Sometimes I get really overwhelmed. Not just frustrated and rattled; it feels I can’t look up beyond the huge weight on my shoulders. It can be an awful lot of different things. Sometimes it is that there is more going on in life than you fully manage. Sometimes it is health problems and that stupid genetic-predisposition that the doctors want to treat. Sometimes it is the grieving associated with watching a valued friendship slip away. Sometimes it is an assignment that feels much too large for you to carry. And sometimes, just sometimes, it is all of the above. It’s all of the above right now.
My life is changing. It is changing in some ways that I can feel good about, but it’s also changing in ways that I don’t. God put me through a relational sabbatical from late January until Easter. Through that separation from all sorts of “people” things I’ve realized I can’t go back to some of what I did before. Lately I’ve also realized that there are some friendships I’d been trying to breathe new life into that just apparently cannot be resuscitated. Not for lack of love, I am sure, but their lives go too many directions away from my own and we cannot catch a rhythm any longer. And it makes me sad.
It has been a pruning season, as I’ve said, especially with how I relate with people. As I’ve blogged before, I’m realizing my need for friends who can build into me and walk with me, so these relational losses sting even more. Saturday morning as I was carefully pruning my grandmother’s huge butterfly bush, I heard a sentence in my spirit that I knew was really not so much about butterfly bushes. I was taking great pains with the spent blooms, pruning them back to only where new leaves and buds were forming. On some spent blossoms, the new growth was farther down the stem, at the branching below the blossom. On others, new growth had spurted out at the very base of the fading blossom itself and I was feeling badly whenever I realized it too late after cutting off the new growth. As I was so carefully assessing where to clip next on my bush, I heard this: “Don’t be afraid to lose something.” It wasn’t my own thought; it interrupted my internal fretting. When the Spirit speaks, it quiets some disturbed place within me and a calm settles in. I knew immediately that this was more about my personal issues that are being sorted and rearranged. Losses: changes that are thrust upon us without our consent.
I hate them; you can’t fix them but you don’t want to accept them. (Did you see my hands on my hips, my foot stamping and my ponytail bobbing in defiance?) I love choices, I really do. Please let me have just a taste of this and a taste of that. And you know ultimately, I have the ability to buck these new changes and try to force my way upon them. But I’ve learned that getting my way when I have to force it is NEVER worth the end result. Everything in my life is filtered through my relationship with God. So I do trust Him, but losses still pinch and sting and ache. He will meet me in my grieving, but it is a journey I must make if I am not to be held fast in bitterness and regret.
Just like that beautiful butterfly bush I enjoy so much, this pruning away of spent blossoms in my life is to make room for fresh new growth. When the flowering plants are pruned, they are free to push their energy into new blooms rather than misspent in the dying areas. It relieves them of their burden to shed the old and they are then freed to spring to life. I believe God is doing much the same thing in my own life, only I can’t really see the new growth yet, can’t see any new buds that will become new promises and blossoms of joy. But then I can never know where to clip myself, can I? I cannot have that kind of perspective on my own life, for I cherish my spent blossoms, leaves and branches too much. After all, I like my choices, my options.
But God, the master Gardener, does not ask my imput on the pruning process. He only asks for my cooperation so that I do not spend unnecessary energy and time in areas that won’t actually help me become who He wants me to be. No, I cannot see what He sees nor would I easily and joyfully hold up my branches to be shorn off. And yet I am consoled in the depths of my spirit somehow, even with the very simple sentence that came into my understanding and then reverberated throughout my being. I don’t have to be afraid of the loss, of losing something I don’t want to lose. I don’t have to fear because He has a plan for me and nothing thwarts that plan except my own disobedience or unwillingness to follow. He never takes away anything in my life without bringing a flush of something new.
The truth is that He is re-ordering my life so that it moves in the ways He has designed and does not wear me out in the process. He is asking me to follow Him in something that feels far too enormous to come through my frail human self, so weighty that my fears of breaking overtake me. I don’t know what I’m doing or how in the world I do it. All I know is that I follow Him one step at a time and He does it. Some things I understand and can’t tell you why I understand them. Others are a complete mystery to me except that it is Him. My only part is to open myself to His movement, stay as pure and in step with Him as I can, and then make room for Him to flow. It is His, all of it, I have nothing to give except my willingness to be devoted to Him. That’s all, and apparently that’s what He wants.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed. Over the next few days I must spend extra time with Him about each burden, each pain, each concern, and each question. I will lay them before Him and wait. In some things He may give me a new approach to implement; in others, He will give me perspective. For many things I will close my quiet time with Him without a certain answer but will continue throughout my day and the days to come with the question still laid before Him and my spirit attuned to Him. I am fully expecting Him to respond in some way or other; I am not alone in this life, not in any part of it. When I lay my problems before Him, I again surrender my own will (or ability to respond without Him) and choose to wait in dependence upon Him. There is nothing in my life that He is not concerned with and this always gives me peace. Each day, whether there are answers or lingering questions, He breathes a phrase into my soul that He’s repeated time and again lately, “I will carry this burden for you. Just walk with Me.”