When I was 20, I studied abroad in Manchester, England. Back then, I knew myself in ways I ended up forgetting over the years as I shuffled to prove myself worthy with my schedules, my lists, my incessant desire to be taken seriously by what I could do instead of who God made me. By my mid 20’s, as a new wife and teacher, I piled things up high in my own arms, and as the things piled higher, they blocked my vision: I lost sight of what mattered, of the everyday kind of beauty I once knew, of the realization that God doesn’t need us to prove anything to anyone. That’s just it: God doesn’t need us to prove ourselves worthy because he already told us we are. Instead, maybe we are to relish in the here and now, noticing the everyday kind of holy moments, those observations becoming small prayers, the noticing showing the trust that he’s made us to be, not strive, and that right where we are is where he wants us to be.
Once, on a particularly overwhelming day, 20 years after studying aboard in England and setting up this life of marriage, a teaching career, and motherhood, my son, Matt, asked me if I liked architecture. We were in the car and night had fallen all around us, indigo over mountains. The question took me off guard, there in the ordinariness of the car, at the steering wheel. Maggie, my daughter, had fallen asleep and her faint snore filled the warm air, the heat on from a winter chill that still lingered. I felt overwhelmed at the things left undone from the day and while his question was just a question, it was one that made tears spring to my eyes. Yes, my boy, I love architecture.
I once had spent a day in Manchester, England, simply walking around the city, looking at the beauty and intricacy of the buildings. I had forgotten about the day completely until he asked me the question, but the memories came back: the buildings with their brownish red clay, the arches, the gargoyles, me as I was then–the girl with the notebook and camera, taking it all in, a world opened to me as I followed my professor, taking notes.
That night, in the car on the ride home, I wiped back tears that my son couldn’t see, because for a minute, I worried I had left my love of architecture and that I’d lost myself there in the Used to Be. Back then, when there was no shuffle for approval, no long lists of things needing to be done. The Used to Be, where I wasn’t overextended, when my mouth didn’t say yes while my heart screamed no. The Used to Be, where I wandered and looked at architecture.
My thoughts of the Used to Be abated as my son talked about his newfound love of architecture, as my daughter snored, as I watched the stars appear in the ever-darkening sky. In the car that evening, it was like God reached down and touched me on the shoulder, calling me from my momentary trip to the past right back to the Here and Now, right where I’m to be.
Momentarily, that night, I’d lost my way and I’d stumbled under my list of things left undone. This shuffle for approval I promised to myself that I’d abandoned but didn’t—adding things to an already full plate, trying to manage all the thingswhen really, the pressure of them was managing me, changing me, forging me into a version of myself I no longer liked, keeping me from the noticing. All of that kept me from seeing what really mattered in my here and now life, that kept me from living that used to be life in the here and now way.
In order to live my right-now life, I’ve made some tough decisions, unclenched my fists, let go of some ideals. I’ve walked away from committees, boards, people, and plans all in order to focus on my one real and now life because the weight of all of that was keeping me from seeing the beauty in the life I was leading.
And that’s what happens: as we pile our arms high with things we need to do, as we shuffle for approval and add way too much busy, we forget about the glory. When we keep our eyes on our lists, rush through our lives–wearing our busy schedules proudly, like some sort of proof that we are worthy–we discount God’s simple glory and the worthiness he’s already breathed into us. Friends, we must not lose sight of the everywhere holy type of beauty that levels us, sees us through, reminds us of the joy of an ordinary life, of the worthiness we already have.
I’ve opened my hands and let things drop; I’ve stopped wearing a schedule like a prize ribbon; I’ve remembered the beauty of this right now life. And now, that feels like crisp air and looks like the steam from the mouths of warm bodies laughing at the end of the day. It is heart-shaped swirls in my cappuccino cup on a cold winter evening, tiny hands grabbing mine, larger ones moving a piece of hair from my face, muddy dog paws, and an ordinary but extraordinary night sky, life unfolding—right there in that right-now life, holy enough right then, right there—in the car, two children I prayed for in the backseat-, right here, right now, right where I’m to be. And if I can do it, you can too. Join me.
Kara Lawler is the author of Everywhere Holy: Seeing Beauty, Remembering Your Identity, and Finding God Right Where You Are (Thomas Nelson) For more information visit www.karalawler.com.