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Brave

As we walk in, she turns silently to me and holds out her arms for me to carry her. We both know this is what she needs to be brave.

There in the middle of the room are Leanna and Brycen. They haven’t seen her yet.

“Will you go with me to them?” she asks in a small voice. She is nervous, but I can hear she is excited too.

I put her down, hold her hand, and walk with her toward the rollicking children.

They see her. Leanna squeals her name, and they run into each other’s arms. Nia is beaming.

“Nia!” Brycen shouts, patting her back to get her attention. He’d told her at school that he would be at the party. “I’m here! Nia, I’m here!” He has kept his word. She turns to him with a huge smile, and they hug. She kisses his hair.

This is big for her, to find herself at home in a brand new place. All because her best friends are there, and because they are literally bouncing with delight that she has arrived. Four months ago she was melting down when we went any new place, and today she only melted down when we left.

God’s been nudging me lately about vulnerability. It’s not something I find pleasant. I prefer to pretend I am self-sufficient. It is too scary to reveal to someone else that I need them, or even want them. But as I watched Brycen declare himself to my daughter, reminding her that he’d done what he promised and simply taking it for granted that this was what she wanted, I realized that his four-year-old vulnerability is exactly what I need. He’d let her see how much he wanted to see her happy that he was there. And this was the very thing that made the difference for her. It changed the course of her day. Could I give this to someone else?

“Receiving is just as important [as giving], because by receiving we reveal to the givers that they have gifts to offer. When we say, ‘Thank you, you gave me hope; thank you, you gave me a reason to live; thank you, you allowed me to realise my dream,’ we make givers aware of their unique and precious gifts. Sometimes it is only in the eyes of the receivers that givers discover their gifts.” – Henri Nouwen

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2015 in Grace, Thoughts From the Road

 

All those posts I was going to write

This is the year of my quest to live Moments. My year of letting go of many, many things in order to be free to live Moments. I was going to blog about my journey through letting go, but as I processed the first two giants on my list (perfectionism and control) I realized that blogging about my journey and polishing it up for others to read was actually part of my need to control: I wanted to analyze every aspect of each letting go, understand it from every angle, and share it so that I can be understood by others.

None of that was letting go of control. None of that was releasing my need for results. None of that was allowing me to stop standing outside of Moments instead of entering into them. I have long desired to live so I could tell about it and prove I lived. Now I just want to live.

Lots of people blog well, and many have changed my life by doing so. I thrive on writing and stories, so I obviously have nothing against them. But this works against me. And while part of me panics at the thought of leaving no written record of my pathways, I would rather lean in to what God wants to show me — me, not someone else — than line up my words to describe it.

And so, again, I’m letting go. No regrets. I don’t have to understand, to put all the pieces together, to explain so that it makes sense on paper. I’m just going to follow.

I feel like I’m coming alive!

 

Wearing Imperfection

2015 is the year of my quest to live Moments. I knew I had to let go of a lot of things if I wanted to start living Moments, and perfectionism topped the list.

cracked beauty

Slowly I am learning that God has more important things to think about than making me look perfect. He who is everything is after the heart of everything, and the heart is a messy, bloody place. But it’s so good.

“All too often we bemoan our imperfections rather than embrace them as part of the process in which we are brought to God. Cherished emptiness gives God space in which to work. We are pure capacity for God. Let us not, then, take our littleness lightly. It is a wonderful grace.” – Macrina Wiederkehr

“In ancient Japan, when a ceramic bowl broke, they fixed it. Legend has it that a Japanese shogun was unimpressed with the repair done on a Chinese bowl he had sent to be fixed, so he hired some Japanese craftsmen to find a more beautiful method of mending ceramics. They developed a technique called kintsugi, in which the broken pottery is literally mended with gold dust. Rather than trying to hide the flaws in the broken ceramics, they would highlight them in gold, baring the cracks and scars and adopting them as a part of the ceramic.”Rachel Haltiwanger

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
-Leonard Cohen

Even Paul said it: he glories in his weaknesses. Because it wasn’t about Paul. Just like it isn’t about me.

