I am the sixth child of seven, born to a Montana farmer and his wife. Dad sold Fuller Brush door-to-door in addition to farming to provide for a family of nine. Mom planted a huge garden, raised chickens, tended an orchard and perfected preserving as much as possible in the summer to sustain our large family in the winter.
Until high school, many of my clothes were handmade by my mother. We worked hard on the farm and rarely watched TV without working on some household task. In the summer, we peeled apples, snapped beans or shelled peas. Other times, I ironed or folded the laundry.
It is true that being one of the little kids in the family meant we had less to do than the big kids. But I did learn to make our evening meal when I was quite young and my sister and I shared the responsibility for many years.
We were taught to be separate from others and rarely were we allowed to spend the night with friends from school. My parents were serious about teaching us about Jesus and what it meant to follow him with all our hearts.
After high school, I left home and went halfway across the country to Bible school. This is where I met my husband. We married and moved to northern Indiana in the heart of Amish country. He worked for an RV company and I stayed home with our children. For many years, I followed in mom’s footsteps and preserved and canned summer produce to enjoy throughout the winter.
As happens with us all, I experienced heartache and learned at an early age that some behaviors brought favor while others brought discipline and rebuke. I tried diligently to be the kind of person who didn’t need discipline. I watched carefully to see what others expected or wanted and then tried my best to meet those expectations. I applied this philosophy in all relationships, including my relationship with God. I relied on my religious behavior to not only garner favor with God, but to ensure my place with him.
In 2016, after months of agonizing and wondering, my husband was relieved of his position with the company where he worked for nearly thirty-four years. It was all we knew as a couple and we soon realized how very vested we were in the company, not only as our source of income, but as an expression of who we were as people. The next few months were torturous as we struggled to make sense of what had happened.
I can only speak for me. And the story I tell here is my own, not my husband’s. My world was shaken. And as happens when we shake things, everything that was not necessary fell away. It was as if everything cracked and began to crumble away. Soon all that was left was me in my most vulnerable state and I felt alone and exposed.
It was in this vulnerable position that I could best hear what Jesus had to say to me. He began to show me all the ways I attempted to do life on my own, in my own way. He showed me that my religious behavior wasn’t necessary. He showed me that it was okay to enjoy being me and to embrace who I am without shame or fear. He showed me that the way to thrive in life was to let him lead me.
During this time, he often used the picture of a river. I tried desperately to swim upstream to get to what I perceived was my destination. It took me way too long to realize that he invited me to just let go and let the current take me. It scared the bajeebers out of me. But swimming against the current exhausted me. So one day, I let go.
Almost immediately I experienced a peace and calm that I had previously only dreamed about. My mind settled. For the first time, I knew what it was to think about nothing. I remember journaling that day, saying that I had a difficult time believing it was okay for me to let go of religion and all its requirements. But I did. I opened my hands that day on my deck and let go of my need to meet the expectations of others. I let go of my need to figure out what people wanted from me and try to do that. I let go of needing to impress anyone or be something other than who I am. And I received God’s unconditional love and acceptance of me as his daughter.
Two years later, my husband returned to the company that had let him go. His two year sabbatical was good for me and I am grateful for all I learned. I still have a long way to go, but I am better for the hardship this experience brought into my life.
We all have a story. I am reminded that listening carefully and learning from one another is invaluable. What part of your story is difficult for you? Maybe you are right in the middle of that really difficult experience that will shape who you become. My prayer is that you will know when to relax into the experience and let it shape you and when to stand up against the forces that would mold you into something you are not.
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May theLord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26