For When We Really Just Want to Quit

For When We Really Just Want to Quit

“I have come to understand, hard-won things mean something entirely different. Better.

The thing about struggle, is that it inversely affects entitlement. It engenders gratitude and increases value. It gives shape and provides context. And yet we live in this culture that espouses ease and convenience above all else.” –Meg Fee

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” –Romans 5:3-4

Some days I really just want to quit. I want to quit writing. Quit trying so hard in school. Quit going to things and expending myself (basically forsake all responsibility) and instead just hull up in my room and read books and have everybody leave me alone. I’m laughing to myself as I write this, because I see how ridiculous that is, but I really feel that way sometimes! And I know you probably do too.

I keep finding that so many people I know genuinely want to change the world and make something beautiful with their lives. I’m surrounded by incredible people who carry creativity and beauty and healing and other amazing things within them. But so many times, there’s something that’s holding us back, keeping us from writing that novel, recording that album, speaking those words that need to be said. I think it’s a lack of perseverance, which is brought about by fear. And I’m the guiltiest of all. I’ve started so many things only to stop early on because I’m not immediately good at them, and therefore I should just stop before I fail. Because the words don’t come for a while, that must mean I’m not destined to be a writer. Because the guitar hurts my fingers and it takes serious effort for me to strum and make the notes, and because my voice doesn’t sound like Adele, I definitely shouldn’t keep trying and embarrass myself. Because I had one weird conversation with a friend or that one person is grating my nerves, that has to mean God is giving me the green light to give up.

Doesn’t that all just sound so ridiculous when we say it out loud? But so often it’s true!

When the going gets hard, when we’re scrubbing toilets and doing homework assignments and running errands instead of having a pinterest or instagram-worthy life, we feel like something has gone awry. This is not where we thought we would be. And that sucks. Because, I don’t know about you, but if I had it my way, I would be a best-selling author, incredible teacher with the perfect body, a flawless face, no hint of emotional imperfection, and the list could go on. Basically, the “truth” that I’ve internalized in my core is that I have to have a perfect life to have an impact, and that that perfect life is an effortless task.

But can I just say that our lives are never going to be perfect, even when we believe that they are? And can I say too that trying to learn anything, trying to change our lives even just a little bit for our good is NOT and effortless task?! It’s so hard to admit, and many days its frustrates me to the point that I can’t see straight, this truth that’s staring me right in the face keeps demanding my attention: that in order to truly live, I’m going to have to give up my ideal and demand for perfection.

I’m going to have to cast it into the sea, because if I keep holding onto it like I have been, I’m never going to experience that deep, true life I keep searching for.

And not only am I going to have to change my ideals, but I’m going to have to persevere: because the places I want to go take a whole lot of time and effort. I will not wake up tomorrow ready to run a half-marathon. I will not wake up tomorrow totally equipped to change entire nations in my own strength. I will not wake up having everything that’s been happening in me all figured out. I will not wake up with a full novel already done and plopped into my lap. And while those things would be nice, the truth is they rob me of any responsibility, any strength, because if I never had to work, if I never had to persevere, would it really be worth it? Most days it doesn’t feel worth it to me, because I’d like my world to be perfect and flawless now (again, still having to practice throwing these ideas far, far from me) But you know what, today perseverance really does feel okay.

And you know what else is okay with me today? The process. Getting on my tennis shoes and forcing myself to get outside and try to run, even if I have to walk most of the time. Those quiet mornings, just me and Jesus on my bed, learning His Word and the beat of His heart. Patience and kindness for myself, even bits at a time. Sitting at my computer, on another Thursday afternoon with Em, and forcing the words to come out, even if they’re not the words that I thought they would be.

It’s not glamorous learning to do incredible things. It is hard and gnarly work. It is often hidden work, so much that no one will ever see. But is it worth it? Absolutely. And will we look back one day and be thankful that the perseverance and hope and character built led us right to here? I believe, and I hope, yes, yes it will.

So wherever you are today friends, whatever/whoever you’re wanting to do/be one day, keep going. Take those baby steps. Take another breath. Be thankful. At the chance of sounding trite, we’re always going to be arriving. So let’s rejoice along the way. Let’s try our best, and keep hoping, keep persevering, even when it doesn’t feel the best.

xo.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

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“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?‘ For it is not wise to ask such questions.”

