It was the last place I expected to be on a Thursday during business hours: in my bathtub, submerged to my chin in icy water, tortured by the realization that no work was getting done, no tasks completed, nothing produced until my body’s reaction subsided. The frigid water seemed the only relief from the hives that covered my body.
When I had been stung the day before, I had no idea that sting was a pebble that would incite a landslide. A few hives are nothing for a high-capacity woman like myself.
The mountain I had built was beginning to crumble.
As my health deteriorated over the following weeks, my mountain completely collapsed. My career cascaded downward when brain fog set in, stealing my quantitative reasoning and rendering my short term memory unreliable. With it, our carefully-balanced finances teetered. I was in constant pain, unable to even stand up at one point. I could no longer serve my husband’s needs, which shook ground that I was sure had been steady. We had to make the difficult decision to cancel our honeymoon, and our lives quaked harder. Activities that had once brought joy–hiking, cooking, gardening–were replaced with the only thing I could do: rest.
I was a doer, unable to do.
The thing is, I was quite fond of my mountain, how it was before the fall. I had built it from the ground up, starting with a foundation of morality, building layer upon layer of hard work and perseverance, stepping up, up, up on each accomplishment, and adorning it all with a prestigious degree, a job title, and a wedding ring.
It was a pretty mountain, but it needed moving.
“Be still” was flowing from my radio, dripping from the pages of my Bible, and jumping off the screens. Like a wild animal trapped in quicksand, I continued to fight stillness and continued to sink.
My identity was in crisis. When productivity deserted me, contentment was quick to follow suit.
From the forced stillness, I looked back and saw myself in a state of perpetual motion, frantically building a mountain in my sandbox, surely planning to plant a Kingdom flag on its peak upon completion.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? … In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” – Luke 14:28,33 NIV
Being a disciple of Jesus has a cost, and it has always been the same: everything I cling to. Clearly I was not ready to pay the price asked of me: my health, my identity, and my pride.
I had made an agreement that was never mine to make. Jesus’ words leave no space for the “when You…”s, the “only if…”s, and the “as long as it’s not…”s:
I will give generously when You provide enough to meet my needs first.
I will relinquish my whole life, but only if I get to keep my health.
I will find joy in every trial, as long as it doesn’t rob me of productivity.
This halfway faith is vastly less than Jesus offers. We clench our fists around the short end of the stick and cling there, paralyzed. We keep one foot out the door and complain of the draft.
I am ready to slam that door shut with excessive gusto and reckless abandon. To break these enslaving agreements, in expectation that Jesus will show up. To relinquish my grip on my identity and my plans and hand over the blueprints, letting Him reveal them instead.
In the forced stillness, I realize it was never my job to stand out. It’s my job to stand still so He can stand out in me. My state of perpetual motion muddled His orchestrations and built a haphazard identity, balanced carefully on things that can, and indeed did, fail.
God does not need to climb this mountain that I have built to get to me, but He also loves me far too much to leave me comfortably ruling my own kingdom from its peak. In fact, sometimes He protects me by letting it be stepped on, so I can see its fragility, and my folly for placing faith in it.
When we walk by faith, we are given sight. He takes my hand and unfolds this story painfully slowly, a lumen at a time. Rather than allowing me to fix my eyes on the horizon and lose sight of the ground, He shines light on my path, but just the next step, forcing me into the sweetness of slowness and stillness and helpless dependence.
The journey is not futile, a valley in the rubble to be simply endured before again reaching a peak. Fog often settles in valleys. But the same fog that clouds my vision quenches the thirst of the fruit-bearing plants that flourish here.
So now? I am still. I am still in the valley. I am still still in the valley. The fog persists. Each piece of identity He restores is a cherished stone in this new mountain, this time founded firmly on the Rock.
When it all falls away, I can boast that I know the mountain-mover. Here’s to a rebuild, and only getting one piece of the blueprint at a time.
Continued in Staying Still