness demonstrates a profound understanding of and dependence on the Lord’s power. Israel could only be still if they believed that the Lord would come through on their behalf. If they tried to take matters into their own hands, it would have failed.

Which led me to think about my own resistance to stillness. So often my inability to be still stems from an idolatrous belief that I’m in control of my life. I can’t pause as long as I feel like I’m the one keeping the world spinning on its axis.

For example, as I continue to record my prayer requests, I’ve noticed that my tendency is to rush in and do something to address whatever needs fixing. I write the requests down and immediately take action, without really pausing to be still. In short, I don’t actually give Jesus a chance to answer my prayers. Instead of steadfastly staying still and making room for God’s work, I anxiously jerry-rig answers my own prayers and miss out on seeing what only the Lord can do. It’s not so much a prayer list as a to-do list. [I can hear the insurance commercial now, “That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works!]

What I realized in meditating on Exodus 14:14 is that there are times I need to get to work and do things to address prayer requests and there are also times when I need to wait. Being still gives me wisdom about what kind of situation I’m facing. A pause also gives me yet another chance to affirm that God is in control and I am not, no matter how things will unfold. It also affirms that I am willing to wait on the Lord’s timing, even if it is not the timetable I’d prefer.

To be still is to get out of the way and have a front-row seat to see the Lord at work. May we pause in faith today.

The Bottom Line

The Old Testament prophets are not my favorite Bible books to read. In some ways, reading the prophets is like overhearing a conversation that’s not necessarily about you personally. I get lost in place names, imagery, and metaphors because they are so far removed from me. [I seriously always ask myself, “Wait, where is Tyre and Sidon again?”] Besides, prophets are about doom and gloom. Their messages are hard to read: being led away with hooks in your noses, being so hungry you eat your children. No, thank you!

However, in years of fighting my way through these books and studying deeper, I’ve come to appreciate their movement: judgment gives way to restoration; despair turns to hope; scarcity becomes abundance. Through it all, the Lord is at work in surprising, sometimes shocking, ways.

As I was reading Ezekiel this week, I read three verses that demonstrate the bottom line of what the Lord was saying through his prophets.

“Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions,” says the Sovereign Lord. “Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die,” says the Sovereign Lord. “Turn back and live!”

Ezekiel 18:30-32

Overhearing this conversation, I learn that though judgment is inevitable, death is not God’s plan for his people.

The fact that prophets even existed demonstrates that the Lord didn’t want people to perish. If he wanted them to die, there would be no reason for a warning, no second [third, fourth, etc.] chance given. God stayed his hand in Nineveh when they responded to Jonah’s reluctant prophecy. As he sent prophets to others, he wanted them to repent as well. When the prophets were ignored, he sent his Son, just to make sure we had every chance to hear his words: “I don’t want you to die!”

The doom and gloom part of a message about judgment tends to overshadow the more important aspect: that there’s hope. We don’t have to stay where we are. We don’t have to let our sins destroy us. There is another way: a new heart and spirit. God not only wants something better for us, he makes it possible through his Son.

As I overheard the Lord’s words to Israel in this passage, I hear his message for me. “Why should you die in your sin? I don’t want you to die! Why should you give up hope? I have given you a new heart and spirit. I don’t want you to wither away where you are. I want you to live! Have the courage to change what you can and trust that, in me, you are not alone in this.”

Today is a new day and another chance to live as the Lord calls us & empowers us to live.

The Courage to be Limited

I just finished reading the MOPS book from last year, Be You Bravely. It had great insights about surprising ways we can be courageous, which got me thinking about what courage might look like for me in this season. The first thing that came to mind was courage to be limited.

As I’ve been relearning to eat, I’ve had to let go of the idea that it will look the same for me as it does for others. In fact, things look dramatically different now. I don’t just choose something off a menu when I go out to eat anymore; I have to pour through nutrition information online in advance and uncover the one or two best options so that I’m ready to order when I sit down [or choose a different restaurant]. I get to pass on the goodies everyone else is eating at the shower/party/wedding/church most of the time. I have to record each of my 6 small meals every day, so don’t be surprised if you see me whip out my phone at the table [I’m not being antisocial, I just don’t want to forget, I promise.] When it comes to food, I feel like I’m crawling when everyone around me is running freely.

In a word, I’m limited.

Thankfully, most of the time it doesn’t matter. Most people don’t know the work that goes into a meal out or notice that I’m not getting dessert or what I’m eating and when. It’s not something I draw attention to. It’s only those awkward times when someone says, “Oh, you’re not getting a cupcake?” or asks about my favorite dessert that I have to speak up. But it’s in those moments that I have to learn to be courageous and tell the truth: I have limits. I’ve tried to do what everyone else does, but it doesn’t work for me. I just can’t live like everyone else does.

There are all kinds of limits you might have noticed in your own life. Maybe you don’t have the same boundless energy of someone else. Maybe you have health problems that are limits. You might not be as talented or smart or countless other things that it seems like everyone else is or has. You know what? It’s okay.

We’re not the only ones with limits:

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

As I read Paul’s words, I’m convinced that not only is it critical to tell the truth about our limits, but to recognize the value in them. It’s more than okay to be limited; our limits reveal God. When we have the courage to embrace our limits, we also have the courage to depend on God’s strength. My limits fetter me to Jesus in a way I didn’t know was possible, since every meal is another moment to pray and ask for strength to live within my limits.

Paul is right, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Paradoxically, when I have courage to be limited, I have strength and freedom that I’ve pursued in other ways.

May each of us have the courage to be limited, so that the power of Christ can work through us for his glory.

