Permission to Ask the Hard Questions

This year will be full.  I refuse to say “busy” because that’s a bad word in my vocabulary, so I like to use busy’s more attractive cousin, “full”.

Life will be full.

I’m starting seminary, working full time at the church now, teaching reading intervention a few hours a week, and continuing with all my usuals: bible study, maintaining friendships, keeping up the house, etc.  Santino is still working a lot and doing all of his other stuff like life group, reading, and most importantly playing tennis with our neighbor 😉

And we’re still walking through infertility.

And life.

And all the stuff that comes along that we can’t calendar.

So I’ve been intentional about asking people to speak into my life.

I’ve sat with a friend and given her full permission to call me out, speak truth, and ask the hard questions.

And not just “How are things going?  How’s work?”  Anyone can ask that.  I can answer those easily without telling you how I’m REALLY doing or confess that Santino & I ate left over bruschetta and string cheese for dinner last night because, I’m the worst.

I’ve given her permission to ask me things like:

How’s your marriage?

How’s your time with the LORD?

What are you learning in God’s word?

Are you sleeping?

Have you cooked dinner at all this month?  Something besides bean burritos?

And then she can slap me upside the head if I try to lie or skirt around the issue.

I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.  I don’t want to do more than I can handle.  But I also don’t want to sit back and not do what the LORD has for me.  I want to depend on the Holy Spirit, not ease and comfort.  I don’t mind spending my life exhausted for His name sake.

But, I don’t want all that I’m doing to interfere with my relationship with my husband or my relationship with God.

I’ll quit everything before those things happen.

So I’m trying to be intentional and aware and invite people in to ask those hard questions.

What about you?  Do you have people in your life that can ask you the hard questions?  About your marriage?  Your life?  Not just your favorite tv show or work, but the deep/real/meaningful stuff.

Let’s not hide behind the easy stuff in 2014. 

Let’s give permission to others to ask hard questions, and learn to do the same.

Let’s live in the light, of confession and grace, honesty and vulnerability.

Let’s stop pretending “everything’s fine” and learn to walk in real community.

That’s one of my goals for 2014 . . . more than getting an A in my seminary class or checking off another full work week from my calendar . . . real, authentic, honest community.  The kind that helps me grow spiritually and deepen my relationship with God and with others.

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If you are looking for more resources about how to be intentional with your spiritual growth this year, check out anantomyofadisciple.com

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Brad Bell and Rick Taylor have just released 2 books that will encourage this honest community and foster spiritual growth.  They’ve also developed an online assessment that will help you identify specifically where/how to grow spiritually.

Let’s make 2014 a year of being intentional about asking the hard questions & making steps to grow spiritually.

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I Can’t Keep Living in the What-Ifs

A few years ago, I stood in the sanctuary with 2 of my pastors after a service, asking questions to the meaning of a word from scripture out of Isaiah 61.  I shared what I had been wrestling with in this text, and just had to know the answer.  To which in the middle of our discussion, they both stopped, looked me straight in the eye and one of them asked:

“Have you ever considered seminary?”

The other replied “I think you would thrive.”

And I’m not kidding I nearly dropped to the floor in tears, because in that moment I knew.

I knew that was a marked moment in my life for 2 reasons.

#1 When TWO of your well-respected, wise, discerning pastors speak something into your life simultaneously, you listen.  That is something I believe called “confirmation”.

#2 I had been considering seminary, for awhile, I just hadn’t pursued it because “what if?”

That moment was nearly 3 years ago  . . . and I’ve stood paralyzed in the “what-ifs” ever since.

 What if seminary is just a stupid fantasy and not a God given dream?

What if I already am where God wants me?

What if God wants me in the public school and I’m running from His will?

What if I go to seminary and nothing comes of it?

What if people ask me “for what” and I can’t give an answer?

What if I never get a full time job at the church?

What if I get pregnant?

What if?

What if?

What if?

Well I can’t keep living in the what-ifs.

I had been stuffing this dream for years.  And I couldn’t stuff it anymore.  I had to stop with all the what-ifs and just go!  And quite frankly, it’s easier to follow your dreams when the outcome is obvious, the plan is clear, and the support is from many.   But at this point, the affirmation from a few was all I needed.

I finally decided I couldn’t keep walking around with this dream for another 3 years, wondering, waiting, and asking what if.  So last month, I sat down to ask the questions to my boss “What if I’m dreaming about applying to seminary?  What if I think that’s something God wants me to do?  And what if I think I want to spend the rest of my life stewarding that?”

And his response was a 100% yes.  All for it.  He didn’t ask me any “what if” questions, just confirmation, affirmation, and encouragement to pursue this dream.

What had I been waiting for all these years?

So I applied.

And I got accepted.

And now I’m answering some new “what ifs”

What if God uses this?

What if walking in obedience is so much better than walking in fear?

What if I stop trying to figure out where Jesus is taking me in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, and just follow Him now?

What if I can be okay with not knowing all of the answers?

What if I use this opportunity to serve God and others with more of my heart and mind all the days of my life?

I don’t have any answers to the “what ifs”.  But I know that following Jesus isn’t always that predictable.  We want the road map, laid out before us, Him telling us every step of the way . . .  when to turn, when to speed up, when to slow down, when there’s a steep hill or a patch of wilderness with no food or water.  But He doesn’t.  He doesn’t tell us all those details.  He doesn’t give us a life plan with the next 60 years completely detailed.

He simply tells us “follow me”.

So I am.

 Are there “what ifs” in your life that keep you from pursuing dreams?

Where have you been paralyzed by fear to step out into faith?

PS I know what you’re all thinking . . . But “What if you get pregnant?”  Well then that baby will just get to be my first student 😉