“Justice that love gives is a surrender…” –Mahatma Ghandhi
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”* -Jesus
In the first few weeks of my new life a young woman asked me to mentor her through a similar struggle as I’d experienced, saying she “wanted what I had”. She told me the courage she saw in me motivated her. She said my commitment to doing what it takes to have a changed life inspired her and the steps I was taking to have an authentic experience with my Higher Power made her want to know more about Who He was. I felt insecure about helping her since it was all so new to me but upon the advice of my own spiritual mentor, I decided to give it a try and gingerly accepted her invitation.Revised and reprinted from August 2012
I shared that if she wanted what I had, she would need to do what I did. For weeks and often for hours on end I met with her one-on-one, patiently listening to her pain and offering the same tools I’d been given. I took her to meetings, dried her eyes, prayed with her, slowly taught her about surrender, and just generally poured into her life.
After a short while, she turned her back on all of it. Further, she gave the middle finger to the investment I was making in her and all the progress she’d made and never looked back. I was floored. What had I done wrong? Had my enthusiasm for her to have a better life had the opposite effect on her? What in the heck happened??
When I shared my dismay with my mentor, she said something I didn’t expect. She said it had nothing to do with me, but more so that people don’t want it (change for the better). Although they might say they do, the reality is most people don’t want to do what it takes to get it. What? How could that be? How could anyone NOT want to sleep soundly knowing they’d been truthful in everything? How could anyone NOT want the peace that begins to flow into relationships as one by one we make things right with those we have hurt? How could anyone NOT want to stop looking into life’s rear view mirror as each new mile traveled now is honest? How could anyone NOT want the freedom that comes with being naked before God and feel no shame? How could anyone NOT want to stop arm wrestling with what they knew to be good and right and true? I had drunk the KoolAid, saw how amazingly improved my life could be, and just assumed everyone wanted it too.
Over time I began to understand what she meant as I watched many seemingly satisfied with “close enough”. I watched the need to be right destroy relationships on all levels. I watched drinking get out of control in the life of influencers, inflated egos hide behind the guise of ministry, churches split over power struggles, single Christians get impatient as they’d live out romance as if they didn’t know how treasured they were. I watched anger go unchecked, and the perceived “right to happiness” blow marriages apart. I knew how that went… I had done a lot of the same thing; professing faith in God but then making choices that flew in the face of “righteousness” if I thought it’d suit me. It’s one thing to say “I believe”, but to really live it out? Ouch.
So… what is it with us? Why aren’t we willing to do what it takes to experience every ounce of richness that’s available to us on every level? Why do we allow low-living to steal from us what God has to offer?
I think it’s because it’s hard. We don’t think so at first, but honest self-review and total surrender to God takes courage. It often takes a lot to swallow our pride and recognize we are not the center of the galaxy. It’s hard to listen to raw counsel and then truly apply it to our life in ways that show others we’re different. It takes courage to shut up, share the credit, be tolerant with others, tell the truth, stop whining, return the money, admit we’re wrong, serve with no recognition, say we’re sorry, and in general, be willing to really make things right. It costs us a lot and sometimes, though we’d hate to admit it even to ourselves, we just don’t want to.
Here’s the thing. I believe Jesus went through all the drama of coming to this earth as He did was because He loves us so much, He wants us to have it all. Think about it: He lived as a man, was criticized and tortured and ultimately killed by religious leaders who were ticked that He’d pulled focus from their rules. He then rose up from the dead (He was also still God) and a month or so later returned to heaven where He shared that He’s preparing our eternal home for our arrival. The point was that He went through all that in order to give us a shot at a life that is marked by great plenty, no matter how much or how little we have.
So what stops us from jumping in the deep end… from biting into the juiciest part of the apple… from living and being all God made us to be? What would it take for us to do the right thing for the right reason, and trust God with the outcome?
To read more of the story, visit Sylvia’s blog I Drank The KoolAid.
* John 10:10 NASB
I have never been a huge fan of sugary things. Pie or cake? Nah. Chocolate? Meh. With the exception of gummi bears, I can pretty much take it or leave it. But I have learned that I can’t live without a certain kind of sweet.
One morning after I had spoken at a women’s event, a young woman came up to me at my CD table. She introduced herself and said she had a question for me after hearing my story.
“You seem so content that you never got to be a mom”, she said. And then asked “Are you content?”
I had to stop for a second and think. Was I indeed… content?
Here’s the thing: I had always wanted to be a mom. From as far back as I could remember I wanted it more than anything.
I had been a focused businesswoman up through my forties and hadn’t married until I was 41. And with a new husband 11 years my senior, it became clear to me that having a child together was not the right path for us. So although my dream of finding my lifelong partner was exceeded beyond my wildest dreams, the dream of ever having a child… died.
