What I saw was that for the most part, I had enjoyed a good life—happy childhood, meaningful relationships, professional singing, successful career, strong God-consciousness, writing books, travel and so on.
On the minus side, however, were three very difficult experiences that had indented my soul. One related to early problems with my mother and the hurt and sorrow that had been between us. The second was a traumatic move from Texas to California in the 1970s. The third was this current time of loneliness, brought on by insisting things go my way.
As I looked at the chart, I realized something that changed me deeply from that moment on: It was those three painful experiences that had given me my greatest strength and fiber—what I most needed to mature. Through them I was forced to rely on the Lord and deal with reality for what it was. In short, quit griping and grow up! The very things I hated had been the making of me. It was as if I took off a blindfold and walked into the light.
Though I had enjoyed all the good things in the plus category and had had lots of fun, there was no suffering or heartache there—nothing to build character or to provide the rich fodder needed for becoming a balanced adult. Nothing to extract from me the deepest, most revealing, and most transforming truths about myself. These painful experiences had actually helped me the most to become the person God wanted me to be.
When the exercise was finished, I felt I had hit a home run. I felt truly alive and had the guidance I needed to finally take constructive action in my life.
WILLING TO BE VULNERABLE
The soul in each of us is imprisoned until set free by Jesus Christ. We all have shells around us, protecting us from being eaten alive by the pain of life. And when those shells break, we believe we are at grave risk of being hurt, depressed or even dying on the spot.
To prevent this pain and loss, we guard ourselves by retreating deeper and deeper into the shell, being available only to what is pleasant, predictable and safe. But every person I've ever known who really had something to give has been burst open by the explosive force of God's soul-transforming lessons. Each has been willing to be vulnerable to the truth about himself, to admit behavior patterns that are destructive to his own soul.
If we aspire to pay complete attention to the present, we must get out of our own ways. Living fully in the here and now starts deep inside as we allow the self-protective shell to break open so the liberating grace of God can flow in to heal and renew and establish genuine meaning in our lives.
On September 1, 1987, I retired from Mobil Oil Corp.—one year earlier than planned. I also had achieved almost everything else on my goals list. Most important, some of the relationships I had agonized over were restored—and they weren't even on the list!
For a short time I worked as vice president of public relations at Insight for Living, the international radio Bible ministry of my brother, Chuck, but I soon found I spent more time traveling and speaking than I did working in the office. Once again I "retired" from an office job and began trusting God to meet my financial needs on His terms.
In 1995 I received an invitation to speak at several conferences the following year. The conference organization, now known as Women of Faith, was founded by author-entrepreneur Stephen Arterburn and was designed to be a source of encouragement to women across America. Steve wanted women to get away from their routines for a weekend to have fun, sing and worship the Lord with other women.
Steve asked Patsy Clairmont, Marilyn Meberg, Barbara Johnson and me to be speakers. The next year, we were joined by Thelma Wells and Sheila Walsh.
Every time we spoke at another venue, we experienced fresh excitement. We could sense God was doing something. Thousands of women were discovering what it meant to be a "woman of faith," to trust God with their desires, their families, their problems, their lives.
Over the last seven years we have spoken to 1.5 million women. Who could have imagined it? I, for one, never dreamed God would swing open this door.
We never know how things will turn out, do we? Feeling stuck or overwhelmed makes us despondent and causes us to stay put a lot longer than we need to.
For me, writing that letter to myself so many years ago taught me things I'll never forget. Once I saw my effrontery and self-centeredness on paper, I could finally decipher the magnitude of my control problem. I knew change was necessary—and with Christ, possible.
God has shown me that wherever I am in life can be my very best place. I had no idea all the things God had in mind for me. That list I made in September 1985 was only a drop in the bucket to all He had in mind for my journey. And I'm still movin'—enjoying every minute of the here and now!
Adapted from I Married Adventure by Luci Swindoll, copyright 2003. Published by W Publishing Group. Used by permission.
Luci Swindoll retired from an executive position with Mobil Oil after 30 years of service and began speaking and writing. Her latest book is Simple Secrets to a Happy Life.
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