By the end of the day I have a project due. In January I took a class called “The Bible and the Ecology of Wonder”. The final project was to be a reflection on that subject, we were encouraged to be creative. I could have written a sermon, which I did and preached for the congregation when I returned on Psalm 139. I could have written about a photograph that I’ve taken, I had free reign, a creative final project. I decided (because life isn’t hard enough) that I would write a Lenten Devotional on Wonder in the Wilderness. I combined the theme of the class (Wonder) with our church’s theme for Lent (Thirst in the Wilderness). “I’ve never written a devotional before, not a full one, this will be fun,” I thought. (I know, I need to get out more if that is my definition of fun). I asked for an extension knowing my life was crazy and I would need more time. The deadline I gave myself was today, Friday the 13th. I needed to have it done by today because Sunday is the last Sunday before Lent and I need to get it into my people’s hands. I will also post it on this blog… As the week progressed I started to stress, but not for the reason you think. I started to stress because I wasn’t stressed about it. My lack of stress was causing stress and I started to wonder (see what I did there…) about why. The answer was simple in the most complicated way possible. “Don’t sweat the small things.” I used to loathe that saying. Still do, really. I worry, I have anxiety, I’m a problem solver, I like solutions. I get to solutions through my worry, anxiety, and thinking through scenarios. I have learned not to fight this. Fighting it makes the monkey mind worse. But as this year has progressed, as a reality of what I thought was a “happy” marriage has fallen apart, as I have taken on the reality of divorce, shared custody, financial strain, in addition to the everyday stress of being a pastor and mom, I have learned that I simply cannot sweat the small things. Getting a doctorate is not a small thing. Really it’s not. But in comparison to the health and emotional wellbeing of my children? Small thing. Worse case is I ask for another extension, other worse case is that I fail the class. Not the end of the world. If I do my children will still have food on the table and a roof over their heads. I will not lose my job. But I still need to finish it (so finish this blog dumbass and get to work!) Why? Because it’s a dream of mine. Mine. No one else. I am doing this for me. Education is selfish, in my humble opinion. I didn’t know that until I was out of school with a master’s degree wondering why I felt as if I wasn’t doing anything for myself. Education, learning, reading, furthering your mind and skill is selfish. Until you use it, until you share it. Like art, sharing is what is important. I could have all knowledge, I could be the smartest person, I could know the ins and outs and why things work and how, but until it is shared, it’s just mine. I learn it for me. I think for me. Until education or thoughts are applied, they are completely selfish. This is my theory at least. But I digress. The point is I believe in sharing, I believe in bettering the world and myself. I also believe that there are real stresses in my life, that getting this project done is a priority for me, and that makes it worth while, and in all honesty, I am celebrating the fact that it is almost noon and I am still writing content. This is self love. This is progress. This is a small thing, and I am grateful.
There are people around me who encounter me in certain situations that call me a perfectionist. I am not, and I will not claim the title. I am not a “type A” personality or a “control freak”. I am particular and I like things to be right if at all possible.
There are few things I agree with that I was taught in the Southern Baptist Church, but I do agree with this- I am not perfect. I understand the limitations of situations, of being human, and I have many weaknesses- like not asking for help. But something about control became magnified and caused an epiphany for me when I was trying to get pregnant with my first child. There are things I have control over, and things I very much do not.
What happened in the heightened situation of hormones was that I made a decision to control the things I could and let the things I cannot control go. This is not unlike the serenity prayer prayed in AA, NA, OA, etc. every hour of every day.
But… I do take the courage part very seriously. I feel that we focus a lot on granting the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, but we forget the courage to change the things we can. This is hard, harder sometimes than letting go of control is taking it.
On the mornings that I walk my daughter to school I am consistently impressed by the teacher that is in charge of the cross walk. She taps on windows of parents that parked in the wrong place, politely but with authority asks for parents to use the cross walk as a good example for the children.
As I walked away the other day I wondered if the school specifically picked teachers with personalities that were naturally confronting. But you don’t have to be, you do however need to have a confidence and courage that you are in the right and (in her case) protecting the safety of all those involved, especially the children.
I do not have a naturally confronting nature, confrontation is something I worked very, very hard to be comfortable with- it comes with the “everybody-needs-to-like-me syndrome”. Now I push when need be and pull back when I can. Sometimes it is only in retrospect when I understand the difference (the wisdom to know…).
I do, however, as my best friend Melissa says- “Want things the way that I want them.” If you know me, you will see the difference between “type A perfectionism” and wanting things done well. I am able to let things go that cannot be controlled and I could care less if there is a typo in the bulletin, but when it comes to relaying information, we should tell the truth, especially when we have access to it.
There are so many things that are a “matter of opinion” but there are some that are not. I believed this is why I loved music as much as I did, there are controlled rules- a quarter note = 1 beat, crescendo, decrescendo, ritardando- these were all directions, but there was also room for interpretation.
The composer told me what note to play or sing and I played or sang that note, and I got louder and softer/faster and slower as the music told me to. That was the control the composer had over the music, but the interpretation was up to the player or singer or conductor. A composer dead 300 years has no say in the interpretation.
Serenity and courage, not perfection.
May we all today dare to have the courage to stand up for what is right, and to let go of the need to control the uncontrollable.