Seeking His Presence Now: Ashley

I have gotten to know Ashley over the past year or so, and I am so grateful for her friendship. She is open and willing to share the deeper things of her heart. She is also hilariously funny and fun! Jesus has not made this woman dull! She is an amazing cook and one of the most welcoming people that I know. She has a way of making people feel a part of things, of making them feel comfortable and at home. You know when people say that someone is "comfortable in their own skin"? That's how I would describe Ashley. And out of that confidence, she is able to offer others the invitation to be comfortable as themselves as well.Thank you, Ashley, for your friendship and for sharing a part of your story and your wisdom here. Her words are below...

“Am I doing this right?” This is a question I would bet I have been asking myself since I could formulate that thought. I asked this question throughout school. I asked it in ballet class and playing volleyball and learning the piano. I ask it while icing cakes, using chopsticks and I regularly ask it at work. It’s a question I have always attributed as a means of perfecting my perfectionism and have thought little of its implications. Recently however I have come to realize that the constant asking of this question, while at times beneficial, can be crippling.

At the beginning of 2014 I felt my faith was active but stagnant and I desired a season of growth. I was sitting on my porch one afternoon and, metaphorically speaking, it was as though I was standing on a ledge, with hopes and goals and dreams below, and I thought, “God, I want to jump and follow you in this but I’m afraid.” But to this fear I felt the sweet and subtly spoken promise, “Daughter, if you jump I won’t let you hit the bottom.” And so jump I did.

This past year could undoubtedly be characterized as the most spiritually productive season of my life. I have walked with God more deeply and constantly than ever in my past and have genuinely experienced Him as counselor, teacher, healer and friend. In the middle of walking however I began feeling my own expectations for the walk creeping in and what I anticipated would result from it all. I wanted to see visible fruit, evidence of growth, and when things weren’t unfolding within my self-created timelines the question came up once again, “Am I even doing this right?”

My mind became so preoccupied with trying to understand why things weren’t unfolding as I had anticipated that I fell into believing the lie, “If I don’t keep my own hopes for this season active in my mind, they’ll cease to exist.” I twiddled and twirled the hopes around in my fingers in a foolish attempt to micromanage my future and ensure it unfolded as I had pictured. I desired clarity in order that I might rest my confidence and hope in the control of knowing where He had me walking rather than in Him.

My problem was that I had become more focused on the promise than the promisor, was more interested in the gift than the giver. I had grown to value understanding the future over experiencing the present. “Am I doing this right?” became less my question and more my posture of faith. I found that perfectionism had a funny way of twisting my faith towards legalism which caused me to grow weary and doubtful. As much as I “knew” God doesn’t have us on any sort of an earning system, this truth did not penetrate my every step and I was exhausted from feeling like I was missing a piece to this puzzle. I felt that I had to do to gain, that I had to keep moving to keep growing, and further, that I had to do this all in step with a grading system I was not privy to but surely had to exist. A no-fail recipe for anxiety.

And then, light bulb.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You.” Not “to those whose minds wander” or “to those who have clarity.” Peace comes to those whose minds and imaginations are immovable because their trust in The Lord.

“Am I doing this right?” was the wrong question to be asking entirely and thank goodness for that. “Where is my mind focused?” turned out to the check I needed to submit myself to daily.

And with that question I found that the purest form of peace really does come when we engage in and focus on His presence. That all of our questions, our need for clarity, our doubts, anxieties and fears really do fade in His presence. His presence, which requires our presence in the present to experience. The future hopes, dreams, desires and expectations we have can still exist but we need to trust that He holds them just as He holds us. We need to rest knowing that He is good and trustworthy and that He is good and trustworthy to us.

And with our eyes undividedly fixed on Him maybe even the perfectionists out there can breathe and rest, knowing that perhaps we are doing this right.