The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

If you’ve been following my story, you may think deciding to change careers was the hardest thing. Nope. Completing my doctorate? Close, but no. Become a spin instructor? No. Launch a ministry? Still no. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is actually something I have committed to keep doing on a very regular basis: confession. Letting someone know what my real life struggles, faults, and failures are is by far the most difficult thing I’ve done. We all know no one is perfect, but it sure feels good to pretend and is incredibly vulnerable to actually name the ways I’m not!


Sin creates a great deal of shame and shame is an incredibly powerful emotion. It’s subtle and sneaky. It quietly creates an inner dialogue of self-condemnation. Shame makes us shrink back and away from others, the isolation only increasing its power. And shame disrupts our ability to be God’s image bearers because it stunts our courage to create, which is one of the most powerful ways we are like God.


Even in our shame, God longs to be with us and relate to us. We see this in God’s response to Adam’s shame in the aftermath of sin and in Jesus incarnate. Though shame turns us away from one another, God draws us towards himself and back into relationship with others. In fact, that is the way toward healing – towards one another. And we move towards one another by sharing our stories, even the shameful ones.

Christian psychiatrist, Curt Thompson says, “The first verse of Hebrews 12 alludes to a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that allows us to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’…[This] includes Christians today who know me deeply and whom I confide in personally. These are individuals whom I allow to see everything there is to see.” He points out that we have to “name things to tame things.” There is great healing available when we put words to emotions and experiences we don’t even want to acknowledge and do so in the presence of another. When I voice my shame and acknowledge my fears, faults, and failures, the community is able to point me towards God’s love for me. Thompson points out that shame can’t tolerate transparency, which means the antidote to shame is sharing anything and everything that may lead to shame, including sin.

So although confession is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it is also the most healing thing I’ve ever done. I have never vulnerably laid my shame before my cloud of witnesses and had them respond with more shame, shun me, or scorn me. Not one time. No, instead when I am vulnerable within the safety of a trusted cloud of witnesses, I am met with tender care, kindness, and gentle accountability. The fear of vulnerability is that others will reject and push you away. However, in the midst of and wake after moments of vulnerability, a well chosen cloud of witnesses draws you in.

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So press into possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Risk being exposed and vulnerable within trusted community. Give yourself the opportunity to hear someone with skin and bones draw you in with great acceptance in the midst of all the shame. Allow yourself to hear them say, “I’m so sorry you are struggling with this sin. I’m here for you. I love you. I still accept you. And so does God.”

Who are your “great cloud of witnesses”? Maybe you don’t have one. Pray that God would bring those people into your life. If you do, what keeps you from being vulnerable and authentic regarding confession with them?

He’s in the waiting…

Recently I realized I had been living with a false assumption. Well, more accurately, God revealed to me during my time with Him just how mistaken I had been. You see, I have always had a very clear understanding that God goes before to prepare and I have always believed that God comes behind to protect, but I was neglecting to recognize perhaps the most important aspect of relating with and walking with God. He’s also in the waiting.


In the midst of changing careers and with the future looking so uncertain, I have chosen to believe God has a plan and is preparing the way. I have always cognitively believed that to be true. It is not hard to acknowledge that an all-knowing God knows and understands more than my limited brain can. It is harder to choose into trusting God’s goodness and sovereignty in carrying out that plan. However, in the midst of this transition, I have found trusting God wholeheartedly with my future to be easier than in the past.

Similarly, I have always known and understood God comes behind me, that He “has my back”. God protects and provides and He responds to my steps of faith in Him by doing those things in ways that are often beyond what I could ever have expected or anticipated. This too was not a new concept to a lifelong Christian. A good father is protective. A good father provides. And God is a very good father, so naturally He comes behind and ensures my safety as I take courageous steps of obedience.

Here’s where the revelation came…God is not just ahead, He’s not just behind, He is also walking with me. He doesn’t just prepare the way. He doesn’t just protect after the step has been taken. He is with and alongside in the waiting. Kristene DiMarco of Bethel Music has a new song called “Take Courage”. The song hasn’t even been officially released yet (thankfully you can find a live recording on YouTube – don’t worry, I provided the link below). The lyrics to the chorus read, “Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting.”

