In times when I feel behind and desperate to compensate with large leaps, I am gently reminded to find my way through small steps. I have a conviction that they are one of the best ways to get anywhere. There is nothing in this world that you could want to do that you can’t take a small step towards. Often the felt obligation to start out with a ceremonious leap prevents us from ever beginning. We become lost beneath ambitions we are yet incapable of. But when you focus on what you do have within your grasp, it makes for progress. Today I cannot write that book of mine, but I can write this post. I cannot disperse all of my fears and insecurities, but I can choose to seek truth.
I could psych myself up for six weeks to make a great movement, or I could just move a little each day as I can and find myself further along. Life and progress is found nestled between turkey samwiches, morning showers, and the picking up of a book. Oh but we are swooned by the big! Big movements look progressive and create the sensation of purpose. Simply completing the process of the here and now has a drab coating to it. But motion breeds motion, and the daily warms up engines for great enterprises. It’s not just that those journeys of thousands of miles start with one step. It’s that those journeys are completely comprised of, from beginning to end, small steps. That makes today so very important. So very possible.
I looked up at the vast blue today and allowed it to make me feel small. I needed that sense of me being tiny in the expanse of everything else that is. Sometimes I get too big, and when I am too big inside of my world, I become scared. When I am big, my problems are big, my needs are big, my importance is big, and my responsibility to those things is big. There I am–looming all important in my world. My disappointments fill the sky, and I am the one to face the problems and fix them.
I stepped outside into the cold. I let myself feel cold for a while. I asked that big tree across the road whether he was touched by my situation, and how he thought history would progress if I didn’t master it. I asked him if he didn’t think my troubles and predicaments were unfair and worthy of obsession. But he wasn’t very obsessed with any of the things that I have been. I looked at that endless blue that I don’t understand, and I thought about all the things of time and eternity that I can’t explain. I contemplated all I don’t know. I contemplated how much of history past and future stands unmoved by what is so moving me. I felt small again and as I shrunk back to size, I felt the freedom of being a small person in a big story. It’s not that my life isn’t important. It’s not that my choices don’t matter. It’s just that I’m not the whole story.
Fall is good at this–this shrinking experience. Fall strips and sheds and spills. Fall gets you bare. But there’s so much comfort in it. It’s the reassurance of things so much bigger than yourself. Here you just get to be. Be bare, be held, be small.
Gratitude doesn’t always look like a day full of things to be thankful for.
Thankfulness is not always a list, not always conscious.
Some days I write two pages straight of things I am thankful for. Other days I don’t write a single word.
Gratitude when you can’t think of things to be thankful for, is worship. Worship is a step of faith. It’s a faith that says I believe in His goodness even when it feels like I am not experiencing it.
Worship doesn’t come out because things have gone well. Worship is given because He’s always worthy, and because I have learned that when I am full of the gratitude of worship, I position myself to see rightly again.
There are some mornings when I can’t sleep in because I have somewhere I have to be. Then there are other mornings when I can’t sleep in because I have nowhere to be at all, and that makes getting out of bed far too irresistible. The lazier my morning, the more I want to get up and poach an egg, have a slice of sourdough, and deliberate about whether my tea is over brewed or not. I stick my nose in a recycled paper magazine, love its smell, and suddenly want Italian sausage to make its recipes. Not to mention, since buying my camera, I have had to add about half an hour to all of my morning preparation times, to accommodate for the shutter snapping between bites and sips and keystrokes. I have a new, non-literal understanding of the phrase, “cooking time.” I will throw an egg shell into the garbage and be half way across the kitchen before I realize I need that egg shell for my photo. You have to tell the whole story. My camera is teaching me that… my canon and my 2H pencils.
The more I engage with art, the more I realize that so much of life is about seeing. Whether I’m looking through my viewfinder, or my subconscious train of thoughts, seeing is an art and a discipline. To see well is to live well. When you can see, you can make something beautiful. My art professor tells me almost every class period that drawing is not about becoming better at holding a pencil, but refining your ability to see. He comes along, puts a stroke on my Bristol pad where that stroke was supposed to go, and I exclaim, “oh! I see!” I get it. That’s what was wrong. How I wish the art of my life had a professor walking around saying, “no no, look here… you’re not seeing it right… see… it goes like this…” I am having to train my eye to see where the lines curve around a cello, or how light encases apples. More importantly, I have to train my eye to see where grace just gave me something I didn’t deserve, and where a difficult situation just helped to mold me into something more beautiful.
Life has been very much an experience of the “inbetween” lately—those days that happen after one thing ends but before the next one starts. These days can be giant lulls of empty. Standing inside my life, I begin to feel as though it is slowly shrinking. I can’t stand these kinds of days. My ideal self would be filled with expectation of the unseen, but I’m not really. Not yet. I know that those things are there, but what I can see and what I can feel is pure frustration. It’s a low-lying drone that rubs against hope and purpose and wants to bury me inside of itself.
Something asks me whether frustration isn’t a promise of new life in the air. Perhaps it is meant to lead us to expectancy. Like a growing pain, it can be the herald of change. Frustration is telling me that I have grown and that the old life no longer fits the new me. It is telling me that seasons have ended and new ones are beginning. It’s not that my world has shrunk, it’s that I have outgrown it. When things begin to feel empty it’s because I can feel the absence of something that is about to be. God awakens a longing in anticipation of fulfillment, and we ache because it’s coming. With these eyes to see, my frustration is a misperception. Frustration is the edge of a need without the hope of an answer. If I can let discomfort adjust my focus, frustration holds a promise of things to come.
My in-between days feel bare and struggling, but they are rich and purposeful. They hold all the emptiness of transformation, all the frustration of new birth. There is a promise to my frustration that is meant to point me on. It is a moment of expectancy that has been misperceived, and if I can turn it the right way, this lull might just become a celebration…