I put myself in the very uncomfortable position this week of relying on other people. Not just relying on them, but asking big things of them. Big things. And it was awful! Okay, not really, but it was hard. And hard and awful are difficult for me to separate.
I flew into Denver on Sunday evening in preparation for two six hour recording sessions during the week. First, let me clarify that I’m not a recording artist (duh). I sing as a way to worship and because I enjoy it. But having a nice voice in a live setting does not always translate into a beautiful recording. I know this because I’ve done it before. Recording is hard ( hear “awful”). There is no audience energy, no buffering of the raw sound of my voice. The first night I was in an isolation booth so I had no feel for the rest of the band outside what I could hear in my earphones. It was like singing under a blanket.
We did take after take after take after take. I couldn’t get it right. And every time we had to start over I was imposing on this group of musicians to stay for another five minutes or ten minutes or two hours. They were being paid (not much–they’re musicians), but I still felt guilty for taking up their time. They didn’t know me, but had volunteered to be a part of this project and I was immensely grateful for their talents and willingness to participate. But also wracked with guilt for needing them. (Please don’t read my post on Kerri Walsh Jennings because you’ll realize what a hypocrite I am). And this was just the beginning. My friend, Scott not only engineered the whole project, secured the musicians, accompanied me on every song (with original arrangements) and gave up two long and precious evenings during his week–he also opened up his home to me and I displaced his son for the three nights I was there. His wife made me dinner the night I arrived and provided fresh squeezed juice for me each morning…not to mention giving up her husband for the nights we recorded. That’s a lot of indebtedness!
I prefer to not need any help. Or, if I do need help, I like it to be effortless, painless and enjoyable for the person assisting me. I know…I live in a very sick reality. Especially in light of my salvation. For the last two evenings I’ve sung verse after verse about the cost of my freedom. What it cost Jesus to purchase my pardon–to restore me into relationship with God. To demonstrate his deep love for me, his beloved daughter. His messy, sinful, ungrateful, beautiful daughter. It required effort, unimaginable pain, separation from the Father, humiliation and death. Not the kind of help I like to need. But that doesn’t change the fact that I was dead; unable to make myself worthy without his intervention. It wasn’t just a helping hand he gave me…it was everything. And he keeps on giving.
On second thought…I love help! This week I’m praying I will be be able to enjoy the gifts of others as tangible reminders of my absolute inability to make anything work without “help”. And to joy in my Savior who became nothing and endured the cross so I could live…and sing.
Crazy how meditating on scripture can pierce my soul. Exposing my selfish motives (“intentions of the heart” as the ESV describes in Hebrews 4:12) and bringing them into the light. I probably memorized this verse in the second grade. I don’t really know, but it was a long time ago. I’ve heard numerous sermons and read countless devotions on it. And every time I’ve managed to view this as a passage about me. (It’s a skill I have) Even after I read it in the context of learning to live in financial hardship as well as financial abundance, it was all about me. My contentedness. My strength (that was from Christ–notice how its just a parenthetical).
But today the Holy Spirit was gracious enough to gently push me toward the real focus of the passage. Here’s a hint–it’s the real focus of the whole Bible and, supposedly the real focus of my life. Apparently, Christ is the focus of the passage. His goodness, his strength, his generosity. Perhaps that’s why I’m lacking in strength–I keep focusing on mine.
Today I’m going to focus on Christ. Not how he can benefit me, just on who he is and why I love him. This day is shaping up quite nicely.
A few months back, I said ‘ass’ in church. And, no, I wasn’t reading from the King James Version or referring to a donkey. I didn’t mean to, but in my life, these things happen. The worst part is that I was talking to someone new to our church. Some poor, unsuspecting woman who had met my kids and assumed I was a saint and whose husband had been in ministry–and then I show my true colors.
I don’t swear much. But I have come to believe that sometimes well placed profanity can be just the right word. (not for you, Madison). Of course, in a conversation with a stranger at church does not fall under the category of “well placed”. Sadly, I haven’t seen her since. Perhaps our church should make a disclaimer sign for me…”The words and attitudes of Kelli Gotthardt do not necessarily represent the views of this church.”
I spent this past weekend with two dear friends. Our goal was to spend time together encouraging each other and getting to know God more intimately. My personal goal was to bless both of these women. But as Saturday stretched on, my anxiety and irritability began to rise. I was quickly losing perspective and spiraling into depression and confusion. This has been a difficult season for me (see many of my previous posts) and all this down time was bringing it to the surface. Now it was decision time. Do I share what is happening to me emotionally or do I hold those thoughts until later and move forward with just listening and encouraging.
I decided to share. I cried and babbled and whined and cried some more. Very undignified and personally disappointing. The next morning over breakfast I explained that I had hoped to just ‘be there for them’ and was conflicted over my mini breakdown. I wanted to bless them. One of my friends sighed (I think she felt sorry for me)…”Kelli, you blessed us by breaking down. You set a high standard of spirituality and if we don’t ever see you struggle we are working toward an impossible, inauthentic goal”.
