A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Desire for Outcomes

I've known for the past few years that I've been called to a certain level of transparency regarding my walk...it's absolutely necessary for the created person I am and how my life is to be spent. And so, I aim to live in authenticity, which is kind of a paradox in and of itself. I mean, if authenticity is my goal, I really shouldn't have to try. Right? It should be as automatic as breathing. But things like fear of judgment get in the way, and soon, because I've tried to be something I'm not, I have no idea what "authentic" means for me anymore. Of course, here's where it can get paradoxical because living authentically in that moment is then being the altered person I've become by trying to be someone I'm not, and so on. It is at once both simple and complicated. But my aim regardless it to be authentic in how I relate to others and how I present myself.

A couple of weeks ago I was slapped in the head with the words of someone who belongs to a study group I attend. After some time pondering what I should do with a few free mornings each week that will be opening up in the fall (a rare, precious commodity for a mom with small children), this person's three or four sentences spoke to me as if time had momentarily paused and a perfect-pitched choir "ahhh-ed" in the background.

Of course, the answer I received was of nothing profound. There is not some wonderful ministry to tirelessly serve in, no great cause to dedicate myself to, no abandoned bunnies to save. I was initially thinking of dedicating that time to the gym in an effort to save the world from the very-soonly-to-be-reached dreadful reality of my being larger than a size 8, but if you're read my previous posts you'd know that I've been called to let go of this struggle (though I hear the universe insist that it has no additional space available for me). Plus, it felt selfish. I am also not to spend this extra time trying to squeeze out a few more work hours by saving the world from misused punctuation and incorrect APA formatting. I'm not even to spend this time writing or housecleaning, which is good, because with the amount of procrastination I typically expend avoiding these endeavors I'd never get to any of it anyway. I really don't enjoy writing; to paraphrase Donald Miller, some writers only enjoy having had written.

Anyway, I like to think of myself as a spiritual archaeologist because I love nothing more than to dig and discover truth about God and how He's working in my life and others. Analyzing life (and other people) is by far my favorite way to spend time, and I've been blessed with a few friends who share my little obsession; one in particular also shares my obsession to talk about such things with anyone who is interested, so we email ad infinitum on this part of our makeup. Well, a few weeks ago in her abundant wisdom she pointed out to me my attraction to outcomes - that is, I perceive my sense of value and worth as being tied to things that have a definitive outcome I can contribute to (having a book published as opposed to "just writing", for example). And when I don't have "outcomes" to work towards, I wind up feeling pressured, driven towards finding a new project of some sort, because I am suddenly aimless and useless, not having a way to accomplish something. Which then makes me feel as if I'm not of any value to the universe. I think it's really about needing visual confirmation that I'm not wasting my life.

I've been greatly embattled over the last several months; dreams are budding before my eyes, yet the punches I've felt to my spirit have been quite powerful. I've seen startling glimpses of how weak I really am, and have been tormented by the sense of failure I feel just in the every-day stuff; and if I can't handle this stuff, how can I ever move forward into deeper waters? Thus the draw to outcomes...even if just momentarily, I've been successful somewhere...and though I do really know better, I don't think I actually believe that the every-day stuff IS the deeper waters.

The last several months, especially the last few weeks, have been filled with a jam-packed schedule - "jam-packed" being a relative term - extreme physical fatigue, headaches almost every day, and the weight of meeting the expectations I feel over me. I've whined to God about this daily, and then felt the guilt of not being more appreciative and grateful for the waterfall of abundance that spills over my life. It's a cast and tug between resentment and guilt, and I know it is not meant to be this way.

So I decided last week that instead of constant prayer asking for help, I was going to spend one week not asking for anything and just praising God. I've "forgotten" a few times and then caught myself, never feeling an ounce of condemnation for it. And the simplicity of the answers I've gotten when I haven't even been asking has overwhelmed me. So often I'm off snorkeling in the deep, looking for the hidden truths, when they've actually been bobbing along the shoreline for weeks.

The person's words that spoke so clearly to me were simply that I'm to spend that free time I have coming doing absolutely nothing but quietly soaking in the Lord. This came with both a tremendous amount of relief, as I could feel my spirit screaming in joy over this notion, but also with a torrent of "what ifs" whipping around me, telling me in a myriad of ways that there is so much more I could be/should be doing with this time and that people will not accept this when there are programs that need legitimate help. But I am choosing to ignore them because I know this is where I need to be. However, I have wondered why, specifically, it was time for this - I wondered what God was planning, and it was during my week of "just praise" that the shoreline truth became obvious to me: He wants to release me from the tyranny of the outcome. There will be no accompanying "study" to make me feel better for plowing through another book; there will be no agenda in how I want to be "improved upon." And there is no sense of preparation I will feel in regards to "something bigger" coming down the road. No tangible outcome will come of this. But I know that doesn't mean the most pleasing of fruit won't blossom...how could it not?

I've been Martha many, many times. I've been Mary many, many times, too, but lately, I've been too tired and overwhelmed to stop and rest. I felt waves and waves of peace gush over me as I made the decision to literally place "God" on my calendar and fiercely guard the time as if it were a committee meeting or an ark-building session - you know, something important that could save the world, to borrow from Phil Vischer. I had a vision of Jesus stepping in front of the Mary-me, telling the Martha-me and all that she represents in who and what will be clamoring for this time, that "she has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken from her."

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if the computer knows that today isn't April 14th but April 25th?