Lord, Let Me Be More Awkward.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

 Photo by Kaitlin Shelby on Unsplash

I like to think I am getting better at listening to the Holy Spirit's little nudges. But maybe I just hope that I am?

If I'm being honest, it's not too difficult to know which thoughts come from God, that is, which instincts are those He wills. They are the restless pings of my conscience, or the thoughts that surface as inspired "great ideas" -- returning stray grocery carts, giving a stranger my Starbucks gift card, calling a family member I haven't spoken with in a while, paying for my friend's meal, or donating the money I wanted to use to buy a new lipstick toward disaster relief efforts. I know these impulses -- these inclinations toward random acts of kindness and love -- come from God.

So the question (for me at least) is not so much, "How do I listen for the Holy Spirit?" but rather, "Will I choose to obey the Spirit when I hear it?"

And that's the key, isn't it? Obedience. When we ask someone to listen to us, we want them to not only hear what we have to say... but act on it, too.

In Luke 9:35, at the scene of Christ's Transfiguration, we read the following: "Then from the cloud came a voice that said, 'This is my chosen Son; listen to him.'" And it's clear that our obedience is what He's asking for there -- not just a passive hearing.

See, when I say I think I'm getting better at listening to the Holy Spirit, I think what I mean is that I'm getting better at identifying what comes from Him. Most days I feel I don't do a great job of acting on it, though. And sometimes it's because whatever it is feels inconvenient; I'm in a hurry, so I'll do it "later"... (which, of course, often turns into, "never." Cringe.)

But other times? Other times I ignore the whispers, the Godly impulses, because... well, because I'm afraid of feeling awkward. What if I compliment that girl on her dress but she shrugs it off? What I flash one of those big, warm grins at a stranger on the street and they don't return it? What if the comforting words I seek to offer a brokenhearted friend come out stilted and stiff and feeble? What if I call an estranged family member but they don't want to talk to me? What if I'm the only one at the party who brings a hostess gift and it's just... weird? What if my friend thinks I'm strange when I break apart from our conversation to offer the grizzled man on the corner the granola bar in my purse?

Does anyone else struggle with this? I'm so afraid that the answer is no.

But if, dear reader, there's a fear in you like the one in me, I want to invite you to join me in saying this short and simple prayer: "Lord, let me be more awkward in the pursuit of Your Sacred Heart."

Amen.

Sacred Slowness

Saturday, September 23, 2017



 Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

“Who else wants to do the grad student showcase?” my professor asked. The graduate student showcase is the opportunity every student has in the fall semester to present their research at a conference on campus, with research posters and judges and grant money awarded and everything -- the whole shebang.

I shot my hand into the air. Words my mother had spoken to me at the start of my senior year of college -- “Now is not the time to be afraid. Now is the time to be bold!” -- settled themselves over me, assuring -- commanding, even -- that this time everything would be different.

All things considered, I didn’t plan well for postgraduate life as an undergraduate. I suffered a great deal of general indecisiveness that I chalked up to “discernment.” I responded to most queries about future employment with worries that I “didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.” And I halfheartedly responded to a number of online job postings, hoping I’d just passively sort of stumble onto the right one. As it turns out, none of those things were an acceptable substitute for taking internships, arranging informational interviews, or any of the other things that traditionally go along with job hunting.

They were, however, extremely acceptable veils for my fear of failure.  

Well, in graduate school, things would be different, I told myself. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life. But I no longer want to keep company with the fear that sits beside me. I want to lift its veil and ask uncomfortable questions that make it slink away. I want to run into every strategic opportunity, with such aplomb and abandon that I might trip over myself in my haste to do things right this time. And I believed applying for the graduate student showcase in my first semester was the first step to a killer CV and Ph.D. application. In other words, it was the first step toward my ideal future.  

The next day, I sat on the couch in my tiny apartment, tears sliding down my face as I fretted over a) how to make my project proposal suitable for submission, b) whether or not I was ready for such an endeavor in only my first semester, c) the amount of work this heralded for the coming semester on top of everything I already had on my plate, and d) the disaster I assumed my future would become if I didn’t take hold of this particular professional development opportunity.

That’s when God came down and gently smacked me upside the head (as He does when He has something important to say). “Sarah. What kind of God do you think I am? Don’t you think my plan for your life is bigger than this one thing?”

Mmhm.

People say, "Do something every day that scares you," as though that is the only way to self-growth. But what if, sometimes, it's okay not to do the scary thing? What if sometimes the scarier thing is to just breathe deep, go slowly, and be gentle with and forgiving of ourselves? And to be brave enough not to believe in the regret that comes from "missing out" or making what might be the “wrong choice” because we are wise enough to know that even if we don't take this particular chance... God still has a plan for our lives?

For me, saying no to the graduate student showcase was an act of faith. It said, “God, I trust in You. And I believe that my future hinges not on a single decision I could make, but rather, on your abundant grace and goodness. And so, I am going to let go. I am not going to cling so desperately to visions of what I need to do to be successful. Because it isn’t really up to, or about, me, anyway.”

Fellow hustling hearts: You will still get where you need to go if you lift a few things off your shoulders. So do it. Trust in a vision not your own. It’s okay. It's okay to not feel ready for something. It's okay to take the time to learn. It's okay to build confidence as you go along. It's okay to move slowly, and it is even okay not to label that movement cautious fear.

It’s better to consider it sacred.