Lately, a lot of what I have been reading and thinking about has encouraged me to think about my own striving. I’ve been asked to consider what it is that makes me want so much and think that I have to go after it so hard, especially when I have a faith in a God who can make anything happen just because God chooses to. Sometimes, I know, all of this effort comes from a lack of faith and trust that God (or the universe or whatever energy you see as loving this crazy life of ours) can bring about what is best and most beautiful for me.
So I’ve been actively trying to pull back, to let things come as they will, which is hard for me, a woman with some real control issues combined with a well-intentioned and deeply-seeded sense of responsibility. It’s hard to reconcile the need to bear witness and take action for those that suffer in the world with the knowledge and awareness that I can’t “save the world” all by myself. Sometimes I live in a world of extremes where I see myself as someone who needs to speak to problems and work to solve them and where I know that I am not “indispendable,” as a wise colleague told me. It’s kind of like dancing on a knife blade here.
Last night, as I was drifting off after a long evening of grading research papers, I picked up Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer, and in the midst of a story about the great grief of his friend Bill whose wife had died suddenly and tragically, I came upon this bit of the story, where Bill learns that in his pain he can do nothing but grieve and cling to God:
I do not know what to make of Bill consistently saying God did everything and Bill did nothing. How was that possible? Isn’t that overstating it? Surely, Bill was doing something. As I pressed him further, the only thing he would own up to was choosing to believe and trust with his mustard seed of faith. This was a leap for me, not familiar with a God who doesn’t require or need me to do my thing in order for him to do his. [emphasis mine] Apparently God has the prerogative of freely supplying his children what they need independently of what they do or don’t do. During one period, Bill went weeks without opening his Bible, but God just kept on “showing up” and Bill just went on trusting – grieving, fulfilling responsibilities at work and home, hurting, caring for each of his children, weeping, but always trusting.
Jesus was once asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answers, “The word of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
I must say that that these might be the most freeing words I’ve read in a long time. I expend so much effort thinking that I have to “go after” what I want. I think that if I don’t do something no one, including God, will. I think that it’s not possible to simply wait and see God work. This is definitely an Andi thing, but I also think it’s an American thing and a human thing. It’s so much easier, on some level, “to do it ourselves” than to wait for someone else to do it. But the truth is that the way we “do it” may not be the best way, the right way, and it certainly isn’t the trusting way. It’s also a tiring, rat race of striving that makes us miss out on the beauty around us at this moment.
Now, I’m not saying we sit back, put up our feet, and let God do all the work – no way. What I’m saying is that I need to learn to sit back, wait, and let God guide my feet into God’s work. I don’t need to look twenty steps ahead and work out the way I get there. I need to be here, see what God has put in front of me, seek God’s wisdom in that moment, and trust that twenty steps later I’ll be just where I need to be. God doesn’t NEED me to do my thing in order for God to do God’s thing. There’s rest in that.