The last section of the book “Exhale” (Amy Carroll & Cheri Gregory) is titled, “Live Your ONE Life Well”. I need to admit that this section was one I approached with some trepidation. I’m not all that moved by trite statements that peer at me from cute coffee mugs or decorative knick-knacks that say things like, dance like no one’s watching. I mean, I do appreciate the sentiment but sometimes all that does is remind me I’ve spent a lot of days bogged down in pain, shame, and regret. And even the freedom I have found from that bog has come at a high price.
But I did my very best to read the section with an open mind and heart. I have come to really appreciate the voice these women have and I’ve learned a lot as they’ve shared their own struggles and victories in this book. I found a real truth nugget in this section that I’m going to be thinking about a lot in the weeks to come. Cheri poses the question, “What if no one dream is meant to be the ultimate? What if each dream is supposed to seed the next?”
Sometimes I feel like my life has been a series of failures. Professionally, I have had jobs that I wanted and then learned I didn’t want. Or jobs that I wanted and didn’t get. Ministry that was limited because of a lack of appropriate credentials. Or because I am a woman. Or because I ask questions. So many questions.
Personally, I have struggled to keep all my relationships healthy. I wonder if I’ll make enough mistakes with my children that I will leave deep wounds. My marriage is far from perfect. My schedule is sometimes out of control and my house isn’t as tidy as I always thought it would be. Sometimes the state of my house causes the most stress of all because it feels like the one thing I should be able to control. Anybody?
When I think about the ending or disappointments of jobs, projects, and relationships, it brings up those feelings of failure. If I had been able to plan, predict, or handle things better, maybe I could have hung on instead of letting go. I get confused sometimes about what my primary goal needs to be. Is it a job? Is it hanging on for dear life to a friendship when everything indicates it is coming to an end? Is it worrying over mistakes I have made and reliving things as if there is some hope to change days that are long in the past?
What would my life look like if instead of making any of those things my goal for the moment, I instead made living like Jesus my only goal? I do know by now that if I really make Jesus my focus, my choices will be better. My relationships will be more stable. Challenges will have to submit to hope. The pain will have to submit to joy. Exhaustion will have to submit to rest.
What if all the things I categorize as failures and bad endings are actually the seeds that God has used to plant His wisdom into my heart? Though He did not cause my difficult experiences, what if He waits at the sidelines with arms wide open hoping to use those experiences to draw me close to Him? And what if in that drawing near He not only softens my heart but also teaches me things that allow me to be an encourager to other people?
I’m still thinking about it, but I am intrigued. I can only imagine the freedom I could find if the things I have long decided were mistakes and failures could be reframed. Perhaps they would serve a divine purpose if they were considered opportunities to be better equipped for the road ahead. They could actually be light on my path as I walk one step at a time in my Father’s footsteps. Perhaps people who truly understand this are the same ones who dance like no one’s watching.