A few weeks ago I went to a women’s spirituality retreat in Raleigh…
No wait.-I went to six hours of a women’s spirituality retreat in Raleigh and took a much needed nap through the final three hours.
Ooops but also, yes!!!
While there, I was able to hear an author I’ve wanted to see live for a while. I like getting to hear the voice of a writer, see if it matches up with what’s playing in my mind! One of the things she shared is how she gets through each day, continuing to struggle with the demons, being a mighty momma, and adapting to a new level of public awareness all while seeming to perform acts of goodness by the boatload! Her response was that these days, with so much of her life up in the air, she has to work on an hour-by-hour basis and really concentrate on just doing the next right thing.
For whatever reason this really stuck with me, so much so that when someone later asked me “where do you see yourself in five years?” I laughed, almost offended at such a long-term forecast. I get up at 5:30 a.m, write- whether it’s a post, a journal entry, a grocery list, or a doodle of a funny cat-, spend time with Zo, caffeinate my bones, walk the dog, and set to planning the rest of my life. By 9:00 a.m. I’m completely wiped and totally distraught over having come up with no remarkable plans that involve me leading a semi-revolution. I have always taken big bites, giant leaps, huge falls, and over-sized portions (points to the title of her blog…) It’s a wonderful and tiring and not always effective character trait.
So since hearing about this “next right thing” business I’ve been asking myself out loud, what the next step is. Really. And then I even answer out loud. It goes something like, “Alright, we’re confused. What are we going to do now?” I then reply, “we’re going to e-mail so-and-so and ask this one clarifying question.” Or “Feeling a little bit restless. What can we do to release some of this energy?” Oh, I know! “Let’s take a walk.” It wasn’t fun, at first-if I couldn’t get to step 10 I didn’t want to think about steps 1-9- so like I do with kids (and maybe sometimes my husband), I made it a game, a challenge. I frame it like this: If I could only take one small course of action right now, what would it be?
I know. I KNOW! I sound like one of the crazies but truly and sincerely I tell you, it works.
Whether it’s because focusing on just one move ahead reminds me that that’s really the only direct choice we have in all this or because it’s a practice of active decision-making and therefore gives me the gorgeous illusion of control, it works. It totally works! (Also, this is one of those things I feel like y’all nod along with on the other side of the screen, like you knew this trick all along. Oh you and your brilliance!)
So now that I’m experiencing the power of the itty-bitty bits, I can look over my life so far, my generation and the culture that comes with it and see how ill-equipped we are for bite-sized portions: We’re either on a diet of nothing but celery or all bacon. We run 5ks, 10ks, marathons but refuse to consider walking an exercise. We will take months out of the year to save orphans in third world countries but we won’t give a dollar to the guy begging for change near the 95 on ramp. This of course is an over-exaggeration. Only meant to be examples of a severe polarity that we are perfectly primed for.
And if we consider ourselves to be of (a, any, all kinds of) faith then we had better make that resume worthy too.
No, we’re not just going to be the meek, you better believe we’re going to be the meekest meek you’ll ever find!! We take on weird practices to show just what devoted Jesus groupies we are. We overhaul our diets, throwing away everything in our pantry that isn’t fair trade. We drive a hybrid (because that is what Jesus would have done) and we slap our coexist bumper stickers on those hybrids just in case it isn’t clear. We don’t just memorize the scripture, we tattoo it in some form or another to the inside of our wrists, you know, the unofficial spiritual spots.
Again, these are all GOOD things, possible even GREAT things. And they are major shifts. Sometimes it’s much, much harder to make small, quiet, inside voice changes.
If you like reading, particularly intelligent and insightful kind of stuff, as I’ve mentioned before, you should really go here. Per usual, David Lose hits the nail on the- (Ughhhh!! NOT a Lent-appropriate metaphor, Katie…) that is to say, he’s spot on with the questions offered at the end of this post.
What about us? What do we make of Jesus – of his words and deeds, his mission and preaching? We have had a much longer time to form an opinion of him. What do we believe? Is he the Messiah? The Son of God? More importantly, what do we make of that? How do we respond? How does our answer shape our lives? Does it shape our lives? Does it, that is, make a day-to-day difference at all?
I don’t ask to accuse. I am genuinely interested in how our confession about who we believe Jesus is makes a difference not just in terms of confirming prior opinions but shaping future action. What further testimony are we looking for to have our faith shape and form our life?
I’ve spent 20+ years making billboard sized statements of faith because I thought that’s what counted, never buying into the small steps stuff. I’ve always thought this has something to do with the pointlessness of the little things but in actuality it’s because the slight shifts take a time and steadfastness that is not about producing results I can get my hands on right away.
Only taking what I need at the gas station or grocery store or water fountain feels frightening in some ways. I want to know I have immediate access to plenty but the next right thing isn’t about hoarding (food, money, love, faith, security) in hopes of never-ending abundance. It’s about having just enough.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Give us the food and patience and health and money and breath that we need for today.
Give us only the amount of light we need to see the next right thing.