Beginner's Mind. Advent Heart.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Photo by Andres F. Uran on Unsplash

Hey, friends, I'm back!

It's been three-ish months since I've last published a post. And while I could say that's because I've just been "too busy" to write for my blog, what with all of the papers I've been working on for graduate school, I think you'd be able to see right through that one.

Because it's a lie.

I mean, yes, I've been doing a lot of other writing during the past few months (grad programs in English lit are no joke, people). But I would have scheduled time to write here, too, if it were that much of a priority to me. And it hasn't been.

That is the truth.

My first semester of graduate school rattled me a bit. A lot, actually. See, I'm a recovering perfectionist, and as much as I would like to have already reached the point of emotional maturity where criticism doesn't bother me (read: doesn't personally attack my worth and dignity as a human being), I'm not quite there yet. And what I learned very quickly in this first semester was that... well, I still have a lot to learn.

This vulnerability of mind means that I didn't respond to feedback with humility of heart. My semester vacillated between days of feeling like I was totally rocking everything, and moments of crippling self-doubt.  My professors and classmates were nothing but kind and supportive as I tried to make my writing better than it's ever been, but pride still found ways to creep in, twist around all of their well-meaning critiques, and lock every door God was trying to use to slip into my heart in a very specific and necessary way during this season of my life.

I was afraid of blogging again because, essentially, I was worried it just wouldn't be good enough. Not in light of everything I was learning I didn't know.

...Which brings me to this post, and to you.

I'm willing to bet you've been there, too: thrashing about in the throes of "not good enough-ness," trying to make a name and a life for yourself. This is a very human reality, and frankly, for me, it's my own personal form of darkness -- the shadow that lurks behind me as I attempt to do any sort of good work, the demon that tries to keep me small, the gremlin who would have me believe (falsely) that I myself am responsible for creating my worth.

But tomorrow is the third Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season in which we await in hope the Light who will scatter the darkness. The God who seeks to make all things new -- to make us new. The God who continues, every hour of every day, to break His way into our hearts and our lives, as He did over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. The God who is Emmanuel -- "God With Us".

When we want to give ourselves permission to grow from failure, we have to cultivate what's known as "beginner's mind" -- the ability to go from failure to failure without fear of judgment or loss of childlike enthusiasm, and to trust instead that it's all part of "the learning experience". Advent is a season when we're encouraged to think this way with regard to our spiritual lives as well -- to keep making room for God, even if -- especially if -- we struggle.

So two weeks ago, when Advent began I asked myself where I needed God to breathe new life into my story. What did I need to do to grow closer to Him? Where do I need to make room for His coming?

The answer was immediate: surrender perfectionism and pride for humility.

It's definitely not easy. Like, not even a little bit. Praying for humility, in my experience, results in, um, humiliation. And I'm not about that life.

But I should be, because a humble, Advent, teachable heart gives God room to enter into it more and more, not just during Advent, and not only at Christmastime, but all year -- and all life -- long.