Friday, March 21, 2014

Become Less

Life is so full of paradoxes!

This reality has taken an awfully long time to make sense to me. I go into almost any new venture with really high expectations -- "I want to start out the right way by doing _________," "I will never make the mistake of doing ___________," "I will remain focused on ___________ no matter what."

When I arrived at New Staff Training with Cru, I definitely had a list of traits and habits that I had in mind for myself as I started a new journey to work as a full-time Christian worker. I would always trust God to receive what I needed, be it wisdom, improvement in an area of my life where I needed help, or the partnerships needed for Darin and I to get to work on campus. I would never believe lies or make bad boundaries in my life. I'd read all my assignments for our classes. I was going to start out as the perfect person who wouldn't do anything wrong at all! What a great career I would have.

The ironic thing about this attitude is that in my desire to be so great, I started putting a lot of pressure on my human ability to do the right thing. I found out little by little that my human strength is really not very strong at all. We woke up too early for classes, so instead of reading, a nap sounded awfully nice. And when I totaled my grade for how much I read and it wasn't 100%, I was so disappointed in myself -- how could I have been so lazy? When I was learning about how this season of life would look where we were building up a team of ministry partners, why was I nervous about it? I waged internal warfare against myself, where the self-righteous me was shocked and appalled by the real me that was scared. Stop being a baby! You can do this! Lots of people have!

Downward and downward the spiral will go until we are just plumb exhausted and upset. We run out of gas. (Our tanks are pretty tiny.) In all our efforts to be successful and positive-thinking, we are hopeless and feeling like failures.

I've already tumbled down the slide to the bottom a couple of times in the past couple of months, and every time, a small task would present itself that still needed to get done. It was like a cruel trick. Despite already being wiped out, upset, and feeling like I've already done so much, I didn't have a choice but to do it, whether meeting up with someone when I said that I would or simply making a call. 

(I have always despised talking on the phone! I don't know why! Maybe I can't read someone's face when I'm talking to them, or maybe I'm worried that they don't see how earnest I am. I don't know. Even with my close friends I can't stand it. Jesus take the wheel.)

I would cry out to the Lord, "Why can't You just give me a break? Why do I feel this way? Can't You motivate me, or just supernaturally take it away? I've done enough and I don't want to do anymore. Please, please help." And still waited. No magical burst of energy. A burning bush wouldn't pop into my living room and tell me that it was okay and that God magically took care of it for me, and just to make another cup of coffee and turn on Netflix to take a break.

Exasperated, I would step out and just do what needed to be done, thinking God wasn't interested in helping. 

And then it would happen.

Things would go better than I could have expected. Someone I didn't know very well and was anxious about meeting would have so much in common with me, and start to become a dear friend. I'd receive encouraging words from someone I've never even met before and gave a call over the phone. I'd finish a task amazed at how easy it was after all.

God hasn't chosen for me to be guaranteed success before moving in faith and trusting Him; He is leading me to walk upstairs in the dark even if I can't see the steps. 

This passage in Jeremiah 17 has ministered a great deal to me today as I ponder these ways of God, how He seems to enjoy showing up just in the nick of time, demonstrating that He has been worthy of our trust all along.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8

I highly recommend not being like me. If you say you trust in God, don't expect your human strength to give you every success. Let yourself be human, and depend on your Creator. I am praying this for myself and anyone else who is struggling to hold everything together on their own. 

(I wanted to say to let it go, but just the thought of those words makes me see snowflakes and characters with freakishly big eyes, and hear things that I am so tired of hearing that I'VE DONE IT AGAIN AND IT'S STUCK IN MY HEAD! ARGHHASDHA)

Hopefully you'll see that this paradox -- the more we want to become awesome, the less we should assume that we alone can do it -- is truly enjoyable and leads us into Jesus' peace and rest.

Now, of course, my favorite thing to do: share pictures of my life, just because I like them. Maybe other people do, too, but I'm not sure and that's okay by me.

My two chins and I celebrating the warmth of the beach.

Cru World Headquarters in Orlando, FL! Beautiful and exciting place to visit.

We gave that pup a laundry pile -- pups love laundry piles.

The beautiful, enormous piles of snow left for us when we returned from Florida. It's been quite a winter... let me tell you.

My first Pistons game! It was a blast. Love all Detroit things and love crossing them off my list.

My favoritest best friend and I -- knowing that if we smile too big, both of us flash wayyyyy too much gum action. It's all about restraint.

Love, Lara