Alternatives To Nail-biting

My dad spent his first year out of the Navy with God and a black lab named Solomon in a log cabin with no electricity miles away from other human beings.

I wanted to start life like that. I wanted a dog and a cabin in the middle of nowhere to get my life figured out and organized, and then I would emerge, find God’s will for my life and live happily ever after with my aging, faithful dog.

So far it hasn’t worked out like that. So far it’s been a lot messier. I didn’t get to move out to a cabin in the country. My apartment complex doesn’t allow pets, and my heating bill is way too expensive. My most recent method of figuring out God’s will for my life has been sorting it into nice piles: God’s will and not God’s will. I put complications, confusions, friendships and relationships into those two categories. I sweat, pray, wring my hands and make a lot of nail-biting decisions with agonizing time put into them, always second-guessing.

I recently watched the 1995 film Before Sunrise with a young Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. What struck me most about the film was the conversation­—conversation that started on a train, continued over bridges, down streets and in parks. They were being—they weren’t trying to figure anything out, just enjoying the presence and life of another. I thought about me and God and how I don’t really live like that with Him. I don’t live just enjoying who He is or where He’s placed me. I want to know where I’m going.

I did some soul-searching after that.

I tried being still more often. Psalm 46 encourages, “Be still and know that I am God.” Interestingly, this verse comes after verses like, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Stillness in the midst of that?

Eventually, I decided to stop giving God a list of questions and decisions I needed answers for. I tried to trust Him to tell me the things I needed to know when I needed to know them. Over time something odd started to happen: I realized He’s kind of faithful. I can wring my hands as much as I want, but when I need to know something or do something or be something, He’s faithful to show me—even though it may be what seems to me as the very last second.

I’m finding that, somehow, despite myself, I think I am in God’s will. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but what I’m learning more is my God—I’m learning who He is. When I seek that, I find I seek less the answer to the nail-biting question of Oh Lord, am I doing Your will here? (Because what I’m really asking in that question is Lord, is this right or wrong? Will I be royally screwing up my life?) I want those yeses or nos. I want protection from mistakes. Most of the time, I don’t necessarily want God for God’s sake, I just want to do things right.

Conversation just isn’t the same when we have agendas.

I doubt I’ll be moving into a cabin anytime soon. I’m realizing that life does not fit neatly into four square walls without electricity. My ideas about things aren’t always how life should work out. But I’m learning to have conversation with my Creator, to let Him lead me, to be less demanding and attempt to trust.

See Also

And God, if You’re paying attention to all this, remember we’ve been talking about this dog thing for a while …

[Hope Mills lives in Virginia and recently realized she might not be Southern. She works for a custom publishing company that specializes in communicating the stories of non-profits.]

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