Here’s the deal. You know those ‘Christiany’ posts about filling your cup with joy so you spill out joy? I believe that. I do. I try to fill my cup with joy. I try to fill others’ cups with joy. I’m trying to fill all the cups. Joy. Joy. Joy in all the cups.
BUT- life is just not that simple. And the plain old fact is life is hard. Most people, especially now amidst Covid and our country’s general morale, are living lives of pain and anxiety. In fact, there are a lot of cups spilling out pain all around us and that pain will splash onto our clean, white newly pressed joy shirts should we bump into their proverbial emotional cups of coffee.
And rather than shriek at the stain on your shirt and the pain of that burn, greet that person with compassion and kindness and patience and understanding rather than contempt. Then maybe, just maybe, we will season their brew with a little sweetness.
Grace, always grace, especially over platitudes. -in love.
What if every single thing that has happened around you in your life, both tragic and blessing, every sunset, every sunrise, every laugh, every tear, every burial, every birth, what if every single second that passed, God intentionally and specifically used all those moments to draw you to Him?
Not causing the bad but taking hold of it and molding it into a moment to whisper in your ear…”I’m here.”
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Two years ago, I was inspired by an amazing friend who prays for God to reveal a theme word to live into every year. At first, this sounded to me like that crazy mystic-Christian fluff stuff that drives me bonkers. Nevertheless, with a cynical heart and a sense of desperation for God’s guidance, I tried it and asked God for a word for 2019. I know many of you will think I’m crazy, but I believe He gave me two words whilst I was in the bathtub ugly sobbing my way through a prayer that only a mom who is about to send her first kid to college would understand. (I wish sending a kid to college was the most difficult issue we faced in 2019.) It is probably because I am hard-headed and needed an extra dose of heavenly lessons that God gave me two words rather than just one. I wish I could explain how I know that these words were from God. I can’t. Let me just say that He inaudibly finished some sentences for me before I could think or speak them.
The words for 2019 were Trust and Loved. God proved in that year that I cantrust Him, trust others, and that I am intentionally loved. The lesson was loud. The lesson hurt, but the rewards are healing and precious. I came out of 2019 no longer doubting God’s promises and viewing my world very differently.
The words for 2020 were Joy and Run. I was excited about the first and frustrated with the last. What I learned was that Joy from God doesn’t come from financial security, good health, jobs, perfect marriages, children, food etc. Joy from God comes when you can look around you into a crumbling world full of fear, hate, and mistrust and still smile knowing that God is there amidst chaos. Happiness is earthly and temporal. Joy is heaven-focused (and can be stolen–hold tight to it). As far as running goes, I did try to get back in the habit. And especially once we moved north I was running about every other day. I have wondered if that extra strengthening of my lungs helped me get through Covid, honestly. Because the cough I developed was no joke. God knows. Perhaps God was telling me to run toward the hope of 2021.
Enter 2021. Since January 1, I’ve been praying and wondering about my theme word for this year. And on January 2, I think I may have received the word…maybe. Regardless, I did get a good laugh. On January 2, I woke up and immediately thought the word “unfettered”. Now this is not a word in my everyday vernacular. I was only halfway sure I knew what it meant. At first I wondered what the heck I was dreaming about. Then, when the word stuck with me through my shower rather than fading into my subconscious like most dreams do, I researched.
Because I believe in testing the spirits, I pulled up the Bible on my phone to see where this word fit into God’s Word. Unfettered? Could this be my word? In my quick simple search I pulled up three verses where this word is commonly used in various translations of the Bible. The first is found in the book of John where John says he is not worthy to untie/unfettered Jesus’ sandals. The second is before the triumphant entry when Jesus tells the apostles to go and find a colt or donkey and untie/unfetter it for Him to ride upon. And finally the last verse that pulled up is found in Job. When I saw one verse was found in Job, I thought, “Yep. This is it. This is the word for me.” I thought this may be it because last year, when my husband and I were going through one of the most horrific spiritual journeys of our lives, we read Job. Now, post spiritual crisis, that seems melodramatic as God led us and guided us so much more pleasantly than poor Job. Nevertheless, I pulled up the verse in Job that uses the word unfettered…
“Who gives the wild ass his freedom? Who unfetters his ropes?” Job 39:5
Wait. What? Did God just call me an ass?
I laughed. I laughed hard.
In hindsight, over the last two years, there were several, or if I’m completely honest, plenty of times when in fact I was an incomprehensible ass when it came to my faith. I doubted God’s provision over and over again, and even so, He still showed up. I was so angry at God for taking us on a journey of loneliness and abandonment that there were days when I wouldn’t speak to Him. Like a spoiled child, I refused to do what God was calling me to do because of my lack of faith. I blamed everyone in my path for my lack of effort in my relationship with God. I blamed the liberal left. I blamed the self-righteous right. I blamed the heretics living next-door. I blamed churches. I blamed church people. I blamed my parents. I blamed my husband. I’m pretty accomplished at the blame game. So, yes, I deserve that name among a few others, I suspect.
After I got over the initial shock of Job 39:5 and the potential of God having a great sense of humor and justice, I reminded myself which word I was given twenty minutes earlier. I read on. The rest of Job 39 is a list of several animals described by God that exist as a result of complete dependence upon Him. God was putting Job in his place in this chapter and essentially reminding him who was boss. Spoiler, it’s not Job…nor you…nor me.
This very same lesson God was teaching Job is exactly what He wanted me to learn over the last two years. And since I finally let go and accepted God’s guidance, the sensation that I continue to have is one of freedom. In fact, I’ve said that very word – freedom – many times since God relocated our family. I feel free.
I feel free of my fear and anxiety. (Though I do have some moments of relapse that I’m working through.)
I feel free of the constant judgement and expectations of others. (Whether those were real or imaginary, probably both, they plague me no longer.)
And quite frankly, just being able to get back into nature and seasons that I recognize and enjoy has set my soul to soaring. Leaving behind the concrete jungle has freed my spirit in ways that even surprised me, and I knew I loved nature, but now it seems as I inhale cool crisp mountain air…I can finally breathe again.
So, yes, I think unfettered is a fine word for this year. I will thank God daily for the freedom He gave this awkward questioning soul– both my freedom from the law of sin and death and freedom from where I was literally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am free indeed.
“I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Job 42:5-6