Stepping Out

I haven’t always known how to react when Christians say definitively that “God told me to do ______” or “God led me to do _____”…you can fill in the blank with many different things. Move to Africa. Choose this vocation. Marry this person. Attend this church. Reject this theology. I admire their conviction but wonder how they can be SO certain. Because God speaks to me in whispers at a deep heart level. In songs or words that inspire me. It is a place where I can only hear if I am still and honestly even then He is not extremely clear. There is a lot left up for interpretation and my understanding can be skewed by my broken humanity. He has never picked up the phone and told me, directly, to do anything…EVER.

Since the spring of 2013 I have been feeling like I should go back to Seattle.

Was it God leading me? Was it me not wanting to be alone and missing my family? Who knows, but it was this gnawing thought in my heart and mind. The idea of going back was tempting but there were some mountains keeping me in place here in the Netherlands.

  1. I have a great community in Groningen. Friends that have become family…and deep relationships I have forged in my time here. Thinking about good byes (or even see you later’s) was heart breaking.
  2. I hate moving…with a white hot burning passion. I hate moving across the city…but across continents is on a completely different level. This is more than just packing a few suitcases and going. When we moved here Philips relocated our things and since then I have collected more. What do I do with it all? Ugh. Even asking the question sent shivers up my spine. Plus it is EXPENSIVE. Do I have the resources? Can I do this alone?
  3. Health care. Can I just move back to Seattle as a cancer survivor without a job and get on an exchange plan? I know they can’t deny me but what about coverage? What specialists do I need? All my medical documents are in Dutch and they need to be translated. I am on a couple maintenance prescriptions…how to I reestablish them? I don’t even know the cancer care system in the US…I only know the Dutch one…where do I even start? To say this is daunting is an understatement.
  4. I did not want to face some heavy emotions. I am looking forward to being with family/friends again but there are some extremely difficult things waiting for me in Seattle. It was much easier to avoid and not think about them in the Netherlands.

So…in the Spring of 2013…looking at this long list of things and recognizing that the inertia of my life was more towards staying…I crossed my arms and told God (seriously, who am I?) that if He wanted me in Seattle…HE needed to move me back.

Sometimes I wonder how He reacts to these demands of mine. With rolling eyes or exasperation. Wondering when I will ever learn…

Honestly, I don’t think so. I think it was more of a gentle “OK, if you’re willing…I will show you. Have faith that I know what you need. Trust me”…but again an e-mail confirmation would have been nice. 🙂

I was hoping for an easy, safe internal transfer with Philips back to Seattle. Something Faith MLK Jrwhere I could see a defined, secure path. I should know by now that God’s path is often not defined and you can only see the security in hind sight. It requires faith which can be incredibly uncomfortable.

I took a leap of faith this spring…a year after I made that demand of God. In April I wasn’t certain whether my cancer had returned and the overwhelming anxiety of those few weeks confirmed that my place was around my family… it was the push I needed to finally take a step…to face the mountains… and make the difficult decision to move. So, on May 23, 2014 I booked my one way ticket back to Seattle. I was afraid. I was insecure. I was uncertain. But I was also HOPEFUL. Because when I step out in faith…I am giving God the opportunity to show up in my life and that is exciting…or should be exciting.

But what if He doesn’t? These doubts are real in our broken world.

He provided for my tattoo but this is so much bigger. The fears start to erode the trust I have in God’s provision…and the mental attacks on whether this was the right decision grow stronger. Lies about how I am not good enough batter my heart. Trauma from past hurts haunt my thoughts. Is this really what God is asking me to do or am I pushing too hard? At this point I would settle for ANY concrete confirmation that this is the correct path.

For 2 months I prayed for protection and trust. I held on to the promise that God knows what I need better than I do and is absolutely FAITHFUL. I closed my eyes and accepted that I have no clue how this will all work out. But I do trust that something will work out.



The Blind See

I was given Anthony de Mello’s book “The Way to Love” for Christmas and LOVE it. He was a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who lived in Bombay, India. His writing completely challenges conventional thoughts about love, relationships, addictions and freedom. This is a passage I read recently that really struck me. It’s a little long but absolutely worth it…(the bold, italics and definitions are mine)

The Blind See

“For judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” John 9:39

It is said that love is blind. But is it? Actually nothing on this earth is as clearsighted as love. The thing that is blind is not love but attachment. An attachment is a state of clinging that comes from a false belief that something or someone is necessary for your happiness. Do you have any attachments – people or things that you falsely believe you could not be happy without? Make a list of them right now before we go on to study how exactly they blind you.

