Let Go and Welcome the Light


nicole t walters -let go and welcome light-3

A gentle whisper in my ear broke through my early morning dream. I sat up quickly when the sunlight filtering through our paisley curtains cast a crimson glow across my son’s face. The unwelcome light accused me and immediately my self-berating thoughts began:

I did it again. I promised this day would be different. I would get up while it was still dark and spend time with God. I know I need it and it is a new year. I can’t do anything right.”

“Play with me, Mommy?” My six-year old’s big brown eyes danced with hope as I was caught up in my inner dialogue of despair. My first instinct was to decline his request and send him on his way. My husband and daughter’s snores told me I could hand my son an electronic device and still have time to hit my yoga mat before they woke.

In the split second between his request and my response, there was a war raging inside my head. I thought back to the previous day when I sat at the dining room table with papers scattered all around. My half filled out bullet journal from last year sat there mocking me. You failure, the uncompleted to-do lists said. The daily gratitude page was half filled out, telling me I was ungrateful. You’re lazy, said the books I intended to read but hadn’t. The pieces I needed to have already written because deadlines were looming, calling me: Procrastinator. And worse of all, the scriptures I hadn’t memorized, the devotional I was reading that I was weeks behind on said: Bad Christian.

I ripped out the accusing pages one by one. I stared at the crumpled mess on the floor and wanted to shout at them, “You don’t define me. I am going to change. This time will be different.” After over three decades of living with this inner dialogue, I know my tendencies by now. I’m all or nothing. If I can’t follow through with every stroke of my schedule, the whole plan is abandoned. If I say I am going to get up and work out, read my Bible, and pray every morning and instead oversleep (again), then I will go the whole day without doing any of those things.

I’ve already failed, so what’s the point in trying?

All those stories so ingrained in my early upbringing in the faith, run through my mind. Meant to encourage us towards spiritual disciplines, these stories set a bar of perfectionism I have been trying to attain every since. There was the one about a certain man of faith who never once missed a day reading his Bible. When he got sick towards the end of his life, his wife sat by his hospital bed and read it to him each day. There is the man praised because he didn’t miss a single Sunday of church even when his child was sick in the hospital or the woman who showed up to rock babies every weekend for decades. I was always told faithfulness to a task proves faithfulness to God … thus I am unfaithful.

This bent towards perfectionism has been killing me for years, snuffing out a fire of intimacy with God that used to burn brightly. And I’m so tired of it. I spent the days leading up to the New Year asking God to help me let go of it and holding tightly to the still, small moments when my kind and gentle Father puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Come play with me. Just come be with me.” 

I know in my head that Jesus doesn’t require so much of me, but this year I want to get this knowledge to my heart. I want to learn to be present with God and where I am in the moment.

All this whirring of activity came to a screeching halt in my head as I made a choice.

I reached out and took my son’s hand. For the next hour we sat knee to knee in the middle of a mess of lego blocks that became a tiny city under our fingers. Faces close together we whispered lest we wake the others and ruin these holy minutes. Time together like this is so rare and precious and I begged God to forgive me for the times I have said no so I can seek more “important” pursuits. The spiritual discipline of motherhood was what was calling to me that morning, teaching me more than an hour of Bible reading could.

I did end up finding time later that day to myself. It wasn’t first thing in the morning and it wasn’t “perfect.” I sat for a few minutes reading the Bible and then laughed when my son ran in, fumbled his way through downward dog with me and then ran back out to play. But it wasn’t in those “spiritual” moments that I felt God’s pleasure. It was in that early morning, present with my son, that I felt the most hope in my parched soul—it was in the letting go and in welcoming the light.