The Mountains We Carry

“Does that song make your heart happier mommy?” my son asked me as we drove.

I smiled.

“Yeah it does baby.”

Now I don’t know if he asked me that because he saw my frustration of the morning wearing my patience thin. I don’t know if he heard me growl under my breath when I was asked for one more thing as I was already pulling out of the driveway and we were running late. I don’t know if he just saw a change in my face with that particular song.

I’m not sure what it was, but my 4-year-old was able to see something shift in me as the music played that even I hadn’t quite felt yet. The fact that he used the word “happier” rather than “happy” told me he must have noticed something about me that wasn’t that happy previously; and that made me sad.

I listen to Christian music pretty much 98% of the time. Whether it’s Pandora on my phone, YouTube on my computer, or The Message on XM, Christian music floods my ears most of the day and night.

It does something to my soul and calms my spirit. It helps my heart feel happier in the midst of so much sadness and heaviness that exists not only within me at times, but within our world. It reminds me of truth even when I struggle to believe it entirely.

Yesterday as I left work listening to my Lauren Daigle Pandora station, I noticed something as I sang. I’ve noticed it before but because it showed up on the heels of some other revelations, it felt slightly more profound.

“You make me brave; you make me brave; you call me out beyond the shore into the waves…”

I sing the words and will my heart to grab a hold of them. I beg the words to sink from my ears to my heart and begin flowing through my veins rather than simply sitting on top of my skin. But I notice lately that what happens underneath my skin and inside my bones feels much different than what shows up on the surface.

Long ago I created such a living hell for myself-and I learned how to live inside those flames so well-that now I don’t always know how to live without the fire. If something isn’t burning my skin just a little, I’m afraid I’ll go numb. So, even if all that’s burning is the truth of a song sitting on my skin rather than in my heart, there’s always at least a small fire I keep burning at all times.

Fires of insecurity. Flames of self doubt. Infernos of deficient self worth. Blazes of insignificance and ashes of failure.

I realize that as I sing these songs I love so much, I trust only the parts that aren’t about me at all. I trust the parts that are about Him. His love. His grace. His forgiveness. But I don’t easily trust the parts that require something of me. The parts that demand I give something up- my fear, my walls, my comfort- I don’t trust those parts. I don’t surrender to those pieces because on the other side of His love, His grace, and His forgiveness is my decision to accept it all.

I don’t accept it all. I think I do. I want to. But I don’t. Not for me. Not fully.

Oh I believe it with my whole self for you. But accept it for me? Harder. Much harder.

I don’t mean to but I subconsciously stop the words at the surface. I don’t believe them into the core of everything. I don’t allow them to sink into my roots. So I often stay stuck behind my own self created walls of fire. Walls that, when I get too close to them, burn my skin; and walls that, when you try to step inside them, burn yours too.

“You split the sea so I could walk right through it…”

It’s too easy.

“I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.”

I believe that. Yet I don’t fully feel it or walk it out because ultimately, it’s too free.

Despite all the work I’ve done to learn, I don’t trust what’s outside these walls. I don’t feel safe in that freedom. That ease. So rather than walking through the parted waters, I choose to swim against the tide. Rather than simply climbing the mountains in front of me, I insist on carrying them. Rather than allowing the flames to die out so I can walk over the ashes, I reignite the fire.

I know how to get burned. I know how to struggle.

But total freedom?

I’m not sure how that looks.

I’ve never succeeded at freedom.

The flames keep me safe. The flames keep me guarded.

The music softens their glow so it doesn’t burn my eyes quite as bad as I look at them. Eventually, the flames die out to a low smolder and I escape them.

I bust through them and claim my freedom. I stroll out into that sovereignty; grab a hold of God’s hand and scream, “YES! I made it!” I climb the mountains and walk through the parted seas. I look back at the ashes and light heartedly laugh, “Sayonara!”

But inevitably at some point, I decide that’s too easy and I go back to the flames. I pick the mountain back up and carry it instead of climbing it.

And then I want to complain and whine about it like I didn’t do it to myself.

God never told me to carry the mountains and he never asked me to live in flames.

In fact, he’s done the exact opposite. He gave His son so that I didn’t have to carry any mountains or be burned by any flames.

So why do so many of us choose the hard road as if that’s our only choice? Why does the sting of a flame or the weight of a mountain feel safer than the freedom without it?

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

We wear our burdens like an honor badge; and when God removes them, we find ways to replace them with something else.

We have to stop that. Or at least I do.

So I will keep listening to my music and I will keep allowing it to bathe my spirit in truth so that I can get a happier heart. A heart that stays happy despite anything else. A heart that holds onto joy rather than surrendering it so easily. A heart that believes in the freedoms I’ve been given. A heart that ignites fires of passion and love rather than flames of doubt and fear. A heart that climbs mountains rather than carries them.

What flames are you allowing to burn you?

What mountains are you carrying?

Isn’t it time to lay them down?

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