For most of my life, I felt like everything was closing in on me. I felt like my life was out of control. I didn’t trust God or His plan. I worked hard to be close to people— but not too close. I cycled through friendships and stayed busy. Really busy. I didn’t want to look at or deal with my struggles. All the while, God was faithfully paving the way. He was allowing me to get to the end of me and my ways so I would ultimately want Him and His ways. I will always be grateful for the fact that God taught me how to breathe. Simply breathe.
Learning how to breathe was a long process. God took me on a journey to get to a place of peace with my past. I had pushed my struggles down, and I had tried to cover them up by being good and doing good things. I didn’t know what else to do. All the while, the lies of the enemy were running around in my head and impacting my journey. I think the same thing happens to other Christians all the time. We try to just be good; we try to stay busy and keep moving ahead, and we don’t even realize that the lies of the enemy are impacting us.
Most of the time, no one challenges us to stop and deal with what’s going on inside of us. That’s where the local church can fail to live in authentic community with one another. We don’t look one another in the eyes and ask, “Why are you having this struggle in your life? Why do you feel that way? Why are you doing those things?” Instead, we just plan another Bible study or host another event. I don’t say that to be judgmental; I did that for years. I just tried to move forward, but what I didn’t realize was that it was like I was trying to move forward while carrying hundreds of pounds of extra weight.
Thankfully, I had close friends who did ask the tough questions. They changed the status quo in my life when they challenged me to deal with the lies I had believed all of my life. Once I started, it was like finally stopping and asking God to strip away all the extra weight I had been carrying for so long. I finally stopped “doing” things, and I started asking, “God, do this work in me! Free me from this weight—this shame and this guilt and this need to constantly be busy so that I feel valued or needed or loved.” Once I started praying that prayer, my life changed.
Instead of doing things so I could feel right, I realized God had already made me right through Jesus. Because of that, I was freed up to do things for Him. I had known this equation my entire life. I could teach it to you with great conviction. However, there came a moment when I had to ask Jesus to help me walk in this equation every single moment of every single day. The equation of grace. I was loved and valued and wanted and redeemed, not because of me, but because of Him. I started to live that truth out each day, and the outcome was so sweet. I was able to rest in Him, to love Him, to live for Him, and to know that no matter what happened to me or through my ministry, God was my greatest treasure. He was my treasure, and that had nothing to do with what I did or didn’t do for Him or anyone else.
The process of learning to breathe took time. God did the work, but I had to surrender to it. My struggles had layers, which I think is true for all of us. When I would deal with one issue, it would uncover another one. That was OK because once I started to breathe, I didn’t want anything else except the love of God. The grace of God. The freedom of Christ. The people around me loved me and wouldn’t let me settle for less than God’s best. They spoke truth into my life, stayed engaged in the process, and wouldn’t let go of me.
There’s so much value in doing the work and getting rid of the weight. Stopping and saying, “OK, I’m going to get to the core of what’s going on in my life. I’m going to ask God to change me so that I can move forward without shame, guilt, and doubt. I’m going to ask God to show me the lies running around in my head.”
I believe deeply that we don’t have to live in guilt and bondage; we don’t have to live in shame and doubt. We really can experience the freedom of Jesus Christ. The freedom of knowing that He loves us. The freedom of knowing that He has a plan for our lives. And the freedom of knowing that, at the end of the day, He is more than enough for any situation we face.
So many things changed in my life when I simply focused on Jesus and started to breathe. I experienced His healing as I learned to walk daily in His grace. I was a better wife, a better mom, my friendships were deeper, and the focus of my ministry completely changed.
Breathing is good. It’s necessary. I am a big fan of it, both physically and spiritually. I’ve learned that it’s hard to breathe when you are carrying extra weight. My extra weight was real, and it shaped the direction of my life. Thankfully, God is bigger. He stripped away my need to “do” and my fear of “doing,” and He taught me how to breathe. Simply breathe.
* This is an excerpt from Andrea’s new book God in the Window. If you would like to read the rest of the story, order your copy at www.andrealennonministry.org