Ouch! Very convicting. While authenticity is one of my highest values, so is my desire to spur others on toward love and good deeds. That tension is….well…a tension. Sometimes I do better at it than others. I never want my poor performance to be an excuse for someone else’s sin, but that often moves perilously close to hypocrisy. I’m a mess. A beautiful, redeemed, forward moving mess, but still a mess.
As a black and white thinker, it’s difficult for me to grasp my own journey. That there are areas where I experience great strength and freedom. Where the Holy Spirit has transformed me and I have a taste of the new creation that is me. But, at the same time, I’m always uncovering areas of weakness and wrong thinking and selfishness and mistrust of God…How both of these are true is a mystery to me. And embracing those polarities is becoming a new part of my journey.
So be warned. If you want to journey with me you will certainly see God’s transforming power at work making something beautiful and strong out of my life, but you will also see disappointing weakness and ugliness and fear. I hope you’re not afraid. This is reality. And sometimes reality will kick your ass.
My favorite part of last nights women’s beach volleyball final, was the post-game interview. Kerri Walsh Jennings led a clinic on being a strong, beautiful woman. Let me give you two of the highlights (not including her ability to speak authoritatively in a bikini!)
1. “We have an army of help…” Lest you believe that winning a gold medal was a shear act of personal willpower and strength, get real! This is the work (and therefore victory) of a small army. I don’t know what her army involves, but I know what it takes to run my life and, let’s just say, I’m not competing for any medals. I call them my “team of experts”, and I make no apologies for the group of people who have surrounded me with their support. From my dear mentor and friend, Carol, to my chiropractor, Dr. Jason. The women who give me business advice and the women who share my spiritual journey. My counselors (yes, plural) and my family. The team of people I’ve needed to raise my kids…childcare providers, family members, college students, neighbors, pastors, interns, teachers, etc. My cardiologist and my dentist. Women who know more about navigating college scholarships, or where to get a good deal on shoes. I’ve just hired a coach to walk with me as I write my first book. I don’t do anything without help! Long before I had a “fan page” on facebook, I’ve extolled the benefits of having fans. Every woman needs fans! People who believe in her. Who ‘get’ her. Who bring out the best in her. Who push her beyond what she believes she is capable of.
2. “This is such a small part of who we are…” How refreshing. This will not be their sole identity. In fact, it seems it will not even be their primary identity. In a culture where women are grabbing and clawing their way to infamy, a woman of beauty and strength says, “I am so much more that what you can see on this court.” I hope she doesn’t sign a contract for a reality tv show next week because that would really spoil this moment, but I loved that my daughter saw a wife and a mom and a teammate and a friend who was also an olympian. As soon as we are defined by our accomplishments or our public persona, we are in trouble. What a gift to be able to play on the world stage, engage in the moment, giving themselves fully to the task and then move forward, allowing other roles to flourish and grow. Her teammate, Misty May Treanor, affirmed this attitude when she added that she couldn’t wait to spend more time off the court with Kerri, pushing her to be the best wife, the best mom she could be.
Yes, she has great abs, but that isn’t what makes her beautiful or strong. So, do you need some more help? How are you defining yourself? Is there a next step God is inviting you to take as you embrace what he has for you? Praying you’ll have the courage to make a move!
Some days I feel strong. Monday was not one of those days. Here’s what I wrote…
It seems to me that strength should feel differently than what I’m feeling today. I think the Olympics is distorting my perspective. I want a gold medal in strength. When I’m watching strong people, it usually looks quite effortless (except for weightlifting competitors who always look like they’re about to pop a blood vessel in their head). I understand that they’ve trained for years and have taught their body how to react to stress and difficulty. But, seriously, I’ve been training too. I’ve done emotional work and training in godliness and practicing disciplines, and on and on. And yet today I feel like I’m trudging through a muddy field in a dense fog. Strength is taking one step at a time, walking the direction I think will lead me out. But it doesn’t feel very strong. It feels suspiciously like I’m very, very weak.
Today I completed a task I’ve been working on for a month. I connected to a dear friend for a 90 minute phone conversation and I managed to get a shower in. The kitchen is a mess, The laundry is piling up and my teenagers will not be able to sustain themselves on the food found in the cupboards. Those tasks were well within the realm of doable things today. If my brain didn’t feel like mush and the list of tasks didn’t get all muddled together, a strong woman should be able to do these things.
Should, should, should. Such damning words. Like running a marathon, some race days are better than others. Even with great training and ideal conditions, some days it just doesn’t all come together.
For me today, strength is not giving into despair and self-pity. It is celebrating the completion of a major task and leaving the rest behind. I salvaged the day with a trip to the beach to write and be with people (even though I felt like hibernating until spring). And tomorrow is another day.
What is strength for you today?
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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