The wall is a shear rock cliff as high as I can see. It is not a wall sloping forward but one going straight up with outcrops where one would have to somehow swing out and up to continue up.
As I stand there I feel an urgency that making it up this wall to a top I cannot see is the most important thing in the universe to me right now. There is part of me that is trying to figure out how this is possible.
The other part knows for sure that I have no idea how to do it, that I don’t have the skill or physical ability and don’t know the first thing about climbing such a wall.
The impetus to try is strong, but equally ridiculous. Why do I have this overriding feeling that I have to do this or I will die? Where does such an insane idea come from?
Images begin to flash across my brain. I’m four years old. I’m standing at the sink in the small four room house on Benton Street. The house had a small kitchen. My mother would always complain about the low height of the kitchen countertops.
She decided I was old enough to wash the supper dishes each night. Although the countertop was low for my mother, it was still too high for me to wash dishes. Plus I didn’t know how. No one had ever showed me.
“It’s your dish night,” she announced. “Wash the dishes. I have a headache.” And she left to go lie down.
There was the same urgency I feel right now standing looking at the rock wall. I want to wash the dishes. I have to wash the dishes, but I don’t know how and I’m not tall enough.
I can clearly remember a thought crossing my little girl mind. I ran and grabbed a stool from my room and brought it into the kitchen. I could reach the sink. I knew Mom put the stopper in the sink and started the water. So that’s what I did.
I poured in the green liquid. I had too much soap in the water. The dishes didn’t get rinsed, but I did it. No brass band sounded. There were no compliments given. I accomplished the task in spite of not being given instructions. I was proud of me.
The Spelling Test
Then, I’m seven years old and I am in second grade, Mrs. C’s class. It was the big spelling test time and I had all A’s on my other spelling test. I knew the words. I was ready. Then a friend asked for a pencil. I searched and found one just as Mrs. C began calling out the words.
We were almost halfway through before I realized I was writing the words on the wrong unit test space. I hadn’t heard the instructions. I tried to copy them to the right place while trying to keep up with the words.
When she called time I had less than half the words on the correct unit. I asked to be able to do it over and she told me that I needed to be listening at the beginning to hear the instructions.
I watched in horror as my favorite teacher marked a big red F on my paper. I began to cry and couldn’t stop. She sent me to the bathroom. I was mortified.
At the end of second grade I was worried about my grades. My grandmother gave me $1 for every A and I wanted all A’s, but I knew I hadn’t earned them, especially not with an F on one of the major spelling tests. I might get an A in reading and an A- in history, but certainly not in math, my lowest subject, or writing, I had had horrible penmanship and still do, or science, the class I hated, or … spelling.
I was dumbstruck when I got my report card. She gave me all A’s!
I was happy, but knew I didn’t earn the A’s. That made it less jubilant, almost like I was living a lie when I showed my grandmother the report card.
Looking back at the wall, another thought invaded my mind like a jolt, almost as strong as an electric shock. All my life I have tried to make everyone happy. It didn’t matter if I knew how to do something or I was too small, I’d find a way.
The interesting thing about this insight, though, was what Mrs. C did. She set up this desire in me to have all A’s always. I wasn’t ever a straight A student. I was a B student.
From that day forward I was a striver. I tried to get all A’s, but I never quite reached it. One might think that doing my best should have been good enough, but it wasn’t. I wanted the A’s
Now I am staring at the rock wall and I realize, I don’t know how to climb this wall and I don’t want to. I don’t want to find a step stool that will help me. And I don’t have to do this to prove that I can get an A in rock climbing.
So I forgive my mom for setting me up to be a self-sufficient little snob. And I forgive Mrs. C for doing something that seemed awesome at the time, but encouraged me to try to be someone I wasn’t.
All of a sudden, Jesus walks into my picture. Instinctively I hand Him self-effort, striving, trying. I ask Him, what do you give me in exchange?
With the kindest eyes, He looks at me and says, “I give you my hand.” As I put my hand in His, He snaps the fingers on His other hand and the wall vanishes without a trace.
Behind it is a cool stream with lush vegetation. Together we wade in the stream stepping gingerly from stone to stone. Once when I start to slip, He catches me so I don’t fall. And when I start in the wrong direction, His hand gently guides me back to the path and shows me where to walk.1
I know I am safe because He is here. The path is a clear boundary. I will not get lost. I have no want or need because my guide is with me.2
And I realize, this is what allowing Jesus to lead looks like. I am not trying to do anything or get anywhere. I’m not trying to be someone I am not. I am only me, a daughter of the King, allowing Him to guide me and show me the way.
I do not want to climb any walls. I do not want to try to earn His or anyone’s favor. I want to live my life here with my Lord, in the serenity of His strength.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He lets me rest in grassy meadows; He leads me to restful waters; He keeps me alive. He guides me in proper paths for the sake of His good name.”2
I want to live like this.
1Isaiah 30:21 NIV
2Psalm 23:1-3 CEB
Teresa Shields Parker is an author, speaker and coach. Her book Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds is the #1 Christian weight loss memoir on Amazon. She shares transparently and openly about the challenges of losing an extreme amount of weight. Sweet Grace Study Guide gives practical tips on weight loss.
Her new book, Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation, published Dec. 2014, shares the stories of 17 individuals on the weight loss journey and includes much information from Teresa. Downloadable pdfs of all books are available under the products tab.
Sweet Change Weight Loss Coaching and Accountability Group provides support, encouragement, weekly videos, action steps and an online group for those wanting to be intentional about their weight loss efforts.
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