This semester has been unique to say the very least. There is a heaviness to it that wasn’t quite there before. There is a grief that wasn’t there before either. Our country and our world in a lot of ways and for various reasons is in chaos. Our academic and social pressures have stayed the same though, so we still have a degree to get, relationships to pour into, and careers to find. However, the environment we are functioning in is far from conducive to give us the mental capacity to do our best or even half our best in any of these areas of our lives. That pressure (whether internal or external) can be suffocating and isolating, leaving us with nowhere to turn.
A few weeks ago, I was being tossed by the waves of these academic and social pressures in the middle of a zoom meeting with my lovely GRIT advisor, Lisa Igram. I sat there and laid it all out for her. From my perfectionist tendencies when it comes to grades to my lack of engagement with important course material to my never-ending to-do list and so on and so on. I sat there in defeat, exclaiming, “Lisa, I haven’t even started my chapels for the semester. Not a single one!” She looked at me with such grace and listened intently as I poured out my worries. In that conversation with her, I came to the conclusion that I longed for someone to give me permission to fail -- to fall flat on my face, to get it all wrong, and not have everything together. I thought of our beautiful GRIT community and wondered if you all were feeling the same way I am. Maybe you aren’t feeling it to the full extent and maybe these feelings are manifesting themselves in different ways, but I know there has to be a difference in the way you function this semester compared to semesters in the past.
Now, of course, things still need to get done, but I want to give you permission to fail. The events of the last seven months warrants you the space to prioritize your mental and emotional health. I want to give you permission to miss a class or start counseling. I want to give you the space to rest, have fun, go for a run, spend all day watching your favorite show, or take a break and just sit. You are not defined by the amount of work you get done in a day or how little you get done either. Your worth is not determined by how long you study for that test or the grade you got on that paper. Your worth is not based on what people think of you or how you think you are being perceived. You have permission to fall apart, to cry or scream, to run away, and to ask for help.
I know when all the stress in my life adds up, there is a level of shame that comes with it. It makes me feel weak and perpetuates the narrative that the enemy convinces me of. I am convinced that I am unworthy of the support or care of God. The church kid in me is reminded of countless passages in the Bible that speak of our weaknesses giving way for God’s mighty strength. There are moments that I begin to get frustrated with myself for not believing those biblical truths or even frustrated with God for not intervening in the way that I think He should. I lose sight of the truth that lies behind all of this -- that God is simply and complexly strong in my weakness. There is no place in the Bible where God asks us to have it all together for Him or get it right. He instead graciously and compassionately asks us to let Him in and give Him the space to work in our lives.
Our weakness is an opportunity for the redeeming work of Jesus to come and invade those moments of failure, exhaustion, and helplessness. It is easy to be consumed with the things that weigh us down, whatever those things may be and in no way do I want to invalidate those feelings, but there is a level of truth we must assign to the ways that we fall short. We serve a God who is not ignorant of our thoughts and feelings. He is not ignorant to the things that are weighing us down and keeping us from His fullness. He is not ignorant of our failures, insecurities, and insufficiencies. The great thing about the God we serve is that His power is made perfect in our weakness. We know this, but oftentimes we operate under the assumption that He doesn’t get it or He can’t redeem us. The Lord is not tone deaf to our need for grace and benevolence. He is not passive in our suffering, instead He is quick to listen and responds to every need perfectly.
In this season, I am learning that it is okay for us to know these things and not feel these things. It is okay to be in that tension. The beautiful thing is that God knows when our heads and our hearts are on separate pages. He is abundantly gracious in that. So wherever you are in this -- whether you are on the other side of this grief, just entering in, or right in the thick of it -- your Heavenly Father is well aware of where you are at and is right there with you with His great mercy and understanding. In your weakness, He is strong. Even here. He has not left and He will not leave.