If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads. – Anatole France
Over the holiday weekend, I attended a woman’s conference. Something I learned is that the original Webster’s dictionary defined beautiful as the quality present when one’s purpose is understood. For the past six weeks I have been on a quest to better understand how to unpack the following purpose-focused principle: “A person’s greatest place of pain is their greatest place of power and their area of weakness is their area of gifting.” The biblical information in several of the sessions helped to shed carnival-style floodlight illumination into the dark spaces that contain my treasures along the path to discovering my purpose. Because of this journey, I am beginning to wear the label beautiful.
My biggest takeaways from the conference were that amazing, powerful, and moving things happen when 1400 women gather in His name; be bold; and be the love for those around you. Experiencing the exchanges of love between this large group of strangers brought me here:
Love has no natural enemy; we allow fear of rejection to become Love’s kryptonite. Love withheld is self-hate. Love shared is multiplied. Love repressed is deceitful. Love expressed is pure joy. Love’s touch is a hug. Love’s tenderness is a kiss. Love rejected is depression. Love explored is an adventure. Love structured is a cell block. Love is free and so it flows. Love with obedience is bold. Love without action is defeat. Love laden with doubt is fear. Love like Christ is pure trust and acceptance. “For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” – Viktor E. Frankl
The experience of the conference was as challenging as it was stimulating and liberating. After musing on the messages, combing through the cascades of thoughts, and sorting through the signs and signals provided by my guides and teachers, I came to the realization that: the wonders of my future are connected to the experiences of my past; bridging the chasms between the two requires a reset of my defaults for habits and reactions that no longer serve me well; fear is the only thing that can prevent me from getting there; being beautiful is only one step of boldness away; and love is the center of it all. Said another way, the treasures of my purpose will be revealed if I use prayerfulness, gratitude and love to release fear of the future and shame from the past.
People have struggled with this forever. The Israelites are prime examples. We all know they spent many years in the desert on a journey from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. But fear turned a two year journey into a forty year trip. Instead of parents with newborns (who escaped slavery in Egypt) arriving in Canaan with their toddlers, they arrived with their great-grand children. Fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) caused them first to wonder about the truth God revealed and then to wander away from the riches He had in store for them.
In Numbers 13 (VOICE), the scripture tells us: “There is dissension in the camp. Some of the leaders have been sharing their doubts with the people, and folks are nervous. The thrill of this wilderness camping experience has worn off, and some are thinking that working for the Egyptians wasn’t so bad. So barely two years out of Egypt, the Israelites are standing at the door of their promised land. Moses needs to motivate the people, and he selects 12 key men from each of the tribes to explore the land of abundance God has provided. The nation stands to enter into a time of great reward, but first their leaders must bring back a report that will inspire their confidence.” Specifically: “1 The Lord said to Moses ‘Choose one of the leaders from each of the twelve tribes and send them as spies to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.’” Later it says: “27 We checked out the land, just as you’d instructed us to do, and here’s what we discovered: It is rich, very rich. One could say that it flows with milk and honey; and look, here is some of its fruit. The land is highly desirable, 28but the people who already live there are really strong. Their cities are enormous and fortified. What’s more, we saw the Anakites there. 29 In the Negev, there are Amalekites; and in the high hill country are Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites. As for the seacoast, Canaanites live there and along the Jordan River too. 30 But Caleb calmed the congregation, and he spoke to Moses. Caleb: We should go straight in, right away, and take it over. We are surely able! Other Scouts: 31No way. We can’t do it. The people who are already there are too strong for us. 32So the report of these other scouts was quite disheartening; it made the people question God’s promise.”
Fear created doubt which made the Israelites weak. It caused them to endure the pain associated with remaining in the desert. Consequently, their treasures, the Promised Land, were not available to them for another 38 years. They eventually saw the truth on the banks of the Jordan River three generations later; the same truth that gave Caleb courage decades earlier back in Number 13. Fast forward a few decades and Joshua 1:1-3 says, “1 After the death of the Lord’s servant Moses, the Lord spoke to Moses’ helper, Joshua son of Nun.2 He said, My servant Moses is dead. Get ready now, you and all the people of Israel, and cross the Jordan River into the land that I am giving them. 3 As I told Moses, I have given you and all my people the entire land that you will be marching over.” (GNT) Only then did the Israelites wade through the darkness of the desert to arrive into the light of the Promised Land.
The story made me question this: What treasures have eluded me because of doubt or fear? What areas of my life am I holding back because of insecurity? How many years have I been held captive by the anxiety of past pain? How many times am I going to pass up God’s promises because of worry or apprehension – when He has led me to the doorstep of greater things, if only I wrap my heart and mind around the confidence and assurances that come with being a child swaddled in the cradle of His love?
My thoughts on the matter have reminded me of these truths:
- The power of prayer will help us to heal the pains of our past.
- A spirit of fear is our greatest weakness.
- Embrace our struggles because they built our strength.
- Boldness is an act of obedience which leads to being beautiful.
- Love is our greatest gift.
In Beautiful Things, Gungor tells us: “All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way? I wonder if my life could really change at all? All this earth; could all that is lost ever be found? Could a garden come up from this ground at all? All around hope is springing up from this old ground. Out of chaos life is being found in You. You make beautiful things…”
Hey beautiful! Go, be bold. Step out there. Pursue your purpose. Lose the shackles of doubt and fear. Be free. His promises are at your feet. Leave your pain and weaknesses in the desert. They were your experiences but they do not define you. Use your power and strength to take what has been set aside for you. Your gifts await you. But you must show courage to get them the first time around. His love will get you there if you simply see it for the truth that it is.