There’s been a long drought in California the past few years that it seems all people can talk about. We worry about the crops, wildfires, and communities whose wells have run dry. Even on the drive to Hume Lake through Kings Canyon National Park, dead pine trees pepper the landscape, their red needles giving the mountains the false look of New England in the fall. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that in spite of several dry winters, the blackberries are growing on the bushes outside my house. And not just growing, they’re shaping up to be a lovely, bountiful crop of berries. [I’ve already picked my first batch for blackberry lemon scones].

So why are the blackberry bushes doing so well in the drought? They’re in a lovely spot that gets light for only a few hours of the day, so maybe they’re shaded in most of the blistering heat. There are blackberry bushes around the corner that spend most of the day in the sun and they’re heavy-laden with fruit, too. So it can’t be that. Maybe it’s that they’re protected? They’re picked through by turkeys, deer, birds, and other critters [including my in-laws 🙂 ], so that can’t explain the harvest. It seems as though they’re just bent on being full of life, even when circumstances are against them. They’re stubborn blackberries.

blackberries

These will make an awesome cobbler soon!

Isn’t that true of people, too? There are people who go through season after season of hardship and loss and seem to be people full of life and joy. People that comfort others when they’re the one suffering with disease. People that nourish others with their fruit, just like the blackberry bush on the hillside in the heat. People who stubbornly hold on to hope in darkness. I hope I would be just like them in their circumstances, but I don’t really want to find out if I would be like them, since I don’t really want to go through said circumstances.

As I read Jeremiah today, I read one of my favorite verses. It turns out such people are not stubborn, they’re rooted.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7,8

Trees that are planted near flowing water will always have what they need. Heat means nothing to them. Drought? They’ve got this! When things are hard, they’re verdant and life-giving. People that have put their hope in the Lord are likewise full of vitality and fruit. Their hope isn’t in being healthy. Their happiness is not dependent on having “enough.” So when/if those things are taken away, they still have what they need most. They have the one thing they can never lose: Jesus.

Man, that’s the kind of person I want to be. I long to live a life that brings life to others. I long to bring hope to people when they’re hurting and tired. I long to be the kind of person who isn’t withered by drought nor heat. It starts with my roots, which, thankfully, can be cultivated.

Am I planting my roots deep into Living Water through reading and hearing God’s word? Am I connected to the True Vine in prayer and abiding in him? As I practice these things, surely my roots will grow, slowly, but faithfully.

May I have the joy of seeing Jesus transform the Living Water that sustains me into fruit that brings life and nourishment to others.

Who, Me?

In July of 2004, I heard a sermon about taking steps forward in our faith journey. As I listened to the different steps one could take, I felt like God was calling me to go on a mission trip. At first, I thought, “Who, me? I’m not cut out for that!”

That feeling quickly gave way to excitement when I went online and found a popular ministry that travels around performing concerts. It sounded perfect for me, so I sent off an audition tape and waited. When the call came that I was in, I was surprised and delighted. My excitement lasted exactly 5 minutes until I heard that I had to put down a sizable deposit to reserve my spot. *Gulp* “Who, me? I don’t have money for that!”

See, I’d been working hard to pay off my foolishly-incurred credit card debt at the time. I knew I would raise support to go on the trip, but I hadn’t even raised a single dollar yet. After all, I didn’t even know for sure that I was going until that day! Even though I knew God was calling me to go on this trip, it’s a different matter altogether to put your money where your mouth is. This was the moment when a challenging move truly became a step of faith because I didn’t know if it would work out. And that’s what faith is, walking without knowing all the steps, believing when our eyes don’t see. A step of faith, by its very nature, requires faith.

I told them that I needed time to think and would call them back.

As I read Jeremiah today, I was moved by his calling.

The Lord gave me this message:

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.
Jeremiah 1:4, 5

And his response was “Who, me? I’m too young!” (Jeremiah 1:6, my paraphrase).

Jeremiah is hardly alone in his hesitation. The Bible is full of people asking the same kinds of “Who, me?” questions. Sarah said, “Who, me? I’m too worn out!” Moses wondered, “Who, me? I can’t speak!” Isaiah & Peter each exclaimed “Who, me? I’m a sinful man!” When faced with a challenging step of faith, it’s natural to wonder whether the message came to the wrong person.

This is God’s response to Jeremiah’s dilemma:

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 1:7-8

“Who, me?” is the natural, but wrong question. It focuses on me and my abilities. The Lord pointed out the right question to ask in his response to Jeremiah, when he pointed out that he would be with and protect Jeremiah. The correct question is: “Who’s asking me?” That question neither focuses on the enormity of the request, nor the recipient’s skills, but instead on our infinite God. Our confidence to step out in faith can’t be based on who we are and what we can do or it will fail. When it’s based on who God is, and what he wants to do through us, we can do what we never thought possible. Even if people don’t respond (as they didn’t with Jeremiah) or actively fight against you (as they did with Jeremiah) or even throw you in a cistern (as they did with Jeremiah), we can continue confidently in faith when it’s based on his calling and power.

Back to my deposit dilemma. After I got off the phone, I prayed and felt a deep conviction that I needed to put down the deposit. When I asked, “Who’s asking me?” I realized that the same Jesus who called me to go and who opened the doors in the audition, has the power to provide. He’s not intimidated by the numbers, so neither should I be anxious. I fiddled with my credit card as I read off the numbers and it was done. Then God showed up as I raised support—almost twice what I thought I needed originally [but exactly what I ended up needing]. It was never about what I could do; it was about what the Lord could do.

One of my favorite quotes that I’ve read recently comes from Amy Poehler, “So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”

I believe people do great things when they stop asking, “Who, me?” and start asking, “Who’s asking me?”

May you be emboldened by the enormity of God’s power as you focus on who he is so that you might do great things before you’re ready.