Ever have one of those days? You know, the kind where you make plans and maybe even write them down in the morning. With your pen in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, you feel a slight swell of confidence as you lean against the kitchen counter and look over your list. “This is going to be a good day,” you think.
Then you leave your home.
And little by little, every goal and accomplishment you’d hoped to achieve that day (and others you didn’t even think about) start imploding, one by one, blowing up any possible feeling of self-assurance along the way.
I just had one of those days. Except mine lasted about eight years. Most everything I had planned, written down, hoped in my heart and pictured in my dreams seemed to crumble, one by one. With each passing day, instead of feeling the pride of accomplishment and the joy of dreams come true, I began feeling more and more the weight of dread and the crushing loss of unfulfilled longings. While so many around me seemed to be planning out their journeys and heading toward their destination, the road I was traveling on had come to a complete halt. My dreams were at a dead stop.
When you’re driving along in life, whistling a tune and thinking about your destination, the last thing you want to see is a whole bunch of red brake lights. When you really hoped to be somewhere — you desperately needed to be somewhere — and you find yourself stopped in a terrible traffic jam that makes getting there completely out of your control, there’s a roller coaster of emotions most everyone feels.
At first, a person struggles with total disbelief, “Oh. No. No. No. Noooooo. No. No. No, this can’t be happening. Oh. Are you kidding me? C’mon, no. This is not happening. No, this is not happening! Ohhhhhhh. Oh man. No. No way.”
Soon, disbelief turns to anger. “This is unbelievable!” You start to actually talk out loud, by yourself in your car, “Hey! Hey! Heyyyyyyyyyyyyy! What’s the problem? Aaaaah! What is going on? Gimme a break! Hey! What is the deal?” I imagine there are also a few other choice words and phrases some people may say in such a situation, although I would not have a clue as to what they are.
At some point, while you’re yelling at your dashboard, windshield and the brake lights in front of you, your anger begins to subside. And you start talking more slowly. And quietly. And you start repeating yourself — a lot. You begin to feel a great wave of despair and may whimper something like, “Ohhhhh. Ohhh. Oh. Why. Why. Why me? I’m trapped. What did I ever do to deserve this? Ohhhhh. Ohhhh. Oh. I’m doomed. I am. I’ll never make it.”
And then it hits you. You are in a situation that is out of your control. There is nothing you can do to change it. You’re powerless. All you can do is let go. Release your death grip on the steering wheel. And wait.
This, basically, was my life. Truly, I was in a jam that I did not have the power to change. And after experiencing all of those emotions, there was a point while I was waiting and whimpering, where the pain seemed unbearable. My broken heart, unrepairable. And while I would never have said it out loud, I remember thinking quietly … “I hate my life.”
It was then, almost at that very moment, that I could feel the warm breath of God whisper in my ear, “Finally.”
What I hadn’t realized all that time was that God was waiting for me. He was waiting for me to be willing to decrease so that He could increase. He was waiting for me to say (and believe) that I needed Him more than I needed my dreams to happen. He was waiting for me to know that His grace is more than enough to not only heal my broken heart, but to fill it overflowing. He was waiting for me to realize that no check-marked box on the agenda list of my life could make me feel as whole and fulfilled as picking up my cross and following Christ would. He was waiting for me to trust that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
I had planned out my destination. I had prepared for the journey. I wanted to go where I wanted to go. But, while I prayed and begged to move ahead, the Lord wanted me to stand still. Like Moses told the children of Israel, I knew the Lord was saying to me, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14).
Os Guinness writes in his book, The Call, “We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone.” That Someone is the Lord God Almighty. He is our destination, as well as our journey. He was waiting for me to desire Him more than I desired my own life. He was waiting with His arms stretched wide. So I didn’t just walk toward Him. I ran. I ran for my very life. I ran because I was reminded that my life is not my own but that I was bought with a price. I am no longer clutching the steering wheel or even my own brokenness. The only thing I am holding on to is the hem of Christ’s robe.
In my brokenness, I’m meant to be still and press in to Jesus. Some dear friends emulated this to me recently. I hadn’t seen them in a really long time, and when they asked how I was doing, I shared the truth that is difficult to hear. I could tell they were truly heartbroken for me. Unlike others who would try to offer me some hope, some words of encouragement to remind me of God’s faithfulness (all of which has meant so much and I have appreciated), these friends had no words. They stared at me in disbelief. Then they just hugged me and hugged me and hugged me for the longest time. And cried. They were being Christ to me, pressing into me and into my pain, willing to feel what I was feeling. It was one of the most hopeful and incredible moments of my life. I’ll never forget it.
During this time while the Lord was calling me to die to myself, I heard a radio interview with Joni Eareckson Tada. She was asked if she ever wanted to have children. She responded by saying that she and her husband desperately wanted to conceive, but were infertile. When asked how it felt to receive another incredible blow on top of already being a quadriplegic, Joni said she grieved and asked the question, “Why me, Lord?” But soon after she remembered, “Hey, we’re supposed to hate our life, you know?” I was floored that she said those actual words, and encouraged beyond measure.
When I think of what a believer’s main purpose in life is, I’m faced with the hard truth that it’s not to live happily ever after. OK, so that’s ultimately our precise purpose — once we’re united with Christ in heaven. But this brief life on earth is meant to prepare us for that glory. Toiling against the curse in this fallen world is meant to sanctify us, redeem us and draw us closer to Christ. In the words of Gary Thomas, perhaps God is more interested in our holiness than He is in our happiness. We must focus on our chief end: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That means thinking less of ourselves and more of Him and His perfect will. Loving serving Him and seeing His glory more than we would love to see our own agendas for our life happen.
But don’t worry. If you do this, you’ll discover an amazing, beautiful irony: Because we were created for the very purpose of putting God first, we cannot find true joy until we are willing to love Him more than we love our own life anyway! If your aim is to find your fulfillment in Him, you will be fulfilled. You’ll not miss out on anything. His joy will be made complete in you, and that will make you happier than you can ever dream.
I should know. Being broken helped me lose my life. Losing it helped me find something even better. In the most ironic twist of events on this Christian road less traveled, I realized I do love my life because now I have found the joy I’d lost: in Christ.
Copyright 2007 Kara Schwab. All rights reserved.