archaeology and taking the pressure off.

*Today’s post comes to you a day late, as yesterday (my typical day to post) was my last day with my sweet Mommy. And between curbside good-byes and driving to the airport, it seemed kinder to give myself the grace of an extra day.

I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform every day. We know what we’re “supposed” to look like or how much we want to check off our to-do list in a given day. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ve scored with high “responsibility” and “achiever” and “activator” status from Strengthsfinder between the two times I’ve taken it. I’m the oldest of four kids, and I think sometimes my birth order makes me harder on myself than I should be as I want to be a good student or yield a good result. I’m reminded yet again of how much pressure I tend to put on myself.

Donald Miller writes about how he has put a lot of pressure on himself in writing, that there should be something amazing that he writes every day. And the truth is, amazing doesn’t happen every day. Some days it just doesn’t happen. In his article, “How to Increase Your Creative Productivity” he talks about a piece of wisdom he got from musician, Jon Foreman when he asked him “how he does it.”

He said, “Don, being creative is like being an archaeologist. You just get up every morning and dig around in the dirt, looking for shards of pottery.”

That perspective certainly helped. Rather than the words being in me, the words were out there. The inspiration was out in the world, and all I had to do was go digging for it. All I had to do was brush away the dirt and sand and keep an eye out for anything that could be polished.

I love this perspective, because I think it goes beyond what kind of art we produce or what we do for a living. Brushing away the dirt to find beautiful things isn’t just for the song writer or the painter or the author. I think it is for all of us. As I think about what I’m able to conjure up with my own power and abilities, I honestly don’t believe that I can produce anything good on my own. I can’t will myself to life, or anyone else for that matter. I’m alive because I was created. The muscles I use to type with and the brain I use to formulate thoughts were all given to me. Any wisdom or creativity I possess isn’t my own, since I was given everything I possess. Typically, I can trace any “good” idea I have to something I got from someone else anyway. And even if I can’t trace it, I guarantee it came from “somewhere.”  I think any idea I’ve ever been complimented on originated from someone else’s good idea that I built off of.

As awful as it seems like it should sound to say that I can’t do anything good on my own, it is actually incredibly relieving. The pressure is off. I can’t do it on my own anyway. It helps to remember where I got all that I call mine. I’m grateful for the weight that gets lifted off with the proper perspective of myself. It isn’t a matter of just working hard enough or trying hard enough. The pressure comes off when I’m willing to take a good hard look at myself and honestly say that I can’t do or create anything apart from what I’ve been given. Everything is a grace.

So instead of this damning pressure to success and horrible pit in my stomach when I sense my impending failure, it is all gone with the knowledge that I’m simply the receiver of grace. And instead of scraping the same surface of my heart again and again, looking for results or genius, I get to go on a treasure hunt for grace. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious and other times it’s more hidden. But it’s there.

I love that one of the things we’re promised in Scripture is wisdom. James 1:5-6 says this: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” I don’t think the Lord expects us to have it all together or to perform perfectly. In fact, quite the opposite. He knows we lack wisdom. He wants to give it to us, and is happy to share quite generously. One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 103 which highlights the Lord’s forgiveness, compassion and love to his kids. In the midst of this chapter, it says, “For he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust.” (v. 14) I find this incredibly comforting. The Lord doesn’t extend his kindness to us because we have fooled him. He extends his love to us in spite of ourselves being so incapable of doing anything on our own.

If I truly believe I’m loved beyond what I can do or accomplish, my job isn’t to will something into being or simply try hard enough for some result to happen. When I sit down to write, I don’t need to conjure up something amazing every time. Archaeology in real life is a lot less like Indiana Jones and a lot more about continuing to show up. I think the archaeology of grace is the same way.

archaeology-603

My job is to keep showing up.

Keep brushing away the dirt.

Keep asking for wisdom.

Keep looking for grace.

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