What ideas about your identity are ingrained deeply in you? Does it feel more safe to believe the hopeless parts of you instead of the hopeful?
I’ve been thinking about the lame man in the Bible who was afraid to figure out a way to move into the water. 38 years of being paralyzed. When we read of his encounter with Jesus (who he thought was just a man suggesting he simply try), we’re conditioned to label him as crazy, lazy or simply self-pitiful and disabled by choice.
What a label, “disabled by choice”. Maybe though, disability was what he knew, how he planned his day, accepted the unfairness of his condition. So, what seems crazy was really just fear of different. Unfamiliar.
“They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” John 5:12 ESV
The man who learned to walk couldn’t really explain it. I suppose he just thought less about who and how than he was astounded to be walking. I wonder how long or if it took him a bit to feel stable, stable in his steps and the miracle that began his embrace of faith. Maybe.
I wonder if he was tempted to lay back down, in a sort of awe and uncertainty life could be this way for him.
If we’re not taught that change can be possible and that even though it might be trial and error, we might “stay on our mat” too.
This is a truth not often expressed.
It’s safer to be the person you’ve called yourself or been called (even if fragile and floundering) than to see our very own growth, to acknowledge how far we’ve come and to slowly dip our toes in the water…the truth of God loving us…until slowly, intentionally and not without moments of backward sliding, we find ourselves lighter, floating, completely and confidently immersed in our healed identity.
If the toil and trials of life have a larger tally it’s likely loss feels more dependable than gain, more believable.
Knowing we are loved because God is love and is patient with those of us who are just learning to swim without the weights of our past keeping us only frantically floating.
Friday night, two weeks ago, I sat in my friend’s den. We’d had a yummy and not without funny incident meal in a tiny town nearby. The night was cool. The Labrador and cats had been fed. My friend sat on the “Elvis” velvet green sofa and her husband faced me, each of us in the ivory armchairs.
My friend suggested, I “give my talk” as a practice for Saturday morning. This would be my third practice reading.
I made it through and my friend and her sweet husband approved. Then, she added,
“Lisa, it is beautiful; but, try to talk instead of reading. Look up.”
“Okay, okay.” I assured her and went to bed scared and vulnerable.
Tossing and turning but waking to a pink morning sky, I journaled and landed on the passage in II Timothy that tells us not to have a spirit of fear. I found another verse I’d only skimmed over before.
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:8 ESV
We arrived at the gathering place, women preparing and chatting; I found a pen and reviewed the words I’d be sharing.
Added in places that I felt needed it
LOOK UP HERE
I’ve decided to share the essay/speech.
You’ll likely recognize the paragraphs or two that led me to choke up, lose my place and for the life of me not want to look up.
Places that caused me to stare in an awkward vacantness.
Still, I knew someone might benefit from my sharing. I didn’t know I’d be given such a gift of acceptance in their kind expressions that morning.
“Your slightest pain finds response in his sympathy.” Handley C.G. Moule
Here are my words:
Of Lasting Value
Lisa Anne Tindal
Louisville Presbyterian Church, October 22, 2022
I suppose it was over six months ago. My friend called me by surprise which is her nature. The call is always genuine, the conversation always for my betterment. I have a friend who is closer than a sister. She is why I am here.
This friend who is both soft and strong, hilarious and humble has influenced me towards courage all along the way. And so, this phone call from my splendidly southern friend was a gift and then, an idea shared in an unexpected request.
I am here with you today because my friend believed I should be. She shared that she thought of me and my journey and felt I’d be the just right speaker. I told her I would think, I would pray, and I thought…
Well, I don’t have to worry about this now, October is a long time away. August came and then September and I began to be very afraid.
And the fear became heavy and close to paralyzing. I couldn’t be quite sure why or rather I couldn’t decide which was the most accurate reason. After all, I’d spoken publicly in many places, business, philanthropic or civic engagements and I’d spoke about much less pleasant topics, homelessness, suicide, mental illness. Why the fear over sharing about my life, my journey, and least of all, art? Why did I feel so deficient? Why did I regret saying “Yes”?
On a Saturday afternoon, just before dusk, I made a list. Lists help to organize my thoughts, give understanding of my worry, spur me on. This list with a column for opportunities over the past year or so lined the left side and the right was absolutely nothing at all as I tried to respond to my mind’s question.
Why is this not enough?
What more could be proof?
Will it matter if you’re in a gallery, a solo show, if all five paintings in the current Charleston show are sold?
