Hello, My Name is Anakin

I get up and it’s still dark. I stumble to the kitchen and make coffee, still half asleep, and greet my cat when he comes in from his nightly adventures. I take the coffee back to bed with me and prop up my pillows so I can read my Bible. The day starts well.

And then, the more awake I get and the further away from my Bible reading I get, the more my head starts to cloud up. Other things creep in: fear. Guilt. Anxiety. Chaotic thoughts about academics, deadlines, work, life things, whether or not I’m choosing the right thing to do at every moment. The desire to live well and the fear that I will fail. The feeling, the irrational feeling, that if I misstep just a little I will completely veer off the path I’m supposed to be walking on and end up somewhere I was never meant to be. Fear that I will make a huge mistake. Because as self disciplined as I try to be, I am a human being.

This is our condition. We are human beings. When Paul said that he does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do (Romans 7:15), he was describing our condition. Because no matter what, no matter how hard we try and how many routines and structures and rules and roadblocks we put up around us, we are human, and we will make mistakes. It is inevitable. And it becomes overwhelming and even terrifying, at times, that knowledge that I. Will. Make. Mistakes. Despite my best efforts.

And I struggle. And I doubt. And I worry. And I am uncertain. Because despite what the world would like us to think, it is a fallen world, and there are many things wrong with it. Our struggle is proof that something is wrong. It was not supposed to be this way. And perhaps that is the first step: acknowledging that yes, the world is flawed and the systems are flawed and we are flawed and everything has something wrong with it. Everything is out of sync. It is too easy to do the wrong thing and too difficult to do what is right.

So, yeah, let’s not kid ourselves. It is freaking hard to walk this road. It’s nearly impossible, in fact. We can be real about that, yeah? We are pretty much Anakin Skywalker. It’s just how it is.

But let’s also not forget that we have a God who gets it. His standards are impossibly high, yes. Do you think He doesn’t know that? He is our Creator, literally. He made us. He knows. It’s even in the Bible: we all have sinned and (as it is popularly translated) fall short. We fall short. That’s the point of sending Christ to die for our sins and rise again, defeating them forever.

So instead of making God out to be this horrible, scary, judgmental monster in the sky who is looking for an excuse to punish and kill us, let’s go to Him instead. Because the problem comes when we allow our failures to drive a wedge between us and Him. When we give up. He never gives up, not on anyone. He never gets tired of hearing the same thing over and over. He never stops loving us. He never stops waiting for us. We don’t understand Him and the way He does things, and we never will. We don’t have to. He understands us. He sees us. And despite understanding us and seeing us, He loves us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. In our brokenness and failure, not after we got all squeaky clean and righteous. In the hole. In the abyss. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. So trust Him.

Advertisements

Authentically Afraid

Okay. In keeping with my “tagline” for life (attempt authenticity, if that was somehow unclear) I’m going to be real here. On April fool’s day, I posted a status saying that I had decided that I hated Greek and was going to drop out and do something else.

The thing is, it wasn’t entirely a joke. No, I don’t hate Greek…not at all. But in the past three weeks I have considered leaving and getting some job applications from various fast food restaurants, or joining the army, or moving to Israel. Because my fear of failure is as at all time high, and often it completely stops me from working at all. Which leads to being way behind. Which reinforces the idea that I’m a failure. Which makes me afraid of more failure. Rinse and repeat.

And the dumbest thing about this is that in the rational part of my mind, I know I can do this. I enjoy writing essays. Who the freak enjoys writing essays? When I’m not stressed out and drawing a blank because of performance anxiety, I can translate ancient Greek. I’m good at it in the comfort of my own home when no one is waiting for an on demand thing. I know I can do this. So why this intense, panicky fear? Why am I allowing it to seriously cripple me and put me way behind with my work?

This is some weird, regressive stupidness. I mean, this is 2nd year stuff. I’ve dealt with this. So why??

I don’t have an answer, and I don’t know how to fix it, because prayer and the things I normally do aren’t working. But this I know, even in my darkest moments: this is where God wants me, and He’s given me everything I need. So (forgive the cliche) come hell, or high water, or bad grades, or disappointment from lecturers, or whatever else, I will freaking push through. The army and McDonald’s will have to do without me.

-Signed, The Determined Africanstardust Who Is Really, Super Stubborn and Absolutely Refuses to Give Up, So Take That, Mr. Stupid Fear Stupidhead. Also I’m Very Mature When It Comes To These Things. So Mature. Yeah.

