I am grateful to have a special guest post today—by my daughter Michelle Essary.
One day it occurred to me, I have in many ways lived much of my Christian life impractically.
I’m almost 30 years into my walk with God, and about 15 of that have worked in various forms of ministry and still I feel I am only beginning to learn about so much of how God desires to know and be known by me. (I do find a lot of encouragement that God is still teaching me new things and hope he will continue to do so for many years to come.)
It turns out parenthood is what it has taken for me to return to the world of the practical, specifically a practical interaction with God. So what am I even talking about? Let me tell you a story:
I went through a period of what I can now accurately label as depression in my childhood, and I had some dark and tough days.
In a Bible class I remember the teacher describing a practical and intimate walk with God looking like “walking down the hallways, in the car, and anytime talking with God.” At the time my young classmates thought this idea seemed strange and unfamiliar; I remember it feeling very familiar.
I thought to myself at the time, “How do people survive a day without that?” I could not at the time imagine a day without that kind of relationship and communication with God, with the depth of my need the constancy of my communication with God increasing.
In the desperation and distress of life, Christ has been practical. In my comfort and capability I often feel lost about how to know this Christ I’ve known so long! Then one day it hit me: I don’t want to climb mountains right now!
When my husband and I moved to Colorado we sought to hike a few 14,000-foot mountains on our spare weekends, and then many other mountains along the way.
My physical self, (my pregnant, toddler-rearing, husband-loving and counseling self), is not currently interested in climbing past tree line in search of adventure and achievement.
In the same way, my spiritual self is not currently interested in conquering the mountains of spiritual challenge, failure, beauty and victory. I have found myself in a place of longing, not for mountain climbing, but for mountain building.
My toddler son knows names for many different pieces of construction equipment, and has small toy versions of a few of them. One of his favorite activities presently is collecting dirt and rocks and re-depositing them in a fashion that seems productive to him. He builds small mounds of dirt and piles of rocks and proudly shows me his creations with great joy.
In recent years I have found myself approaching the throne of God not with confidence and joy like my son with his rocks and dirt, but with timidity. Instead of a heart of adventure I have found myself burdened by fear, of many things, but I think specifically that God would call me to get climbing in his next great spiritual mountain-climbing expedition.
All I want to do is thank God for the daily joys and trials, for the life he has set just before me in the moment, and ask him to reveal himself not in the thunder on the mountain top, but here and now in my life; in the small parts of each day that eventually add up to the entirety of life.
In my journal I wrote: “I don’t want to climb a mountain today God. I want to live abundantly in my own home and work–building a mountain one rock and handful of dirt at a time. Let’s build together, God”
And that’s it, that’s what feels practical. I know so vividly that God is in every moment when I am in desperation or feel at the end of myself. I want to feel full and know God in every moment in that time as well.
In my own life the focus has shifted from what is global to what is often painstakingly practical. I find that in order to connect my heart with some worship songs, for example, I do not currently consider all the unreached people of the world, but instead I see my husband, and children, and those I counsel in my small office in Littleton, Colorado.
I still care for the world, but God has brought me to this phase of life. He has grown and is growing in me a heart for the life I have before me today.
God wants to meet me in the small pieces of daily life and reveal His wisdom, love, truth, beauty and victory there. He wants me to invite him into the daily challenges and failures, not only the monumental ones. He is not surprised by my shift in focus; in fact, it is his gift in this season for me!
My legacy may include seasons of great influence, bold adventures or world-changing accomplishments for his glory. But today…today I want to know God in the practical; in the small pieces of life that make up growing children into adulthood, loving my husband well, counseling those he places in front of me at the times of their great need.
I know the desperation will be revisited as seasons change and brokenness continues to be present in the world. Until then, and again after then, I want to be building mountains; masterpieces of great beauty, and some failures, one stone, brick and handful of dirt at a time.
And today, that is to me the grandest role; it is the role God is asking me to join with Him in. Because of this, I can approach with joy and confidence the throne of God with every little rock.
Michelle Essary is a Registered Psychotherapist working on the staff of Southwest Counseling Associates in Denver. She has 11 years experience in Christian ministry and grew up in a missionary family. She served overseas, in high school, college and leadership ministry. Most recently she has been working in leadership development and member care with a large missions organization. Michelle has training in individual, marital and premarital and relationship issues, family and group therapy. She works in missionary and ministry care. She specializes in depression, anxiety, women’s issues, stress management, and identity issues.
She and husband Brad live with their toddler JB and their dog Calvin. You can follow her on Twitter @essaryme. And she’s my daughter!