“Bethany Was Here” – Desiring to be Known

On Tuesday I went with my friend, Kara, to photography the Lennon Wall. I had walked briefly by the wall in the past but had never really stopped to look at it. I really enjoyed reading the things people wrote on the wall and the pictures people drew. It really was beautiful in its own unique way.

I was thinking as I took my pictures about what makes people write on a wall like that. Many people who write on the wall do nothing more than sign their name and that’s it – “John was here”. I think there is something in the human psyche that desires to be known, to leave a mark on the world and the people around them – something in us that wants people to know “Bethany was here.” And so even though we long for our mark to be bigger than just a name on a wall, and we desire to be known by people in a more intimate way then just our name, when faced with a chance to do something even as little as writing our name on a wall we’ll do it.

I think that’s why blogging has taken off so much. I think that desire is a lot of why I blog – it’s a way of leaving my mark. It’s a way of being known and saying “I was here.” It gives a little fuller picture of me then if I just wrote my name on the Lennon wall, but in a lot of ways it’s still pretty shallow. Blogging is still just a mark on a wall. It paints a picture of who I was at a certain time in my life and who I am now, but it’s not a full picture. “It’s true but not complete” as my friend, Tara, says. It might be a fuller picture then just my name on a wall, but it still doesn’t satisfy that deep need inside to be known and remembered – to belong and matter.

Today I met for coffee with some friends. They are probably my closest friends in Prague and currently my closest friends in the world (besides my husband). But, there are days, like today, when I still feel very unknown by them. There are times when I withdraw and don’t fully reveal myself, there are times when I show only a half true, manicured picture of myself and my heart. Why is that? Why is it that we have this deep longing to belong, to be known, to leave our mark, to matter and be accepted and reveal ourselves to other human beings, but that we often run from that desire? Why is it that especially in those moments when I so deeply want to be known I pull away? Is it fear? Is it that I don’t feel valuable enough to share with another? Or is it something else entirely? Does anyone else do this or feel this way? Or is it just me?

Maybe part of why we leave marks on walls and write blogs is because we long to be known and remembered, but maybe part of it is that it’s safe. It’s easier to leave a mark on a wall and feel like you made a mark on the world, than it is to actually go out there and make a mark on the world. It’s easier to write a blog and reveal a little part of yourself through the privacy of your own home and the small window that is cyberspace than it is to actually reveal yourself when face-to-face with another human being.

So, there’s my mark, for today, this is where I was at on September 11, 2008.

“Bethany was here”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

Photographs by Beth Stedman

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Fear: A look in the Mirror

I had coffee with my friend, Sarah, today and God showed up. Sarah is such a wonderful friend to have when you need to process through things – she is an amazing listener and is great at asking just the right questions to draw you out of yourself and help you unpack things. I love my friend Sarah!!

Anyway, I went to coffee feeling really drained and tired. I went feeling physically unwell as well as emotionally unwell and I left feeling refreshed.

We talked about a lot of things, but mainly we talked about fear. I shared with Sarah the deep fear that I have right now around some of the decisions that I need to make. We talked about the part of me that plays the role of protector and follows fear as a way of protecting me from hurt and failure and rejection. We talked about accepting that protector side of me and acknowledging it without giving it an overly dominant and controlling voice in my life. We talked about whether I want to follow fear or not. We talked about a lot of things.

I went home feeling refreshed and hopeful. I still felt the uncertainty in my life, but I felt like I could look at that uncertainty and look at the fear and say, “This is true, I am scared, I am uncertain, but it’s not the whole story.” I can acknowledge these truths and feelings and also acknowledge a deeper truth… God is with me. When I got home I wanted to dance to this one particular song, but I didn’t have it anymore. So, I got on my old blog because I knew I’d written about the song once. I started searching for the post about the song but I couldn’t find it, instead I found this post I had written in 2003 about fear. It was so good to be reminded of these things I had written before…

