I Don't Really Have It All Together
I paced the barely-carpeted floor of my dorm's living room, my phone jammed uncomfortably between my shoulder and ear so I could hold a spoon in one hand and a jar of sunflower seed butter ("sunbutter") in the other. It's become an unwelcome habit to indulge in large portions of snack food late at night. I don't know - maybe it's a way of coping with stress? Suddenly, I realized what was happening.
"You're not going to believe this," I told my brother on the other end of the phone. "I've just eaten six huge spoonfuls of this stuff."
Moments such as these remind me how much people don't see when they look at the outside of my life and tell me they think I always have it together. If they only knew how many goals I fail to accomplish, how many projects I fail to complete, how many times my thoughts and words run away to become actions that I'm not proud of.
Ever since I was a middle-schooler, I've striven for perfect life balance. For discipline. For success. For the feeling of satisfaction and wholeness. And I've wanted to somehow stay in that elevated place all the time. Even on tough days or in tough situations, I believed it was possible for me to at least respond in a perfect way, which would somehow make the less-than-perfect day or situation, in fact, perfect. Of course, I never called it perfection. I called it excellence. And excellence is a great thing, just not the way I was doing it.
The Apostle Paul speaks in Romans 7 about the war that rages inside every human being. This war is the tension between our desire to do good and the darkness that continually attempts to lure us into what is less than good. I don't think any of us want our lives to be controlled by what is less than good. We all want to feel whole, balanced, disciplined, established, self-assured.
But that's the problem.
Believing we're powerful enough to be totally in control of our own lives is to be anything but whole. In the past, I wanted to be disciplined, to be perfect, to make every deadline, to complete every goal, to make every person happy... but for what? Deep down it was to prove that I was in control.
I thought I liked hearing people admire my life and accomplishments and skills and decisions. And I'll confess there have been times when I wanted people to think I had it all together. But really it was a painful reminder that I didn't. It was a reminder that in order to keep up this facade I'd created, I would have to try even harder, to be in even more control. The rope I thought was lifting me higher wrapped around my soul like a boa-constrictor and slowly began to cut off circulation. The more I tried to be in control, the more I wasn't.
I've learned some things from my failure to be perfect: that God doesn't waste anything, that he loves me because I am, not because I do. That no moment is going to be perfect and that's ok - beautiful, even. Because more often than not, I've found my Father's heart in what appears to be the unredeemable mess.
So how do we live disciplined? How do we live whole? What does it take to journey through every day in such a way that we'll have no major regrets at the end of our lives? Honestly, I'm still in the process of finding answers to those questions. So far it's been a process of elimination - finding what the answers to those questions aren't. But somehow each dead end hasn't broken me. It's rebuilt me.
I think the next step for me, and maybe even for you, is to be content without all the control. What would happen if we approached challenges of dissatisfaction with our own decisions or misplaced discipline in such a way that we say, "I don't want to overcome this setback to show that I'min control of my life, but to show that the Holy Spiritis in control of my life." What if our motivation for changing wasn't just to be more whole, more free, more happy, but to be more surrendered to the One who holds out his hand and asks us, "Please, please just let me help you"?
There's no promise we'll always get it right. There's certainly no promise that it will always be easy and fun. But Jesus does promise to always be with us. And I don't know about you, but I think that's more than enough.