The thing I enjoy about autumn is change. There is something beyond poetic about the way the leaves change, wither and die all while creating hope and making way for something new. Autumn brings homecomings. While I do have a serious case of wanderlust, there’s something about the way our larger communities come back together in Autumn that really fills my heart with gladness. Autumn brings new learning opportunities and a return to school sports and regular schedules. Autumn brings a fresh energy to my passions and my commitments, a refreshing I desperately need after the dehydration of summer.
This year my Autumn isn’t shaping up as usual. God took me on a long walk and asked me to step away from all the commitments I have within my church. Not permanently, just for a year. I’ll share more about why later, (I’m happy to talk about it, but I don’t think it’s what I’m supposed to share today).
Laying down what we are used to carrying is hard. I find myself restless and unsure. I keep trying to heap guilt on myself so I’ll pick the things back up. My heart hurts thinking I may be disappointing people. But underneath all the emotions there is a peace beyond understanding that laying this down is the right move.
I am intimately acquainted with how hard it can be to lay something down when God asks us to. Today I want to share the five biggest reasons obedience is hard and some encouragement to persevere!
- FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out is real. Many times when God asks us to step away from an activity, that activity continues and we start to feel like we’re missing out. Oftentimes our activities and our community coexist. When I’m not around people on a regular basis I assume they are all off having fabulous adventures and didn’t invite me. (In reality we’re all doing laundry and counting down the minutes to bedtime!). I find that God asks me to lay things down when I’m spending more time focusing on the activity and the people there then I am focusing on my relationship with Him. This one can be especially tricky if your activities are ministries. We can forget that doing things for God is not the same as being with God. We can exchange the fear of missing out with the truth that we are invited to hang out with God all the time. Psalm 84:10 reminds us “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere”. When we spend quality time with God, he’ll show us where else to hang out.
- Realizing you’re unnecessary. This one is hard because we all want to feel needed and valued. I find that when God asks me to lay something down He does it to remind me that I am valued because of who I am, not because of what I do. My activities can become a distraction and I can get so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I let it define who I am. (Anyone!?!). The truth is that sometimes we aren’t necessary where we think we are. Sometimes we continue at things after we should have laid them down. Sometimes we need to step out to learn something or heal something before we continue on. When we start to feel unnecessary we can exchange that emotion for the truth of Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are most definitely necessary, created for a purpose, we just need to let God lead us to the work he prepared for us to do.
- Loneliness. No one likes to feel lonely. No one. But when God needs us to really hear Him all the other voices in our lives have to get quiet. Since we don’t like to be lonely, quieting those voices is not something we naturally choose. This one can be especially hard if you’re often the leader or facilitator. When you no longer have to reach out to secure plans and coordinate people and when people don’t need to reach you for activity related details; your phone can become eerily silent. I find that when God asks me to step away from things it’s because my relationships (with people and with Him) are lacking depth and not having meaningful connections can leave me feeling empty. God calls me to put down my doing when He knows I’m running on relational fumes. We can exchange loneliness with connection when we remember that God has put us where we are to be in relationship with those around us. Acts 2:46 talks about the vibrant community of that church, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” This is a challenge and an encouragement. I find it encouraging because when I’m feeling lonely I can believe that no one wants to hang out with me, but God says that’s not true. His plan is for us to be in community. He’ll put people on your mind to connect with. Reach out to them and watch your loneliness be exchanged for all the blessings of community.
- Patience. I lack patience. When God tells me to do something and I do it, I expect him to tell me the next step right away. I expect it, but I’ve never had God work that way in my life. He knows what needs to happen in order for me to be prepared for the next thing and so there’s a pause in between instructions. When I feel impatient I can exchange that emotion for the truth that God is preparing me for what’s next, just like Proverbs 3:5-6 state; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” Patience is hard, but it’s necessary. Hang in there.
- Changing Patterns/Habits/How I Spend My Time. You may think that since God asked me to lay down activities that kept me busy I now have time to cook and clean and all that jazz. While you are right that I have freed up time, the truth is that it is just wasting away a few minutes at a time while I reorient myself to a new rhythm of daily life. I’ve learned to give myself grace when God changes the path I’m on and recognize that I have to crawl before I can walk towards what He has for me. I can also be tempted to get lazy and it takes a lot of energy to fight that when I’m not sure where I’m headed and I’m feeling #1-4. When I am not sure what to do I can ask God. James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God.” He’ll tell us how to fill our time and all those little steps will have us back to feeling productive and accomplished and ready for whatever is next.
For everyone being asked to lay something down this Autumn, my prayer is that as you watch the leaves start to fall off the trees you become full of hope for the new things that are to come.