Don’t Overlook Significance

Significance (4)

I didn’t expect a holy revelation this morning, especially not inside a sterile medical clinic. I was there with my twelve-year-old son Asher, who needed a sports physical for Cross Country.

It wasn’t where I wanted to be, today being “writing day” and all. But the sorrow in his eyes last night upon learning he would miss his first meet today without proper paperwork nudged me past my selfish tendencies. “I’ll take you in the morning,” I told him, knowing it was the right thing to do, even if not the most convenient.

And it was there, my son up on the exam table, the doctor listening to him breathe in and out as she moved her stethoscope around his small body, that something unexpected happened.

He smiled.

It wasn’t a huge smile, more like a shy grin. But I know my son, and I knew that the gentle curve of his lips as he quietly participated in this most basic exercise was evidence of something good happening inside his typically guarded heart.

He felt significant.

In that moment, my son was unquestionably the sole object of another human’s interest. There were no other siblings competing for attention, no distractions of screens or other activity. Just an earnest, skilled person giving my son her full attention. His subtle smile was evidence of the uncommon pleasure he felt.

Sitting there watching, I couldn’t help wondering how overlooked he must feel much of the time, at home, at school, at church… So many other kids, conversations and chaos happening all around him; so little of it directed toward seeing, knowing, the heart of who he is. Of who God created him to be. And it struck me that most of us feel this same lack of significance as we rush through our days, jumping from one thing to the next, fighting to rise above the fray and make our voices heard.

So we can stand out.

So we can be noticed.

So we can feel significant.

For all our striving, however, we can’t assign significance to ourselves. True significance is only experienced in the context of relationship. It is when someone else chooses to see us, to listen to us, to question us, to affirm us, that we begin to believe we really matter.

Our Heavenly Father has already assigned to us the ultimate significance, in creating us and then saving us through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus. We are beyond significant to God. As his image-bearers, we are called to embrace this truth to the best of our ability. We are also called to share it with others. Which means we must be intentional about celebrating the significance of the precious people God puts in our lives.

“Do you ever feel overlooked?” I asked Asher as we headed back to school.

“I don’t know what you mean by that,” he replied, clearly suspicious that this conversation might be headed somewhere he didn’t feel like going right then. So I changed tack.

“Would you like more one-on-one time with me?” I asked.

“Maybe,” he answered.

And then he looked out the window.

And smiled.

The Gift of Neediness

gift of neediness

“I don’t want to be a burden.”

These seven little words are quite possibly the biggest thing standing between us and the relationship we crave. Not to mention, a serious buzzkill for those God has called to show us his love in tangible ways.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to be aware of one’s tendency to suck others dry. And none of us likes being on the other side of that equation. (See Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s bestselling book Boundaries if you need some help sorting this out.) But there is often a vivid discrepancy between our ideas of being “too needy” and what others perceive as an opportunity to bless us by listening, serving, and giving.

I’m reminded of this often in one of my relationships. For whatever reason, I really like to do things for this particular friend. Not because I’m a ridiculously selfless person who lives to give. I’m not, and I don’t. But this friend is just so darned likeable that it’s fun to make her load lighter sometimes.

She’s frequently limiting my giving, though, with statements like “Oh, that’s too much,” or “You don’t need to do this when you’ve already done that.” When she says things like this I push back a little, because I’ve already decided I can afford what I’m offering. And because I understand how hard it can be to receive someone’s generosity. Especially if we feel we haven’t had the chance to adequately reciprocate yet.

There’s something innate about trying to balance what we receive with what we give, and vice-versa, as though the integrity of our relationships might be compromised if things don’t even out. Since the loss of relationship inflicts profound wounds, it seems safer to keep our needs to ourselves until we think we’ve earned the right to have them met.

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to receive Jesus’s gift of unconditional love. We simply can’t reconcile it in our “all-things-must-be-equal” economy. If only we could pray more, or volunteer more at church, or sin less, or… SOMEthing. Anything to make us feel like we deserve the unfathomable gift we’ve been given.

But then it’s not a gift.

“If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract,” writes the Apostle Paul. “That’s not a holy promise; it’s a business deal.” – Rom. 4:14 (MSG)

I don’t know about you, but business deals feel like, well, business. And while they certainly have their place, the motivating factor is gain, not love.

Equal transactions are fair; gifts transcend this human construct.

If you’re human, then you have needs. And that’s ok. It’s a chance to practice receiving love in small doses so that you can begin to embrace the biggest Love all. Besides, every time you let someone love you, they get the immense pleasure of doing so. Which means you’re really doing them a favor, anyway. So maybe it’s all been more equal than you think.

Keep calm and love on…

 

Attack of the Mean Mommy (beware the false hope-bearers)

hope in someone bigger

This morning I googled “hope,” looking for the perfect image to accompany this post. Instead, I found myriad counterfeit hope-bearers – everything from pictures of stone angels to psychological diagrams to the well-intended “trust yourself” types of inspo statements that are so ubiquitous today, particularly in recovery circles.

Well intended, but not helpful. Not hopeful either.

“If you rest your hope in anything other than Jesus’ return,” my pastor said this Sunday, “you will not have peace.” At the end of the service, he asked those who realized they’ve been hoping in something other than Christ’s return to raise their hands. Mine went up.

