Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chapter one

I remember hating to lose as a kid. Not always because I couldn't stand the thought of someone else being better than me, as much as I couldn't stand the thought of my best effort not being good enough. Falling short was failure, and failure was bad; I obviously wasn't trying hard enough. So, I grew up being very competitive - with myself mostly. And it appears this mindset, threaded throughout my story, has prevailed throughout my life.

Maybe that's how I ended up sitting in a counselor's office recently, complaining of feeling stuck in life. My story seemed to come to a grinding halt over two years ago, when my Papa died, and the only story that I continue to tell is one of loss, marked by that tragic moment when my world as I knew it collided. My faith, my identity, my sense of purpose and direction in life, all seemed to crash and burn, and I haven't known how to pick up those pieces again. So miserable as it can be, I have continued to live and relive in that story, reading and writing the same page over and over again, hoping to make some sense of it enough to turn the page. I wrote months ago of being in a place of needing to turn the page and not knowing how. Even then, I finally admitted it was likely due to fear, but I still fought taking complete ownership of it.

Like a little girl losing at a card game, I decided I didn't like this losing business and set my cards down, walking away. I don't want to play this game anymore, I suck at it. In other words, this story isn't working out for me, not the way I planned. I began to sink into a funk, a bit of a depression, looking alright on the outside but full of anxiety, fear and failing hope on the inside. Funny how clearly this screams "control freak" and I thought I'd dealt with that already. As my counselor described, I've been frustrated that God isn't driving my car like I've asked him to, and yet I won't get out of the driver's seat. Last time I checked, two people can't drive a car. Oops, there's that "C" word again.

And then, the epitome moment came. That "aha" moment in the counseling office when I realized what needs to change. Not my circumstances per se, but me. Beginning with my beliefs. How easy, and yes, sometimes convenient, it can be to hide behind pain. To call myself a failure, to believe nothing good lies ahead for me in life, that my story has failed and now I'm stuck with what I've got, oddly enough there's something I benefit from with these beliefs. A false sense of security. If I'm a failure and I can't do much about it, I'm exempt from taking a risk that might lead to more failure. The familiarity of my failed story, painful as it is, can feel more comfortable than turning the page and beginning to write a new story. A new story whose ending I don't know, let alone what unfolds in the first chapter.

It requires laying down my illusion of control, as I like to call it (since, let's face it, none of us really have control), and deeper, choosing to believe God's character. There's a difference I'm well aware of between believing in God and believing God. One is more an intellectual acknowledgement, and the other, comprised completely of faith. And I'm thankful right now for my counselor, who having read some of my writings, is strong and wise enough to hold them up in front of my face and ask me, essentially, are these just words? Or do you intend to act on them?

It can be deceptively easy to put words on paper (or on a screen), sending theological and philosophical questions out into the stratosphere, and call that good enough. Sure, the questions in life seem to far outnumber the answers, but that doesn't mean there aren't answers. It's easy to ask questions, to feel helpless in the silence, but it's a hell of a lot harder to say, I may not know why my story is turning out this way and I certainly didn't choose all of this, but I can choose how I will respond to it and what I will believe about God, myself and life. I can choose to believe that a different story is not necessarily a bad story. And what I've deemed as failure isn't necessarily a failure at all, as much as a change of plot.

I've never wanted to be someone who writes what they cannot live out, so here I am, committing to the drafting of a new chapter with the true Author. Let the pages turn, I'm ready to be unstuck.

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