Tonight it hit me squarely for the first time – how many years have I spent saving my living up for later?

I was raised in a wonderfully loving and deeply conservative family and community. There are tensions in that combination that can be hard to hold together, but when it’s all you know, you don’t notice them. They taught me to hold on to what’s good, but I also learned to avoid what might be risky. The good things had to be protected from any possible taint. It was a “purity culture” that went well beyond sex. Every choice – even among things that weren’t “bad” – had ramifications for the rest of my life (and eternity), so I had to avoid anything that might compromise my future marriage, vocation, calling, or ministry. If I spent a choice on a date, or piercing my ears, or even my college and major, it might limit the good God could use me to do. So I saved up. I made safe choices.

I began choosing to stop that savings plan in a big way a few years ago, somewhere in the fallout of turning 40. Half my life (if I’m lucky) is gone, and I wanted – needed – something to change. I know it sounds melodramatic, but I’ve never found other words to express the reality I was experiencing: I was slowly dying. Getting smaller. Fading out. There was just…less of me.

And I didn’t – wouldn’t – believe that was all God had for me in this life. I began to think maybe he wasn’t actually waiting for my faith to mature enough, or for “his perfect timing.” Maybe, while I was “waiting on him” as faithfully as I knew how, trying my best not to make a step that might endanger his will for my life, maybe God wasn’t waiting at all.

Maybe God was doing his thing in the world – giving love, creating beauty, and making peace, as my friend Frank Schaeffer would say – and what I needed to do was get out there and find his stuff and dig into all the messy goodness of it.

It didn’t happen overnight – not quite – but it did happen fast enough to leave the heads of a lot of people spinning. It left my head spinning (ten first dates in three weeks can do that!). But every new place I found myself turned out to be grounded in years of lessons gleaned, painful pruning, and hard-won trust. In the unfamiliar I kept seeing Jesus. I had never felt more disoriented in my life, and at the same time, I had never felt more grounded, more connected with who I was made to be.

Sometimes life gives us choices that change everything. They may be as small as picking up a book or choosing to accept that invitation to tag along with a friend to dinner and meet new people, or as big as walking away from a church and community of people you’ve sunk roots in with.

I’ve spent the past few years making those choices without knowing where they might take me. The journey is far from over, but they’ve already taken me to some amazing places and alongside some amazing people who’ve changed me. They’ve cracked my world open, and colors I never imagined have flooded in. Bracing winds and warming sunlight have both found deep places in my heart, and I’ve felt those places bloom open in response.

I plowed through the fear, and its echoes are fading. I’ve preached. I’ve danced. I’ve dated. I’ve leaned out an open door 99 floors up with nothing between me and the world but the wind.

I’ve stopped saving up my living and have found that as I spend it, there always seems to be more than I started with – more than I even knew was possible.

I know there are some who may read this and feel the resonance, like the tone of a bell.

Some may read this and think I’m deceived or deluded. That’s okay. You could be right. I might be missing the Kingdom of God altogether. But according to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is going to look at least a bit absurd and messy with grace to us, full of all sorts of questionable characters. I’ll be grateful if I find myself among them, and in the meantime, I intend to love indiscriminately, run towards every glimpse of beauty, and seek shalom with everything in me.

And I’m going to do my best to exhaust those stockpiles of living I’ve been saving up.

-JEO

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24 thoughts on “Saving Up

  1. Jennifer, how beautiful. I hear lightness and freedom in what you shared, like a butterfly who pushed its way out of the cocoon. From John 10:10 “I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.” I am glad you have discovered your life. I celebrate with you.

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  2. Jennifer, I so relate to this! I didn’t shake off my velvet lined shackles until 50 years old. You have a whole decade up on me! It’s a wonderful, inexplicable, glorious feeling, isn’t it? ☺

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      1. Yes, indeed. So scary that in retrospect, I’m not sure how I do things. Sometimes – okay a lot of the time – you just have to keep moving forward despite the fear.

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  3. Thank you for taking the time to give us a glimpse into your bravery. We all need a bit or field full of this in our lives. In you, one just might find that questionable character that reminds them of theirself. I know I do.

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  4. This is beautiful, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing your journey and helping me see things a little clearer.
    Keep these blog posts coming 🙂

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  5. “. . . and in the meantime, I intend to love indiscriminately, run towards every glimpse of beauty, and seek shalom with everything in me.”
    Words to live by! I look forward to reading more of your story–thank you for opening yourself !

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  6. Yes, yes, and another resounding yes!!! Shaking off the chains of the past was (and still is) a glorious feeling! Free indeed. I’m looking forward to more of your posts!

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  7. Yes, this life is an adventure! Taking the things that you have been taught and using them to guide is always beneficial. You will find that some of them were/are not helpful and have/will hold you back. Then there will be those others that, well, you wish you could have done differently. There are some things that we know to stay away from, and there are some things that we are not so sure about. That is when we have to depend on our studies and request help God to make those decisions. Sounds like you are adventuring further and maybe to a point that may develop a beneficial purpose beyond your wildest expectations! Enjoy the adventure!

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  8. “Less of me” as you put it sounds exactly where we should each strive to be more each day. Lord, “may I be a reverse mortgage for you.” Beware of the “chains of freedom” purchased by any other than Jesus Christ the God-Man, especially those you lavish on yourself. The interest on that debt is staggering.

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    1. There is the dying to self in the likeness of Christ, which is always for the purpose of resurrection and more abundant life, and then there is self-annihilation, which does not produce life at all, much less the “life more abundant” Christ gives. It’s vital to distinguish the two. I’ve found that, particularly for those raised “in the faith,” they are often dangerously confused.

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