When Holley Gerth asked us to put our dream down on paper a few weeks ago at the Jumping Tandem Retreat, I didn’t do it. After all, I figured I already have a dream, this writing/publishing dream. I’m still working on that one, right? I don’t need another dream, do I? So I sat quietly in my seat with my pen in my lap and watched as everyone else in the room wrote out their dream on paper.
Later that weekend I listened in the third row as Jennifer Dukes Lee spoke about the feeling of not being “enough.” She asked us to write a word on a rock – a word that signified what was holding us back, what was gripping us with fear like a gloved hand around our throats in the dark of night. I wrote “comparison” on my rock.
Comparing my words with others’.
Comparing my number of readers, my number of Facebook likes.
Comparing how many speaking engagements I have lined up on my schedule compared to her or her or her.
Jennifer told us she and her daughters were going to hurl each of those rocks to the bottom of an Iowa lake. She would drown my comparison beneath ten feet of water, bury it under a mound of pond sludge. I was good with that.
Home from the conference, I cracked open my Bible. It had been a while. I’d left off in Second Corinthians.
“I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life,” I read. “…The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way … Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.”(2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
And there it was: my dream. The one I didn’t even know I had, laid out in black and white where I never expected to find it.
I wanted what was written right there on the pages of my Bible. I didn’t want to live in a small way anymore. I wanted to live openly and expansively. I wanted to enter the wide-open, spacious life. THAT was my dream.
I’ve been living small, friends. Cramped and crumpled into myself, turned inward, caught up in comparison, crowded by expectations, lured by the enticements of this world: sales, success, being known, being valued.
This inward-focus? It’s not a spacious place. It’s not a wide-open, expansive place. It’s a small, cold, lonely, bitter place.
After I read those verses from Second Corinthians and I stared my dream in the face, my dream of living not small and crumpled inward, but openly and expansively, I wondered what that might look like and feel like, in real, everyday life.
Here’s what I came up with. Here the list I made in my journal that day:
Wide-open, spacious living feels: Free. Secure. Joyful. Light. Unburdened. Enough. Content. Not heavy with guilt or “not enough.” Hopeful. God-focused. Like an open prairie, rather than a crushing crowd.
And then, beneath that, I made second list: steps to take when I find myself turning inward again, when I revert, as Paul says, to living life in a small way:
1. Turn off: from Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all social media. Physically shut down the mechanisms that are fueling comparison and smallness and “not enough.”
2. Turn outward: Shine the spotlight via praise or kind words on someone else, either online or in real life.
3. Turn to now: Focus on the right now — your family, your husband, your friends, the small moments. Enjoy the beauty of your place right now. Enjoy what’s happening in your writing and publishing journey right now. Focus on what you can do today and know that it is enough.
4. Turn to God: In gratitude, prayer and thanksgiving. Thankfulness is the seed of satisfaction.
That’s it. My four steps to living a wide-open, spacious life:
Turn to now.
Turn to God.
I’m trying it. I’m committed to it. This wide-open, spacious life sounds too good to miss.
So what about you? What’s keeping you from living the wide-open, spacious life God wants for you? Can you make your own list of steps to take when you find yourself living small and cramped? Do you want to be brave and maybe say out loud, right here, what’s holding you back from living wide-open? I’m with you. You know that, right?