Choice and choosing better
Does anyone ever sit in church, and realize that the past few weeks, they’ve missed the entire point? Basically where I’m at right now.
At my church, our Pastor has been giving a small, four week series about valuing God more through smaller steps, in order to inspire positive changes in one’s life. I’ve spent the past several weeks really being stressed for no good reason. Part of it was winter break, and worrying about school starting up again, for various reasons. You ever get those worries where you barely notice your mind is already there? These days, I’m pretty okay at making myself less worried, and going to God. But man oh man, those sleep cell worries that I don’t necessarily recognize until I name them. It’s like they just drift through my brain, and if I don’t immediately recognize that they’re utter garbage, they get bigger until I’m about ready to be like “Actually no. I hate you. Leave.”
To me, that is almost exciting. Since I can notice when I’m off track, it’s time to raise my expectations again. That seems stupid, but if I’m becoming less better able to filter some of this stuff because it’s getting trickier to identify quickly, I can choose to pay closer attention. Now, that seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. I’m not relying on my own strength to do any of this stuff. I know God provides. I know that if I ask for his help, he will give it. And I know that if I have been able to get this far, I may as well keep going. Any of the bitterness, complaining, ingratitude, and generally being bad-tempered are things that I don’t respect and don’t want in my life. They cause divisions, and I don’t want to be known as a person who causes problems. I have been that person in the past. I will not accept it going forward, period. I just won’t. It’s that simple.
So, what does this mean, exactly? Well, most of it is just committing to do the things that I already get comfort from more often. I still haven’t read a good portion of the Bible. I make these stupid resolutions because I know I need to, and although only some of them stick, that is an active process of prioritizing and choosing not to listen a good portion of the time. In the case where you have major health and safety issues, it can make sense in a stupid way to take care of spiritual triage. But I want to read my Bible and enjoy it for what it is. I want to enjoy participating in my church, and volunteering. I want to be a good friend. I want to be someone others can trust, who practices integrity in very small things. I want to be able to take care of what is mine, and teach others if they ask me for my help. I don’t want to be bossy, and that isn’t really what I do when I’m myself, that is mostly an outdated defense mechanism I’ve outgrown as I’ve gotten healthier and older. I’m over it. I can do better. I should.
So, while all of these things are still very clearly necessary, I want to make that commitment, to God only. I want to be a better friend, a classy lady in stress, someone who doesn’t complain when it’s easy, and someone who can take instruction, even when whomever else is being a complete idiot. I choose. This is my choice, to be better. It doesn’t need to be January for me to choose to be better; I would not be here today if that were the case. I can do better, so I should. Furthermore, if I make my standards not greater, but more fine-tuned to what I can actually control and what I expect of myself, I will ironically be able to assess what I’m upset about in an equally precise way. If I expect myself to do X, Y, and Z, when I inevitably judge others for not meeting my standards, then I can have a smaller list of things to decide between, as accurate causes for making me upset (and thus, project something I’m not pleased with onto that person’s actions, when I’m already upset). I don’t want to be someone who overreacts, so I’m going to judge myself slightly more harshly where I know better, so that I can have fairer expectations of others. Maybe it doesn’t work that way, but I’m pretty sure it does. I find a certain freedom in admitting I was wrong, and I want to run into that, because I get the feeling it will balance me out some.
I know where I’m at now, but to keep defining where God needs me in this life, I want to just pay more attention. I don’t need to do anything more than I already do, but I want to do it better. And I know God will help me.
So, what now? Well, I really want to learn from other people. That means less words. Maybe not here, but I should probably decide to have higher standards of what I share. I don’t mind sharing, but I’m not comfortable sharing everything when I’m still upset about it. That makes sense, I should have that boundary; it’s good for everybody. I’ve been doing that more and more lately, and although it may be unnecessary to explicitly state it, I don’t believe in sharing my bad attitude on the Internet. I just don’t. I can be disappointed and talk about that, but the minute I allow myself to let that become bigger than the task at hand, which is doing my best and letting God take care of the rest, I lose my focus and become a miserable person to be around. I don’t think it’s nearly as complicated as people make it; if you want to be better, you make an effort to do that, you open yourself up to failure, and you bust your butt to make some headway. I’m not okay with doing less than my best, and as of today, that is where I am. It’s not acceptable.
I know that all of this is possible, and it’s more deciding to adapt my outlook on life than anything specific. I’m not okay with thinking negative things about people I love if I have not allowed those things to heal and stay dead. I forgive people, yes. But maintaining a forgiving attitude? That crap is daunting. But I can, and Christ allows me to be weak, so that I might accomplish what I care about. I want to treat people better. Even for the people who think I treat them pretty good, I can still do better. I’m not Jesus. There’s still some work to do.
That’s the thing. I may have peace now, but I want to keep growing my endurance. I don’t know what is coming next in my life in so many ways, but I’m pretty happy about that. I’m gonna let God do the heavy lifting, work on making myself the most decent person to be around as I possibly can, and let the chips fall where they may. I want to be able to admit I am wrong when I’m wrong, in conversation, without freaking out. I do that in my head, but I feel like it would help to just be honest and not hesitate when I know I’ve screwed up. That doesn’t mean I have to drag something into the dirt, but I choose how I feel about my failures. I fail. I do it often. I don’t accept being upset about them, because I know God uses even my biggest screw ups to do things I would not accept if they were told to me today. For that reason, I hope that eventually, I might have a little more patience to take him at his word (daily). I want to be better. It’s enough for me.
I choose him. I choose him when I’m upset, but especially when I have any margin of peace, because I know how easy it would be to run the other direction and take him for granted. It’s not enough to coast into the future. I have no idea what’s coming next, but I know God will prepare me for it. Best to make that a daily reality.
People always say that you know the most about someone in how they respond to crappy situations, and I’m not sure that’s strictly true. I think God’s grace is most visible in the dark to all people, regardless of if you are the person who is struggling. But I know he is there when I have peace, and I know his is in charge when there are no grave consequences for missteps. He stays constant, and I want to be more like him. So, I’m going to go ahead and give praise when I have peace. Why the hell not? If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now. And I have a lot to be grateful for. If I want better, then I have to work for it. I’m okay being wrong if it means that something greater might be coming, and I’m too old to put stipulations on that; I feel it in my soul. The being okay with things feeling defies age, and I simply won’t tolerate ingratitude in myself another day. I’m sick of it. It may not change 100% today, but I’m willing to work towards choosing better habits, even if they don’t seem worth it except in hindsight. Hindsight is pretty valuable, folks. It can change everything, going forward. And if it’s all continuous and overlapping hindsight, then I want to be someone I can be proud of 50 years from now. I read the most beautiful obituary I’ve ever seen yesterday, and although that may seem strange, the lady died at 94, having a strong family, strong ties to service, a strong faith, and a colorful life. I want that. If beautiful works of art get such recognition, then so should she. She lived in a way that should be aspired to. I hope to be like her, and it’s entirely my choice.