We all love to receive gifts. It was wonderful to feel appreciated and loved. Gifts are normally given with no expectation of payment or reciprocation. But in Lee’s case, when she is given a gift, she feels a sense of indebtedness to the giver.
Where did this feeling come from? In her case, it stemmed from her past of eating disorders and of depression and her thoughts of suicide. When she came to know the Lord, Lee felt she had been given the gift of a second chance at life and it became her mission in life to prove she was worthy of that gift. She set out to do enough good to live up to that gift… to prove to her family that she wasn’t an accident, that she was more than a back-up plan (note: see day 11). Lee felt the need to repay that debt but in doing so, she became disillusioned and exhausted.
Lee’s friend, Stephanie, led her to an awakening in her thinking. She listened to Stephanie share insights on 1 Kings chapter 4 and about the prophet Elijah and his feelings of despair and wanting to die. Stephanie tells her that Elijah was exhausted, and he ran to the wilderness where he sought to hear God’s voice. He was frustrated that all he was doing for the Lord was not producing the outcomes he was hoping for and he prayed for God to end it all. Elijah felt he could DO no more. Stephanie shared that “the wilderness is the place where we can hear God’s voice. Wilderness is where God speaks to us about who we have been and who we are becoming.”
It was then that Lee began to realize that she had spent her life striving to DO rather than to BE. She needed to let go of the idea that the purpose of her life was to redeem the pain she had caused others and that she owed something to her parents and to the world to justify her existence. That was her wilderness place and she did not want to be there any longer.
In writing, when we want to connect two complete but related ideas, we use a semi-colon. It is like a pause. It is not a period which means stop; but rather it is telling us “Hey wait, this idea is not finished yet.” Lee was at a crossroads and she felt that God was placing a semi-colon in the story of her life. The past was in the past but there was so much more to come.
When I read what Stephanie said about the wilderness being where God speaks to us about who we have been, I thought about the journey I have taken in reading this book. I, like Lee, have spent my life trying to DO. To DO what I thought I needed to in order for people to like me, to accept me, to value me when in reality, God wants me to just BE me. It is enough. God has placed a semi-colon in my life as I come to the end of this part of the journey but there is so much more living to do… or should I say to BE?
1. When you receive a gift, do you feel obligated to the giver or can you accept the gift freely? What do you think the reason is for your attitude toward gifts, whether they are physical or spiritual?
When I am given a gift, I do not feel obligated per se to the giver, but I have to admit that I am not always comfortable accepting gifts that I know I cannot return in kind. I am especially uncomfortable when I am given a compliment. I tend to negate it in some fashion either in my mind or actually verbally to the person who shared it with me. I suspect that this stems from my feelings that I am not worthy of the gift that has been given . 2. Do you believe God’s gifts of salvation and grace come with obligations or with strings attached? How would you describe the difference between dutifully obeying God and joyfully responding to God’s love?
By definition a gift is “a thing given willingly to someone without payment.” God does not place any obligation on us other than what John 3: 16 tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM shall not perish but have eternal life.” To receive that gift, we have to believe. God does not want our dutiful obedience as a slave would obey his master but rather He wants our joy in doing His work. It is our honor to serve Him not our duty.
3. What event or crisis has led you to cry out “Enough?” What signs of hope do you see that these circumstances might not be the period marking the end of your life? What more might God have planned for you?
In 1995, I made some choices that resulted in serious legal issues that I had to deal with. At the time, I felt there was a definite period to my life. It was not until I came out on the other side and the issues were behind me did I see God’s hand working in and through it all. He placed a semi-colon there as a marker rather than a period.
4. Have you run to a wilderness place for a season of rest? What do you think God is prompting you to do there now? Rest? Eat? Rise up and go?
As I mentioned earlier, I feel this journey has been my wilderness place and now God is saying I have rested enough and it is time to rise up and go. He has fed my soul and I am ready.