In the dark, quiet morning, I rose before anyone else. I slowly walked into the kitchen, careful to not turn on any lights along the way. I lit a few candles and proceeded to make my French-pressed morning coffee, and I stood at the counter. There, I slowly began to awaken, with forced movements and the fragrant aroma of ground coffee beans nudging me into my morning routine.
A few more candles…
A selected mug…
I silence my phone, turn on my MacBook , sit in my favorite chair underneath my favorite blanket, coffee in hand, scripture before my eyes, and the Spirit fellowshipping with me and….
this is my favorite place.
45 minutes pass, and it’s time to get the kiddo up. This sacred allotment of time never seems enough, but I know it will multiply and manifest throughout my day, because grace.
And then, the family is off to work and school, and now I’m back in this sacred sanctuary of reading the Psalms, highlighting, underlining, reading a chapter in a few books I’ve selected for this season in my life, praying and finally, ending with a turn at the piano Psalming and spontaneously worshipping….
At around 9:00, I’m done and began to set out with our pup for his walk. Before I left though, I asked God to show me something beautiful – something to remind me that God is the creator of creativity and the artist of all artists.
He did not fail me…
As I started to walk, I noticed this perfect blue sky. From all directions and the perfect color, this is a mix that I am certain could not be recreated with human hands. As I continued to walk, I stopped underneath a lattice of branches. Wild, growing and extending over me like a canopy, I paused to take it all in. Through the branches, the sun still gazed through, reminding me that the Sun of God lights up every place He chooses, despite the obstacles between myself and heaven.
I continued on, and then I saw a sign in front of a church and it said “Forgiveness is giving love when there is no reason to….”
My favorite part was the “….” Because, I know when I am bitter and walking in unforgiveness, I cannot SEE enough to realize that the reason for forgiving is so that I can SEE again.
It’s in that state where I am blinded to worldly reason, unable to see the other side of forgiveness, where my eyes open to heaven’s reasoning (mercy, which in turn, heals, and allows me to see again, completely eliminating the desire for justice to be served).
After pausing at the sign, I continued to walk and I came across an old tree whose roots were arranged like octopus legs. It struck me that the roots were so visible, yet also so deep that it not only pushed out the curb, but cracked and misshaped the road running alongside it.
I looked up and realized that this tree had grown so far and so wide that it extended across the road, meeting another tree in the middle, thus forming a bridge over me.
As I walked around the tree, taking it in, my eyes began to focus on an old playground on the side of the church….It was used, old and rusty but still being used in its current state. It was almost like I could hear the voices of the children, the squeals of delight, the shrieking, the laughing, the running and mischief all around!
And then I heard the Spirit, plainly and clearly, rising up in me one phrase.
“Oh, to be used.”
I said it aloud, “Oh…to be used.”
And then I thought of the trees and the branches and the roots and the playground and I asked myself, “Have I really allowed myself to be used?”
Sure, I’ve allowed myself to be MISUSED. But have I really allowed myself to be USED in the way I’ve been purposed for?
The answer is NO, not really.
My pastor stood at the altar yesterday and prayed over all of us, that we would be used. This is Christian lingo for being surrendered to the work of Christ, so much so, that our lives are evidence of the existence of Christ.
With a picture of my pastor praying over our congregation in my head, I asked myself why. Why have I not completely yielded myself? I thought of my heart for people, my fears, my insecurities, my dreams and I realized that I have not been used because I have been so much more interested in preserving myself, protecting myself and memoralizing myself.
What does that mean?
Well….if preserving something means ensuring its survival in its current state, rendering it unchanged, then guilty . If protecting myself means not getting hurt, not exposing vulnerability for fear of judgement or rejection, then guilty. If protecting myself means not walking on a relational tightrope or jumping off a metaphorical cliff, or falling down on try-a-new- and-different-thing-your-not-good-at-sidewalk, then GUILTY!
See where I’m going?
If memorializing myself means building a collection of things I have gotten right, accolades and awards, then guilty. If memorializing means setting up my life in photos that could never take the place of my essence and legacy, then GUILTY...
You see, I haven’t been used fully because I’ve been too busy protecting, preserving and memorializing myself, all the while thinking that I’m cultivating myself with selflessness. Yet, in reality, I’m killing my growth with selfishness.
I can see it now, and…
- I want to be like the tree with octopus roots, dug so deep that I’m shaking the concrete over me and pushing the curbs out around me.
- I want to be like the tree with wild branches, forming a lattice of beauty over people and building bridges in the sky over whole communities.
- I want to be like the sign, offering forgiveness and giving love away, even when I have no single, logical reason to do so.
- I want to be like that playground…..old and rusty she may be, but she was purposed for providing exhilarating JOY and for turning countless kids into superheroes.
I want to be MORE but I’ll never be more wearing my life preserver, holding my weapons of defense and content with building my shrines.
You see, preserving, protecting and building shrines include at least three things: fear complacency, and self-interest. These three things ALL eventually result in death. Death to fruiting, death to growing and death to being used….death in friendships (yes), death in spiritual promotion, and death in an ever-expanding identity.
We will find ourself constantly reacting from a place of fear instead of responding from a place of peace, trust, confidence, boldness, ….. ultimately, failing to see that God is really with us, powerful, and trustworthy.
We will find ourselves stagnant in complacency instead of being vibrant in our zealousness for the Lord.
And lastly, we will find ourselves shackled with handcuffs of our own making instead of being able to freely move within the identities the Lord has carved in us.
In our world, when something expires, it gets thrown away. But, in the kingdom, NO ONE ever expires or gets thrown away. EVERYONE can be used for an eternity. Whether we are 4 years old or 94, we can be used for the Kingdom. This is why we were made.
In fact, it was a 90 something year old women who spoke prophetically over me and encouraged me to follow the direction God was calling me. Sure, I had worship leaders and pastors over me who encouraged me, but this lady spoke out to me the specific pictures and visions the Spirit had put on my heart. The unjournaled, secret and sacred , she spoke out over me. She had no way of knowing. But she was still being used, despite her age, because of her age! She didn’t let age stop her, and why should she? God is more powerful than age restrictions. Did he not first call out to Moses when Moses was 80 years old…and then continue to use him for 40 more years afterwards?
So, as I walked home, I thought about being usable. I want to be used, yes, but also usable. Pliable. Could I set myself aside in the unyielded and sacrificial way that I’ve been purposed for?
No more preserving. No more protecting. No more memorializing?
No more fear, no more complacency, no more self-interest?
That is where my heart lives today, a new season, a new territory, a new prayer…