About 3 weeks ago I spent the weekend in Sunriver with 12 other friends; 13 people packed into one, 3 bedroom cabin. The intent behind the gathering being that we might gain an ever-so-brief reprieve from the noise, routine and distraction of city life. We would exchange all this instead for a weekend crammed together in tight quarters playing board games in PJ’s, savoring slow mornings sipping on excessive amounts of french-pressed coffee, strolling through freshly fallen snow in the afternoons, and reveling in the joys of home cooked meals… the kind that summon you from the far reaches of your own private corner of the world to sit down together and partake in one of the greatest marvels of this lifetime: the irresistible fusion of lives and stories that weave together effortlessly, magnetically, magnificently around the dinner table. It was a portrait of community at its finest. Not to mention it makes me stupidly giddy knowing that sleep overs are still acceptable at this stage in life… in our mid-twenties, single, dating, and married alike. Reunions such as these are really nothing more than glorified slumber parties, and I love that. Knowing that full-grown adults still carve out time to trade in our queen-sized, four-post-beds for sleeping bags on carpet, evenings typically spent working late for those filled with silly games that carry us well into the wee hours of the night on the wings of laughter and delirious tears, and routines that normally revolve around the monotonous balancing acts of adulthood, for a care-free weekend spent eating too much junk food, drinking too much beer, and sleeping in too late. I’m 25 and I’m delighted to say that slumber parties are alive and well and still as brilliant and magical as they ever were. In fact, I’d probably argue they’ve only gotten better.
It’s weekends like these, full of small, simple moments that help re-center me. When everything else is chaotic and overwhelming, pressing in on me from all sides, these are the moments I remember to breathe. These are the moments I find it in me to appreciate the ability to do so. Sometimes life gets so full of clutter, things that feel urgent and appear important because they so quickly pile up and encroach on our personal space, that we begin to lose sight of the fact that IT’S JUST CLUTTER. Period. While a deep clean is most likely necessary, a meltdown probably is not. And yet, this is often what it takes in order for us [me] to take a step back, take a breath, and remember what is true.
The week [okay, weeks] prior to quitting my job, I was living in a perpetual state of meltdown [just ask my poor boyfriend] much like the kind I just described above… you know, the ones that probably aren’t entirely necessary and yet are somehow inevitable. Anyway, there came a point when everything reached its apex and I felt fear begin to envelop me from every which angle. It was no longer just about my job. It was my job, and my bills, and my responsibilities, and my future, and my family, and my relationship, and my friendships, and ALL of it. And then it hit me one evening as I was sitting alone in my room: I had come to a place in life where EVERYTHING I saw was being filtered through a lens of fear. Things that ought not to have been a worry were burdening me with an unnatural weight. Every breath felt burdensome and I couldn’t see a way out. I vividly recall sitting there trembling, fearful of what was before me when I realized my eyes were shut tight like a vise. And then 2 Timothy 1:7 came to mind like a lifeline when you’ve come to the very end of yourself. And I heard this in the depths of my heart: I have not given you this spirit of fear. This is not from me. Open your eyes.
Please do not misunderstand. There was no booming voice from heaven. But in that moment, the Living Word rose up to meet me in my time of need in order to remind me of what was already deeply impressed upon my heart, but just forgotten amongst the clutter. And so for the first time in a long time, I began to open my eyes and my ears, and I listened. And I did something I don’t believe I have ever done before. I made out a physical list of things I knew to be true. And in order to get there, I had to start at the very, very beginning…
1) I am a child of the Most High God
2) He loves me
3) He does NOT give his children a spirit of fear but of power, love and sound judgment
4) He has never given me, nor is it in his character to do so, more than I can bear
5) He called & brought me to Portland [this isn’t up for debate… it’s just reality]
6) He would never bring me to a place simply to abandon me
7) I can trust Him
Not surprisingly, what I discovered as I began to spell out and dwell on these fundamental truths, was that there was very little room for fear to dwell among them. And the actions I took from that point forward, while still scary, were anchored by these realities at the end of the day. And when my mind would race as it often does, my heart was soothed and I slept in the safety of what I did know, even while what I didn’t remained.
What was beautiful about this trip, among many things, was that it came at a very pronounced collision point in my life. I had been unemployed for 5 days at this point, very unsure of what was next or where I was going. But on that morning before we left, I had an interview. And on that same afternoon, while we were walking in the aisles of Safeway grabbing last-minute grocery items for the trip, I got a phone call offering me the job. I was to start on Wednesday, which, if my math is correct [and I really hope it is since I just spent the last 2+ years of my life as an accountant] I was to be unemployed for all of 7 days. SEVEN DAYS. Never mind the fact that this is the number of completion and fullness and perfection… that is SHORTER than the last vacation I took. That’s crazy. No. That’s a miracle. That’s the hand of God.
But God wasn’t finished. He didn’t just provide a great job in a frighteningly quick amount of time, He then proceeded to pour on additional gifts. Gifts I never even asked for. He sent me on a trip filled with out-standing community and faithful friends. He filled the time with bountiful laughter and simple joys. He provided space to breathe again. It felt as though He was throwing a party to celebrate His provision in my life. And it’s in moments like these, when I’ve taken the time to dispel the clutter for a moment and lean into the essentials of this life that I begin to see and feel and experience all over again what God is like. And this is what I find:
He is faithful
He is generous
He is communal
He is provider
He is a Father who desperately loves His children
And He celebrates the small, quiet moments with us
And He can be found among them also
Sadly, I am rarely found to be so faithful or generous or quick to recall and rest in the faithfulness of His character. And yet, I rejoice in another outstanding truth: that His grace is not dependent upon me. He is good and kind and all that He is simply because He is who He is. That is all. I don’t get it. I certainly don’t deserve it. But I’ll receive it with a glad heart and open hands. Because I need it. It’s that simple. It’s that straight-forward. That’s what makes it so epically beautiful. It’s the most redeeming, healing kind of beautiful. And it seems it can almost always be found right in the heart of the little things.