So a couple of weeks ago, we had a well known humanitarian aid organization at our church. They were there to sign people up to run a half marathon with a goal of raising funds to bring clean water to people who desperately need it. I’m supportive of their efforts and their goal, and I can’t tell you how much I love seeing my church family extend themselves both physically and financially for the benefit of others. It’s pretty cool.
The two women who joined us from this NGO are
obnoxiously obviously passionate about their work, and they weresuper enthusiastic in their encouragement for folks to get on board. A bunch of us went to dinner with them and throughout the evening one of them kept trying to convince me that I NEEDED to run this half-marathon. Apparently, my life would not be complete if I didn’t sign up and start training. I admire her passion and loved hearing her tell stories of reluctant runners who signed up and were changed by the experience. But I am not running this race. I have no intention of signing up, and I’m not gonna pretend “I’ll think about it” just to get this chick off my back.
|Yes, that’s how it is.|
I tried to let her down gently by explaining that it actually says “NEVER RUN A MARATHON” on my bucket list, but she didn’t care. So then I alluded to the fact that I have a minor medical condition which keeps me from running, but she wasn’t cluing in, like, at all, and since we were eating with some guys I barely knew I felt like I couldn’t just blurt out, “I PEE when I RUN and I need SURGERY to fix it. But thanks for bringing it up…”, so she just kept pushing me to sign up for her cause.
Again. I actually loved this about her. Some people need a little push to do the hard things in life. Some people need some persuading. Some people need to be challenged. I get that.
But what my marathon loving friend didn’t know is that I had only been home from SE Asia for a few days. I was fighting to keep my eyes open from jet lag, I was still swollen and puffy from the 13 hour flight, and I was utterly heartbroken by my brief exposure to human-trafficking and slavery. What she couldn’t know was that I was a girl with a cause of my own. So when she started to tell me about how good it feels to do something really difficult, to put yourself out their, to burden yourself for someone else, to sacrifice your time and energy on behalf of justice – as if I was just another spoiled suburbanite who’d never done anything that might break a nail – I only had one thought…
“Bitch, please. You don’t KNOW me.”
I sat across from her, picking at my burrito bowl and steeping in my own arrogance. I was doing self-righteous circles in my mind around the difficulty of the trip I’d just taken, how I put myself out there all the time, I have a huge burden for the victims of trafficking, and she has know idea how much time and energy I’d given up to go and hear about the work being done in SE Asia; to “tell the story”. I felt myself getting kind of pissed by the lack of recognition, by the silence of my husband, who surely should have spoken up on my behalf, like, “Whoa now! My wife is practically a social justice HERO. Can’t you see how fat her ankles are?! That repulsive bloating is from her selfless trip to rescue sex-slaves in Asia! She doesn’t have to run your little race, because she’s already doing her part…and also because she pees herself… but mostly because she is already putting herself out there. Did I mention she’s A HERO?!
Alas. El Chupacabra was completely silent on the matter.
All I could do was sit there quietly, smiling and nodding like a smug, bloated douchebag, thinking about how awesome I am, and how she was way out of line if she thought she could guilt me into running a half-marathon for poor people with dirty water. Nope. No way. Not gonna happen, lady.
I didn’t say anything though. I was content to let my pride swell in an internal dialog. But I lost my delightfully self-absorbed train of thought when I let my guard down for a second to pick cilantro out of my teeth, and that’s when God slipped into the conversation in my head.
He came at me, as He often does, with the tenderness of One who brushes my weak spots with a fingertip, gently pointing out the flaws, and speaking new Truth into my dark heart. There is no audible voice, no booming baritone, just a better understanding, a clearer line of thinking, a soft invitation to release what’s broken inside of me and cling to His mercy, instead. God spoke no words to me that night, as I brooded at Chipotle, but what I got from Him in a brief moment of clarity was something like…
“Baby Girl, you can hop down from that rickety, homemade pedestal, because really?
You haven’t done shit yet.”
~ Relax, I’m paraphrasing
And He was right. I was giving myself a pat on the back for what?! Taking a trip? Flying far away? Sweating for a few days?… I HADN’T EVEN DONE THE WORK YET. I hadn’t written the words I intended to write, I hadn’t told anyone the stories, I hadn’t done my job – but I sure as hell wanted credit for my good intentions.
This is a common and destructive theme in my life. I forget that thinking about doing somethingis not the same as doing something.
This is why my email is overflowing. It’s why my bills get paid late. It’s why my friends feel neglected for lack of texts, calls, and coffee dates. This is why I don’t send birthday cards to my nieces, and it plays a pretty big part in why it took me a full month to put down my thoughts about my trip to Asia (which I promise you’ll find here next week).
I think about doing it, and then I just… don’t.
I think to myself, “I’m going reply to this email and, when I do, this is what I will say.” And somehow in my head that translates into checkmark, done.
I’m going to call my Dad. Check, done.
I’m going to see if this or that friend can have lunch next week. Check, done.
I’m going to pay my phone bill beforeI get a text saying it’s overdo. Check, done.
I’m going to buy toilet paper so my kids don’t have to wipe their butts with dirty socks and dry leaves. Check.
I am going to write about the incredible things I did, the beautiful people I met, and the life-giving work I saw overseas. Check. Check. Check.
Seriously. If I acted on the things I think about doing half as often as I think about doing them – or even like 1/10 of the time – I would be living a much fuller life. Not busier, but fuller, richer, deeper; My life would be a better outward reflection of my heart. If I actively lived out my intentions, my life would be a greater expression of the Faith, Hope, and Love that I intend to share with those around me.
I believe God wants me to tend more, and intend less.
I once told one of my beautiful sons, who struggles mightily with this same affliction, that he needed to ruthlessly eliminate the phrases “I’m going to” and “I was going to” from his vocabulary, and replace them with, “I am” and “I did”.
|True dat, Pablo.|
Ha! I thought I was so clever… and then I tried it for myself. Turns out? Redirecting a soul-level character flaw is, like, really hard work, you guys. It’s been so difficult for me to figure out how to turn my inner intentions into outer actions. (I mean, like, the goodintentions. This world cannot handle a physical manifestation of my bad stuff. I’ll just keep those thoughts to myself. And Jesus. Cause he can deal.) Anyway. My spiritual epiphany at Chipotle was a like fat spotlight over my lack of self-control and my abundance of self-gratification.
Now you probably think I’m gonna wrap this up by telling you I relented to that chicks appeals and signed up for the half marathon because I need to put my money where my mouth is, or something like that.
Yeeeeaaah. That’s not gonna happen.
NOTrunning a marathon really is on my bucket list. And there’s the pee thing. So I will not be participating except to encourage my husband and son as they torture themselves
for fun for clean water.
My point is that whether we’re thinking aboutrunning a half-marathon for clean water, or we’re thinking aboutwriting a blog post for abolition, or we’re thinking aboutscooping mashed potatoes for the hungry, or we’re thinking aboutmaking a charitable contribution, our intentions don’t matter half as much as our outcomes. Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing something. We should not be satisfied by our own good intentions.
The world needs more tending and less intending.
In order to tend, I have to accept that I was never meant to be a cheerleader or a hero, because He put me here to be a servant and a cultivator. He put me here to do the work, to write the words, to say the things, to listen and learn, and even to obey. He put me here to be humble and bow low, to stoop down that others may rise.
He put me here to tend the Earth.
So… I am.
….. ….. …..
Is there something you’ve been thinking about doing that you should actually be doing?
What did He put you here to do?