I don’t know if you noticed it, but pretty much right after the Fourth of July, stores began their prep for the next season. It may be 90+ degrees outside, and your electricity bill might be crying as the AC has become your lifeline. But there are all things pumpkin, scarves, and costumes lining the aisles of every Target, Hobby Lobby, and Marshall’s.
Whether we believe it or not, the season is changing. Today, I wonder how you’re feeling.
Maybe this summer was restful, joy-filled, and full of travel and friends and family.
Maybe this summer was a doozy.
Maybe this summer was all of the above.
Back-to-school is here along with about a thousand things we are realizing have been added to our to-do-lists. It would be nice if this time of transition was paired with a nice montage drenched in a soft filter. Look at her: she’s powered by that PSL and so at peace with her many, daily responsibilities AND the passage of time.
Or maybe it’s closer to the truth that you’re experiencing the “Sunday Scaries” to the second power. You know time is moving, but you’re caught somewhere in the past– you sure as heck don’t know how to be here for the “present”.
Friend, if that’s where you are right now– feeling conflicted about what’s before you as you struggle to determine if what’s behind you is truly the “past”.
If that’s you, I want to offer you encouragement.
Lately, I’ve been struck by the very term. I’ve heard it said that encouragement is simply the act of giving courage.
We’ve heard this word thrown around in a number of contexts over the course of our lives: Sunday school, sports, movies. But what’s it look like? Especially for those of us who don’t necessarily identify as courageous.
I recently heard a sermon where a pastor referenced the popular verse in the Bible; “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This particular verse is Joshua 1:9. But if you read backwards, you can begin to count: this guy, Joshua, is told not once, not twice, but THREE times to be “strong and courageous”. The pastor offered the quickest of side notes by posing this question: why do we think God had to command him three times?
I had never considered the “rhetorical” situation, if you will. In all my years of church-going and inspirational movies, I had never paused to consider why this guy needed to be commanded three times. Dude wasn’t courageous; he was getting a personalized training session in Courage 101.
So how might we?
Well, I think it begins with looking at our fears and our anxieties. If you’re anything like me, you might think the best way to handle those is to push those as much as you can to the outskirts of your mind and your heart. I always like to think that if I can just will it away, I won’t let my fears take too much of a residence in my head.
Earlier this summer, I heard Cheryl Strayed, the writer of the memoir Wild, in an interview talk about what she does with her fears and all of the dark voices that come at her when she is right in the “thick of it”: she doesn’t tell them to get the heck out of Dodge. Instead, she acknowledges them; she actually chooses to acknowledge their presence. She explained that she doesn’t tell them that they have to bounce, she doesn’t even tell them that they have to shut up. She identifies them and tells them that they can speak, but they simply can’t be the loudest voices in her life. This is the woman that hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Okay, Cheryl!
I wonder if we could do that as we step into this next season. Maybe not hike the PCT, but I do wonder if we could humbly and honestly acknowledge that we are walking into this next season with voices of fear and anxiety. But like Cheryl, we can choose to courageously not let those voices have the control of the volume.
Friends, I don’t know what’s before you in this next season– I can only imagine that your schedule is full and you’re pretty much at capacity with “all the things” as my friend, Katie, likes to say. Friend, I don’t know what this next season will look like for your day-to-day, or for your relationships, or for your healing.
I think back to this story in Joshua. Of this man and his community knowing the weight of generational pain and exile. I think of his fears and anxieties as he knows that he’s called to step into something so much bigger and greater than him. And I think of him taking a breath and trusting that courage simply looks like acknowledging all the fear and the anxieties. Then taking that next step.
Practices for Wholeness:
Check in with a trusted friend or even a journal: how was the summer? What do you have before you?
As you “check in” and reflect, name the voices you’re hearing– are they discouragement? Anxiety? Numbness? Identify what you hope for in this next season in your relationships, your healing, your home. Take some time and even work to identify what you need: support? Hope? Margin? Rest?