When I was a camp counselor, I used to draw a simple picture of a hill with a path with switchbacks going back and forth up the side. 

As I drew my little hill, I would explain that life is a lot like a path going up a mountain. In the illustration, Jesus is both guide and path so we don’t really start the adventure until we put faith in Jesus and begin walking with Him. 

I like the path-up-the-mountain illustration for a few reasons. 

1—Various Bible passages used the path for life and for Christ. (Proverbs 3:6; Psalm 16:11; John 14:6) 

2—Life on a fallen planet feels like an uphill climb with many sharp turns.

3—The road metaphor helps me look at my situation so I can better understand what’s happening.

When on a steep mountain road, the next hairpin turn takes all our focus. It’s hard to see what lies ahead. I’ve had many turns in my road. You have too. Those crucible times change us and change our direction. Often the turn involves significant loss. Yet, each turn has been the exact preparation I needed for what God had planned next. 

I saw this when I realized God was bringing kids across my path who had lost a parent (I had lost my dad when I was 8), who had a step-parent (I had one of those), and who struggled with learning (a dominant theme in my life). Counseling became a scenic overlook on my path up the mountain. I could look back and see how God has used previous turns to prepared me. The people I was reaching out to didn’t need the story of my path, but my story made me sensitive to their needs. Through all the turns, God had given me abundant hope and confidence to pass on. (2 Col 1:3-5)

All this has all been on my mind lately because—after walking this faith-path for over 40 years—I have a major boulder in my road. The boulder is a fear I don’t understand well. I’ve started seeing a therapist who is committed to partnering with God in His process of changing me so that fear no longer holds me back.

I was hoping my counselor would give me a Bible passage to study, a book or two to read, and a sermon series or podcast to listen to. Just give me tasks to check off a list and then God will remove the fear, right? I get to stay in charge of this sanctification process, yes? 

My counselor smiled pleasantly and assured me I didn’t need an intellectual approach. I have head knowledge. Knowing is not the problem. The problem is getting my heart to believe and my body to respond based on the Truth I already know.

When she told me that—I panicked.

Until she said that—I didn’t realize how much I depend on my own ability to learn and try to solve my own problems. By now I should have known, information does not lead to transformation. If it did—Jesus wouldn’t have had to come, die, and rise again. 

In another context, I do understand that head knowledge is not enough. The Pharisees had massive head-knowledge about the coming Messiah, yet they worked the hardest to make sure Jesus was crucified. They had a fear-boulder in their road too. By holding on to position, reputation, and tradition—they lost out on Christ. 

I don’t like this unsettling realization of my fear-boulder. Truth is—the boulder has been blocking me in many ways for years. I don’t like feeling fearful or helpless to dash past the fear. I want Christ to be all I need so I don’t need help from the body of Christ. However, DIY may work for home projects, but God designed us to grow and change in connection with others in His body. I’m not going to get past this boulder on my own. 

I want to ignore this boulder and default to getting busy in areas where I feel more confident. Yet, everything I’ve seen thus far on my path up the mountain assures me that I want whatever God has for me on the other side of this boulder. I long for the truth that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) to move from head knowledge to heart reality so it can change my behavior and make me courageous. 

I’m curious, friend. What have you learned about bridging the gap between what your head knows and what your heart believes that influences your actions? Do tell. I need help here.

 

4 Comments

  1. Lynnae

    This is all so true, Esther. I am starting to see how the work must be done within my heart to effect change in my mind. Such a key component, it is not of us but as we embrace submisssion and surrender to the HS then He begins to do a work we may not even understand.
    Along this line, because of living now with a disease I am thinking more about the new heaven and new earth, Scripture tells us we are sojourner here, this world is not what we were created for, it the new heaven and new earth He is and will create for believers to one day serve Him in our glorified bodies???

    Reply
  2. Esther Wilkison

    Embracing submission and surrender– thanks for passing on those two words. I’ll meditate on those.

    Sorry to hear you are living with a disease. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

    Thanks for the reminder of new bodies, new heaven, new earth–“Everything sad is coming untrue.”

    Reply
  3. Brenna Siver

    “I get to stay in charge of this sanctification process, yes?”
    Oof. This is a struggle for me, too. Partly because of my upbringing in a fundamentalist Baptist church, I tend to strive for certainty and control instead of faith and resting.
    One thing that’s helped me is a friend and teacher who reminds me to look for the heart source of my actions and attitudes; to see what I’m telling myself about God. She often puts it in terms of “being okay”. For example, if I believe that God is in control and that He is good, then I can be okay with not being in control of everything myself. I can trust that I will be okay, even if things happen that I don’t plan or expect.
    Of course, this is an ongoing process, but these are just a few things that I like to remember.

    Reply
  4. Esther Wilkison

    Thank you, Brenna.

    It’s good to know others are in this struggle with me. As we remember the truth and settle into being okay–as you say–we will be transformed into new people.

    That transformation is what I’m reminding myself this afternoon. Change is already underway.

    Praying for you as I send this. More glory to the One changing us!

    Reply

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