“Don’t pray for patience!” is a phrase that serves as a warning of sorts. Theoretically, praying for patience most always leads to trials that require the skill. So, by avoiding the prayer, we avoid the practice….or so one would think. Turns out that’s not the case. Over and over again, God teaches me lessons I never asked-or prayed-to learn.
And over and over again, I am amazed at how valuable they turn out to be.
I didn’t want to come to Louisville. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. I am not trying to sound vain in the least but did you see my house? I had life figured out. Jon and I built a dream home on a picturesque farm close to our entire family. We both had reputable jobs and standout resumes. We were destined to be a power couple (Well, as much as power couples could be in Lebanon which isn’t very powerful but you get what I’m saying). In fact, I’d argue that for two people in their twenties’ we were hard to compete with on a “success” scale. And then, out of nowhere, we stuck a “For Sale” sign in the yard and upped and moved away from all of it: our family, our friends, our reputations, our jobs, our titles, our house-all of it. And we settled in a 3 bedroom apartment on Louisville’s east side where only one couple in the entire city knew our names.
We’ve been here for two months now, but I feel like it’s been two years. I’ve made sweet friendships here; some of the sweetest and most unexpected of my life. I’ve developed routines and priorities that I don’t know that I ever would’ve had the chance to develop anywhere else. I am naturally more of an introvert when given the space to be-and I blast show-tunes in my Air Pods while I make the bed. Days are spent feeding, changing, yelling “CHOO CHOO!” as the train passes so the boys aren’t afraid of the noise and kissing boo-boos. Nights are spent reading and talking with Jon after putting the boys to sleep. Early mornings are spent in The Word, wrapped in a blanket with Lily cuddled close. We go to church and go to play-dates and live without an agenda. Life here is slow and chaotic and calm all at the same time. We have no commitments other than Wednesday Bible Study and no distractions other than those we create ourselves. These past two months have been the hardest-yet some of the sweetest days of my life so far.
I still don’t know what happens come May. We are no closer to knowing our next steps than we were the day we moved. And oddly? As much as that fact just in principle freaks me out-I’m calm. Because for the first time in a long time, I’m choosing to sit in the back seat on this one instead of grabbing the wheel. As I sit with God each day-and get to know Him a little better – I have found I trust Him a little more. And as He reveals His heart, I become strikingly aware of the sinfulness of my own.
When we made the decision to move, I thought that the house and farm were to blame. It all seemed, and was, too much to balance and our entire family was unraveling within its walls. I thought in a sense that the house became an idol, which is why God took it away. Now I see that this move had nothing to do with our house itself and everything to do with our hearts. The house in of itself did not become an idol as much as the lifestyle we strived to maintain. We were so dedicated to doing “the right thing” in everyone’s eyes that “the right thing” became more important than anything because people’s perception of us mattered more than us. Anything less was social suicide.
I’ve been reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Chapter 7 is titled “The Secret to Self Control”. Essentially, Clear presents the idea that environmental cues play a large role in the habits we develop and those that we break. For instance, he opens the chapter with research conducted during the Vietnam War on the percentage of heroin addiction among U.S. troops. Long-story-short, once the addicted troops were removed from their environment in Vietnam, addiction dropped from a staggering 20% to only 5%. His point? A change in environment results in a change in us…even if we are unconscious of the changes taking place.
“People pleasing” is my drug of choice. I struggled in middle school figuring out and embracing the things I loved. Theatre wasn’t exactly “popular” and though it was my love in life, I also really wanted a boyfriend. So, I decided when I transferred to Watertown things were going to be different. Somehow, I managed to get into the popular crowd-more than one come to think of it, and just like a drug after the first hit, I was hooked. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t setting trends by any means and I was still super weird (Jon reminds me of this often) but I quickly became addicted to being known, even if the only thing people knew was their perception of me. Making it into the “popular” circle was a gateway experience to a whole lot of bad decisions. I gave into pressure to impress – and win over- anyone who crossed my path. And it worked for the most part. I made a lot of stupid decisions that I regret to this day from the words I said to the temptations I gave into. And that was just high school.
As I grew older, I ended up entering into a career in politics. My walk with the Lord was strong and it wasn’t necessarily the decisions themselves that were sinful. It was the motivation behind the decisions. It wasn’t lust-it wasn’t greed-it was just plain old pride. And mine ebbed and flowed with the number of likes on social media and number of connections at an event. I could thrive in any setting, or seem that way anyway. I never even realized I was addicted. Not until my environment changed. A political setting, small town life and lifetime of insecurity presents a dangerous environment for those addicted to “people-pleasing”. But Louisville has taken the temptation of “people pleasing” away because, well, it’s hard to please people when there aren’t any people to please.
Here, the friendships that I have made are organic. I simply showed up to a bible study where I knew NOONE and walked away with people loving me and praying for me that had no clue-nor cared-who I was or where I came from or what I was wearing. I’ve been invited to play dates-on purpose-more than once and not because I am some terrific mom or bring the best snacks. In fact, my kids always have the most unhealthy snacks in the group because they’re twins and this is just their lot in life. My hair hasn’t been highlighted since November (this isn’t something I am proud of life is just busy okay) and people don’t shun me because of it. I don’t own a Louis Vuitton. I didn’t go to private school. I only like some wines and champagne and that’s only every now and then and people still invite me out even after I order Dr. Pepper. I don’t have to be the smartest or coolest or blondest or prettiest or “altogether-ist” in the room. I just get to be in the room… without feeling drained…or left out…or insecure. I’m not strategizing or judging or thinking ahead. For the first time-in a really long time-I’m just me.
And though I really wrestled the first few weeks with the lonely-with the quiet-now, I kind of like it. I am actually okay with being alone with the real me. The one who enjoys deep breaths and fresh air and cozy blankets and real friends and Frank Sinatra. I call and check on my people. I actually do something about the hurt I see. I pray. I seek. I’m brave. And I don’t feel guilty for saying “No”. I protect the sacred space I have found. And instead of strategizing on how to make my presence known, I simply sit back and let God’s presence take over.
I’m not saying all this in an effort to show how I’ve “risen above” my circumstances. I’m saying this to say that sometimes God teaches us lessons that though they don’t seem fair or relevant at the time, end up being the very fuel we need to become who we’ve always been.
In other words, in my case, Clear’s theory is true. A change in environment does cause a change in us. I guess religion and science really can co-exist.