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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC

Called To Engage Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:10 (NIV)

Baseball legend Jackie Robinson notably said, “Life is not a spectators sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you’re wasting your time.” Truer words have never been spoken and yet, so many in our world live a life of quiet existence rather than full engagement. And I can’t help but wonder, “Why?”

What’s getting in the way of people taking in the fullness of this life?

Now to clarify, I don’t think there is anything wrong with living a simple life. Engaging life fully is not about grand adventures, world travel, or influencing multitudes of people. There is nothing wrong with that if you’re wired that way, but for most, life is simple… work, family, friends, a few vacations, and some hobbies.

There are opportunities to engage fully in each of these spaces but so few do with their whole heart. Again, I wonder, “Why?”

In our new Michigan home, I am blessed to have a massive picture window in our kitchen area, framing the glory of our backyard. It’s a comforting view, complete with a majestic cottonwood tree, towering over a small pond, an apple blossom tree close by, as well as a glorious crimson maple, and a few scattered pine trees. There is also a southern painted turtle I like to call George, who lives in the pond, which is teeming with green pond frogs, and the neighbors have an alpaca named Sam. The air is also regularly filled with red-winged blackbirds, vivid cardinals, woodpeckers, and numerous variations of bluebirds.

The view in this home most definitely feels like a gift from God in this season. So, a few days ago, I got up early for coffee and quiet time to enjoy it. The beautiful Michigan morning was glorious as the sun was beginning to rise, striking the pond with glimmers of light, and for the longest time, I simply sat taking it all in.

Now, I am someone who loves nature and tends to experience God more fully when out in it, but there I sat, observing rather than engaging. My heart longed to tramp through the grass and to slowly meander around the pond, but still, I sat there being a spectator. Why?

The truth?

While glorious to look at, that Michigan morning IN MAY was only 40 degrees… grrrr. While I love nature, I hate the cold. So to experience the beauty, effort would be required, and that made me both sad and mad. Why can’t engaging in what I love be easy? So I sat, spectating but not engaging.

The longer I sat, the more my desire began to build and I felt the nudge in my spirit from God to come outside. I wish I could say I was joyful as I begrudgingly put on my warm pants, hiking boots, and coat but that wouldn’t be true. All I really knew was I needed to be outside with God and so into the crisp morning air I went.

It’s hard to articulate what this brisk morning out in the glory of nature did for my soul, except to say, God was there. I roamed for about thirty minutes, coming back with grass all over my boots and a runny nose from the cold but thoroughly joyful inside. It was then my heart connected with the above verse from John 10:10 and I had the realization about why I think so many in life, myself included, remain spectators rather than engagers at times.

Engagement takes effort and, let’s be honest, IT IS MESSY! This property that I love to engage, while bringing life to my soul, also brings pain at times. The cold this late in the year is irritating and George the turtle likes to hiss at me, even though I just want to pet him. And at 50 years of age, I received my very first rash of poison ivy from a hidden vine on a tree I was trimming. While these things ARE messy they do not outweigh the gift of engagement.

As I think about life in general and Jesus coming so we might have “life to the full”, I have to remind myself that the effort and pain are worth it for the beauty of what is being offered.

We all have people like George the turtle who we try to love and yet rejects us. We all have moments with others that are surprisingly hard, leaving a sting of pain with us for weeks, much like poison ivy, and we all have seasons that require more for us than we want to give. However, all of these moments have the capacity to reveal God’s glory, if we are only looking for him in these spaces.

I by no means have “arrived” on this journey through life, but what I do know is that the invitation to engage fully, to not remain a spectator, is bound up in the truth that as we enter into whatever avenue of life God calls us to, Jesus will go with us.

For Your Reflection…

Where are you hiding from life or simply watching life rather than engaging?

Spend some time reflecting and listening for God’s voice. Where is he calling you out into life?


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