Colored pencils, water-color paints, and paper were the tactile elements offered to those of us present during a recent Sunday morning service where we were invited to use these items to represent the questions offered for contemplation. We were instructed that we could respond to one of the suggested questions or listen to what God might ask or tell us. Each child and adult chose their art supplies and found just the right place to nestle in and create. As the music played softly questions began to appear on the screen:
”Who do you say that I am?” (from Yahweh)
“Who are you?” (from Yeshua)
“Who does God say you are?”
I sat quietly doodling with colored pencils when my heart once again heard a question that I had been asked by God in May 1999. “Am I enough?”
I don’t know what your typical experience is with God, but it is not normal for me to hear Him speak. I had just completed a three day Wounded Heart Seminar present by Dr. Dan Allender. It was a time of profound wrestling between me and God. I was at war with ambivalence…either completely turn my life upside down by returning to school to earn my bachelor’s degree so that I could then attend graduate school at what was then Mars Hill Graduate School or return home denying that I was at war.
I had a litany of excuses as to why returning to school was absurd and my foot-stomping seemed to be ignored as the nagging desire to do so wouldn’t let up.
I planned to stay in the area and visit with a friend after the conference. We decided to see if we could drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge. I love clouds so the thought of sitting on top of a mountain surrounded by clouds released a surge of excitement and joy that precluded logic.
The roads are challenging to maneuver on a good day but low cloud cover made it extremely dangerous on other days. Upon arrival my friend wandered off to find a place to be alone and reflect and I walked the opposite direction. While sitting in silence I felt numb to the presence of breathtaking beauty. This season of life was filled with a beginning sense of hope, but tragedy seemed greater than hope. I was weary of fighting and honestly there were times I was simply tired of existing. Numb was a comfortably violent place of non-existence.
I don’t know how long I had been sitting when I audibly heard a male voice from behind me ask, “Annette, am I enough?” I jumped up from the bench and frantically began looking around. My friend was nowhere to be seen. The adrenaline surge took my mind to countless disaster filled possibilities borne from stories of my childhood. I wondered if there was a psychopath hiker lurking around to assault me. If there was I knew I was powerless to stop an attack. There was no cell phone service and my friend Margie was nowhere to be seen.
Terror had silenced my voice – another reality that was familiar. I was convinced I was going to die. After a panic-filled exhaustive search of the area parking lot, bathrooms, and snack bar I hesitantly returned to my bench.
As my heartbeat slowed and the dread subsided I settled back onto the bench. Within moments I heard the same voice repeat the question. I refused to get up and look around again. I tried to reason away the voice and its question with the possibility that I had finally snapped under the pressure and was now hearing voices or maybe I was hearing things because of my body hadn’t adjusted to the altitude.
Again, but this time in a very quiet, kind and firm voice that felt like it was sitting next to me came the question, “Annette, am I enough?” My tears spontaneously began flowing down my face. Did I dare tell God the truth which would reveal that my fear was greater than my faith? I no longer had the energy to lie. I shook my head and whispered, “No.” His presence didn’t leave but my tears continued for what felt like days.
I wish I could tell you that I haven’t doubted God one moment since our mountain top conversation of nearly 16 years ago.
What I’ve learned about my patterns of engaging God, life, and others is that when life circumstances bombard and sucker-punch me, or those I love, I often default to my well used patterns of the deceptively other-centered contempt filled lie that Annette is enough; God is not.
The past several months have been filled with one “knock the feet out from underneath me” shattering experience after another for my family and closest friends. Feelings of powerlessness, despair, loneliness, exhaustion, and hopelessness were circling around my heart like a vulture ready to devour. Then precisely at the right time God sat next to me on a comfy red sofa and whispers, “Annette, am I enough?”
Terror did not take me hostage; instead I softened and my response was instant, “Yes, you are more than enough but I am tired and fickle and too quickly forget that I don’t have to be afraid because I know you will never leave me. I’m sorry. But, you might have to remind me again in about 2-minutes.”
I am filled with a sweet gratitude that my Papa never gets tired of me. I want Him to keep asking me the question that brings me back to my breath, to the present…to truth and hope. I long to remember…He is always enough.
Annette Schuster lives in Phoenix AZ. She has 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren. She is passionate about entering into the stories of those have given up hope that God is good and rejoices when they begin to live out their hope-filled dreams. Founder and Executive Director of Kids Need to Know Foundation Inc., she educates parents, children, and leaders of churches on how to reduce the risk of experiencing sexual abuse.