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I stare out the morning window; the outline of my tired head stares back at me, wispy hair out of place, wild. The sun isn’t up yet, only the faintest faded line of pink lingers over the trees out back. This slow rising happens every morning, I think to myself. As I wrap my hands around my warm cup, I can’t help but rush ahead into the day. Even though the house is quiet, I’m running on the inside as if things are in full swing. My feet haven’t moved but my soul is rumbling.
Mercifully, the Lord whispers his presence with me and I’m pulled back to this minute. I consider how God called the light day and the dark night, how he spoke the days into being just one at a time. He still does it that way, evening and morning and evening again. And the days roll into one another in a watercolor line of elation and planning and laughter and frustration. Sometimes it feels like my life is a gray arrow right through the center, pushing ahead to get on with the next thing, desperately wishing I could see far off ahead.
It isn’t usually the big things that cause the most trouble and doubt. With the big things, it is so obvious I’m out of control—the diagnosis, the job insecurity, the safety and well- being of my family. Instead it’s those everyday things that are covered with my ﬁngerprints. I try to get things I already have, things like acceptance, worth, security, love. Maybe everything we do is to get one of those needs met. Finish the list—I am important. Apologize for my messy house when the neighbor comes over—I need your acceptance. Don’t let them see my weakness—I need your approval.
We are terriﬁed of the mystery. We want our manager hats to remain ﬁrmly on our heads, skirts smoothed, shoes shined, plans lined up in neat rows. At the least, the suggestion that we are not in control is laughable. At the worst, it is offensive. I have a degree, you know.
And so I stand there next to the window, pink sky lightening with each moment, and consider the invisible place in me where my spirit and God’s mingle together. I used to think that a mature faith would bring with it clear pictures, that as I walked with God I would see life big, wide, and spacious. But that is not what is happening, and if that is what you expect it can feel like perhaps your faith is shrinking. Because instead of being lifted up on a cloud to see the big picture, instead of tilting back my head and laughing at those silly things I used to worry about, I am shrinking down into a small place, a place where I can barely see two feet in front of me, much less into next week.
Everything in me wants to ﬁght the unveiling of the anxieties that threaten to overwhelm, push them back from showing up in my day. Christians aren’t supposed to be anxious, right? I want to ignore the smoky unknown; it is counterintuitive to let the anxieties rise to the surface.
But we must let them rise up so that we can release them into his hands. Speak the fear out loud so that he can give words of truth. Don’t run away from those places where it seems your faith is small. Run into them, look around, be honest about how it feels as you stand there. And know we have a God who can handle it.
I put my cup on the table, breathe in deep the air of a new day, pray without words to a God who knows. I become aware of his acceptance of me, and not because I ﬁnished everything on my list. Truth can be a slow rising, making no difference at ﬁrst. But as each moment weaves itself into the next, as we believe him in the great right now, his truth becomes a strand woven into the fabric of our minutes. This moment-living is sweet. This moment-living reminds me of who is in control and who is not. This smallness is to be celebrated, not despised. I dare not trust myself with the next step. A mature faith says I am desperately in need of a source outside of myself. I always have been, but now I know it.
We can do no great things, only small things with great love
-Mother Teresa (attributed)
Emily P. Freeman is a writer and a listener who creates space for souls to breathe. She is the author of three books, including her most recent release, A Million Little Ways. Emily lives in North Carolina with her husband, John, and their three children.
Publication date: April 24, 2015