How many times do you need to respond to something in one particular (toxic) way before you notice a pattern?
With five kids, one of them still in diapers, my answer is usually “many.” But I’m pretty sure that before the five kids and before I had one in diapers the answer was still many.
We are creatures of habit, and we can be long in the habit-making before we realize that some of those habits have wrapped themselves around our air source.
One afternoon a week I sit down to write.
The babe’s down for his nap, the children are building forts in the woods and Nate is working from home with one eye on the computer while answering to shouts outside of “Daddy, we found a turtle. Come see!” and “Is it time for a snack, yet?” and “Can we ride bikes down the hill?”
It’s a rhythm.
I drive a few miles away to hide in a local coffee shop while they shout through the trees, and the baby monitor props on Nate’s desk, droning in the background.
My drive goes something like this: first, I remember the things left undone at home. Was the oven still on? I forgot to check Lily’s reading. Ooh, the bread for dinner is still in the freezer.
If unchecked, that line of thinking could move from: hmmm … should I just turn around? It’s a busy week …to … what I am thinking trying to add this creative exercise to an already long list of life?
If unchecked, I walk through the door of the coffee shop, order a chai and sit a little more slumped, a little less enthusiastic about my writing now that I’ve let myself be reminded of all that I’m missing by spending these few hours here.
Just like the week before, I open my computer, set the background music and I pray: Help, meet me Lord. This is You – by You, for You, to You. I see the girl two tables over, also writing away on her computer. A paper, maybe, or a book? She looks intent and if I’ve allowed this rut of unfettered thoughts, I’m susceptible. “The world doesn’t need another writer,” I could think about myself. “There are so many people saying something … anything … why do I want to add my voice to that noise?”
If I don’t remember to quiet this voice because now I’m too far in, believing it, I befriend it, openly.
I could stare at the screen, and the writing idea that had been bumping around in my mind for days suddenly seems foolish. I’m my own opponent now. You’re just wasting time. You’re too young to write, anyways, and in the wrong generation — the best books are from long-dead people who didn’t have Facebook. You’re gonna look back on this years from now and wish you never wrote it but it’ll be cached somewhere forever. I had a page of notes and I cross a line right through them, tattoo it with FAILED.
I’m better off just reading today, I’d reason — and so join the throngs of writers and painters and accountants and schoolteachers and photographers and mothers who on this one very day forfeit God’s display of glory through them in exchange for a lie from the enemy.
You see all this? I’ve let you into a toxic habit that He has been gently healing over the course of years. But could this also be you?
Mothers who send their children on the school bus only to walk back down the driveway in shame at the tone they used just five minutes earlier — I knew I’d never be a good mother to this child. And mamas who educate at home, exhaustedly declare to themselves: I’m ruining my kids, just like I feared I would, as their unfettered self-analysis.
Photographers and painters and musicians who got all geared up (equipment in tow) for an afternoon of playing with God — only to come home empty-handed. If I can’t get it just right, I’m not ready to try and I surely can’t get it just right today, we reason.
Bankers and lawyers and architects who showed up to work with an empty cup in hand, wondering who might validate this vocation about which they’re passionate, but who are still spending every day’s commute considering quitting because they aren’t hitting the achievement marks they thought they would be by now.
Business owners whose sales this year were less than last’s — but who hired one more employee. Who was I kidding to think I’d make this idea work? I knew it — I’m just an irresponsible kid underneath this suit is the unspoken anthem ringing through the back of their head. Missionaries who’ve not yet seen one heart turn to Jesus, say to themselves: I knew I should have kept my salaried job. I wasn’t made for this.
If we’re honest, most of us struggle with the business of this particular kind of habit-making in at least one area of our lives.
Except, can I remind you of the secret that might just change your morning commute?[pullquote]When we shelf that boldly-vulnerable expression of ourselves because this shameful lie spoke louder, we have missed a meeting with God.[/pullquote]
The accusations in your head aren’t the personal report-card you thought they were, they are arrows from an enemy who’s hounding your life and your pursuit of God. He’s found your weak spots — you know, the ones that were maybe even pre-purposed for the greatest glory of God in your life — and you’ve been duped. The enemy is, after all, a thief and destroyer of what is good.
There are closets full of half-painted canvas and electronic files of never re-opened stories and dusty dreams you once dreamt for your children that are awaiting revival from Him. ‘Cause when we shelf that boldly-vulnerable expression of ourselves because this shameful lie spoke louder, we are missing a meeting with God.
We’ve created a call-and-response with shame — we hear the lie and respond with a resignation letter — and all the while He’s inviting: engage with Me in the place where you feel most ashamed and I’ll breathe my Truth over your dark thoughts.
Friends, our closets are full of lost art not because we need a different hobby or career or life-expression but because we need to open our mouths and partner with God.
Use your voice.
Before my toes even feel the cold morning floor I have to use my voice to declare His Word over me if I’m going to live on the offense.
At the break of day, noon, night and a dozen times in between, His Word is your weapon. Use it. Read it. Say it. Sing it. We can’t just clean the house of our minds and expect sustained clean-thinking without filling it with Truth. To live and thrive in God in this age, amidst all the competing noise and voices (the worst of which are in our heads), we will have to find a new way to engage with His Word.
Give yourself permission to try a new approach. Dust off your Bible and make it your food. You can’t live without it.
(Before long, it won’t just be your dreams that die if this Word doesn’t have a PICC line into your veins. The enemy — that voice — is after more than just having you quit your dreams; he wants you to quit God.)
Pick up your paint brush again (or your spreadsheet or camera) as an act of warfare while your voice — singing His Word — echoes against the walls. Don’t hasten away from that place or space that’s caused all this internal commotion: lean into it. With Him.
You wanna know what this looks like for me? I’m writing another book. Yeesh. I didn’t just say that but now I wrote it. (Cached forever, right?) Though the contract was signed a while back, I get to sign up again with my heart and my pen and say “I will not succumb to the enemy’s pursuit of my heart. I’m gonna bring Him glory here.”
Over the months ahead I’ll share a few more details that I don’t share on the blog, as well as some of my favorite things in a monthly email to those who opt in. Sign up here to find me occasionally in your inbox…
For Your Continued Pursuit (cause I don’t want you to just take my word for it): Romans 8:33-34 | 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 | Ephesians 6:10-16 | James 4:7 | 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 | 1 John 4:4-6 | James 4:7 | Psalm 89:1 | Isaiah 26:3 | Revelation 12:10 | Zechariah 3:1 NIV | 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 | 1 Peter 5:8-11 | John 10:10 | Matthew 12:43-45
Photos compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography.