Obligation VS. Opportunity

This morning, I was reading my bible as I always do.  But there was one verse that kept popping up into my mind – Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

I can’t lie – this semester has been TOUGH. Like, seriously – super duper difficult. Classes have been kicking my butt and I’ve been so disappointed with my grades (not to paint a bad picture – my grades aren’t BAD…they just aren’t straight A’s like my perfectionist self would prefer).  It’s taken me a long time to complete assignments that my brain has convinced me others are able to do in just a few minutes. My brain feels tired and swollen with loads of information that I can’t seem to fully process and place in the correct places. I’ve been feeling frazzled and strung out. By each Friday my eyes are usually surrounded by deep blue crevices through which flows streams of coffee surrounded by sleepless nights.  Anxiety keeps me wide awake and, on the rare occasion that I catch some zzz’s my dreams are filled with nightmares of failed test scores, horrible music performances, and things like my little pup passing away or my parents dying.  All things that aren’t very conducive to being well rested.  To be completely honest, I’ve even had nightmares about relapse into my eating disorder – nightmares where I’ve woken up with tears streaming down my face. Thank God for my Rachi because, in moments like those terrifyingly real nightmares, I cling to her and cuddle with her until I am able to drift back into sleep.

Long rehearsals. Frustrating rehearsals. Not feeling prepared for lessons, classes, etc. The stress of work, performing regularly, and academic expectations. Not to mention all the change that have/are happened/happening with friends and family back home and many of my friends here as well (people moving, having babies, general life change, etc). Things have been less than stable and that has thrown me for a loop.  Anxiety has been at an all time high and stress has caused me to literally feel sick (and to develop a nasty cold).

So, I’m sitting at my kitchen table at 5:45am with my cup of never-strong-enough-coffee, my bible, journal, and devotional book spread out in front of me and I flip open my bible to a random page…pleading for God to provide some answers and relief to my hundreds of questions and swirling, never resting brain.  Philippians 1:6 pops up.

I read. I reread. I reread again. I copy it down into my journal. I read some other devotionals.  I come back to Philippians 1:6. I read. I reread. I reread again. I pray.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

Somehow, I find rest. My brain slows down, my heart finds peace. I talk to God about everything that’s been going on even though I know that He already knows it all. I ask Him for answers but also ask for help to find peace in not knowing the answers. I talk to God about all my fears and insecurities, all my flaws—which, of course, he already knows.

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As my morning progresses, I am in the midst of practicing and that’s when it hits me:

I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to do any of this. I am not OBLIGATED to be in school, to take these specific classes, to have a job, to read certain books, to get specific grades, to even finish school, etc. I am not obligated to fulfill any of these specific requirements that I feel I am tied too.

But rather, I GET to do these things. I have these opportunities. They are not obligations, they are opportunities and when I view them in that light, suddenly everything feels a little less heavy. When I view studying, working, and these tough, tough days as opportunities instead of obligations that I am tied too they are less anxiety-ridden and left more open to growth.

Choosing to view school (and life in general) as an opportunity automatically places us into the passenger seat – we become the learner, the pursuer of growth, the student in the student-teacher equation. We don’t need to know the roads we’re driving down, we don’t have to be in charge of the speed of life, the slam of the brakes, or navigating the map. We just have to ride. We just have to be willing to be present, to show up, to try our best at wherever life takes us and whatever life throws our way.

And while, this may instill fear within some people – the perceived lack of control – for me it is a sweet, sweet relief. It means I don’t have to know all the answers, I don’t have to make immediate decisions, I don’t have to be right ALL of the time. The only person relying on me is, well it’s me. Accepting a certain about of lack of control takes me out of “fix-it” and perfection mode and places me back into reality – the reality that life is what it is and it’s never going to be perfect or go smoothly, but if I’m willing to learn the lessons I’m handed through the mix-ups and mess-ups of life, then I will come out better, stronger, wise, and more well-equipped on the other end.

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There is no prison as endless and as life-killing as the prison of perfection. I’ve realized that I don’t love other people in my life because they’re perfect – I love them despite their imperfections. I want to be able to say that I love and accept myself despite my own imperfections (which, trust me, have one conversation with me and you’ll see that they are MANY!). I also want to make my way through school being a person who is filled with joy, peace, hope, happiness, and love – and I can ONLY manage those things when I view the stress and requirements placed upon me as opportunities rather than obligations to check off my never-ending, always growing to-do list.

There are things in this life that we all MUST do that very few of us enjoy – mine include aural theory class, playing piano, blind auditions, walking Rachi in the rain, folding laundry, going grocery shopping, etc etc I think you get the idea haha. However, these things – as trivial as they may seem – can all be viewed as opportunities rather than obligations or situations where I decide to just “grin and bear it”.

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When I remind myself that life is a learning process and everyone is growing and learning, regardless of age or social hierarchy…when I remind myself that nothing and no one is ever or will ever be perfect…when I reflect on the progress I’ve made and the sheer miracle that I am still alive after everything I’ve been through…when I think about all these things alongside the magnificence and the vastness of my God who has led me here to this place right now – suddenly a test score, a performance, a rainy walk, spilled coffee, etc…suddenly it doesn’t seem so significant and scary. Suddenly those things don’t hold so much power over my thoughts and emotions, and even my actions. When I come to terms with the FACT that I will still be alive, heart still beating, brain still working, etc and that I will still be worthy of love and respect and good things, despite any mistakes I may make, unthoughtful words I might mutter, or any wide variety of mess-ups us humans make on a daily basis, suddenly life doesn’t seem so threatening – it seems beautiful.

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“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Mary Oliver

The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
C.S. Lewis

God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”
Elbert Hubbard

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