It’s that time of the semester. There’s just a couple of weeks left. The weather is nice (usually). There is little sleep, and much homework. Motivation is low. Stress is high. I have never felt so stressed before, not even when I was taking Greek. This past week has been a constant struggle to keep moving forward. I was dealing with a huge pile of homework, a lock-in with dwindling numbers of volunteers (and not enough gas to get there and back), a locked Greek class that I must get into, the lack of a summer job, and a number of other issues that are not particularly worth mentioning. My roommate can tell you that all of this has put me into a particularly foul mood. I am not very adept at handling stress; it gets under my skin fairly quickly and can quite literally make me sick. Fortunately, in the past few days, a number of things have come together to lift my spirits.
First, I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with wise people (purely by accident, but an accident that I am extremely thankful for). One of these people gave me a timely reminder that has probably saved the remainder of this semester – one thing at a time. See, I’ve been looking at the mountain as a mountain, agonizing about how to tackle it, how to beat it as a whole. The immensity of it was simply unmanageable, and that led to frustration, anger, and eventual defeat. I just accepted that I was going to get beaten, and resigned myself to that conclusion. But the mountain is not really a mountain. It is a pile. A pile is not one thing, but a collection of many, which can be beaten by tackling the individual pieces. Maybe this is simple and obvious to you, but I can be thick-skulled sometimes. Separating it out into its components, I realized that while it will still be a challenge, it is manageable. Also, I was reminded that this level of stress is unhealthy and serves no purpose. Matthew 6:27 says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Stress serves only to make me ineffective and useless to God. When I am busy stressing out, I have no time to listen to the quiet whisper of God, a whisper that brings not only guidance, but comfort. I took some time to read through some of Psalms, and was repeatedly reminded that people have found themselves in much worse predicaments than my own, and God was their comfort. I lost sight of this. I have been depending on myself and my own efforts alone to pull through everything. In some cases this will have to do (I don’t think the hand of God is going to start typing my papers for me). However, much of what I have been carrying should have been turned over to Him long ago. Consider this my confession of a mistake and the release of these burdens.
Second, I had the privilege of listening to the story of an incredible man at this lock-in. To make a long story short, he felt the call to go to Haiti, not for a short one or two week trip, but for a year at least. So he quit his job and moved his whole family about an hour and a half outside of Haiti’s capital. Fast forward a few months. He was driving a Gator utility vehicle, lost control, and hit the digging bucket of a backhoe. It bent him backwards over the seat. Instantly, he had trouble breathing, and couldn’t feel his legs. He was sure he was going to die. He even said his goodbyes to his family. Ten months later, he is alive and telling his story. Something struck me about his story. Despite nearly dying while doing God’s work, he has never been tempted to blame it on God. He said it like this, “I don’t see it as what God did to me. I see it as what God saved me from.” I am not in the habit of blaming God for things that happen, but I do get upset with Him far too easily when things do happen. But through this man’s story, I was reminded of something I’ve said countless times (and still forget all the time) – nothing is wasted. This man’s story is giving hope and inspiration to countless people. My story isn’t affecting countless people (I can count you, I have a visitor counter), but my experiences are enabling me to better relate to people with similar stories. Sure, it is tough while it is happening, but there is something powerful about being able to sit down next to someone and say, “Yeah, I can understand how that feels.”
Thirdly (and finally), someone very close to me shared how this blog has had an impact upon their life. They also helped me identify a struggle that I have been fighting unknowingly for far too long. Sometimes it takes the reflection of another person to see yourself. And, by the grace of God, seeing this didn’t add to my stress. Rather, I was relieved to be able to put a name to this struggle so that I can better fight my way through it. It was also a huge encouragement to know that I have had a positive impact in some fashion, to know that I am not just treading water but rather am swimming forward.
And I plan to keep on swimming forward, because as long as I’m swimming forward, I’m not drowning.