On Not Doing It All (or, why I haven’t been writing)

notdoingitall

I sometimes get the impression that we humans are embarrassed that we are finite creatures.

We are constantly apologizing for things we have not gotten done, or trying to improve our weaknesses, or hiding the parts of ourselves we feel are inadequate. We feel like we should have infinite capacities to improve and accomplish and create.

But there is only one Being who is Infinite. It’s not us. And friends, that’s not something to feel bad about. That’s something to receive as a gift.

We weren’t made to do it all. {Thanks be to God.}

———-

I haven’t written in this space for awhile.

I have wanted to write. I have felt like I should write. I have felt guilty that I wasn’t writing. But none of those feelings led to actually writing.

Why?

Because I didn’t have it in me.

Life in these months has been the way it is for most of us: full. Full of family and work and emotions and thoughts and friendships and tasks. Margin has been thin and something had to give.

Here’s what I want to say out loud, though: I could have done it. I’m certain I would be embarrassed if I actually summed up the  time I spent playing Candy Crush and watching Netflix and scrolling Facebook. It’s not like I was using all my spare moments to do things that improved my mind or supported my family or added goodness to the world.

I could have done more. And yet, I couldn’t.  Because I am finite. I sometimes run out of brain power or emotional capacity or time management skills, and that is okay.

It is okay when we reach a limit.

———-

I once heard someone challenge us to rethink how we perceive the word balance when we talk about how to find it in our lives.

He pointed out that we often think about life balance like the scales in our elementary school science class. It feels like putting weights on one side and then the other until the sides are even and the teetering slows and the whole thing settles into a peaceful state of rest.

Often, we can’t actually find that restful balance when we think this way. Life feels more like running back and forth figuring out where to place each weight so we can keep our precarious lives from tipping over.

It’s exhausting and impossible.

But if we visualize instead a teeter-totter, there are actually two ways to achieve balance. One is to put equal weight on each side. The other is to move the fulcrum point towards whichever side is heavier.

The fulcrum point moves to different places in different seasons of our lives. We can neither control what life throws our way nor the weight those things carry. But we can move towards whatever requires more of us and find balance there.

We weren’t made to do it all. {Thanks be to God.}

———-

I debated about whether to write about not writing. It’s not something I’m supposed to do according to blogging rules.

And yet, it feels right. In a world where we’ve gotten so good at embracing authentic conversation about our hopes and emotions and dreams and fears, I also hope we can embrace authentic conversation about our humanity and limits and finite capacities.

Saying out loud that we can’t do it all is a gift we can give to others and to ourselves.

Let’s say it more often.

Understanding The Story

The Bible is the story of God and God’s people.

It is not primarily a rule book telling us how we should live. Or a scientific textbook explaining how things work. Or a history book of heroes we should emulate.

It is a story. It is The Story.

It is The Story of Yawheh, a God who has existed since before the foundations of this earth, who reached into time and space to create, redeem, and love. It is The Story of a people who have sometimes understood, but more often than not, The Story of a people who have messed things up. And it is The Story of a God who keeps on loving them anyway.

I think the Israelites understood this better than we do. Their view on God and history is revealed in the way they tell their own story.

In Psalm 106, we see a people who share accounts of their blunders as easily as they share their victories.

“We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.” – Psalm 106:6

“He saved them from the and of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
Then they believed his promises
And sang his praise.” – Psalm 106:10, 12

And we see a people who declare God’s goodness as the introduction to them both.

“Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.” – Psalm 106:1

They seem to understand what The Story is really about: a God whose love for His people endures through everything.

The Story is not about Israel’s leaders. They had some great ones, but those leaders were human, right along with the rest of us. They made mistakes. And if we understand what The Story is really about, it shouldn’t make us uncomfortable to talk about them.

Though, in our humanness, it probably will make us uncomfortable. And that’s okay, too. We should still do it. Just like the Israelites did.

“By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord,
and trouble came to Moses because of them;
for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” – Psalm 106:32-33

Isn’t it wonderfully human that they tell the story of Moses’ anger, but still blame it on the ever-annoying dessert wanderers? I can feel them telling that story through gritted teeth, knowing they need to share it all, but struggling to take one of their great heroes off his pedestal.

I have had the honor of studying the Old Testament with a brilliant and insightful rabbi. He describes the will of God as a deep and wide river. The will of God is not a point on a map that we have to find, but a vast and refreshing stream in which we are invited to wade.

