• Dana L. Butler

If you cut me open {on jumping tandem and the tension of weakness}


Opportunities to write, to really write, are few and far between these days and bringing myself to this blank screen feels more intimidating each time. What do I share? What do I leave out? No one has time to read 5,000 words from me today, nor do I have time to write in depth about All Of The Things.

And oh, there are so many things, you guys.

Things about Jumping Tandem; about heart-filling, soul-spilling community and vulnerability with kindred hearts; standing behind my guitar exhausted, raw, with hands trembling and heart gaping; and the hilarity of #epicroadtripshenanigans with the truest group of soul sisters there ever was.

About my beloved church family, how my role as worship pastor continually leaves me poured out in all the hardest and sweetest ways, and how Jesus encounters me in the outpouring as I shakily choose courage in the face of my inadequacy time and again.

About 4th Fridays {speaking of courage}. About how I had no idea that excavating and wrapping words around my depths — the kind of words that are meant to be not only written, but spoken in my own voice — could be such an unexpectedly vulnerable, costly offering. Or that it could make me come so alive.

About motherhood, and how Jesus’ challenge to me is to work out the painful parts of parenting my unique littles one day, one hour, one 5-minute chunk of life at a time, leaning into Him. Gut-wrenchingly aware of my need and my lack and all these huge holes that I so need Him to come and fill.

To come and inhabit.

And the theme that runs and weaves itself through each of these facets of my life is this:

Weakness.

Involuntary, yet embraced. Gaping, yet gift.

My beautiful minivan-friend Alia spoke for one of the breakout sessions at Jumping Tandem, and her offering of words was one forged in brokenness and tears. Crafted out of the kind of gut-wrenching worship that rises from the floor of one crushingly difficult circumstance after another.

I sat and listened, asked Jesus for breath in her lungs while she offered up her depths and her flared up asthma gave her a run for her money. And her every sentence resonated in my core with palpable depth and clarity.

“What if weakness were a spiritual gift? We want God’s strength that’s perfected in weakness but we don’t want to live with that gaping, glaring need.”

And my nodding, nodding, nodding was such a frustratingly tiny way of cheering her on, of demonstrating how her outpouring made my bones just burn.

I’ve thought it over and over again lately — how when my strength is stretched so painfully thin, I have options. I can kick and scream and beg God to take away the discomfort, to change the external circumstances that press me face-to-face with my ugly inadequacy.

Or I can choose willingness to hold this tension — the asking for circumstantial shift while living into the awareness of my need. The prayers and faith steps toward growth while embracing this acute weakness as a gift.

As an invitation.

He beckons me to surrender, to be drawn deeper into His heart.

My friends and I drove west from Jumping Tandem, through Sunday afternoon and into the evening, and I watched the sky begin to darken as night overtook us. I fought the temptation to drive a little slower, to make the time together last longer. Hearts were poured out, stories shared and tenderly held, friendships carved deeper.

At some point during the conversation I found myself, voice shaking, spilling the longing of my soul for Jesus. At any cost. If it means continually living at the utter end of myself. If it means total obscurity. If you cut me open, I told them, I just so desperately burn to know His heart. I want Him.

Jesus plus nothing. It’s Jesus. plus. nothing.

And as my own strength is stretched agonizingly thin, and as I close my eyes and with all my might will my soul to once again choose it — choose to hold this holy tension, choose to live into my need, to grab hold of His garment like the life of my heart depends on it because it absolutely does — thinner too is the curtain that veils my perception of His nearness.

And this heightened sensitivity to His presence and pursuit — it’s the gift that becomes my very life and breath and sustenance.

To quote another dear minivan soul sista, “My perfection and performance are not the goal. His presence is.

Lord, I need you. Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you.

I do.

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