by Cathee Poulsen
Seasons! You are probably in one right now that is shifting. You just packed his suitcase, loaded the car and drove him off to college. You knew this day would come and now it’s here and you’re holding back tears.
Or maybe it’s that little one trucking off the kindergarten, your closest friend moving out of town, a job you need to leave. Good things in and of themselves, but each one a death of a season that’s over.
One of those moments is lodged deep in my soul and thinking of it today—55 years later—tears spring quickly. I’ve just unloaded my slate blue American Tourister luggage and set up my dorm room with red plaid bedspread and curtains. I’m standing on the steps of Bryan Hall at FSU and giving my parents a final hug. As they get back in the Chevy Belair and start down the winding driveway, all of us waving like crazy, I’m doing my best to choke back the emotions but tears course down.
In that moment, I experience maybe the most dramatic shift I’ll ever have. Such a mix of elation over being on my own and the sheer terror of not having my parents to fall back on every day.
Here’s the thing—every change is a form of loss. And if it’s a big deal to you, it’s a big deal. The ministry we are about to launch, with the release of Texas’ book, is all about changing seasons and how even one small change can make a radical difference.
But today I’d like to focus on what happens when we aren’t willing to move on, to let go. When we stay too long.
We are Not Able to BE PRESENT
This summer I encountered the disturbance of discovering that a dear friend was secretly a hoarder. When she became ill and ultimately died, I went into her home and found living conditions that were not only deplorable, but brought such a heavy sadness to me.
I knew her well enough to understand that she had clung to a season she deemed the high point of her life. When the season shifted, probably 25 years ago, clinging to the past became clinging to everything. This also translated into not letting go of physical things, and so she collected everything imaginable until you couldn’t walk through the house without tripping over all sorts of stuff.
She lost the joy of the present moment.
We Cling When We Need to Let Go
The morning of Jesus’ resurrection, the first person to speak with Him was Mary Magdalene (John 20:16,17). The conflicted woman out of whom Jesus had removed seven demons. Supposing Him to be the garden guy she spoke to Him, but when He called her by name, she knew it was Jesus. She ran to grab Him and He spoke words that seemed harsh and cold. “Mary, don’t cling to me.”
Maybe she was thinking, “You’re back. We can all pick up where we left off. We’ll get the crew back together.” But Jesus, in essence, was saying, “It’s a new day, Mary. That season has passed and you need to let it go now.”
It’s human nature to want to go back to the way things were. When your kids were little and chicken pox or buying school supplies were the challenge of the day.
The Liminal Space Between Then and Next
When one season ends, but it doesn’t feel like the next one has begun, you’re in the liminal space. The limen is that part of the doorway we know as the threshold. The place between the already and the not yet. Don’t move too quickly through that time. It can turn out to be magical.
It’s a time of uncertainty and often discomfort. But it is precisely right here that we can take time to reflect on what is going on with us. Great wisdom often comes to us in this very spot, so don’t rush through it.
Here are a few things to do while you’re in the liminal space of the threshold. The edge of something brand new:
- Take time to grieve the death of the passing season. If you don’t, it will just be somewhere down in there. It’s over. Say goodbye.
- Recap what you learned about yourself in that season. Even if it was horrifying, you learned some important things. Thank God for them.
- Know that you don’t always have to leave when things are bad. Sometimes you just know it’s over, even though everything’s good. Be brave enough to leave once you realize that. Some good things just come to an end.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
When you stay in a season too long, what should have been a graduation can become a divorce. Often we’re afflicted with WBS – warm, body syndrome – and get comfortable with a relationship just because it’s someone to come home to.
The prize, for any Jesus-follower, is our life hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Living fully, able to enjoy this moment and be thankful for it—no matter what it looks like—and to turn towards what He’s about to present as the new season.
Celebrate this present season, but when it’s time to let it go, do so anticipating the challenge of the emerging new season that your good, good Father is bringing you.
by Texas Stready
In the last two years I’ve become very health-conscious. Diet and exercise are a part of my daily routine. I hate to sweat, and my injuries cause high impact exercise to be impossible. This makes the lake my best alternative. At least 3× a week I swim across Lake Clay and back. The results have been phenomenal. I live without pain and am quite pleased with the form my body’s taking on.
Tell you what, an hour swim becomes quite boring when it’s done alone. Because of this, I’ve convinced many people to make this journey with me. On Thursday I enlisted Christi, Lee Lee, and Mom.
“Just jump in, already. There’s nothing to be scared of,” I say.
Lee Lee replies, “Give me a minute, girl. I only learned to swim a few months back.”
After a few deep breaths she places the noodle beneath her arms and jumps in. Impressed by her bravery, I smile. And we’re off…
Encouragement is Effective
By the time we get to the other side, Mom and Lee Lee are straggling way behind. Realizing that discouragement is making the trip more difficult, I decide to swim back and separate the two of them. Mom swims over to join Christi, while I put my arm around Lee Lee to support her.
Everybody responds well to encouragement. We’re moving now. A quarter of the way back my arm is killing me. Assessing the situation I make up my mind that my friend’s too tiny for such a fat noodle. To achieve optimum exercise potential, mine is very small. So I suggest we trade.
Don’t Stop Until the Job is Done
When I feel sure she has hold of my noodle, I take hers, climb on, and begin swimming. After a few strokes an eerie sense comes over me and I look back. To my surprise, the noodle’s floating alone.
