Danger in the Hustle

“Hustle hard” rings as the anthem of this generation.  “Make your life what you want it to be. ” “Be your own hero.” Good intentions or not, this anthem is all over the place these days.  Kings and queens of this generation are writing books, hosting conferences and podcasts and preaching daily through insta-stories that “you are standing in your own way to success.” 

Yes, discipline and grit are great qualities to have in your life.  But to what end. To build a life on your own efforts and capabilities?  To work toward that American dream? To be the queen of your own kingdom? But we see, “kingdoms” fall all the time, so we know that it is a lie that we are sold since birth.  

The funny thing is that I am really good at hustle.  I am really good at building a schedule full of activity and making things happen.  However at some point that system stopped working for me. Being capable and maybe a little stubborn, ended with me dragging myself out of bed and trying to white knuckle through the day. 

Because, those qualities that helped me lose 90 lbs and run 4 half marathons, while getting 2 masters degrees, didn’t actually fix what was broken.

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On the other side of a decade of doing that, I find myself clinging to a shred of the vision that I once had for my life.  And honestly, at 23, I was just excited to have a job and live near all my friends. I never really thought what 10 years later would look like.  

I spent a lot of that time, pushing forward, living under guilt and shame… manipulating myself into thinking if I just lived more disciplined, more self controlled, more busy, my life would mean so much more.

Now, at the beginning of a new decade, I sit wondering, what IS IT really that I am living for?  What is the thing that is going to drive me forward, get me out of bed every day? Let’s be honest, that is what we ALL ask ourselves on some level every day, what is the point? Who are we sacrificing our time, energy, and life for?  Whose agenda are we trying to accomplish on a daily basis?

See, I have had this nagging feeling that I was trying to settle for the American dream (a happy, content, safe life, building up financial security, and building up a career), which might be the worst thing that could happen for me.  Those things in of themselves are not bad things, but not ultimate things. 

Now, I am not saying that hard work is bad.   I am not saying that you don’t suffer or benefit from good choices in life.  But there is something underneath this message that I think weighs heavier on our souls.  Hustle will only take us so far and deludes us into thinking that we are sovereign over our own life in the end.  Hustle is a drug that we take to try to distract ourselves from having to trust in our heavenly Father.

In college, in studying ancient Orators, such as Plato and Aristotle, I came across idea that human beings were constantly searching after the divine, because human beings were mortals split from a divine being and were were constantly searching for the other half.

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My heart, my body, my soul, and my mind crave more.  I wasn’t made for this earth and as much as I hustle and work hard, if I am doing it to make a more comfortable home on this earth, I will always feel a little like I am trying to settle into an alien home.

“Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” – Heb. 11:12-13

In the midst of this restlessness, my mind has been my own worst enemy, hurt and pain from the past is resurfacing, calling out for healing, that I have long ignored or pushed aside to survive.  But now, as I push in to the restlessness my brain is crying “Danger Danger” often causing me to shrink back, to escape to numb myself from these feelings. I am heading towards the more for which He has for me and my flesh senses that there isn’t certainty or safety.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Can I risk my safety, can I stop hustling,  and trust that God is good?  Can I trust this restlessness to move me towards good things and not toward danger?  This is the hard part, because I can’t hustle my way out of it.  I can’t make a to do list and check things off and think it settles the restlessness.  This is a matter of trust and patience. 

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! -Psalm 31:24

We don’t like to wait, we don’t like to be still.  Even though it is instructed many times in scripture.  We want to make things happen on our own.  We want to hustle hard to make our life in the way that we think is best.  We dream and plan from our own strength and vision.

Friends, go ahead and hustle but also sometimes wait on and have courage in the Lord.  Remember that a life based on patience and trust in God is a life full of an eternal contentment that can’t be obtained in hustle or working hard, but given in grace and mercy that we don’t deserve, but because he loves us in an abundant unrelenting way.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

 

A shield about me

Weekly, almost daily, I had a writing rhythm that I began in college.  I spent hours in coffeeshops avoiding home work by writing and thinking.  Some of it was ideas and stories that I had in my head, or just things that I was processing in my faith journey. It was a practice I copied from mentors and found that it sparked my soul.

But then when the struggles of life came rushing at me, when my life and identity began warping into something unrecognizable, I left this rhythm behind. I am beginning to guess that it begins with me running from pain that I didn’t want to process, and caring too much about what people think of my life than what God was teaching me through writing.

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Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

Too often I back away from things that God has called me to because I fear what people think of me.  I have written about fear and approval before, but more often in the last 2-3 years, have I stopped writing, stopped thinking and sharing because I was afraid of being found out.  I was afraid that who I was, who God created me to be would be rejected.  I get mad at myself because I really should be past this, beyond this point with God. Trusting God is step 1 right? I should have stopped running.

We do that.  We run from God, our creator and sustainer because we fear the world.  We don’t trust in Him to be who he says he is.

My counselor called me on that once, that I don’t trust Him.  Ugh, how could she?! Here I am, a bible believing Christian and I didn’t trust God.  I mean, I sing about it on Sundays and tell my friends I would pray for them to trust God.

But at the end of the day, I am really good at carrying all my bags at once, I mean capable of handling my business.  Walling up my heart to protect and defend.  I don’t need to trust Him. At some point, after hurt and pain, I had decided that I don’t need him to defend me anymore, I have got it.

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Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

But because He is God and there is no where on earth I can run to.  He has a grip on my heart and soul and won’t let go, he has placed this word in front of me.

Shield.

There it is, in so many parts of the bible and the songs we sing at church.

  • “He is a shield about me.”
  • “The LORD is my strength and my shield.” Psalm 28
  • “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33 

It’s a happy and pretty thought, that we teach to kids in Sunday School, and maybe put on an art print to go on our wall.

But God as our shield, practically…..doesn’t make sense.  It hasn’t been working right.

If he as our shield is supposed to protect us, to block attacks, allow us to be safe, why am I experiencing pain and suffering in bigger ways than ever before.  It hasn’t gone away.  This word.  God works like that sometimes, continues to show us something He wants to reveal to us.  He puts things in our path to draw us closer to him.

So here I am, sitting in a coffeeshop, writing about how God is our shield, when my heart is struggling to believe it. That’s where I am, a hesitant heart, in a raw and vunerable spot, wondering if I will ever trust God like I once did, or if he will renew it far more than I ask or imagine.

Tears threaten to expose me how hard this is to write about.

We are at war with ourselves really, wanting to be protected but wanting to protect ourselves.  He is our shield. But we run out into battle without Him, our sinful hearts believe that we can do this without Him.  We think we can be Captain America without the shield.

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3

My hesitant heart is welcomed by a gracious and loving savior who has nothing but compassion on my aching pain.  I don’t deserve it.  I ran from Him, and still feel like I have one foot out the door.  I fight with myself about this, surrender and rest, lay down my pride and accept his help and protection in a world full of uncertainties and potential pain. Sounds risky, right.

However, the alternative has show to be so painful and lonely the cost will be worth the risk.

Friends, my encouragement to you is this, the same thing I am praying for myself, let Him lift your head, when the pain is strong, when the suffering is great, let Him to do the heavy lifting of your soul.  Let Him in to do that for you.