Learning to tell the time

A wonderful, strange thing has been happening to me these last few weeks. I am getting things done without stress. I am dismantling the horrible idol of the ideal me, a monster whose perfection would put her beyond reproach and enchant her children into perfection. Yes, I know. Mad.

Heard this classic in the playground. One of the Dads at school got in early one morning after a night shift and set his alarm so he’d wake up in time to collect his daughter that afternoon. He woke up suddenly, glanced at the clock and saw it was half an hour after school finished. He jumped out of bed, got into the car and raced round to the school. The playground was empty. There was no sign of his daughter, or anyone else. He figured he must be even later than he thought. He went to the office to ask if they’d seen her. Nobody had. Thinking perhaps she’d got tired of waiting and walked back herself, he drove home, scanning the route for her all the way. At home, he ran through the house, calling her name. Nothing. He drove back to school and went to the office again, a little surprised that they didn’t seem too concerned. They suggested he go and look in her classroom, as she may be waiting for him there. He rushed up the stairs and burst into the classroom to find his daughter, and the whole class, in the middle of a lesson. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. He was an hour early.  

Great story. We’ve all been there, missing a crucial detail which, had we slowed down, would have saved untold anxiety, stress and embarrassment. My concern about getting things right, remembering everything and everyone, is rarely served by panic, which tends to make me forget rather than remember. There is a nervous energy that I have for a long time thought my friend, the surge that kicks in the night before an assignment or work deadline. I have made lots of room for it, let it drive me into a state of near-hysteria. The kind of state this man was in searching for his unlost daughter.

I was about to reply to his story with something standard like ‘Welcome to my world,’ when I realised that actually, my world is pretty orderly these days. Nothing spectacular, I still have piles of stuff to sort in various corners of the house, but I can tell you, it’s looking pretty tidy in my usually cluttered mind. I seem to have more space to move, more space to think, more time, weirdly, to do stuff. I’m even sleeping better. How has this happened?   I think it’s because I have started to assume the best. I have stopped entertaining the ghosts of what might be, what could happen if, what may have happened, what wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t… that whole crowd.   I have started to assume that everything is already okay. I am not meant to be creating perfection, so there is nothing to fail at. I allow myself to experience relief before the fact. In short, I am learning to trust God. Really. From my gut, not just with my lips. To realise that I am secure. Not immune from difficulty but not defined by it.  

I grew up in church so I know by heart a lot of those lovely words in the book about trusting God. Actually doing it is a whole different thing. Some of us get there quicker than others. For me it has been hard to let go of my security blanket of worries, but now I’ve got started it’s getting easier and easier. I continue to grow. Up.  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3 v 3 – 5

Switching off the MeCam

I needed to take a new picture the other day using my webcam. It took me a while to figure out why my face was always in shadow. I must have taken about eight photos before I realised I was looking at myself, not at the tiny lens in the top of the screen. Not at the camera.

And I thought, oh. Is that what I’ve been doing all this time.

It’s very hard to do anything much if you’re constantly observing yourself. Checking your own progress. Re-playing conversations, assessing your performance. Looking in the mirror of other people’s responses. It’s also exhausting. No wonder I’m tired all the time. And so self-conscious. Why sometimes I talk as if speech was about to be banned, and at other times I can find nothing to say. My harshest critic has always been me. My biggest bully (and I’ve had a few) has been my own dear self, reminding me always of my failures and never of my successes.

So at the beginning of my 4Xth year I’ve decided to switch off the me-cam. I don’t need constant reassurance that I’m on the right track. I can trust God’s word and God’s methods to set me straight when I need it. I’ve decided to actually trust myself and my gifts this year. Possibly for whole days at a time. I aim to resist refuelling at the pit stops of self-pity, fear and sadness. I am going to check my progress, if I must, against what God says about me. I am going to surround myself with people who encourage, words that inspire and images that delight me. (No cat pictures though).

Jesus got a little exasperated with his disciples from time to time. On one such occasion, he had healed a boy his followers had not been able to cure. They asked him why they couldn’t do it. He said

Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17 v 20

I have no idea what this will look like, and that’s the point. I have speculated far too much about how things will look, or how I will look, and what others will think about it. Time to stop. So I’m switching that off. Now.