I take pride in my honesty.
In my therapy sessions, I don’t flinch when my therapist questions my motives. People often remark on my honest writing. It doesn’t bother me to tell my unadorned story to complete strangers.
But sometimes I lie. Here’s how:
Someone I love asks me to do something. I know it would make them happy for me to do it: taking over a chore, trying a new activity. I agree, cheerfully. My cheerfulness is sincere.
I start the activity, and find it makes me uncomfortable, anxious. (Many things do.) I do it as best I can, though even I know my effort is half-hearted.
I keep telling the person who asked me how happy I am to do it, even as my contribution becomes more stuttering. They wonder if I’m indeed as cheerful about it as I say I am.
I am, I say. I am.
I’m still cheerful, though more anxious. Surely if I keep trying hard enough, my attitude will bring my effort up to scratch. Surely more practice will help.
I keep insisting—to my friend, my husband, my child—that I’m happy to do the thing I seem unwilling to do. I know how important it is to you, I say.
My husband and I were talking about this recently, and he said, “It wouldn’t bother me so much if you just said no, you weren’t willing to do it. But the truth is, you aren’t willing, even though you say otherwise.”
I opened my mouth to protest: But I am willing. I’m willing to keep trying, of course. I’m just not willing to eviscerate myself by going whole-hog.
Then I stopped.
If something eviscerates me, why am I saying yes in the first place?
I do this in my most important relationships, where the opinion of the person asking is important to me.
This is to say, I do it with God.
Here’s the word that makes me into a liar: try.
I am always willing to try, and if that fails, to try harder. But oh, Yoda is so wise.
DO, or DO NOT. There is no TRY.
TRY is a no that procrastinates.
This is why I need a faith that’s Jesus-powered. A faith where I don’t try anymore.
In my brain, no can mean yes, and yes no, and trying means I assume God wants me to eviscerate myself. That he wants me to ignore my heart’s yelps.
Let me be clear: I will often give new things a shot, even if they make me nervous: a new discipline, a commitment. I’ll pray over decisions: whether to serve in my daughter’s mid-week event. Whether to join a small group.
Sometimes, I surprise myself. Sometimes they don’t eviscerate me, even though they make me nervous (going to a Spanish-language service, for instance).
Often, though, giving things a shot leads to the abrupt conclusion that I can’t keep going.
In the past, I would try harder. With God (and increasingly, my family), I’ve tried to stop trying.
This is why my spiritual disciplines are so slight: a five minute devotional from the BCP. One-word prayers to remember my prayer-partner’s requests. Not installing an app for a daily examen. Not volunteering for my daughter’s Sunday school class.
I am done wrapping my noes in yeses. I am done trying.
If my faith cannot be sustained with a minimal effort, I am done for. I seem strong and competent, but it’s a lie.
Oh, Jesus, carry me. Oh, dear sweet Lord, pick me up and help me along.
I am no longer ashamed to ask God to power my weakling faith. I have started being in awe at how little, actually, I need to do for the God of Everything to show up in spades.
I have started to believe that God inhabits my emptiness, my sincere I can’t, wrapping it with a holy, whole-hearted I CAN.
For the rest of the posts in this easy-yoke faith series, click here.
Image credit, with my modifications: Carlos Varela