Mercy Hope: I want to flash to the past real quick and bring us up to the present at the same time. I was just thinking back to some of your classic songs like, “Find Me,” “The Hunger Stays,” “Stay Close To Me,” and “This Is My Passion.” The passion that came through in those songs really lit a fire in me and helped stir a deep desire to pursue Jesus more passionately and know Him more intimately. Now my question is, how do you keep “this flame” alive?
Margaret Becker: You start with the hard questions! I think different points in your maturity – as you’re maturing as an adult – you have different emphases and at that point in my life the emphasis was to figure out how to continue to be actively – in the way that I understood it – pursuant of God. What I can tell you looking back, from here to there, is that that active pursuance takes on different forms. It’s kind of like when you start out riding a bike without the training wheels, and then before you know it you’re on a ten-speed, and then you’re on a mountain bike, or on a unicycle. Whatever it is, it’s like you get different levels of difficulty and different levels of skill.
For me right now I think, for example, a song like, “The Hunger Stays” or “Find Me” – both of which addressed having an ongoing pursuance of God – would be expressed now in my life just trying to understand, on a deeper level, what I am to do with this life – against all the odds. I understood then what I needed to do with my life, I just didn’t want to get off track. Now I’m on a new thing here where it’s not as much about that as it is, “Help me to sense You so I stay on track, but help me to sense You so I also pursue the things You want me to pursue and do the things You want me to do.” It’s more mellow in a sense. It’s still from the same seed, but it’s a lot more subtle, and mellow as you get older.
Mercy Hope: In your book, Coming Up For Air, it sounds like you are finding more confidence, and that you are more comfortable to just relax and enjoy God’s Presence, and that He shows up in different ways than you expected.
Margaret Becker: Absolutely. I think it’s so interesting how for a time in my life it was almost like I felt like I had to be perfect for everything. That is part of what comes with a very public career. You have to be perfect in every way that you possibly can. To the point where I was afraid to go to the grocery store in case I might run into somebody, and they might criticize what I was buying, or how I looked in my sweats, or whatever. It was interesting how that actually got within my soul and went to deeper areas – it didn’t start that way, but it definitely wound up there.
Turning thirty was a big thing. Turning forty was incredible. People talk about how you aren’t afraid anymore to speak your mind, and that definitely happened to me. Where I was like, I’m not trying to hurt people’s feelings, but I don’t have to make everybody happy either.
I am committed to a small segment of community and I’ve got to be faithful to that community, but I’m also not obligated to make everyone’s life better. In fact that would be sin, honestly, because that would be usurping God’s authority. He wants to make everyone’s life better, so that was a key thing.
Mercy Hope: In Coming Up for Air you mention in that you have had times where you battled insecurity. Initially, that would be a real surprise, but that has actually been one of my biggest challenges. Is that something that you still battle, or is that something that you found a key and overcame it and it’s now a thing of the past?
Margaret Becker: I haven’t necessarily overcome it, but I think I’ve made peace with it. I think there is s difference. I didn’t beat it into the ground, but I basically said, “You stay over there, and I’ll stay over here. Just stay on your side!” It’s more or less just realizing that there are things that you can control in life, and there are things you can’t control in life and you have to find your peace with what you can’t control. For me I have really struggled, I would say within the last four or five years, to come to grips with what I can’t control and to allow it to be, because the things we can’t control shape us. Whether they are God-induced or God-allowed I do believe they shape us – and for me that shaping has been in just going, “it is what it is and I’m doing the best I can and I’m not going to measure myself be someone else’s standards. I am going to measure myself by the standards that God set for me.”
Mercy Hope: What is it that you want people to come away with after reading, Coming Up For Air?
Margaret Becker: I think it would be: to take great trouble to unearth what God is doing in your life and take great pains to understand how He uniquely created you to be. How you were uniquely designed to function in this world, at this time, in this culture, and then to be very loyal to that calling whether it is something that is very recognized by other people and very visible or whether it is something very small, apparently, on the scale of how other people measure but to understand what you are to do, and to do it with all your heart – to not do things because they’re easy, or because people praise you for it, or because it something that you’re used to doing, but because it is exactly what you believe God is calling you to do – to be brave in that. Be brave because Jesus Himself was a little bit of a rebel when He was here, and He was brave to do things that made everybody mad, including the most religious people of the day. I love that. We don’t emphasize that enough – we really don’t. We look at all the rules and edicts but we don’t look at Him as a character. He understood what His calling was, and He would not be waylaid. He would not be pulled aside by either good intentions or bad intentions. What a great thing to be able to strive for in your own life!