My soul was sullen. My mind knew the answer.
It would not matter at all; you’d still be trying to prove to yourself that you are “enough”. You’d still be trying to win the next marathon, jump unhindered through the next circus hoop of culture and comparison.
You’d still feel unqualified.
Later, I prayed before sleep and there were tears. The prayer, not one of request or providential goodness, instead I asked God to forgive me for trying to be anything other than his plan and his idea. I acknowledged I’d been striving to succeed, to fly on the wings of my own, wings that aren’t broken, no not broken at all…just marked by fading scars and not fully grown.
I sat in my morning spot the next day, recalling my cry. I reviewed the list and remembered a couple or three wonderful things I had omitted.
The list is long. The list is truly amazing; but neither sufficient nor satisfying on its own.
As a woman, a little girl, a mama or wife, how do you measure significance? Is it in the success of your children? The accolades in your profession or maybe in the longevity of your marriage that has endured some stress? Or is it smaller, more insignificant things that matter so much more?
I am a woman from south Georgia, raised by a mother who loved through cooking and often masked depression with achievement, a father who was broken and as kind as a southern breeze on a humid day until he needed relief from whiskey and then he could express his brokenness and anger. It was hard many days, thankfully not all of them.
My parents were human.
A girl who was “daddy’s” who became a young woman broken by the weight of that label. A young woman who loved the quiet comfort of art and longed to love God but was afraid she couldn’t measure up.
A young woman who suffered harm, overpowered by strong and angry hands on more than one occasion. A college student who lost her way and began to starve herself to gain control.
A woman who became a single mother to two and found the wherewithal to support them through keeping Georgia’s children safe as a DFCS employee.
I am a woman who is now married to a man who understands me (although it was an effort) and the mother to two adult children I treasure, a grandmother to four, very soon five grandchildren.
What’s your story? Have there been debilitating detours or even small dilemmas? How have you tried to redeem them?
Has it been tough on your own?
I love to imagine being alongside women in the Bible who found themselves in places and situations that didn’t masquerade their disadvantages.
Their stories are ours.
They are in our Bibles. These women I call “Colors of My Bible”, figures that began to develop in the margins of a Bible gifted to me in 2016. I began to see myself in their stories, at times not sure the reason, and yet, as I continue, their stories, their colorful lives continue to change mine.
They are women who came to understand, it is God who decides we are valuable.
It is God who positions us in places to remember this and to add value to the lives of others by our embrace of this truth.
Of what value are you?
Maybe we are similar to the women with ancient stories,
We are strong and have value.
Esther, an orphaned young woman raised by her uncle found herself in an unlikely position. Her beauty, I suppose we could say was her ticket. More so, it was her commitment to her people, her family that made her courageous. I like to imagine her clothed in purple, diminutive in size and in the background are the other competitors for her place in the palace. I remember Esther for her bravery. Her allegiance to her family and her courage to protect them became her value.
Martha, a favorite of mine because she did what I do. If there is angst, an unanswered prayer, a rescue or remedy I’ve decided isn’t coming, I have the answer. It’s control, cleaning, rearranging.
Once I painted the bathroom cabinets, replaced the mirror and changed out all the towels in the bathroom. I was waiting on a call from The Citadel to see if my son in his Freshman year first week would be coming home. I think of Martha and her plight of “needing to know” or being sure all would be well. I like to envision her finally sitting down to rest beside her sister Mary and being gently reminded things like a cluttered kitchen don’t matter. I remember Martha for her anxiety. I remember Jesus telling her to rest, all will be well. Her learning to trust and rest became her value.
The Woman at the Well, known by many for her lascivious ways, I relate to her story. Admittedly, I am not a theologian; but I’ve read that is was not unheard of for women to “serve” more than one man. This was the culture back then. This is why I love the approach of Jesus. He didn’t have to say to her “your secrets are exposed; your lifestyle is well known”.
Instead, he offered redemption in the form of I know, and I still care.
I like to build on the story of when she ran back into town to tell everyone she’d met the Messiah and he too knows all about me. Here’s an even sweeter part of this story to me, the townspeople knew her. They thought less about her messy life than they did the message she brought them. Her living past her shame became her value.
