Whatever you're going through, whatever pain or winds you're experiencing, hang onto Him and know, your roots are growing strong and beautiful.
Sarah Mae, "A Steady Soul"
This morning I read a blog post in which the blogger, the above-quoted Sarah Mae (I'm a fan of her book Longing for Paris, which seems to express many of the desires I have for beauty and adventure), confessed that recently she has been in "crazy town". She describes a day that saw her snapping at everyone, irritated at everything, and crying over the smallest matters. She was grouchy with her children and her husband, which also caused her to dissolve in tears -- but this time, they were tears of shame. She was all over the place, emotionally speaking: caught between praising God and irrationality. But irrationality tended to win out.
Then, when she was at her lowest, a friend texted her to tell her something: a palm tree flourishes in strong winds. When the winds are high, threatening to tear the tree from the soil, the tree's roots grow deeper, steadier, anchoring it ever more firmly to the earth. Psalm 92 tells me that "The righteous flourish like a palm tree... They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God." God's children grow strong in the winds, because it is then that our roots grow deeper into the steady God Who made us.
This blog post (read the whole thing here) made me ponder my own circumstances and the way my life feels right now. Today will be the eleventh day of school. We are two weeks in -- only two weeks! -- and I already feel like my body could spontaneously combust at any moment. I'm not sure it's legal to assign as much reading as I have been assigned in the past two weeks. In typical college student style, if it's not for my major, I really don't care. But as a recovering perfectionist, I have the crazy drive to DO ALL THE THINGS and DO THEM PERFECTLY. So to crazy town I, too, go.
I think the start of school feels like this for everyone -- moms, children, college students all -- but as a student myself, I write about what I know. The nature of being a music student pretty much requires you to live at the School of Music. Today, for example, I will arrive on campus at 8:30 am, and my last class ends at 6 pm. It's the nature of the beast, and I'm used to it by now, but when I come home, I will immediately set to on the homework that never ends. I have been assigned chapter after chapter, page upon page to read (only some of them for classes I care about). In addition, I need to study my personal repertoire and my opera score. Did I mention I'm deep in the process of applying for graduate school right now? Besides all this, I lead a GC at church and I value sleep and margin for myself. All my circumstances are swirling around me and I just want to pause the crazy train and get off, please. It feels like the wind is raging carelessly around me, whipping my hair and the skirt I'm going to wear today savagely about my body, stirring up the Lubbock dust so I can barely see.
I long for stillness from the wind: for a little bit of calm in the eye of the storm that beats on all sides. I crave some time to just slow down and, for the love of God, be a person. Perfectionism really equals enslavement, and I'm already tired of beating the proverbial dead horse (myself) in order to meet my own expectations. So the question is this: Where can I find rest and calm for my soul while I do all my applications and endless practicing and the 5687 things I need to do to graduate? Where can I find stillness in the midst of my circumstances?
Recently I've been convicted about the way I don't look for Jesus in the broad noontime light of my days. I get distracted. I spend time with Him in my lovely mornings, but as the day progresses, I become caught up in what is going on around me, and I forget. I am so blinded by my circumstances that I am constantly looking down at the work in front of me, never up. I feel the longing in my soul to be with Jesus, but I'm bad at remembering it during the day.
The psalmist felt this longing, too. "As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God" (Psalm 42:1-2)? I read this passage from Psalm 42 this morning, not even an hour ago, and I knew what the writer was talking about. I feel the longing for God, but I fail to look up and see Him: I am distracted by everything that is going on around me. But truthfully, y'all, unless I make the conscious choice to look up and seek the face of God, I'm going to continue to blow with the winds of insanity. I'm going to keep being beaten down and back by my circumstances. Unless I look up, I'll never be able to look anywhere but down.
I'm learning to make that choice -- sometimes by physically looking up. The sky is, of course, my favorite reminder in all creation of God. It's like I can feel His smile upon me when I look at the sky. But I can also make that choice in other ways -- and then sometimes, it's not even a choice.
Last week I was on voice rest. It almost shames me to write that, because it's something I could have prevented if I had just listened to my body and made the conscious choice not to over-sing, dang it. But I didn't, and I'm learning from that. One of the things I'm learning is that I'm really not in control of timing. Like, at all. I'm so not. Sometimes I become super impatient when I practice, because I want to be at a certain point right now. I forget that it takes time to improve. I forget that I'm only 21 and that I'm still a young singer. I forget all these things, and then I beat my voice to death and make myself miserable. I'm learning to invite Jesus into my practice time. Of course, He's already there, because He is always with me. But it's so hospitable to invite Him, and then it reminds me that He is in it.
Sometimes, when you have to go on voice rest, Jesus reminds you that He is in all your circumstances. Other times, the reminder is less blatant. It's more subtle. It's quieter. I'm learning to pay attention to the still, small voice, though the wind buffets about. I'm learning to look around to see the face of God where He may be found. Keep in mind: I'm learning this at a snail's pace. It's only coming to me slowly. But Jesus is so good, and He gives me grace when I fail to look up until I'm settling into bed at night. He also gives me grace to see the way the hand of God is in my life, and the Kingdom is in my midst.
Today, on this simply Tuesday, may I see God in the everyday. May I look for Him where He may be found: in my life -- my normal, regular, everyday life. May I see God as I run to lunch, as I sit in choir, as I practice, as I do the homework for classes I don't like. May I look for Him in the midst of busy -- and there may I find rest and stillness for my soul.