Some weeks creep up on you with their intensity of activities or emotions. Others, you can see coming from miles away. I’ve known for several weeks that the past few days were going to be challenging.
On Tuesday my team and I dealt with a huge work deadline that required a 16 hour workday and a lot of stress as we made the filing cutoff with seconds to spare. Yesterday, I said goodbye to a dear friend (and beloved running partner!) on our last run before she moved across the country. Another challenging work situation ended my day before I gratefully collapsed at home. Then today, I had dental fillings between my teeth. After recently having a very painful experience at the dentist, I really wanted to cancel but opted to follow through.
Throughout this time and leading up to it, I kept praying that God would help me stay present and feel my feelings without letting them overwhelm me. I prayed that my tiredness wouldn’t cause disproportionate emotional reactions as I managed my work responsibilities. On the other hand, I didn’t want to repress my feelings by controlling my thoughts, so I could properly take in my time running with Leslie. I’m so grateful that I was able to remain present, feel the full spectrum of emotions, and accomplish the tasks set before me. These past few days taught me several things:
I can do hard things. I can let myself feel the discomfort of doing hard things, without needing to struggle with my feelings. Anticipating hard things with prayer and surrender is much more helpful than denying or ignoring my feelings. By being fully present, I wasn’t anticipating the next moment or situation, therefore draining my energy to handle the current moment.
When my thoughts wandered into unhelpful territory, like focusing on all the things other people did that caused extra work for my team on the deadline, I gently defused the judgments. However, I also prayed for help seeing reality and where I should advocate for better processes and outcomes. Pulling apart helpful analysis from unhelpful blaming is a skill I’m trying to cultivate.
Life is full of gray. I’ve tended to see situations, people, events as either good or bad, but in truth everything and everyone (except Jesus!) is a blend of the two. Allowing myself to hold the tension between positive and negative or right and wrong allows for a more true and authentic experience. Getting through a rough deadline is stressful, but also an opportunity for our team to bond and develop deep trust with one another. Saying goodbye to a friend is sad, but I’m excited for her next adventure and get to cherish the sweetness of a reunion in the future.
Reflecting on these days reminds me of Paul’s description of praying for God to remove the thorn in his flesh:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Corinthians 12: 8-11.
On Sunday at the communion rail, one of our elders spoke the words, “Kelsey, the blood of Christ” with a loving tenderness that brought tears to my eyes. Our Pastor had just preached about how we’re all beggars coming before God seeking grace and forgiveness. I felt my weakness acutely. I felt my neediness for God’s grace and comfort. To others, it may look like I came through these challenging few days with self-assurance. But I know that God provided all the strength when I was weak and begging.