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.