Ecclesiastes 7:9-10

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.

Zechariah 4:10

To be honest, this is the first time in a really long time when I haven’t wanted to write. It’s only been two weeks, but getting away from the computer and getting back into school has shaken me up a bit. This just feels a little foreign, so forgive me if this is a bit all over the place. I’m not sure what’s going to come out today.

Something I’ve been celebrating so much these days is the fact that I’ve been doing better than I have in such a long time. I can say with confidence, “Hey, I’m doing well!” And that was a work the Father did that I will forever be thankful for. Because I sure did spend a lot of last semester kicking and screaming and dragging my heals, especially with God and with Colton, because things weren’t going the way I wanted and I thought that was wrong. I didn’t want to be doing long distance for our entire engagement (and many days I still don’t). I didn’t want things to be hard. And even though I had heard from the Lord that it would be a time of refinement (Job 23:10), I still fought it the entire time. I was really angry, and I wanted everyone to know it.

But yesterday, I stumbled across this verse (Ecclesiastes 7:9-10, above) in a devotional I’ve been reading, and it hasn’t left my mind yet. Because I do that all the time. I look back at the former things, and then point my finger at God and say “what the heck!” Because that season or situation seemed so much better than whatever I have now. Even though I am a huge believer is C.S. Lewis’s quote that says, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” I think we all know that it’s often times much easier to rely on the comfort of old times instead of bravely hoping for our future. Because hope is a risk. Joy is a risk. Contentment in our situation, even when we hate it, is a risk.

I think it’s so interesting that the verse says that it’s not wise to ask such questions, questions that undermine what God is doing today, in this season of our lives. Why is that so unwise? It’s how I feel, so shouldn’t I make sure that God knows it? And while yes, there’s so much beauty in being honest with the Lord, I want to be honest without being ungrateful.

I had to get on my knees at a college worship night a week ago because it was one of those days where I was really angry that we are doing long-distance, and really just angry that I was being called to live outward, meaning that I was being called to care about others more than I even care about myself. And that’s a beautiful thing in theory, but quite hard when I get consumed in my own little world. But I went to the back of the room and got on my knees, and just poured out my heart to God, saying, “God, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want it to be this way.”

And softly, I felt his embrace in my spirit and two simple words:

“I know.”

And I believed Him. Because Jesus really does get it, even when we don’t think He does. He knows we have to go through seasons we don’t want to go through; He knows we have to do things we don’t want to do. But there is grace for the frustration, and the ache, and for every ounce of emotion we feel in these seasons. We don’t have to despise where we’re at or wish for the former things because we have a God who knows and deeply, deeply cares.

We can rest and rejoice, and be thankful for today. We can wait and hope with expectation for what is to come. But I sure don’t want to be a lover of God who looks back. Because by looking back, and resenting the present, I’m missing what the Lord is longing to do.

It’s a process, one I’m daily having to walk through. But slowly the Lord is turning the parts of stone in my heart that wish things were different into soft places, overflowing with thankfulness.

And like the current song that just won’t get out of my head, I believe He is good, and He’s never going to let me down (lyrics below).

May this season be for you a season of moving evermore towards thankfulness. He is good and He will not let us down.

Amen.

“Let the King of my heart be

The mountain where I run

The fountain I drink from; Oh

He is my song

Let the Kind of my heart be

The shadow where I hide

The ransom for my life; oh

He is my song.

You are good, good, Oh

You are good, good, Oh

You’re never gonna let, 

Never gonna let me down

You’re never gonna let,

Never gonna let me down.

When the night is holding onto me

God is holding on.”

-“King of My Heart” by John Mark and Sarah McMillam

Five Words for 2016

Five Words for 2016

Happy New Year everyone! It’s 2016. January 1st. The start of a brilliant new year.

The chill in the air and the sun shining through my window just keeps reminding me of the promise of hope found in the start of something new. My heart is settled and expectant for all that is to come.

But then again, I’m pretty sure you feel it too, there’s also that nagging pull of pressure that I’m not where I should be on the first day of 2016. It’s 3:30 pm and I’m still in my pajamas. I had a slice of carrot cake for lunch. I still haven’t brushed my teeth or washed my face and I’m not sure if it’s even going to happen until it’s time again for bed. I’ve piddled around, filled out some addresses for save the dates (yippie!) and basically have done a whole lot of nothing all day long. The one major accomplishment I’ve had so far today is that I’m starting my first book for 2016. And I’m blogging. So I’d say that’s a win.

