Friday, February 25, 2022

I spent a big chunk of my life involved in cheerleading. Through all the years I cheered, my favorite thing to do was stunt. I was always a base--as I've mentioned, I've had trust issues since the time I was little so that ruled out being a flyer and relying on somebody else to hold me up in the air. I was always the one with my feet planted firmly on the ground.A lot goes into stunting, and my favorite (and best) cheer coach always made sure we understood the importance of what we were doing. His favorite thing to tell us was "Drop a stunt, run a mile." As a base, I took that to heart. My job was to always be between my flyer and the floor, no matter what. Since my feet were on the floor, that meant that it would hurt a whole lot less for my body to end up on the floor than it would for my flyer's body to end up there. How easy that was for me to do, though, depended in large part on my flyer.One of the most spectacular stunts to see is a basket toss. Even if you're not familiar with cheerleading, I'm sure you've seen the stunt where one cheerleader gets thrown up into the air and then caught.

It's fun to watch and fun to throw--as long as the flyer knows what she's doing and has faith in her bases. The flyer's job is to ride the toss up to the very top, typically hit a toe touch, then pull her feet together and up in front of her so she can be caught by her bases. She has to hold her body tight, because it is incredibly difficult to catch a flyer who either panics or becomes limp.Some flyers, though, have a hard time trusting their bases to catch them. It's understandable--if you get thrown 12 feet in the air, it's going to do quite a number on your body if you hit the ground. These flyers get nervous as they start to come back toward the ground. Some of them start trying to look down to see if the bases are there. The thing is, your body tends to follow where your eyes lead. That means that when I had a flyer who was trying to look down and see me, she inevitably started tipping that direction. As her head went forward, her feet would come down underneath her. If her feet dropped instead of staying in a pike position, it was almost impossible to keep myself underneath her as she fell toward the ground.Other flyers would get into the air and then panic. They found themselves in an uncomfortable situation, a place they shouldn't naturally be in, and they would start flailing. As they came back toward the ground, it was kind of like trying to catch a live fish that had been tossed to you. In either of those situations, it was all we could do as bases to keep our flyer from getting injured.Two of the flyers I stunted with, though, fully trusted us as their bases. No matter what kind of stunt our coach dreamed up and had us try, they knew we would keep them from hitting the ground. They would fly through the air, not worried about what would happen when they came down.It can be like that in life. Sometimes we find ourselves tossed out into an uncomfortable situation, a place we shouldn't naturally be in, and the fear kicks in. We start flailing around or searching for a way to catch ourselves, and the only thing that does is get us out of alignment. In our heads we know that God will be there to catch us, but it's hard to trust Him to do it. In those times all we really accomplish is taking what could be something spectacular and turning it into a situation where God has to focus on just keeping us from getting injured.28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
    The Eternal, the Everlasting God,
The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.
    His wisdom is beyond understanding.
29 God strengthens the weary
    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.
30 Young people will get tired;
    strapping young men will stumble and fall.
31 But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.
    They will soar on wings as eagles.
They will run—never winded, never weary.
    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Thursday, February 10, 2022

more or less

 More--do more, be more, have more. It's all around us all the time, pushing us to push harder, that constant feeling that it's simply not enough. Do you hear that voice in the back of your head like I do? Call it perfectionism, imposter syndrome... or just be honest and call it insecurity.

The feeling that I'm just not enough is something I've dealt with my whole life. Every grade, every project, should have been better. Every meal cooked or room cleaned. Every important conversation with one of my kids. Every gift given. Every accolade won. Every promise made. All of it should have somehow been more... I should somehow be more, fit more into every day, figure out how to give my kids more. I should be able to be the best at work and give more, then turn around and be the best at home and make sure my house looks like the magazines (or at least like a tornado hasn't just come through the living room), then keep the farm running. I should be able to find a way to have it all together, to be more, to be everything to everybody without fail.

Only, that voice is a lie.

I'm not saying we shouldn't do our best in everything. After all, Paul wrote to the Colossians and said, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord, not for men." But saying we should do our best in everything we do doesn't mean that we should take on doing everything.

