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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles


I learn a lot of things from my dad, and one of them has to do with the degree of impression from something. Dad is an engineer, has a few patents to his name….even had something to do with helping develop the scratch and sniff technology (like for perfume samples). Yep….literally 3 points below genius. And never finished college. I’m proud of him….I’m allowed to brag on him….after all, he’s my dad! AND he’s REALLY smart!

So when he introduced me to a new word growing up I took notice. “I’m whelmed” is a statement he would make, usually when someone was trying to impress him in some way or something was trying to be demonstrated as an important issue. What I learned was this: there are three degrees of being impressed by something:

  1. whelmed –

engulf, submerge, or bury (someone or something):

“a swimmer whelmed in a raging storm”

flow or heap up abundantly:

“the brook whelmed up from its source”

  1. impressed –

make (someone) feel admiration and respect:

“they immediately impressed the judges” ·

“he has to put on an act to impress”

· blow someone away · stick in someone’s mind

* make a mark or design on (an object) using a stamp or seal; imprint:

“she impressed the damp clay with her seal”

* apply (a mark) to something with pressure:

“a revenue stamp was embossed or impressed on the instrument”

* (impress something on)

fix an idea in (someone’s mind):

“nobody impressed on me the need to save”

  1. Overwhelmed –

bury or drown beneath a huge mass:

“the water flowed through to overwhelm the whole dam and the village beneath”

Do you see the progression, the strength of emphasis? Kinda cool, isn’t it? As I thought about this week’s blog theme one angle quickly came to mind.

We’ve all used the term ‘overwhelmed’ at some point. “I’m overwhelmed with work.” “I’m overwhelmed with stress.” “I’m overwhelmed with financial burdens.” “I’m overwhelmed with joy!”

It’s that last one that I really like (who doesn’t?!) and I’ve been living in that realm lately. But I would actually go a step farther. I’m not just overwhelmed with joy…..I am overwhelmed with joy because I am overwhelmed by God and His grace!

The last 15 months of my life have been absolutely wild. I’m not doing anything different than I have all along – working, taking care of the house, growing a garden and doing the canning, helping care for Mom, going to church, hanging out with friends – but the depth of my character has changed. If you knew me in 2014 I was missing my brother who was finishing his short prison term for a drunk driving accident trying to get the house and yard ready for his homecoming before Labor Day. I was Miss Fix It and Miss In Control. And underneath the exterior veneer of “I’ve got it together” was someone who was dying inside and didn’t know it.

Decades of brokenness were taking their toll from the inside out – they just hadn’t made it the ‘out’ yet. Fear. Emotional isolation. Need for perfection. Insecurity. Protection. Masks to hide the inner emotional hell that was raging. The cauldron was boiling and it was ready to boil over. In other words, I was coming to end of me. I just didn’t know it yet.

And then it happened. Scott got home and he unknowingly challenged me. He wasn’t hiding his story and was open with folks about his mistake and taking responsibility for it. I had seen the movie Ragamuffin and for the first time was starting to embrace grace and actually entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, my life WASN’T too screwed up for God. I have been a believer since 1985 but in the course of life I had convinced myself that past the ‘fire insurance’ and basic Christianity – when you got behind the walls – there was so much brokenness that I honestly didn’t know if I would be whole again. I had settled for a ‘manageable level of tolerable existence.’ Until one day as I thought about Scott while talking to a friend and simply said “I want to be authentic.” I had already registered for the Ragamuffin Retreat so I was trying to take down my walls – or at least soften them – as much as possible before the retreat. And Scott had a lot to do with that when he didn’t hide his story for let the fear and shame hogtie him. So I took a big gulp, breathed in deeply, and set sail for the land of freedom.

That journey has taken me on some wild rides the last 15 months. I have traveled terrain I never thought I’d be brave enough to cross. I have plowed THROUGH mountains instead of trying to find an easier way around. No…I had to go THROUGH. And by God’s grace I have emerged on the other side…that same side that just 15 months ago seemed good enough for everyone else except me. And now my view has changed.

