Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dread and Trust

There is a proliferation of underwhelming fiction, prose, and greeting cards about the dread fear of growing another year older. 30 is the first death mark, right? Followed ruthlessly by that horrid halfway sign post of 40, and then the resigned milestones of 50, 60, 70... and everything after is gravy. I do not approach any of these years with any really speed. It will be 7 years yet until I am 30, which doesn't sound so very long, until I remember that 7 years ago I was 16 and I realize that 7 years can be quite a long time.
But I do approach my 23rd birthday next Friday. And I am filled with an inexplicable dread.
I don't care about being another year older- my time out of college has taught me how young I really am, still. I am very young and will be for some time. For a while, I wondered if it was my Southern upbringing that made me ashamed of every year that passed husbandless. As so many of my friends get engaged and married, it can be depressing to think about that, but it's not the source of the consuming and paralysizing fear that has been gripping me whenever I think about the date that marches towards me incessantly.
I've realized that it is the undeniable proof that I am still in a nomadic place in my life. I really do love Virginia and my life more than I ever though possible when I first moved here. I have friends who are really just sweet and genuine. I have a cute apartment. There are lots of fun things to do. But... it's not home yet. It's a place where my life is, but I don't fully feel engaged in that life. As much as I love my new friends, our relationships aren't totally natural yet. They are still work. And we aren't really buddies yet. Buddy-dom is earned through time and emotional investment. We are working towards that, but we're just not there yet.
And my life isn't in Knoxville anymore. When I go there, I am filled with a warmth and delight at being surrounded by the familiar and known. I love the friends I have there who really are my buddies, who get my stupid jokes and I can just hang out with. But their life has continued in that place and mine has not. And every time I return, I feel a little more jealous and a little more left out.
I should- it's only natural that things continue without me. I'm glad to see my friends thriving there, but it still hurts me that it is happening without me and I have not formed the same level of intimacy up here.
So I wanted to run- a couple of weeks ago, I was gripped with urge to go away for my birhtday, anywhere, just not NOVA or DC. I thought about going to Knoxville- no, it would just depress me not see people there. Going to L'Abri in Massachusetts or Biltmore House... but after getting back from Santa Fe, the idea of driving that long was not appealing.
Then I was over at my friend Mary's house. It was 2 in the morning and I was telling her my fears about my birthday. She nodded along knowingly and then she said, "Yeah, I understand. You want to go away so that when you don't have plans here, it's because you made plans elsewhere."
Wow. I didn't even realize that's what I was doing. I wanted to have a reason to not have to be vulnerable enough to have my birthday here and not have people care. And that's when I felt God saying, "Would you trust me enough to stay? Would you trust me enough to be disappointed? Would you trust me enough to make it amazing?"
And I wanted to trust Him. I was afraid to, but I wanted to. So I am. I have not made plans for my birthday. But I will be okay even if it's horrible. And I'm ready for it not to be horrible. I've been so overwhelmed by God giving what I could not give or take for myself in the last weeks. I hope I can keep my resolve and trust Him to do it again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A New Hope

Brief and to the point:

I want to let God keep my heart turned on all the time. I want to let God turn my mind on and off as He pleases. I want to not fear the quiet.

You can only get to the heart through the mind, so that doesn't mean vacuous meditation a la Eastern philosophy. But I do not want to try to do the mental somersaults to try to control God and myself. He is beyond it, for starters, and I am exhausted.

I love Him. And I will follow Him.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lesson from a Praying Mantis

This week has been pretty light at work, which is always a mercy. My primary managers are traveling in our client's South American offices, so I only had to deal with my regular tasks that I do every week, without a lot of the extra noise. I took time to write, I got home at reasonable hours, I ate lunch away from my desk- all the little things that I miss out on in the throes of crazy work. Today, I was glad to have a little busier and more enjoyable schedule. I was going into the McLean office, and I got to sleep in a bit and work from home a while in the morning. I talked to my sweet friend DL on the way in and remembered how much I missed her. I got to the office, had an appointment with my counselor to figure out our year-end strategy, and then worked on some necessary little nothings. My head was feeling the pressure from my sinuses more and more strongly, so I went ahead and cancelled my plans for the evening. There was a telecom event that I was helping to run, and I went to the room and helped with the set up. The panel went really well- I learned some new things. I went back to my work space and finished the things that had to get done today. Then I packed up my things to go home and made my way to the elevator. A mass exodus from the building happens between 3:00 and 5:00 on Friday, so it stopped at almost floor, pushing me to the back.
Finally, we reached the upper lobby and I exited at the back of the pack. As I walked to the breezeway, I saw this tiny figure moving towards me through the throng. The well dressed yuppies scooted to the left and the right to make way for the woman coming towards me.
She was impossibly small. She was Asian, ancient, and clad in spandex from head to toe. She also had a metal hiking stick in each hand, hunched over them, using them to propel herself forward in tiny steps. Her face wasn't set with determination, or pluck, or bravery. Her face was normal. As she crept along, using her foreign appendages to distribute her weight, she didn't look like a tragic hero or a triumphant survivor. She looked like a person going about her life as usual.
She didn't want my help and, really, what help could I have offered her? I am not strong enough to carry her myself and I have no walking stick skills to impart to her. Her body was supported entirely by the two poles that she mechanically kept moving. And that was how it had to be. This was her walk, not mine or anyone else.
It made me think about hope. Whether or not she realized it, that little woman was literally walking out what it means to live with hope. It means perseverance because you have to. You have to because you believe in the core of who you are that there is something more, there is something better. Watching her, I realized the amount of effort it took her to just walk from the parking garage into the building. She must have been tired and wanted to sit down, but she kept going to get to her goal- wherever in the building she was trying to get to. It's a micro-hope, maybe, but it's the same drive that makes us keep going through the times when things are hard, confusing, unclear, or just plain old sad. Suicide is really the alternative- so the vast majority of us learn to live off the hope that it will all be right someday.
That is the hope of Christ. Whether or not you believe He's there or that you needed what He did for you, that is the seed that keeps you going. The belief that this world is not right but that it can be made right. That it can be made whole. That you can be made whole. His hope is the big picture. The woman's walk from the garage to the building is the small picture.
Where do I fit in? What does it really look like to live out of the hope that I have in Christ? Well, I'm still learning that. It means looking back and remembering that He has been faithful and will be again. It is looking at my current situation and realizing that He does not repeat Himself and that whatever I wish things looked like now is probably trying to limit Him to doing the same thing twice. It is looking to the future and living in the confidence that He will give me good things- things that I can imagine and things that I can't.
I'm not sure why that sweet little lady made me think about all this. But I'm glad she did. So here's to you, Mantis Woman. I hope you got to where you were going.