In his book, “Run With the Horses,” Eugene Peterson quotes a Czech philosopher and martyr named Vitezslav Gardavsky, who said that the most terrible threat against life is,
“that we might die earlier than we really do die, before death has become a natural necessity. The real horror lies in just such a premature death, a death after which we go on living for many years.”
Recently I had a moment of clarity. It was born out of a short conversation I had with someone who had no idea how his words were landing on my heart. I won’t get into the story he told, but I’ll tell you it ends with a person who made big plans and talked about desires, but never followed through with most of it. And, in truth, was never going to from the get go.
His words hit me like a freight train.
In that moment I thought, I do not want to be that person but I am dangerously close to becoming her. I don’t want to die one day having never tapped into my potential or discovered what God could have done in me and through me. One of my greatest fears is that I’ll leave this world and people will stand around my grave talking in hushed tones about what could have been:
“She could’ve been a great ______________, but she never even tried.”
“She always wanted to ______________, but she was too afraid.”
“God had given her something to say, but she never shared it.”
“She was so loved, but she never knew it.”
“She had so much potential.”
I know that’s kind of dramatic, but after listening to what this man had to say, I realized that I have been waiting on someone to give me permission to be me: to do things I love, to enjoy what I enjoy, to express myself in my own way, to approve, to set me free. I allow myself to be intimidated or let fear keep me from trying new things. In a sense I’m waiting on permission to fully exist.
Even the smallest thing can feel like a giant leap, sometimes.
I’ve allowed the acceptance or rejection of others to determine my capacity for growth and for pursuing God’s call in my life.
At a low point in Jeremiah’s life God asked him this question:
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you do in the jungle of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
If you can’t muster the strength to carry on in a relatively safe place, how will you do when things really get hard? Or as Eugene Peterson put it,
“I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive toward excellence. It is easier, I know, to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of The Average. Easier, but not better…not more significant…not more fulfilling. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living.”
Ouch, y’all. I felt that when I read it. I’ve often relaxed in the arms of The Average to avoid the pain of failure and rejection. When you frequently hear a little voice whispering, “Who do you think you are?” it’s tempting to hide.
During this moment of revelation, I made a deal with myself. A resolution, if you will. If I want to do something, or feel called to something, and I have the ability to do it, then I just need to do it. If I have a dream that can’t be fulfilled today, then I need to make a plan to get there. I need to be willing to take the first step. (Keep in mind this is about things that are within reason – it’s not about me just living my life and forget everybody else. Just to clarify.)
It means I’ve got furniture to build, canvases to paint, words to write, stories to tell, a faith to share, friends to make, places to go, and children to love, inspire and take on adventures. Today.
In short I’m called to FLOURISH.
That’s my word for 2018. Flourish.
Listen to the meanings and synonyms for flourish:
To develop rapidly and successfully; thrive; prosper; increase; multiply; bloom; blossom; make headway; improve; to go places; move forward in leaps and bounds.
I love the sound of that.
Honestly, I haven’t really flourished since…well…I can’t remember when. So, my goal for this year is to live life in a fuller way, to show up more, to create, and to be bold. I know it’s easier said than done, and it won’t happen without some help and a lot of perseverance, because, let’s be real – I’ve lived like this for a long time and change doesn’t come easy.
One thing I know is that the key to a flourishing life of any kind, whether plant, animal, or human, is the right environment. This isn’t a thing I’ll be doing on my own. It’s dependent upon my roots going deep in God and abiding with Christ (John 15) because apart from Him I can do nothing. His nearness is the right environment and in that place I can flourish, no matter what is going on around me.
The flourishing kind of life is also heavily dependent on connection with others. No form of life is capable of growing and thriving alone. We need people to spur us on to love and good works and to help carry our burdens (Hebrews 10:24, Galatians 6:2). Also, there is wisdom in the presence of many counselors (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6).
Having friends who know me and see the real me has become so precious over the years. They speak life to me, encourage me, see my potential, point me to Jesus, and ask good questions. I hope you have that and if you don’t, begin praying for God to send those people your way. They’re out there.
The truth is that I may never get permission from all the people in my life to fully be myself, but I’ve got all the permission I need from God to use the gifts I have and to be brave. In fact I have more than permission, I have a responsibility. He created all of us to do the good works He has already prepared for us, so that we could walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
He prepares the work and we just start walking. (He makes it sound so easy, does He not?).
Jesus said He came to give us abundant life – life to the full – and I think He really meant it. My hope and prayer is that I would live this life to the full, to the glory of God, and that y’all would do the same.
No matter what word you choose for yourself this year, or if you choose one at all, may we all flourish and grow in 2018, and may none of us die that death “after which we go on living for many years.”
Let it be said of us that we lived to the full, right to the end.