This morning I woke up thinking about my car battery. Yes, I am aware that that is a strange thing to be thinking about at 7am, it’s fine. A little over a month ago, I got a new battery. It was a tad expensive, but I got a 3-year warranty on it because I have this really bad tendency to leave my lights on. My car lacks that one, little, extremely helpful feature of “dinging” at me when I get out of the car and I haven’t turned them off. I’ve gotten better. I’ve trained myself and sometimes when I turn them on in the rain, I ask the Holy Spirit to remind me to turn them off. Totally works, by the way!!
Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I went and got my oil changed. When I went to pick my car back up the guy tells me my battery is testing lower than it should. Clearly, something is wrong. I haven’t left my lights on since I got a new battery, so that can’t be it. Who knows. I haven’t taken it to get it checked out yet. It seems to be running ok, but I am far from a mechanic.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and feel like you are already behind in your day? It’s not really about what time you wake up, it doesn’t matter, there’s just like this hint of anxiousness and hustle greeting you as soon as you open your eyes; reminding you of all the things you need to get done, all the people you need to meet with, contact— make sure to remember this, don’t forget that. Ugh! What is that? The bad thing is, I’m the type of person that tends to try to hide from it. I shut down when I get super overwhelmed. I hide under my covers until I realize that it’s not going away, and oh wait, awesome, I just made it worse because I wasted time, hoping it would leave. Way to go Kristen!
I have the great privilege of having jobs that are flexible. I don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time usually. If I want to stay up late and work, instead of getting up early, I can. If I need to take a day off and get more hours the next day, I can. My life is way different than it has ever been before. It’s freeing to some extent, but, honestly, I don’t think I really know what to do with freedom sometimes. I feel like I’ve been this caged bird my whole life, and then one day someone decided to open the cage and set me free only I don’t know how to fly. Have I forgotten, or is it that I just never learned?
My problem is I am a people pleaser. I thought I had gotten better at that. But it seems like I’ve gotten sucked back into the mindset. I think it’s because I don’t know what to do with freedom, so I am allowing other people to tell me. I’m allowing them to have a say in how I spend my time. How? By always saying yes, and never saying no. Never saying what I need. Never admitting that I’m being pulled in 20 different directions all by people I love and care about and want to spend time with. I love helping people, I love walking through things with them, counseling them. But it’s beginning to take over. Slowly stealing time. Slowing stealing me.
There is this still small voice inside, begging me to stop, telling me to take care of myself— asking me questions like “who is taking care of you?” And then there is another little voice saying, “that’s selfish, suck it up, there are other people who are dealing with actual problems.” I don’t know. I don’t know on either of those. I just know that I don’t feel like myself. I feel like my battery is testing low, and it’s like there is something, somewhere sucking the life out of me very quietly and quickly, but I have no idea what it is or how to fix it.
So this morning, when thinking about my car battery, I also, felt like maybe I need to pay attention to the anxiousness and hustle. They are warning signs that something isn’t right— something needs to give, something needs to be reexamined. I have to say no, even if it looks like I’m being irresponsible. I need to cut out all the voices, even the good ones and just listen to the voice of God for a bit because everything is getting mumbled and jumbled and cloudy. I dread it, clearing away. Because I know once again, I’ll probably be misunderstood. Some may even decide to voice out loud the voice that I heard within— the “selfish, suck it up” one. I dread letting people down and disappointing them.
But my dread doesn’t come close to how much I miss God. It doesn’t compare to how tired I am of writing the same things in my journal every day. I keep saying, I need Him to define me, but I’ve not allowed myself the time, space, the freedom to let Him do so. Instead, I’ve let the voice of other people weigh in more than His. And I know that means I’m prolonging the process, He’s got me in. But how, how do I change this? I’m terrible at managing my time, especially when I have anxiousness and hustle blowing their whistles at me telling me to “RUN!!!”
I think the answer is to just choose Jesus. No matter what. To create space even if I don’t have any, turn off the phone and just sit with Him. Wherever and whatever that looks like. I don’t mind talking to Him on the go. I don’t mind taking Him with me to all my appointments and meetings and such. But I need intimacy. I need wholeness. I need to be loved on and cared for. And those are not bad, selfish things.
This is my goal. This is what matters to me. This is freedom to me. Freedom to be present, freedom to be centered and whole and not apologize or be insecure about who I am. Freedom to fix my gaze on what really matters; the things I really care about. Not what everyone else thinks. I think if I do this, I will actually be able to love others more fully, more fearlessly, more wholly. I read something last week, in “Present Over Perfect,” that I very much needed to be reminded of. I keep reading it over and over until it settles into me. I hope it settles into you as well.
“…the idea that the person of Christ is sitting next to me, bodily, keeping me company, breathing in and out as I do— it’s still tricky for me. And it’s still tricky for me to hand Him all my silly human concerns—little wounds and worries, dreams and discouragements. But I spend more and more time sitting with Him, not with the Platonic ideal of divinity, abstracted away to a safe distance. I sit with Jesus, the human-and-divine being sent to be with us, Emmanuel. I practice being with Him. It feels as awkward as I’m making it sound, I’m sure….I’m learning, minute by minute that I spend sitting with Him, allowing myself to be heard, my heart held, my dreams known. We’re in uncharted territory now, so I don’t know exactly how things shift from here, but I’m finding that my ability to sit with Jesus makes me more present and connected… As I create space and imagination within myself to be heard by the actual person on Christ, my capacity to hear the people I love is increasing. And my sense of strength, deep inside myself, grows and grows. So much of life seems to be about reclaiming… And I’m learning that spiritual practice is a reclaiming too. I used to know how to do this kind of prayer, when I was a child, when so many voices weren’t yelling their bad advice at me while I prayed, telling me I’m doing it wrong in a thousand different directions.
Here’s the thing: I might be doing it wrong, in someone else’s view. But as I sit, my heart grows more compassionate. My gratitude increases. I become more humble, more thankful, less fearful. So maybe there isn’t a wrong on this one, so long as it’s yielding a God-ward heart. And at the end of it all, at the center of it all, that’s the whole of who I am: this God-ward heart. Amen.” (Shauna Niequist)