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Pride Fail

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  ~ John 15:20

I would like to humbly say that I am a humble person, but chances are that statement would have more of a prideful boast to it than a humble acceptance.

I don’t think I’m the most proud person I’ve encountered on earth, but apparently some overbearing arrogance stubbornly clings to my character. I’ve noticed recently that my pride is strongest when I’m hurt the most. It’s something about the need to project an air of confidence when I feel the most fragile. Something about the need to assert my importance and value when I feel the most worthless and disposable to others. I’ve been on a tear lately and I’ve tried to give myself time to calm down and re-focus. Something I’ve learned is that my perspective of myself doesn’t change as long as I’m in my own head, in my own space and in my own world. It just took a not-so-subtle set-down from my boss to kick me out of my mental Queendom of Shawnda Land. I needed that.

Insecurity. That’s what I’m wallowing in. A whole bunch of insecurity and uncertainty about my life. And that changed me into a person whom I really don’t know or like. Apparently, others don’t like her either.

The Pride-Full Shawnda was also the Shawnda who was hurt beyond her ability to articulate her pain. Pride came along to bolster her up. To puff her up. To give her a sense of being and substance. Pride told her she was important to herself even if others did not esteem her at all. Pride made her think that the more she esteemed herself, the more others would also. But Pride failed.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?  ~ Job 38:4-7

Two drops of water reflecting their own universe.

It certainly wasn’t me. I hadn’t been there. Nothing can make you feel as insignificant as contemplating the incomprehensible vastness of God’s creative glory. Yet this same glory is also the one thing that makes you feel the most significant when you see yourself as part of His vast creation. In all His incomprehensible glory, God saw fit to create me and you. He created us with such infinite detail that we can’t begin to know anything about ourselves until we begin to know something about Him, our Lord and Creator.

Pride indeed failed to puff me up, but God never fails to fill me with His presence again and again.

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Small Ripples, Big Impact

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers — the moon and the stars you set in place — what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?  ~ Psalm 8:3-4

Life lesson: though I may be a pebble or a tiny insignificant grain of sand, the ripple effect of my life can be great.

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying harder than usual to make sense of life (in general) and the people who have crossed my path (more specifically). Attempting to understand the vagaries of life and relationships has proved to be a futile effort which soon ended with me throwing up my hands and accepting that nothing matters at all. A devastating thought. Crushing, actually, and depressing because if nothing in life matters, it stood to reason that I didn’t matter either.

I concluded that I’m not significant to anything or anyone. It didn’t matter how I loved or showed love, what I said or what I did, if I showed up or if I didn’t, it didn’t matter what I thought or believed, what I learned or what I dismissed. Nothing about the process of my journey mattered, or my experiences or my lessons. It all amounted to naught. From inception I was a waste and my time here could be likened to a waiting room, a transition space I paused in before being released into a place where my existence would matter. A paradise where my love would be accepted and my open heart would not be derided or neglected.

My underlining thought was: How much longer must I suffer here, in a world full of people who have no care for me, no concern, no openness, no honesty, no true sense of sharing?

I hadn’t dared approach my heart condition during this season of brokenness. Primarily, because I had believed myself to be in a season of wholeness. A season of recovery. I had believed myself to be in the midst of reaping a bountiful harvest of blessings – so joyful of heart and spirit, so clear of mind and purpose. I wanted to enjoy every moment of that sense of wholeness without giving one iota of concentration to the encroaching darkness, the crippling loneliness, the horrendous sadness. This month, I’ve reached a point where I not only have to concentrate on my dark, lonely sadness, but I also have to give voice to it in order to let it go. I have to acknowledge it so I can shine a light on it and defeat it.

About face on Facebook

One issue in the midst of all this is technology. I have increasingly become discouraged with technology, primarily social media. The internet makes you feel only a few clicks away from people living hundreds or thousands of miles away. That accessibility creates a false sense of intimacy and that false sense of intimacy makes online interactions feel like real relationships. That’s the web I got entangled in, during a time I was confronted with the fact that my person-to-person relationships didn’t amount to a hill of beans either. So, in effect, I crashed due to a software malfunction or overload because I was trying to compute people in my actual and virtual worlds with malware.

A few months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account because I felt I wasn’t benefiting anyone, therefore it wasn’t benefiting me.

