To any who choose to read, I plead, please hold my heart so carefully in your hands, because the walls are thin and fragile today.
I’m writing to you from Eden, you know…the place where God meets us face to face, where we are naked and unashamed? The place we are stripped of everything this world has to offer and it is just me and God in the perfectly breezy and comfortable afternoon air. But just as Eve would have had it, you haven’t found me walking quietly in the afternoon, hand-in-hand with God. I’m over here hiding because I’m naked and exposed. Stripped of the identities and roles I’ve worn and back to just being His, I feel completely undone.
I took a group of youth several years ago to a conference and the week-long theme was Undone. I didn’t get it then, but now I do. David Crowder has always had that song, too: I’m-coming-un-done! And I sang right through that verse. But now I am. I am the one coming undone.
It was Easter weekend when I knew with clarity and a peace beyond my own understanding that God was releasing me from 6 years of ministry and work at Vera Lloyd. I am really at a loss for what words need to come next. I know I need to tell you that there’s been lots of tears, lots of prayer, and even going to counseling for the first time in my life (a whole other post, y’all), and I probably should tell you that this huge decision comes from months of consideration during which I had actually disconnected from and become angry with God due to my inability (or now I see, unwillingness) to hear His voice. My leaving is not about Vera Lloyd; it’s about me and how I allowed myself to get into a place of some pretty serious overload and burn-out. It’s about needing to take care of myself and be present (not just physically but emotionally) for my family. It’s about walking away from what has become comfort in difficulty into the unknown simply because of faith. I will not lie and say there are not some job-related and work factors that play into the decision, but through and through, I still love and will continue to support the ministry at Vera Lloyd. This is not a divorce or separation; it is simply continuing the journey that brought me here in the first place – stepping in the shadows of my Savior and following the footprints He leaves behind.
My days this week have each held intense emotional themes, and I only wish I was being dramatic. The rises and falls of this rollercoaster have been so distinct and the emotions so heavy. They still are. Here’s an overview: Fear. Isolation. Hurt. Grief. Guilt. Anger. Bargaining. Denial. Yeah, I don’t like to do things in order. The best way I’ve been able to describe this process, these ten days since I turned in my resignation letter to the place that has taught me more than any other place in my life…has been to say it feels like I am pulling my skin away from my bones. The heart breaking making a sound (I have always kind of liked Crowder). The physical hurt in your chest when the tears are not enough. And then the numbness. The silence. The doubt that causes the rehashing which causes the anxiety, and before I know it I’ve picked my nails bloody. It’s the for real kind of pain, deep enough I’ve limited my conversations and interactions because the conversation we are having now is too difficult to go live with.
I’ve only felt like this two other times in my life. The first time was huddled in the corner of the kitchen the movers were emptying one piece of furniture at a time from as we moved from Arkansas to another state, Kansas, for the first time at the age of 11. There was a blistering to my cries then that has overtaken my heart today. The second was the month of sharing the news and transitioning out of my ministry position in Salina at the age of 25 to move here to dive into the ministry at Vera Lloyd. I was leaving wonderful, beautiful people and a life I loved for an exciting, necessary adventure that began the next chapter of our lives. Today is different, though, than both of the other huge heartbreaks. I am leaving wonderful, beautiful people but rather than packing a moving truck, God’s carving a hole out inside of me while my feet stay planted in this place. It’s a strange sensation for a girl who has spent her life moving. To change everything but stay in place. To walk away while standing still. And never have I left without having a destination. I’ve never gotten out of the boat to walk to Jesus. I’ve always been walking to what is next. A new community. A new platform. A new all-consuming passion. Today, I’m left in Eden with Him naked and His presence is all around me and there is nothing else. And I reach for the apple and I reach for the leaves to cover myself up. I want to keep the roles, I want to maintain the identities because who the heck am I without all of this? I am His. But in case you think it must have taken a saint’s load of faith to step out to follow the Lord, please know I still don’t have enough faith right now to always know that being His is going to be enough. And that is the exact reason I know I am right where I need to be, because I need to know that it is.
He’s brought me to Eden to prune me, to know me, to grow me, and to launch me into a season only He could create. He’s brought me to the end of my self-sufficieny. I physically felt myself put the cloak of self-sufficiency back on after I left my houseparenting role and went into administration. And I haven’t taken it off since. The roles themselves beg for performance and pushing and striving and results. And it was a perfect storm for this pleasing performer who still believes somewhere deep inside of me that I have something to prove to my God. There’s the part I’ve always longed for I found in houseparenting – a complete, utter, deep, unavoidable dependence on God and a complete recognition of myself never being enough.
But today, what do I do with the failure? The broken parts left over after you strive and push so hard. I am completely at the end of me. Or…I’m trying to get there but I’m not at a place where that is the picture I want to leave behind. A broken me complete only in Him. I still want to be enough. That’s so disgusting, but it’s so real, and I have to tell you. In reality, He just wants me to leave a picture of Him behind – without even my image left casting shade…because He has given me the chance to step all the way down and lay face down on the ground and allow any and all I have left be in Him. To be His. It’s what I want in the deepest places, but this flesh is so twisted up.
Walk with me, friends, if you so dare into this Promised Land. Pray with me for the distractions to be few and the temptations to wander in the wilderness be resisted. Milk and honey for me right now represents not more salary but less, not security but intimacy, not self-sufficiency but all-out-dependence, not beautiful, impressive plans but difficult obedience with few steps revealed, not more and more and more and more but less and simple and quiet and peace. I want to walk straight in, but be careful, the fear is present. Don’t let me be Moses and miss it completely by making it about me. Don’t let me be the Israelites and wallow, complain, and lose focus and years in the wilderness. Let me walk hard and fast into His presence and into my Eden without shame. Let the parts of me that are so broken find healing not in more performance but in being fully known and fully loved and fully His. And let every criticism, question, critique, and wordly misunderstanding be held hostage by the Spirit far from my heart. Let His Word and strength rule in this place.
For those walking with me, I need you to know today is just pain. And when the pain is too much, it’s just numb. When you see me laugh, when I say it so quick and crass, it is because it’s too tender to say slowly or with care. When no one dies, the grief seems invisible but universally hard. How can staying be so wrong but leaving be so hard? I’m a giver and a helper and have never not been. And today I can’t give and I’m not much help. It’s hard to receive care and it’s hard to let you carry this with me. But I need it nonetheless but mostly from Him. Help me receive it from Him. I’m learning to be His. I may just need some help along the way.