The book is the type of thing that everyone could benefit from. Honestly, I’ve never said this about anything I’ve ever done, but I think if you read the book, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll relate to it on some level no matter who you are. It’s laughter. It’s tears. It’s just real life. We got a great review in Publishers Weekly this week that basically said, and it did single out women, but it said “women of all ages will benefit from this book.” It was a really great review and it didn’t say, “Christian women,” it didn’t say, “women of faith,” it said “women of all ages” and that is my hope that someone who is hungry or thirsty and looking for a spiritual center will consider Christ, because I know if they will consider Christ, He’ll do the rest.
Mercy Hope: What are you doing right now in conjunction with this book?
Margaret Becker: Right now I am doing these, what I call, “get-a-ways.” I don’t call them retreats because retreats to me communicates all things early, and bad food, and stuffy rooms and things like that. (laughs) So I’m calling mine “get-a-ways” because they’ll take place in clean sheets, and good food, and you can come over around 10:00 in the morning. I will do them in interesting places. I want to do one at the beach – I want to really pull people out of their environment and put them in nice environments to consider aligning your life according to what God has called you to to the degree that it allows you to say yes and no properly without guilt, to be able to say no to things, and even though they are great things, and lovely things and you COULD do them that you are not always supposed to do them.
In the book I talk also about creating space in your life, so that you can sense God moving around you and you can sense where God wants you to interact in simple things like holding your mother’s hand, or getting involved in a young persons life, and when I say that I mean like a pre-teen. I think if all Christians would get involved with the pre-teen, as the person outside of the family, who can be the go-to person and be the confidant and be sort of like the non-threatening adult – I think our whole argument about abortion, and pre-marital sex, all that stuff would take a little bit of a hit because instead of saying, “You shouldn’t … you shouldn’t … you shouldn’t …” if we go and start befriending people and start being the people they can look to and help these parents, support the parents … support our cousins and our aunts. Support them and raise children together I think we won’t have those issues as much. Now we don’t have to ask some 14-year-old, “Why did you make that choice? And now what are we going to do about this baby?” These are things that all come I think from slowing down and recognizing what’s important in life. What’s not important is having a Blackberry, and a cell phone, and the computer and frying eggs at one time. That to me is distracting and such a robbery. It’s a travesty what we allow ourselves to be involved in. Being on the cell phone and driving, even that’s a travesty.
Margaret Becker: I’m not kidding. Don’t do it!
Margaret Becker: The book is about that. Don’t be robbed. Don’t be fooled. All these innovations and all these things … they have their place but they do not replace or supplant what God has provided for us for peace, and for connection and for wholeness.
Mercy Hope: With everyone pulling on you from different directions how do you maintain focus and prioritize? I know you are trying to simplify your life and focus on relationships, but even in relationship, how do you know when to say no and when to invest?
Margaret Becker: I was thinking of the story where Joshua and his army overtook a city and everyone in the surrounding land became frightened of them, so one of the tribes said, you know what we’ll do? We’ll put on old clothes and mess ourselves up and we’ll go in and talk to Joshua and tell him, “We support you. We’ve been traveling for days. We just want to be with you. So the army saw them and it says in the Word, that they take compassion on them, and they have mercy on them, and they bring them into the fold only to find out that they have been completely deceived. Well, what they do then is they confront them and relegate them to be what they call “wood cutters.” So these people stay on with the Israelites but they are wood cutters. If you read the text very closely there are two key things that happen there. They have mercy, when they shouldn’t have mercy, and they make room when it wasn’t God’s plan for them to make room and then they find out they have been deceived and now they have to make up for the fact that they were deceived and they make all these allowances and restructure, not only themselves, but the other people. I think there is a life lesson there that it may be someone’s gift to have mercy and to an empathetic person and to be a really great “fixer” but if you don’t allow that gift to be broken in a relationship meaning that God can tell you, “Yes, now do this” or “No, don’t do that.” If you can’t be broken in that area you are a liability to God and you are a liability to people, because sometimes God is dealing with someone and it’s horrific to watch, and all you want to do is make it stop, but if you get in the middle God’s going to have to go all over on that person and find another way to break them that is maybe not noticed by you and before you know it all your “helping” keeps holding a person back because God is trying to deal with them. He doesn’t need your help; He doesn’t want your help. So the question is, how do you know when to go in and how do you know when not to go in? That’s why the gift has to be broken and continually submitted.