A line from Reese Witherspoon’s 2006 Oscar acceptance speech for Walk the Line, has never left my mind. Her whole speech is beautiful and encouraging for any woman doing any work in this world, but her closing line, which she attributed to June Carter, sums up this whole internal conflict of mine:

I want to say that my — my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self-respect, and to never give those things away. And those were a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter. And people used to ask June how — how she was doin’. And she used to say, “I’m just tryin’ to matter.” And, I know what she means, you know. I’m just trying to matter and live a good life and make work that means something to somebody.  ~ Reese Witherspoon

I, too, want to matter. I want to count for something. I want to feel as if my presence isn’t a waste of space in this continuum of life.

This weekend God showed me how I mattered to His network. Oh, being shown my place in His web of connections has had an equally awe-inspiring and humbling impact on me! I’m still processing… but from a clean reboot this time.

Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority…  ~ Psalm 8:5-6

I matter to the Most High. And His words of love have been penetrating me this weekend!

I opened an email from Cyndy Lavoie yesterday after posting This Time. Her email had been sitting in my spam folder for exactly seven days. I hadn’t even been trying to look at email let alone spam, but a series of erratic movements with my mouse pulled her email up before I even realized what I was looking at. As a matter of fact, I sat looking at her name for at least a full minute, blinking, trying to guess at why I would have an email from her.

See, Cyndy Lavoie is a contact from Facebook that I corresponded with no more than 5-7 times via FB page posts or blog comments over the pass summer. We have never met, nor have we spoken voice-to-voice. She lives across the continent in another country. I had linked to her blog through the page of a mutual “friend” on Facebook. Her blog posts touched my heart and I sensed we were on a similar journey.

She started her email to me with: “Not sure if you remember me, we met on Facebook (somehow!! LOL) and you have been coming to mind lately, and it occurred to me that I’ve not seen you on Facebook for quite some time.”

God’s Social Network

In addition to to the onslaught of my technical difficulties, I started attending a new church. For pretty much the full time I was on Facebook, I read The Daily Bible Verse every day. I posted scripture and commentary from it regularly on my pages. Some time before closing down my Facebook page,  I noticed the pastor writing the commentary headed a church in New York City. One day I googled the church.  In September, I contacted the pastor and inquired about the small group Bible studies listed on the church’s website. He invited me to the one that evening and I’ve been participating ever since.

Today, after service, many of us went to lunch. On the walk to the restaurant, a young, very lively couple introduced themselves to me. I learned that they had just relocated back to New York after a year living in Texas. Through the course of the afternoon, I learned she’s an actress and he’s a software developer. I was seated quite a few people down the table from them, but their energy was so contagious I moved closer so I could hear their conversation. As I pulled up a recently vacated seat, Carl, the husband, said, “LaShawnda, I was hoping to be able to speak to you! I heard that you found the church through The Daily Bible Verse.”

“I did! It’s been an amazing experience!”

“I’m the developer that developed The Daily Bible Verse. It’s been taking off like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Getoutahere! You’re a person! {Yes, I said that!} I thought it might be some corporation with layers and layers of ridiculousness!”

“Nope – maybe one day! For now, it’s just me and Dave. I’m the technical guy and he’s the commentator.”

I don’t think I can adequately explain how powerful this is to me. Carl and Dave impacted my life before I ever met them, saw them or knew their names. They were part of my day. Part of my study and learning. I have shared the product of their work with people I don’t know, haven’t met or seen. They are both modest men, living modest lives who share a passion for the Word of God and a desire to distribute the Word to the masses. Upon meeting them both, I told them how their work impacted my life. Though the meetings were months apart, their responses were the same, “Thank you, that encourages me!”

My amazement is for the way God has moved us all to the point of contact. We’ve come from all corners of this country and connected in New York City. We’ve gone back and forth with churches and arrived at Grace. More amazing, the majority of the Grace community are transplants. Looking at this maze of connectivity gives the lie to the thought that nothing matters. The “coincidences” of impact and connection points to the fact that EVERYTHING matters. Even when comprehension is out of reach. Even when darkness blocks the source of light. Even when life beats you down within a blink of giving up – that blink makes a world of difference.

The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.  ~ Stephen W. Hawking

Encourage Yourself by Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers