The view from the passenger seat

Sitting in the passenger seat of a car with no brakes and no driver, hurtling down a steep mountain road with lots of hairpin turns and no guardrails.

The ideal:

Isn’t that sometimes how it feels when something in life is beyond your control? I prefer to be in the driver’s seat—accelerating when I want to, tapping the brakes when I want to, taking in at a scenic outlook when I want to, stopping for Starbucks when I want to. That’s my preference. My fate is in my hands. I am able to protect myself. The twists and turns my life takes are up to me—not someone else—and I can take a different path when I want to, turn when I want to, or hit reverse whenever I’d like. Having control over what happens in my life is one place where I find security, empowerment, and freedom.

The reality:

Have you ever realized in life, though, that someone else may have taken the driver’s seat? Sometimes you willingly hand over the keys, other times you don’t even realize it until you find yourself longing to take back the wheel. It’s part of why close friendships and relationships can be scary—because whether you may have intended to or not, you’ve strapped your heart into the passenger seat and let someone else drive the car. And let’s be honest—the reason there are backseat drivers is because nobody trusts anyone else’s driving style. It’s always the backseat driver saying “turn here!” or “slow down!” or buckling their seatbelt after a particularly fast turn with a pointed look towards the driver.

Over the weekend, I discovered that there are some places where I’ve put my heart in someone else’s passenger seat. And that can be an awesome adventure! But it can also be super scary, because your heart is your life. The brain can’t function without it, you can’t go anywhere without it—it fuels your thoughts and guides your movements. And giving someone else the privilege of protecting it is nerve-wracking. What they do with it is beyond your control. It may take time before you get to know their driving style and understand where they’re taking it.

In truth though, I’ve come to learn that, in life, it’s impossible to have control all of the time. The world does not start and stop around you, and other people’s lives are still happening in other places. You may be waiting for a message or a result, for a response or for affirmation. It takes time.

The truth:

And I’ve come to learn the that the only driver that I can ever trust with my heart, completely and entirely, is Jesus. I can trust that He will defend and protect it, that He knows the scenic overlooks that will make my heart swoon, and He knows what turns to take.

And my trust doesn’t come through the knowledge of His omnipotence, it comes because I’ve experienced His love. I know that He loves my heart enough to go through Hell for it, to die for it. That He’s always thinking about it and never wants to be without it.

Isn’t that such beautiful hope, friends? That there is one who is always in control so that I don’t have to be, and that my trust of Him—letting Him take the reins, is actually my source of freedom.

“I trust in Your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.” ~Psalm 13:5

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Three ways to “Live Free”: Open heart, open eyes, open hands.

I’ve spent a lot of time in conversation with God this week.

 

I don’t want to say I’ve spent a lot of “quiet time” with Him. Why? Because our chats have become rather continuous throughout the day and, well, when you’re talking to God while braving NYC traffic, that’s not usually quiet. It’s far beyond “devotionals” and it isn’t always “study” in the truest sense of the word—it’s really been a back-and-forth dialogue with the King.

 

It’s taught me even more how to invite Him into my everyday.

 

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk who worked in his monastery’s kitchen, started his prayers with, “Lord of pots and pans and things…(The Practice of the Presence of God).”

 

In the last few weeks, Brother Lawrence’s prayer has triggered a profound revelation in my life. My God is not just the God of the big things or the immediate crises, but rather, He’s also the God of taxis and subways and things, of meetings and coffee and views and Pilates and air conditioning and oh so much more.

 

One of the most frequent mistakes we make as Christians isn’t something we’ve committed-rather, it’s something we’ve omitted: we forget to invite God to infuse our natural with His supernatural and make our ordinary, extraordinary.

 

How do we live life with this Kingdom perspective? Here’s the checklist He’s been revealing to me:

 

1. Open your heart to God’s plans for you.

We serve a God who despises “religion” and desperately desires relationship. He offers us the opportunity to live a life of freedom and joy, knowing that our soul craves connection with its Creator—and that He’s created us to fulfill and be fulfilled by a customized purpose in His Kingdom. It’s all there, in Matthew 11:28-30: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (MSG).”

