By Ingrid B. Skarstad Williams
Banners emblazoned the church entrance: Life 2.0 — a new ministry series. The simple title sparked my expectation! Being a big of a girl geek, I liked the 2.0 reference. Web 2.0 was a big deal then! The Internet had transformed from static information to an interactive explosion of possibilities. My life was on the cusp of such a transformation as well.
Messages shared here were always markers of God’s kindness. His love repeatedly reached me with words from a loving pastor that laser-beamed into my bruised life. And yet this one felt different—even more powerful, as if hope within had already awakened to it. Maybe it was because I no longer held God at arm’s length? Maybe it was because I was already anticipating change now that my life was actively being renovated—this time with God’s blueprint? Or maybe it was because . . .
I interrupted my own thoughts to greet the pastor, “I’m excited about the new series!” His eyes danced as he asked, “Did you recognize it?” I paused to think. He prompted, “The title?” My puzzled look spurred him on, “You inspired it! Life 2.0!” Still blank, I laughed, “I did?” He referenced a conversation where I used the phrase “Life 2.0” and it stuck—at least in his mind. I had completely forgotten!
Months prior, my fiancé and I sought out yet another round of counsel. We shared a deep love, but had trouble moving from engagement to marriage. The first round of many followed a series on marriage in which he made an offer: any couples living together could “make it official” and be married at the end of the month, just schedule an appointment. We did, and it shocked our pastor! When we arrived, he closed the door and laughed as he shared his surprise. He thought we were already married! We had been attending the church together for many years. Both of us were professionals in key positions, so he assumed our differing last names were on trend with career decisions—especially for second marriages. Besides, we just seemed married.
In our hearts, we probably were. The first wedding we planned ended up being premature, so our pre-paid getaway was more of a secret vacation with unofficial vows witnessed by the bed and breakfast officiant in their chapel in the woods. Our intention was to make those vows official as soon as we could.
Intentions. In retrospect, the word makes my spine shiver. We had banked on intentions for years. As a result, our lives were envious on the outside but embarrassing messes behind the scenes. Since we were “living in sin” anyway, we opened the door to more sin, always thinking we would make everything right later—when we were married. In the meantime, we kept silent. For me the silence meant no real friendships, no involvement at church, just “safe” places where my personal life wouldn’t come into question.
Whenever my desire rose up strong to reconcile my ways with God’s ways, I would pacify it with, “It’s temporary. One day . . .” Any number of fill-in-the-blank sentences would follow. “When _____ happens, we can finally _____. As soon as _____ is over, we can talk about _____. And when my kids _____, it will be easier to _____.” True to the nature of blanks, most of those sentences remained empty. My faux optimism was a cover-up for the true repentance I needed.
We landed in our pastor’s office more than once. We would make progress, then stall. Finally the time for a turn-around decision came. I could no longer soothe myself into a rosy future. I needed to make things right with God—either with my fiancé-turned-husband or on my own. When we met with our pastor for the last time, it had become clear that the hurdle my fiancé couldn’t clear was fear he could not be a father to my kids and we would be driven apart.
The kindness of my pastor still brings tears as I remember that session. With wisdom and compassion, he helped us plan our break up. We still loved one another deeply. We were not angry. The plan even had room for getting back together. But we never did reunite. Instead we navigated through the pain of dissolving bonds our eight-year friendship and romance had built.
At first I found the reconciliation with God exhilarating. It outweighed grief. It energized transitions. Life-altering change on a massive scale wasn’t new, but it previously was not brought on by choice. Years earlier, my former husband and ministry partner of thirteen years was discovered to be a pedophile. It rocked every fiber of the life I thought I knew. I became a single parent, and due to the nature of the discovery, my children became “fatherless” for quite some time. We made hard decisions. We got help. We moved forward.
But this time? I initiated my own recalibration. Nothing was left untouched. I had embarked upon Life 2.0 with my youngest child under my wing and God by my side. I didn’t know we would encounter more strenuous challenges than we faced before, but I did know that being right with God was more valuable than anything—and I was right. Did I make mistakes? Of course. I made some doozies! But I came through on the other side. Now I am in a place of restoration. Dreams I didn’t even know I had are coming to life. Peace is a daily pleasure. And this adventure with God is one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
What does this mean for you, dear reader? You may be thinking, “Who cares!” Believe me, I’ve already thought of that. If you’ve read this far, I’ve already agonized over what your thoughts may be. So let me switch gears and speak directly to you for a moment.
Do you have God on pause? Do you hold Him at arm’s length in some areas? Are you already facing overwhelming circumstances? You may need your own Life 2.0 renovation! Maybe things are pretty steady, but you could have Career 2.0 or Parent 2.0 on the horizon. I’m here to encourage you to take the plunge—now. Yes, now!
Here are four simple things you can do today, the same anchors that held me through extreme change and help me thrive in Life 2.0:
Pay attention. There was a time I wasn’t so sure I could hear God’s voice. I decided to practice on myself by paying attention to my own inner self. I was stunned! God was in me to a much greater degree than I had imagined. I just needed to be aware.
Follow peace. God leads with peace. Even when chaos surrounds you, in your heart there will be peace as you make decisions and move forward. Follow it!
Trust God. I have reasoned my way into trouble—sometimes thinking I was doing the right thing! If I had recognized God’s nudges, I could have avoided tragedies.
Stay humble. This is packed with several elements. Repent quickly. Forgive often. Be full of grace and mercy—not just for yourself, but for others too.
I leave you, dear reader, with my prayers. If you have stuck with me to the end, know that I have prayed Proverbs 3:5–10 for you. May you find the 2.0s in every area of your life where you crave change.
Proverbs 3:5–10 (TPT)
5 Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make.
6 Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all,
7 for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided
devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.
8 Then you will find the healing refreshment your body and spirit long for.
9 Glorify God with all your wealth, honoring him with your very best, with every increase that comes to you.
10 Then every dimension of your life will overflow with blessings from an uncontainable source of inner joy!