Sometimes when I take the time to be still & listen to the yearnings of my soul I begin to feel like I am literally spinning out of control. Life tends to lose focus & tears may flow as a flood of desires & disappointments wash over me. It is too easy for me to look around and see what I still want versus seeing all that I have been given.
I want be able to finish reading a book. I want my dog back. I want job security. I want my late grandparents to have another decade with us. I want to live in a house with a list of to-do’s that feels like my own. I want my kids to obey me, my husband to read my mind, & my fridge to always be stocked. I want our finances to be the least of our worries. I want to love people better. I want to find a cure for every terminal illness. I want to erase anxiety & fear from the lives of those I love, myself included. I want to bridge the gap between the poor & the rich. I want to provide hospitality for those in need. I want to convince my daughter to let me cut her fingernails.
I yearn, & so my head spins!
I don’t like the feeling of spinning, it makes me feel off & uneasy. The last few weeks I have been battling some vertigo & everything around me seems more intense with this inner ear imbalance. Lights blare, sounds penetrate, & some minutes just feel utterly unbearable! Similarly, when I start to get obsessed with my yearnings & dissatisfaction permeates, I quickly become blinded & only can see the dark.
We have a choice in the overwhelm, when the laundry list begins to take over our sanity. We can either fall into the pit of insecurity & believe the lies that shoot like arrows into our disoriented souls, or we can sit & rest in knowing Someone far greater than us has it all in His hands.
Five years ago we moved to this little town just north of Charlotte, North Carolina. Our oldest was 15 months old & we were in a new place, lacking community & delving into full time ministry with Young Life. I joined a bible study called Oasis at a church we had visited just a few times (which resulted in me meeting some of my dearest friends & us planting another location in our town just a few months later!) The book we read was called “With Open Hands” by, Henri Nouwen. It is a tiny book on prayer that called me out in a real way with its introductory chapter called “With Clenched Fists”. Nouwen says: “It is a long spiritual journey of trust, for behind each fist is another one in hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless. Much has happened in your life to make all those fists, and at any hour of the day or night you might find yourself clenching your fists again out of fear.”
It soon became very clear to me that I had spent the first century of my life attempting to control every little nook and cranny of my world. Upon becoming a parent, the first thing I realized was that I would not be able to make this prideful attempt successful for much longer. Kids have a way of breaking us of thinking we can do it all on our own, don’t they? I still remember my husband Ben insisting in the hospital that before we headed home we were going to release the control of our little baby boy into the arms of our Creator. That simply wrecked me, in the best way possible.
I have found more recently that the harder I hold on to the things I desire… the more my heads spins! It is in these moments that I now pause & ask my Creator to meet me where I am. I lay it all out there & we duke it out. I express my longings & He provides peace as I wait. The struggle remains, yet I am finding that by inviting Him into the conversation I am also learning to trust His plan for my life, which typically ends in less spinning & more joyful, focused living.
Nouwen ends the introduction with this prayer:
Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love—unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.