This week I have been facing my own sense of incompetence and powerlessness. I run a Facebook group for parents, but I can’t get my 4-year-old son to sit still for Liturgy. I send weekly advice e-mails to servants, but I can’t get approval to implement a new curriculum. I’m the priest’s wife, but I can’t remember the new people’s names. I am a well-informed citizen, but I can’t effect the changes I seek.
I get caught in the rip current of negative thoughts, and I’m done for, drowning in a sea of fear and doubt. Does that ever happen to you?
Suddenly, I can’t seem to remember all the incredible opportunities and blessings in my life. I forget my wiggly son’s massive love for our church and its people. I forget that, despite an imperfect curriculum, I have the best co-teachers. I forget that asking the new people for their names again is a great excuse to spark a conversation. I forget that I can turn off the news and bake cookies for my neighbor.
Stress gives me tunnel vision. All I can see is what’s wrong.
When things get hard, when I feel like I am being stretched past my limits, or I’m on an emotional roller coaster that won’t end, or I just have trouble dealing, I remind myself I’m meant to be here.
Over the years I have learned to find my way back to this phrase:
“For to this you were called” (1 Peter 2:21a)
I don’t know what you’re facing in your life. I don’t know your struggles. But I do know that this is exactly where you are at the moment. In this space, in this feeling, in this fight: “For to this you were called.”
Despite the fear or the grief or the anger or the pain, this is where you are meant to be. This is the upgrade you need to install.*
What Would Christ Do?
We are simple humans in a broken world. Suffering is inevitable. Suffering is all around us. We were not called to lives free from suffering but to a life that accepts suffering and grows stronger, holier through it.
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
And how did Christ bear His situation? “When He was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
Christ wasn’t reactionary. He didn’t allow Himself to act reflexively, throwing back what was thrown at Him. And He knew where true power really resides.
Let’s follow in His steps, as St. Peter instructs. Don’t react reflexively, and bring to mind who really has the power in your tough situation.
It’s a Journey
When the pressure, internal or external, gets to be too much, let’s remember that we were called to this. This test was divinely ordained for us. It’s happening on purpose, for a purpose.
Say it aloud, pray it from your heart: To this I was called.
Oh, it’s not going to be automatic. It’s not a flip of a switch. It doesn’t mean you won’t be shouting at God. It doesn’t mean you won’t be on the floor in tears.
It’s just a matter of recognizing that it’s all the journey of this struggle:
From fear to acceptance.
From doubt to faith.
Take little steps. If your fear has you bed-ridden, sit in a chair. If your doubt has you avoiding church, go to two services this week.
If you can’t pray at all, just kneel.
Because “to this you were called”–to this feeling, to this suffering, to this struggle. Make the most of it, the best of it. Grow in it.
There’s a Bigger Plan
God has a plan for you. A plan you can’t imagine, you can’t see. It takes a lot of trust, but what else can you do? This is the life you’ve been handed. This is the struggle you’re facing. It isn’t going to disappear on its own. It won’t disappear until you’ve learned all you can, you’ve grown all you can, until you’ve made the hard decisions that need to be made.
Last Sunday, everything came to a head. All I could think about through liturgy was my incompetence. For someone who judges herself on accomplishment, it was devastating. Maybe you’ve been there.
Then I took Communion, and between the Body and the Blood, I stood there unable to sing the hymn and just stared bitterly at the iconostasis.
And the thought came to me that I had just partaken in a holy sacrament that unites me with God. I had just renewed my unity with the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator.
Something about that just puts it all in perspective. Big God, tiny Laura. I can’t tell you the peace that washed over me.
Because at the end of the day to this I was called:
To being the mother of this little bundle of love and rampant positive energy.
To being a servant in this particular situation.
To being the priest’s wife who doesn’t have it all together.
To being a stay-at-home mom with toys all over the living room.
To being a blogger who has people she loves and worries about across the globe.
And to THIS you were called. Whatever THIS is.
Yes, THIS is bigger than you. But it’s not bigger than God. No matter how big the wave, no matter how fast the current, He wants you to remember that He’s there. And He’s got your back.
*Some of you are facing unimaginable terrors. Please don’t face them alone. Reach out to God and to all available resources. There is a way out, a way forward.