Think of a politician who has convinced himself he will not be happy unless he gets political power. His quest for power coarsens his sensitivity to the rest of life. He barely has time for his family and friends. Suddenly all human beings are perceived and reacted to in terms of the support or threat that they are to his ambition. And those who can neither threaten nor support he does not even notice. If in addition to his craving for power he has an attachment to other things like sex or money, the poor man has become so selective in his perceptions that he could almost be said to be blind. Everyone sees this except the man himself. This is the condition that leads to the rejection of truth and beauty and goodness, because one has come to be blind to perceive them.

Now think of yourself listening to an orchestra in which the sound of the drum is so loud that nothing else can be heard. To enjoy the symphony you must be responsive to every instrument in the orchestra. To be in the state called love you must be sensitive to the uniqueness and beauty of every single thing and person around you. You can hardly be said to love what you do not even notice; and if you notice only a few beings to the exclusion of others, that is not love at all, for love excludes no one at all; it embraces the whole of life; it listens to the symphony as a whole, not just one or the other of the musical instruments.

Stop for a while now to see how your attachments drain life’s symphony no less than the politician’s attachment to power and the businessman’s attachment to money have hardened them to the melody of life. Or look at the matter in another way: There is an enormous amount of information that is continuously flowing in from the world through the senses, the tissues of the organs of your body. Only a small part of this information reaches your conscious mind. It is like the infinite amount of feedback that is sent to the President of a nation: Only a tiny fraction finally makes its way to him. Somebody does the screening and the processing at the President’s office. Who decides what will finally make its way to your conscious mind from all the material that is pouring in from the world? Three decisive filters: First your attachments, second your beliefs, and third your fears.

Your attachments: You will inevitably look for what fosters or threatens them and turn a blind eye to the rest. You won’t be interested in the rest anymore than the avaricious (greedy/covetous) businessman is interested in anything that does not involve the making of money.

Your beliefs: Just take a look at a fanatic who only notices what confirms his/her belief and blocks out whatever threatens it and you will understand what your beliefs are doing to you.

Your fears: If you knew you were to be executed in a week’s time it would wonderfully concentrate your mind to the exclusion of everything else. That is what fears do; they irresistibly rivet your attention on to some things to the exclusion of others.

You falsely think that your fears protect you, your beliefs have made you what you are and your attachments make your life exciting and secure. You fail to see that they are actually a screen between you and life’s symphony.

It is quite impossible, of course, to be fully conscious of every note in life’s symphony. But if your spirit becomes unclogged and your senses open you will begin to perceive things as they really are and to interact with reality and you will be entranced by the harmonies of the universe. Then you will understand what God is, for you will at last know what love is.

Look at it this way: You see persons and things not as they are but as you are. If you wish to see them as they are you must attend to your attachments and the fears that your attachments generate. Because when you look at life it is these attachments and fears that will decide what you notice and what you block out. Whatever you notice then commands your attention. And since your looking has been selective you have an illusory (deceptive, misleading) version of the things and people around you. The more you live with this distorted version the more you become convinced that it is the only true picture of the world because your attachments and fears continue to process incoming data in a way that will reinforce your picture. This is what gives origin to your beliefs: fixed, unchanging ways of looking at a reality which is not fixed and unchanging at all but in movement and change. So it is no longer the real world that you interact with and love but a world created by your head. It is only when you drop your beliefs, your fears and the attachments that breed them that you will be freed from the insensitivity that makes you so deaf and blind to yourself and the world.

Congratulations if you made it to the end, hopefully you found it worthwhile. There are many ways that we become blind to the world around us but I came up with some examples of things that can be our filter to life’s symphony:

Attachments (Things I think I need to me happy): success, perfectionism, sex, money, control, substances, affirmation, relationships

Beliefs: I’m not good enough, I can do it on my own, If they really knew me they wouldn’t love me, I’m always right, I’m always wrong

Fears: loneliness, vulnerability, judgement, being hurt, rejection, insecurity

Here’s to fully experiencing life’s symphony without a filter.