One of my goals at the beginning of 2018 was to up my reading game. I tell my young son, who somewhat struggles in the reading department, that “readers are leaders” almost every day of his life and I felt that I needed to set a good example. Now, I stole this line from a friend, but I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you borrowing it if your young son or daughter also prefers watching YouTube clips of grown men playing video games over reading.
I will spare you the dissertation he often endures regarding my personal thoughts about grown men who sit around making YouTube videos about Fortnite.
The problem, though, is that this busy mama has very little time to spend with the books. So, I decided to give audio books a try and I LOVE IT!!! It’s a multi-tasker’s dream. I listen as I drive, cook dinner, and fold laundry. It almost makes me enjoy folding the laundry…almost!
I started my journey in January with no real focus and just tried to keep some sort of list throughout the year of books who’s title or author caught my eye. Motivational books, self-help books, and faith-based books seemed to be the theme and the order in which I read them, complete randomness – or so I thought. But, now, as I sit here in December and contemplate the whole year, I’m not so sure.
My husband and I often sit around in January discussing hopes, dreams and expectations of the new year. And, this past January we both felt that we wouldn’t end this year the way we started. There was a sense of change coming and, for me, someone who really dislikes change, I’ve got to tell you I was a little on edge.
I’m not really sure when I developed this hatred of change, but I can tell you that it was probably magnified several years back during a traumatic event in my marriage. So, when the wind of change started to blow, I was flooded with fear.
With the exception of one business book that I was already reading, I started the year with 100 days to Brave and, just this week, ended with Remember God, both by Annie F. Downs. Kinda like an Annie sandwich, if you will. Then, there was Unexpected by Christine Caine, The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey, Everybody Always by Bob Goff, The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins, Kill the Spider by Carlos Whittaker and Kick A$$ with Mel Robbins by Mel Robbins (don’t judge the title – relax). These great reads were also accompanied by a few great bible studies like Breaking Free by Beth Moore and The Armor of God by Pricilla Shirer, both of which I’m still working on.
And, as I think about these books, I clearly see that there was absolutely no randomness. Each book was very specifically there to teach me bravery and courage. To give me hope and help me find love and joy during dark times. Helping me see the things that keep me stuck when the winds of change start to paralyze my thoughts and magnify my fears.
Moving me forward and sometimes almost pushing me toward deep faith questions and ultimately asking, “What do I really believe about God?”. And, that’s weird for me to say because I write about God all the time. I’ve been a Christian basically my whole life and I’ve seen him move powerfully. So, surely I believe, right?
You see the last few weeks have been kinda dark – literally and figuratively. Just in case you’re thinking of moving to Nashville any time soon, I feel the need to warn you that in the winter it gets dark around 4pm. It’s depressing and, every evening as I walk to my car in the pit of night, also known as 5:30 pm, I curse the end of daylight saving time. But, the darkness has also overcome me in other ways. Maybe because my family and I have the full “windblown” look of change or, maybe, its a little deeper?
A few months ago, I read a passage in Romans 4 that just won’t leave me alone. The apostle Paul is discussing Abraham and his unwavering faith. God not only promised him a child but also promised to make him the father of many nations. Yet, his wife, Sarah, was barren. But, if you know the story, God gave Abraham and Sarah a baby, Issac, in their old age – when Abraham was 100 years old – yes, you read that right – 100.
And, that’s great and everything – I’m not being sacrilegious – I really mean that. It’s just that…how??? How did his faith never waver? Did he really never question? Did he always really believe? Then Paul says of Abraham in verse 21, “being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised”. Fully persuaded – there it is – those two words have have bothered me for months.
See, this is where I’m afraid every book I’ve read this year has been pushing me – to this moment. Not only to muster the courage that I’ve needed to do a few really hard things but, also, to muster the courage to face this fully persuaded question. Then in this last book, Remember God, Annie F. Downs discusses this very verse and this question…Am I fully persuaded?
You see, there is a promise for my family too, and, if I’m honest, I thought we’d be there by now. See, for a time, the promise looked like it was within reach and then, as life often does, things began to unravel. So, here we are with that same promise, few broken dreams and, at least for me, the question of being fully persuaded.
But, tonight I backed up a few verses and read words that I’d underlined at some point but have clearly forgotten. In verses 19-20 Paul says that Abraham “faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…yet he did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened by his faith”. The message bible actually says that he didn’t “tiptoe abound Gods promise” but “plunged into the promise and came up strong”. Man, I really want that, don’t you? I want to look at these somewhat seemingly dead dreams and see God.
But, how? How do you do this? I feel my soul has been almost crying out this question for weeks? How do you live fully persuaded?
Well, back up a little more. Verse 18 says, “When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding not to live on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said He would do” (The Message). He looked at his hopeless circumstances and decided to believe anyway. And, that’s faith, right? “Being sure of what we hope for (the promise) and certain of what we don’t see” (Hebrews 11:1).
So, maybe that’s what all these books have been trying to teach me all along. That to live fully persuaded will require a change of focus. To believe less in my circumstances and more in His power and in His promise. Deciding over and over again to live fully persuaded.
It’s funny how God uses so many unlikely things to get our attention. For me specifically, like eight books and two bible studies. Heavens, He’s patient, isn’t He? But, I think I get it now, though I’m sure I’ll need a reminder tomorrow. Living fully persuaded is not about a feeling, it’s about a decision. Facing the facts and being certain of what we can’t see all the while choosing God. His power and His plan over my circumstances all day, every day.
So, friends let’s end this year and start the next with a new focus. Maybe, at least for me, walking around with the windblown look of change but the mindset of promise. And, look around and pay attention to the randomness of life because sometimes it’s not so random – sometimes it’s God.