learning to sit still


I wrote this post this summer.  I'm not sure why I didn't publish it at the time; I think it was all pretty raw + I wasn't sure if it was anything more than me processing.  I re-read it last week and in many ways I feel like I'm still right here; this is still me.  Maybe I've progressed a little ways down the road, grown a little way in this. But this will be a lifelong wrestle for me, I know that.  

It's a little rough around the edges, but, then again, what here isn't??  I publish it now because it still resonates with me, so then I thought it might with you, too.

For a long, long time, I have felt compelled to write.  I have been avoiding and doubting this compulsion for as long as I've felt it.  It is far easier to tell myself, "you're imagining that voice in your head", or "what do you have to say that is worth someone taking the time to read?" than it is to deposit myself in front of the computer, wait through eternal pauses of the loading internet, and compel myself to put words to screen.

Today, I have managed to take the more difficult road...perhaps ONLY because I am telling myself that this short-or-long-form (don't know where this is going, at all) ramble can live permanently as a draft, or join others like it in the digital waste basket, mimicking crumpled up balls of paper that would have been my medium had I lived several decades ago.

I don't know what I want to say to you today.  I don't know who you are, as I said before, I don't know who would take the time to read this.  Incase this does pass go, and incase you are a human with interest in other humans, I'll go ahead and tell you what is happening in me lately, or I will do my best to tell you, as I can't say I have a very strong grasp on it myself.

A month ago today, John + I attended his cousin's wedding.  It was beautiful, sweet, and celebratory, and also sweltering.  Even a morning wedding in July is not exempt the Georgia heat.  Later that night, we met with my parents for dinner, and what happened during that time at the table was a deeper discussion than I'd taken the time to have with myself about my current job at the time.

Ever since I graduated from college three Mays ago, I have been in this cycle of pursuing creative work, or "projects" as I could safely title them in vaguery.  Some of my efforts have been more legit than others -- I have been paid for a range of creative services, including floral arranging, hand lettering, and photography assisting.  I have also held a short list of part-time jobs unrelated to the creative sphere during this time period.  I have always viewed these roles as "Escapes" from invention, an opportunity to show up, do what I'm told, help someone accomplish a larger goal, and then return home, largely untaxed and prepared for the next day's creative engagement.

For the last eight months, the project I was invested in was one that I wholeheartedly believe in, and one that I hope to see come to fruition in its time.  Strangely, though, I began to sense very clearly that I needed to pull away -- step back, reassess whether this has been worth my time.  Not from a place of selfishness, but rather from a place of using my time wisely. 

For a while now, I have felt a sense (similar to the one I feel about writing, though this one has been shorter-lived and a bit more front-facing with sinister consequences should I choose not to heed it) that I need to get comfortable with being just myself -- existing in my skin, in the identity that precludes whatever I may add to it.

This is the thing -- the last three years of my life have been an ongoing, ebbing and flowing identity discovery + crisis.  I can look back and see times where I was ignorant of this, riding some wave and feeling like what I was doing was "it".  I can also look back and see times where I was totally immobilized by the feeling that I am an impostor.  Neither of these extremes are very healthy or sustainable, I realize, and I think that shred of common sense is what prods me to stand at attention to the Holy Spirit as he gently suggests I find a new normal.

What I feel and believe that finding a new normal will require of me is time taken in stillness, solitude, silence.  Quiet pursuit of the things that pull on my heart, and open hands and willingness to watch them recede over the slip of the horizon, if those are not the things that are best for me.

The problem, in my case, is not that I am not content with whatever God may choose for me.  I am thankful that he has given me a spirit of going-along-with, in that I am more ready to accept whatever he has for me rather than a point-by-point play I have laid out for myself.  The tricky part for me is the silence -- the deliberate listening, the staying still, the not chasing after every thing that would alleviate me from the stillness.  I want to be busy.  I want to strive.  I want to prove that I am capable, worth keeping around, unable to hold a candle to.

