“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
There is something that I’ve been contemplating for awhile and it keeps ringing true in so many areas:
God is in the lack. The need. The ache.
Last month I played the “mins game” where I got rid of a lot of things. A lot. For a long time before that I had been thinking about doing this. I had this building desire to own less, to declutter, to create outer order that translates to inner calm, to have the simple mindset of having only what I actually use, need or helps me do life well. But it ran deeper than the externals of downsizing my stuff. I truly longed for trust. I longed for a freedom from the striving to always be in control. My getting rid of things was an act of trust I wanted to perform, an outward action that would promote this inward desire I had to trust I’ll always be ok, I’ll be provided for, I don’t have to have all I potentially would need for every possible scenario under the sun nor do I always need to be prepared for what life brings. I wanted to do something to help me remember to lean into a real faith, a faith in the truth that I’m provided for, I am enough, and there will be enough and I will be enough no matter what comes my way. That kind of faith takes guts and a major rewiring of the stockpiling heart that would rather be in control then let God be a mysterious provider, Lover, sustainer right beyond where my capacities run out.
It’s so subtle – this desire to always be in control, to predict the future so we can hypothetically prepare for it. It’s subtlety allows it to fly under the radar dressed up pretending to be qualities such as preparedness, as being on top of it, as just being cautious, as logic. But what I think it can become when not in it’s proper place is, like my tendency to buy and keep more than I really use before it goes out of style, collects dust or expires, is this desire to be in control of more than we were made to be in control of. We were never meant to be totally self-sufficient. We were never meant to predict the future. We were never meant to go it alone. We were made to need and to receive.
Yet there’s an all too human part of us that would love to be braced for every negative thing so that it wouldn’t hurt us quite as bad when it happens. We think if we store up food than we will never be hungry or in need. If we keep all the clothes that fit, than we will always have the perfect outfit, fit in and not be hit by the sting of ridicule or an unkind judgement. If we stockpile our bank account, than we will never be hit too hard with financial burdens. Even in the spiritual realm it shows up in thinking, if we do all the practices church taught us, then we will always be able to behave rightly and stay “perfect”, good or feel close to God. And even in the emotional sphere it shows up in our thinking, if we read all the self-help psychology books and do the “right” things then we can help ourselves out of any depression, sadness, hurt or fear we find ourselves in or even shield ourselves from relational pain. This addictive mental habit of worrying about every bad outcome or stockpiling for tomorrow so we could actually be prepped for handling everything and shield ourselves from pain keeps us in it’s grasp faking us into believing we are responsible instead of realizing we are caught trusting our work instead of the God beyond what we can see.
What I’m discovering happens when we let this need for control take the front seat of our focus is a continual anxiety and self-focus that cripples any human designed for faith in a capable Loving God instead of our limited self.
In reality, none of us can totally be prepared. We were never meant to. We were never meant to have it all figured out. We were never meant to predict the future. We were never meant to provide everything for ourselves or do life without other people to lean on.
We were made for relationship. We were made to have needs, and needs that were met. We were meant to lack things which can be provided for and in doing so bond us to those with which we give and receive. Just look at a beautiful newborn baby. They don’t provide anything for themselves. They need help with everything. And in fact it’s their very lack, their hunger, their needs, that end up bonding them to their people who give them care.
What I desire in my life these days is for my faith to run a little deeper, for the world to feel a little safer, not because I’m prepared for the hard things but because I’m trusting a Loving God who sustains all things. For me to wake up each day and lean into all the areas in which I lack what I need and ask God to be my Giver and allow myself to receive.
I think the reason so many of us lean into the opposite reality of doing it all on our own is because it feels much much safer. All the areas where we do that like the ones I mentioned above, which I’m sure is only scratching the surface, deceptively trick us into thinking we are not allowed to have needs and we don’t need God or others to step in. But what it also ends up doing is deceiving us into believing the world is a scary place. A place in which we are on our own, by ourselves, needing to provide for our every need constantly on the look out for scenarios in which we must be ready to brace ourselves and prepare ourselves instead of facing toward the unknown and saying “bring it on. The God of the Universe is my provider and is on my side. I will have enough to face this and I will get through stronger by God’s grace.”
So, first know you’re not alone. Even ancient Israelites struggled with the trust of God providing for tomorrow. They struggled with the unknown of “will there be enough?” and tried to qualm that fear by their own hand through collecting and hoarding food for tomorrow, even after God (God!) talked to them and told them He’s provide what they’d need when tomorrow came. It is not easy to look forward into the unknown of being provided for in tomorrow’s desert. But trust, even if when you feel the hunger first, that God’s right on the other side of it. He is a trustworthy gracious God, that He will come through with what you need. He will provide. He will listen to the places you cry out in lack.
What I’m desiring more and more is to look ahead. To stare at the unknown of tomorrow, to say I need help, and lean into the ways in which God will bond me to Him or the human he provides to meet my need.
May you too learn alongside me, how to let go of certainty, false control and the lie of not being allowed to have needs or weaknesses. May you start to make empty spaces for God to fill. May the ways in which your heart has been trusting your own works start to loosen it’s grip so you can know what true faith feels like. And may you start to see the world is safer, it’s on your side, you will get through whatever comes, you will be provided for, you will be and have enough for each day. It may be only enough for the moment which can be scary when you’re used to being “in control” of the future. But it will also feel magical. It will feel like your bonded to a God within that moment, listening to and providing for you. The world will once again begin to be filled with whimsy and love and thrill as God steps in and cares for you in the most unexpected ways.
Grace and Peace.
Extra Musings and Random Thoughts
That quote above is from Guidepost 5 in The Gifts of Imperfection where Brene talks about how important faith and intuition are in a wholehearted life. In the words of Anne Lamott that she shares and I’ve shared here before “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.” May we all lean in more to uncertainty, to faith and to the unknown.
This truth of our needs being our places for grace to work plays out in so many ways in my own life. I’m deeply thankful for the authentic community God continues to craft around me and the ways in which we care for each other’s needs when they’re brought to the table. The needs shared and met continue to bond us deeper and soothes our hearts. It’s a gift!
It’s been amazingly beautiful lately – a lot warmer and brighter than most Octobers normally are. This photo is from a walk I took by myself around Lake Grubb to soak in the much needed sunshine of the morning. There’s always this one spot – shown in the picture – that usually catches me in aw. The sun, the type of trees and the sheer feeling of being in and a part of it all. God all around in the beauty of the scene.
If you’re ever curious what I’m reading or have read and loved I made a few boards you can check out when you’re looking for any good books. Lately I finished Falling Upward which I would recommend to anyone in my life stage and beyond. It’s incredible. I also finished Brene Brown’s latest Braving the Wilderness and had a great time discussing her findings with a group of friends. Both those books and The Gifts of Imperfection have complimented each other and helped digest the books in a deeper way.
And if you’re looking for more content (like there isn’t enough out there!) the ministry I get to be a part of just posted it’s first podcast of the content from October. Great stuff on not letting jealousy run your life. Proud of the team that makes this possible and even more the exceptional community God’s crafted out of the environment.