“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord.”Psalm 27: 13-14 (NIV)
I’ve been putting off writing this post. I even edited another one before I got to this one just so I could avoid it. Great way to introduce a topic, right?
Well, here’s the thing. We’re about to engage with something that I haven’t learned myself–at least not 98% of the time. There. I’ve said it. My fear is that this post might be preachy or make you think I’ve mastered something I haven’t. If this entry didn’t start out with that acknowledgement I wouldn’t be able to write it. So before we start, know that this is something that God’s been working on with me.
Scarcity mindset has gripped us as a nation. It’s a pattern I’ve seen, and other voices louder than my own (such as Brene Brown in “Unlocking Us”) have called out, especially in light of the pandemic. We all know the types of uncertainty the pandemic has brought around without my listing them, so I won’t. After all, we’ve heard it enough. As for me, I’ve not been exempt from this type of thinking as I’m growing a human and preparing for new life in our home. Scarcity is a fear of mine. What if there’s not enough?
Y’all, I get so wrapped up in this thinking that I’ve even had a hard time being happy for other people in their moments of joy. Sure, this great thing is happening to you, but how am I ever going to provide (insert item or feeling here) for you when I don’t know if I’m going to be okay?
Stellar thoughts, Jess. Stellar.
After checking in with a friend of mine, she called me out in the most loving way possible. “You’re operating from a place of fear. Your higher self is waiting for you to decide to stop.” We discovered that I’ve been writing stories in my head, complicating the simple issue that is my propensity to move from fear instead of joy.
Wooh! It always takes me a bit to digest our conversations. That one happened weeks ago, and it’s still resonating. In that time of contemplation, one of my favorite verses came to me. I used to repeat it to myself over and over through high school when times were tough in my family. It was a promise.
Recently–as in over the last few years–I’ve had case after case of seeing God’s goodness in my everyday life. Not just the daily wonders of a rising sun and the sound of a best friend’s voice over the phone are included. Grand, sweeping life changes are on the list too, but in my seasons of fear, I forget them. I forget the bigness of God’s goodness that goes outside my “prayer requests” and provides for the motive behind the request.
Each time I get to this place, I feel the gentle nudge to look back. Look back upon times when God has been ridiculously good to you. I’ll give you two of my touchstones. The first is an example of how God cares for each detail of my life, even when it’s frivolous. The second is much bigger-picture.
In my last year of dancing in Atlanta, I was making… barely enough. I had four jobs that took me all over the city while I was paying and loaning my way through college. When I tell you girlfriend can pinch pennies, I mean I was PINCHING those pennies! Now, to be clear, I’ve never known poverty as some have. I was still basically cared for and had fall-back options if necessary, but I really didn’t want to use them for personal reasons. Though I thankfully never missed a bill, I got those “you’ve reached your minimum balance” from my bank too many times. My savings account was dwindling, and I was hyper aware of every penny I spent. This wasn’t the only year like this in college, I’m sure most can relate, but by year six of college, with one more to go (yeah, I wrote that right), I was exhausted. My friends would pop by the store and pick something up because they felt like it, and I’d sit there bitterly counting what I didn’t have. One day, the strain of constantly being so money-focused got to me.
Suddenly, I could see that the issue was never my lack of nail polish or that I needed to jump out of my circumstances. The issue was that I needed to feel seen in them. I needed to feel God caring for me.
On this particular day, I really wanted to paint my nails black. Uh, frivolous much? But there it is. I was tired of all of the counting, budgeting, and worrying, and I remember getting angry. All I want is to buy some black nail polish. Is that so much to ask? Like so many other things, I shoved it to the back of my mind and sat in my bitterness. Later, when I made my way to Kroger for my weekly groceries, I turned down the “manager’s special” aisle, as I always did at the end of my shopping trip. Maybe there was something there that was cheaper than what I had in my basket. As I made my way down the row, something caught my eye. A bottle of black nail polish was sitting right in front of the eye-level shelf with a bright yellow “manager’s special” sticker stuck to it: two dollars and change.
Guys, I know it’s silly, but I knew in that moment that God could see me. He didn’t take me out of my situation, send lightning down, or have a stranger gift me a thousand dollars. Instead, he got down to where I could see him and put this little bottle of nail polish right where I could see it–somehow seeing that little bottle straightened out my perspective. Suddenly, I could see that the issue was never my lack of nail polish or that I needed to jump out of my circumstances. The issue was that I needed to feel seen in them. I needed to feel God caring for me. In the end, I left the bottle there. It wasn’t in my budget, and it wasn’t the point, but I left the store smiling. God sees me. That little bottle was an assurance that he would care for me, for even the silliest needs, and that assurance gave me all I needed.
The second touchstone is, by all means, way deeper and harder to explain without giving you my whole life story, but I’ll do my best. About five years ago, I joined Bluebird Uncaged for a dance missions trip to Panama in Central America. I was a relatively new believer and was just far enough away from my old life to feel separate from it, but not far enough not to dip back into it. Everything about my faith was fresh and new, but I didn’t necessarily feel new. I was still self-conscious about not being good enough or as “clean” as the other girls on the trip. In my head, they had been held apart from the darkness I had spent the last few years tromping through. That didn’t necessarily mean that Jesus didn’t love me, but… maybe. We’ll just say that I felt different. While we were preparing for that trip, one of the leaders in the group gave each of us a prophetic word. Mine was “new” with the intention that God was going to make me new.
The touchstone moment or blessing that I refer back to is wrapped up in that prophetic word. I’ve included it because if I were to simply lay out the next image, it would seem shallow. So there’s the background, and here’s the foreground. It’s me on my wedding day a little over a year after that trip with a veil on my head, a Disney princess dress on, and my Oma’s flowers in my hands. I’m gazing into my love’s eyes while walking down the aisle to the instrumental version of “Come Thou Fount.” Guys, I’m tearing up thinking about it. Here’s a woman who only a year ago felt too unworthy to consider that anyone would want to marry her, walking down the aisle towards a man who she had grown beside for years. He already knew so many of the things that she didn’t like about herself, and he wanted her anyway. My aunt, before I walked down the aisle, had tears in her eyes. “There’s nothing like a wedding to show what Christ did for his church.”
That’s a peak moment, but four years later, I’m here to tell you that through four moves in four years, getting a new and wonderful family, dropping my ideas for my “perfect career,” bone-aching loneliness, and deep and abiding tenderness, God has made me new. He didn’t do it in the way I thought he would. He didn’t listen to my plans. Instead, he gave me what my heart was singing when I couldn’t hear it. I know that in the future, “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” because I have in the past, and it’s rocked me. So no matter what I’m facing or what I’m afraid of, when I look back, I can find the courage to “be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord.”
He is the maker of new things, the forger of new paths, the one we can trust in when our situation feels unsteady. He is your good good father who wants to give you good things.