I’ve been told that I am called to lay down my life. Too often, I think I think of that in terms of literally dying, when it’s more likely that I am to lay down the life that I want to have or think I should have or even have been convinced that I should have. One of my greatest struggles in adulthood has been this. So much fear and frustration and anger and despair stems from my perspective of my circumstances. Thinking it shouldn’t be this way. I should have better, I should do better, I should be better, it shouldn’t be this hard, it shouldn’t be this messy, it shouldn’t keep happening like this.
And so, with my eyes turned this way, my faith is flimsy and circumstantial. My faith is ugly and selfish and short-sighted. And I turn those cloudy eyes towards my self and my life and spew disgust and dissatisfaction across the breadth of my life. I find a way to numb myself to the disappointment of nothing (myself included) working the way it should, the way I want it to.
And I gaze upon the lives of others and think, why did it work out for them?
And I miss it. I miss the daily blessings, I miss precious moments with my children. I miss opportunities to grow, to create, to learn, to engage, to share, to live, to see, to feel, to taste. I miss everything.
And then one day, I wake up, in an emotional hangover at another internal rock bottom.
And I’m sick with where I’ve been in my heart and head, what I’ve done (or haven’t done) by being so drugged up with the wrong thoughts, the wrong perspective. And it’s hard to open myself up to living differently, thinking differently.
The scriptures feel dry at first, I’m hesitant. The worship music (Hymns for Hipsters on Spotify) feels distant, at first. The prayers feel desperate but flat. Anxiety finds it’s way into everything. Anxiety is the addiction that only likes to let you go if you’re headed towards depression.
Working with addicts active in recovery is something I came to enjoy. They had all this baggage, all these natural consequences scattered across their lives, but they were so committed to really living their life that day. They were careful to take care of themselves, physically, emotionally, spiritually. They were careful to acknowledge and avoid their triggers, developing new habits and routines.They would attend AA meetings regularly, shamelessly, proudly even. And there were some of them that radiated this light, this peace, this strength. They were openly imperfect and broken, but they had this new life springing up in them and it felt almost infectious. I believed them when they told me they were changed. Maybe on paper, their life was a mess, but to sit across from them, I knew the truth: their life was being made beautiful and redemption is real.
I want that. I want to be committed to living the actual life before me each day, not constantly anticipating the next disaster that will destroy the life I want to build (or think I should be building), not constantly thinking of what maybe I can do to keep my whole world in tact, (as if that is my job), not thrown completely off track by every inconvenience or difficulty or shift in life. I want to take care to take care of my self. To eat and drink and bathe and rest and get dressed and put on makeup like it is crucial to staying on the wagon of faith. I want to acknowledge and avoid my own triggers. I want to create new habits because I know the old ones make my mind and my heart and my spirit sick. I want shamelessly speak to others in some safe place, in the early morning, the middle of the day, in the evening about the truth. To regularly say to one another: I can not do this life alone. I am not self-sufficient. I am God-dependent and if I don’t place my dependency in God, I will place it in something else and that something else will become my idol and my drug, be it money, safety, comfort, status, power, control, or something else.
I want to radiate light and peace and strength. I want to know that my life is being made beautiful and redemption is real.
I’ve probably already been shown this a hundred times, but the darkness has been working to rewrite the truth I had in my head, so I need to see it again. I need to believe it again.
I want to lay down my life: the life I think I should have, want to have, have been told I should have. And so, I want to sit before the light with open hands, not holding on anymore to any of it – not my finances or my relationships or my career or my creativity or my health or my family or my material possessions or my ideas of what I want or think I should have. I just want to relinquish it all and just rest in the Creator’s arms and ride the waves of faith and grace. It’s counter-intuitive, to stop trying so hard in this life because we’re sold this try-hard gospel, but I think it’s a lie, a misdirection. I think we’re supposed to lay it down.
2 Corinthians4:17-18 ESV
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
I’ve got to lay it down, this light and momentary affliction (and realize too, that it is light and momentary), that I may be transformed and renewed and open to the greater glory. The things of this earth are transient, vapor. I must stop trying to hold the vapor, it will always leave me empty. There is only one source. Everything else is a substitution, a self-medication that will take me to rock bottom and leave me there. I need to not only turn towards the light, but I need the light to come within me, light up that darkness, so that from the inside out, I am new.
When we think of sinful living we think of things like drug abuse and pornography and violence. We don’t think of the ways and things of our regular lives become our idols – the safety, comfort, control that we seek and crave and demand and stand proudly upon. We defend our American dream as if it’s a Christian ideal. But all this order, all these ducks in a row…is it as wholesome as we want to believe? Just because we’re not breaking a criminal law, does it mean we’re living the way we’re intended? If we’ve got it all under control, if that is what our life’s work has become – to be self-sufficient, to have our lives in order so that we are never needy or only the appropriate kind of needy (like if a specific tragedy has befallen us), then aren’t we just playing God or aren’t we just making money (or the job that makes us money) our God (doesn’t much of self-sufficiency relate to money in our world)?
These questions swirl in my head, my need aches within my chest, my own weakness and inability glare at me. I can’t make my life work…
2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
— St. Teresa of Avila
God alone suffices. Whoever has God lacks nothing. Let that be etched into my soul, when it wonders and when it wanders…
And this song is in my head this morning:
“Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me…”
Yes, yes, please.