Your feet are so heavy. You wonder how you will ever pick them up again. You almost want to reach down, place your hands around your knees, and lift your leg up and forward. Make yourself take a step.
Part of you wants to sit down like you are small again: sit down in the middle of the aisle at the store and simply refuse to budge anymore.
You are so tired. You have no energy.
But you know that to stay where you are will kill you.
I've been listening to an absolutely beautiful podcast recently by a favorite author of mine, Emily P. Freeman. Her most recent project is the podcast entitled The Next Right Thing Podcast (go listen to it; you won't regret it), and it's exactly what it sounds like. She makes a habit of creating space for one's soul to breathe, and with her podcast, she does just that: provides some white space and gives her listeners the breath and the hope and the ability to do the next right thing in love.
I first read that phrase in an article she wrote for (in)courage, when I was on vacation with my family in 2015. It also shows up in her most recent books: the next right thing. Do the next right thing.
That is all we have to do.
We are exhausted by decisions, by life, by the world around us and all its noise. All the stuff is filling our brain like an overstuffed teddy bear, and all the cotton is slowing down our thought processes. We can no longer discern clearly what is important. And if we can, we find that we are so tired, and we lack hope to such an extent, that we cannot move.
Or maybe we don't want to. Maybe we want to wrap our arms around our legs and put our chin atop our knees and just sit there.
But we can't.
My mama says that change comes when the pain of staying the same becomes too much to bear.
We have reached an impasse, and we are afraid to move forward, but we cannot stay where we are.
Calling beckons to us on the horizon. It calls our names, gently. It is our friend, really.
Jesus, behind us, with His strong, kind hands on our shoulders, places his cheek alongside ours and extends an arm to the dawn in the eastern sky. He points to what He has made for us.
It all seems like too much all at once. It feels like too much goodness at once and too much change in a concentrated space.
Sometimes looking at hopeful vision can feel like a tsunami of difficulty and too much beauty for our broken selves.
But then Jesus points again to the ground at our feet and He says that all He asks of us is to take the next step.
To do the next right thing -- in love.
So we keep our eyes up on vision, and we keep our eyes down on the road in front of us, all at the same time, and we just do the next right thing.
Emily (see how I talk about her like I know her?) says that the next right thing might not be something huge. The next right thing might be small. It might be one of those little things you need to do in order to be a person. The next right thing might be to start a load of laundry. To make more tea (that's always my next right thing). The next right thing after I finish writing this post will be to get up and make my bed, which I am currently sitting in.
After I eat lunch today, my next right thing is practicing.
Your next right thing might be to write that email. Make some dinner. Paint the sunset. Light a candle. Go on a walk.
There's a question I've begun asking myself recently that has really helped to shape my days. My wonderful planner, made by Sacred Ordinary Days (which has changed my LIFE), has space on each day's page for three daily priorities. There's also space to write a general to-do list, but these three main priorities are the foci of the day. They provide shape to the day, and writing my three priorities reminds me what's really important in the day. It isn't the minutiae. One of my priorities (usually the first one) is always my workout. The next is usually singing. The third can be lots of different things: do my homework for a class I'm in through church. Write. For the last couple of days Priority #3 has just said "Walk ~". The important thing is that each of the priorities be something that I feel nourishes me or gives me life.
With these three priorities in place, I can form a to-do list. I keep two concurrent lists in the little block of blank lines that the planner allocates for any list-making we might need to do: one list is for things I have to get done at work that day; the other is for my own personal stuff. And this is where the question comes in: I've begun to ask myself, Do the items on this list advance my life-giving priorities?
Now, there are some things we have to do just in order to Be a Person -- to be a functioning member of society. I have to go to the grocery store. I have to drop off my laundry at the laundromat. There are definite have-tos. But if I'm not careful, I can allow my list to build up until I'm just doing stuff that I want to get accomplished because it makes me feel better -- not because it will advance any of my priorities.
I'm working on two recitals right now: one in my hometown, one in Lubbock. Maybe what I need to do that day is to email my pianist for my hometown recital and confirm a rehearsal date. On Tuesday I had to email my future voice teacher in grad school. Yesterday I had to text my counselor, confirm a time I was meeting a friend, send a couple of emails regarding class and future coaching times, etc., etc. The important thing here is that they all served larger priorities I had. Going to grad school is a huge priority, so I needed to touch base with my teacher there. My emotional health is important, so I texted my counselor. I had to send emails about coachings because, well, i'm giving recitals, and singing them well is important to me.
That question -- Does this item on this list advance a larger, life-giving priority? -- has helped me to see clearly. It's helped me to eliminate the clutter and the things that matter less. And it's helped me to clarify what my next steps should be. What my next right thing is. How I can move forward into calling unencumbered by fatigue and listlessness and needless emotional stress. How I can step forward into the things that matter, into the work Jesus has given me to do, in dawn-clarity and hope and lots of love.
We can get so tired.
But all we have to do is the next right thing. That's it.
I was reading in John's gospel yesterday morning, where Jesus says to the questioners, "This is the work of God: that you believe in Him Whom He has sent." All we have to do is believe in Jesus.
Maybe today the next right step is belief. Just a simple breath in, breath out, a choice to believe God.
Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Maybe today the next right thing is to choose to believe that Jesus has given us something good to do, a calling to respond to, and that He will bring it to fruition within us.
Maybe the next right thing is just to believe -- and then to take the tiniest next step in love.
Love of the calling. Love of Jesus.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
You can feel the blood beating through your legs again. You have the strength to stand.
And we look toward the horizon, and we look at Jesus, and He takes our hand and gives us courage and leads us on into hope once more.