As I looked back on my life (especially in the last few years) I realized that many of my decisions were made based on a paralyzing sense of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of not doing the “right thing”, fear of not living up to the expectations that others put on me or I put on myself, fear of life, fear of love, fear of not being in control, fear of being in control, basically just FEAR.
There are a lot of things that I’ve been realizing about fear:
Fear is really just lack of trust and faith in God. If I really trusted the goodness, love, mercy and grace of my God and Savior, how could I fear? If I really believed fully His sweet Words then how could I fear? If I really had faith that He walks beside me and loves me how could I fear?
The fact of the matter is, though, that too often I don’t trust, I don’t believe, and I don’t have faith – instead, I choose to try to control my own life, and fear every turn in the road because I know I can’t really control it. Fear clutches at my soul and attempts to strangle life and freedom from me. And it is only through surrendering all to God and finally coming before Him with open hands choosing to trust in His goodness that the grip of fear begins to be loosed and I can begin again to dance in the fullness of life that He desires for me.
I can’t say I’ve even begun to live life without fear; I can’t say that fear no longer paralyzes me, but I can say that God is revealing to me His love – not by what is physically happening in my life – but by His cross and His Spirit which is at work in my life. As I realize more and more Christ’s deep love for me, I realize more and more the absurdity of my fear, and the grip of fear on my life, on my joy, on my freedom, on my love, is loosened more and more. I know that I no longer HAVE to fear the future, or failure, or disappointment, or hurt, or rejection, or whatever.
And now I think it really just comes down to “ok, Bethany, God has been faithful to you in the past – in your own recent past, He has walked beside you – In the distant past He has fought for you, died for you and in doing so given you life abundant – And in the future, which will one day out do all pasts before, He has promised you a hope, and life eternal. He has promised you that you will see Him face to face; that you will know Him even as you are known; that all tears, all hurt, all brokenness, and all fear will be erased and irrevocable joy will be yours eternally. With the blood that He poured out in the past, once and for all proving His love for you, He has given you LIFE, here and now, and in the age to come. Now, holding to that hope, holding to that perfect love, what do you have to fear?
Christ is giving you LIFE – so open your hands, and receive all that He has to offer. Open you heart and start dancing – you don’t have to fear that you’ll mess up, you have a wonderful dance partner, and He will eternally be holding you as you dance through the ages of time, and the beauties of experiences. Now will you trust Him?”
This is Christ’s call to me; this is His challenge… I will listen and try to respond and reorder my life accordingly. I choose this day who I’m going to serve, who I’m going to follow. I choose this day who I’m going to fear. Lord, I don’t want to fear my own junk any more – I want to fear You, and You alone. Show me your love more and more that I may know you truly and love you deeply. I hand over to You my life, my fears, my hopes, dreams, and desires, and I pray that you do with them as you will. Lord, I surrender! Help me to trust you more and more each day, that I may walk in confidence of your love instead of my own fear and doubt.

Lord, as I read these words again I acknowledge once again that I have let fear have too big a say in my life. I have followed fear instead of following you. Lord, I choose this day to turn. I choose this day to follow you and what you are calling me to instead of just blindly listening to fear. I am yours, Lord, lead me.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

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Teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it…

I was doing the Morning Prayer from the Northumbria Community site this morning and noticed this short prayer at the top of one of the pages:

Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.

It hit me like a load of bricks. The first part seemed so closely connected to the phrase that has struck me at the beginning of Lent: “look for Truth deep within me”… “teach me to listen to my heart”… hmmm…

Then I read the second part… “teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.”…. I’ve never been very good with change. I like to be in control and I don’t like the loss of control that change brings. In the past few years realized how much I don’t like change but also how important change is so I think I’ve sought out change a lot in the last few years and purposely put myself in positions of change. But, lately I’ve been craving stability again… craving staying in one place and putting down roots. But, God seemed to have one more time of change and instability up His sleeve… A 3 month long trip to the states. Sure we choose to take this trip but it always felt like the decision was sort of already made for us. Even as we were trying to decide I think we both knew that we were going to go and that it was what we were supposed to do.

As I have shared here before I have been feeling a sort of tug-of-war of feelings regarding this trip. Some days feeling really excited about people I will get to see in the states and things I will get to be a part of and other days feeling really sad about leave Prague and friends here. But, it wasn’t until last night when after snapping at my husband for the 100th time in the last two days when I finally realized the dominant feeling I was really feeling about the trip. My heart suddenly became so loud that I couldn’t help but listen to it… I was scared. When I thought about the trip I felt sadness about leaving and excitement about being there sure, but what I was really feeling was FEAR…. Deep fear.

So, Lord, teach me to listen to my heart… teach me to listen to my heart and pick up more quickly on what my heart is really feeling so that I don’t let these hidden feelings lay suppressed under the service only to bubble up in anger to hurt those I love. Teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it… once again teach me embrace this ever changing life. I can’t control my life, I can’t control other people. Even You, Lord, choose not to control, choose to let us go our own way. Lord, help me to embrace mystery. Lord, this trip is going to be a lot of change, a time of constant change, we won’t be in our own home, we will be traveling a lot, we will be with a variety of different people (some who I know and love well and others who I don’t know much at all), there will be little that is constant in the next few months. Teach me to cling to you as my constant companion and fellow journeyer. Teach me to not take out my fear on Bryan but to instead cling to him as my fellow partner in this journey. Lord, I am scared. I am afraid of many things about this trip, but teach me to listen to my heart, recognize my fear, and then surrender it to you and move bravely into the unknown that you have before me. In Jesus gracious name. Amen.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

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