It’s been a while since I’ve had something to say. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It’s been a while since I could wrap words around what’s going on inside me. Months have passed since my last blog post, and while nothing tragic happened in those months, they were very difficult. There wasn’t a single big negative event that happened. It was more like a thousand little negative events that happened. And kept happening. I can usually manage chaos. I feel like it’s a given in the world we live in and I’ve learned to deal with it. What I hate (almost more than anything else) is extended chaos. When life just Will. Not. Stop.
That’s what the past few months have felt like for me. I can’t even list to you all the stuff that happened. It all became a blur of what felt like repeated punches for me. Even if I could name it all, it would probably sound ridiculous. It was nothing anyone on the outside would consider major. But it sure felt major on the inside. I’ve been on this earth for multiple decades now, and I’ve been through some storms. Most of the time, I just have to wait for them to pass. But this one just wouldn’t. I was stressed and exhausted and life didn’t seem to care. It just kept throwing things at me. I didn’t even have the energy to duck anymore. My prayers, strong and consistent at first, turned into frustrated questions like “Is this not enough? Am I ever going to catch a break? Am I ever going to get the chance to recover?” Everything started turning to water in my hands and the tighter I tried to hold, the faster it slipped through my fingers.
In the middle of all this, I was on the phone with my mom one evening. Just venting and processing. I said something like this: “I feel like I am on a boat in the middle of a storm and no matter what I do, it won’t stop. It won’t relent. I am standing here screaming at the wind and waves to be still, and nothing’s happening. Nothing’s changing. Even though I am trying so hard to handle this the way Jesus modeled.”
My mom’s response was matter-of-fact: “If you want to handle this storm the way Jesus modeled, you should be sleeping.”
That stopped me in my tracks.
Is it theologically scandalous to wonder if calming the storm wasn’t Plan A? What if that was Plan B? What if Plan A was to just sleep through the whole thing? I’m not making assumptions. I’m just wondering.
Here’s the problem with sleeping through storms of extended chaos – the decision to rest requires surrender.
If I were really honest, I would admit that I have some minor control issues. Teensy ones. Microscopic, actually. Hardly worth mentioning. (I might also have minimization issues. I haven’t decided yet.) To truly rest and be at peace the way I am intended to be, I have to give up the illusion that I am as in charge as I like to pretend I am. Control doesn’t always look like trying to get other people to do what you want. Sometimes it looks like using your bare hands to try and bend the steel bar of life into the shape you think it should be. Sometimes it looks like stomping your foot to try and make the boat stop swaying since the waves don’t seem to be listening.
While walking all of this out, I came across an Instagram post that simply said: “Let go or be dragged.” That pretty much sums up the lesson I’m taking from that season of my life. You can get as worked up on the inside as the storm on the outside… or you can sleep through it.
As a writer, sometimes when I’m having trouble processing what’s going on for me spiritually, God will give me a story to write so I get to work it out with characters. For me, the characters tend to show up before the story itself does. I write a lot of fiction, and my characters are real people to me. I interact with them as real people in my head and, honestly, perceiving them as real makes me a better writer. I know that’s an odd concept and may call my mental stability into question, but it’s important to note for this post.
During this extended stormy season in my life, a new character showed up. He was a fisherman who lived off the coast of Maine.
I laughed out loud.
No. Absolutely not. I write suspense. Crimes and detectives and car chases. I do not write fishing stories. I know as much about fishing as I do about Maine. This character stumbled into the wrong writer’s brain. I thanked him for his time and showed him to the door.
But he would not go.
As he started to share his story, I instinctively stepped in to influence it. The suspense I enjoy so much was lacking, so I started looking for places to amp it up. Maybe this fisherman was in witness protection. Maybe he was a mastermind criminal hiding out in Maine while his enterprise ran flawlessly elsewhere. But nothing stuck. None of my ideas worked, the story fell flat, and my fisherman got frustrated.
It wasn’t until later that I realized I was doing with this story exactly what was I was doing in the storm of life – manipulating things. Trying to control. Bending metal that wouldn’t budge. I wasn’t letting go, so I was being dragged. When the light bulb finally went on and I understood what God was using this fisherman to teach me, things changed. I lightened up, the character came to life, and the story started taking shape. The suspense is there, but it doesn’t look like what I was trying to coerce it to look like. Thankfully.
Things have calmed down now and I’m thankful to be out of the storm. But hear me well—I don’t have this “letting go” thing locked down. I suspect I will need to be reminded often. As David Foster Wallace said, “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”
Let go or be dragged.
It’s really that simple. Simple, but not easy.
I just wanted to encourage anyone going through a stormy season right now. Maybe it’s lasting longer than you expected it to. Maybe you’re exhausted. Because that’s all control really does to us—makes us tired. Let go. Breathe. Stop wearing yourself out. We aren’t going to capsize. Take a timeout. I’m pretty sure there’s a pillow and a blanket on this boat if you want them.