I wander conference halls in a blissful daze, happy just to share elbow space with some of the premier Christian woman leaders of my generation. With every beat of my heart, I sense confirmation that I belong here. Four years of anticipation have served well to prepare me for workshops and networking connections. Four years of writing my heart out in my little bloggy corner; four years of further experience in the body of Christ; four years refining understanding of Christ’s work in and God’s message through me; four years of life.
To culminate this amazing experience, this gift, this apex of my beyond-family ministry thus far, I receive the bonus Saturday night privilege of hearing her–the mesmerizing storyteller, the humble counter of gifts. She begins to speak, and the room darkens and the walls fall away and the audience shrinks until just she and I remain; then the storyteller disappears, and self forgets awareness, and soon there is only story.
What magnificent story surrounds us. Our very moments drip with story. From the Chronicles of God’s people to the most desperate moments in Auschwitz, story threads its way into the present, and onward into very eternity.
To experience the story, to really live with the richness we were created to enjoy, we have to notice the moments of the story, and not disdain even the smallest ones, because the little moments are the story. And in the noticing of the moments, we receive them as gifts from heaven. And each gift is grace.
We are all gifted with these grace moments. The more we notice, the more gifted we become. Giftedness, then, is a long faithfulness in noticing. To do this, we develop the practice of intentionally seeing the gifts; we constantly push ourselves to pioneer on our own frontier of understanding what we see; we pursue a mentor to help us see and understand even more, help us receive more grace.
But there is a catch in this gifting, this grace, this noticing of life’s moments. To receive a gift, one must unclench a fist and release something else. Some hold on to their hurts; some hold on to their dreams; maybe all of us hold on to our fears. Perhaps fear is the notion that God’s goodness ends. But, the storyteller proposes, if God’s goodness to you ended, God would cease to exist.
The spell of the storyteller lifts slightly, and I am invited to make use of a small gift in front of me, to unclench my fist and release my fear onto a card so I can physically carry it to the cross and receive grace. I am also invited to receive, to notice three of my special gifts this weekend on the reverse side of this card.
Without warning, I choke.
I can eagerly notice the gifts. They spill easily onto paper. But what is wrong with me I can’t even find the locked room let alone the key to get me in the door to name the fear to which I hold most tightly in my secret heart. So I hold on to my card, naming only my treasured gifts from this weekend, and slowly return down conference halls to my quiet room, to ponder.
Lord Creator, what would you have me release? Am I really so out of step with you that I am left staring blankly at an empty square, without even a prompting to identify an action point so I can fulfill the storyteller’s assignment? Come to me, Lord, speak to me!
Sunday comes. With a single hour to spare, I remember to visit a special place called the Prayer Room, which holds a final gift for me. In the holy quiet, I find my name printed on a slip of paper, attached to a card identifying God by one of his many names. This name, God has chosen to reveal to me in this moment, through the prayerful hands of the Proverbs 31 conference team:
Jehovah Shammah. The Lord My Companion.
I physically feel his presence then. He stands at my elbow reading the card with me; sharing this very moment of wonder at its message; smiling as I joyously exhale relief that I am not out of step at all.
I have struggled to name my fear, because it already had its name. Fear that I might be here overreaching God’s plan; fear that the good gifts spilled onto my card might have been taken, not given; fear that those good gifts are the very thing around which my fist so tightly clenches.
The storyteller’s voice echoes in my mind: If God’s goodness to you ended, God would cease to exist.
I unclench my fist, and surrender my special, treasured gifts. And receive the greatest gift of all, standing right here with me: Jehovah Shammah.
What does God ask you to release today, so that you might receive even greater gifts?