Go Ahead, Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

Good riddance to you, 2012.

Not that you were all bad. I started this blog, which (this 3-week break notwithstanding) I’ve really enjoyed. I finished the first manuscript in my David and Saul series. I read a number of really good books. I took many great trips with my family. My children are thriving. I laughed a lot.

But I also cried. A lot. This has been a year of too-soon deaths, cancer diagnoses, scary health issues, church angst, lack of success in my publishing journey, and personal issues I’m despairing of ever turning the corner on. And compared to some of my friends, I had a pretty good year.

This doesn’t sound related, but I think it is: I’m annoyed with the Old Testament. In my goal of reading the entire Bible, I got from Psalm 116 to Isaiah 37 so far this year. Lots of great stuff, but also so many promises to be faithful and all will go well with you. “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you” (Ps. 37:3-5).

Which sounds great. But what if you feel you were a pretty faithful servant (given your usual failings), yet things did not all go well? Was I just not faithful enough? Not trusting enough? Not delighting enough? Can I ever be faithful or trusting or delighting enough to earn things going well with me?

Phfft. Of course I wasn’t faithful enough to “earn” no strife and no difficulty and no pain. There is no such thing. I’m a New Testament gal, with New Testament expectations that I will suffer, but that God will be with me in my suffering. Also, I am living safely in the land and I am prospering in many, many ways. There’s nothing like complaining about emptiness for making me realize how full my life is.

That’s what my head tells me. But my heart has been reading the Old Testament for the last three years, and has stored up all those promises. So my head knows that it is very, very, very hard to get traditionally published, but my heart cries out, “I’ve felt God’s hand on me and on this project from the beginning, how can it not be happening yet?”

This is similar to the difference between my 3:30 p.m. brain and my 3:30 a.m. brain. My 3:30 p.m. brain can take an issue and look at all the sides of it rationally, and recognize a good course of action. For example, it can take a loved one’s cancer diagnosis and look at the current research and agree that waiting and seeing is a right thing to do. But my 3:30 a.m. brain is incapable of this, and it swirls round and round in an ever-tightening noose of fear and anxiety. I’ve been waking up at 3:30 a.m. a lot this year.

So the more I argue with myself (OT vs. NT, 3:30 a.m. vs. p.m.), and, by extension, with God, the simpler my prayers are getting. They’re more basic. Not much more than, “I’m sorry,” “Help,” and “Thank you,” with a few “Wows” thrown in for good measure. Which is why Anne LaMott’s latest book, Help, Thanks, Wow, is so timely for me.

I will end this whine with her words (from p.27):

If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.

That feels so hopeful to me, more hopeful than promises of victory over my enemies, or reward for my faithfulness (such as it is). I am so ruined. I am so loved. I am in charge of so little. Help. Thanks. Wow. And (because I cannot shake my Calvinism), I’m sorry.

I’m going to try to start the new year by nestling these terrible truths and those simple prayers in my heart and in my brain — both the 3:30 a.m. and p.m. varieties. Maybe that’ll help me stop arguing with myself and set me free to really go after my heart’s desires.

How about you? How was your year?