Up ‘Til Now, Deborah Ann Custer

This song stems from the meanderings of of my thought life, where I would find myself lusting after the past for one reason or another. Obviously, this is an unhealthy practice to give in to for long periods of time, so I began to break down why a person could fall into this type of a mental trap. The song brings my thought patterns full circle into alignment with Kingdom perspective.

I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.
Philippians 4:11

“I am the Lord you God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.”
Isaiah 48:17, NLT

I suppose there are many of us who, at times in our lives, have questioned whether or not we took the right path. The varying degrees of this thought pattern are multifaceted and can range from “I wish I would have done such and such a thing” to “Where would I be if I had made this choice?” We treat our life as if it’s a cosmic “Choose Your Own Adventure,” forgetting about the variables that surrounded us at that time, variables that most certainly swayed us one way or another.

This type of mentality can really stall momentum; we can be frozen into inactivity through various unhealthy means. Let’s identify just a handful of those mental traps. 

1) I can easily fall into the trap of a belief that tells me “it’s already been done, so no need to reinvent the wheel; no need to do that, write that, share that, go there, grow there, or speak out.”

2) Another variable that freezes a person’s momentum is comparing ourselves to others. “I could never do that; I can’t do it like so-and-so; She’s so talented; God’s hand is really on her life!” 

3) Yet another show-stopper is cynicism, which is the sour fruit of resentment and bitterness. Unless acknowledged and released in a healthy way, cynicism will rob us of joy and put a damper on our relationships with others, if not eventually destroy them. 

4) Finally, perfectionism can play its trump card and put a stop to productivity. As a well-known adage says, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

  1. Fear
  2. Jealousy
  3. Unforgiveness
  4. Perfectionism     

We must place our faith in the truth that Jesus would not lead us wrong. When we fix our faith eyes on Him, looking to the will of God for our lives, we’ll stay on course. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I’ve boiled down the above fallacies to the following:

Fear. I never shared my writing with anyone. I never talked about it with anyone; I didn’t even talk about writing to myself. It was just something I personally pursued in my private life to help me process life. I was a wallflower writer, feeling like I was part of the writer groupies, only they didn’t know it. Back in my college days, I would create my own cards for my friends and write encouraging, prose-like notes, after which my friend Kimmy exclaimed to me, “You should write a book!” I tucked that kind gesture away in my soul, guarding it for over twenty years, until my dear friend Cherie came to me on a spiritual hunch, asking me if I had ever thought about writing. My first response was (insert gasp here), “How did you find out!?” And then my soul rejoiced with the thought of me possibly having something worthwhile to share with others through my written words. It took a bit of a paradigm shift within my soul. If I have aligned myself with God, then I must trust that I hear His voice. He has given me a sphere of influence that I alone have unique insight to and presence to engage with. The purpose of influence isn’t to lord it over others, but it is to acknowledge with right thinking and sober judgment that I have kingdom authority to impact those around me. As I was listening to a writing podcast the other day, it struck me when one of the hosts mentioned “You may think you don’t have anything new to offer, but there is always room for one more voice.”

Jealousy. Bill Johnson’s books have mentored me through the process of healing various layers in my soul. In his book Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, he helped me see that jealousy can masquerade as discernment. I want any wrong thinking exposed so that I am not stuck in my own opinions, but have in mind the obvious position of His heart. If I am monitoring my inner world well, then I will recognize the opportunity to die when someone else is promoted where I think I should have been promoted. In addition, I want to build my spiritual muscles so that I have the strength to look past the offense of rejection and rally myself when I’m tempted to feel offended by another person.

“Nothing so hinders us in what we are doing
as to be longing after something else;
in so doing, we leave off tilling our own field,
to drive the ploughing through our neighbor’s land,
where we must not look to reap a harvest;
and this is mere waste of time.
If our thoughts and hopes are elsewhere,
it is impossible for us to set our faces
steadily towards the work required of us.”
St. Francis de Sales

Unforgiveness. We live in an imperfect world with people who are not perfect. If I insist for too long on holding onto the baggage of unforgiveness, walking through life offended, I’ve missed the point. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 19:11, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (NIV). “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (NKJV). I would definitely like to be known as a woman who walks in wisdom and with grace.

Perfectionism. Ever since Baby #1 came along, I’ve likened myself to that of a “recovering perfectionist.” It just serves as a reminder that I am a work in progress, and I’d rather my days are “peopled” with happy memories than consumed with perfection, making sure my house is “just so” or being stressed because of unfinished chores. Perfection steals from being present with people. This concept has carried over into my writing. It seems I’ve always been writing; I can distinctly remember my first journal given to me by my mom for Christmas, and it’s in my journal collection in an old, vintage suitcase. As I’ve taken the plunge to share my writing, I’ve had to acknowledge the areas where perfectionism creeps in, coercing me to rewrite something until it is “just right.” Same lie. It has to be “just so” or “just right.” In his message “Worship in All Seasons,” Bill Johnson exhorts us that “If we were willing to be less perfect, we’d become more perfect. Perfection is religion; excellence is kingdom. Don’t do things to market it…In the moment the breath of God is on that phrase.” He encourages his concerning small beginnings, that when we “give honor to things in their infant stages, we will see more things grow to maturity, [just like Zechariah 4:10] says, not to despise the day of small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see a work begin.” If we waited to move for the day we arrived at Perfection, we would not accomplish anything, like the man who buried his talent. Allow the Holy Spirit to move in the midst of your imperfect frame.

Just as God leads me I would go ;
I would not ask to choose my way;
Content with what He will bestow,
Assured He will not let me stray.
So as He leads, my path I make,
And step by step I gladly take,
A child in Him confiding.
Lampertus Gedicke

Forgive us, Lord, our little faith;
And help us all, from morn ‘til e’en,
Still to believe that lot the best
Which is, —not that which might have been.
George Zabriskie Gray

I am here, Here in this place,
Where You’ve brought me to up ‘til now.

There, in this picture, I am so happy,
Surrounded by smiling faces of children overseas.
Why can’t I be there now, and escape all this present unease?
What if I had gone back to serve those less fortunate than me?
What if I had given my all, believing your call was on my life?

But I am here, Here in this place,
Where You’ve brought me to up ‘til now.

There—in the corner of my memory—
I can see it now, where I served the Lord.
I heard Him clear as day telling me what to do
And I gave everything to follow through.

But I am here, Here in this place,
Where You’ve brought me to up ‘til now.

Over there—my friend is over there
Look what they’re doing for the Lord.
I’d like to follow their story, but I have my own to tell
Of what God’s done for me through it all.

Because I am here, I’m not over there any more
Surrounded by more smiling faces who He’s given me to serve
To be the hands and feet of Jesus
Here—not there—It’s where I am on my journey
Up ‘til now.

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