Last week, we talked about the need to let our hearts break for a person, place, or problem, and how empathy can help us engage with great need. But often, when we stop avoiding hard things to finally feel for others, we can easily trade our overstimulation for overwhelm. We may care more deeply now, but still find ourselves paralyzed in front of the seemingly unconquerable problem. It can be hard to get a clear vision for next steps when our spiritual eyes are blurry with sadness, fear, or anger.
In The Yes Effect Book Club this week, we’re considering Invitation 3: Fix Your Eyes, which helps us “…acknowledge that the very problems we want to tackle could very well tackle us if we don’t look at them with the right perspective. The only way to get a proper look is to do what is counterintuitive: close our eyes…. If we want to see true transformation in the world, we must see the need in front of us through the filter of God’s wisdom.” The only way to see rightly is to fix our eyes on Jesus.
Today, I’m honored to have Tara Dickson share with us about her journey as a recent widow, and how God has been leading her step by step in this new beginning, reminding her daily to “Lift up your eyes.” Another author friend, Dorothy Greco, called The Yes Effect, “a shot of B12 for my prayer life.” My hope is that, as you read Tara’s reflection below and immerse yourself in the stories of fervent prayer in chapter 3 of The Yes Effect, you’ll deepen your prayer life and discover a clear vision for comforting the world around you.
By Tara Dickson
When my husband Alan went home to Jesus after a 14-month battle with glioblastoma brain cancer, it looked like the end of something to those around us. But in a very real way it was a beginning.
While Alan was here, fighting the disease, we knew our life had been altered forever. On some days, he seemed much the same as always. But as time advanced, the disease took more of his abilities. Still, we had his hand to hold and his face to kiss. The children soaked up his presence by sitting by his side, curling up next to him on the bed, or combing his hair. This is not what 46 should have looked like. But it did.
When he exhaled earth and inhaled Heaven, the only thing that ended was the disease. It did not mean the end of Alan. That transition was the beginning of eternity for Alan, and the beginning of something else for my children and me.
We weren’t sure quite what that beginning was leading to, but the Lord spoke very clearly to our hearts in the days that followed. Through prayer and scripture, God called us away to start life over in another state, a peaceful place of rolling green pastures and quiet waters. I sensed God telling me to rest and heal and write and trust Him to connect us to more of his people.
When I got to the prayer chapter of The Yes Effect, “Invitation 3: Fix Your Eyes,” I knew the people in this book were my people. These were people who follow the urging of Isaiah 30:15, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.” I knew the Lord was calling me to follow the example of these brothers and sisters in faraway places, to listen to Him with the same attentiveness, and to live out my faith with the same quiet dependence on Him.
As I thought on these many months without Alan and what may be ahead, the words in chapter 3 affirmed, ”To move forward in a healthy way, we must take a breather from the chaos around us–not to ignore it or insulate ourselves, but rather to process it with the Lord. With knowledge of the complicated issues around us, we choose to rest in and trust God.”
It wasn’t long into the first year after Alan’s passing that the Lord began to impress a phrase upon my heart: “Lift Up Your Eyes.” It was a gentle reminder to daily let God reframe my perspective, to shift my heart from my place of temporary vision to an eternal one. It helped me to not dwell on all the things that looked shattered around me but to fix my gaze upon the master craftsman who was already taking those broken pieces and filing off the rough edges for the new thing He is fashioning for His glory.
The Yes Effect tells the story of Father Sama’an, a follower of Jesus in Cairo’s Garbage City who decided to look up past the mountains of garbage that lay scattered as far as his eyes could see. In looking up, he was reminded of a miracle centuries earlier that took place when God’s people lifted their eyes from the troubles of the world and placed their attention on the Lord in prayer.