The Woman Caught in Adultery I believe was despondent. I believe she expected to die by stoning that day. I see her with eyes cast down, numbed by the reality of her exposure. Although she was prepared to be stoned, I somehow see her as suicidal. When Jesus confronted the accusers, she must have been surprised. I suppose he could have told her to hurry home, to go her way; instead he asked her to take notice…you are not alone, “Go and sin no more”. Her life was changed despite her imperfections, it was changed as she acknowledged her wrongs. Her humble admission in the face of punishment expected leaves me with a beautiful image of her walking away, eyes lifted up and shoulders strong in faith. Her humility although despondent became her value.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, so young and unprepared. As I speak to you today, my beautiful treasure I call Heather Analise is ripe with the soon birth of her second child. I recall the first days of my granddaughter, helping any way I could and the preparations her parents had in place, things like schedules, feedings, monitors, sound machines and cradling swings that lulled her to sleep. Mary, surprised by an angel, simply believed and continued in her appointment arranged by God. I wonder about her questions, if she shared them with Joseph. She pondered ( a word I love) and I wonder if her ponderings were sometimes fearful worries over the mysterious and unfathomable delivery she was chosen for. Belief in what made no sense, confidence in what she couldn’t have predicted, and a quiet resolve to believe in what she did not yet see. Occurs to me now, the similarity of the life of Mary and the definition of faith. Her faith in a time of unknowns became her value.
Hagar, (Am I the only one who wonders, couldn’t God have at least given her parents a prettier name?) the mistress of Abraham and Sarah who met their needs and fulfilled their wish for family. A maidservant, who with the wife’s permission, slept with the husband so that in their old age could carry on the lineage with a son. Here’s where I used to find myself on “Team Hagar”, relating to her condition as a result of abuse and manipulation. Again, culture in these ancient days allowed this. Sarah resented Hagar and Hagar hoarded over Sarah the benefits she brought to her husband and to them, a child.
Jealousy between women has apparently been around for ages.
Hagar ran away, not broken and afraid as I once believed. No, I believe she was just angry. She had enough or maybe the “maidservant with benefits” was not proving to be as beneficial as she thought.
So, she ran.
The angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness and confronted her fleeing. More than a confrontation though, it was an acknowledgement that you may not feel it but “God sees you.” Being seen by God changed her, not so much her living situation or positioning in life; but, knowing God saw and sees her strengthened her to carry on. Hagar’s words, the first to give God a name, “El Roi” has become her value, we too are seen and known.
The woman who spent over a decade in hiding, unable to be cured from her uncontrollable flow of blood, despairingly decided to simply give the healing of Jesus a try. How many of us have had to leave work, tie our sweater around our waist or worse, agree to surgery to remove the source of flow? What a personal thing a period is.
What a last resort to try anything for better. So, the crowd was thick that day, the scene perfect for her to go unnoticed and to simply be near this man who’d been healing so many desperate others. She touched the hem of his garment and she was made well, and Jesus felt the sensation of the miraculous leaving his body and he stopped in his tracks.
He sought the seeker.
When he found her, He called her daughter and she began to live unhindered and unhidden that day. She didn’t expect to meet Jesus, only hoped for healing. Her resolve to seek healing and to keep seeking. This is her value.
Esther, Martha, the Samaritan Woman, the Adulterous, Mary the Virgin; Hagar and The Woman in need of healing, these are just of a few of the figures you may find in the margins of my Bible. What began as a tentative practice with color moved to canvas and from canvas to local shops and galleries. From galleries to pages on social media, articles in magazines, a website, a children’s book and an invitation to be photographed for a national exhibit.
I stand before you an example of a woman sort of lost and found.
You see none of these accomplishments were solid enough for my soul’s standing as far as my value and worth to be unshakeable. It made sense to me that my childhood was so deficient in encouragement and notice that I’d set my mind on achievement and unrelenting aspiration in the confidence that one day, some way, I will believe I am enough.
And yet, I had to understand, accept, on my own I am never enough.
Rather, I am a work in progress, a sailboat shifting in the winds of God’s direction, a woman who asked God to cancel this event, deciding for God that I was not qualified, not attractive enough and not skilled eloquently as far as speaking.
Hmmm, I wonder did Moses have a sister?
Thank you for the invitation to choose the braver as Martha chose the better, as Esther chose the more courageous, Hagar chose God’s knowing, the three women defeated, scorned and or wrongfully living chose the joyous gift of living differently, Mary chose not knowing and yet, believing and because she chose our story continues,
a life of value according to Jesus.
My prayer is that you know this choice, that you’re easy on yourself as you try to remember.
Your value is not accomplishment or acclaim. Rather, it’s a quiet thing, a life that leaves an example, one that is lasting even if often scary.
