From the Inside Out…

For the majority of my life, I lived from the outside in. The best phrase to describe my mindset was: “Do what you gotta do.” I don’t mean to say that I didn’t work hard, or was constantly looking for the easy way out, I just understood life to be filled with immovable obstacles which must be scaled or hiked around in order to go…. where? Although I had dreams for the future and wanted my life to count for something, I didn’t really know what that “something” was. I didn’t take the time to identify or define my hopes and dreams, because I was busy living life as defined by someone else or by what I perceived I was expected to do.

Finally, somewhere around the age of 43, I began to ask the question, “What do I believe?” In effect,  I began the process of redefining the foundations of my faith and life. Although I have written about this in several other posts, I must again say that I formerly built my life… that is …. how I defined myself… upon an equation: church+family+performance=worth. I judged whether my life had significance by my perceptions of what others thought about me surrounding the issues on the left side of the equation. Eventually, all the outter voices grew silent  as each piece of the left side: church… family… performance… fell with a great crash. And God’s grace took their place while I began the painful process of a personal re-mix.

When we reach the mid-point of  life, we begin to question whether the first part was valuable. Sometimes, a particularly unexpected event can also bring us to a point of redefinition, such as divorce, a job loss, or health crisis. The movie “Up In The Air” makes the point really well.

 George Clooney plays Ryann Bingham. Bingham’s job is to fire people. Companies hire Bingham’s employer to “handle” the process of laying people off when they decide to downsize their employee pool. Ryann meets with each person, delivers the news, and presents a package which will help them transition into new employment. A really, really tough job. But Bingham loves his job, because he gets to travel all over the world and build up his air miles. Bingham always uses the same air carrier, and is awarded additional perks with each milestone he passes. His ultimate goal is to reach the ten million mile mark, which has only been accomlished by one person. However, just as he is on the cusp of reaching his goal, the president of his company decides they can cut costs by going to video conferencing instead of doing person-to-person exit interviews. The president hires a young woman, fresh from an MBA program, who has developed the program he wants to implement. However, because the woman has no real life experience in the field, Ryann’s boss pairs her with him to learn the business.

Natalie Keener, the MBA grad, has developed a program, complete with a script and list of responses to questions offered by the employees being fired.  At the boss’s direction, after only one trip in which Natalie observes Ryann, Bingham is forced to allow her to take the lead in the face-to-face meetings.

Natalie’s first client is a man in his late 40’s to early 50’s. He is sullen, sarcastic, and aggressive. While she tries to read through her script, he interrupts, and she can’t find responses on her list to meet his sarcasm. Finally, he asks, “What am I gonna tell my kids?” Natalie remains silent, intimidated by the man’s question and by her own feelings of empathy for his pain. Bingham takes over:

I finished a book that has been very fundamental to me: “The Gifted Adult.” I find myself going back to it often. I learn something and begin to implement it until, invariably, I get stuck. So I go back to the book. Recently, I have been working on living from the inside out. As Bingham mentioned to the guy getting fired, remembering what we have loved to do in the past can be the path forward. God has designed each of us to love certain things, and mining these loves or passions out of ourselves is a lifelong process. When I look across the span of my life, for instance, certain recurring themes pop up. I have learned that we sometimes need to go to the past in order to go forward. That is what living from the inside out is all about. So I’ve begun to question what my loves are, and to work towards them.

When my son, Baird, was about 5, we went to a small county fair in a little Missouri town. Eventually, we found the carnival and I figured Baird was old enough to ride the Octopus with me. The Octopus  has little egg-shaped capsules in which the riders sit, located at the end of long spidery arms connected to a center pivot. When the ride begins, the arms both spin around the center pivot and go up and down. Since the capsule also freely spins, the combination of movements leads to a chaotic spinning of both the capsule and the equilibrium of the riders.

 The carney in charge of the ride openned the front of the capsule by pulling a pin which allowed the front of the capsule to pivot downward. The capsule nose was partly open, with a couple stairs upon which we crawled up to the seat. As soon as we were sitting down, the carney lifted the front of the capsule, replaced the pin, and sent us spinning in the capsule by giving it a strong shove. As soon as we stopped spinning, I noticed that one of the bars, which protrude part way across the openning in the nose of the capsule, was missing. I didn’t think much about it at the time, other than the thought that repairs needed to be done, and about how much money they actually spent on maintenance. However, as the ride began, I soon realized that we weren’t belted in and that the bar was an important component to keeping the two of us in the capsule!

The ride was wild! Wilder than I remembered it, probably due to the fact that I was trying to hold my 5-year-old son and keep the two of us from flying out of the capsule. Up and down we bounced, all the while spinning. A couple of times, I was sure we were on the verge of flying out of the capsule. As  the ride slowed to a stop, I promised myself that I would NEVER ride another small-town-carnival-that-moves-every-five-days-so-the-fittings-of-each-ride-get-worn-from-constant-set-up-and-tear-down rides in my life. And I never have, either.


There have been several days, weeks, and years where my life felt the same way as my experience on the ride.

Jerked this way and that by forces outside of my control.

Seeing a possible problem, but deciding to “ride it out”…

Watching my kids riding the same forces, and wanting to control their experience, yet knowing I had limited control…

Making promises to myself…

Walking away shaken, tired, and bruised…

Giving away the responsibility of my life to others and relying on them to make decisions for my life…

Feeling like the ball in a pinball machine…

Blaming others rather than taking responsibility for past decisions…


I am learning new ways of living. I am taking tentative steps in the process of living from the inside out! Two key components of which are:

My daily interactions with God. I am experiencing the reality of living every day as if it were an ongoing conversation with God. I am learning of the transparency of my life to God. Nothing hidden, because it cannot be. What is so cool about that is, I am aware of God’s grace constantly. That awareness is very freeing. Kind of a return to Pre-serpent Eden in a relational sense.

Secondly, as I walk through life with God, I discover how I am designed. He doesn’t TELL me what I love and am gifted in, He allows me the joy of discovering myself. Sometimes I am surprised when I find something that piques my interest. My mind keeps coming back to it, and I am perplexed because I never really cared about it in the past. So I go on this mini-adventure of self-discovery, and it’s cool! Invariably, I come across someone else with the same interest, we talk, my interest grows, and I meet a new friend! Very cool!

I must confess that living from the outside in for so many years has helped me become extremely adaptable. In fact, it is now one of my strengths. And being adaptable can be quite handy at times, but I want to learn to use it while living in my sweet spot.

That’s how I want to live the last part of my life….


One thought on “From the Inside Out…

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