Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do Harder Things.

"[In our society] being an exception means that compared to the irresponsibility, immaturity, and incompetence expected from [you], you are officially 'above average.' Wow. A gold star for you." - Alex and Brett Harris

"What's the hardest thing you've ever done?" I asked Kelsey, as our philosophical discussion continued. She pondered, said she didn't know, and asked me likewise. I also didn't know, though memories of various times in my life flickered across my mind. "There have been things that I thought would be hard, but when I did them they didn't seem so bad," I commented, trying to keep the conversation alive. She said, "There are definitely times that I remember thinking, 'This is the hardest thing,' but then something else would happen and I'd think, 'No, this is the hardest thing...'"

It seems that "the hardest thing" is subjective and ever-changing. I remember breezing through and loving grad school, and my mom saying that what most people find crazy-hard, I made look so easy. And honestly, it was easy for me...and dare I say, fun? Most people would say serving at-risk teenagers in Winston-Salem or refugee kids in Fort Wayne would be a pretty hard thing, and they are, but man, it is so worth it all in a way only truly dedicated youth workers can understand. I would have thought spending a winter in Indiana with internationals who really love their tamarind leaves would be the hardest thing I'd ever done, but it's been one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Maybe having to trust and depend on strangers to help me with my very-personal needs over the past ten years has been the hardest thing... or admitting I need help in a new situation... some days it's just mustering up the joy and emotional strength to get out of bed in the morning... but God's grace is always sufficient, so those hard things are never too hard.

The Harris twins talk about doing hard things, not based on what the world expects (which isn't much), but what God expects (which is holiness); not what society says is hard across the mediocre board, but what is truly a challenge and stretch for you as an individual. And don't compare yourself with others, like, "Well, I did my homework when no one else did," or "At least I drive the speed limit." Those are things we should all do, and so doing them is not hard or exceptional... what is exceptionally hard? And don't make excuses for yourself to be pathetic. When I think about the "hard things" that have come up in my life, I think that I could probably quit doing hard things now and no one would think less of me... after all, a girl in a wheelchair can only be expected to do and accomplish so much, right? And yet... it's not about me and what I can or can't do. It has everything to do with God and his work and power. My strengths or weaknesses do not define how great God is.So I can't and won't use my disabilities and obstacles as excuses to do easy things.

So what is the next harder thing? I love challenges - from jigsaw puzzles to adventurous road excursions, I love being a part of things that are bigger than me. I like the harder things! And I don't want to stop. I don't want to be content in past "achievements" or complacent in my "accomplishments." What's the next harder thing God is calling me to?  Because, see, the hardest thing is looking at the thing from a distance and realizing, "There is no way I can do that. It is too big, it demands too much, I will look foolish, I will mess it up..." The potential for failure is the terrifying thing. But when it is God asking you to do it, then you cannot fail if you obey. Just show up, take the first step, say "yes," and leave the rest to him. If it is his idea, He will make it happen. It is God who works in you, to will and to act according to his good purpose. So don't look at all the potential you have to ruin God's plans... look instead at all the ways God has proven himself faithful in your life and in all those who came before you. He has promised to be with you and do great things in you and through you... and He who has promised is faithful.

What is the next harder thing God is calling you to do?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do Hard Things... like hop.

This weekend, our fun outing was to go see the new animated movie, Hop, which is about the Easter bunny. It was cute and funny and oh-so-cheesey. But in analyzing the two main characters (which I promise, my brain does automatically and I don't even realize it most of the time), I saw that they iconicize the American teen/20-something (how sad that those two generations look so much a like now?). E.B. is a young, cool, teen bunny who is expected to take over the family business and who really just wants to be a drummer in a band. Fred is a 20-something guy who is expected to get (and keep) a job that pays money and live in his own place (not his parents'), and he really just wants to wait for the perfect job and become something great like he was always told he could be. I could relate in some ways... probably because I'm part of this generation... the generation that wants to believe we are special and meant to do important, meaningful things and not get stuck in a job that will slowly kill our dreams...

"What is a real job, anyway?" That was the philosophical discussion Kelsey and I were having yesterday after sitting in the sun too long and eating too much squishy chocolate. "There's no such thing," Kelsey said. I wanted to argue, wanted to make a good point about being special, but just couldn't formulate it at that time...

I'm reading this excellent book that Hannah gave me, called Do Hard Things. It's by Alex and Brett Harris... yes, if the name "Harris" rings a bell for you, they are the twin younger brothers of the infamous Joshua Harris of I Kissed Dating Good-bye. "Not another Harris book!" I thought, but two things about the cover convinced me to read it anyway: 1) The subtitle is "A teenage rebellion against low expectations," which I strongly believe is a message that not only teenagers need to hear, but also 20-30 somethings... as made obvious by Hop, and 2) The forward is by Chuck Norris. 'Nough said. I'm about halfway through the book now...

"Ok, no really," I said between bites of the mac 'n' cheese and tuna Kelsey made for me today, "what is a real job?" Is it based on money and stability and society-defined responsibility, or usefulness and purpose? "I just have been thinking so much about the movie and this book and our culture, and I feel like I'm on the edge of something profound and brilliant, but... this tuna keeps cramping my philosophy..."

Because see, the Harris' are talking about how to take good risks, do more than is expected, do things bigger than yourself, etc., and that sort of talk brings out the Supergirl in me, and I start to feel mighty... and then I remember that there are people I know who have big dreams and who feel stuck... saving the world (or even just trying to help it a little) does not often come with a salary and good benefits. In the belief that we are special, in the persuit of greatness, we get smacked with box-lunch expectations that make us feel like we need to settle or else we are losers with impossible dreams.

"Ok, well... while you work through all that, here's what I think..." Kelsey said after she finished her bite of easy mac. "What if it's different for Christians... 'Cause... when I look at the Bible, I see that the people who did great things weren't looking for greatness. Like... Moses was taking care of sheep in the middle of nowhere... and God found him and decided to do something great in him. Our society tells us to persue greatness, but... maybe we should just obey and follow God, and let him do the great things."

Wow. There it is. My focus had been so much on what I do or don't do to achieve great things, that I missed the point that it is God who wants to do and act according to his good purpose in us. Because it's true - we are special, and are destined for greatness, and we should never settle or compromise what we are called to do. And Kelsey and I agree that we still need to have goals and dreams, we still need to take chances and be smart, resourceful, and responsible, we still need to do the hard things... and in all that - in living our lives out with our focus and devotion on God, we will see the great things he will do in us.