Monday was a rough afternoon. Feeling stressed, frustrated by circumstances. We got home from Costco, unloaded the car, and I asked Heather if she would mind if I headed out to the shed for a bit (where I recently moved my office). She asked, “Are you going to mope around out there?” Ouch.
Mope – to be sunk in dejection or listless apathy; sulk; brood. Random House.
“No,” I replied, “I’m gonna go cry for a little bit and then talk to God.” “Ok,” she said.
I grabbed my jacket and laptop with iTunes while the mope comment began to gnaw. In the last year, especially, I’ve begun to pay really close attention to my emotions when I am upset. So I sat down, trying to feel my way through the mope comment as well as why I had been feeling so stressed out.
Almost immediately, I realize – she’s totally right. I tried to start arguing in my mind, of course. Because what does it say about me if she’s right? But the argument goes nowhere. I realize that my wife is 100% correct. I usually go out to the shed to mope around when I am feeling sorry for myself about some other situation. After that dawned on me came the part where, in fact, I did cry for a little bit and then talk to God about why.
Why is it that when I feel the emptiest inside, the first solution that usually comes to mind is trying to work harder outside? When I feel like I don’t have anything to offer as a husband, a provider, or a father, the questions I ask myself are – what can I go do right now to be productive? How can I perform better? What can I accomplish to feel better about myself? How can I prove my worth as a man, a husband, a father? And apparently, I often conclude that the best course of action is to go organize the shed. (Or as my lovely wife would say – mope around.) As if somehow getting “control” of some small part of my life will help the rest of it feel manageable.
I put a couple songs on and sit quietly, worshipping God, purposefully not thinking about anything except the lyrics and the music. A few songs in, I hear one from Mark Schulz, who I’m not really familiar with. But the chorus stings. “Even when it feels like there is no one holding me, be still my soul, He is.” Yes, please, my heart screams, wanting it to be true, wanting to feel what it feels like to be held, comforted by God, to be sure of myself in him. My head knows that’s always available. My head knows that I just have to ask. So why do I forget so easily? Why do I forget so often?
One of the great battles of my life so far in my relationship with God is the idea that he is genuinely interested in me. I concluded a long time ago that God will talk or interact with me when I do something good for him. Kind of a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ relationship. He gives me a job, a mission, a task, whatever. I knock it out of the park – and only then can I really go back and talk to him, because I’ve somehow earned it. I’ve been working hard the last couple years to overcome this conclusion. And I’ve spent a considerable amount of time asking God what he thinks about it. A couple years ago he said to me, quite clearly, “You don’t have to be productive in order to talk to me.” Another time he said, “You don’t have to prove anything to me.” Last night he said, “I just want to spend time with you. I love your heart so much.” And he reminded me of yet another time, when I had been seeking direction, desiring focus, trying to figure out all the what’s and how’s of something. I asked him, “Where do you want me to be spending my time?” And he replied, “With me.”
Whoa. Not being productive, not accomplishing goals, not making ministry plans, not achieving, not striving. The King of the Universe thinks that I should be spending my time with him. Now I don’t think God was giving me permission to just sit around and do nothing except seek Him all day…but what if He was?!?! Are your provider/responsibility/get things done for the kingdom alarm bells going off? Can you imagine what it must have been like to be Abraham on the trip with his son or Gideon as God is telling you that 300 are better than 30,000 when you’re going to war?
Sitting here today, I don’t believe there is a quick solution, an easy answer, to this dilemma. I’m ok with this conclusion: making sense of life and following God don’t really go together. I genuinely believe that what God wants more than my productivity is a relationship. That he’s really more interested in the journey than what I can produce. And that journey is one that fulfills me when it starts and ends with him.