A couple of weeks ago, I went for a run in my neighborhood. It was a beautiful day, the sky was blue and the air crisp. I had just finished a long day of homeschool and went to pound the pavement, push Mia Grace in the jog stroller, and clear my brain from the fog of a long day of homeschool. And that’s when I saw it. A circle. In a neighbor’s front yard. Three women with their children in a circle. And I wasn’t a part of it.
Immediately my thoughts began to race, “Why wasn’t I included in the circle?” “Had they forgotten to text me?” “Was it a purposeful circle of leaving out or an accidental circle of everyone converging?” I didn’t stop, didn’t say hello, barely waved, and ran on…with an ache in my heart and tears in my eyes.
But as I ran off, I knew that I knew that I knew all three of those loved women loved me. I knew that not one of them would ever hurt or purposefully exclude me. But I still saw that circle as closed. I still saw their being “in” as my automatically being “out,” and I spent the rest of my run having it out with God.
And by the end of my run, here is what I came to: something has got to change in the way I see circles. I’m not ten anymore, or thirteen, or sixteen, or eighteen, or twenty-one or even thirty-one. My goodness. I’m forty. 40. And it’s time to see circles as an invitation to step in instead of a barricade designed to keep me out.
Can any other woman relate to me here? Because I hear it all around me regularly. We all carry these wounds and aches inside of us that cause us to see circumstances and circles through the lens of the little girls we once were instead of the healed, whole, beloved women of God He has made us to be.
I’ve done a lot of praying over the past year about turning 40 – about freedom and joy and what the journey looks like from here. And I can tell you this: I decided on my run I want to do whatever it takes, whatever healing it requires, however many counseling sessions are needed, to spend this year of 40 seeing circles as open invitations in instead of daggers made to wound and keep me out.
Now I know not everyone wants me in their circle. That’s just called life. That’s called women and the result of the fall. But that’s ok. Because if I’m honest with myself, I don’t always want me in every circle either. But part of growing up and growing 40 is learning to stand securely in the places and in the circles where I know I am loved. Part of turning 40 is ceasing to put everyone’s love around me to the test and simply resting in the fact that I know it’s there.
And it’s impossible to do that in any human circle unless I know I stand securely in the circle of the love of the Lord. Standing in His circle, sitting at His table, putting on His nature, taking up and taking on His identity is the key to walking confidently into any other circle He places me. And when I am confident, securely confident of His love, I know I will be confident to walk up on or into any circle, closed or open, where He sends me.
Last week was sweet. I was able to go to each and every neighbor and confess my defensive, introspective, incorrect lens with which I viewed their circle. Their forgiveness was sweet and receiving redemption was even sweeter. I learned that confessing the places where I felt “out”, knowing it was wrong, was just a humbling opportunity to receive even greater measures of my neighbors’ love.
So I encourage you to do the very same thing this last week we have of Advent. This last week we have of preparation for the One who came and the One who is coming again. Put on a different lens this week. Put on the lens that lets you see life through the love of the One who came to invite you into His circle to give you a perpetual seat at His table. And look beside you at the others who are sitting there. For those who love King Jesus, we are all a part of the same circle. It’s a circle of grace. It’s a place in a circle we did nothing to earn, and therefore can do nothing to lose. It’s a place is secured by the love of Another, Another whose love never fails. So…you and I have nothing to lose by walking confidently into the circles God places us. We have nothing to lose by humbling ourselves, asking for forgiveness from those we have wronged. We have nothing to lose by inviting all those God sends on the path beside us to join the circle we are in and the path we are on. But what we stand to gain is firm footing in the House of God, with the family of God and the people of God, with those He chosen to call in.
“Why is it that so often I return
From social converse with a spirit worn,
A lack, a disappointment – even a sting
Of shame, as for some low, unworthy thing?
Because I have not, careful, first of all,
Set me door wide open, back to the wall,
Ere I at others’ doors did knock and call.”
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul, “September: Eighteen”