Coming back to the DR after time spent in the States is always a tricky and emotional transition for me. Undoubtedly I am excited to be back home with my stuff and my cats and there is nothing like that first breath of Caribbean air. I breathe that stuff deep and I smile as I walk out of the airport. But I am also really sad. And I am going to go ahead and blame that on the people living in the United States who love me so well. Like the people at my church.
You know, God could’ve used anyone and any church to bring me close to Him. He could’ve used no one and no church. He’s God and He does what He wants. But I don’t think a day goes by when I am not ridiculously grateful that He chose to use those weirdos at United Baptist Church of Garden City to draw me to Himself and make me more like Him. What I like most about being at UBC is that I’ve never ever once for one second felt like I had to prove myself to anyone there. I’ve never felt that I had any expectation to live up to besides, “Do you, daughter of the King.” Even when the facial piercings and the tattoos came. Even when the call to ministry came and the husband didn’t. Even when I walk up on the stage as a woman in a Baptist church and talk about who God is and how He’s working in and around me. Even when I talked too much in Sunday school or spent all of high school going to another youth groups. I have never once had to prove myself, because at Church we are all in the same point. We are all a bunch of messed up weirdos who need God and need each other and need those pot luck dinners.
This year I chose a word for myself, a word to set the tone, a word to strive for, a word to grow root in me and change me and make me more like Jesus. I chose the word soften. For years I’ve been gently and lovingly criticized for being too harsh, too brash, too yell-y. And it took a while for me to hear those criticisms as love and not hate or weakness or misunderstanding. It took a woman I love and respect and work for looking me in the eye and saying, “I know that you love the Word of God and that your highest priority is obedience to Him,” because if she believed that about me then I should probably believe that about myself.
But the thing about doing something like following God or trusting in His Word is that in order to do so you’re going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff you’ve always believed to be true. Being a lifelong attender of a good, good church didn’t keep me from living in the world, victim to all kinds of lies, misinterpretations, assumptions, and so much prideful thinking. So to believe that I am the kind of person who loves the Word of God and whose highest priority is obedience to God is to believe that whatever I might have previously thought to be true might be wrong if it doesn’t line up.
But we hold on tight to our stuff, don’t we? Especially when our stuff makes us feel safe. Especially when our stuff is stuff we’ve built our lives and our futures on. Especially when our stuff makes us look good. But I’m learning that truth is better than looking good. I’m learning that freedom is better than safety. Mm. I have to say it again. Freedom is better than safety.
So this year I want to soften. Soften my tone and my words. Soften my voice. Soften my footprint. Live simply. Soften my approach to new things, to strange things, to wrong things, and to sad things. I want to soften my heart and I want to allow others to do the same. I want to let in the hard, sad, tough stuff and I want it to find a soft place to land.
Already I feel the edges of my life softening. Already I feel myself growing softer. I feel that that verse in Psalms* whose references I can never remember is a prophesy meant just for me that I’m just learning to understand. I delight in Him. He gives me the desires of my heart and He gives me the desires of my heart. He puts the desires in there and then He fulfills them. I delight in Him. He plants seeds in my soul of wants and needs and passions and pulls and then He provides the water, the fertile soil, and the sunshine. He both initiates and completes. I delight in Him. He guides my days so I am doing what I want and He molds my heart so what I’m doing is what I want to be doing. I delight in Him.
He’s making me softer.
And part of that was the transition. The tears on the plane and the saying goodbye. The breaking up of the ground to make way for new life. The kneading of the dough necessary for fresh things. And part of that is the now. The better days at school when I don’t yell even though I want to. The walks around town. The blessed, glorious, magical trips to the mountains. The time spent on my couch reading. The meals shared with friends. The words of encouragement and “we can do this!” It’s all making me softer.