Who says cracked isn’t beautiful? For all I know, the most precious and valuable parts of my life may be the parts where I am the most held together by someone other than myself. I’m okay with that. I want that.

For my wandering soul, this is progress.

 

Redefining Sucess

2015 is the year of my quest to live Moments. I knew I had to let go of a lot of things if I wanted to start living Moments, and perfectionism topped the list.

One of the greatest sources of comfort to a discouraged perfectionist is mile markers of past success. When I’m making a mess of things and life is out of control, I can look back and know that at one point in my life I aced it. For at least a few moments of my existence I was everything I always dreamed I could be. It was real. It happened. It can happen again. Just survive this.

And there goes another one. Missed.

There has to be more to Moments than living them well for the sake of succeeding. Edward Robinson writes:

To be faithful to myself means to remain alive, which is not nearly as easy as it sounds. It means above all “not to be hypnotized by what I have achieved but on the contrary to get clear of it,” that is, to go on living and find renewal.

If my successes are what I’m depending on for a full life, I’m lost. Because when you put my “aced” Moments on the screen of life, they aren’t going to even show up. The real thing obliterates them completely.

I have a hunch. The biggest “successes” in my life — the Moments of largest impact — will probably not feel like success. They may feel like failure. They may not adequately reflect my superior talent. They may not earn me a trophy for my perfectionist brag wall. They may even pass completely unnoticed and unhelped by me.

What insight do I have that gives me the ability to rank the value of my Moments? I’m guessing not much. I just know that when the big ones come and go, I want to have lived them. And if the big ones feel like little ones, then well, I guess I’d better let go of my need for greatness in them and just receive them as they come, not as mountains to conquer but as gifts to unwrap.

The present is
The leaky palm of water that we skim
From the swift, silent river slipping by.
– Diana Gioia

The moments of greatest success in my life may not feel like success.

 

Perfectionism is a cop-out.

2015 is the year of my quest to live Moments. I knew I had to let go of a lot of things if I wanted to start living Moments, and perfectionism topped the list.

Perfectionism can be the easy way out. It’s a reason to give up. I’ll never be able to perform well enough, and things will never be what I want them to be anyway, so I soon stop trying. I disengage. I sit in a corner and criticize. At least I know how life should be done and don’t go around botching everything because “something is better than nothing.” Blah blah blah. Who came up with that, anyway?

But this letting go and living Moments is not an escape. It’s not kicking back, putting up my feet, and watching with a glass of strawberry milk. It means digging in. Deep. Perfectionism is a cop-out. Excellence is the real work. Perfectionism pits me against an evaluation; excellence pours me out all the way, with no finish line, no checkered flag waving way-to-go-now-pack-up-and-go-home. Life isn’t a task to be completed. It is breath to be breathed, skin to be filled, a heart to pump blood to race in ecstasy and bleed in pain. I’m not doing this for a grade.

perfectionism-copout

In the book No More Perfect Kids, authors Jill Savage and Kathy Koch describe the difference between perfection and excellence. Perfection is unreachable, negative, never satisfied, performing, closed. It punishes failure, panics at mistakes, is motivated by fear. Excellence, on the other hand, is reachable, positive, satisfying, learning, growing, open. It makes room for failure, expects mistakes, is motivated by confidence.

Today I read Sally Clarkson’s guest post on Ann Voskamp’s blog:

“Home is the haven of inspiration where the art of life is expressed and taught. Color is strewn into every corner; delectable food is tasted; art, books, and beauty are strategically placed throughout its rooms and walls….

“Crafting a place that reflects His beauty, the vast dimensions of the joys of life to be celebrated there, and the possibility of unconditional love is forming the plans I am making for the months ahead. Indeed one of the glories of life is to craft a home that truly is a welcome to body, mind, and soul – and the fulfillment of creating such a space is a deeply satisfying work of life.”

Many things come to mind when I think about excellence, and my home is one of them. Do I manage my spaces with intention? Do I live the way I do on purpose? Why do I treat my spaces as mere habitat? Why do I not showcase all around me the beauty of Moments?

