I’m rounding the corner on Week Two in Harrisburg, PA. Now that I’m less in the middle of the unpacking stage and more in the middle of the settling in stage, I’m fairly convinced that moving to a new place is an excellent litmus test for life. One definition of a litmus test is “a critical indication of future success or failure.” That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about the process of establishing myself in a new place.
Moving feels like a blank canvas that gets filled with the things you believe are most true about yourself. Every decision – what I put on shelves or on the walls in the apartment I just moved into, which restaurants I try first and where I go to explore, the pieces of myself I choose to disclose to brand new people during our first conversations – puts another streak of color on the canvas. It has the potential to be stunningly beautiful or only-a-mother-could-love-it ugly. It kind of feels like writing your autobiography while all of your new friends read over your shoulder and evaluate the book in it’s first draft.
Which is to say, it’s daunting.
The weight of that pressure may or may not be the reason why there are three (3) pints of ice cream in my freezer right now.
(The other reason is the Super Bowl.)
(But let’s be honest: there really is no need for a reason to have 3 pints of ice cream in your freezer as a woman in the midst of the jungle that is life. Am I right?)
In my mind, every decision, every conversation, every new routine in this new context is setting the stage for what my life here is going to be like. If you’re thinking, “that’s crazy!” you’re onto something. That is crazy. It’s using what I can create and other people’s reactions to what I create as the litmus test to indicate future success or failure.
Moving, quite literally, is my litmus test for how fully I rely on myself and on other people for my stamp of approval.
That’s a bigger recipe for failure than eating those three pints of ice cream in one sitting. Because there is zero Jesus in that recipe. Not one ounce of Him and what He thinks of me, of what He says is true about me. There’s no room for Him to be the strength in my weakness because I’m doing my darndest to be all strength and no weakness. I’m trying to paint that dang canvas into a masterpiece while wearing a blindfold of misplaced confidence.
This morning I braved opening Feedly for the first time in weeks (pretty sure it audibly groaned under the weight of all those unread posts) and clicked on Melanie Shankle’s latest post because homegirl knows how to make me laugh like no other. What I got instead of a laugh was a direct articulation of what I’ve been feeling and why as she talked about getting ready to release her second book:
As I listened, really listened, to the words I felt God say to me, “You feel like this is too much because you’re trying to figure out how to do it on your own power and none of this is about you.” It took everything in me not to just pull the car over and cry because that’s exactly it. I’m trying to be graceful and compassionate and kind and wise and discerning and loving but I’m putting myself in charge of the production of all those attributes. And then my selfishness and pride and insecurity all rise to the top instead and I freak out because I know how lacking I am in basically every category and then I just want to sit on my couch and watch old episodes of Friday Night Lights because that feels safe.
Because here’s the thing, it’s easier to sit on your couch than to risk failing. It’s easier to sit on your couch than to be out in the world where you’re vulnerable and open to being hurt or disappointed. But you know what happens while you sit on your couch playing Candy Crush and watching Tami Taylor? Life. Beautiful, gorgeous, fragile, heartbreaking, mind-blowing, life. God has a script written for each and every one of us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done or how much we feel completely ill-equipped for the adventure.
Um, PREACH. Yes. Exactly that.
I want to live a life worthy of the calling I’ve received, and I really don’t want to be in charge of making sure I do it all perfectly. I want my litmus test to reveal that my foundation is built completely on what the Lord says about me and what He is doing, not what others say about me and what I am doing.
The first is pure success. The second is doomed failure.