She walked onto stage, tall with grey hair, a calm presence you could feel right off the bat. I began to cry. It startled me, the emotion. People who know me think, “What? Of course, emotion from you.” I could have sobbed louder, but I was in a room with about 100 other women, the group of women who gathered for our IF:local. To find out more about IF:Gathering visit https://ifgathering.com/.
Why did this hit me? What was it? An older woman taking the stage to speak, to teach brought a mixture of grief and hope. Since moving to Crystal Lake I have missed my older mentors from Ohio. When we first moved to Akron, we were straight out of college. We were the youngest on staff at the church. There was a plethora of older woman surrounding me. I was 21. Funny to think back now. In some ways it feels like yesterday, other ways like an eternity. God has used women steps ahead of me to show me himself, to guide me closer to him. I took their lives in. I learned to follow Jesus myself by watching them. Some I tried to emulate. Some, I decided, no, that style is not me, or that opinion, I disagree with. A few, I thought, I want to be just like them. Their love for Jesus, their genuineness, their passion is what I want. I asked questions. I paid attention. I challenged. I pursued.
Today I am 44. Wow, there is something about writing it down. Striking. I am on the other side. Now if you are 20 years ahead of me, you’re thinking, “you’re young still!” I understand. But I am on the other side. It feels strange. However there is something so freeing about becoming this age. Certain things are settled now. I do not fret over some of the little things I used to 20 years ago. I do know who I am in a deeper way now. But life and circumstances have a way of pressing in a little more now. Kids get older, issues feel weightier. Time feels so much more of the essence. Time is ticking away. More than ever before I want my life to be spent well. More than ever I want to do the most important things, not what culture says is important, but important as it relates to eternity.
As God has developed me over the years, my desires have morphed into something closer to his. I think more of people than things. (Not always!) I consider oppressed and vulnerable people more than I ever have. I want to meet needs. I want people to know how good God is. I want people to experience transformation from the inside out and know the Spirit who brings about such change. New desires awaken. I think of new things I want to be.
But I look back. I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 19 years. I do not have certain experiences. I do not have certain degrees. I look ahead and feel limited by my choices. I am not sure I have what I need to go where I dream of going.
We listen on the edge of our seats as the speaker, Jill Briscoe, speaks of bombs falling when she was 6 in war time Britain and C.S. Lewis’ words on the radio when she was a young adult. We try to imagine what life was like back then. The details are so different from life today but the search for God transcends time, country, and culture. We relate to her as human, as a woman looking for answers, looking for hope. We find ourselves saying yes in the deepest places of our hearts as she gives us a peek into her fears, her resistance, and finally her surrender. My heart and mind resonates with hers. I was enjoying the history, the wisdom, and the stories.
Then, all of sudden God pierced my heart. It was somewhat of an aside for her.
“everything that has made you, you, the color of your skin, your skills, whether discovered and used and honed or raw, everything that you, when you get to my age, I’m in my eighties, you’ll look back on your life and say, God has used every single one of them, if, of course, you’ve given Him permission, if you’ve said yes.”
Straight through those words, like a dart, flying through the air to the target of truth.
“I thought I missed something.”
I quickly and deliberately scribbled it down in my notebook. I can not forget this.
God to me,
“You didn’t. You didn’t miss it.”
Sometimes the truth hits like a ton of bricks, bowling you over til you are flat on the ground in the very best way. Truth setting me free from lies. Freedom rushing into my mind and heart. No condemnation. God comes to our ailing minds and hearts and breathes reassurance of his faithfulness over us.
I did not miss whatever I need to be able to do whatever it is He wants me to do with the rest of my life. He made sure of it. He will take every piece and use it. Everything.
I say yes, again. Everything, God, everything is yours. You take care of everything.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men and women, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men and women would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'” Acts 17:24-28