Lower. And Lower Still.

August 12, 2013

Just the other week I sat at our community table drinking highly prized ground coffee and chatting away with the wife of the house parents to us married couples. We were talking through what the last couple months held when I confessed that given the level of activity and never-ceasing noise, “We aren’t at our best here.” It was a simple moment of me being honest and real to the challenges of life and how it was affecting us.

“You’re not supposed to be at your best,” she quickly replied. “It’s not the point. You’re supposed to be at your lowest.

Her reply felt so counter to my ingrained aspirations and yet completely spot on. Instantly, I let out this huge exhale, being pierced by the restful aroma to the words she spoke. Lowest, I thought. Yes. Lowest.

Those words over coffee were like an arrow hitting on target what this African season is purposed for in my journey. This land isn’t teaching me how to be my best, shine my brightest, or catch the eye of those around me. Instead, through moments like this, I am soaking in the richest revelation of my journey’s intended downward direction.


The question I keep asking myself is, what if the trek we are to embark on is not the upward one of more, better, and pull-it-all-together, but the simple one of lower still?

Because maybe best isn’t the prize. Maybe it isn’t about the medallion I strive to earn on my shirt marking me as having arrived, holding it together, or as something special to the world. Maybe the prize to be treasured and worn is the one that says I’m heading lower into the engulfing waters of His deeply lavished love where at my hungriest I am filled, at my meekest I inherit, and at my most dependent, I am empowered.

What does lower look like? It looks something like laying down our lives every day, whether in the offices of huge corporations or in dark regions of the world. It’s where we live understanding life isn’t about us, but about serving something far greater. It’s where we’re dependent on His presence for everything, from healing the blind to loving family members right before us. It’s where we become hungry, humble, and poor in spirit that the fullness of the Kingdom comes.

Lower isn’t less of us. Nor is it about being without purpose, vision, or identity. Lower is restful, surrendered, dependent, and trusting. It’s about pursuing again the simplicity of the gospel and life – love Jesus and love people.


How easy it can be to get caught up in the promise of books, sermons, and tweets that tell me in 5 steps or 3 keys I can succeed and be the best and brightest around. The grandeur of the guaranteed results is alluring, but the return is almost certainly void. Why?

Because Jesus went low. And when He was as low as possible, somehow He journeyed even lower. It was never about Him being the greatest around; it was always about being love. And out of that love, the precious Son was born a baby and dependent on an earthly mother, found washing the feet of those who would betray Him and suffering for those who couldn’t stand Him.

He paved the road, showing the direction to pursue. It’s the journey of more dependence, more trust, more risk, more laid down love for Him. All I am asked to do is follow. And when the moment comes that I think I have clicked into that low place, oh how I pray I will find my journey even lower still.


When was the last time you willingly chose to go low in the moment, whether by the laying down of your life or the pouring out of your love? How could this very day be altered by one simple choice to go a little lower… and maybe even a little slower?

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  • Reply tabitha August 12, 2013 at 7:28 am

    amazing. great post.

    • Reply Caroline August 13, 2013 at 6:00 am

      Thanks Tabitha! So good hearing from you! 🙂

  • Reply Stacy P. August 12, 2013 at 7:46 am

    So beautiful and true. Just what I needed to read today. Thanks, lovely.

    • Reply Caroline August 13, 2013 at 5:59 am

      Miss you, you crazy world traveler!

  • Reply Cindy August 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

    geeze. i really needed this. love you. miss you.

  • Reply Kathryn August 12, 2013 at 8:24 am

    I’ve been a mother for 2 1/2 weeks. If I could choose to have “it” together at any point in my life, it would be now. I would like to have all of the answers, the tricks, and the appearance that I know exactly what I’m doing. Shockingly, that hasn’t quite happened.

    Thank you for sharing. I needed a reminder that, again, I need to give up my control (which I never really had any) and look to God for my strength and direction. I am called to serve the Lord and bring Him glory, and remember that I am a steward of my son, but he belongs to God.

    Thank you again!

    • Reply Caroline August 13, 2013 at 5:58 am

      Thanks, Kathryn! The weight of appearing to have it all together is so tempting to pick up – especially, it seems, when life transitions into a new season. But there’s such a relief when we realize in the new season that we still don’t have to know or do it all. I’m constantly reminding myself of that 🙂

  • Reply Stacey Hughes August 12, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Hey Girl! Oh boy you are preaching to the choir! The 4 months I was in Indonesia were the lowest and darkest ever. And yes both my husband and I were at our worst. And at that time there was no plan or intention of leaving. It was endless hopelessness. In all our sermons and training for the Christian life they forget to teach of the hell you can experience while following Jesus. Because going low sometimes means you don’t eat. Going low sometimes means you won’t get the things your need. Going low means being constantly discouraged. Going low means brutal physical, emotional, and spiritual conditions. And sometimes w/o the feeling of Him! But just like you said Jesus experienced all this. Even at the cross He felt the Father’s silence. Which is the worst of all the pain. So what is the point, obedience, obedience, obedience. For He was obedient even unto death on a cross! The hardest part of being a follower, and still struggling greatly with this! Trusting that He is with me, that He has a plan, that it will work out for good, even in long term situations that can be what feels like never ending hell. But I am learning that is FAITH!!!! All I have to say that is, Lord! Please help my unbelief! I love you sister, and I am so thankful that we are not alone ever in our experiences. May your faith sustain you when and if you are called to go even lower. Praying sister.

    • Reply Caroline August 13, 2013 at 6:03 am

      Stacey, it is so good hearing from you. And you are so right that lower rarely looks pretty, or nice, or fun – it can actually be times of painful growth and unanswered questions. And yet, even in those moments, faith in something so much bigger than what our eyes see sustains us. Love you dearly!

  • Reply Kathy Raybin August 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Downward mobility is something Henri Nouwen talks about…and here you are speaking the same counterintuitive message. Thanks Caroline, we need this encouragement from your heart to ours. Humility and love go hand in hand. From Jesus to us, via YOU!!! He’s using you in beautiful ways. 🙂

    • Reply Caroline August 13, 2013 at 5:55 am

      Thank you, Kathy! It means so much hearing from you!

  • Reply Darci August 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Oh, I love you so much! Thank you for this today! I miss you!

  • Reply Ms Patti August 15, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I read this a few days ago but just now getting to reply! Beautiful blog Caroline!
    I love you!

  • Reply Natalie August 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    I think I’ve reread this every day since you posted it. And now it’s printed and going in my journal.
    I so desperately need to be reminded that it’s NOT about being my best- or worse, THE best- it really truly is about going lower, because if I am strong, then why would I turn to the Lord for strength?
    So. so. good.
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply Jackie G August 21, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and truths with us! I really enjoyed meeting you at harvest and since our meeting I’ve seen so many other WR fam that knows you and thinks you and Mark are as legit as it gets. My entire race felt like what you described and reading it brought me to a place of surrendering again. Thanks!

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