Christina Baldwin

Climb to Joy

Christina Baldwin
Climb to Joy

By Brenda Cacy

Lately, I've been pondering what it means to "act like myself." The reason being that I am coming out of a pit of indecision, complacency, and disengagement from life, from everything flowing around me.

In the past, I was known for being a decisive risk-taker; wherever I was, whatever I was doing, I was "all in".   

I found lots of joy in being fully engaged in life.  I felt more in-tune with God, more fully alive.  The joy and newness of each moment used to remind me that I was a new creation by the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me.   

But suddenly, in past months, I found myself just doing what it takes to get through the day, not truly participating, just going through the motions. I thought I was just tired. I was battered by friends' rejection, worried about my aging parents, overwhelmed by my own needs and the needs of those I love. 

In my effort to minimize the pain and protect myself, I had hardened my heart, silenced my opinions, and limited my interactions with others. 

I had lost my voice, lost my way, and I was afraid I had even lost my heart. I was unable to experience joy. I felt as if my heart had shattered and I was dropping pieces along the way with no energy to pick them up and no ability to put it all back together again.

Discouraged and weary, I stopped presenting lists of "what I need" in my times of quiet with God; instead, I sat still, offering myself "just as I am."  Sitting alone, on my bed, tears falling silently, I offered my brokenness, my weakness, my disappointment with God and myself. 

In the quiet, I felt His acceptance and love and even pleasure in my surrender.  

I gave up on protecting and trying to fix myself. I realized that, in focusing on all of the places that I felt I was lacking in, I was missing lots of joy and comfort and other good gifts from my heavenly Father who loves me.

My sense of God's acceptance of me gave me the courage to share honestly (and vulnerably) with a few close friends. After lunch, sharing with two dear ones, we had an impromptu time of prayer. As they prayed over me, I imagined myself in a pit, with a light shining in and a big, knotted rope hanging down (remember grade school gym class?) A gentle breeze was flowing around me. The light shining in and the gentle breeze both seemed like gifts of God's presence.  

That's when I realized it...I was not alone. 

Can I repeat that? Sometimes, the most profound thing is remembering that I AM NOT ALONE.  I have a God who is with me. He delights to be with me, wherever I find myself! 

So the rope was right in front of me...but I was tired. In that moment, climbing out of the emotional pit I was in seemed too daunting a task. I honestly didn't feel up to it. So, for a while, I sat and rested in the knowledge that God was with me. I pondered how it would be "like me" to just grab on to the rope and start climbing. But...I wasn't feeling like myself, so I just waited and pondered. I asked God to show me His goodness and help me appreciate what He had provided for me, rather than holding out for the seemingly bigger needs in my life of healing, rescue from the difficulties of life, and freedom from pain.

As I reflected on this for a couple of months, I started noticing little glimpses of "me" showing up again in my actions....noticing a need around me and responding in compassion, sending an encouraging text to someone who popped into my thoughts, offering to pray (and remembering to do it!)

Then I started a list of these moments of "being myself." 

Finally, I got the courage to pay attention to the moments in which I wasn't proud of my behavior; I started pondering what it would look like to redo them, acting “like myself". This process has been extremely helpful to me. It has allowed me to see my moments of indecision, complacency and disengagement as a virus to fight against, rather than inherent character flaws within me. This awareness helps me turn to my heavenly Father who loves me, rather than shrinking in shame and fruitlessly trying to hide my waywardness. 

Suddenly, I realize I am no longer in the pit and I don't even remember climbing out!

My heart is full of love and gratitude for the faithfulness of God to gently lead me back into some of the thoughts, feelings and actions from my earlier days that I had abandoned along the way and have been missing....those personality traits that reflect who I am when I am at my best, those things that reveal glimpses of my Heavenly Father in me.

I thought they were lost, but I am finding that God has picked up things of value that I had abandoned, in my pain and immaturity, and He is offering them back to me. Nothing looks the same as it did in my younger days, but that is because He is weaving them into a new mosaic that is even better than before.

That brings even more joy to me and those around me.

This journey started with recognizing my need for joy. The path hasn't been easy. It has been hard work. It has required persistence. It has been fueled with joy and repentance and surrender. It requires a constant renewing of my mind as I choose to focus on “what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise.” (Phillippians 4:8)

When I am able to keep my focus on these things, appreciation and joy follow naturally. Then I can believe God finds joy in me and that He is overwhelming glad to be with me. I can wake up in the morning and say: “Here I am, God, for you to enjoy today.”

And I'm starting to believe that He does, regardless of what I have done, said or how I have behaved. And that is more like me, too.