Laying Expectations Down for a Rest
I woke up in a fever pitch this morning, tense from so many things that all seem to cap into being afraid of myself and tired of my limitations. It’s the stretch of hiking that all those who aren’t natural mountain goats know as the “I can’t do this anymore” part. It is where one digs deep within to find some iron willpower to set the next step in motion, where life is reduced to that one step and no thought further.
In cycles of life we become weary. The first time we face down a mountain we are optimistic; we’ll conquer this thing yet! Then we achieve what we aimed to do and keep going for more and higher. What if we fail the next one?
“I’m so tired.”
It’s not only physical. It’s the refrain of the person who has conquered before and knows exactly how their mental fortitude may be tested to the limits again. It’s dancing to the tune of Pied Piper, only Pied Piper ends up being… ourselves. The goals, dreams and visions that drive us. I’ve accomplished a few of them, can’t I lay down the rest and forget them? How does one refuel the desire to face one more day with any hope of doing it with excellence?
GREATER THINGS ARE YET TO COME
In pursuit of doing all things with greatness I have missed that expectations need to take a rest now and then. Excellence, to be excellent, must have down time in between. It is the natural cause and effect, else how we know what is great unless we know what is not great? The times that are ordinary and mundane when we accomplish nothing, the house stays a wreck and our goals are undone. When life seems to be passing us by and time mocks us - when we see that time slot that was supposed to hold something for us and rattled by empty without delivering the package or end-of-this-story-time we expected.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
I think part of our angst is our expectation of time, and how it should happen. We think it is linear, going in a straight fashion, and mostly predictable, but it is not. It takes a thousand turns that mostly appear wrong to us.
Time is either a brutal taskmaster or a gentle servant-friend. It holds us back from deliverance of the mundane in life, but it also stops us from spending everything at once: our energies, hopes and dreams, and gives us the greatest things that ever happen to humans. It’s the hug or kindly word at exactly the right time, those 10 seconds that we hear our love one lived or died, the moment someone said “I DO,” the first second you see your new baby after hours of labor, the turn of the bend before the awe-inspiring view of mountain ranges spread in view, the brief moment of a butterfly’s brush across our hand, and the rough lick of a kitten’s tongue against the chubby child’s hand. Time holds everything from delight to despair, hope of tomorrow to crushing sorrow.
It’s holding me, in this exact moment of not knowing whether I will fail or succeed. Whether my strength will prove equal to its task. It’s making me stick to my word by walking out each step of my mission rather than skipping over to the end.
Greatness is not proved in a single deed or moment of triumph, but the hundreds of times in between where endurance and faith is approved as faithful. The ability we have to complete these long journeys to the top is found in equal parts action and rest.
A story comes to me now, of the man and his men who had a great journey over long distance to accomplish, on foot. The leader prepared, he planned, he reviewed the terrain they were to pass, and when the time came, he put the plan into action: they would march 20 miles each day rain or shine. Some days, the men would want to do more, but he said “no.” We will march 20 miles. Some days, they wanted to do less and he said, “no.”
“We will march 20 miles. You can do this.”
And then, because he knew the success of that journey would come in holding to their pace, they marched through snow, storms, exhaustion and illness to finish their journey in the allotted time. The success wasn’t in plans or hoping for less storms, but in preparation and maintaining pace. Time served them and they completed the journey when planned, but it was because the plans were wisely set and maintained. Time became a servant when expectations were governed.
It occurs to me, I’m no longer a little kid. I’m becoming a leader in my own right, of myself and sometimes, other people. Energy and passion, which have sustained me before, must also become vision tempered with wisdom. I need realistic maps of my expectations so as not to burn out.
I can do this, but only if I lay down carrying all my goals all the time. Stop the climbing of whole mountains in a single day in my head and see them as 20 mile marches. Today, I need only publish this article and answer that email, cook this meal, and write chapter 2 in a book.
When I was 18 the world was before me and I knew next-to-nothing of it. Today, the world is still before me, and it is time to lay down this childish expectation that I can learn and accomplish everything at once, and quietly pace my plans to accomplish the smaller things and feel the joy that is set before me. This growing pain is worth the lesson.
We do not accomplish great things, we accomplish small things that build into great things. If I am faithful in those, some day I’ll round the bend and in that split-second, see 234,000 steps in a single moment of completion.
Time can either serve or master us. It is the exact unit of time either way, it is only we that change with our expectation of it. The mountain will still be there, the view will still be there whether or not we chafe because we want to go 10 miles more, or not move at all. The success of time serving us is in how well we are able to accomplish what is before us, and then rest knowing that we are doing well.
It’s not only about the “well done.” So much of it is in being able to live wisely inside both action and rest, which is difficult to guide if we don’t know how to find rest in our spirits. I think we need to realize that while doing things is good, the world will go on turning without feverish action. At the same time to realize that our world needs us, all of us, which is why it’s super important to lay ourselves down: rest.
REST TEACHES US SOME OF OUR DEEPEST LESSONS
In the end it is still important to climb mountains, to work. We find much purpose in it and were created for it. It is however, unlikely that we will discover who we really are if we aren’t willing to climb to bare, lonely places that strip us of who we thought we were, and who we thought we would be.
Many people have learned this the hard way with a life-altering illness or accident, or the failing of their business, and they are forced to stop. Become “useless.” Dependent. It is in these places where we learn that aside from anything we do, true value is found in who we are without all the extra props and adornments.
It’s hard to grasp the concept that even when we haven’t reached our final goals yet, or perhaps never will, the time is now and we can live it fully. Not to fill it in the sense of doing, but to define, or guide, our time. To realize that our goals and achievements do not make us who we are, but instead are made by who we are.
This is quite simply what redeems the time. Significance aside from doing. Value aside from accomplishments. Purpose aside from titles. You, being you. It’s perhaps the loneliest journey any of us go on in the discovery of ourselves, but it comes with a restful answer: building intrinsic worth is not something we can do, or an action we can achieve, it is simply there.
I don’t know how you find this if you are not a Christian. In some way, we can believe it simply by saying, “I am a human, therefore I am valuable.” This is true, but always begs the question, why? How did we get this value?
Christianity says, “I am a human, created by God who loves me greatly.” This is a reassurance we need to let go of ourselves in a reality that will allow us climb our mountains much more capably - with purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. Knowing that if we fail tomorrow, nothing can change the worth we hold.
This is what gives us true confidence to try for great things.
Thank you for joining my head today,