Making Progress

Writing doesn’t make you vulnerable until you let someone else read it.

And then, it opens you right up like a patient on the table, the critical eye of the surgeon evaluating the inner parts of you, what’s working and even what isn’t.  Even your life blood is laid bare and open to inspection.

I admit it.  I’m afraid sometimes.

Like the time I read a blog by Lysa TerKeurst, the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries.  She had just gotten her nails done.  It was such a simple thing.

And some of those lovely Christian women reading her sweet little blog post just about ripped her head off through the computer.

They called her all manner of horrid things, equating a nail file and some polish at a salon to being a harlot of Babylon.

Good gravy.

I’ve read about Beth Moore and the vicious, scathing letters she receives from Bible scholars and disgruntled readers.  Mary DeMuth talks about the nasty emails in her book, Everything, and how they just about crumpled her to the floor.

I’ve even ended up on email lists of people who feel the need to criticize every word every Christian writer has ever written….ever.

Blogging this way, pushing that “publish” button on the side of my screen as I finish each post, never lacks a certain amount of fear for me.  Fear I’ll offend.  Fear I’ll get it wrong.  Fear the words won’t be enough or they won’t be articulate enough, poetic enough, beautiful enough, inspirational enough, truthful enough.

I don’t sit here at the computer typing away several days a week because I’m bold or even slightly brave.  I don’t do it because I think I’m qualified or more capable.

Mostly, after all, I’m afraid.  I’m the people-pleasing girl daunted by failure, criticism and embarrassment, who’d rather sit on the sidelines and miss out on the fun than lay myself out there for everyone to see.

But if God says, “Go,” He means “go.”  And if God says, “Sing for others to hear…Write for others to read….Speak so others can listen….Dance so others can see….,” He’s asking you to be brave in Him.

For Moses, this calling was so difficult.  All he could see was his past—a murderer-turned-fugitive, who had spent 40 years in the desert tending sheep and trying to forget his life in Egypt.

He could see his inability, his sin, his insufficiency.  He was crippled by fear.

In fact, Moses wanted God to choose somebody else, because he spoke “with faltering lips” (Exodus 6:30).

In the Message paraphrase, Moses says, “Look at me. I stutter.”

“Look at me.”  Isn’t that what we’re doing when God calls us forward, but we remind Him of others who are more equipped and how incapable we really are? We’re fixing our eyes on ourselves or maybe on the fears that we’ve made bigger than God.

But God told Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” (Exodus 7:1 NIV).

The Message says it this way:  “God told Moses, ‘Look at me…'”

It’s a re-direction of our focus, a looking up instead of a looking in or looking down or even looking ahead.

The prophet Habakkuk described it this way:

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! (Habakkuk 3:19 AMP).

God is our Strength.  He is our personal bravery.

It is He who makes us walk forward rather than standing still in terror.  Even more than that, He gives us progress when we’d rather give up or run away or fail to even begin the journey.

But only when we let go of fear (of failure, of criticism, of people, of abandonment, of getting it wrong…) can we move forward.  Only when we stop looking at our own clumsy feet or squinting ahead trying to make out any dangers along the path can we trust Him to guide us along the rocky mountain climb, making us as nimble and sure-footed as the practiced mountain deer.

Do you have any fears that are holding you back from obeying God’s call?

Christian Writers Blog Chain

Today’s post is part of the January topic, ‘Forward’ by the ChristianWriters.com Blog Chain. You can click on the links on the right side of this page to read more articles in this series.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Sorry!

It just seems so cruel.

I’m playing the board game Sorry! with my kids, not grown ups, not enemies, not rivals.  sorry!These are little tiny people with big sensitive feelings.  But when I draw that one magic card from the stack, I have to stomp all over their progress and send their man back to the start zone.

Don’t pass Go.  Don’t collect $200.

Or something like that.

And while I might be able to rig Candy Land, there’s not really much I can do about the game Sorry!, not without destroying the essence of the game by hiding all the Sorry! cards themselves.

Over time, my kids have grown a little hardier, but when we first started playing I had to apologize profusely for sending them back to “Start” just as they thought they were winning.  There was crying and there were hurt feelings.

Now at least they understand it’s all part of the game.

While all of us want to race straight from “Start” to “Home,” the truth is Sorry! is all about patiently waiting for the right card before you can step out onto the game board.  It’s about being sent back a few times and jumping ahead at opportune moments, sliding a little forward when things go your way and taking four steps back every once in a while.

It’s a little bit, or maybe a lot, like life.  It certainly reminds me of Abraham’s life.

When God called Abram (later Abraham) to leave his home and head out to an unknown land of promise, Abram packed his bags in faith, bid a fond farewell to family and friends and set out on his journey.

I guess I’ve always imagined him rushing through the wilderness, riding as fast as his camels could carry him in the desert heat, stopping only for sleep and meals only when fruit snacks and peanut butter crackers no longer sufficed.

I could see his wife, Sarai, pulling her camel alongside his and assuring him softly that, “It’s all right to stop for a bathroom break.  We don’t have to make it to the Promised Land in one day.”

I know I would be in a hurry to reach my destination!  Given a promise or a hope, I’m eager to leave and rush breathlessly down the road.

I’d be pressing into God every day:  Is this the land, God?  Is this your promise?  Or is it beyond this and, if so, what are you waiting for?  Let’s get moving!

Yet, Genesis 12:9 says, “Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev” (NLT).

He took the journey in stages.  Travel a bit and then rest for a while in one place.  Get to know the people.  Linger along the desert road.  Tend to the sheep.  Wait on God to direct His next step.

Yes, Abram enjoyed the journey.

Even when he arrived at the land of promise, it must have been such a disappointment.  Scripture says, “At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner” (Genesis 12:10 NLT).

The Promised Land wasn’t flowing with milk and honey at the time.  It was dried up and destitute.  He had to retreat to Egypt, taking a long detour where he lived as a foreigner, an outsider, one man worshiping One God among a nation of many gods.

Then he trekked back over land he’d already covered, but even then he didn’t hurry.  He knew the way.  He’d been there before.  And yet still he traveled slow:

“From the Negev, they continued traveling by stages toward Bethel, and they pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, where they had camped before.  This was the same place where Abram had built the altar, and there he worshiped the Lord again” (Gen. 13:3-4).

Maybe that’s what kept him going all along, knowing he would see Bethel again, where he had worshiped the Lord before and where he hoped to meet God anew.  Perhaps by then, Abram needed that reassurance that God was still with him and that though the journey was long and complicated, confusing even, there was a plan and a purpose, a hope and a future.

Surely we all need that reassurance at times, because our traveling isn’t much more straightforward than Abram’s was.

Sometimes we have to go back and sometimes we have to take the long way round.  Sometimes we get knocked aside by others.  Sometimes it seems like we’re absolutely standing still, just turning over card after card waiting for our chance to move.

But we remember to take it in stages, knowing that, unlike arbitrary cards on a board game, God has a plan.  We can trust that “the Lord will continually guide you” (Isaiah 58:11 NASB), even when we’re not moving forward, we are always moving on with Him.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King