Trust, this five-letter word has been killin’ me lately. I’ve been overwhelmed with all that needs to get done with summer and found myself caught in the I-must-figure-out-my-entire-life trap. Neither are good. Neither bring me to a good place.
“And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). That’s it. He doesn’t ask us to plan it all out, doesn’t ask us to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. He asks us to do his will today, to do justly today, to love mercy today, to walk humbly with Him today. Thud. Grace.
“All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.” –Oswald Chambers
I’m learning to admit when I feel overwhelmed. I say those two little words out loud, “I’m overwhelmed,” and I’m already on the road to recovery. Because it’s when I ignore it that things go downhill, and fast. I shove it in a closet and shut the door but it's still there, waiting for me when I open the closet again. For me, saying things releases them. It doesn’t matter if I say them to a friend or whisper them to myself, saying something out loud frees me from it. I say “I’m overwhelmed” and I feel better, instantly. The problem isn’t solved, but I can take a few breaths, say a few prayers, and move on with my day, the same exact day that I was overwhelmed with, except I’ve kicked overwhelmed to the curb.
This is what I’ve found:
It’s when I’m overwhelmed that I don’t trust.
And it’s when I don’t trust that I forget that God is good.
And it’s when I forget that God is good that I take Him out of the equation.
And it’s when I take God out of the equation that I take out my planner instead, trying to make sense of everything and plan my life using color-coded pens, complete with flow charts, captions, and Venn Diagrams.
And all the while God’s been knocking at the door, patiently. And the louder He knocks the more franticly I scribble, like a student during the last 5 minutes of an exam with too many essay questions.
There’s a part of me that wants to plan everything out and have all the answers, but there’s a bigger part of me that doesn’t. That bigger part knows that as soon as I open the door I’ll rush into God’s arms and be safe, and I want that more than my frantic scribbling, but it also means that I’ll have to let go of my planner and my color-coded pens and trust him deep, deep into the recesses of my being. But I want that more than I want to be in control – because from experience I know that things don’t work when I clutch my pens and scribble and micromanage, I’ve no time left to live, you see – so I open the door and He always wraps His arms around me. I look to the ground like a child who knows they’ve done wrong as I hand over my planner and my pens to God in exchange for one thing – Himself.
I don’t have all my ducks in a row. Sometimes I wish I did, just like I wish my life could be conveniently color-coded in a planner. But you know what? I don’t think I’m alone in this. No one else has their ducks in a row, either. We all like to pretend that we do, but really we have no idea what life might be like in 3 months, 1 year, 3 years. And that scares us, not being in control, but we don’t let anyone know it. Still we pretend, we put on cute outfits and don’t leave the house without make-up and pretend we’re all put together when really we’re not. It’s all a big game and we all know it, but we keep on playing.
But I’ve found that life doesn’t seem so scary when I let down my façade and walk humbly with the people around me. Because I don’t have my ducks in a row and these friends know it…but they’re aren't going anywhere. They don’t mind that I get overwhelmed sometimes, they laugh when I say naïve, silly things without thinking, they want to do life together and talk about things that matter. They love me for who I am.
I’ve realized something else recently, too: I like who I am when I’m real with people, when I don’t pretend like everything in my life is perfect. I like who I am when I’m vulnerable, when people walk with me through the twists and turns of life and I walk with them. That’s real, true friendship.
I’m praying for the bravery to stop playing the perfection game. God is always good and I am always loved, and somehow, life really is beautiful and hard and messy and wonderful all at the same time. I can still give the world all my smiles, positivity, and joy, because it’s genuine, never question that, and such a large part of who I am, but I can also more readily admit when things are hard, when I need prayer. I’ve grown so much in my ability to be vulnerable this past year. It’s refreshing and exciting to be vulnerable, but also very, very scary, because being vulnerable opens you up to hurt so much more. To all my friends who have demonstrated firsthand what real vulnerability looks like in friendships, thank you. Thank you for putting yourself out there when I wasn't willing to put myself out there first. When people share deeply with me, they remind me that I can share deeply with them. I can share my hopes and my dreams, my struggles, the things that I lay awake thinking about at night. I can go on from those conversations and share with others – I don’t have everything figured out but I’m trusting God, that He does, and choosing to walk by faith. Maybe that can remind someone that they don’t have to play the perfection game, either. In a never-ending chain reaction we can do our duty, live by faith, in community, and reap the benefits of the fullest life. That sounds pretty good, if you’re asking me.
Here’s to the beauty of vulnerability, to whispering trust a thousand times a day, and to not having all your ducks in a row.