Perfectionism robs me of awareness. Perfectionism drives me toward something else, some beauty that is outside of all this mess I’m in. But this mess? It’s mine. My responsibility. In fact, it’s my legacy. It’s what I will leave someday and what I will pass on. It’s not perfect. It never will be. But it will only be what I make it, and I’d better stop waiting to become perfect enough to make it something impossible.

Because yeah, something is better than nothing.

 

Month 1: Letting Go of Perfectionism

2015 is the year of my quest to live Moments. When I started a list of the things I would have to let go of in order to live moments, perfectionism was the first thing I wrote down. It’s that big for me. And I know it.

Perfectionism ruins Moments. It tantalizes me with the promise that this could be better, bigger, more. It deceives me with the accusation that I’m not doing well, that I’m not really trying. It goads me into always working harder, always pushing forward, always moving away, always reaching ahead. It shames me into seeing myself as not enough instead of not seeing myself at all, seeing only Christ who already is enough.

And the power behind this bully of perfectionism? A myth. A fantasy. Perfection isn’t real. It’s also not the point. But I forget. I get distracted. By trying to reach perfection.

So I have been praying desperately, every hour — every moment — I can remember, turning panic to gratitude, self-sufficiency to God-dependency: Lord, thank you for what this moment is. Help me let go of what it is not, with no regret.

thanks-let-go

And when I can stop the frenzy and step back from the stupid pursuit of the perfection fantasy, I can slowly remember that I am breathing. That the breath of God still sustains me, the gift of God still carries me, even when I’ve forgotten it, even when I believe I carry myself. Breathing in, I breathe him. This is hallowed ground. Even in ugliness, even in ordinariness, even in pain. I can choose to let the air in my lungs remind me of who I am and whose life I live.

Even more, when I tear away from perfectionism’s clutch, I begin to remember that this — this now — is warfare. There is no insignificant Moment. There is no scrap-paper breath. There is no touch outside of eternity. There is no choice that doesn’t make a difference. There is no person who doesn’t need the death-defying love of Jesus, even in this Moment, even desperately. There is no second of time to spare to the enemy. How dare I shrug off this now. How dare I waste it in dissatisfaction.

This breath is holy. This breath is battle.

holy-battle

I don’t want to waste my Moments trying to be perfect. Perfect’s already been done. I’ll never match it. Me, I want to breathe.

 

The Quest

image

Two years ago I started a journey toward mindfulness. Today I feel like I’m still sitting at the starting line. So I thought about why it’s so hard to move forward toward the kind of life I want: a life full of genuine Moments.

I came up with two reasons why I’m scared to live the right now:

1. It’s not enough.

I want more, what’s coming next, all the important things I dream about. The Moment isn’t bright enough, shiny enough, exciting enough, or meaningful enough. In fact, it’s often ugly and unpleasant.

2. It’s too much.

The Moment is too heavy. If I stop and take in The Moment, I acknowledge that moments end. That life ends. That opportunity ends. That screwing up The Moment screws up life. I can’t handle that kind of pressure.

Someone once wrote, “We have two lives. The second begins when we realize we’ve only got one.” Maybe this is where my second life begins. At any rate, I can no longer live in denial.

I’ve heard that most of life’s difficulties come from our refusal to let go. So I’ve come up with a long list of things I need to let go of in order to live The Moment. And I’m taking a year to live the list, ponder the questions. I’m even going to blog about it, which feels uncomfortable because I don’t like to show me unfinished. A year from now I will probably scoff at the words I’m writing today. But I look forward to hearing what that future me has learned.

I’ve got my tools:

I’ve also got three misgivings about the quest itself:

1. If I live The Moment, what happens to long term goals? Will I become a person to whom life happens instead of a person who makes life happen?

2. Am I trying unconsciously to avoid desire itself? I believe desire in its pure form is good, if not essential.

3. Am I seeking success in living The Moment more than The Moment itself? If so, I’m defeating the purpose of the Quest.

I don’t know the answers to those three questions, but I’m hoping to find them out over the next year. I will learn nothing that hasn’t already been well known and better explained by others, but I will learn it in the context of my own reality, in my own size.

Here’s to 2015 and The Quest for The Moment!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Grace, Thoughts From the Road

 
 
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