Personally I have one friend who is constantly in a crisis. There’s not a day that goes by that there isn’t a horrible crisis, and there’s always a good reason. It’s horrible to stand by and go, “I’m not going to do anything.” You might as well shoot me in the head because all I want to do is fix it. I want to go there every day and get it done and yet every time that I have intervened I have felt like the LORD said, “I wish you didn’t do that, because I have a plan here and every time you intervene you’re prolonging it.” That was a long way around but mini-lesson: get broken.
For me, simplifying means obeying God in relationships, as He wants me to. We have certain people for certain times, and then we have what I call, “life relationships.” Friendships, and family relationships, and marital relationships, yes, but they are outside of that too. We have community that we should invest in the same way we should invest in a family because the first response to God’s Presence on this earth when He departed was to create community. Why do we neglect that? We’re like, “We have a little family here. We don’t need all that stuff.” No. We all need each other, and we need to recognize how we fit and where we’re effective and where we’re not and who God has committed to us. That’s the key. Not every person that we know is part of our matrix, in a sense.
Mercy Hope: How have you become someone who knows how to say, “No”? Is it a process that you are still working through?
Margaret Becker: I’m still learning that one. I’d like to say that I’ve figured it out but it’s been by me wrecking things and making a complete mess of things, literally of every level, that’s been the only way that I’ve been able to learn that one. It’s not been anything comfortable or pretty or even stuff I can repeat. I’ve just made a big mess of people’s lives trying to get in there and use the gift, which turned out to be like in Revelation where it talks about filthy rags. There is nothing there that God can use unless He gives you the talent, but unless it’s broken to Him, it’s just a bunch of junk. I had to learn that one the hard way. It’s humbling, and I’m still learning it and it’s still hard to know.
Mercy Hope: What are your plans for the future?
Margaret Becker: What I do now is make my choices on going out and leaving home based on how it fits my little template. It has to be something that will impact the people that I’m going to. It has to be something that has an eternal value primarily. So that opens the field a little bit in that it used to be that I had to do that and also provide for a staff of twenty-two. Now, I can just go to Texas for nothing and sit there for three days and I have x number of times that I do that in a year. It’s like, “Lord, I don’t want not to go because I don’t have a way to pay for it. I want to be able to reach into my own stash to be able to go to the places You want.” So there’s a limited number of gigs I’ll do like that. It may be a retreat, it may be music, it may a fundraiser, it may just be going somewhere to someone who really needs to be met. Then there is the next level of, does it fit with the message that the Lord has given me right now, the Coming Up For Air message. If it fits that, I’ll go. If it’s a music gig and it would be fun and I just want to do it, I’ll do it. But in terms of getting on a bus and going for an extended amount of time, it would take a lot for me to do something like that. It would have to be in conjunction with someone like World Vision or a greater good to do that because it’s a very difficult thing to keep that ball in the air. It’s a lot of money, and a lot of people along the way have a chance of getting hurt. I don’t want to be in that position on a continual basis, but I still do music. I’m gonna do a project in conjunction with this book. I produce other artists. I just love the freedom of being able to do what you want to do when you want to do it.
Mercy Hope: You mentioned World Vision. I know you are very passionate about your work with them. What sparked your interest in humanitarian work? Also, how can other people get involved?
Margaret Becker: For me it was more about looking at the platform that I had been granted and wondering how can I use this to help other people who NEED help because I’m a conduit and a platform between resource and need. These people out here have resources and I need to figure out who has needs. I was raised in a household where charity was always emphasized almost to a fault – my mom gave everything to everybody. So I had a very strong background of knowing that we are all responsible to give – not only of our excess but also in our poverty.
When I heard about World Vision and the work that they were doing, and went to see the work they were doing – and this was years, and years, and years ago – I thought, “You know what? I can really support this, and I am going to think of creative ways to support this.
If people want to find out about World Vision, or sponsor a child, which is one of the things I really emphasize (especially right now in Africa with the AIDS pandemic, to help these kids and to help the grandparents of these kids, because their parents are being wiped out and children are being left with like a grandmother who has no skill, and has no house, and has no money) you can go to my website www.maggieb.com and click on the World Vision link which will take you to the different ways you can help. I think the key there is not for people to say, “I wonder if I should do that?” The key is to ask yourself if you are excused from doing something like that.
Mercy Hope: Margaret, thank you for taking the time to share your heart with us. This was a 17-year-old dream come true.
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