Come at Me
I am a person of calculated risk. My mentor once suggested I break some plates as a means of dealing with pent-up anger and grief. She pitched it like a dramatic reenactment of a movie scene, me alone in a parking lot, only accompanied by the cathartic crash of ceramic on cement.
Desperate to try anything, I drove to the dollar store and bought plates. I recruited a friend to come with me, because alone in a deserted parking lot sounded like a different kind of movie scene. And we made the necessary preparations: we went to the corner closest to the freeway (so the noise wouldn’t disturb anyone), put on swimming goggles (because I pictured shards of plate flying into my eye and an emergency room visit), and brought a broom, a garbage bag, and a cardboard box which I had convinced her to break the plates into (because, you know, less clean up). I’m a very practical sort of dramatic.
Deep breath. Raised plate. And then… thump. The evening was filled with the less-than-cathartic thuds of our plates bouncing off of cardboard. We laughed at the ridiculousness of all our safety precautions, yet I was unwilling to let go of the contingency plans we’d made. Not quite what I had in mind, my mentor said.
I am a woman of calculated risk. A J on the Myers Briggs. An over-analyzer. A chronic over-packer. Someone who decides before taking off who she’d recruit to help her break down the cockpit door in the event of a hijacking, or hides scissors near her bedside table for the unsuspecting burglar. I like to know what I’m getting into. I like to know what could go wrong. Sometimes I take my headphones out and pay attention to the safety procedures because I like to know where the nearest exit is at all times (keep in mind, it might be behind you).
I recently took a trip to Mexico with my friend Jenny. And although we had decided months ago that we were going and booked the tickets and the AirBnB, life happened as it often does and all of our plans to research, carefully map our days, and practice our Spanish were forgotten and hidden away with my unfolded piles of laundry. It was a wonderful trip, once I shook the feeling of being woefully unprepared.
But life lately has felt like an assignment for which I am woefully unprepared. The last six months have been like getting to the airport an hour later than planned, boarding a plane to a place you vaguely learned about in geography class, and showing up in a country where your knowledge of the language is limited to phrases like, “Where is the bathroom?” and “Two churros, please.”
So much change, in almost every area I can think of. Some I’ve chosen, some that simply happened, some that has yet to happen. Some painful, some exciting, some wonderful. Change coming at me whether I want it or not. “I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingertips,” I texted the same friend who had participated in my ridiculous plate-breaking. “Luckily, you have very strong fingertips,” she replied.
I lamented to another friend over coffee this morning about how unprepared I felt in every part of life. “I see God moving things in your life,” she told me. “God is preparing you for something. He’s giving you what you need before you know what you’ll need it for. Things are changing, but He’s given you anchors. Don’t forget that.”
Isn’t that the constant threat of our lives–to let the fear of not having enough rob you of the joy of what you’ve been given? To allow the fear of the unknown steal your confidence in what you do know? To spend all of our days warily anticipating the future and completely missing the present?
James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
We are commanded to consider the things that come at us and the places we find ourselves as “joy,” because there’s a whole lot of other things we could consider it. I usually have a lot of choice words for what I’d “consider it.” But James reminds us that we can embrace all the events of our lives–the unexpected and inconvenient, the wounds and the tragedies, the joys and the blessings–with more faith than fear.
Because all of those things, they are what God is using to prepare us. I don’t need to be prepared because God is completely prepared. And He has prepared me, is preparing me, will prepare me for all that I cannot yet imagine. He will tell me what I need to know when I need to know it.
The Bible actually defines faith as confidence in what we know to be true–despite being unable to see it in the moment. Faith is not a blind leap. It’s not a lack of reason. Faith is a choice to focus our attention on what we know, in the face of what we do not know.
While I was in Mexico, I thought about what I wish I’d known at the many crossroads of life thus far…what would have prepared me. Especially when I was making big decisions about career and life and community and future. And I wrote these words to 20-year old me, words I wish someone had said to me (and probably were said and completely ignored because hey, I was 20 and practically ancient and knew everything), words that I need now, and maybe that someone else needs too:
“Hey you. Don’t worry so much about having all the answers. You don’t know nearly as much as you think you do, and you don’t need to know nearly as much as you want to. Life is messy. It will not go the way you expect. The more you try to hold onto control, the harder it will be to see God in the mess. Most of life is about learning to walk boldly into the unknown with unshakable trust in a few things:
First, that God is always good, no matter how it might look, and that He is in control, no matter how it might feel. Second, you are deeply loved and you matter in this world–and you can drop the act because your best performance and your worst performance will never change that. Third, people’s opinions matter far less than you believe, and only when you stop trying to please people will you be able to truly love them. And lastly, life is a gift; savor all of it, give it all you got, and don’t let fear write the story.”
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.