Well friends, I'll be making my way back to campus for residence life staff training two weeks from today. What? TWO MORE WEEKS until the adventure that is fall semester 2015 begins.
The urgency of impending travel has transformed my mind into a battlefield. One army is in favor of time moving slower, of prolonging my days with my family in these beautiful, Colorado mountains. “Oh my goodness – where did this summer go and what happened to all the time I thought I had?” The opposing army is in favor of time moving faster, of returning to my Dordt family as quickly as possible. “Oh my goodness – these last three-ish months have felt like forty years in the desert and I’m ready to re-enter to the promised land of Sioux Center.”
This bittersweet back-and-forth has resulted in a lot of interesting conversations between God and myself. Below is an honest glimpse into my recent prayer life.
Hey God, I’m feeling really stressed out right now. I have to pack and I have to plan and I have to order textbooks and I have to gather dorm decorations and clothes and school supplies and I have to work out my budget and I have to make wing decorations and I have to – there are so many things I have to cross of my college prep list! I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done in such a short amount of time.
Beloved, do you remember 1 Peter 5:7? I care about you, about ALL of you (including your ever-growing to do list). And because I care, I want you to cast all your anxiety on me. Besides, do you really think your to-do list will ever end? You may finish all the items that are on there for today, but new ones will be added before you’ve finished the current ones. If you’re stressing about all the things you have to do now, you’ll keep stressing for the rest of your life. Do you remember Matthew 11:28-30? Come to me with your stress, and take my yoke upon you instead. It’s easy, and it’s light.
But God, even if I release this worry and this stress to you, I still have to deal with it. I still have to get all this prep work done, and I’m just not sure --
Annie, I asked you to give me your worry, not your work! I don’t take items off your to-do list; instead, I make those items more meaningful. As you work on making decorations for your wing, you’re also thinking about and praying for each of your girls. They need the prayers, and you need to spend time preparing your heart to serve them. As you get your school supplies together, I’m reinvigorating your mind, reminding you of how rewarding it is to work hard at something you love. As you go shopping/crafting for dorm decorations, I’m putting you in public places where your patience and kindness in interacting with overly stressed employees can reveal bits of who I am. When you’re the overly stressed one, though, you’re blinded to these opportunities to tap into my presence, my redemptive movement made tangible. And when you’re stressed, you’re the one that’s missing out on all the life around you. Remember Esther’s story, especially 4:12-17? I could have used anyone else to rescue the Israelites, but because Esther made herself pliable, aware of her surroundings and aware of how I was moving, I used her.
Okay, you’re right. I don’t want to miss out on everything of eternal value that you’re up to each day. I want to be fully present in each moment and, therefore, fully usable. But how do I release the stress without releasing the tasks? How do I retain the joy?
It’s simple, really: just remember that all the things you’ve said you “have to do” are really things you get to do. You get to return to a tight-knit, Christ-centered community. You get to spend another year deepening friendships with the people you’ve been Skyping, texting, Snapchatting, and generally missing all summer. You get to enter the stories of your soon-to-be-freshmen friends – you’re going to love them, by the way! You get to take classes that fascinate you, that enable you to serve me in current time while simultaneously preparing you to serve me in your future career. You get to dive back into chapel and GIFT and Thursday night worship – you get to partake in corporate worship goodness multiple times a week! All this prep work and all these things you “have to do” get you to the things you get to do. Your stressing reveals your blessings, my dear.
Okay, I understand. I’m done with anxiety. Take my petty stress, God. Shift my focus off myself and on to all you have going on. Enable me to live freely, wholeheartedly seeking you even in my mundane… But God, what about all the friends I wanted to catch up with this summer, but didn’t? What about all the books I wanted to read that only sat on my shelf? What about all the items on my bucket list that I haven’t touched?
There you go again, allowing anxiety to control you. Sweet girl, remember all the adventures you did have this summer and be grateful. You didn’t spend a lot of time with your friends from high school, but that doesn’t mean you value them any less. The sincerity of a friendship is not measured in number of coffee dates or spontaneous sleepovers. You’ve spent countless hours with your sisters, instead. You've attended so many concerts and hiked so many trails and directed two plays at your high school and played so many games of Blokus with the kids you nanny. While confined to this earth, you only have so much time. And daughter, you've used your time as well as you could.
Okay, but what about the books I didn’t get read, or the schoolwork I didn’t get ahead on, or –
You feel like you haven’t been productive enough with your time?
Well, I don’t measure productivity the same way that the world does. Maybe the nights you watched a movie with your mom or the mornings you took your bike out on the trail or the naps you took when you got home from work or the afternoons at the pool or coffee dates with your dad were in fact the most productive things you could do. Remember Nate’s blog post correlating spring break to the Sabbath? Summer is similar, my dear. I instituted the Sabbath, and I commanded rest because it’s what your soul needs to thrive. Rest and productivity are not opposites in my Book.
I'm still here, silly.
Thanks for speaking truth. Thanks for being Truth. Thanks for setting me free with it, like you promised in that one verse.
Yeah, that one. Thanks.
I love you, child.
I love you, too. Amen for now?
Amen for now.