On Consistency and Change July 19, 2010Posted by orualundone in Faith Journey, Fears, Heart Condition, Lies, Lifescripts, Peace, Struggles.
Tags: being still, change, consistency
Consistency. As evidenced by the fact that this blog has not been updated in more than a month, I am not a terribly consistent person. Oh, I know a lot of people have trouble keeping up blogs. But my inconsistency extends to every area of my life. I seem incapable of being on a regular schedule for more than four days a row of anything. Eating well, exercising, keeping the house clean, going to bed at a certain time, reading the Bible, keeping up with friends, staying on top of work. I can’t even manage to drink my cup of tea every morning.
Trying harder doesn’t work. Resolutions seem to have the opposite effect on me – as soon as I’ve made one my mind instantly starts looking for reasons to break it. I’ve tried schedules, promises, accountability, even just letting go and seeing if things will happen naturally. They don’t, I just waste my time with frivolous things that don’t even entertain much. And on the days when I manage to get it together to actually do things the way I have hoped, something invariably throws a wrench in the process. This morning I managed to haul myself out of bed early, pack a lunch and clothes, put on my workout gear, and hop on the bike to head to work – only to discover a flat front tire. And of course then my mind goes, “Well, I guess I’m not biking this week either.”
I am a self-sabotaging machine. My powers of procrastination and rationalization know no bounds. Not to mention my amazing ability to second-guess myself. Worries about what I should have done in a particular scenario often derail any plans I have to be productive for the rest of the day. My fear of failure often prevents me from trying to do things I want in the first place, and my insecurity takes care of the rest if I do manage to start on something.
I write this not in an attempt to make anyone feel sorry for me, but because I need to be realistic about who I am, and who I have been. I have bought deeply into the lie that if I can just get on a schedule, if I can just complete the to-do list, follow the plan, keep the resolutions, or eat a balanced breakfast then my life will suddenly be okay. If I have the right workout clothes then I will run five miles everyday (never mind that 2 miles is my limit on a good day). If I lose some weight then I will not be depressed and have the energy to look for a better job. If I find a better job I can move away from here and everything will be better and none of my problems will follow me – I’ll be a new person.
And of course these lies are so effective because they are partially true. I will have more energy and feel healthier with exercise, sleep, and a good diet. New Jersey is not a very nice place to live and I probably would feel better elsewhere. Completing the to-do list is pretty satisfying, and losing weight is a total ego boost.
But despite the miraculous power of a good night’s sleep and a balanced breakfast, none of this will truly make me different or better or even fundamentally happier. I will still be the same person with many of the same problems, even if their outward manifestations change or go underground for awhile. And the harder I try to change before my ultimate failure the worse I feel about myself when it inevitably happens. This all combines in a perfect storm to paralyze me in all possible ways. No spiritual growth because I’m too busy striving on my own. None of the personal or household projects I start get completed. I skate by at work due mainly to the facts that there are a lot of people lazier than I am and that I know what my boss likes to to hear. Looking for a new job falls by the wayside. I become ineffective in nearly every way, and even the days where I manage to feel productive, it usually is more of working just to not fall further behind as opposed to any real progress.
Of course I know I cannot change myself. Only God can change me. I would never dare to say that I am in control of my life, that I can save myself from this hole I am in. And yet my actions say differently. My true beliefs are evident in the way I live my life. I strive and plan and hope and try and fail. I give lip-service to God, but I don’t let him into my life in a way that would let him do any actual damage. In fact, outward appearances indicate that I neither trust God with my life nor have any real desire to leave my cozy little rut.
Two things have happened recently that have made me think about this. One is that my growing dissatisfaction with life is reaching a breaking point where I am so desperate for a change that I am willing to try anything, even letting go of my control. And the other is recently witnessing the consequences in a life when too much control is held on to and not enough room is left for God to speak or move. If we don’t give him room to work in our lives, he will make the room himself and that may be much a more difficult way to learn the lesson for all concerned.
So what I can do? I can swear to read 5 chapters of the Bible a day. Buy several Christian books on having a closer relationship with God. Institute a series of rules for myself to keep me from trying to run my life too closely. Set a firm 1 hour quiet time and journal at least 8 pages a night. Of course, that is exactly what I always do. Not only is that counter to what I am trying to accomplish (the idea that I can control my spiritual growth through willpower is laughable), but it won’t work. I’ll do it for a day or two, I’ll have a bad day and decide I don’t feel like it, and then it won’t happen again. And then I’ll feel like a failure again.
I think the real answer has been spoken to me three times this week – once I even said it myself. I have been dealing with some of my issues with being part of the evangelical church and debating whether to get involved in a particular ministry. I told the leader that I need to wait and “be still” for awhile. I said it almost flippantly, as a way to avoid voicing my real concerns. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. A dear friend who knows my struggles asked me if I could put aside all my fears and worries and disagreements with the church and just come and be still in the presence of God. And then the pastor, when addressing the serving teams before the service said, apropos of nothing else in the sermon, that the verse he had for us today was “Be still and know that He is God”. I did an actual double-take when he said that.
I am remarkably bad at being still. Oh, I can laze around with the best of them but I am rarely “still”. Stillness is a frame of mind which I do not possess very often. I read, put on TV or music, talk to a friend online. Anything to distract myself from the thoughts in my own head. If I am praying it is for something specific and I don’t leave any time to listen to the answers or anything else that might be said to me. I am the queen of distraction. Thanks to the internet, my own ADD nature, and a habit of avoidance, I have developed an attention span of approximately 12 seconds at the best of times.
So if there is one thing I need to do, it is that. Just to be still. To be quiet. To pray for the ability to be still and quiet because I cannot even do that on my own. Because I don’t have any more ideas on how to make my life better. I cannot resolve my own questions about the church and my place in it. I cannot figure out on my own what God wants from me. There is not a single thing I can I do to change myself other than to stop all of the trying and be still. And I know I don’t even have the power to do that on my own right now.