Everyone’s should have, I’m thinking. I mean, let’s be real…

That afternoon my 4th grader got a fever. A low-grade, not-sick-enough-to-go-to-the-doctor-but-still-can’t-go-to-school-tomorrow fever, and I felt the walls closing in. Because I had HOPED to have a quiet work day on Monday. Because there was a list of things I had been HOPING to do when the kids finally got back to school after summer break. And now NONE of that was going to happen.

Peeved beyond reason by this unexpected loss of productivity, Mean-Mommy came out in full force. “If you stay home tomorrow, you’re on your own,” I told my daughter coldly. “I’ve got work to do.” She absorbed the assault without flinching. We’ve been here before.

“It’s not your fault,” my husband said to my precious girl, and a pang of regret pierced my heart. But still I felt bitter. Resentful. Frustrated with feeling so out of control of my life and schedule and blessed little checklist.

Frustrated, because I had been HOPING in the wrong thing.

My mind went back to the morning’s message. To my raised hand and my confession of misplaced hope. And the fact that somewhere, in the God-part of Constance Rhodes, is a woman who desires to live for something – Someone – bigger than herself.

And I realized that if I could place my hope in Jesus’ return even a fraction of the time I spend focusing on my daily tasks, I’d be so full of hope and love and peace that people would probably stop me on the street to ask if they could have some of what I’ve got.

Which is exactly the point.

If we want others to be attracted to this God we call LOVE, we can’t afford to put our hope in counterfeits. Otherwise we will become mean-mommies and distant neighbors and the I’m-too-busy-to-be-present-with-you kind of people who perpetuate the very “hope in yourself” pressure-cooker we’re trying to escape in the first place.

Last night I made things right with Sophia, and today is a new day. The ever-present checklist is beside me as I write, but I get to choose whether to serve it, or to let it serve me on whatever path God opens before me.

Today I choose the latter.

I’m hoping in Something greater…

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”

– 1 Pet. 1:13 (NIV)

Nothing. And everything. (Where to even begin…)

typewriter

I dropped my kids off for their first day of school today. The silence is glorious, as is the opportunity to reclaim my beloved Thursday writing day after three very long months off.

During the summer I put writing on hold because the stress of trying to have a coherent thought for longer than six minutes while all hell breaks loose (courtesy of three young humans and one small dog) was simply too high a price for everyone involved. Instead, I submitted to the forced break of creative productivity. At least externally.

On the inside, however, the ideas kept flowing…

In between refereeing fights at the pool, responding to first-world conundrums like what should I snack on? and what is there to do?, and driving thousands of miles across the country on oxy-moronic family vacations, I quietly pondered writing themes inside my head, certain that as soon as the much-awaited first day of school – TODAY – arrived, I would simply tip my head to the side and release the gathering collection bit by bit here on the blog, or in the next iteration of my More Than a Number manuscript.

So now today has arrived and I’ve given myself permission to dedicate the first-fruits of this new season to listening to what God might want to say through me and all I hear is… nothing.

That’s not exactly true. I hear God saying he is with me and I am not alone and he is enough so I don’t have to be. But the super-compelling-twitter-and-facebook-worthy title and body content for one simple blog-post? Not there yet.

In the face of such lack, it is my belief in the creative process, my chosen obedience to the call to be open and available, that holds me here, idea-less but hope-full. I click open the admin area of my website, blow off the dust, choose “add new post,” and start to write.

I don’t think God is hoping I’ll do something magical right now.

Don’t get me wrong – I know he loves to surprise me with unexpectedly perfect words that can only be attributed to him because I am quite aware of my own lack of perfection, but ultimately I know God is pleased that I’m just showing up here at all, choosing to be open to not having the impressive answer, or even the most compelling question. My being here is what matters to God. I am present and I am willing and that’s enough.

And so, there it is. Nothing and yet everything – the summation of our lives, if you think about it. Our problems are nothing to God and yet everything to us. We stare in our closets and feel we have nothing to wear, yet one outfit is everything to a Syrian refugee. We want to be everything the world wants us to be but God requires nothing of us to be his. And I can feel like nothing most days, but the fact that I am merely showing up and being present in my seeming nothingness means everything to God.

And so the beginning of this next season is just this – finding the beauty in nothing and in everything. Not in just huge leaps forward, but in the smallest steps of faith toward the great unknown.

It’s about being present and using my voice, not to sell a book or to impress a reader or to earn a like or two. Just to be.

It’s beginning enough for me.

 

A Facebook window into my ># book saga…

It’s been a month since I received the fateful news that the publisher did not like what I turned in and canceled my More Than a Number book contract. Over the past month God has been showing me a LOT, and I think it’s time for me to start blogging again. So this post is just to bring you up to speed via what I had posted on my Facebook page in the early aftermath, and to set the stage for what I hope will be a continued memoir-in-real-time of the journey God has me on to learn that I am enough, because HE is enough.

POST 1: The day I got the news of the cancellation…

Facebook - June 6POST 2: Quick lessons God already started teaching me through this trial…

Facebook - June 8

POST 3: A little God-wink a couple days later. Even if the publisher didn’t like what I’d written, the topic of “enoughness” is clearly relevant…

Facebook - June 10

And so… as I continue wrestling and learning, I am planning to return to blog-writing, to document the truths God is teaching me along the way. Stay tuned…