I feel passionate about addressing the discrimination against Latinos in my town, and breaking down walls between us in church.
But I have not thrown myself into doing something. No, I do very little:
- I go to the women’s Bible study once a month.
- I go to Sunday services once a month.
- I try to hang out with my closest friend from that congregation at least once a month.
- I try (and am bad about) doing other things that our women’s group does: garage sales, helping out with the prayer meetings).
Honestly, I feel embarrassed to not do more. This congregation has a lot of needs. I could get involved with English or driving classes, or in my church’s advocacy about immigration. I could volunteer for the worship team or help hand out lunches to day laborers. I wish I involved my kids in the community more or had more time to develop friendships with more of the women I love in the Bible study.
It’s not that I’m not open to doing more. But the idea of adding more stuff to my schedule gives me anxiety.
If trying harder means more anxiety and business, is that really the easy yoke?
I have learned busyness is poison to me. Period. So if the commitment will make me feel busy (and I have a very low bar for business), I say no.
I have to trust that my tiny little bit of effort is enough. That if more commitments lead to less peace, then I am headed in the wrong direction. And that if I am supposed to do more, that God will open up space. I have to keep praying that He will lead me into something more, that I will say the right yes to more involvement. I keep asking Him to help me discern the difference.
I trust he will. Guys—this is a crazy thing–I trust he’ll get my attention if my aversion to busyness needs to change.
I have noticed something, too. It’s a lot easier to “serve” than to simply spend time with people. It also feels better. You have to face fewer uncomfortable situations.
There are a ton of (faithful, lovely, called) white people in our church running ministries for Spanish-speakers. However, I’m almost always the only blonde lady showing up for services. I’m definitely the only one showing up for the women’s Bible study.
The more I show up in these places, the more I’m confronted by my own unconscious racism, too—my desire to fix, to “help”, to condescend. The more I cringe when my friends—most of whom clean houses for a living–notice the Vitamix on my counter or ask how much my house cost.
I like that they feel comfortable asking me about these things. I also hate it.
Frankly, I think Jesus would prefer me to keep my busy hands to myself sometimes. I need the practice more than I need something else to do.
Keeping things simple means I have open AND empty hands. This helps me remember that it’s God that does the reconciling, not me.
My senior year of college, my job plan was to go onto Crusade staff. I was So On Fire For The Lord! The only problem? Crusade said no, thank you. (Long story, but basically, they told me I needed to get counseling first. They were right.)
I limped home, terribly ashamed, and scheduled some counseling. That’s when my latent rage exploded in my face.
Over the next year, my life unraveled something spectacular. My relationship with my parents went into the toilet. I was unemployed, living on (limited) savings from my work as a child actor, and was super-depressed, so depressed I couldn’t imagine finding a job, so depressed I came way too close to being suicidal.
My on-fire faith? It unraveled too.
I’d thought Jesus had taken away all the pain of my family, but instead, I realized I’d used religion to spackle over my anger.
Was any of the stuff I believed about Jesus true? I wasn’t sure.
Little by little, I learned to make enough money to pay rent. I kept going to church by the skin of my teeth, but I stopped reading my Bible or praying.
What kept me sane was not Jesus. It was dancing.
Four or five times a week, I put on jazz sneakers and went swing dancing. Dancing made a lot more sense to me than church did. Dancing felt good. It felt like joy.
One night, getting ready to go to a dance club, the second half of a Bible verse popped into my head.
“….and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
I was late for the opening, so I tried to ignore it. I felt annoyed by this random “verse”. I’d only read through the Bible once at that point, and memorization had never been my thing (no AWANA for me as a kid), so I was pretty sure it was just sort of Bible-ish language my brain had manufactured.
But putting on my eyeliner, the verse kept at me. It addressed the very thing I was yearning to know: What did I have to do to get my heart’s desire? What did my heart even want?
Honestly, I doubted I’d like the first half of that verse. I argued with God, telling him that if I did bother to go look it up, and it told me to follow the law, I might never read a Bible again.
But finally, my curiosity got the best of me.
Imagine my surprise: it was an actual verse.
I was even more gobsmacked by what it said:
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
I had never associated delight with God. Love, yes. Safety, fear, obligation, goodness, rightness, power.
But not delight.
It felt like I’d gone to a dentist’s office and been handed a bowl full of full-sugar candy.
That year, I think one thing saved me. Dancing.
But another thing kept my heart tender towards God: and it was that verse.
Can I tell you how surprised I was to find a verse (I know, I know, proof-texted, whatever–but it DROPPED IN MY LAP) that told me that dancing my way out of my depression was a way of seeking God?
It is excellent and praiseworthy that when my life went into the toilet, God gave me a way to dance, and told me that was good. I am so grateful for that.
It’s fifteen years later, and nothing I have learned since then has changed this: I’ll take dancing any day over a Bible study if it leads me more directly to joy.
I’m so sick of Christian activities I don’t actually like. I’m so tired of being guilt-tripped into being bored or resentful as a way of “spending time” with God. F— obligation when it comes to the Lover of our Souls.
If you want to get close to God, or find the desires of your heart, look for delight first. Figure out what your heart is begging you for, even if it doesn’t sound religious. Stop torturing yourself with shoulds.
Delight takes incredible bravery. It means we have to face the universe with optimism, which is not a given. Delight takes incredible honesty: we have to stop pretending we like shit that we hate. Delight will undo you. Delight will strip away all your pretense.
Seek delight in God, my friends. He is waiting for you.
For the rest of the posts in my easy-yoke faith series, click here.