Laurel, my neighbor and battle buddy during Coronavirus, and I were walking one day last week, and she wanted to run to the market to buy veggies for dinner. I happily went along, but I told her right away, “I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner. I guess I need to think about it.” She was full of ideas that sounded good, but I just “couldn’t even.” Weariness had settled in.
We walked into the market, and the guy on duty got our attention to come over for our temperature scans. Satisfied by our lack of fevers, he waved us into the green sea of stalks and leaves dotted with the reds, yellows, and oranges of various vegetables. Produce is fresh from the farm here, likely picked the day before and dropped off that morning. It was a feast for the nature-starved eyes of city dwellers, to be sure, but I was just foggy-headed.
She loaded up, and I stood there thinking how fresh and delicious it would be if I did cook, but the motivation to actually buy the goods was lacking. If I buy them, then I am responsible to cook them. I didn’t have it in me in that moment. We got back to the apartment, parted ways, and I climbed the stairs to our fifth-floor apartment (we don’t have an elevator in our building). My husband, Dave, was happy to order take-out from one of our favorite restaurants instead. Crisis averted.
I’ve especially noticed in this time of quarantines, social-distancing, and a pandemic, making decisions is just harder. In February, we were waffling back and forth about whether or not we’d return to the US. It was an every single day discussion with arguments for both staying and going. And what we eventually realized is this: you can only make decisions with the information you actually have, not with all the suppositions and possibilities. When we boiled it down to the known, we were finally able to make a decision based on those facts.
I’ve been wrestling internally with future decisions about our life. There’s someone I love dearly who has been in and out of the hospital this past week with heart problems. I feel the pull to be closer in proximity even though I wouldn’t be able to visit him. There are family members and dear friends we had hoped to visit this summer, but the world is such a muddled mess of numbers, peaks, and predictions that we don’t feel confident enough to buy tickets. There are political issues going on in our host country that have sparked anger and sorrow in our hearts for the mistreatment of other foreigners because of their nationality and skin color.
All of these circumstances overwhelm my soul if I let them. And boy, have I let them this past week! When Overwhelm waltzes in uninvited and pulls up a chair after grabbing a cold one from the fridge, indicating he intends to stick around awhile, I often don’t put up a fight. Instead, I roll over and play dead, hoping he’ll just leave me alone. My other response is to make myself busy so I don’t have to entertain the brute. I find myself wondering what the right response is to Overwhelm?
1. •Upset, Overthrow
2. a •to cover over completely: submerge
b •to overcome by superior force or numbers
c •to overpower in thought or feelingMerriam-Webster
Based on the definition above, it seems like Overwhelm is a control freak, stomping around telling me how to feel, trying to control my thoughts and forcing me to worry while water-boarding me. Overwhelm is a jerk. Interestingly enough, it is this same Overwhelm who robs me of the ability to make big and small decisions. When I let him boss me around, I cannot think my own thoughts; I’ve got his negative track running through my head. When I don’t fight back, he has no problem trying to drown me. And when I ignore him, I may feel better momentarily, and I may be able to move forward through my day, but it doesn’t erase the feelings which have taken root in my heart. I’ve just chosen not to dwell on them presently; however, a time is coming when I will have to face them, and this causes dread.
So what’s a lady to do when it’s time to face the decisions, unmade and looming stormily over her head? First, I’ve got to imitate the patriarchs (and many matriarchs, I’d surmise) of the Old Testament and “inquire of the Lord.” I have to bring these heavy decisions and maybe even the little ones like dinner—because truthfully, they’re just a byproduct of not being able to make the big ones—and tell my friend, Jesus, about them. He already knows, but He likes it when I lean on Him and see Him for who He is—my Provider, my Protector, my Brother, my Friend, and my Savior. And you know, when I bring it to Him (often again and again in a single hour), I remember how strong He is and how much He loves me. I remember that He cares about my life. He cares about dinner. He cares about my brain fog and the worry and indecision.
After talking to Him, I have to remember who I am. I’m His. I belong to Him, no matter what. I am, always and forever, safe in His care. I remember I’m made in His image. I have agency. I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to be wise and discerning. I remember all He has taught me has been from a heart of kindness and gentleness. I remember I can only make decisions based on what I do know, not on what I can’t see or know about the future.
Seeing Him and seeing myself through His eyes reminds me I am free to decide. I will not always make the best decision. My best friend Nicole (Check our her latest song HERE about this very topic) reminded me last week of how He isn’t surprised when we make the wrong decision, but He gives us so much grace for whatever decision we end up making. Our “wrong” decisions aren’t outside of His sovereignty in the earth. He is the masterful conductor bringing all of these decisions into harmony, though a stray note may be played here or there.
As my friend, Emily P. Freeman (she doesn’t know we’re friends, but we so are), says on her excellent podcast, The Next Right Thing, “…Do the next right thing in love.” What does it look like to do the next right thing in love? I think it’s something like this: Walk with Jesus, hands wide open, identity secured, knowing whatever decision you make is gonna be okay. Whenever Overwhelm comes around, kick him to the curb. You’ve got a life to live.