Is it just me, or do others hold themselves to very high standards? I’m always surprised when I come to realise that I’ve been holding myself to an unrealistic subconscious rule. One I recently became aware of was: When starting something new, it is important to start well. (Well meaning: in perfect health of body and mind; energetic, healthy and feeling positive. Well also meaning: everything is under control, the house is in order, your life is in order.) Wow! Now that I put into words my subconscious narrative, I think, “Yikes! No pressure!” This takes me back to what I’ve written about before and what has been called by some psychologists as, The Tyranny of the Shoulds. An internal set of beliefs that one holds as a definite rule, rather than a flexible “I would prefer”.
I am starting something new this year. I am beginning a traineeship with my church, working in women’s pastoral care. While I have had experience in returning to study since having children, this is the first time as a mother that I’ve taken on a formal role outside my home. It’s been a big step for me, as I’ve carefully guarded my responsibilities at home and tried to wisely manage my challenges with chronic back pain. However, over the past year I felt God place on my heart a desire to do this work. It’s been a gentle and persistent encouragement to step outside of my comfort zone and to develop and use some of the gifts he has given to me.
So, with a starting date set and the anticipation of life changing a little, I wrote a list. A list of all the things I wanted to achieve around the house before school resumed and I started my new role. I also had a wish. A wish to begin this new role feeling well. Last year, when the kids returned to school, I found myself unable to get out of bed, with sever tiredness for two weeks. My body had a flare up, and it was a bad one. Summer holidays always push me…I didn’t want a repeat. All was going well until I had a fall. One that had me fall into a chair and land smack on my back; leaving me pretty bruised and knocked around. All I could think of was, “I don’t want to start the new year badly.” It took a bit of self-discipline to think this wasn’t going to ruin my beginning. For it is true that accidents, set backs and unexpected changes are all normal in the ebb and flow of daily life.
This small accident made me realise how much unnecessary pressure I was placing on myself. The thought that followed this was: there is never a perfect time or state of being to begin something new. If you’re waiting for life to be just right before you attempt a new venture, then you could be waiting a while. Ultimately, it’s not about how much I have it together or how well and energetic I am feeling, it’s about doing life in the strength that God gives. Day by day, hour by hour, my trust needs to be that God is my helper and my strength; whether it be a day of new beginnings or a day like any other. God is the one who has called me to this task, and he will be the one to equip me for all I need to do. Yes, I would prefer to be feeling on top of things and there are certainly things I can be doing to help make starting easier. But the best thing I can do to start well is pray and trust. Leaving all the things I cannot control, into the safe hands of a loving Heavenly Father.
Are you starting something new this year? Have you had a restful holiday and now anticipating a crazy return to school/employment? Do you feel a little unprepared? Psalm 121 says, “I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber or sleep.”