Father Sama’an was still overwhelmed by the great need in front of him, but the testimony of what had happened there centuries earlier challenged him to pray. That spirit of prayer broke him free from thoughts of the overwhelming situation and moved him to action. I loved this quote: “Whatever the physical or spiritual landscape around us looks like, God wants us to pray and allow Him to comfort us, counsel us, and give us a vision for the situation around us. He wants us to pray because our ministry is more than tasks and to-do lists. He wants us to pray so that our work flows from our relationship with our tender, nurturing God whose will is to redeem all creation.”
“Lift up your eyes.” It was a gentle reminder to daily let God reframe my perspective, to shift my heart from my place of temporary vision to an eternal one. It helped me to not dwell on all the things that looked shattered around me but to fix my gaze upon the master craftsman who was already taking those broken pieces and filing off the rough edges for the new thing He is fashioning for His glory.
– Tara Dickson
After my year of resting and writing, the Lord began shaping a new calling for me and for my children. God nudged me to declare hope to women (through blogging and Instagram) and to children through stories He had laid on my heart years before. When my kids were young, I had been overwhelmed by the things I saw the world teaching our children. I longed for a way to speak truth to them through story. The Lord placed a special little idea on my heart when my children were small, but I had yet to capture it on paper.
In recent months, I’ve followed step by step as I feel the Lord lead. In those small yeses, I’ve learned how to write a book proposal, pitch to an agent, and so much more. In quietness and trust, He is giving me the strength and opportunity to share what He has put in my heart.
In this time of grief, I have seen God at work in my children, too. God spoke to my older son again and again about the importance of prayer in hearing His voice. Out of those times of prayer came a major shift in life direction. Expectations, others’ opinions, the world’s view of success–my son laid it all on the altar until, like Iman Santoso in chapter 3, he turned from his studies in medicine to theology.
My younger son sought the Lord about direction and saw himself in a dream, in uniform, leading soldiers to Christ. Up to that point, he had not been a big dreamer, but he knew this was from God. He is now a Marine, encountering opposition for his faith daily, and holding fast to God’s Word. My older daughter and her husband have recently been called to the West Coast to serve in a church through music ministry.
My youngest daughter, still in high school, has been called deeper into God’s presence on a daily basis. She spends her days serving those of us around her and growing in the knowledge of God’s Word.
Time and space won’t allow me to share all the twists and turns as God has been leading each of us through. We are people filled with flaws and weaknesses, but this is our testimony. This is what God does with broken hearts and sad situations when we fix our gaze upon Him, press into His heart, and say yes to his callings.
Reading The Yes Effect has led me deeper into something I felt God speaking to me years ago–this idea of letting the love of God move us to action. I knew that in order to do this I would need a passion beyond myself. So, I got serious last week about praying for this.
One afternoon I wrote on my blog about asking God to break our hearts for what breaks his. As I wrote, I began to feel tired and laid my laptop aside so I could rest. While I slept, I had a dream. In my dream, I was being treated unjustly. This made me feel sad, hurt, and defensive. I wanted people to know the thing being said of me wasn’t true. Then, my dream changed. I watched as a woman’s family member treated her unjustly and threatened her life on account of her faith in Jesus. My heart broke. I wept and sobbed in my dream as if the injustice and danger were happening to myself. When I woke up my body felt the after effects of a long crying session and I knew God was answering my prayer to break my heart for what breaks His.
This is new territory for me. I have never experienced anything like this before. And somehow I believe God has simply been waiting for me to “ask”.
He longs to work in and through us, dear ones. He wants to turn our endings into new beginnings. He wants us to say yes in spite of the pain and weakness we carry so we know it was Jesus all along.
Tara Dickson’s writing will help you “Lift up your eyes,” no matter what you’re going through. Her husband, Alan, met his Savior sooner than expected after a one year battle with brain cancer. Before that, their days were filled with homeschooling, farm living, soccer, karate, football, music, and the Word of God. Now, in a new beginning, Tara shares both the vulnerability and hope of her experience at TaraDickson.com.and on Instagram. She is mother to four and “Nana” to two.