Waze directed my ride from Georgia to Carolina down the prettiest road, asphalt with no yellow lines dividing lanes and railroad crossings that required me stopping to look, look and look again.
I loved every bit. Give me a backroad shaded by oaks, bordered by cotton fields and slow walking men checking their mail, glancing up to wave to random travelers like me.
Churches, white, small and seemingly vacant, but who knows?
Maybe a handful of congregants still gather and seal their togetherness with “Holy, Holy, Holy”.
I’d consider joining in. I’m braver now than before, I’d have possibly invited myself in to the Sunday service and been unbothered by the inquisitive looks over me, a stranger.
On Friday, I was greeted by the women responsible for the Presbyterian Women’s Gathering. I noticed their welcome. I noticed their strong connection. I noticed them working together on their Saturday morning gathering.
Then, on Saturday morning, I joined in.
I was the speaker, the stranger needing introduction, the mysterious artist they’d been hearing about, wondering if I’d prove worth their time and worthy of my friend’s call to invite me.
I spoke, they smiled.
They listened. We communed.
So, I left feeling like a companion of these women, all of us on roads that follow Jesus, guided by wisdom, grace and a conviction to serve one another simply by the extension of a heart and hand, loving one another.
Waze told me to turn right where the road ended, saying “not maintained by the County”. I paused.
I felt fear climb up the back of my neck. Left, I thought, turn and go back the way you came.
Then left revealed a sharp curve and a steep hill and a road with yellow lines,
A sign with the words to the road I remembered.
Confidently, I continued.
Continued and believed.
Surprised by the road that led me back home.
Keeps leading me on.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:1-4 ESV
“…where have you come from, and where are you going?” Genesis 16:8
If I inventory my speculations, judgments, concerned observations and exchanges in chatty conversation last week or so, I could fill a page of my journal, the pages that typically contain personal/selfish prayers.
Like the practice of contour drawing, I laid down names on the paper. A simple free flow based on things I’ve heard, concerns I know and mostly, worries and hopes others have that only they know.
You can pray for others without “needing to know”.
Some names of people who have questionable behavior, names of some who’ve told me their woes and a really random one.
Facebook clamored yesterday around a sighting of a pretty girl on the loose, darting in and out of, in front of cars on the most cluttered and crowded road in our city, Whiskey.
Comments became jokes, a few worried, a few diagnosing the addiction she was caught in and one or two sincere worries over why she was running.
When I worked, I did my best to support families and friends of those who lost someone to a suicidal choice.
I learned that we ask a lot of questions, those of us who don’t know this tragically unique trauma.
I wrote an essay and titled it “The Tragedy of Speculation”.
Because, I noticed I needed a reason to know this wouldn’t, couldn’t happen to me.
I needed to justify the behavior of another from a distance, so that I could have assurance. In my time there, doing the work, the foundation of me living by “but for the grace of God, I go there” became solid, steady and strong.
I am grateful.
So, I rounded out my list of praying, with “girl on whiskey”, gave the page a header.
pray without ceasing
trust in the Lord.
I hope the pretty girl gone crazy on Whiskey is better today. I pray she finds her way and that it is safe.
And I pray for others who were the subjects of my speculation, snarky comments masked as concern and I open my palm to heaven remembering it’s God who knows the way I go.
Also, knows where I came from.
Now time for page two, I just remembered more names.
Last week, I asked someone “Are you hugging people?” Even typing that sounds ridiculous. But, she said yes and so, we hugged.
You probably know the research about hugs, how our body releases bad stuff, let’s good stuff take over when we hug.
Not, a cordial southern “how you doing? but an embrace; a hug that knows you need to be pulled closer and holds you tightly until they just know it’s good, it’s better, I can let her go.
If you know me, you know I love words.
I thought about strongholds this morning.
I’d dreamt of my mama and daddy traveling far for an art exhibit that didn’t go well at all, filled with criticism and two judges telling me in front of everyone what I’d gotten wrong. The fancy onlookers clearly reminding me, “Who were you to think you belong?”
Doubt is what you could call one of my “strongholds”.
So, I laid still and changed my thoughts once the dream was over. I remembered two essays I’ve recently written, I thought of the women I wrote about and their dilemmas, their deficit, their would be “strongholds”.
I will be the speaker for a women’s event very soon. The essay that will be my speech is written, the accompanying artwork is in progress on the easel. I’ve chosen several women from the Bible who left a legacy demonstrating a specific value, a value that is lasting.
