He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:19 NIV

Friends often describe me as intense or focused. What I feel on the inside is driven and rarely spontaneous. I plan out each day’s activities. I set a Schedule and follow it. What do you think my # one idol is? Having ‘enough’ time to get done what I want to do.

As I turn 64 in this national-liberty-from British-rule month of July, I’ve been yearning to be set free from the mindset of living by a ‘rule of life’.   Thanks be to God who has been meeting me in that yearning and drawing me slowly toward green pastures and quiet waters.

How have I sensed a new direction? During the past few years, as I have grown to trust God’s sovereign control over every detail of my life, I have practiced releasing the day’s agenda to God.  Bumps and detours don’t tend to bother me as much, any more. I can chuckle at the Holy Spirit’s redirection.

But what still drains me is this ‘delightful’ problem:

‘How do I stay connected with so many Christian sisters I have known and loved over the years across our multiple moves? These are gals with whom I have enjoyed deep and rich sharing.  I LIKE them, I MISS them.  And I’ve been searching for a formula, a way to organize my weeks to keep up with these gals.  Just thinking about this has drained me, especially in light of Oswald Chambers’ idea of the Christian life being one marked by ‘spontaneous creativity’.  I have felt anything BUT spontaneously creative.  More like, a prisoner of a system that I have devised.

So, when God created a space for an overnight meet-up with Regina, one of those sweet sisters, I hoped that through sharing with her, the Holy Spirit would bring some healing perspective to my feeling stuck. I wrote down in my journal, “I don’t like my first instinct to want another rule, a practice to trust.  I’m tired of being responsible for maintaining connections. If it’s possible, I would dearly prefer relying on Jesus to direct me each day in whom ‘to love’. 

Regina and I met up in the small town of Carrollton, Georgia – equidistant from both of us. Although we know each other from teaching languages in Yorktown, Virginia, she now lives in North Augusta, South Carolina and I live in Huntsville, Alabama.  Our last ‘spiritual retreat’ happened twenty-one months ago, pre-pandemic. Our pattern in the past has been to spend a night in a hotel, enjoy a leisurely dinner out and get down to serious Bible reflection in the morning before returning home.

Regina is as much a thinker as I am, and has a wicked sense of humor. As an artist, she thinks in pictures.  As a Latin scholar, schooled in the classics, and lover of military history, she brings a different perspective to our spiritual walk with Jesus. I took my notebook with me to dinner, knowing I wanted to jot down where our conversation led us.

‘What I want, Regina, is to rest,” I shared, diving right in.  Continuing, I explained, “But I don’t know how to get out of my way of seeing and doing life. I’m exhausted AND I know that I am the one who is setting the pace.  After all, I left classroom teaching 27 months ago!  However, this habit of getting things done, this drivenness dates back to high school days.”

We ping-ponged back and forth between my issue as well as what Jesus was showing her in the midst of some heart-aches. The Holy Spirit gently worked in my heart during dinner in the cute historic square of this delightful town, and especially as we sat on a bench enjoying some ice cream.

The next morning, He would bring it together for me with a simple but radical way forward.

We spent two full hours down in the lobby with coffee, our Bibles and notebooks. Thoughts and scripture tumbled out, firmly directing me toward freedom. Regina’s reflections, supported by the Word brought me liberated me. As we parted ways until our next meet-up, Jesus willing, I felt released.

The freedom commenced with two words: Rest and Receive. Both concepts felt like living water to this very parched girl. Through Regina, He showed me the following:

  • The Good Shepherd doesn’t push or drive his sheep, he gently leads.
  • He invites us to rest, to receive, to reset which he calls restoration.
  • He has already released his children from Satan’s kingdom of DO, DO, DO.
  • I don’t have to plan my life, for I have a shepherd.

Those two freedom-bringing concepts started a torrent of other ‘re’ words like reject Satan’s way, his modus operandi of DO. (Did I forget again that we are human BE-ings, not human DO-ings?)

So, full of new paradigms on the way home, I thought about my dad, an Infantry officer whose motto is: ‘Drive on all the way’.  That’s a great motto for soldiers who have an objective to conquer, but as far as a rule of life for you or me, it’s a ball and chain.

Suddenly, I recalled the number of times Pop would say proudly to me, “Maria, you and I are DO-ers!”   The unspoken message blared loudly, “….unlike your mother.”

For sure, Mom was a gal who loved life, who found joy in smelling the flowers, in beautiful things, in pursuing lengthy conversations with ANYone she met. No one was a stranger. 

As a teen and then in my adult life, I disparaged her ways, feeling superior, reveling in my dad’s pride that I was a DO-er!  I rue and regret with shame how I judged her. 

My prayer, my desire now on the cusp of starting a new chronological year is simply to let the Shepherd lead me, leaving it to him to sort out who I stay in contact with.  I can rely on him as I give up making and following ‘rules of life’, that left-brain approach to DO-ing life.  Instead, I will let God-implanted desires lead me.

Two thoughts from this morning resonate with me: ‘Love the one you’re with’, that is the person God brings across my path today.  And the idea of ‘rivers of delight’ described in Psalm 36:8.

Doesn’t being led by a gentle shepherd sound good to you?  Green pastures, still waters, soul restoration, all speak of a better way, a more ancient way.

PS:  One final thought: m name is Maria, which is Spanish for Mary.  My mom did NOT name me Martha, the resentful DOING sister in the kitchen.  I am Mary/Maria, the gal who wants to sit at Jesus’ feet to rest and receive.  When he moves out, I plan to follow.