I’m not going to lie. Waiting all those years to find God’s man for me was tough but this… this was a bitter pill to swallow.
But 14 years ago, disguised as a personal crisis, God gave me a shot at a “do over”. Doggone it if He didn’t let me start my life all over again when He gave me the chance to get out of myself, grow up and grow deep with Him, and I grabbed it with gusto. He began maturing me in all areas of my life, showing me in spades that He had my back and wanted me to experience all that life had to offer. I dug deep into His Word to learn more what that meant and realized one day that I had given in, had completely accepted what He had for me, and had developed a desire to want what He wanted for my life.
It just didn’t appear that having a child was going to be one of those things.
But here’s the thing. Over time, I began to realize that accepting life on life’s terms left a sweet taste in my mouth… and besides, I learned there are a lot of other ways to be a real mom. Here are a few I’ve found:
When I married Wolf, an extraordinary stepdaughter came with the deal who I couldn’t love any more than if I’d given birth to her myself. (Mariah often jokes that it’s a darned good thing I didn’t because if I had, she might’ve gotten my thin hair!)
Wolf and I host young people in our home from all over the world who come here to study English. In the time they are with us, we are given entrance into their hearts and thoughts as we pour into them, striving to provide as full a cultural, family, and spiritual experience as possible. Some of the richest times we’ve had in the last few years have been with these kids and I wouldn’t trade the experience of being “Mama Sillye” for anything.
For 13 years, I’ve gotten to be a “co-mom” with moms all over the third world who are unable to take care of their children on their own. As a result of events at which I and my partner Billye have spoken, over 5,000 moms have fewer worries about their kids’ futures because American “moms” have sponsored their child*. The mother of a child I sponsor in Africa humbled me to my bones when she thanked me for helping her raise her children. Me??
Up until very recently, I had the honor of hosting a group of young women in my living room every Tuesday night for five years who still call me their “BFF spiritual mom”. Each week, I got to guide them through God’s Word where I wanted them to see how sweet their life could be if they could just develop a taste to want what He wants. We went through breakups, marriages, cancer, pregnancy, and job woes and they began to see that peace is possible, regardless of our circumstances.
You can’t tell me I haven’t been able to be a mom.
So when that young woman asked me that day if I was content, I had to be honest when I said I was not. But what I could tell her was that, in all honestly, I was in full agreement with God on His choice for my life. Today, I get it. Today I see why He withheld this “dream” of mine and I joyfully accept and embrace the extraordinary life He has given me in exchange.
When life turns out differently than the stuff of our dreams, we have a choice. We can get bitter, wasting months and years pining for what we didn’t get, or we can begin to recognize there are just simply things we won’t understand on this earth and accept what comes our way, relishing what we DO have.
And with that, taste the delectable calm that accompanies the sweetness of acceptance.
With all your heart trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. Proverbs 3:5-6 CEV
Sylvia Lange is a Christian women’s speaker living in Southern California.
When you look at this image, what do you see? One person might say it’s a silhouette of a woman while the next sees a man playing a sax.
So which is it?
A singer on a stage will hear something vastly different when staring down the throat of the speaker’s horn than what she hears upon taking just two steps to the right. The dark image up ahead the hiker is sure is a bear ends up being a rock when he advances just 20 feet. The neighbor who bugs the snot out of you today ends up being a treasure after you find out she’s the one who called the police when an intruder broke in your house. A prolonged period of great financial uncertainty becomes the very thing that confirms deep in your spirit that you can’t only depend on your own ability.
When circumstances suck, many of us get stuck. But even a tiny step in either direction can make that which we initially viewed or heard or felt one way suddenly look, feel, and sound completely different.
When I came face to face with my alcoholism 13 years ago, life seemed to be over. It was as if I’d been bathing in emotional cement which had hardened when I wasn’t looking and I couldn’t see my way out of the mess I’d created. I’d failed everyone I loved and everything I attempted and felt nothing but shame about who I’d become. I was stuck and wanted to die.
After walking block after block down the depressing road that was my life, out of nowhere I took a right and found myself on a new path. Here, nothing looked familiar but man-oh-man, the light felt good. On this road, there were trees and empty lots where kids played basketball, and all that would come out of my mouth was “thank You”. With the help of good people, a solid program, and a new understanding of a great God, the reflection I’d see in the windows as I passed revealed that indeed, I was beginning to look like a new creature. Over time, the feeling of shame that had choked out all semblance of living within me was replaced with the overwhelming awareness that it had all been a gift.