Just now, I may have settled on what I am hoping mine could be
My value left long after me, that I never stopped remembering the gift of grace.
I heard a song that captured that hope with a substitutionary word for “saved”.
Your grace has salvaged me.
I hope you’ll allow yourself a few minutes to listen her and remember grace again.
Months ago, we reintroduced ourselves in the parking lot. They were a family. She had a baby in her arms and another on her hip. The oldest, a boy was clinging to her legs, locked arms holding with all his little might.
A man stood by. He allowed our brief catching up, listened as she answered timidly, not meeting my eye, that she was okay. I watched all of them pile into a tiny car and slowly drive away.
She was a tough one, struggled to make up her mind that life could be better. She didn’t stay long, only enough time to bring her tiny firstborn into the world.
Then, she left the shelter, starry-eyed over her aims to try to have a “family”.
The next time I saw her, she was running the register and she saw me before I saw her. Face down and eyes of a child who’d been discovered in the wrong, she tentatively said hello.
Again, “Is everything okay?”
“I’m working here now and I like it and the babies are okay.”
Smiles and see you soons were exchanged.
Yesterday, she sat on a pale pink bicycle, its basket loaded with groceries. I hurried up to see her. We talked about her bike, how much I loved it, old fashioned cruiser, no gears, simple and sort of cool.
She told me she needed it for work and how she’s not too far away but had been missing work, just came back after her daddy passed away.
Her face was stoic. He had been in a bad car accident and he never got better. I told her I was sorry.
I noticed the box of “Nutty Buddies” and thought she better get home, but she kept talking and the resolve despite her grief and trials was in her eyes, meeting mine and wide opening up with determination.
She told me she’d seen another of the shelter’s residents, this woman I thought had successfully moved on in work and raising her daughter.
She told me, “No, I don’t know what happened.”
“Well, I hope I see her too.” I said as I thought of how I wished she’d been able to stay stable, to stay in the “better than before”.
We said goodbye and I watched her cross four lanes of traffic towards her home.
I wondered about the man/father of the babies. I wondered about the other woman who has fallen back into hardship. I wondered if I should have driven her home.
For a second, I thought about the one I thought would make it, the old language of programmatic inputs and outcomes and for another second, I felt I’d failed her.
Then thought of a word God woke me with a few days ago, “shifting” and how everyone grows and then maybe dries up, withers and then along comes a little grace and rain and look it’s breaking through the hard earth, the left alone to rest soil.
We shift to better in a moment, an hour, a day or sometimes after a long hard season of barrenness or mistakes of our making.
Acquiescence, a beautiful (even if reluctant) acceptance that may not make sense to others, but brings light and peace, resilience to our faces.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 ESV
“Blue Ribbon Girl” was painted a few years ago to remember the college girl who left art and after a bit of life and shifts, is finally home.”
Last week, the horizon greeted me like a welcome rescue as I turned to the skinny road from the wider, more busy highway.
Both frustrated by my anxiety over the big white ghost of a Tahoe with headlights like a cat following me closely all the way and determined to breathe and be okay, thumbs on the places 4 and 8.
So, the sun rising wide over my granddaughter’s home?
A whisper, a sigh.
I could go on.
Thoughts rose up from an article or post I’d skimmed over, the question posed,
What is your Gethsemane?
Meaning, I supposed,
What did you ask God not to allow that He did anyway?
At first, I thought, how can we dare to compare our falling apart and asking to be spared with the request of Jesus?
Then, the mental list developed.
And then, another in contrast.
“Things that happened despite the things that happened”.
I turned the ancient wisp of pages to Mark 14 in the Bible with penciled “sermons to self”. Angela, an educator from Bibb County, Ga. added her wisdom and thoughts back in 1937, became mine because of an estate sale.
Curiously, a page is torn down the middle.
I think now of the veil torn in two.
The darkness midday.
The verses that describe Jesus being anointed with a costly ointment by a woman who was chastised is no longer here. Neither, the Lord’s Supper.
The garden scene is preserved, the plea of Jesus face down in broken supplication remains.
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it be possible, the hour might pass from him. Mark 14:34 , KJV, Oxford
And we know what happened next, the agony, the death and the resurrection.
We know what happened because of and despite the fear in the garden.
What are your “Gethsemane moments”?
What is “scaring you to death”?
Look up, redemption will find you
And, in time pale in comparison to the unwanted anguish.