It is 8 in the morning and somehow I have managed to drag myself out of bed, stumble my way through filling a mug with coffee and hazelnut creamer and plop down cross-legged in front of my fireplace. I have sat in this spot every morning this week, wrapped tight in a fleece blanket and waiting for something to change. Waiting for the fog to lift, waiting for the list of things I can do to keep my hands busy with something, waiting for God to speak into my circumstances. Nothing. I have sat staring at the white brick in my room until I could have melted the paint off.
Shame came to greet me this morning, just as it has every morning this week. Fresh as the coffee in my mug, it seems to squeeze life out of those new mercies I’ve been promised and, consequently, me. It jumps on my bed and wraps its hands around my throat shouting, “Hey! Remember me?! I still exist and I’ll be damned if you ever forget it!” Shame is really, really good at its job. I have never worked as hard at something as shame works at getting me to believe that I am not worthy. That I am not loveable. That I am not enough. The list goes on and on as shame uses any foothold it can to climb its way into my soul and leave a couple thousand muddy footprints all over the place.
Shame and I are not new acquaintances, we have gone many rounds in the ring, but this week shame has exhausted me. Shame has turned into a thick, dark haze that I can’t see through and I don’t have the energy to attempt to get out from underneath its pin. This week every thought has been accompanied by overwhelming feelings of inadequacies and a general sense of failure. And I have lost my fight. I don’t exactly know where I misplaced it, but it is not swirling around inside of me like it usually is.
This morning I sit in front of my fireplace and in the midst of the shame that is kicking my ass and the fog that is swirling around me, I find a tiny mustard seed of courage. There is something about the mustard seed that Jesus talks about in relation to faith in the gospels that draws me in close. I love the image of the mustard seed because it reminds me that having a lot is not a prerequisite to be chosen by God. To be used by God. To be healed by God. I can come with my tiny mustard seed of hope or faith or courage and God is faithful to multiply it for no other reason than his wild, relentless love.
So I sit with my mustard seed of courage and manage to open my mouth to pray for the first time all week. It comes out whispered, like a secret, and my words are all strung together and imperfect. I’ve been looking for a plan all week. In the midst of struggle I want to be able to do something to climb my way out of the mess. It is entirely too uncomfortable to try and sit still and wait for God to move in a way that only he can. I want the step-by-step plan to success. I want to recite the right scriptures and pray the right prayers and read any book that might propel me out of the shame and into the bright-blue-sing-songy world of springtime in Nashville.
But this morning I am all rung dry and my prayer is imperfect and my bible is sitting closed five feet away from me. This is my open-hand gesture. This is my “I have nothing left to give and I’m asking you to be here”. This is my “I’m done trying to do what only you can do. I’m done trying to control things. I give up.”
There are only a handful of times I can remember praying this prayer, but it is the absolute closest thing I have in me to surrender. And it is the absolute closest I’ve gotten to being a child that crawls into her Father’s lap and whispers, I’m too tired, you do it now.
Maybe the point is to get to the end of myself, to get out of my own way so that he can move the way he wants to. To be at a place of surrender and to stand face to face with my inability to muster up the strength to feel my way out. And maybe the prayer that changes everything is simply, I give up. You do it now.