My gut is really smart. It totally knows what is going on and seems to have a mind of its own. If by chance I forget, it is always there making itself known in hushed but robust ways, reminding that something is coming that I am "unsure" of. Recently I was to get up in front at church and make an announcement and even though I have done this many times, my system was on alert! No amount of deep breathing, praying or telling myself the truth was going to stop the anxiety until I got up and did the thing. Afterwards it was GONE. Completely. My protection system works like a charm, even if the danger is not real, just in my head. The first day of teaching a class, a speaking engagement, preparation for a weekend of meals for a crowd are all triggers. Sometimes I even feel it as I sit down at my computer to write! My gut lets me know that things are not all that secure and that "danger" just might be ahead.
"Silly gut," I say, "It's OK. You'll be OK. Don't worry."
But the stress in my belly will not go away until the perceived danger has passed.
Friday I said good bye to my husband who boarded a plane and flew to South America. I am happy for him in this grand adventure. I know he is going to see outstanding, totally breathtaking scenery. Fishing in magnificent lakes, navigating their raft through treacherous rivers, sleeping under millions of stars, hiking in all that beauty will procure stories of the best kind. I look forward to hearing them and living the adventure all over with him upon his return. But...that old gut of mine was out of whack for three days before he left!
My mind buzzed with any number of questions. What will it feel like to be without my best friend for twenty-eight days? What if it snows big time and I have to shovel the sidewalks?Why did we buy a house on a corner lot with so many long sidewalks anyway?How will I get myself to bed at a decent hour? Will I revert to peanut butter sandwiches without him here to prepare meals for? What if the boiler breaks down and I have no heat? What if I have an emergency? My mind can conjure up all kinds of scenarios that could require his wisdom, opinion, strength and expertise; the attributes I have, for 35 years, come to depend upon.
I drove him to the airport on Friday. We said some wonderful final words and kissed goodbye.
Friday afternoon found me sitting in a pew at our church with 150 women, along with thousands of women around the world. The gathering was organized to enable us to have a place and time to seek God. Through worship, speakers, interviews, round-table discussions, heart-wrenching stories and prayers, we asked Him to show up. There were beautiful moments, agonizing stories, challenges, new thoughts, and a deep working of God's Spirit, weaving within us a desire to hear.
I felt God offered me some gifts to counter my gut's warnings.
- A precious note from a dear friend, affirming my place in her life.
- Hugs from beautiful people who care about my heart.
- Words of worth spoken to me from a wise dear one, reminding me who I am.
- God even had something to say! Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
- A call to deeper love and understanding.
- Through speakers I heard: God calls us to the uncomfortable. It's in obedience that we see God move. When you know He is with you, you can do anything. Faithful is not necessarily fearless. I want to be a woman fully alive, not encumbered by fear. Women are the greatest untapped resource of the world. We mark our moments...I'm going to fight for my faith.
As the conference drew to a close, we were all asked to pray and seek one step of faith we felt God calling us to. Writing that next step on our rocks, we took them to the front of the church and piled them, like the Israelites did in remembrance of what God had done for them as he led them to the promised land. Some people spoke out what they wrote and why. It was a beautiful way to finish up the conference. I felt deeply as I placed my rock with the others.
Worship came to a close. Women quietly rose and exited the darkened room. The moment felt full and warm, camaraderie emerging from these holy moments.
Cleaning up afterwards, I came across a stray rock. It hadn't been taken to the front with the others, but was left in a pew. I picked it up and in that moment, I realized that this rock, this word, had found its rightful place. It was God's word for me.
Ok, Father God, as long as you are with me, I know I do not need to be afraid. These days apart from my husband will be walked out with excitement, keeping my eyes and heart open fully to the rhythm of your glorious stride right beside me. This has been the way I have lived my life. You have made me brave.
Brave goes WAY beyond my little story of my husband being away. I live brave; taking hold of opportunities to stretch my "comfort zones," standing up for what is right, deciding to be honest with myself and others, embracing the next thing I'm called to. All will find me trusting my invisible God because my life of faith has proven that he is worthy of such trust.
"Settle down, gut. We can do this."
I better do something about the food thing, though. Twenty-eight days of peanut butter sandwiches is not going to go well with my body, or my soul...