KONFESSION: Extended days without sunshine can get me down. Like, REALLY down.
I can still function normally in my job and around others and even still put on a happy face. But it’s amazing to me how something as simple as the WEATHER can affect me internally. It usually comes on in winter – when everything outside is dying and my whole commute is in the early dark of morning and the early dark of evening. I have no windows in my classroom and the light of day just seems nonexistent sometimes.
It gets depressing.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE rainy days and storms. But when they hang around for prolonged periods of time (weeks), it starts to affect me. Sam and I have referred to these down days over the years as my “dark” days. We’ve learned to recognize when they might come on and prepare in advance. (Thank you, Weather Channel.) I don’t have to rush off to a doctor and ask for a pill, nor do I freak out and question what’s wrong with me. I do double up on my quiet time with God. I am more intentional about overcoming the “blues” and building more fun, people-engaging activities into my schedule. And maybe I even go tanning. (The exposure to bright light actually helps both my skin problems and my emotions – weird, I know.) Call it SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – or whatever. I just think that I am someone who appreciates the aesthetic quality of life and am very sensitive to the images around me. So the longer the weather stays gray and rainy or the environment looks desolate to me, the chances of having a “dark” day are higher.
I confess this because I was recently challenged by Myra McEntire, a Twitter friend (who is also an author and former minister in a church), to allow myself to be more vulnerable with others. I tend to NOT let people know if I’m struggling or need prayer over certain aspects of my life. Part of that is the curse of a minister’s wife – we just learn to find strength from within because most people expect you to have it together. Instead of relying on others, I’ve really learned in the last 7 years to lean completely on God’s Word and His thoughts. Sometimes that makes church a lonely place, but, truthfully, I’m a better person because of it. But, still. Myra is right… sometimes God desires us to share our struggles – especially when you never know if it might encourage others going through the same thing.
So here it is… I’ve been avoiding most creative endeavors (like writing) lately due to a nagging spirit of discouragement… which is the result of being in a life “holding pattern.” And now that the weather has been so “dark,” it’s starting to make the holding pattern even more obvious and discouraging to me. I am a very driven person and have been described that way by others throughout my life. I’m a person of action, initiative, purpose… but for the past few months, I’ve been driving nonstop with no clue as to where I’m heading. It’s like I’m following a Map that only shows me the next mile at a time instead of the entire course. And I DON’T LIKE IT.
I know God never promised to show us every little detail He is working out – both in us and around us. I KNOW that, and it’s by faith alone that I can accept that. (It does help that I have had times in the past where God actually did show me more of His plan – rare, but so encouraging when it happens.) I’m at the part of my career journey – and I mean both my writing career and my teaching career – where I have NO CLUE what comes next. I’ve done everything within my power to achieve personal success (and I don’t mean the kind that is measured by money or fame). I have tried to do all of my jobs to the best of my ability… but I’m pulled in too many directions at this point. If I’m not careful, I will not be able to do ANYTHING well. Right now, the writing is suffering so that I can be a better teacher and minister (and wife). But when the writing is priority, one or more of the others will suffer. It’s obvious something has to give, but I’m just not sure how or where or when or what…
So I’m waiting until God shows me the next step. I’m not good at waiting. I’m not good at not being in control of my future. Control is something God has had to patiently pry out of my little, white-knuckled fists time and time again. And yet, here I am again… Waiting. And feeling a lot of pressure to KNOW what I’m supposed to do next.
So what do I do in the waiting times of life? When the Map seems incomplete or unclear?
I do a lot of praying and then not thinking about it… if I’m really leaving it in God’s hands, then I don’t need to keep returning to a state of worry. I also cling to Scripture. For example – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Does that verse promise me success with my book? An agent? Financial security? No. It promises that whatever work I am doing, if I am doing it according to His purposes and not my own, God will work things out for my good. And HIS definition of what’s GOOD for my life is far more important than MY perception of good.
I also try to go out of my way to encourage or do nice things for other people when I’m in these “dark” phases. This started in college when I had my heart broken pretty badly… my mom suggested that, in order to start healing, I should take the focus off MYSELF and put it on others who might really need encouragement or a friend. So I wrote encouraging letters to about ten different girls on my hall and taped it to the door of their room. And I spent real time praying for each of those girls. Did that completely obliterate the heartache I was dealing with? No, but it did give me a sense of purpose in the middle of feeling pretty lost about what would come next in life. And it worked for MY GOOD in the long run – some of those girls became lifelong friends after that!
Surely I am not the only one out there who goes through “dark” days…? Surely I am not alone in this weird phase of life where the future seems very unclear? I know I am not the only one to battle a spirit of discouragement. If you’re right there with me, I’d love to know…
And if you’re trying to figure out how to cope with the waiting, these are my personal recommendations:
1. Pray (and really let it go.)
2. Seek out Scripture to encourage and empower you – memorize it, meditate on it, live it.
3. Take the focus off YOURSELF and place it on other more fruitful endeavors.
4. Just breathe. And take it a step at a time.
It’s so cheesy, but I literally started singing in my car the other day (when it was rainy and icy outside)… “the sun’ll come out… tomorrow… bet your bottom dollar…” And you know what? The sun did come out yesterday afternoon for a few hours! It’s gone again today, but I got a little peek of sunshine to keep me going.
So there you have my attempt at being vulnerable here… thanks for praying for me (if you do) and for loving me anyway.