Tag: striving

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.

Giving Up… Best

Lent Series Button

I stood at the Marta station of the Atlanta airport, staring at the options for which pass to purchase for my two-day trip. I wanted to make sure to get the right one, the best one, for my needs. The unlimited pass seemed excessive, since we would primarily just go to the hotel and back. And what about the ten-pass? Would we need to hop on and off that many times, or would the single ride make the most sense?

I stood, and deliberated, for an unnecessary amount of time. I was paralyzed for minutes in a decision that should have taken seconds.

I get stuck in the muck of my desire, in all times, in all places, with all people, to always make the best decision possible.

“Do your best” is a phrase infused with the power to motivate or debilitate, depending on the circumstance, tone, and relationship. And often, depending on the frequency with which it is uttered.

And for whatever reason, my wiring whispers “do your best” in my ears when I am making transportation decisions at the airport, when I am writing a sentence in a blog post, when I am leading a meeting, when I am asking my kids a questions, and when I am loading the bowls into dishwasher. Basically, I hear it All. The. Time.

Make the best decision. Show your best creativity. Do your best work.

Whispered once, “do your best” can be a motivating force. Repeated incessantly, it becomes a debilitating weight.

The word “best” has no meaning if it can’t be compared to another word. Best is a superlative. By it’s very nature, best can’t be a description of normal ordinary.

Why does ordinary feel so scary?

I don’t want to let people down.

This desire to please people goes deeper than fear of failure; the root is what lies beneath those fears: my understanding of my own belovedness. I can’t wrap my brain, emotions, and actions around the truth that I am loved when I am not at my best.

I crush myself under the burden of best when I don’t feel the grace of unconditional Love.

I have been meditating on the book, Surrender to Love by David G. Benner. In it, he says,

“While some people fear any love, what most of us resist is unconditional love- perfect love… I am willing to accept measured doses of love as long as it doesn’t upset the basic framework of my world. That framework is built on the assumption that people get what they deserve… What humans want is to earn the love we seek.”

So many times in our spiritual life, our problems go back to the same simple question: are we secure in our identities as God’s beloveds?

Our security cannot come from how we are loved by other humans. Love from people, even those most precious to us, will let us down from time to time.

Without realizing it, many of us use our broken human experiences as a lens through which we interpret God’s love.

We read verses about the good work we are supposed to do as Christ-followers, and fill them with obligations of all we should do, all we need to do, in order to honor God.

But that is not the lens of love.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8

Yes, we will do good work as Christ-followers. Maybe even our best work sometimes. But verses like these never say, “you should.”

The Christian life is not about striving; it is about receiving. God’s love is offered to us without condition. It is pure, perfect, and generous.

“For GOD is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.” – Psalm 100:5

This Divine Love is what giving up is really about. When we give up the filters, labels, worry, control, striving, and anything else we are grasping tight against our chests, we open ourselves up to receive the Love that can truly change us.

“genuinely encountering Love is not the same s inviting Jesus into your heart, joining or attending a church, or doing what Jesus commands. It is the experience of love that is transformational. You simply cannot bask in divine love and not be affected.” – David G. Benner


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

On Lent, Vacation, and Humility

 

airplane wingLent arrived the day I left on vacation.

 

I boarded a plane headed south to warmer temperatures, and noticed a stewardess with ashes still on her forehead from an earlier service. As she wore her dark forehead, we displayed the light-hearted smiles of a family taking a trip.

 

It was an unavoidable collision of dates, really. Ash Wednesday hit right before days off from school for teacher conferences and President’s Day. Like most parents of school-age children, we wanted to travel during a time when minimal classes would be missed.

 

But the result of this collision was a frustrating contrast for this contemplative faith blogger. While others were thinking about what Christ gave up, and what they would forgo in remembrance, I was pondering what my family would consume and do as we enjoyed our extended time together.

 

This contrast brought a word to my mind. A word that might not be the first to pop into your head, but that burst forth in mine with a new understanding.

 

Humility.

Jesus Said Lent Series Button

As I have done with other periods of the church calendar, I will do a series on this blog to honor this Lenten season. Once a week, I will post about various teachings of Christ with the series, “Jesus Said… A Series for Lent.”

 

So, here is something Jesus said about humility:

 

Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. – Matthew 18:4

 

There is one particular way I see my children living out humility: they experience life as it is, in real time. They know they are not in control of all that happens to them. And though this can lead to fist-pounding hair-pulling temper tantrums, it can also lead to a deeper experience of their days. Not their days as they should be, but their days as they are.

 

Children stop to cry when they skin their knees and they pause to wonder when they see the petals of a flower. They are loud and quiet, somber and joyful as they respond to what is happening around them. They experiment and learn and fail and grow.

 

Children feel their way through each day. Because that is all they can do. They can neither control their emotions nor determine their calendar. Children are forced into the humility of experiencing life as it comes to them.

 

As adults, we get so consumed with our expectations of what should be, or goals of what could be, or nostalgia about what was, that we don’t respond to what is. We worry and regret and strive and control and work until we have exhausted ourselves in pursuit of something we do not have.

 

Jesus wants to release us from all that.

 

Jesus told his disciples to have the humility of a child when they asked who would be greatest in his kingdom. This response is freedom. In God’s kingdom, you don’t have to struggle to achieve something or strive to control an outcome. You can receive Jesus’ grace, bask in Jesus’ love, and experience life as it comes to you each day. That is a gift that requires humility and trust to open.

 

And so, as I think about my last week, how I began the season of somber reflection by flying off on holiday, I trust that it is okay. I could not control my circumstances to what they should have been. I could only experience them for what they were. They were wonderful, and I don’t have to apologize for that.

 

My faith is not about performance, or living up to some external expectation of how I should feel or what I should do. My faith is about my love for and trust in a Savior who gives me grace for each day.

 

Perhaps vacation was an appropriate beginning to the Lenten season after all.

remember to breathe out

I have a tendency to suffocate myself.

Breathing shouldn’t be complicated, but somehow it is. Somehow, I have a tendency to breathe in, but forget to breathe out.

I’m thrilled to have a guest post at (in)courage today. Here’s a snippet:

I am not good at everything. I do not think this is big news to anyone who knows me. It should not be big news to me either.

But sometimes, it is news to me. Because sometimes, I feel like I should be good at everything; particularly when I have spent a lot of time on the Internet, looking for inspiration.

Sometimes the inspiration I think I am finding online is actually suffocation.

I breathe in original craft ideas I should make, powerful writing I should emulate, tasty recipes I should cook, and stories of world travels I should aspire to. Then I breathe in again, this time fashion combos I should wear, profound quotes I should remember, educational activities I should do with my kids, and Bible verses I should memorize. Then I breathe in again. And again. And again.

I suffocate because I forget to breathe out.

Click here to read the rest.

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