Mirrors

Obviously I have not posted in a while. I had such grand plans of posting once a week consistently this year, but you know what they say about the best laid plans. Anyway, it’s only March, so I’m going to attempt to get back on track 🙂

First of all, I’ve started horseback riding again. I stopped around four and a half years ago for two reasons: 1) I moved to Cape Town and didn’t have a car or money to ride, and 2) I had several slightly traumatic experiences with the horse I had been riding, which continued even after I spent hours and hours working with the horse to try and fix the problems, and I was afraid to get back on a horse again. When I arrived for my first lesson and she told me to get on the horse I kind of just stood there for a few seconds and seriously considered asking her if I could pass on that (and, what, stand and stare at the horse for an hour? I’m not quite sure what I was thinking haha), but once I got on and the initial terror passed, I managed to enjoy it.

The thing about horseback riding is that horses are mirrors. All animals are, in a way, but it’s more noticeable and marked with horses because they’re giant animals that you are trying to ride and stay in control of. This is probably why some people don’t like them; you can’t pretend with a horse because it sees right through you. It knows right away whether you’re going to let it do what it wants, whether you are riding with authority, and whether or not you are afraid. I have often had to reevaluate myself after a lesson or an outride, and last week was one of those times. I was struggling to get the horse to do an admittedly complicated turn, and I wasn’t able to get it right before the lesson ended. My instructor (who had been shouting “you’re in control! be in control!” the whole time) talked me through it, and then she asked whether I am generally a passive person.

I hate the word passive. I hate passiveness. To me it goes hand in hand with fear, because fear = paralysis and that’s basically what being passive is. But unfortunately I know that I can be incredibly passive, and it’s a fault that I like to ignore, but of course I can’t ignore it while I’m riding. And this year, my “theme” is You Make Me Brave. Brave. Active. Intentional. Adventurous. Unafraid. None of these things have anything to do with passivity.

I started the year off with a huge amount of excitement about academics, friends, trying new things (I even signed up for fencing, which I haven’t had time to go to yet, but I totally will eventually), and a determined decision to not. Be. Afraid. Anymore. I think I hit a slump, but today I am writing this to say that, with God’s help, this will be a year of intentional unafraidness. He makes me brave.

Scars

Darlin’ do not fear what you don’t really know ‘Cause it won’t last – the worries will pass All your troubles, they don’t stand a chance And sometimes it takes more than a lifetime to know Darlin’ do not fear what you don’t really know

-Brett Dennen

I have scars all over my knees.

They’re tomboy knees. Definitely not very “ladylike”, but what can I say…Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is, I have scars all over my knees. And I remember how I got some of them…some are from when I face planted on a concrete basketball court, others from when I did much too sharp a turn on my roller blades and skidded across the pavement. There was blood. A lot of blood. And I cried and it hurt and at the time I was angry and frustrated and sad.

I am not afraid of the future. I am not afraid of the unknown. Or rather, when I find myself being afraid, I don’t run away and hide. This did not happen overnight…sometimes you have to collect a few more scars before you realize that you’re strong and that being happy and alive is a choice, not a result of circumstances. Before you realize that fear is something you can overcome. Sometimes you have to see a few times that God is trustworthy, that what He says is the truth, and that He does have plans for you.

Don’t look down on your scars. And if you’re in the middle of getting some more, know this: you will weather the storm, and have the marks of courage to show it.

So take heart. You will overcome.

The Edge

edge of the world

It’s that moment…that moment when suddenly, your feet are no longer on solid ground. You hang in the balance, suspended, and there’s nothing below you. On the edge of a precipice, and nothing to hold onto; that jolting feeling that sends adrenaline through your veins. The moment you realize that just now, in this moment, you don’t belong anywhere. You can’t call anywhere home. You are between places, in the middle, like a floating hot air balloon, and there are not enough anchors or weights to tie you down anywhere. You are free falling. This…this is like cliff diving without knowing there’s a bottom and without knowing whether you’ll be able to get back to the top again. This is heart pounding, hyperventilating, trembling shock. The moment when you realize you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. The moment when you realize you don’t belong anywhere. A chasm below you and a chasm of stars above.

I don’t know if people remember this about their twenties. But just for the record, we have those moments. So if we sometimes seem like oversized teenagers, or if you think we should have it all together and we don’t, or if you’re wondering why we do the things we do and get all emotional and have complete flip outs, and undergo personality changes, this is why. Maybe you were level headed and perfect in your twenties. Maybe you don’t have this happen to you, ever. But no matter how glass-half-full you are, no matter how resilient and strong and fierce and determined and free, this is The Edge. Like the edge of the world. And this whole time there’s been a path, and some stairs, and now suddenly there are no more stairs. There’s just…nothing. It’s hard to be in a place where it’s the beginning and the end and the middle all at once. It’s hard when you’re not a kid and you’re not an adult and you’re kind of nothing, really, except confused and adventurous and sometimes lonely and a little bit scared. (We can admit that, right? That sometimes we’re scared?)

It’s The Edge. And it’s where we are.