By Lin Wahlen
Brave Women Series - Lin's Story
A recurring way that God seems to “speak” to me these days is through songs. It wasn’t always this way, but these days, it takes little time or effort for me to “hear” God through song lyrics. They touch me deeply and draw me into God’s Word, yielding transformational thoughts and a deep dive into communion with my heavenly Father.
The song Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell was one of the theme songs for my sorority. As I have been hearing it afresh this past decade, instead of seeing it for what it really is, a song between a man and a woman in love, I heard it as if God was singing directly to me, saying that there isn’t anything that could keep Him from me.
But when it comes to Jesus, is that true?
For me, the simple answer has been ‘yes,’ as long as I can remember. When something really awesome happened (a mountaintop moment), I praised God. And when I was scared or sad (a valley low), I cried out to God. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t believe God was real and that he loved me.
While this may sound like praiseworthy childlike faith, my faith did not transition well into the inevitable, and much longer, plains of life. Plains are what I call the mundane of everyday, the not-so-mountaintop or valley-low moments. In my case, most life.
"I can’t remember a time that I didn’t believe God was real and that he loved me. While this may sound like praiseworthy childlike faith, my faith did not transition well into the inevitable, and much longer, plains of life."
I think the unraveling of leading my own life began on my wedding day. This was the day I, unconsciously and idealistically, signed up for the fairy-tale life. I had married my Prince Charming, we were both on fire to follow Jesus, and I looked forward to praising God on all the mountaintop moments! I also told myself that the valley lows wouldn’t be many, because there weren’t many of those in fairy tales. And, I was living life the RIGHT way. So, what really could go wrong?
Not too long after our fantastical honeymoon, the fairy tale began to unravel with a move across the country, multiple job losses and career change, then an unexpected pregnancy (not in my timing!). I was starting to see the truth – that life isn’t a fairy tale in storyline, but more importantly, not in pace.
"I was starting to see the truth – that life isn’t a fairy tale in storyline, but more importantly, not in pace."
There was a long loneliness between mountaintop highs and more valley lows than I anticipated. But I continued to trudge through the muck of the mundane in my own strength. Until I got to the end of my rope. I had literally lost my sense of dependence on God in the long, flat plains of life.
I found myself with three strong-willed kids under age 7, each with individual needs and wants, as well as a husband struggling with depression and anxiety, which led to destructive addictive behavior. I had a chasm of unexpressed grief still unhealed from my upbringing and unmet expectations of the fairy tale family life. Because of the unhealed places in my heart, Satan was able to distort truth and redirect my energy into self-sufficiency, fear, confusion, control, and performance. I kept looking for things to DO differently, better, or more. I checked a lot of boxes in those years, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted.
"Because of the unhealed places in my heart, Satan was able to distort truth and redirect my energy into self-sufficiency, fear, confusion, control, and performance. I kept looking for things to DO differently, better, or more."
My exhaustion culminated when, at age 42, I was admitted to the hospital with the worst headache of my life. It turned out to be blood clots in the veins around my brain, which isn’t a well-known condition because most sufferers either have a stroke or die before diagnosis. At this point, my children were 14, 11 and 7. Certainly, this was a valley-low moment, and I cried out to God.
God began to show me the beauty of walking with him in the plains, inviting all my emotions and thoughts to be unraveled and re-braided with him. The Message version of Matthew 5:3 expressed his message so well to me: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” He is daily, often moment by moment, teaching me to cling onto his robe, and when I do, I see the transformation of thought happen, turning “I-have-to-dos” into “I-get-to-dos.”
I daily and bravely ask the Lord to search my heart by praying Psalm 139:23, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Once I make the effort to intentionally review my thoughts with God, I can make informed choices to either plant those thoughts in my heart or abandon those thoughts and replace them with ones that are based on God’s Word. I’m learning that what I plant in my heart will produce fruit and the life I’m living right now is the fruit of whatever seeds I’ve sown.
"What I plant in my heart will produce fruit and the life I’m living right now is the fruit of whatever seeds I’ve sown."
One benefit I now see of being in the plains of life is that it’s often easier to plant there. The mundane and familiar leaves room for flexibility because we’re usually surrounded by resources, like helpful people, time, and stability.
There is a well-known illustration that presents the gospel as the cross bridging the chasm of sin between man and God. I’m in awe of how similarly the cross bridges the gaps between my mountaintops, valley-lows and plains. The cross fills every gap because Jesus joins me IN the valley, ON the mountaintops and THROUGH the plains. He never leaves! Matthew 28:20b “…and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
"The cross bridges the gaps between my mountaintops, valley-lows and plains. The cross fills every gap because Jesus joins me IN the valley, ON the mountaintops and THROUGH the plains. He never leaves!"
My experiences make up a story, though not a fairytale, and God is teaching me that every part of my story belongs in HIS story. It surely is not majority mountain-highs and minimal valley-lows. But, even when the plains lay out temptations to rely on self-sufficiency or look for meaning in self-led effort and earning, reviewing my thoughts with God reveals a better way, if only to get to the next moment, where grace still awaits me.
"Reviewing my thoughts with God reveals a better way, if only to get to the next moment, where grace still awaits me."
Even as I grow more like Jesus, I still experience difficulties; things I like and don't like; things that are hard; times I am lazy or just not into life; times I rebel, imbibe, rejoice, disengage, embrace, persevere, retreat, rest and overdo. I embrace that I am both growing in Christ and simultaneously still doing human life, and this helps me maintain my sense of dependence on and my confidence in Jesus, who has been and will always be faithful.
"I embrace that I am both growing in Christ and simultaneously still doing human life, and this helps me maintain my sense of dependence on and my confidence in Jesus, who has been and will always be faithful."
When I listen to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and wonder whether it’s really true when it comes to Jesus, my response remains the same. Though now I answer more resoundingly so… YES! Thank you, God.
Brave Woman Manifesto
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Lin Wahlen is a wife to Mark, mom to three young adults (Evan, Jennalin and Maddy), and sidekick to a 3-year-old Havanese doggy named Koty. A lover of words, stories, music and art, Lin aims to inspire joy in people through both written and spoken word, especially other women walking with Jesus. A new favorite quote for Lin is: “Like wax before a fire, my heart has melted under the heat of your love [Jesus].” (The HarperCollins Book of Prayers, Count von Zinzendorf, founder of the Moravian Church) A second “trusted, old-friend” saying is: “My record of getting through hard things is 100%.” (Author unknown)
Her most inspirational Scripture verse currently is Matthew 11:28:30 – “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (NLT)
You can connect with Lin on Facebook or by email email@example.com.