As a kid I couldn’t quite get it right. I either always felt overgrown–too tall, too mature, too bookish–or I felt encumbered by outrageous immaturity–insecure, anxiety-striken, indecisive. I am tempted to feel that the latter of these negative feelings will come across oddly across the white space of what I write. But I’ll try anyway!
This banter here isn’t really about my youth, although I probably do have a country’s worth of juvenile thoughts I could conquer if I had the courage to face them–and the conviction to do that.
What it is about is growth.
How many times I can think of when I just wished as a child I was already there! Yet so many other times I wished I weren’t.
Why was I so tall? Too tall by 2nd grade to play (according to the rules) in the ball pit at, was it Show Biz Pizza? I can’t remember.
Why had I been built with the inquisitive mind? Why did my junior high joy pivot on whether I had unfamiliar alphabets and Sherlock works in hand? Why couldn’t I settle with Babysitter’s Club and NKOTB?
What was it that made adolescent-me instantly despise others my age and only seek connection with women who were life-experiences ahead of me? Why do I still entertain unbelievable fears about interactions with my peers, yet feel safe and sound with ladies in seasons beyond mine?
Growing is an uneven process.
I’ve come to conclude that growth is not a straight line. As much as I love the charts that show movement in the physical world as a down to up progression, I realize now that growing is a process absolutely clinging with bends and curves.
Madeleine L’Engle writes on many things, but one thing she tells of gives me words to process my thoughts on growth. And it starts with the labor and joy of birth-giving. Not childbearing, mind you, but birth-giving.
She writes that we artists are designed to be birth-givers.
I call myself an artist because of my love affair with words. Not the indiscretion-type, which attaching the word love to supposes, but the circumstance of habit that my God-created service to art requires. I so love to write that when the time to do so comes upon me, I am like a woman in labor, pushed up and out of my bed, down my stairs, and forced by burden of bursting thoughts to enter the pangs of giving life to that thing stirring within me.
“Obedience,” she begins, “is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.'”
What does her artist-as-birth-giver metaphor have to do with growth?
From birth I have been an artist, a person yearning to discover and capture and express. I have been continually called to serve a work–whether it has been to sketch, to discover calligraphy, to learn languages, to write, to create curriculum…yet, in my call, I have grown a lot in some areas and minimally in others, into this awkwardly half tall-half small person.
I know for a fact that friends are astonished to learn I am afraid of new people. My extroverted side would send a message that I gain energy from interacting with everyone. But that immature, lesser developed side lives often bound by a stronghold of anxiety.
Growth in other areas of my life has paid no attention to age-milestones. 9 year-old Amber lived under the loom of questions about eternity and the meaning of life, yet in other ways she was burdened by the best and worst of her imagination. She was convinced, for example, that the life of barefoot, skirt-girded woman in a 3rd world country was the height of joy and that having any material possession meant an abiding life in the Lord was unattainable.
I am glad I have grown beyond at least some of my childish ways!
Growth at Present
I now enter a new window of growth. I am discovering many truths through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Like that I am far less sophisticated than I have always thought. But also far braver too. In this place of discovery and sojourn I uncover the rocks gingerly.
What next thing will I learn about myself? God is showing me that I am not as good of a listener as I yearn and believe myself to be. He also has shown me that I am a gusher–I hear about others lives and gush with a desire to relate, so much so that I instantly search for a like-situation of my own to “gift” others with when they tell me about their highs and lows. Not always wrong, but this needs pruning, shaping, refining.
Oh the hard road of that process. Can I just say one enormous, resounding UGH! Okay, there and done.
No surprise then when I woke up with a racing heart this morning, I knew what needed to be done. To rise. To receive. To write.
It was dreams riddled with worst-fears scenarios that woke me up today. A nation friendly to ours was shelling us. My family was sending me despondent text messages. My hair sat on my head like a foreign object, inexplicably unwashed for weeks. While emergency sirens blared to take cover, there I was, falsely confident, offering to drive into danger to help someone, but neglecting my own family in the process. The nightmare shook me into analysis. These were the early labor pains.
“God, what of all this bears something YOU want me to know about my life today? What awareness are you trying to grow in me? What lies can we cut out of this picture?” These and others were the words I eeked out.
In that moment this passage zoomed to mind.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
It was the so-easily-entangle part that gripped my attention. I am so easily-thrown off. I so quickly fall prey to fear. But the Lord is at work, “evening” me out, calling me to grow, to cultivate a greater awareness of my duty, my weaknesses, and by extension, His direction.
I prayed, “God show me what is true, show me what is true, worthy of praise, worthy of thought, needful right now.”
His answer was, “Be obedient. Serve where I am calling you. Do what I am mapping out for you. Be the artist I designed you to be.”
These truths I received were the needed instruction for what was coming next–the birth!
Growing is a process. It’s not the neat line I have tried to find in life–but a tricky up-and-down, sideways, circle-moving, inward-outward array of lines that ultimately, when surrendered to His will, compels us to leave the shell of who we are naturally and find in its place the thing he most passionately desires and intends for us to be.
While it may be you who tells me if I have served the writing duty today in a like or comment, the presence of the words here reflect my surrender to the conversation that made a way from tormented mind to singular post in the peaceful cool of the morning.
Lord, even me out as YOU see fit.