My friend Ann showed us how it’s done recently after a long and devastating battle with cancer. As she began to take the turn on to heaven’s road, she chose not to feel sorry for herself but rather to thank God through it all. She continued to thank Him, even up to the time she gracefully moved from her current location to her celestial zip code last week, inspiring all who watched her go through the fire.
When one of my girls was hit with breast cancer this Spring at the age of 30, she decided to articulate gratitude instead of swimming in fear as she went through a double mastectomy. Though still dealing with it, Erin has come through this ordeal a vibrant and catalytic believer, profoundly influencing the spiritual lives of all she touches.
Is that really all it takes? Yah, pretty much. That, and a belief that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to a place of wholeness. Things we thought were insurmountable become small mounds when we give it up, make it a practice to turn it over to God on a daily basis, and watch the Spirit do mind-blowing things inside of us.
I believe this stuff, I really do, and everything has changed as a result. Is my life all sewn up? Not even close. In fact, at this writing I’m going through one of the scariest things I’ve ever faced. I’m anxious and I’m scared– but I’m not derailed. In fact, I see my connection to God deepening and the size of my own agenda decreasing as my eyes are glued to His. When life is going well there is a tendency to give Him a fleeting glance but I thank Him for this trial because through it, I’m getting more in the “habit of Him” as I hang on to Him more than ever before. I also know I need people who want the same things I do. I need caring souls to refresh my memory that I’m God’s very favorite child or I’ll get caught in the cement again. I need folks with a sunny outlook and a great faith to remind me that God is nuts about me and doesn’t want me to stay stuck. Perspective shift? You bet. In fact, the way I see it these days is that I have the extraordinary life I have today all because once upon a time I drank too much. No matter what your issue is, we have Power available to us to squash our flaws, foibles, failures, and fears– we only need to seize it… and live like we believe it.
Maybe the skyscrapers on the road you’re on are so tall they’re blocking out the light. It seems no one notices your feet are dragging. But up ahead is an intersection; you can keep walking down this street or you can make a turn up in the next block. You may be unemployed, on the verge of divorce, ill, bankrupt, or just plain lonely. Take a different path. Hang a right. Get out from in front of your computer, have someone move your bed, bring the phone closer to you… whatever you’re doing or wherever you are, call or go talk to someone. Now. One of my favorite passages from James says “Tell your stuff to another person”; the words on the page actually say “confess your sins one to another” but what it’s telling us is open your mouth and tell another human being the exact nature of what you’re up against. Why? “So you may be healed”. Healed. Trite? Maybe. But pinky swear, this stuff works.
It takes guts, but come on… you can do it. Hang a right.
“I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor (wo)man called and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.” Psalm 34:4-6
Sylvia is a singer and Christian women’s speaker, and lives in Southern California.
13 years and 12 days ago, I did it. I took a huge gulp. Up to that point, I’d never touched the stuff because it was cheap and so, well, uncool. Oh sure, I’d pour myself some every week, making sure the right people saw me holding the glass but I never actually drank it.
The thing is though, I was always thirsty. Pretty stupid, really, because I had my very own jug of that sugary drink complete with an easy-pour spout but I could never bring myself to actually take a sip.
Until early that warm August morning.
I was kind of desperate, really. I’d been walking in a desert for years and at that point seemed to be running out of asphalt ahead. I had many things one could want- a great job, fat salary, a beautiful home- but not one thing my heart longed for. I was dry. Absolutely parched. And worse, I had become a person I despised; a fake. A bonafide poser.
I hated myself. I cared so much about what people thought of me that I’d become anything they wanted if I could gain some mileage. Such a fraud. I knew I had become a hypocrite, spitting in God’s face for years while dressed up in my white Cathy Christian best. I can’t explain it but after years of having looked at that gleaming faucet, that morning I decided I was sick of it all and just simply took a sip. It was so amazing I had to have another. Before I could stop myself I wrapped my lips around the spigot and took a big gulp straight out of the tap. I suddenly realized I was right in front of Him with that STUFF oozing down my chin. I had to have looked hideous but I just didn’t give a rip. And Him? He didn’t seem to notice my pink-stained blouse and instead said something that rocked my world. Instead of pointing out my ugliness He told me I was perfect because He said He saw me through His Son. And then He told me He loved me. God, Who created the world and everything in it, said He loved ME… and just wanted me to come home. And in that moment- for the first time in my life- I believed Him. And I did.
Yeah, I drank the KoolAid that morning. The stuff anyone has access to and can afford. And I don’t care what anyone thinks about my beverage choice except the One who has quenched my thirst.
Makes me wonder: why do we avoid something that could make our lives so much richer? What are we afraid of?
“Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18
Sylvia is a singer and Christian women’s speaker, and lives in Southern California.