I’ve been “blog quiet” for such a long time now. I’ve been pondering so very many things this past year. But one analogy I keep circling around to again and again is this feeling that I’ve been relegated in life to a sandbox. An out-of-the-way place where I can’t cause too much trouble. It sounds a little bitter when I read it, but what’s funny is I’ve kind of put myself there.
I think a lot of you can probably relate.
You know, for years my greatest wish has been to be in full-time ministry. I’ve tried going to college on no less than three separate occasions. One in ministry really must have that critical seminary degree (tongue in cheek). I’ve smacked my face hard so many times against that particular wall. When it wasn’t school it was gender. A woman shouldn’t have too much authority. She should be quiet and meek. Problem is, there’s a bit too much lioness in me. Half of the time I’m not sure where my place is and the other half of the time I’m fairly certain no one knows what to do with me.
And so I find myself playing in the sandbox where it’s safe, and I know the rules, and the boundaries are clear, and I can’t get myself into too much trouble. Or get my heart too broken.
Boundaries. Limits. Walls.
For all of us there are limitations – a lack somewhere of something, be it money, time, energy, education, health…
We resent our sandboxes and bust our hearts against their invisible bars. We wonder when God is going to do that thing we used to really believe so hard that He was going to do. We wither. We diminish. The more hemmed in we feel the more we hunker down.
For a while that sandbox can be a really fun place to hang out. We can play there. We can pretend. We can create. We can skate by in life content with the sand we can scoop in our hands and the castles we can build. But all along there is this persistent whisper inside that screams against the walls of our hearts, “I was made for something bigger than this!”
And then that sandbox becomes our prison and we become a performer going through the motions.
I’ve had cause this past year to ponder my sandbox. I’ve wondered if I should fight against those barriers or accept them with humility? I’m all the way certain that if and when God wants to do something in this life of mine and take me out of this sandbox, He absolutely will. So surrender in patient humility, or let the lioness loose and fight?
No doubt you’ve asked yourself similar questions at times.
I can’t answer those questions for you. Sometimes a battle needs fought and a lioness must be called forth. Sometimes, that’s the path. Sometimes, the whole point of the sandbox is to prepare you to fight back. And, then, sometimes humble surrender is the path God leads us down as He teaches us to trust Him and place every bit of our hope in Him.
We must ask of ourselves What has He called me to? Did He call you to be the one to fight? Or did He call you elsewhere?
For me, the inclination to fight is ever beneath the surface. But the true calling is investing in people. To love them as he loves – with fierceness, and loyalty, faithfulness, and protection. To open my life, my heart, and my home to others. To put His Word into practice and show others how to walk in that same wisdom. To teach, and pray, and love, and share.
When I remember this, I’m able to see this sandbox with new eyes. Instead of pounding my face against those boundaries in an effort to seize the plow and set off to till distant fields beyond my reach, I can grab a shovel and dig.
When life hems you in, start digging.
Dig deep. Dig deeper. Deeper still.
It’s back-breaking work. It’s heartrending work. Sometimes, it feels like small work. It’s not easy going deeper with God. It’s easy to play at church and easy to dig in the sand with our little toy shovels. It’s harder to grab that big girl shovel and heave with all our might – faces to the ground as we cry out in prayer, sweaty noses in the pages of our Bibles as we raise them to God and remind Him… remind ourselves – of His faithfulness, His promises, His provision, His supernatural strength, His ability to work miracles. It’s hard work to set aside the games and invest in the people God has placed alongside us in our sandboxes. It hurts to dig past the sand to the rich fertile soil beneath – blisters form and bleed as they burst, muscles bunch up in agony, the sun beats on us. It’s hard to make ourselves shut off our televisions, our phones, and our radios and turn hungry hearts to the only One who can really satisfy.
It’s scary to stop letting that sandbox define us and instead begin to define our sandbox.
We’re all longing to do something in this life that really matters, that changes something in a forever sort of way. The problem is, so many of us are trying to offer this world something we ourselves don’t have.
Because you can’t take people deeper than you yourself have been. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t explain what you don’t know.
Only God can take us deep enough. Only Jesus can give what we don’t have. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal what we don’t know.
This year is coming to a close. I know I need to dig deeper – in my own heart and in the lives of others. It’s the only way I’ll go farther. It’s the only way I’m leaving this sandbox. Will you join me in grabbing your shovels, shoving them in the sand, stomping them down, and hauling the sand away?