beginnings.

Sometimes they speak so loudly.

What makes you think you could help anyone?

You stay home with your daughter. What makes you qualified?

You gave up your chance to make a difference when you walked away from your job. What were you thinking?

You could never write a book.

You’re too young. Don’t people write books when they’re older?

You’re stuck.

It’s too late.

You’ve missed your chance.

It’s over.

Your life is over. 

Do you have those voices? Maybe not they don’t say those exact same things to your heart as they do to mine, but I have a feeling you have those voices who speak smallness and shame, doubt and discouragement to you. Brene Brown calls them gremlins. Whether they’re called demons, our worst fears or the lies we listen to in our weakness, I think we all have those voices. They’re whispering that we can’t make a difference or have a different life or do anything other than stay in whatever dark and lonely place we find ourself in right now. They tell us we are stuck. We are too much. Too little. Too early. Too late. Whatever it is, we are stuck and everything wrong.

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When I listen to them, how quickly I forget that the Lord is in the business of making things new. He loves bringing something to nothing. He delights in making changes that are for our good.

I often see loss and change as an ending, forgetting that the Lord so often brings with it a new beginning. I love what Steve Wiens says in the introduction to his book, Beginnings:

Beginnings-Intro

 

I see this as both as a promise and a warning. We are not stuck. We are not fixed and stagnant. We are always changing. We are always moving. We are endlessly becoming. The question isn’t if we will become someone, but who we will become.

I finished Beginnings only a few days ago now and I can’t get it out of my head. Friends, please, please read this book. Steve (I call him this because I feel like we’re friends now) is painfully honest about his own shortcomings and failings. Steve is also pretty funny. For example, this sentence when he’s talking about being angry: “A few days ago, one of our boys was so angry that he assured one of his brothers that he would poop on him the next time he had to go.” (31)  I laughed out loud. But best of all, Steve is sharing a deep truth about what it means when we partner with God in our becoming process. It is the best kind of story.

Steve uses the Creation story as a means of unpacking patterns of how the Lord works in and through us. He warns the reader that this is a batch of stories, not a book full of scientific arguments about creation. This is meant to be an encouragement and guide through our process, not a how-to book or manual meant to answer every question. It is beautiful, raw and real. His batch of stories was exactly what my heart needed to hear.

He writes about God bringing light to our darkness (day 1). He tells us about the pain and necessity of being expanded for new things to have space to grow (day 2). He writes about the potential for more good and more life planted within us, and the courage to share it (day 3). He talks about the different seasons of life that remind us who we are, both in the celebration and the loss (day 4). He speaks of confronting our monsters, with our best and most vulnerable weapon being our trust in God to save us (day 5). He whispers to us about who we are and how we get to see ourselves and others, transforming how we do what we were made to do (day 6). He finishes with a call to rest, a reminder of our true need to stop in order to become who we truly are (day 7).

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Throughout his book, Steve invites us to dive deep and interact with Scripture. Friends, I had new life breathed into familiar stories. I sat next to Hannah as she cried her bitter tears of infertility and comparison. I trembled at the terror of Goliath as David did the bravest and most vulnerable thing he could have done. I was alone with Hagar in the wilderness, feeling utterly abandoned. And each time, what a grace it was to see the God who sees, the God who knows, the God who loves come through again and again.

At the end of each chapter, Steve offers some practical application. These were some of the best “next-steps” I’ve had offered to me in a long while. I haven’t even done them all yet, and already they are challenging my heart in some good ways. Sitting and naming how I’m really doing (not how I’m supposed to be doing or what I tell people who ask) and sitting and naming what I’m really grateful for (not what I’m supposed to be grateful for or feel guilty about) was powerful. It was powerful to ask myself what parts of my day bring me to life and which parts of my day I feel less of myself. Friends, I am truly looking forward to continuing the journey I started with this book, even though the last chapter has been read.

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Best of all, Beginnings reminded me of some powerful truth about my story. I got to whisper that truth to those voices I told you about.

The ones who tell me there isn’t hope for my life to change.

The ones that tell me I’ll never find my way out of the darkness.

The ones who tell me I’m not qualified.

The ones who tell me my story is over.

The ones who tell me that God can’t use me.

The ones that tell me I’m stuck.

The ones who tell me that God can’t be trusted.

I told them that “the God who hovered over the waters of chaos in the beginning of all things is still hovering, always inviting us into something beautiful and new.” (8) I’m invited into something beautiful and new, even if it is hard to see in my dark corner.

I told them that being stretched and feeling scared isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it means that the Lord is expanding me so that I can care for others better. God might not tell me what he is doing because I couldn’t handle it. It isn’t because he doesn’t love me, but because he does. “We are rarely ready to see to the shalom of another.” (35) God is in his kindness is just giving me the next step to take, getting my heart ready to love deeper than before.

I told them that the Lord gives good gifts and good dreams. He is responsible for outcomes, not me. He’s given me the gift and dream of writing. Whether it helps one person or more than I can count, that is up to him.

I told them that God can handle me being honest with him. In fact he wants to know my heart. “You can stand up in these long seasons of waiting and let God know how disappointed you are. You can boldly ask God for what you want.” (99)

I told them that “facing your monster requires you stand in an in between place where you abandon your turf and your rules in order to create new space.” (118) This is where the Lord works. This is where the Lord meets me. It takes tremendous courage to go there, but it is always worth it.

I told them that “God’s dream for God’s children is that they would be a blessing to the world.” (148) This is his dream for me. He can use me. It can seem impossible. It can seem strange. He specializes in the impossible and strange.

I told them that I don’t rest because I’ve earned it. I rest because it is a gift. I rest because I was made this way by someone who loves me. “The Sabbath is not a requirement we must meet. It is a gift we can receive if we are willing.” (180)

I told them that darkness and chaos doesn’t mean I’m stuck or finished. Darkness and chaos often mark a new beginning, and I can walk confidently into each new beginning knowing that the Lord can use it in my becoming process.

May I become more and more of who I was meant to be, one who trusts the Lord fully with all of me.

 

*Tyndale House Publishers & NavPress have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Beginnings,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

If you’re interested, you can read the first few chapters of Beginnings for yourself here.

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