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Are you Living or Going Through the Motions? The Lesson a Possible Cancer Diagnosis Taught Me

" I was holding out for something that was never going to come to me but would have to come from me."

It took a lump in my breast and a barrage of tests before I really learned what it meant to live. I thought I knew. Since I was a small child, I have successfully crossed things off my bucket list and goals list. I live for challenges and to-do lists. I have done everything I said I was going to do as a teen:

Become a journalist Become a sports reporter Freelance for ESPN Go to graduate school Get research grants Travel the world Start a nonprofit Join the mission field Marry the man of my dreams Have lots of babies (okay 3 more)

There was, however, one thing God placed on my heart as a new believer that I was never ready to pull the trigger on– stepping into the calling he had placed on my life as a writer, speaker, and teen leader. I drew up plans for the books I would write, speeches I would give, and lesson plans for the groups I would lead, but I never carried out the vision. I would tuck it in my back pocket and tell myself when I am ready one day.

Wouldn’t you know it, 15 years would pass, and I still didn’t feel ready. Over these 15 years, I would tell myself:I don’t know enough, I’m too young, I don’t have all the answers, I’m too busy which would then morph into, I will when we have the money, when the children are bigger, and when I have more time. I did not recognize it then, but I was relying on myself to fulfill my purpose, not on the One who made me for the purpose.

Sure, I gave keynote speeches, participated in women’s ministry engagements, and encouraged people, but not the way God revealed to me as a 20 something. I did it in the safety of my circles. I did it in spaces where I wouldn’t face objection or rejection. I was not doing it in the way God put on my heart.

Do you know what stopped me? Fear. I was waiting for the perfect timing to take a leap that would require me to let go of control and fully depend on God. I realized I was holding out for something that was never going to come to me but would have to come from me. God gave me everything I needed to do the job, but He was going to require me to create the time and space. I had to surrender my feelings of inadequacy and trust Him with the unknown.

It turns out perfect timing is a myth, and the idea of control is nothing more than a mirage of a security blanket we clutch to–that was the lesson 2020 taught me. Amid what felt like the tornado of a lifetime: a pandemic, schooling from home, a worldwide shutdown, pandemonium, and a toilet paper shortage God gave me clarity in the face of a possible cancer diagnosis– the same kind that took the life of my momma when I was only nine years old.

Nothing to scare you straight like staring your biggest fear in the eye- total loss of control.

It shouldn’t have taken a possible diagnosis for me to live out the purpose God called me to. It shouldn’t have taken a holy humbling to bring me to the end of myself, but it did.

This is what I have learned: God will bring you to it, he’ll walk with you through it, but you must take the first step and every step after that in faith. God is a gentleman; he will go as far as you are willing to go. He will not force you to do anything. He will give you the keys, maybe even open some doors, but it is your job to unlock them and walk through them. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). Favor requires faith. Favor requires obedience.

At the beginning of each year, I pray for God to give me a word, my word for 2020 was surrender–I had no idea the level of surrender he was going to require a mere three months later. This surrender wasn’t chosen, God forced my hand and opened my eyes, heart, and mind in ways I never imagined. I knew I was stubborn, but lawd child, was all that necessary?

God used 2020 to recalibrate my vision and set me back on track to fulfill my calling. If I thought I was busy before, I have no idea what I am now- yet God continues to clear a path before me. He is the lamp before my feet, revealing ever so gingerly my next step. My job is to trust Him, take the step, and not worry about the rest.

Am I living every day? No. Am I more willing to take risks, face criticism and rejection? Yes. Am I aligning myself to where God leads, even when it feels out of my league? Also, yes. It’s a journey, not a sprint. Living means knowing it’s okay to step away, fail, stay no more, say yes more, and take risks. Living means you keep going and doing even when you can’t see around the river bend, trusting God is steering the boat, not you.

The takeaway here is God created you for a purpose and you cannot experience living- exhilarating, breath-taking, absurd favor, and life until you step into your calling and boldly live it out. Do it scared. Do it now. Do it without all the answers. Do it and have faith God will perfectly fill the gaps, make the connections, and lead the way.

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