Naturally...this is undoubtedly the very thing that God intends to break me from.  I need to recognize that my worth comes not from my doing, but from what he has already done.  He created me, placed me here with a purpose, and I can trust that he intends to finish his work in me before my time is done.  I believe that with all my heart.  My problem is that I can't sit still long enough to take directions or observe an emerging path that looks different from the 50 I can readily perceive in my day-to-day.  I very often imagine myself standing on a fork in the road in a Dr. Seuss book -- so many splits in the road, so many compelling colors and signs with titles that pique my curiosity with equal intensity...and in a Dr. Seuss like fashion, I imagine my head spinning around on my shoulders, unable to cautiously consider any one option for the overwhelm of having so many so exciting, so viable, so right-in-front-of-me.

I have always loved stories.  What I love the most about stories are characters and the way they interact with one another, the things the overcome and the qualities they exude.  I am bored to death reading about settings and places and historical details that have nothing to do with people -- there, I said it.  It's true.  But anyway, I love the kind of character who makes slow and calculated decisions.  Who is able to not say what she thinks she wants right in the moment that to me seems opportune.  I will never cease to be impressed by that archetypical person. I console myself that there aren't actually any people like this in the real world, though I have been proven wrong about that on multiple occasions.  The thing is, I think I would be crippled by jealousy if I should even let myself believe that these qualities can exist in a real person.

The struggle I am describing, I realize, is the classic Martha + Mary story -- where the one sister sits with Jesus and doesn't sweat it whether the house is clean and the food is prepared.  Meanwhile the other sister gets low-grade furious with her sister (and Jesus) for NOT helping her.  Like, how could they.  Can't they see that their precious time together is better spent flipping out over little details that no one really cares about?  That she only cares about because she feels they are a reflection of her identity?  That she would immediately and forever forget about if she would just sit in his presence for five minutes?  Sure, it might take her a concerted effort to stop worrying about if the bread will bake in time or how she's gonna fit all these people around her tiny little table, but...small price to pay.

Like the slow and calculated decision makers of literature, I also envy the detail-ignorant, truly in-the-moment ones, like Mary.  At any given time, there is a circus of thoughts and perceived needs ringing around my head...also like a Dr. Seuss illustration.  (Clearly this goes without saying but I am forever thankful to Dr. Seuss for providing such universally relevant -- and colorful! -- imagery in my life.)  Mary is so enviable and also so infuriating to me in this story; it makes me feel for Martha so strongly...why does she have to be the villain of this story?  Why does she have to just die to her will and pretend the details don't matter to her, and go and try to be like Mary?  But then I realize, oh yeah, she'll be much better off.  She may think these things are important and urgent at once, but the truth is they're not and the mercy of realizing that is worth the momentary pain of relinquishing her will.

So, how do I relate this back to my situation?  Well.  I feel that gentle invitation to sit at the feet of Jesus -- which, if I'm totally honest, is WAY more appealing in a subversive way than to flurry around, accomplishing all the things in my line of sight.  But what happens, what is happening, is I get stuck in that moment of deciding to lay down my desires because I let fear overtake me -- who will do all these tasks, if not me?  If I sit down all I'll be able to think about is how these other things are not getting done, so maybe better to knock them out first, so I can focus, and then I'll sit with Jesus.  The problem with that is...it never ends.  There is always more to do.  One of the unfortunate characteristics that accompanies this quality is an inability to become bored by tasks, which means they never run out and therefore are never complete. What I end up doing, of course, is following the line of tasks, not away from Jesus necessarily, but not towards him either. I enslave myself to meaningless details, when I could be liberated to abundant life.  If I would only be still.

LORD God.  It is you alone who offers life, and life to the full.  Destruction of death and deathly habits.  Annihilation of sin and perpetual distraction.  Will you show me how to be like Mary, more and more each day, to realize what I am buying into, and to know how to drop it and run from it much faster than I have known how to before.  Thank you, Jesus.