The Leveling Place


It’s flattering when someone asks you for advice.

It’s terrifying when you remember that you have none.

Not long ago, a friend invited me to coffee so I could share any wisdom I might have about teen anxiety and depression. It was a reasonable request, for she knows I have lived that roller coaster. I’ve also read books and tried strategies. “Surely, I can offer some help,” I thought.

So, as my friend’s question floated across the tops of our steamy mugs, “What do you think we should do about our son?”, we both expected more than what came out of my mouth…

“Um… I don’t know.”

My friend stared at me through awkward silence with a puzzled look and a forced smile while I tried to hide my panic…

Did God really bring me through this horrific valley but deny me the opportunity to help someone else from it? Is pain my only party favor? Can’t I at least claim to be an expert on brokenness?

We finished our coffee and stumbled through some brainstorming together. Finally, she hugged me good-bye and offered thanks, but I knew she was disappointed. I felt embarrassed, cheated, and a little angry.

I’ve had other conversations with advice-seeking folks. In some, I scrambled for words to make me seem legit. In others, I played the “it’s too soon” card and bought more time. In all of them, the truth was lurking…

I understand your pain, but I can’t help you.

I’ve lived your struggle, but don’t know what you should do.

I’ve got a story, but I’m not an expert.

What a rip-off.

Then I wonder where I went wrong. Did I miss the lessons I was supposed to learn? Am I simply not the “expert” type? Am I not smart enough to glean from my own experience?

Can’t God use me? The questions are terrifying.

Sometimes, many times, fear brings you to God.

And in my scariest questions, I’ve found Him.

I feel the heat and shift my weight just as He reminds me to remove my sandals in humility.

The shame and sense of entitlement immediately fade and all I can say is “Here I am, Lord.”

I’m here with my story. I’m here with my bended knee and your will. I’m here with nothing but your grace and my gratitude.

Because here, the bush is on fire, but does not burn. From here comes light, warmth, and wonder, but not destruction.

Here, there are no experts.

And here, in this forgiving fire, He graciously explains Himself:

“I am who I am.”

And it’s the only thing from my story worth sharing.

Because when we bend our knee in our moments of fear, uncertainty, and unknowing, we’ll find the right questions and Wisdom Himself.

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Genesis 3:15

So, let’s have coffee. I won’t claim to know the way, because how I got here is really none of my business. Nor will it be yours.

But as long as we’re here, let’s kick off our sandals and rest by the fire together.

Trust me, it will be enough. That I know from experience.


photo credit: Alex Holt

2 thoughts on “The Leveling Place

  1. Michele Morin May 6, 2016 / 11:33 am

    Thank you for not being an “expert,” for not pretending, for not coming up with four spiffy points to hand out so that you could protect yourself from the fire. I love the image of sitting beside the fire – not in fear, but in fellowship and comfort.


  2. Anita Ojeda May 21, 2016 / 12:50 pm

    I love you, Karen :). I fall prey to the ‘been there, done that, now I’m an expert trap.’ Your response was perfect. Brainstorming. Coming alongside. Deep down, I think people know how to solve their problems and which direction they should take–they just need someone to listen to them work it out. I’m learning this–slowly.


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