I tend to learn things the hard way.
You know, reluctantly and repeatedly.
Actually maybe that’s not the hard way, just the way. (I’m not sure I could name something I’ve learned easily or on the first try.)
Maybe I should say I tend to learn hard things the hard way.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to attempt things I know I can’t do or do well or do the first time. (I must have been delusional about parenting before I ever had kids.)
I make lists. I check off tasks. I throw a load of laundry in the washer and clean up the dishes and feel satisfied that I’ve done my duty for the day and then I go find a book to read while the rest of my house sits cluttered.
I follow recipes, especially ones without a lot of ingredients or steps.
I write articles I know with about 85 percent certainty will be published. I blog (because I’m the publisher…wahoo!). I go to the same grocery stores and restaurants because they are familiar and easy to navigate and I know what to expect.
Because most days I want my life to be as easy as possible. And if not be easy then certainly look easy.
I don’t want you to know how panicked I am about our budget when I’m breezing through the aisles of the grocery store, avoiding the ones with the food we can’t afford. I don’t want you to hear how I talk to my kids at home when I just want to be left alone and they need everysinglethingrightthisminute. I’d rather you think we have it all together.
I’m not sure why but when I was composing this post in my head, I was thinking about my first job. Not the babysitting one, but the one where I had to dress professionally and work in an office. It was a good-bad job, but I wasn’t thinking about the job itself; rather the days before I got the job. My grandparents had sort of arranged for me to call the guy who would be my boss, and when that day and time came, I huddled under my bed covers and pretended to sleep late. (Hey, Mom. This is a confession here. Go easy on me, okay? It was almost 20 years ago!) Of course I wasn’t fooling my mother who had to literally shake me and nearly drag me out of bed. To make a phone call. For a job. (Confession: I still hate making phone calls. If you hear me on the other end of your phone, consider yourself special.)
It might have been the phone call or it might have been the job. I was 17 and liked being by myself with a book (some things never change), but I also liked money to buy things, so I eventually did the hard thing and made the call and got the job and did the job (which in itself was hard).
I would like to tell you that the older I get, the better I’m able to deal with these things, but it just isn’t true. Long after I graduated college and was working a full-time job in my field, I was avoiding hard things, trying to make my life easier. (I even cried during a staff meeting, way more than once, but once in particular because I got a change in duties that was actually a vote of confidence but it messed with my social life. Clearly, I have issues.)
So, the hard things.
I did a hard thing this week. And not because I wanted to. I had to. And it was bigger than I could handle alone.
(Another confession: when it comes to sink-or-swim situations, I’m in the “sink” category. I’d much rather give up and drown than fight my way to firmer ground. Please don’t analyze that. I don’t want to know what that says about me.)
When it was over, people said things like “awesome” and “organized” and “put together” and they called me things like “leader” and “confidant,” and while those things make me feel good for a time, I secretly wanted to tell them all the truth.
What truth? Oh, you know, the one where I wasn’t sleeping for days because of worry and to-do lists and the one where I thought I might actually throw up on the day of this event and how my family nearly disowned me because I was a wretched person who yelled and cried and predicted disaster and hoped no one would show up so they couldn’t see what an utter failure I was. (You think I’m exaggerating, don’t you? I’m not.)
Something happened, though, in the days leading up to this massive undertaking, and I wish I could tell you it was because I have an amazingly fruitful and faithful prayer life and absolute trust in God. (Did you not read the part where I was predicting disaster? Help my unbelief!)
I didn’t pray as much as I should have or could have. I was too worried for all of that. But someone must have been praying. Or maybe sometimes God shows up anyway, even if we haven’t prayed. Maybe He loves us enough to help us out, even if we forget to ask.
Everything happened as it should. There were no great disasters. No epic failures.
And I can’t take a bit of credit for it because I felt like it all happened around me and in spite of me.
It’s like this passage I read (this week … not a coincidence) in Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually):
God was most show-offy when things did not go according to my plans, which was approximately ninety percent of the time.
If I limit my life to easy things, the things I know I can do without help from God or anyone, then I really haven’t done much of anything. But if I let myself attempt things that are too big for me, then I learn to ask for help.
From God and from other people.
And then life gets a little more exciting.
Or interesting, at least.
I’m not sure you’ll find me seeking adventure or challenge around every curve, nor do I have any plans to make my life harder.
But I’m slowly being convinced that my life needs to reflect something bigger than me. If I can handle everything that comes my way, then I have no need of God. If my dreams are within reach, maybe they aren’t big enough.
I don’t know what all of this looks like or means, but I know that when I do hard things and God meets me in them and carries me through them, I become more and more convinced that an easy life is not the same as the abundant life He promised.
When’s the last time you tried something too big for you?
What stops you from taking risks?
Where have you seen God be “show-offy” in your life?