I love it when something clicks. A lot of times in my spiritual life I can know something to be true, but it takes a while for my heart to catch up. When I’m on the precipice of insight I have to keep waiting, praying, and pursuing it, and then suddenly it clicks. I really get it.
All this rejoicing and gratefulness that is asked of us starts making sense when I let go of the things I use to distract myself from feeling empty. Before, I didn’t trust God to be enough to fill me because I wasn’t letting God fill my moments. Now I see that when I lay down the distractions and the co-dependence and the coping mechanisms, I don’t have to despair at the emptiness I find without them.
We wonder what will happen if we choose to live life differently, that is, to lay down our self-protective weapons. What if we chose to start loving in a costly way? What if we chose to thank God for a difficult situation, embracing the mystery of life? What if we chose to have times of silence where we let go of controlling our feelings and just allowed ourselves to be with God?
Ann Voskamp says “You don’t have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you only have to pull close.”
When I’m tempted to either wither in despair or flex my muscle of self-sufficiency, because my life has been a dizzying relay between the two poles, I now know I don’t have to do either. When I lay it all down and meet my emptiness once again, I remember: give thanks always. And suddenly God is everywhere.
Heather King writes in Shirt of Flame, “This movement from the immature, fretful craving to have things the way we want them, to the way that is patient, cheerful, nonobtrusive, and oriented towards others is a true death: the death of our egos, the death of our identities as people who respond – can only respond – a certain way. Grace is needed, to be sure, but preparing the ground for continuing grace requires prayer, meditation, and consenting to the long, hard work of pruning our will in such a way that we are open to maturity.”
And so it is a very difficult movement. This is the life-giving, redemptive death – the death of my will, of the self that wants to latch onto some misery that benefits me in some way. When I cannot either latch onto that misery or that fierce self-sufficiency I feel lost in a way that terrifies me. Who am I if I’m not either melancholic or powerful? But there is more to us and more for us.
In between those poles of despair and self-sufficiency, where we find nothing to grasp onto, is where we can latch onto God. When you’re simply still you don’t have to play the drama queen and you don’t have to pretend you’re strong. Ann Voskamp points out that Jesus always gave thanks first and then broke the bread. And so give thanks, and let yourself be broken. And while you’re there, thank Him for your coffee and the sunshine and the flower and the breeze and your friend and the woman who smiled at you. But also thank him for the difficult family member, the heartbreak, the dead end job, the rain, and the lost feeling that’s been stalking you most of your life.And there you’ll find sweet Jesus was there all along, waiting for you to give Him a chance.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18