Today was one of those busy days, of getting things done and checking a lot of things off my list. I left the house around 9:45 and was still out and about by the time 2:30 rolled around. But with a coffee in hand, I set out to face the world. I dropped my brother off at the train station, stopped at the bank, went to the mechanics for an hour visit and left with a car that no longer sounds like a motorcycle (score!), then drove to another place to have a new tire put on my car which, while I waited for, I ran into Target and did some overdue shopping.
At 2:30, finally heading home, I realized in all the commotion I hadn’t eaten. I added a mental note in my mind to stop and find a salad somewhere. My day was going pretty much according to plan. Checking things off and adding new things to the mental list. But all the while, as I checked things off my list, I pondered some things that had been heavy on my heart for a while. Things that have kept me awake at night. Things I didn’t have the answer to. Things I had spent far too much time over-thinking and reover-thinking to come up empty on…because somehow my brain thinks that if I think about something long enough or hard enough, I’ll come up with a solution, but that solution just hasn’t come yet.
The running list of things going through my mind is a pretty constant way of life for me. Always have a plan, always checking things off, always adding things on.
Nearing the house and thinking about my running mental list, a new thought popped in. Make a beach visit. I glanced at the clock in my car (that always runs 8 minutes fast to prompt me to stay on task and make sure I keep checking things off the list – time is ticking – don’t waste it) I have two hours before work. I think I can fit that in. I add it to the list. I think I’ll actually have a chance to sit down today and breathe. Because as great as I feel checking things off my list, there is a part of me inside that tries desperately to slow me down. That part of me that doesn’t want my life to pass me by, checking boxes off a list. That part of me that wants to really live and not become exhausted by running around, letting a list dictate my life.
I swung home and grabbed my journal, a pen, and some headphones and made the eight minute drive to the beach. As I crossed the draw bridge that runs over the narrows of the Great South Bay and the Moriches Bay, I felt the sun radiating my skin; it was such a nice treat for a Long Islander who has been facing a stubbornly long winter that refuses to end (even though we are ten days into spring). The peace began to set in and my checklist began to drift out of my mind. These moments are so rare that they are almost startling because I begin to see how invasive my checklist has become. How much of my peace it has stolen.
I walked through the tunnel and up the ramp and breathed in the salty ocean air. I stood there on the balcony for a bit. Just taking in the Atlantic Ocean in all of its glory. I passed three brave souls that stood on the shoreline on such a windy day, found a solitary spot, put in my headphones and let my surroundings sink in. The words of the song seemed to sing my heart out across the crashing waves of the Atlantic.
“I fall down on the floor, down at Your feet. I know You want me here with my suitcase full of needs. Oh my heart is heavy, and my mind is full. I let go of my pride, and empty out my soul. I let go. Empty my soul.”
It hit me then and there that I’ve been running around with my head in the clouds and my pockets full of my own pride. I’ve been at this place so many times. So many times I’ve been woken up and been reminded to stop living for myself – to let go of my agenda – to let go and stop trying to control things – to trust.
I throw away the mental list and release it to the Lord. I let the waves carry it away and I feel proud of myself for a moment. But the Lord nudges me further. He doesn’t want to stop there. Another wave crashes against the shoreline. This one more powerful than those previous. This one pushes past the firm wet sand and the wind sweeps the foam forward and it comes rushing towards me with an increased force. I laugh at myself as I try to escape the cold wet water. Finally the wave retreats back into the ocean, but not before it soaks my shoes and pant legs.
And that’s when I realize…the Lord wants it all…and He will stop at nothing to get it. He wants to invade my personal space. He wants to go past the fence I put up…the fence that keeps people away…that makes me feel safe…the fence that allows me a sense of control. I have to come to a place of vulnerability…a place where I choose to trust Him. I think about those things that have been weighing on my heart. Those things I don’t have answers to…and I know that’s what He wants from me.
I collect all those anxious thoughts in the palm of hand and clench my fist around them tightly. God, these things…they’re important to me. I need to have an answer to these things. I need to make sure these things are under control. I need to know the plan.
The sound of the waves is almost deafening. They are so strong…so powerful. And I’m reminded of how capable the Lord is of handling my situation. How mighty He is.
And then the waves break and a name floats in onto the shore…it’s gentle…Abba. He begins so softly to remind me that His love for me is infinite…and that any hole that the surrender of these things leaves behind…is an opportunity for His infinite love to pour into and make me whole. That it’s not really about surrender as much as it’s about being filled.
And then I realize…that I’ve been choosing anxiety over His infinite love. What am I thinking?
Humility crashes over me like a cleansing flood. With tears in my eyes I unclench my fist and let the breeze carry my anxious thoughts into the endless ocean…into the bottomless sea…into His infinite love…into His capable hands…into the hands of a loving Father whose affections are endless for me…to Someone who will never fail me…to Someone who will never hurt me…to Someone who I can trust…to Someone who is mightier than the waves crashing along the shore…to Someone who knows the plan…to Someone who will see His plan through. And until He sees it through, every time those anxieties start to creep in, is another opportunity to let myself be filled by His infinite love. And suddenly the salt in my lungs makes me thirsty…for more…more of the endless ocean…more of His infinite love…I want to tear down the fences and break down the walls that I’ve been putting up…because His infinite love is far greater…and a little is not enough…I want more…I want it all.