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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Don’t Run Ahead….

I remember grad school. There are a lot of stories to tell about those 2 years of my life, but one thing I recall in particular is the camaraderie amongst my peers as the time drew near for our Comps (comprehensive exams). We were already writing full scale alternate plan papers (equal to a thesis only we didn’t have to defend it). On top of that we had a 4 hour written exam to answer 3 questions – one from each of the core classes. Each question was agreed upon with our advisor. I filled up 2 blue books in those four hours. But in the days prior to the exam someone in our class came up with the idea of making buttons…’the little engine that could’ buttons. When we walked into the exam room we all had a button on with the picture of a steam engine heading uphill and the saying ‘I think I can…’ After we were done we exchanged buttons for one that showed the same steam engine heading down hill with the saying ‘I knew I could.’ I guess that’s where head vs heart knowledge began for me.

engine uphill

Anyone who has been around me for a while has heard me use that phrase ‘head vs heart knowledge.’ In the same way the steam engine gained momentum not only from climbing the hill but then pushing past the crest I, too, have gained similar momentum.

For me the momentum started 2 years ago this month. All you have to do it look at the archives of my blog to see where it started. I’ll give you a hint: a crazy little independent movie called Ragamuffin. Through the course of 2014 I began to embrace grace for the first time. What do I mean by that? I started to dare to believe that maybe, just maybe, I HADN’T gone beyond the reaches of God’s love. Maybe, just maybe, He COULD love me too. And maybe, just maybe, I was worthwhile and had something to contribute. I began to come out of my cocoon that year.


Momentum grew from that movie. Next came the Ragamuffin Retreat in October 2014. By then I was embracing grace but I was still denying – or trying to deny – my story. I knew it on the inside but wanted to deny it on the outside. I was a ragamuffin’s ragamuffin. BUT GOD. God intervened in a deep way during the retreat and in a very sacred moment He embraced me and let just fall into His lap weeping. I let go of my masks. I was scared of what lied underneath it all, or perhaps scared of what others would THINK of what was underneath is a better way to put it. But I couldn’t live with the lies anymore. I was lying to myself and I was dying on the inside.

Something from that retreat became the steam in my steam engine. Once the mask was off the task became one of coming to grips with my story, embracing my story, and being bold enough to share my story. That in and of itself has been a long process – one that is ongoing. The way I describe it is that at retreat I pulled off the bandage that was covering what was really a bone deep gaping wound that I tried to pass off as a scratch. What followed was having to deal with all the gangrenous gunk that was oozing out from the wound. If just the mental image made you go ‘yuck!’ you can imagine what it has been like to have to face it, feel it, and put it to rest.

In the process of all this processing I got lost. Looking back I think that is natural for someone coming to terms with traumatic events in one’s life. I was having to feel all kinds of emotions and face things I was denying for decades. Looking back it is very difficult to explain how or why I got lost. I just know I was lost and in need of spiritual CPR….a little momentum.

And then came October 2015. BUT GOD again. Only this time it was more huge than I ever dreamed. Oh, I HOPED I would get to that point of being able to let go but when you are entrenched in patterns for decades….that head vs heart knowledge was becoming more challenging without my masks.

I knew rather quickly what God wanted to do in me that weekend….but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to feel what I had to feel. I didn’t want to let go of what was protecting me. My outer mask had been removed the prior year but the inner masks were still alive and kicking. Words will not capture for you that moment when God broke through. It was a process. I used to HATE that word! Not anymore. Process is packed full of hope!

What I can tell you is Saturday night of the retreat I felt my chains – literally. I named my chains – literally. And God broke my chains. Most definitely. And since then…ol’ ‘Mo’ has been on my side.

The last 2 months have been beyond description. I AM FREE!  I never knew what that would truly feel like. You got a taste of it in my post a few weeks ago on ‘Wingspan Worship.’ There is a peace that defies explanation – that passes all understanding as Paul wrote. And I know it. It’s not just in my head. It’s in my heart. I am relaxed and just peaceful. That is the only word for it.

But I also realized this past Saturday that I was getting a little too much steam. You see this year I am working what Dave Ramsey ( calls a debt snowball.

I have already paid off 2 small bills and am honing in on paying off a small balance credit card in 2 months. By the end of July should pay off 2 credit cards on top of the other 2 bills while absorbing an increase in my mortgage as my agreement settles at the fixed rate and goes full amortization. So I have been feeling pretty good about myself and how the year has started. I am free spiritually, I am getting free financially, and I am just living and loving life. And I honestly haven’t felt this excited about things for quite a while.

Saturday night, however, I was just seeking the Lord in wanting to have clear vision from Him this year – to have my being in Him as I figure out what it means to live free. I have some changes I think the Lord wants me to make this year but I want to be sure I a hearing clearly and not just living in the emotional realm as I have most of my life. So while I was praying I was struck with this simple phrase: “don’t run ahead.”

I was thinking how good things were going and it was slipping into ‘I’ve got this together and it’s going on” – and it suddenly became about me and not Him. I am thankful for that soft voice for whispering what I needed to hear. It did not interrupt my momentum; I think it prevented a free fall.

So yes, there is excitement as the year begins. Yes, I have plans. Yes, I may be making some significant changes in some things. But I will be ever more cautious, now, to not let momentum cause me to fall. Because left unchecked momentum can leave you tripping over your own feet and falling flat on your face. It’s about Him and His glory, not me. I want to follow, not run ahead.

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