 

2. Open your eyes, to see and steward His blessings.

God has given us the gift of wisdom and discernment, and living life in freedom does not mean living a life that squanders what He has given to us. This discernment is a tool to navigate the Christian life. In Philippians 1:9-10, Paul says, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so you may approve what is excellent and be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (ESV).”

 

 

3. Open your hands to live freely and lightly.

We are stewards of God’s resources, not owners (Hebrews 2:10, “Everything belongs to God, and all things were created by His power [CEV].”). These resources include our money, our apartments, our cars, our relationships—everything we’ve been given is a gift. And, if we open our hands to give these resources back to Him, He has promised to withhold no good thing (Psalm 84:11). Just look at the story of Job, who God blessed with twice as much because Job understood the steward / owner relationship. Isn’t that great news? We serve a God who desires relationship with us, wants to show us how to live freely, and who we can trust will not withhold any good thing from His children!

 

Hopefully this is an inspiration to you, too, as you start this week.

 

Grace and peace, friends!

True freedom.

“I don’t know.”

 

These may be the most nerve-wracking words in the English language.

 

They’re usually being said in response to something. Someone has asked and expected us to have an answer, or at least an inclination. Instead, all we have to say is, “I don’t know.”

 

Standing at a crossroads means that you don’t know exactly what lies down either path.

 

Sure, you may have seen a map that says, “Waterfalls here” or “Dangerous pit of vipers here.” But you haven’t seen either route for yourself. You don’t know exactly what lies along the way, or what awaits you on the other side.

 

In that first example, it’s pretty easy to surmise that the path with the waterfalls would be the best route to go. (Just ask Indiana Jones—“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes.”)

 

But what if the map says “Beaches here” and “Mountains here”? What if both paths seem like great options, and you’re unsure as to what will bring you the most enjoyment and fulfillment?

 

Or, what if there’s no map at all?

 

You stand at an unmarked crossroads. You’re free to choose either direction. You have no idea which path holds the fulfillment you seek, or the regret you fear.

 

You’re paralyzed by the decision.

 

 

 

As humans, we crave freedom—the freedom to make our own schedules, be our own bosses, to travel and explore, to make our own choices.

 

However, we often fail to recognize (or choose to ignore) that with increased freedom comes increased responsibility.

 

We become completely responsible for our actions and reactions.

 

And if we don’t question the motivation behind these actions—if we don’t keep our responses in check—we’ll find that our decisions are merely reacting to circumstances instead of acting despite circumstances.

 

Now, don’t misunderstand me—the events in our lives are can be catalysts to what God has for us. Even if He didn’t cause an event to happen, we serve a powerful God who can work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28)—our right and wrong decisions, our missteps, the things we have done or the ways decisions of others have affected us.

 

But when we don’t choose to give things to God, we’ll find that we often make knee-jerk reactions out of fear, anger, or anxiety instead of saying, “I trust God. I know He is in control. I will embrace His peace” despite the waters raging around us.

 

Quick reactions cause pain. Thoughtful actions bring gain.

 

We serve a God who gave us free will. We serve a God who will respect that free will (Revelation 3:20).

 

Thankfully, we also serve a God who will work out His best for our lives when we surrender that free will (Proverbs 16:9).

 

Going back to our earlier example, imagine that you’re not alone at this crossroads. You have a guide with you who has traversed both paths—who has seen both the challenges and scenic views along the way, and can tell you with certainty which path is best for you.

 

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”

 

You see, God knew that unchecked freedom can illicit unprecedented fear. If you can do anything, there’s a lack of certainty and often a void that it leaves. It’s un-channeled and unchecked. It’s like a weapon wielded by someone who doesn’t know how to use it, and often does more damage (including collateral damage) than good.

 

However, in surrendering our free will to God, we experience even greater freedom—freedom from worry, stress, fear, and shame.

 

Our freedom has been channeled into a purpose—for Him and for His Kingdom. In freeing God to work, we can free ourselves from worrying about it. We have the God who knows all things and from that standpoint, can work all things together to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

“I don’t know” may be one of the most nerve-wracking phrases in the English language.

 

“I don’t know, but God does” is the most freeing.

 

Live free.