I tend to be the kind of person who has no grace for myself on days like today. Because if I was really good and I really had myself together, I would have exercised. I would have eaten more vegetables. I would have done more and controlled myself and stuck close to perfection. And all the while, I forget that everything that I’m striving for (health, joy, meaning, relationship, etc.) is a process. A steady progression towards a goal.

And maybe it’s because I’m marrying a man who is much more patient and slower-paced than I am, but my heart has been tugging the last few days of the year, asking the question, “Why do I have to be in a rush to get it right all the time? Why am I so afraid of the process?”

Process is uncomfortable, because we’re stuck in the in-between of who we’ve been and where we’re going and who we’re going to be. Process means that we have to sit patiently with who we are now, and most of the time that person is a lot more flawed and messy then we were hoping he or she would be. It’s like being in a tiny waiting room where the only other person in there is sitting too close to you and sneezing and weezing and coughing too loud. And it takes every ounce of self control that you have not to get up and run screaming out of the room. It’s a choice to sit there and breathe and to trust that it’s going to be over and you will feel better at some point in the future. I know that’s a silly analogy, but it feels like that’s the way I feel with myself so much of the time. I’m annoyed and perplexed that I haven’t gotten myself together yet, and then am baffled when my high-pressure demands and expectations only lead me to shut down and give up on the whole changing process at  all.

We all have someone we want to become in 2016, some area we want to grow in, some part of ourselves we want to leave behind. And my prayer is that we get to those places. But I’m starting to believe that in order to get there, it’s going to take us being a lot more patient, empathetic, and kind.

I was listening to a brilliant podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown last night, and as they were talking, Brown mentioned the importance of having empathy for yourself. She said we have to start speaking to ourselves the way we would speak to someone we love who is going through a hard time. We have to hope for ourselves the way that we hope for our friends. She called it a necessity.

And all the sudden in the middle of this podcast, I felt the Father’s loving whisper to me–to let this be a process.

I want us to grow this year. I want to savor the moments and forgive and let go of the things that are weighing me down. I want to drink deep of God’s word and memorize scripture and get lost in the beauty that’s around me. I want to laugh with my friends and throw dinner parties and take care of my body, soul, spirit, and mind. I want to be different than I am today on the last day of 2016. But in order to really be different, in order to fully experience this beautiful year and to walk away from it more loving and gentle and wise, I have to give myself grace. I have to remember that I don’t have to arrive where I want to be at the end of the year on the first day of 2016. I don’t have to have all of it together already.

And these are my five words that are helping me get to that place, the place of being gentle with where I’m at today, the place of having hope for what’s to come, for who I’m growing into: let this be a process.

Let this be a process.

Let your life be a process. Let your relationships be a process. Let for faith be a process. Let all that seems so unresolved and unknown and scary rest safe in the arms of the Father. Let your heart settle, let the air fill your lungs as you breathe, and remember–you do not have to arrive today. You just have to let this be a process. Let them take the time they need to grow and change and bloom.

I think it’s so profound that in so many places in scripture, there is talk of trees and plants and things (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 1, Isaiah 41, Psalm 52, Mark 4). Because if you’ve ever gardened, you know how long of a process it can be to see the fruit of your labor. You have to till the earth, plant the seeds, water them, make sure they get enough light, protect them from other species, and you have to wait. And what makes us think that we aren’t deserving of that patience that we give the trees, the people we love, etc.? What makes us think that we don’t deserve the same compassion and empathy and faith that we so willingly extend?

It’s 2016. There’s so much in store for you friend. But are we going to give ourselves the grace to grow and process, or are we going to spend the year closed off, resentful, for the fact that we aren’t who we thought we would be.

These five words to let it be a process are my silent, internal prayer. They’re the words I’m writing on my mirror, on the front of my planner, the words I’m whispering to myself throughout the day.

Let this year be a process. Let yourself receive grace. Yes, it takes time, but you are becoming. And the glory at the end is definitely worth the wait.

 

Amen.