We can step into it at anytime and walk around. Once we do, we stand in the movement of all that has come before us and all that will surge after us. To understand who God is and who we are, we have to look at how the river runs all around us, back in the past, around us in the present, and ahead into the future.

The Bible is one place that tells the story of what comes before us. And the way it tells the good and the bad together gives us a model of what looking back really means. It doesn’t mean glossing over or forgetting.

Looking back means seeing how humanity struggles and God continues to love. It means looking unanswered questions in the face and finding the ways that God can still be good even when we don’t understand. Looking back means remembering how Jesus lived and hearing what Jesus said when the things in our present tell us to abandon this crazy faith.

Psalm 106


That was my reflection on Psalm 106. Link up with your own reflection below. Or stop back next week for a reflection on Psalm 107.

When Grief and Joy Collide

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This is a picture of the lovely bunch of roses given to me by my husband yesterday, in celebration of our fourteenth wedding anniversary.

As children across the world were fleeing violence, as race riots were happening over the death of yet another black teenager, and as we were having a national discussion about depression and suicide, it was my anniversary. It was a day of joy and gratitude standing in stark contrast to the day of lament for so many others. Also? I was sick.

Life is never experienced one feeling at a time.

We give birth to babies while others struggle with infertility. We hate our jobs or lose our jobs while others get exciting promotions. We join a friend at a birthday parties after going to visit another in the hospital.

What do we do with all that?

There is so much of it that is out of our control. We cannot will the good to rain down on us instead of the bad. We cannot manufacture easy answers to why some prayers seem to get answers and some do not. We cannot ensure that days of celebration do not crash against times of disaster.

So what do we do? How do we handle the collision of grief and joy that greets us each day of our lives?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of the word with.

With is used over 1300 times in the New Testament. The first time is in Matthew chapter 1, as Mary is described as being with child. The second is when that child is described as being God with us.

With is the word of the incarnation.

With pushes us to feel the presence of God in our midst, through every high and low moment of our lives. With knows that comfort is found less in the search for answers and more in the manifestation of grace.

God with us was Jesus in perfect love coming into a world of broken love, showing us that the two are held together in Him.

We are raised with Christ and indwelled with the Spirit, so that we might follow in the legacy of incarnation. To bear with one another in love, to sit with one another in grief, to join with one another in celebration.

God with us can give us the courage to be present with it all. Present with those we love, even when it’s hard. Present with the news, even when it makes us cry. Present with our kids, even when something else needs to get done. Present with our feelings, even when avoiding them would be so much easier. Present with our experiences, even when they conflict with what is going on all around us.

God with us allows us to be present with God in prayer with it all, whether lament, gratitude, praise, anger, clarity, or confusion.

With is not an answer, yet somehow, it feels like exactly what we need to know.

Calling on the Name of the Lord

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done. – Psalm 105:1 (NIV)

What does it mean to proclaim the name of the Lord?

At best, it sounds like the formal and churchy terminology found in many worship songs. At worst, it creates an awkward picture of someone standing on a street corner shouting the Lord’s name at random people passing by.

Either way, it doesn’t strike me as very personal.

When I look at the Hebrew for proclaim, the word is qara’, which means to call out. But that is not all.

It also means to “encounter.”

When I think about the name of the Lord, I look at Exodus 3:14, when God proclaims the identity Yahweh, “I AM.”

Psalm 105

What does it mean to encounter I AM?

Suddenly, what once felt formal and distant, feels intimate and powerful. And I’m reminded how so much in what prayer and praise feels like returns to how we view God.

Are we on the ground, shouting to the sky, hoping God might hear us if we perform up to the standards of a great Diety?

Or are we going about our lives while encountering the a loving God whose presence is both beyond us and with us in all things?

Jesus talked a lot about having ears to hear and eyes to see. Maybe He was calling us to the same thing as this Psalm: an intimate encounter with the great I AM.

And with that, the second half of the verse also feels completely different. Perhaps we are not telling others about what God has done in order to appease the Lord’s need to be recognized, but instead experiencing and overflow of gratefulness for the ways we have felt and seen and experienced Yahweh’s nearness to us.

Encounter I AM.

Maybe that means pushing away the noise and finding space in which you can hear Yahweh speak to your heart. Or maybe it means leaving yourself open to find Yahweh in the places you’d least expect God to be.


That was my reflection on Psalm 105. Link up with your own thoughts below. And stop back next week when Psalms Journey heads to Psalm 106.

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