Saturday, September 25, 2010

Up in the Air

Sometimes, God just picks you up and sets you back down in a place you never thought you’d find yourself in a million years. I’m sitting in one of those places right now.

As I type this, I am thousands of feet in the air, flying out of Springfield, Missouri after an AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) conference. And, as I type this, I am sitting two feet away (literally; it’s a VERY small plane) from Dr. John Townsend – THE Dr. John Townsend, of Cloud & Townsend, the esteemed team who have given us such Christian counseling classics as Boundaries and Changes that Heal. If I were the gushing type (I’m really trying to curb it), I could have started telling him how his books have changed my life, have challenged me, have gotten thrown across therapists’ offices when I felt they asked me to do impossible things. Instead, I sat beside him awhile, politely waiting for him to wake up when we hit turbulence.

After a few moments, I heard a soft voice from across the aisle. “Did you enjoy the conference?”

I smiled. “Yes, very much, thank you.” What ensued was a brief conversation about the events of the weekend, his books, my book, mutual acquaintances in the recovery world. He extended his hand and officially introduced himself to me. “John Townsend,” he said, as if I didn’t know. He did not say “Doctor” John Townsend.

We agreed to exchange books once we deplaned, and then he went back to his iPad and I pulled out my laptop to work. Because, when all was said and done, he wasn’t some acclaimed psychology guru and I wasn’t some newbie to the field. We were just two people on an airplane.

I love God’s way of leveling the playing field and reminding us all of who we are – His servants, His creations, His vessels, His tools, His voice, His instruments. Common thread here: We are His. We can do nothing apart from Him, and yet we can do “all things” through Him (Philippians 4:13). And He doesn’t seem all that concerned with our lack of credentials – nor does he seem all that impressed with the ones we may have.

Don’t get me wrong: I'd like some credentials. If I had fancy degree, I might just hold it in my hands a while, rubbing its fiber between my fingers just for the sake of feeling it, of grasping it. And that, presumably, is why God hasn’t yet provided a way for me to start my journey back to school. It means too much to me -- or, rather, it means the wrong thing to me. It means significance, and He never intended me to get my significance from a piece of paper.

John Townsend is a wonderful man of God. He is an excellent speaker, a prolific writer, and no doubt a gifted clinician. And yet God has the audacity to ask me to believe that I am every bit as significant as he is. And why? Because of the cross. Simple as that.

I think it’s probably a good thing, actually –my lack of a title at this point in time. Booksignings can get a little heady; everyone gushes and tells you how wonderful you are because you turned something ugly into something that can help people. This is, then, your cue to politely counter that only God Himself can take something ugly and make it beautiful and that you are just grateful to be on His anvil. And it works, telling people that – because it reminds you, each and every time, that it is absolutely true.

I am nothing without God – His hand upon me, His life within me, His words on my tongue and at my fingertips. “Oh, but you’re talented,” people will counter, and I will want to argue, “Please. I’m a college dropout. I’m winging it here.” But instead I say, “Thank you; that’s very kind of you to say.” Because I’m learning, see. I’m following after God like a puppy dog and watching intently as He shows me who I am because of Him, and why it’s okay to take a compliment once in a while, even if I’m not Dr. John Townsend.

So, John and I (he said I could call him John; I asked) shared a bit more conversation before the plane landed; we talked about the role of blogging and social media in the context of writing. And again, we were colleagues, equals -- just two people trying to navigate the waters of public ministry, wanting to do it right.

When I catch glimpses of it, I really dig God’s perspective on things. It takes the pressure off. He looks at you and at me and sees potential. And promise. And hope. Unwritten words, unsung songs, uninvented ideas. Unreached hearts, even. He doesn’t look at what we haven’t yet attained or accomplished, but at what He intends to accomplish through our lives.

And rest assured –He will accomplish His purpose. One way or another. Whether we are bestselling authors and keynote speakers or college dropouts recovering from inferiority complexes. And when we get out of our own way long enough to listen, He will speak.
Even at 30,000 feet.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Will I ever cease to be amazed and delighted by your gift with words?? I doubt it. . . Praise God from whom all gifts flow, for sure. . . :-)

  3. Beautifully written, Jenna. You do have a gift and I thank God you are using it for Him.

  4. I am so touched by your writing. I am a writer as well. I fought for my life against anorexia for 16 years. I still have to listen daily to the Holy Spirit's counsel on the simplest things like moderate exercise, being still and keeping productivity in perspective AND upcoming holidays.

    I hope to write my memoir someday. I am just now picking up your book in hopes of finding some guidance and ideas. There are not many books out there about recovery that give Jesus Christ all the credit.

    If you have time, please write me back. I would love to talk briefly. God bless you. Abby Kelly

  5. This is a neat story! I'd like to meet Dr. Townsend. I have one or two of his books. He's good.

    Linked here frm FB. If you get a chance, please visit Family Fountain.