And I am just blown away. Free. Overwhelmed! I am so at a loss for words – which is a bad thing for a blog writer – that I fear as if I am repeating myself or only capturing a thumbnail sketch of what God is doing.

There is a song by Big Daddy Weave called “Overwhelmed” that says it best. This snippit tells it all:

I see the work of Your Hands Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You Captivated by Your beauty I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms Unashamed because of mercy I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God And all that You’ve done is so overwhelming

In those few lines lies the secret to being overwhelmed. It goes from big picture to personal snapshot. From the galaxies spinning which we just take for granted – the big picture of stuff – that sets the stage. I mean c’mon now….if God can keep the UNIVERSE spinning He can certainly keep us going, right?

But for me, the last 4 stanzas say it best.

  1. God has become personal. “I hear the sound of Your Voice”. I used to hear clearly from the Lord and have incredible devotional times and write like crazy in my journal. And then life – and Facebook – crept in and I let it steal my morning time. I went from coffee and Bible to coffee and computer. Do you notice that in yourself? I firmly believe it is a silent slippery slope the enemy uses to get us drifting away from the Lord before we even know it. Once the Bible reading stops everything else starts to slowly disintegrate. But just recently – the last couple months – as I have been focusing on rebuilding my time and walk with the Lord – I am starting to see that old flame start to flicker again. The prayers are becoming more spontaneous. The Word is opening up to me again as it hasn’t in a LONG time. It’s getting exciting to read my Bible and see what God wants to say to me through it.

  2. Delight! “I delight myself in You”. As I gaze upon Him – think about Him – talk to Him and about Him to others – I have no other response but sheer delight. Even looking back at the journey He has taken me on I now see Him more clearly than before. I don’t like some of my scars – or I should say the wounds that led to the scars – but I no longer blame God either. My attitude toward Him has changed. I no longer have to understand WHY things happened in my life. They happened and I can’t change that fact. What HAS changed is how I look at them, respond to them, and let God use them in my life to reach others. That’s a BUT GOD change that defies human explanation.

  3. Run…unashamed. That line is the key line for me. For SO long I was ashamed, fearful, and embarrassed. I had convinced myself that God couldn’t love a screw up like me. While I ‘wished’ He would use me I didn’t believe deep down that He could. God could raise Jesus from the grave but He couldn’t use my sham of a life…or so I believed. BUT GOD! As God lovingly broke through and broke my chains, and as I have started to experience freedom – LASTING freedom – running into His arms is a privilege and an honor and something I desire with all my being. THAT is freedom that is overwhelming – to go from self-induced alienation to overwhelming acceptance….that will knock your socks off!

  4. The power of the Cross. That is the key. Without the cross I am still a screwed up mess with no hope and just trying to make it through the day, devoid of purpose and hopeless. BUT GOD…again. My response to my wounds drove me from God….because my response was sinful. It was fully understandable but when you get past all the masks, it was just sin. And true to form, sin separated me from God. But when I came to Him, let go of my sin and just ‘ran into His arms unashamed because of mercy’ I experienced – in the core of my being – being forgiven and FREE! And that IS ‘so overwhelming.’

I so wish I could find better words to describe it but when something is overwhelming, sometimes being at a loss for words is the only appropriate response. So I am starting to become more peaceful with not having to be able to explain it in exact terms. I know I am free. Those who know me and have walked that road with me know I am free. And it is overwhelming. I don’t want to lose it and am even using it as a springboard to break free in other parts of my life. I am overwhelmed….and that’s a VERY good thing!

Check out the video here. (Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave)

More thoughts on being overwhelmed can be found at (Jenn) and (Leisa). They have watched me walk this road…..they know what I mean by overwhelming as they are experiencing it in their lives as well.

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