It's easy to fall into the trap that if we can just do more, we will be worth more. The world perpetuates the lie, holding up attainment as if it determines worthiness. We are pushed to accumulate stuff with the idea that the people with the most stuff will undeniably be the happiest and most fulfilled. Get the best job, buy the best car, get the biggest loan for the best house, take the best vacations (just put them on a credit card). Make sure your kids are in all the things-- dance, music lessons, every sport for every season-- and be sure they have all the best gear available for all of it. Find all the best workouts so that you can make sure that you look the best. Be the most beautiful, the most fit, the most athletic, the most put-together.

Only, all too often we get a heartbreaking reminder that those things leave people empty and broken. Just recently, one of those reminders came from the woman who was selected as Miss USA in 2019, who placed in the top 10 in the Miss Universe pageant, and was a 30-year old with an MBA and Juris Doctor who somehow thought life wasn't worth living, despite the apparent host of family and friends she leaves behind. I won't try to speak to what caused her to make the decision she made; I didn't know her, so it's not my place to even try to guess.

What I know, though, is that chasing after what this world has to offer can only leave us empty. No matter what we do--no matter how many degrees or accolades, no matter the complements or praise from other people, no matter the perfect image that is shown to the world--we can never fill the hole at the core of who we are by chasing after the world.

We can't do enough to prove ourselves worthy.
We can't ever be better enough to satisfy.
We can't fill every role perfectly.
We can't be everything to everyone.

You see, chasing after the things of this world will break you apart, and there can never be enough pieces of you to pursue all you would need to do to find fulfillment. The more worldly pursuits you have, the more your life, your heart, and your soul will feel scattered. You'll run around in desperation, trying to find a way to split yourself into enough pieces and somehow hold everything together at the same time.

I speak from experience when I say it's not possible. The more you try to hold your life together, the more tightly you try to grasp all the pieces that are slipping through your fingers, the less you'll be able to manage to hold it together. To hold yourself together.

So what in the world are we supposed to do?

The simple and hard answer is, we do what Jesus said. In Matthew 6, we jump into the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. There we hear Jesus speak these words:

"24 No one can serve two masters. If you try, you will wind up loving the first master and hating the second, or vice versa. People try to serve both God and money—but you can’t. You must choose one or the other.

25 Here is the bottom line: do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body. Living is about more than merely eating, and the body is about more than dressing up. 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap—and yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after you. 27 Worrying does not do any good; who here can claim to add even an hour to his life by worrying?

28 Nor should you worry about clothes. Consider the lilies of the field and how they grow. They do not work or weave or sew, and yet their garments are stunning. 29 Even King Solomon, dressed in his most regal garb, was not as lovely as these lilies. 30 And think about grassy fields—the grasses are here now, but they will be dead by winter. And yet God adorns them so radiantly. How much more will He clothe you, you of little faith, you who have no trust?

31 So do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? 32 Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. 33 Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today."

Simple--put God first. Pursue Him, and He will take care of everything else. If you divide your loyalty it won't work. You can't make money or fame or popularity or doing good or preparing for the future become the main focus of your life, because then those things become what controls your life.

Hard--put God first. Don't worry about all the rest of it. Don't focus on anything else, not even food or clothes. Let me tell you, for a control-freak like myself that's an awfully hard command to follow. I've never been someone who liked being caught off-guard. I want to be in control, partly because then I know that if I fail I have no one to blame but myself. That's quite the double-edged sword, because it means that any failure in my life is taken personally. But to truly live a life where God is first means to fully trust Him. It means to let go of the idea that we are in control of things.

It's hard to do the simple things sometimes. But the incredible thing is that God doesn't expect us to do the hard things on our own. As we put aside the other things, we start to realize that the emptiness gets filled to overflowing with Him. And all the striving and fighting that you've been doing to be enough gets replaced as you start to cling to the fact that He is more than enough. Then He will become more, and you won't mind becoming less.

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