Don't let go of the 'almosts and not yets'

Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.
— Cormac McCarthy

I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. The hardest thing in the world is to leave something unfinished. But the school of life demands it, whether we like it or not. I've white-knuckled it through most of my life. Staying up late to finish homework assignments, exhausting myself in the name of perfection for the letter 'A' on all of my papers.

I'm a task master. A producer. A meticulous finisher, which means there is nothing that drives me more insane than the blinking cursors of life. The unfinished business. The dogeared pages. The dreams that haven't arrived. They frustrate me to no end. I work off timelines and I expect to line up all the events in my life in a neat little row.

But life is one big messy in-between

It's chaotic and full of roundabouts and seemingly dead ends. The hardest point in the journey is accepting what we cannot control it. We just have to let it happen and stay flexible for what comes our way.

I crave order. No waiting, no wasted hours, no life lessons spent in the messy in-betweens. Unfortunately, this isn't how life works at all. I've cried about it, held a grudge  at God, strong-armed the people I love most, and even tried to manipulate the circumstances to get the outcome I want. None of it worked to get the things I need. Some wishes still remain unfulfilled. Some dreams have a big "waiting" stamp on the paperwork. But as soon as I let the timeline go, the waiting seems a little less demanding. 

This is the beauty of letting go of control, but not our hope 

The 'almost and the not-yets'  in life are brutal. Most days I want to pretend they aren't there, because the hardest thing in the world is letting people know you need something you don't have. Need is such an ugly word in our culture. Our lifestyle as Americans is lived almost entirely in avoidance of needing things, because it makes us so uncomfortable to depend on someone else. We want to earn things, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, drive our own cars, pump our own gas, deserve what we are given. But the entire premise of the Christian life is that we deserve nothing, but accept love as a gift that's totally unearned. Every morning our job is to tell God "I can't do this on my own" and receive from Him what he has to give. Recognizing need is central to our human condition. 

God can work with messed up people, but he can't work with pride. The problem with pretending we don't have needs is that others see through it. They have resources, talents, gifts to offer us to meet our need but we won't accept because we're too embarrassed, too prideful to admit we are unable to do something for ourselves.

Waiting expectantly for something that hasn't happened yet is difficult. It's much more socially acceptable to pretend we're doing ok. But eventually, our thin veneers will wear off and collapse under the weight of our pretending.

To need is human. To need is beautiful. To need is normal.

Something that's helped me understand my need is to question whether there's some kind of insecurity that's driving it. Am I grasping at the promise of security by obtaining this thing? Am I desiring the approval of someone whose attention I need to feel worthy? Am I hoping to become successful so that others will recognize that I'm worth loving? Sometimes our desires for material things, money, a romantic relationship, success, beauty, hint at something deep within us-- our bottomless desire for love.

Children need things from us everyday. Do we turn them away because they can't reach the top cupboard? Do we shame them for asking? To we point out their needs and laugh? Never. God sees us as His children, and this is what he says about meeting our places of need from Matthew 7:9. I like The Message translation best:

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

Our strongest desires do not always lead us to places where our deepest needs are met 

Understanding the difference between an insecure desire and the need behind it is crucial. If we make decisions based off what we feel like we need, we will always be disappointed because feelings change. We have to release fear and trust that God's promises are enough to stand on, enough when we need help, enough to humble our pride and have us come at his feet to ask him to show us what we really, truly need from him.

We will sometimes ask for the wrong things, but he delights in the mere fact that we come honestly and without pretense. I'm learning daily the humility it takes to make my own "almost and not yets" known to him without ultimatums or timelines. It's more of an artform than a science, and at times it's really touch and go. But what I do know, closer than my own skin, is that his promises are true. Every fiber in my being knows it, even when my heart does not.