As my fingertips graze the keyboard around this topic, unwittingly my neck tightens and my jaw clenches. A way my physical presence reminds me of the root of this issue:
We do everything to guard against this recurring pain, don’t we?
No matter what reprieve we seek: wooded walks, journals piled high, running shorts in every color, the tension still returns. It rears its ugly head when our defenses are down. Often, those early hours of the morning. Today, 4:00 am wakened me with a startling thought: I’m not doing enough for Cade.
Sleepy ears burning, my twelve-year-old firstborn with Down syndrome stumbled into my bedroom minutes later, dragging his sheets and bedding with him, (his way of asking me to tuck him back in) and I relented. Lying next to Cade in the dark, I reflected on the week prior. His first of middle school, a new public school in downtown Manhattan where he navigated five flights of stairs between his classroom and the cafeteria. Met with unknown teachers, unknown faces, in an unknown building and I knew. He felt alone. Confused that his school and teacher and friends were no longer what he had grown to love the three years prior.
Unable to return to sleep, I began to pen morning pages. A daily ritual game-changer I commenced this summer, described in the book, The Artist’s Way. The author, Julia Cameron, claims the first 45 minutes after we wake, our ego defenses are down, and we are most in touch with our subconscious. So we write. Three pages every morning. Unedited and unfiltered. Longhand. No digital, no media, no interruption. This practice unlocks what is already there, as we watch it spill onto the page.
I wrote specific things I’d not written in over a decade. Things so apparent years ago, I stopped them. But my silence buried these intentions under the weight of distractions. So I began again. I wrote how I wanted more for Cade. I wrote how I wanted his mind to engage and deepen his love for learning. I strategized, plotted, scheduled, and planned. All the while reminding myself that love is all that matters in the end.
We feel tension because we care. So much.
We carry tension because we fear we’re not enough.
We measure our worth by how faithful we are to the multiple roles and responsibilities we’ve been given. Whether in our callings and passions or to the loved ones to which we’ve been entrusted. And we clench these tensions tight, as if our little world might stop spinning on its axis if we let go. As if all these pieces we are responsible for might fall apart.
Or will they?
I believe God equips us to plan and prepare. I believe He honors our faithfulness and work ethic. Yet, I believe He delights furthermore when we put our pencil down. When we close our laptop and shut off the light. When we light a candle and sit in silence and stillness and marvel at how awesome this beautiful world is and our teeny tiny role in it.
What do we want with this one amazing life?
We want to live wide awake. We want to give everything we have to the things that matter to the heart of God. He created us with that bent. But before that will ever happen there is something that must come first, something that we fiercely fight against.
Kicking and screaming, we must receive. It’s so terribly difficult to yield and surrender to our frailty. So we pound our fists against the embrace, because it feels foreign. Unmerited. To be loved for doing nothing. To be cherished for simply existing. Affirmed for merely being honest.
Have you ever watched the wounded run reckless and unsure? Barreling through streets hitting those in their wake? That is the one we all judge and say, “Poor dear, she’s in a rough place.” But aren’t we all familiar with that rough place? Weren’t we there last week? Or yesterday? After years of spreading life too thin, I’ve pared my tensions down to two questions:
How can I be faithful to the people God has placed in my midst?
How can I be faithful to the purpose God designed me to pursue?
For you, the specifics will look very different from, but the posture remains the same. Let’s burn for what hits close to home. In our neighborhoods, schools, churches, workplaces, families, marriages, in our own hearts. Let’s make sure we are living in grace toward that end. Less is more, especially with tensions. If you are going to live in the tension of two things, make sure they both count. Make sure your role is doing redemptive work.
And even then, we must loosen our white knuckled grip of control over finding the answers. And in such release, in such receiving, there will be rescue and clarity.
Because when we do embrace our true, God-given callings—the ones God has actually placed in our lives—when we live in the tension of worthwhile things, then we can truly say, “I don’t want to live for my benefit, I want to flourish for the benefit of others.”