Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dear Hilary, Love, Hilary: The Not Sudden Death

On Wednesdays I get the chance to share a bit of my life, unmasked with Joy over at Joy in this Journey. It's a chance to share the messy and the beautiful and watch God at work in all of it. Won't you come share yours too?

Dear Hilary,

Time is running out, isn't it? Time to meet a boyfriend, or time to marry and make a family, time to chase my dreams of writing, and being a provost somewhere, and teaching and starting a school. I have all these dreams and I'm terrified I won't be able to do any of them because graduation is coming and I don't know what I'm doing yet and I'm not sure whether to panic or to rejoice. And mostly I just want to know if any of these things are going to happen to me, too?

On the Sidelines

Dear On the Sidelines,

There was this girl once, who in high school was the pinnacle of the overachiever. I mean, she did it all, did most of it really well (she was never very good at art). She directed plays, ran a debate team, wrote poetry, tried to make Gatsby and Daisy make sense in a deeper way. She taught French to other students, she led meetings on Hurricane Katrina's ecological effects and social ramifications... this girl, if anyone, seemed to know it all and have it all and be racing like a champion horse to the finish line.

But can I tell you what she discovered when she got to college? Do not try to live your life like it's sudden death overtime, all eyes on you, the one winning shot yours to make or break. Don't do it, Sidelines. This girl, she found that the system in high school was still the system in college - do everything perfectly, do everything just so, please the strangers you will never see again, appease all, never let on that you're hurting or broken or unsure. This system is the same in college, is the same in the workplace, is the same in graduate school, because it's what you've taught yourself to run on. It's not the truth; it's just what's worked so far.

You sound like this girl I knew in high school, Sidelines. You sound like you're living your life in a sudden death overtime. Don't do it. Wise Ann Voskamp says, "Life is a gift, not an emergency." Did you hear that? The time you complain isn't enough, to do everything you want, to be everything you want, to please enough people, to check off enough boxes... this time is a gift to you. You did not earn it. You do not deserve it.

So live it without the urgency. Live it without the warning bells firing off in your head that every decision you make is a final, irrevocable, gut-wrenching life-altering one. You say you're terrified that you won't be able to do any of them. But the only way you will know if you can do them, love, is to do them. You won't protect yourself from time by trying to avoid it, trying to box your life in and duct tape it shut. So walk into it. Into the game. Into yourself.

I don't know yet if you'll marry and have kids (I hope so, sweetheart, I really do). I don't know yet if you'll become a kickass writer or a provost or a school founder down past the Mason-Dixon. I don't even know yet what my life holds. None of us do. That's part of what make this a gift. You might have all, or none, or some combination that blows your mind with its power and beauty.

On the Sidelines, I think you wrote to me because you know this in yourself already and you want my blessing or my reprimand to do it already. So here it is: life is the not-sudden-death-overtime. Life is a gift to you. 

Life: Unmasked


  1. You'll have some combination that blows your mind with the hoped-for and the unexpected all wrapped up in glory and love. I'm sure of it, because life IS a gift, and the Giver of it is GOOD. And He delights in YOU - the still, small, you with the hesitant half-grin and question in your eyes.

  2. I love this post!  I was talking with friends this week about Ecclesiastes 9.  And there is this little verse  that says "Go, eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do." We were talking about enjoyment and what it meant to really be joyful in what God had given us.  But the thing that got me was the part at the end of the verse "...for God has already approved what you do."  So often I find myself living in fear of making the right choice.  Should she go there or stay here?  Should he buy an iPad or donate the money to charity instead?  Which grad program should I do?  I think in a lot these situations we need to stop acting out of fear of making the wrong choice, and start enjoying the life God has given us.  The fear that motivates us often keeps us from enjoying where we end up, because we are still too afraid that we made the wrong choice.  

  3.  Thank you, Kim! Yes, I think the fear that motivates us often keeps us from enjoyment. And I hope we can keep encouraging each other to enjoy this gift. I'm so glad you stopped by!

  4.  Thank you, Suzanne. Yes, the hoped-for and the unexpected always come together, in the beauty of the gift. Yes, He is a good Giver. Thank you for the reminder.

  5. Hmm, maybe I should try that living without urgency thing.  Sounds like it's more enjoyable than trying to do everything at once!

  6. I didn't learn this lesson until cancer stopped me in my tracks in 2008. I still tried to get back up and pick up the pace again, but then God gave me a special needs daughter struggling for life, an excommunication from the church I worked so hard for, and a dwindling list of social engagements and friends. Finally, I slowed my heart to see the beauty in the ordinariness of life. Yes, life is a gift. I didn't earn it. I don't want to waste it - but sometimes that means slowing just to breathe it in and give praise rather than WORKING. After all, His last words on the cross were, "It is finished". We get to bask in redemption. What a gift!

  7. Wonderful post... time to slow down and just live for HIM

  8. I played the same game, Sidelines. But I didn't enjoy the moments much for all the work of keeping on top of the schedule and preparing for the next big thing. It's good to slow down, be still, and just be.


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