I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. And sometimes I’m afraid that if I open my mouth, the rapids might never stop and I won’t be able to pull the iron doors shut. And honestly sometimes, I’m not sure I’m strong enough to do it. Maybe today I’ll place the blame on my introverted nature, or my quick temper, or the way I look at people as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity. I’m a canister of tempests, a vessel for holding in the worlds that my heart contains. Sometimes the weight of it is too pressing, too much to hold in my hands. The tighter you squeeze, the less of it you actually get to keep for yourself. In a way, it keeps me in a place of accidental openness, where I don’t quite get to master the art of the closed-mouth, tight-lipped narcissist. Weaknesses are not things we like to release to the sunlight. Hard things are also heavy things. But I know that stumbling blocks are only stumbling blocks as long as you keep them that way.
I looked back in the notes in my phone where I occasionally jot down the errant thought that worms its way into my head and I came up with these words:
“I have been trained to believe that there is goodness on the other side of this struggle. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I’ve come to realize that I expect to be rewarded for these low feelings. That after I’ve struggled and wrestled, God will reward me with what I want. But I don’t think that’s how it works. I won’t be whole after I check all of the boxes, after I wait awhile and pay my dues. I have to learn how to let Him make me whole as I learn how to unclench my fist and be open to where he wants to take me. And frankly, my flesh does not want to do that. At all. I would rather be compensated handsomely for being unhappy for a period of time than be okay with the circumstances that make me unhappy. The problem is that I don’t know how to turn unhappiness and disappointment into their opposites.”
This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life and is one of those heavy stones that I feel it is necessary to carry with me at all times. Struggles are weird and complicated in that we feel them so deeply and they seem to follow our minutes around like shadows. But it’s what you do with them that controls the temperature of their influence on those minutes. I tend to equate struggle with weakness, but I also don’t believe that’s an accurate way to think. You don’t build strength by starting out strong. You build strength by acknowledging that you are first weak enough to grow stronger, to be better. And there is no room in that theory for instant gratification. Even though that idea is so so attractive to me and everyone else. It takes grit and determination and time and faith and trust in what is stronger than you to break the lens of quick satisfaction.
Being stressed is cool now. Sarcasm is in and anger is in and the inability to adult is so overwhelmingly popular that we wear kitschy t-shirts with calligraphed ironic words about how we’d rather be enjoying wine and Netflix than the work that we have been eternally destined to do. And working hard is our destiny after all – work was there before time and it will be there eternally. It’s our perspective and our ability to process it as a blessing rather than a curse that was affected by humanity’s penchant for the unholy. But struggle we chose, so struggle we must do. And that’s okay. Because I firmly believe that struggle builds confidence in things stronger than us. In the only Thing stronger than us.
I heard Pastor Steven Furtick say in a podcast just yesterday morning, “God reserves His greatest glory for our lowest points.” And as a person who simultaneously feels too much and too little of the weight of life, this gives me an inordinate amount of hope. Too many times, my lowest points feel like a maze from which I will never escape. But the surprising thing is that the messier the confusion, the greater the breakthrough. And the heavier the stones, the greater the relief when they are lifted from my shoulders.
On the eve of a big change in my life, it’s easy for me to move in one direction or the other – to the right, where I find that I can make things happen on my own power and to the left, where I am crippled with indecision and insecurity. The two versions of my brain automatically gravitate to one side or the other, but it never feels natural to look upward. At first, anyway. I have found, and continually remind myself, of the kind of confidence that reveals itself when I give a name to my insecurity and to the Power to overcome it.
Acknowledging that struggle exists is not the same as setting up camp in it. Acknowledging that you are weak allows you to also acknowledge your potential for growth. And that is the definition of Hope in my book. A verse that I’ve been savoring this week and really just allowing to permeate the hours in my day is this:
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Jeremiah 17:7
I honestly have been staring at and reading and repeating this verse to myself with a spirit of complete openness. Because I know what it means at face value. But I want to know what God wants it to mean to me. I know that sentence is not grammatically correct, but I want to know this – What is its purpose in my thoughts? And at the moment, all I’ve understood from it is hope. And a little bit of fearlessness because I know that on the other side of my willingness to name my struggle and put it in the hands of Jesus is a huge blessing. Even if that blessing looks like the ability to breathe a little easier and to have my thoughts not be so tangled because I’m not wasting time worrying about things that are not my responsibility and not in my control.
I’m eternally thankful that the things I feel the need to haul around only define me as long as I give them the power to do so and that there is someone stronger than me to carry them when I should not.