I have a running joke with some friends at work that we should have a way to auto-reply to certain emails with nothing but a Frozen meme – Elsa singing “Let it go…let it go!” It’s easy for me to laugh and shake my head at the things some people get stuck on – until I take a look in the mirror and realize I am just as guilty of reaching absurd levels of “control freak-itis.”
I’m in the midst of lots of changes and decisions in this season of life, and while they are ultimately good and exciting and firmly of-God changes, they also bring with them lots of uncertainty, which for me is the emotional equivalent of a root canal – sometimes necessary, healthy and good but never pleasant, and something I try to avoid at all costs.
I am all about knowing things – knowing what my schedule is tomorrow, who is bringing what to the potluck, what my next step is going to be. I tell myself it’s because I’m a planner, a type-A person who thrives in a world of organizing and scheduling, maximizing time and resources – that it’s just my personality, who I am.
While there is some truth in that, it’s way too easy for me to slip into an unhealthy place of 1) wanting to control everything and 2) believing the absurd notion that control is actually possible. These small, subtle lies start to creep in – “If I just worked harder, I could make that presentation perfect. If I just exercised more, I could get to the place where running around in a bikini isn’t stressful at all. If I was just a better version of myself – smarter, stronger, kinder, braver – then all these things that make life sometimes so hard and painful would go away.”
As I type these words, of course, I know they are a lie – that there is no “perfect” place I can ever reach where I am (insert goal here) enough. The only way I get there is by opening my hands and letting today, this moment be enough.
I was talking with a friend recently who is searching for a new apartment, and she was fretting about all the implications of finding a place in the Bay Area (which is worth fretting about) and I found myself saying to her “It’s just a year. Nothing is forever – all you can do is make the next best choice that makes sense right now – you have no way of knowing how different things will be in a year. One step at a time.” As I spoke those words aloud I realized I needed to hear them just as much – maybe more – than she did. How often I think of things in absolutes, and convince myself that everything hinges on one decision – that if I don’t choose the “right” job or city or person to date that my life is basically ruined.
In my three decades of life I’ve found that’s not remotely true – decisions that seemed earth-shattering at the time often turned out to be nbd, and small decisions I don’t remember consciously making led to big, important, formative things.
A year ago – a mere 12 months, which the older I get feels shorter and shorter – things looked so different in the lives of so many people I love and care about. Recently I’ve been reminded over and over again that God is in the business of redeeming hard things – that’s His jam. Rarely wrapped up with a bow, rarely on the timeline I would choose, and rarely without hurts and wounds that linger and make us who we are – but I look at my life, at my friends’ and families lives, and I see ribbons of redemption woven across every story, like streaks of clouds across the sky – some bold, some mere whisps of hope and healing yet to come – all undeniably present, coloring the sky.
I don’t want my tombstone to read “Here lies Mary – she kept things under control.” That is the worst epitaph I can imagine. In my moments of clarity and soul-searching I realize what I deeply crave is actually the opposite of control – I want my life to be about messy, uncontrollable things – loving well, crying with friends in moments of pain and rejoicing with them in moments of joy. I want my life to be about holding friend’s babies who pee on me (true story) and wiping applesauce off toddler’s faces. I want my life to be filled with digging in the dirt, running through wide open spaces, having messy, beautiful, hard and redemptive conversations, seeking the truth, fighting for justice, standing up for what’s right. I want a life – to use a cliche and I don’t even care – of letting go and letting God.
So the next time I start to get my proverbial knickers in a twist I’m going to do my best to take a deep breath, look up at the sky, get some perspective and channel my inner Elsa – “Let it Go” indeed. Because when my hands go from clenched fists to open plans I’m ready to receive the best God has for me – unexpected, beautiful and more than I could ever ask or imagine.