I am seeing a merry-go-round as I pray. It starts slowly and then goes faster and faster. It reminds me of when I rode one recently with my three-year-old grandson, Benjamin. I had to hang on for dear life trying to keep myself balanced while holding his body weight as he was half off his horse, clinging to me. I have always been one to shun rides at the fair. Even as a teenager, I was terrified. I remember riding the Ferris wheel with two friends in high school. I sat in the middle in the fetal position while they were on each side of me whooping and hollering with glee. It doesn’t thrill me to feel out of control and at the mercy of who’s operating the machine. But yet I got on because it was expected of me…and so it goes in life.
Oh, I have been on many merry-go-rounds. One lasted 25 years, my career as a court reporter. I was doing what was expected, taking on the persona of who I thought I should be, working and living on autopilot. Eventually, the plane crashed. I fell off the merry-go-round first through burnout, then work-related injuries, later through the death of my former husband, and more recently by fracturing my hip over a year ago. Those are times that the Lord gives us to stop and reflect and ask the hard questions—who am I anyway and why am I doing the things that I’m doing? There is a disorientation when life as we know it is altered. Mostly, as in my case, we work hard to try to get back to where we were without considering if that’s where we want to be, if that’s where God wants us to be.
The Lord has me in a process right now that has been painful. An uneasy angst has hovered over me for months, and I haven’t been able to pinpoint the source. As I pressed into prayer one morning, I heard such an odd verse, “There is a time to cast away stones and a time to gather them together,” Ecclesiastes 3:5. I knew there was no way I dreamed up that verse because I don’t even know what it means. I read a few different translations and a couple of commentaries and took a good guess at what the Lord was telling me. But it wasn’t until a few days ago that he clearly showed me from Isaiah 51 and 62: clear the field, remove the stones, so that he can plant the vineyard.
The same morning that I received that word from the Lord, I was in worship at our church service, and I saw myself kneeling in an empty field with a fresh wind blowing over me. Then I saw the inside of my head filled with rows of stones that were being removed one by one. Next I saw a vine that began growing in my head, and it grew clear out of my head upwards toward heaven. The message was clear: remove the stones so the Lord can plant what he has for me for this season. The stones don’t represent necessarily bad things, just things like distractions, mindsets that don’t serve me well, some things that worked before but are no longer for this season, and some things that were never meant to be there.
I have to trust God to show me first what is there and then what needs to go, stone by stone. Removing stones can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit, and it can’t be done without getting off the merry-go-round. When you first jump off, you feel disoriented, even uncomfortable that you’re not as busy. When the Lord clears a field, the new growth doesn’t spring up overnight. It takes watering, lots of sunlight, and nurturing. It takes patience.
My heart’s cry for years has been, “Don’t let me miss you, Lord.” But if I look at the world as my mirror and see myself through that lens, I’ll always be conforming to it, and I won’t be living in the beautiful design in which God has made me. So I’m taking the risk that I may not fit in and I may feel some loss, but I want that transformation. Lord, thank you for this process. Give me the courage and give me the grace to wait, to hear, to listen to you. Oh, the sweet freedom that awaits!
Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. Romans 12:2, The Passion Translation