I come from a very large family. When I turned fifteen, I wasn’t asked if I wanted to drive, it was expected. I had to learn, there were just too many of us to taxi around. I remember that very first day sitting in the driver’s seat. My dad in the passenger’s and some of my siblings in the back. I was sweating buckets. We were in our church parking lot. I would’ve been fine to just drive circles in the lot, but dad told me I was driving home. I had to get on the roads with real cars and other real drivers. I was never going to get anywhere staying in the parking lot where I felt safe. I remember wondering why my dad had so much confidence in me – I had never driven in my life. I drove as slow as molasses, but got us home. A few weeks later, my dad had me out on the highway. Where I grew up, highways were the main roads to get anywhere. I had to learn how to do highways and do them well. I had had the classroom teaching. I knew getting on the ramp to merge on the highway meant gaining speed. I knew I couldn’t stop or slow down. As I turned onto the on ramp, I remember feeling terrified, but I also knew in that moment the most dangerous thing I could’ve done was to stop. I had to keep moving forward even though I was terrified.
There have been many moments in my life when I’ve felt that same panic of fear rise up in me. That same fear that I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t capable, I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I can’t, I can’t… Often those moments come just before some of the biggest breakthroughs in my life. If I had just stopped, I would’ve missed some of the greatest blessings and gifts in my life.
A couple of years ago, I began telling the Lord I wasn’t satisfied spiritually. I wanted more. I began to make changes in my schedule to have time with the Lord. I wanted to learn how to commune with Him. I wanted to see His face, like Moses. I wanted to encounter His glory and power! But it didn’t happen in the way I had expected. My heart began to see Him. I was learning how to sit with Him, listen to Him, know Him. But simultaneously, I was starting to see my own heart reflected in Him back at me. In seeing Him, I began to see me, the real me. I began to see my fragile, human heart. Immediately, I felt that old panic rise up in me when I came to the realization that seeing God meant seeing me. I remember that fear because I still, at times, feel it as the Lord has been tenderly teaching me how to face my own heart. To be honest, I’m not sure if there’s anything more scary to any of us than facing ourselves. Facing our own pain, our own failures, our own sin, our own darkness, our own insecurities, our own desire to control and our own places of weakness.
“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist came as a forerunner to clear the way for Jesus, to make smooth a highway for our God. How did John prepare the way? By proclaiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). The very same message Jesus proclaimed (Matthew 4:17). What I didn’t know at the beginning of my crying out for more of the Lord was that repentance was key in making a highway for the Lord in my own heart. I had to allow Him to clear the obstacles, to clear the way. I couldn’t ask for more of Him if I wasn’t ready to face my own fragile, messy heart.
I am learning that even when the fear seems bigger than me, I have him sitting beside me. He is my Coach, He is my best and perfect Teacher. He patiently, tenaciously, graciously and tenderly shows me how to keep preparing for more of Him in my own heart. The more I allow Him to clean the inside of my heart, the less the fear consumes me. I’m also embracing that repentance is a lifestyle, not just a season. I’m settling in to learning a new pattern for the rest of my life of bowing low, of offering my fragile heart and asking Him to make space for more of who He is. If seeing my own heart is how I can learn to see Him face to face, I want to embrace the humbleness of that. I want to embrace that my own weakness is where He loves to abide. That in the end, this isn’t about how capable I am. It isn’t about me at all, in fact. This is about Him. This is about making my heart the place the presence of the Lord can live from.
It’s ok if you’re feeling the weight of your own fragile heart. Maybe you feel terrified at the thought of facing it. I feel it too. I imagine him, that man John the Baptist, who wore clothes of camel hair, probably wild-looking, completely unpolished, definitely not the religious norm. I imagine how he stirred up crowds everywhere he went. The religious leaders didn’t know quite what to do with him. He wasn’t concerned about cleaning the outside of his cup, like they were. He only cared about the inside and preparing the way of the Lord. His mission was singular and passionate. A life of repentance is a life where the presence of God lives from. “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30).