I swing back and dive beneath the water. Lee Lee is slim and this causes her to sink—quickly. Seeing no sign of her, I emerge wondering if the noodle has floated away from where she went down. Taking in more air I lunge deeper. Nothing.
Then, from the corner of my eye, I see a small beige palm reaching upward. With both arms I thrust myself her way, grab her wrist, and pull her to the surface. I hold her close to my chest and say, “It’s okay. You’re okay. I’ve got you.”
If You’re Not Swimming, You’re Sinking
Here are three simple tips that will save your life.
- Hold on to the truth – without knowledge of God’s word there’s nowhere to go but down.
- Keep swimming – it is absolutely essential that you put faith into action.
- Never give up – following Christ requires knowledge, endurance, and courage.
Keeping your head above water in life, requires the same behavior as accomplishing any goal. You see, it was very important that Lee Lee do the things she’d learned in swim class. She knew not to suck in water and when she realized she was sinking she began to move her arms. Our lake is 28ft deep and the water is dark green, so after you sink too far you’re gone from sight. This makes clear that learning the correct concepts, taking an active roll in the application process, and refusing to give up—saved her life.
God Always Does His Part
There’s no doubt that God is the one who suggested I look back and check on my friend. It’s also apparent that He gave me the location, peace, and determination to continue to search for her. And if none of that amazes you this should—I’m definitely a pushy, question asking, figure-it-out kinda girl. The Christlike spirit with which I held Lee Lee makes evident that this was an anointed event.
God is good. He’s given us all the instruction we need in His word but it’s up to us to learn these techniques. He works for you and with you to teach you, but He won’t do the work for you. He never gives up on you either. Whenever you reach for Him, He’s there to pull you close in reassurance.
Lee Lee and I will be swimming across the lake later this week. If you feel up to it, you’re more than welcome to join us. She will be the one sporting the hot pink lifejacket.
by Cathee Poulsen
Isn’t it about time you forget about what is sensible, responsible, and prudent and rediscover the passion of falling in love with life?
When I use the word life, I mean it to include falling in love with God and I’m warning you ahead of time that making the decision is risky and radical. But if we’re going to ditch duty and pull up anchor from the harbor of resignation, it won’t be without some kind of tradeoff.
The first time I went to the Christian Youth Ranch Summer Camp at Bibletown in Boca Raton, Florida, I was drawn into a circle of people who were passionate about life in Christ.
Early in the morning before the brutality of a South Florida July sun drove you indoors, you’d see the wide lawn peppered with teenagers, Bibles in hand, learning how to practice “quiet time.”
The day would unfold with teaching, music with a homemade tub band and guitars, skits and raucous noise and laughter. From Kangaroo Court to the final night around the bonfire as we gave testimonies and sang “Christ is All I Need” it was a world of it’s own—one none of us wanted to leave.
Invariably, toward the end of the week, one of the leaders would say something like this:
You’ve been on the mountaintop this week, but now you’re going back down into the valley.
This would be followed by lots of admonitions to maintain our quiet time, hang out with other Christians, stay connected to Youth Ranch, and witness to anything that moved. By doing these things, we could maintain the experience we had with God at camp.
Only that never seemed to work for long, and as I result, I grew up with the belief that my Christian life was just a series of ups and downs, mountaintops and valleys, and one day—after many years—I would grow enough in my faith to be on the mountaintop more than the valley.
Is that what you thought?
Let me say that today I see that picture of the Christian life as seriously flawed. After decades on this journey, I think roller coasters are a far better model of the Christian Life. I can’t improve on Michael Yaconelli’s description from his book Dangerous Wonder, so here it is:
You say yes to Jesus, and suddenly you are strapped in and you think, I’m going to die! Then you begin the long climb of growth—Sunday school, baptism, church membership—and you think, Hey, no problem. I can follow Jesus anywhere, and then—ZOOOOOOOOM—you crash into the twists and turns of life, jerking left than right, up then down, and fifty, sixty years go by and—WHAM!—you’re dead.
My heart and God’s Word assures me this is a far better picture of what we can expect when we become wholly devoted followers of Christ.
Because a passionate life is an extravagant life. It isn’t about duty and responsibility. After all, do you really want a life that reads like an IRS 1040 tax return?
A few years ago a friend sent me the following quote by Hunter S. Thompson. If you read his bio you’ll wonder why I’d ever quote him in anything remotely Christian, but I love these words.
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!
I liked those words so much I used the quote as a tagline to my email signature for years. People thought I wrote it.
When Jesus said He came to give us LIFE, He qualified the kind of life He was talking about. “More and better than you ever dreamed of” (John 10:10). Supreme, superior, surpassing, extraordinary, more remarkable, beyond excellent. All this in the word abundant.
Yaconelli goes on to say, “If I were to have a heart attack right at this moment, I hope I would have just enough air in my lungs and just enough strength in me to utter one last sentence as I fell to the floor: “What a ride!”
On September 20, 2003, Michael Yaconelli was killed in a truck accident. He was 61 years old. There’s little doubt in my mind that the prayer he prayed five years prior was answered.
Where are you today on your ride? On the mountaintop, in the valley, or hanging on for dear life whipping around corners and pitching left and right?
Extravagant passion, dangerous wonder, risky curiosity. That’s what I choose.
Some call it a Wild Goose Chase.