An effort to be more practical
Creating an outline for good things to run wild
Most things in life are long and slow obediences, routines of doing the right things and waiting for results. The nine months, the four years, the decade. But we are not good at waiting, as though we are instant people sprung up from nothing, desiring everything to materialize the moment we conceive of it. How many ideas have I let go because of the time it would take to implement them? How many prayers have I quit praying/routines have I quit keeping/practices have I quit practicing?
Following Christ is always being willing to have your mind changed, because being like Christ requires this new mind. We get things wrong. We are conservative where we should be liberal and then free where we should be subject. It’s moving. Keeping on. Eating everyday the boring food because we need nourishment and we only sometimes realize the miracle of that—boring food, keeping us alive. Routines must ebb and flow with the season, flex with the changes.
I am reading All That’s Good by Hannah Anderson again, this time with my youngest daughter. Anderson makes this distinction about discernment: it’s less about knowing what’s bad so we can avoid it, and more about knowing what is good so be can pursue it. I missed this the first time through but that simple reframing makes a world of difference when it comes to the way I conduct myself on this long walk through the world. Am I someone who sees all the bad, all the negative aspects of a world going to hell in a hand basket? Or am I able to see goodness framed up by truth? Beauty held together with glory? Do bushes burn, or only appear to be on fire? Do good things happen because God cares, or is this just a break from bad things?
It’s important. The way I answer these questions either opens or closes doors in my soul, and I think I’d rather have God walk in freely than have to continually break through barriers imposed by a "careful discernment" that is actually fear. I’ve walked a long time in the worry that I’m maybe doing something I shouldn’t be doing (reading, eating, thinking, saying…), and I think I prefer now to just chase down the good things.
G.K. Chesterton said of his conversion: “…the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” Carefulness is fear that bad things will overrun the good.
We played our last volleyball match of the season a couple weeks ago and I’m suddenly in a new time, as though I’ve been given thirty extra hours a week. I love coaching these girls and for days after our loss I teared up at the drop of a hat because it just doesn’t seem fair—to want something so badly but to not quite get it. We talked all season about the long walk and our goal of playing into November and pacing ourselves accordingly. But we didn’t quite get to the state playoffs; didn’t quite finish the way we wanted; didn’t quite beat the team we hoped to beat. The season started to feel long and then ended too soon. Longing for something and not getting it is painful, and that’s how we finished. I anticipate that’s how we’ll start next season, too—with longing.
I wish I were the person, the writer, who had a habit and a routine that was unalterable. I wish I always left margin and made time and did the work I long to do, no matter the season. Instead, I’m the writer whose mind can only hold space for so much, and that so much never feels like enough. I write in certain seasons and not in others.
Why doesn’t my faithfulness, that return I always always make to the words, show up like consistency?
I didn’t write in volleyball season but now I’m ready, and I have to see that this down-time was still forward motion; slow, but forward. Ideas still took hold. Thoughts still formed, with questions holding them up, and as the trees shrink in to themselves and the ground hardens for winter, I see my current season holding everything that came before: longing.
It’s okay. Life is a circle and not a straight line, and the longing of each season rolls in to the next. I pick up steam for the long walk and I might learn slowly, but I also walk slowly. My head keeps up with my heart this way.
So here I am, changing my mind again about busy seasons and slow seasons (they feed into one another) and faithfully getting back to words, creating an outline for good things to run wild.
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