I was introduced to the song during “Unite Midwest”, an evening of prayer and worship led by teams from Bethel, including Kristene. Frankly, it had been a very long day at the end of a very long week. I didn’t even want to go to the event. I wanted to just stay at home and order pizza. But I made a promise to a kindergarten age friend that I would attend the concert and sit by her, and you do NOT break promises to six year olds! So I headed to the venue, weary and worn out.  All around me, people engaged in genuine and heartfelt worship. And though I sang along, my heart and head were elsewhere. Until Kristene began to sing, “Take Courage.” At that point, my knees hit the ground and tears began to fall.

A deeper understanding of how God relates with me, with all of us, was forming in my heart. Later a friend asked why I became so emotional during that particular song. I couldn’t articulate why at the time. And that shows another wonderful truth about our God – He’s SO patient with us! Because change takes time. Growth doesn’t happen in an instance. Instead, it happens slowly overtime, requiring patience and careful observation. You must have eyes to see it and ears to hear it and a heart open to change.  And so let me invite you into one of my quiet times.

I honestly don’t really like to call it a “quiet time” – it sounds so boring, like a child in timeout. And so often my “quiet time” is anything but quiet. It is simply time I set aside to spend with God. I sometimes end my “quiet time” worshiping. (It is a good thing I live alone because anyone listening would long for this time to truly be quiet – make a joyful noise, not a pretty one right!?) As I lifted my hands towards heaven, I heard God clearly, and might I add both tenderly yet firmly, say, “I’m RIGHT here. I’m right here.” And my hands dropped. And I could feel him sitting WITH me. And THAT is why I had hit my knees. THAT is why tears began to fall. Because my God is a God that walks WITH me.

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Yes, God is far above. Yes, God goes before. Yes God comes behind. Yes, God is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Yes. But…

He is also EVERYTHING in between. He is WITH. He is ALONGSIDE. He is RIGHT HERE. He is in the decision. He is in the arriving. But He’s also in the waiting…

Today I walked away…

There are defining moments in everyone’s life – decisions that determine the very course of your life. Several months ago, I made one of these life defining decisions, and today I took the first step down the path determined by this decision.

Today I walked away from one career to start another. After 9 years, I officially left full time practice as a counselor at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, an organization I respect, that trained me, and took me from a scared, insecure graduate student to a (mostly) confident and competent professional. Today I left coworkers I love, admire, and consider family. In so many ways it could be a sad day. And honestly, in some ways, it is. But the sadness is tempered by two things.

1. Pine Rest is going to let me stick around a few hours a week to keep my clinical skills sharp and to make sure my coworkers don’t miss me too much. So it’s not really “good bye” or even “see you later” as much as “see you less”.

2. I’m leaving a career, but I’m moving towards a calling.

I’m following a calling to teach and so Monday I start what I hope to be a long career in academia. And it starts as a visiting lecturer at Central College. And you see, a “visiting lecturer” is just that – “visiting”. It means I have a full time job for exactly one year. So today I walked away from the security and predictability I’ve enjoyed for the entirety of my adult career. Today I walked away from the known and into the unknown, from the certain to the in between.


Today I walked away from doubt and towards belief that God is good.

Today I walked away from fear and towards faith.

Today I walked away from holy discontent towards peace that surpasses understanding.

Today I walked away from defiantly being in charge towards relinquishing control to the Lord.

Today I walked away from the comfortable and towards the courageous.

Today I walked away from settling towards living in God’s sweet spot He’s called me to.

Today I walked away from the good, in fact the very good, in order to walk towards God’s promise of great.

If you’ve been following my most recent blogs, you’ve been on a journey of learning about Jesus as our Good Shepherd, a trustworthy shepherd that protects, provides, knows us intimately, and loves us deeply. His voice is calm and steady. His guidance is certain and secure. He has my best interest always in mind. And he promises following him leads to a rich and satisfying life. So yes, today I walked away from a lot, but I also walked towards my Shepherd’s voice…

Is Jesus asking you to walk away from something and towards His voice? What’s holding you back? What is keeping you from following the Shepherd’s voice? Maybe today is the day to walk away from all that keeps you from walking towards Jesus.

And of course…Go Dutch!! 😉