On a rare day last week, I found myself in a unique singing mood. This wasn’t just any singing mood, I wanted to sing by myself. On such occasions, I have a playlist ready on my iPod that has quite a few soundtracks that I have used over the years when singing special music at church. I fired up the playlist and sung at the top of my lungs (of course, alone in my car). A few songs in, the familiar beat of Ginny Owens’ “If You Want Me To” song began to play. I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure I was in high school (over 10 years ago) when I sang that song. Long before I had truly endured any form of heartache.
I would love to say that my first reaction to this song was positive. I would love to share that my eyes were opened and I was in awe over how true the words had become in my life after having endured my deepest valley. How I wish my first reaction could be one of reflection and acceptance that God had brought me through that valley and I now fully embraced His plan and reason for having done so in spite of my former anger. No, my reaction was one of cynicism. My first reaction was about how naïve I had been when I first sung that song. After all, who would invite pain and suffering into their life except one who had never experienced it and had no idea the toll that it could take? I remember thinking in the midst of my valley that I didn’t care the reason why God brought me here…it was not appropriate under any circumstances to mess with the life of my child, the child I had desired for so long. If His intent had been to teach me a lesson, then it was a lesson I was unwilling to learn if it meant taking the life of an innocent child. Then my second reaction hit me – I had, indeed, sung the song and at the time I believed every word of it. Could my careless invitation have been what caused me to endure years of infertility and to lose not one, but two children? What if God had seen through my naivety and required me to “put my money where my mouth was” just to show me that real life isn’t as simple as I so carelessly sang about in this song. All of my old feelings and frustrations came flooding back.
It has been almost a year since my great revelation when I realized that God had not changed and that in spite of my trial that He loved me, cared for me, and would always be there for me. So why, why is it that my first reaction is still to doubt God’s loving character? I talk about how I was in a really bad place emotionally and spiritually during my valley, and yet those same thoughts still rise up in me even after I thought I had moved forward. Once I had realized what I was doing, I decided I needed to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5) I reminded myself of God’s love. I reminded myself of all the blessings that He had given to me my entire life. Still, my heart hurts as I wonder how long will it be before my first reactions can be that of faith and trust? Now knowing full well the ramifications of the words, would I ever be able to truly and honestly say that I’m willing to go through the valley if He wants me to? I’m willing to go through small trials, but there are things in my life that I still consider ‘off limits’. And then I realize a startling and scary fact: Until I am willing to give God everything I will never be in that ‘mountain top’ relationship with Him. If I’m struggling to get past ‘break even’, perhaps the reason is that there are still too many things that I am holding on to that I need to give up. It’s easy to say that I give God everything, but when it comes right down to it, is my desire to have a right relationship with Him stronger than my desire to hold onto things that which I only have an illusion of control over? I know what my answer should be, so why is it so hard to accomplish that in my heart?
In the past I would have concluded this thought process with a prayer of commitment to give God everything. I would say the words, believe them to a degree in my head/heart, and then feel like a failure when I once again fall short of my commitment. I’m learning to recognize my limitations, though. I recognize that I’m not quite there yet. As I have said, I know there are still things in my life that I consider “off limits”. Instead, my prayer is that God would continue to build in me the realization that it doesn’t matter my perspective on what I have and have not given up to Him, but to recognize more and more fully that He is in control of all things whether I like it or not. After all, I cannot give up something of which I never had control.
So, as promised, no platitudes or easy answers…just another step in my journey toward emotional and spiritual recovery. I am trusting God that one day my first reaction to songs such as this will be an honest agreement to walk in complete faith and trust no matter where God leads. For now, I’ll settle with the honest realization that I’m not quite there…and better yet, that I have a sincere desire to be there.
If You Want Me To
The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I’m gonna walk through the valley if You want me to
Cause I’m not who I was when I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise You’re not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will walk through the fire if You want me to
It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that’s not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I’d never go alone
So when the whole world turns against me
And I’m all by myself
And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help
I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley if You want me to