This would not be so disheartening, except that I badly calculated.
Rather than the 6-8 hours of manual labor I have some how remained certain I can coax my body to do, I planned on 3-4 hours. Yet after 1 hour of manual labor, I am drained utterly. Standing is work. Trying to do mental work is work. Planning is work. There is little I can do but sit and talk, after a mere one hour of physical labor.
At a different point in my life, I might likely have rallied around some cry like “rage! rage against the dying of the light!” Now? Now I recognize that, wanted or not, I am spent. Recalculate, but admit the truth. You can’t do practical things with faulty data.
It’s sad to me. It is a very real, in-my-face reminder that I cannot be the person I want to be. And a reminder of how often I drink that worldly wisdom in, without even realizing that’s what I’m doing. Isn’t becoming who you want to be the epitome of a life’s existence?
Only, in the moments when I am awake, I don’t believe that to be true. I remember again how it is spoken that Jesus was sent into a mortal body, to learn obedience. The One true, perfect, holy – to enact obedience. How much less us? Yet that is not a thing of our own planning or devising. This is sobering, and humbling.
I had just three goals for this not-winter season. (1) Finish painting the porch. (2) Make my garden into raised beds. (3) Go through my things and cull.
I thought these were very modest goals, achievable, and, whether I knew it or not (I don’t know), a way of clearing up responsibility so that I would be free to do whatever I wanted. No half-finished projects taking up familial space, no piles of belongings getting in others’ way. By the end of fall, or the end of the year at the very least, I would have a nice blank slate to spring board off of.
Instead, my health problems have continued in fits and spikes, the gifts being not feeling miserable, not a return to previous capabilities. I barely, sort of, mostly finished the painting of the porch, with help. I got maybe 1/3 of the way through the garden project. And perhaps 1/8th of the way through culling my belongings, or even knowing where my things are.
Emily P. Freeman says too often we think our limitations are thing to be fought against, rather than recognizing that limitations are one of the ways God directs us in His will. There was a time in my life where I would have thought that struggling against my limitations was almost a moral purity, a strength of character. I have tried that enough times that I have been forced to sit down and consider that, maybe, just possibly, Emily was right.
So I stopped fighting, gave up on the garden bed, and came inside. But that was maybe my one last chance to do anything with the garden this year, and I was incapable. So that’s the end of that goal for this year. I can still wrestle a bit with my belongings for the rest of the year, but in all honesty, I have to admit: most of what I planned to do this year never happened.
So: time to regroup and reassess. Oh, guys, I have no limit to the things I want. No limit to the things I want to do. No end to the plans I can make. And, after years of hard heart, closed ears and a forehead of flint: a brokenness that makes quite clear I have limitations. What comes next, then, cannot be guided by what I want, what might be able to be done, what I can plan for.
In my head, everything tumbles around in a jumble. . . half finished sewing projects I want to dig out. . .that novel I was 7 chapters into writing. . .the idea of writing a lectionary around the gospel of Mark, a scriptural patchwork quilt to enjoy. . .the watercolors and acrylics that astound me when I get them on to canvas or cotton paper. . .my dSLR camera sitting in a drawer, waiting for me to learn how to use it. . .the French course I’m half way through. . .the piano I want to learn to play classically. . .the tantalizing beginning of voice lessons I’ve heard. . .the almost grim (in the sense of admitting to real life) thoughts of house buying, and the giddy delirium of making a place my own. . .the conviction it is time to stay where I am working, and the aching sense of marginalization I feel every day at work. . .the consuming longing for a husband and the slightly guilty girlish dreamings of wedding gowns. . .the face and paws of springer spaniels, the only dogs that ever made my heart flip over. . . the quiet graces of household chores that, when rested, I actually find deeply satisfying. . . the idolization of making my body Work The Way It Is Supposed To. . .
Or do I order things more properly by priority? Another tumble. . .taking care of my body. . . being creative. . .being outside. . .resting. . . professional development. . .relationships. . . preparing for the the future. . . learning. . . throwing it all to the wind and becoming primarily devoted to religion. . .
I could go on and on. But it’s not directive.
They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He’s the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him
–Rich Mullins, David Strasser, Giver of Noses
What I most want is to join with my husband and go recklessly follow God. Of course it sounds romantic. Golly, if you can’t sound romantic about wanting a husband, do you even want a husband? But every time someone starts prodding me that, if that’s what I really want, I should go out and get it (one way or another), all I can think of is Sarah trying to force God’s promise to happen on her time. That trying to force and smoosh God into doing what we want only leads to greater heartache.
So here I am, sitting in the shambles of what I thought I could do (I couldn’t), turning over plans in my head that feel like settling-for-less, dreaming of things I have no control over. I have no direction.
When I started this year, I felt like my job this year was to listen and pay attention. I did pretty abysmally at that, too. It’s hard to feel like you have a way to move forward when it doesn’t seem like you’ve ever moved forward.
The strand of hope that I’m holding to is just that. . .when we don’t get what we think we want, it’s because God has something else that’s better in progress. That we don’t have to figure life out, because God already did, and His intricate and beautiful plans continue to unfold whether we realize it or not.
The problem, I suppose, it that it’s just so unsatisfying when we don’t realize. We God stays that still quiet voice we rarely hear, when we want obvious change and progress and fruit and plot arcs. But it seems the only word I’ve heard from God of late is, “Wait.”
And that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Sometimes it feels like the only thing I’ve done with my entire life is wait. I want to start drafting plans or designing aesthetic principles, or something. I want to know what I should stop doing, what I should start doing, what I should focus on. Some way to clear out all the voices and fuzz in my head and have some kind of clarity about Next.
But if God says, “Wait.” What else can you say, besides, “Teach me to wait.” In calmness, not in fury, in joy, not in anxiety, in expectation, not in fear, in hope, not in anger. Eyes wide open, hands at rest and up-turned, attentive by ear, undistracted, and confident of the goodness of God. Maybe, the difficulty in waiting is because we try to wait unattentive, and then grow frustrated that our focus on distractions hasn’t yielded obvious change. Maybe waiting is so unsatisfying because we keep looking away.
I am afraid of waiting, because I am afraid it won’t produce fruit. I hate “practicing the pause.” I try to find every excuse away from resting. If I am anything, I am constantly frantic on the inside. Why do I not feel safe to be still?
If I have to be still, I want to know the exact reason why, the exact time it will be, what the pay-off is, and what I can do in the meantime. I don’t think this is an unusual want, but I do think it is unusual for it to be given. So it must mean that the call to “Wait” is not focused on the unwaiting, a thing God has already taken care of, but on the dwelling. The call to Be Still, and know that He is God, so oft repeated and so rarely headed.
I am not good at this. That may be why I need to practice. God help me.