A few months ago, I spent the day with my 16-month-old granddaughter. I wanted to take her to the park but we needed to stay home to wait for repairmen to come. It was a good thing she wasn’t aware I was planning on taking her to the park because the repairmen took longer than expected. My granddaughter loves to swing and to know it might not happen would have been too much.
My daughter called to let us know she was going to be later getting home than we expected, so I decided to grab a couple of sandwiches at the local deli for dinner and head to the park. I bundled my granddaughter up and we started off with her riding in the stroller. We picked up our sandwiches and continued to walk to the park, only a couple of blocks from home.
There wasn't a picnic table but a park bench. I sat her on my lap and she became vocal about being at the park. She pointed to the swings and it was obvious she wanted to play. I knew she was hungry and I decided that eating first was best. She passively gave in to my idea. She held her hands off to the side and leaned her body forward to take bites from the sandwich I held. This was certainly different from her normal mode of eating which tends to create quite a mess. Since she was hungry, she silently kept eating this way without taking her eyes off the swings.
After she had eaten most of her sandwich and I had eaten mine, I bundled up the leftovers and placed them in the stroller. I stood up while holding her and she became completely undone. Huge tears streamed down her face. She thought I was taking her from the park without having a chance to play on the swings. I tried to comfort her and to explain that she could swing but she could not make the connection. She wasn’t able to communicate what she wanted with words and she wasn’t able to understand my assurance.
What kind of a person would I be to only tease her with such a hopeful view? How could she think I would do such a horrible thing?
I carried my granddaughter in my arms while pushing the stroller closer to the swings. As we got closer, her expression began to change. Tears continued to roll down her cheeks. The beginning of hope came across her face. Her desire to swing might just become a possibility. She looked at me with this growing hope as we continued to get closer. I could tell she was almost afraid to fully hope in her desire, but the growth of that blossoming hope was taking root. As I placed her in the beloved swing, her hope and desire were full realized and she became excited.
As I was thinking about this time with my granddaughter and the impression it made on my heart, I thought of my relationship with God. I have sensed God leading me into new things, a new way of thinking and a new life. It has felt much like being in front of the swing as I wished to live fully into who God had created me to be, to do this work I feel called to. Who am I to think God would only tease me with this hope I deeply feel and then not allow me to play, to swing to my heart’s delight.
As I wondered, I realized much of my fear was being uncertain if it was safe to hope in the possibilities. I think we all have these questions.
Will I trust God to grant the desires in my heart which have been awoken within me? Is God really trustworthy?
My desire is to trust and I am doing so with a growing yet, shaky confidence. I will step into where I see God leading. I’m pretty sure that I will get some of this right and some of this wrong - but I desire to trust God to love me regardless.
How about you? What playground of hope is God showing you? Do you think it might be a true invitation or just a trick?
The experiences of life seem to bump up against how and where we expect God to work. It may feel like something is wrong with us that we need to fix. This is an unsettling place. It isn’t necessarily something to fix, but rather an invitation to allow God to meet you in the questions. Here, God can show you a bigger understanding of who God is.
Sometimes, our expectations of God are shaped by the people around us from childhood, the culture we live in, and our experiences. Holding these incomplete understandings to God and allowing God to reshape them is a place of healing. God already knows and is waiting to touch the lies, doubts, and fears we hold. Is your desire to trust?
As we trust God to be God, we are invited to swing! There is a risk in swinging freely, but God, our Creator, walks alongside us. The thing I have come to realize is that the gift isn’t the ability or freedom to swing but the continued awareness and surrender to our own belovedness. Allowing my granddaughter to swing was a gift, for sure, but my desire is for her to deeply know my continual unconditional love for her and my desire to say yes. She is my dearly and completely loved granddaughter, regardless of anything. Just like her, we are dearly and completely loved by God, regardless of anything. We are invited to trust in God’s desire to say yes.
Sometimes being or acting loving with the one in front of you is easy. Sometimes it is really hard.
Recently, I was surprised to find myself in this kind of relationship, once again. I discovered part of the problem was in me and my flow of thought and the other part of the problem was completely outside of me.
So I asked; what do I do? Do I walk away? Do I stay and try to fix the issue, changing my behavior in order to be the “loving presence of Jesus.” My old way of living out my faith was to take responsibility for the problem and fix it. Since I have begun to understand God and relationship differently, I wondered if there was an alternative.
This situation brought my two very different ways of navigating life together. The first was this new way of experiencing and growing in my understanding of God’s deeply personal and intimate love. The other was the exposure of a deeply held core belief of my very existence being the problem. This old way of understanding meant I had to fix the relational dynamics in order to be okay.
This relationship with this person created a space for me that felt much like shifting sand. When I met them I didn’t know who I would meet in conversation: kindness, aloofness, or anger. My own inability to control the outcome of these relational dynamics brought me back to memories of other past abusive relationships.
In order to discover God’s view, I took what I was feeling to prayer. Through this, I realized a lie about myself I had accepted as truth. I also realized the other person was doing the best they could do within their own immense pain.
So the question remains, how do you love the one in front of you, especially when they are hard to love? It isn’t an easy question and I would suppose one that has as many answers as there are potential scenarios.
It seems to me, loving requires presence. This doesn’t necessarily mean to be physically present with the individual but to be in a place where you are present with God and with yourself. This becomes a place where you know your own value and belovedness in the eyes of the One who created you. It is an invitation to be true to who God has created you to be, knowing the value of your very existence. In knowing that core truth, you are invited to walk it out with yourself, with God, and with all those around you. Your true identity is not tied to performance, achievements, perceptions, either yours or another’s, but is defined in and through God’s loving gaze.
From this grounded place of resting in God’s embrace and gaze, the shifting sand in the dynamics around you may still be difficult and feel like chaos. However, the firm foundation created by God’s view of your innermost self is a place of peace in the storm.
This is a place where you can stop fighting to be seen, heard, or believed in; these desires are already met. You are truly loved at your very core. As we realize these statements as truth in our very being, space opens from our own warring within. Yes, this warring within is a place inside our own hearts and minds, a place of judgment. That internal conversation where you rationalize your own ability to be “right” in a particular conversation or relationship. This same conversation may even be shared with those close to you to help justify your own actions or reactions. We tend to reinforce these stories in ourselves as we continue to tell them.
When this internal conversation becomes silent and we rest in the knowledge of ourselves being truly loved, we can share that newly opened space with the one in front of us. Then we can see them, hear them, believe that they are doing the best they can do. We begin to realize their actions or reactions really do not define us.
With this open space of holding and loving, it becomes possible to communicate our own needs and desires in the relationship toward a healthier place. Sometimes that healthier place is to part ways and sometimes it isn’t. Regardless, holding ourselves and others with love allows us to navigate life without building up resentment or bitterness to further block the flow of love within our own hearts.
This is a means to navigate life without regrets and to move freely in loving ourselves, God, and all those around us. We are all incredibly capable of great good and great evil. As we remember this tension within ourselves and others, we can offer grace to those who hurt or disappoint us, including ourselves. It is important to know and allow ourselves the grace of doing this so very imperfectly.
This journey isn’t easy and it doesn’t feel intuitive. Yet as complicated as it seems to be, it comes down to walking each step with a God whose promise is a yoke that is easy. It seems the hard part is letting go of our own agenda, our own barriers of self-protection, our own desire to be “right.” Following our own egotism is what makes it difficult, and it is difficult, but we are only invited to walk this journey, this dance, one day at a time with grace for ourselves and those in our midst.
Lord, create in us a freedom that allows us to be places of such grace…
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!