I've often heard we don't get grace in our daydreams. The things we think up that might happen or how we would respond do not include what the Holy Spirit might do. I've often thought about this when reading of martyrs, going almost happily to torture and death. Don't get me wrong - I would have every intention of dying for my faith if necessary. I just think I'd be anxious and freak out and would not end up in any encouraging story about martyrdom. My vision of that possibility doesn't include the Holy Spirit though.
This year I've had the opportunity to contrast some responses with God to some responses that were not quite as dependent upon Him. There have been two distinct times I was absolutely certain my response was all God and not Julie. The first came when a close friend told me she was pregnant. That's usually a source of joy, but she's a young single woman. That situation is obviously fraught with drama and problems and this has been no different. At the time she told me though, I felt completely at peace in reaction. I felt like I had a purpose in this story, like a divine mission. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do but I felt confident I could help. Moments in life that prepared me for such a task came to mind even as we spoke. I don't often feel confident I know what God wants me to do, but in this case I felt empowered and my overall immediate reaction was "Lets do this thing."
The second time I felt like this was just a few weeks ago. I had prepared for months to take and pass a physical test I'd failed twice last summer. I was certain I'd be successful. The only thing I was nervous about was how well I'd do versus the standard. I wanted to crush it! Inexplicably, I got worse on the third attempt and failed yet again. I don't really do well with failing, so it was with some shock I found myself completely fine with the outcome. I'd been praying for guidance about my future, and this simply seemed like God was saying "No" to that particular path. Within moments of failing, I had a list in my mind of all the positive things that had come from last year's failures and this year's preparation. I wasn't sad or upset about failing but immensely thankful. In fact, the only thing I cried over that day was the feelings I had when all my new friends were so supportive. Nobody who knows me would have anticipated this response. I sure did not.
In both cases I felt entirely at peace with the circumstances and outcome. I was not worried about the future. My focus was on God and all the positive things.
It would take less than a day for that feeling to change. A day after my friend told me she was pregnant, I had a near panic attack at CrossFit in the middle of the workout. It suddenly occurred to me I didn't actually know what I was doing. How was I supposed to help her? God clearly didn't see I wasn't qualified. He had assigned the wrong person to this task. The only thing on my mind was the future and what I was supposed to do in the weeks and months ahead. I could only see disaster for my friend and her baby. Instead of focusing on God and the positives, all I could think about were the negatives.
A day after I failed that test, I still felt mostly okay about the "No" I felt I'd received, but was excessively anxious about what else I was supposed to do with my life. If I wasn't supposed to go down that path, which path was I supposed to take? Clearly I need a life goal at all times, and I didn't have one. I was no longer sure what I'd be doing in three years and I was convinced that was a significant problem. Waiting on God seemed like a terrifying idea that would only lead to more failure. Fear supplanted thankfulness.
I stopped feeling at peace, I stopped feeling empowered, and all I could see was bad things in the future. Instead of being in the moment I was daydreaming ahead, and I didn't take God with me. It just didn't take long at all for me to try and yank back control and fear the future.
The moral of these experiences seems clear - trust God with the future and have peace. Try to control the future and have anxiety. Knowing is half the battle! Of course the other half is pretty difficult, the part where I put it in practice.