Striving to do

During our THIRSTY blog back in January, I mentioned that my husband Sam and I had been awed by the changes we experienced in 2013. I have jokingly told my friends I felt like I fell asleep with one life, and awakened the next day to another life. Imagine stepping into the life you’ve been hoping for, praying for, and finding that it deeply disconcerts you in ways you never could have anticipated.

I went from working full-time in a job I loved, surrounded by colleagues I considered friends and family, to staying home focusing on my son, spending half my life in the car. Idling in car pool lines. Racing from school to therapy…and to another therapy. To doctor’s appointments. Whatever it takes to help my son kick Autism’s butt as much as possible. Happier, but more out of my comfort zone and more isolated in many ways than I have ever been.

One day my husband sat me down and asked if we could “talk.” Now there’s talk and there’s “talk”. Ladies and gentleman, hubby had “talk” written all over him. His next words continued the conversation his non-verbals had already started.

“Babe, I don’t like what I’m seeing in you.”

Station break: Fellas, don’t try this at home. I mean, some of you can…maybe. Sam and I have seventeen years of marriage and more than one storm we’ve weathered together. We’ve got lots of battle scars, some we inflicted on each other. Fortunately, we also nursed each other’s wounds. But I digress…just be careful before you lead with this statement to your wife! LOL. We now return to regularly scheduled blogging…

“Babe, I don’t like what I’m seeing in you.”

I stiffened and sputtered and defended. Feinted and attacked. Furrowed my brow and spat a phrase or two.

“Well, what do you think you see in me?” I asked.

“You’re striving.”

Along the way, being a Christian and all, I have come to understand striving isn’t a good thing. You see, I’m a natural born striver. I’m a Type A- personality. (Not quite Type A, but just points shy of it.) I’m a try-er. I am hardwired to work. Strands of achieve are woven all up in my DNA. Striving to me is like breathing. It is essential and it feels awesome. So, you say I’m striving and I look at you blankly like “and the sky is blue, dude. Tell me something I actually need to know.”

But by now, I know what my husband is saying. I know what he means. He was telling me I was trying to make something happen that God wanted to do. Trying to force a rhythm that God wanted to set. Striving to DO something when there was someone God wanted me to BE.

Working, I knew what a win was. I knew what success was. I knew what pleasing looked like. Suddenly, I didn’t have those objective measures. I didn’t know when I’d succeeded. Didn’t know when I’d done enough to consider myself productive. Didn’t know, in many ways, who to please. And if it’s God…(and by the way it ‘s ALWAYS God)…can I be honest…I found myself unsure of how to please Him if it wasn’t with what I DID. This is a lesson I will probably grapple with my whole life. I’ve wrestled it to the ground before, but it never completely says “Uncle”. Leaving my job stripped away another layer of armor I was hiding behind. Exposed something my Father had probably been just itching to deal with that I didn’t even know was still there.

I wrote earlier this month about the words that hover over my life each year. Words I believe God plants in my heart to direct my decisions and my focuses and prayers for a season. Probably later this year, I’ll share one of the two words God blared at my heart. I’ll tell you one of them today. Abide.

This unassuming little word has been shaking my foundations for as long as I can remember, and never more than in this New World that is my life right now. I am Columbus. I am Magellan. Negotiating treacherous seas and unsettled land with nothing more than a rudimentary compass and a crude antediluvian map.

When I first scrape the surface of the word abide, it strikes me as passive. I pretty much have a violent allergic reaction to passivity. It smacks of laying back; of resting on your laurels. I barely have laurels, people. Resting on them is the last thing I want to do. And yet, God calls us to abide in Him. To rest in Him. This verse, though, exposed my grasp of the word “abide” as weak and faulty.

John 15:5
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Now you have my attention. I can do nothing without abiding? And I know enough to know that you don’t bear fruit without some work. But it is not the kind of work I relish; the kind where my intelligence or energy or effort or persistence determines my results. This verse postures God as the vine; as the source, and me as an offshoot, growing from Him. Only thriving via Him. Reliant on Him. And this verse positioned the fruit I would bear, who I am, before mentioning what I can DO. And even then, my DOING is still wrapped up in Him.

Sam challenged me to rest. To abide in God. To focus less on what I need to do, and more on who God was…is…calling me to BE in this season of my life. He challenged me to discover myself in God in a way completely independent of accomplishment. He recognized how tangled my identity was with what I did. Leaving my job exposed just how much of my identity had pythoned itself around my vocation, what I did for a living. Sam invited me…God invited me…into the process of separating my identity, strand by strand, from what I did, and meshing it by the power of the Holy Spirit…through the process of abiding in Christ…inextricably with Him. With who I am in Him. If you ever struggle with this, I invite you to do the same.

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Tina Dula spent the last decade or so creating irresistible environments for the
unchurched through service programming at North Point Community Church. She recently transitioned out of an incredibly fulfilling career in church world to focus on her son Myles and to run the foundation she established to serve families living with Autism, Myles-A-Part. In addition to volunteering with the core team of Perimeter Pointe Church, she’s returned to one of her greatest passions, writing. Her first book in a fictional trilogy through Hachette Books/Grand Central releases in June 2014 under the pen name Kennedy Ryan.

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