“Inshallah tomorrow. Or next week. Or three months from now.” Or, as a friend said in prayer this morning, “God, there’s a lot of waiting in this country.”
I believe it was when I was in high school or University that my mom told me she was starting to pray for me to learn flexibility. I think bundled up in that prayer she was asking God to teach me patience, open hands, trust, and to give up my desire for control over the direction that my story was going.
I’ve never really noticed myself as a control freak, or type A personality, especially not as it relates to other people. I have very high conflict avoidance and often don’t worry too much about what people around me are doing. But when it comes to my own life, I am a perfectionist. I want so badly to know that I’m doing all the right things and checking all the right boxes. Add onto that that I had pre-written my life story when I was in second or third grade including when I would meet my future husband, where we would honeymoon, and how we would end up on the field in Africa.
My mom’s prayer all those years ago has been a constant work of God in my life. Little by little, He has chipped away at the control I wanted to hold onto. I have found myself in positions that I would never have thought I could smile through before, and yet through her faithful prayers, I have found grace to accept what doesn’t fit my own scripted storyline.
However, I still have a deep struggle when it comes to finding the balance of hard work and giving up control. To find the balance between resting in a perfect God with a perfect plan and “redeeming my time, because the days are evil.” I have always puzzled a little bit at that verse, but was sure that it meant that if there was something I could be doing, then I should be doing it.
Fast forward to these days and weeks, when I am counting down until we travel back to the U.S. to meet our second baby. We came here, to Kurdistan, to set up our NGO and get programs running to help provide education for kids affected by conflict, and particularly by ISIS. We want so deeply to do something good to help those who have been at the receiving end of such evil. And yet, there is a lot of waiting in this country. I’m doing what I can, or what I think I can, but I want to do so much more. We had hoped to start running programs more than a week ago, and some days I find myself still sitting here, not twiddling – I have a toddler, I don’t twiddle – but wondering why I’m not doing so much more.
I feel like, somewhat, I have come to the place where I’m willing to relinquish the story-writing to God, but I tend to think that once He writes a section, I have my responsibilities to carry out. I have a very hard time seeing rest as part of His plan. Because, let’s face it, rest is hard to control! Not to mention it feels like the easy out, and could that ever be part of His plan?
I was reminded this morning that it is a lie to think that God’s love is conditional on our usefulness. He does not fixate on our utility, but loves us as children regardless of what we do or don’t do for Him. So, in these days when my plans are put on hold, and through the circumstances God is telling me to “wait, daughter,” I am trying to see the beauty of that rest. I am constantly dwelling on the fact that He is the God not bound by time, and although I feel constricted by it, I am desperately trying to let go of my desire for control in checking boxes and “redeeming that time” and follow His gentle lead.
Rest, for those of us who like to go and do and accomplish, can be an unwelcome blessing and an invitation for us to hold up our hands and say, “God, I can handle it! I can do these things for you! Don’t doubt me!” His insisting on our rest does not in the least mean that He was doubting us, but quite possibly that He just wants to gift us with more of Himself. He wants to be in control, He wants to lead us down the paths He is establishing for us. God’s giving rest does not mean He is sidelining us, but rather that He is taking the pen out of our hands and asking us to trust.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that by doing, doing, doing, you are controlling God’s favor towards you. God’s favor, His love, His extravagant goodness is lavished on us because of Jesus and Jesus only. Our futile doing only serves to bend our focus in ourselves and away from the Story-teller. Keep you gaze on Him, friend. Do what He tasks, and rest when He asks.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.