So now that I am firmly in my 40’s, I get called “ma’am” almost exclusively. I climb the stairs — at my fastest speed — at the breakneck pace of my two-year-old ascending normally. I notice how everyone looks younger than I do.
But the old adage is true: with age comes wisdom. I don’t have much of that yet, but there is one thing I’m learning: my life’s work is not what I thought it was.
First, some background: I come from farming stock. My dad left the farm when he went to college — the first in his family ever to do so. But on the whole, the mentality of “work harder, plan better, try more” is ingrained in me. More than once in my childhood I was admonished to pull myself up by my bootstraps (I’m sure the mental image this engendered is rather different from what it would actually look like).
So when I approached wifery, mothering, homeschooling, and the Christian life, the basic assumption I had was this: if only I would work a little harder, plan a little better, and/or try a new system, ALL of my problems would be solved. I would be an early-riser, a daily-exerciser, a smile-wearing beacon of patience.
After a decade or so of working harder(ish), planning better, and trying new systems, I have come to realize that the problem is, um, more foundational. It’s me. As it turns out, I tend toward the lazy side, love my creature comforts, and am rather impatient. One day I realized that the night before I die I will have gone to bed thinking, “Tomorrow is the day when definitely I will get up early, read the Bible, and exercise!”
And so, aha!, with age (and a decade of trying) comes a smidge of wisdom. My life’s work is not to work harder, plan better, and try new systems.
My life’s work is to give myself to God. To hand myself over. To give myself to the One who can lovingly correct my faults and form me into woman He wants me to be. It is less about my bustling activity and more about adopting a posture of giving and receiving.
I picture a landscape of rugged rocks. Through the middle runs a river. I’m headed to a destination point downstream. I can get to where I need to go by scrambling over the rocks, one by one, and by laboriously trudging over hill after hill. This is how I did it over many years, picturing the Lord as my trusty sidekick who would help me when I fell. Maybe he even got promoted to guide, leading me through the best path possible. But all in all, I was operating under my own strength.
I finally saw that there is another way. I can jump into the river and let the water carry me. It means giving up “control,” to be sure. It’s riskier in the sense that I’m giving up even the pretense of operating under my own strength. God is no longer my sidekick. He is my source, the current of strength. He’s not just my companion, but we become one.
As I contemplated this, I saw the source of the river: the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The river streams directly from His own Heart. When we jump into the river (which is the act of our free will), we give ourselves to His mercy, to His love, and to His will.
What does this mean practically? I go to bed jumping into the river of hHis mercy, asking Him to make my tomorrow what He wants it to be. If I harbor a hope that I will start reading the Bible daily, then I give that to Him as I jump, asking Him to form me as He wills. It’s pretty obvious that of course Bible-reading is a good thing — but perhaps there is something else He wants to accomplish in me first.
I wake up and jump into His mercy. I ask Him to make me who He wants me to be. You know, there was a time in my life (on this blog it is articulated, actually!) when I laughed at the idea that I would ever fast. And look where I am now. That’s all His mercy. It certainly wasn’t any system or working harder on my part.
What it does not mean is that I give up trying. I don’t give up the devotional practices that I have cultivated through His mercy. What it does mean is that I let Him take the lead. I ask Him where He wants me to grow next, and that’s what I focus on.
When I am discouraged that I am not who I wish I were, I jump into His mercy. I give myself to Him and trust Him to make me into an even better version of me than what I had envisioned (as it turns out, my own hopes for myself have a whole lot of the world’s view of success tainting them).
All day long, every day, I can choose to climb over the rocks with the Lord as my trusty “sidekick,” or I can learn how to give myself unreservedly to him. This is my life’s work.
Copyright 2019 Amanda Woodiel