Well, it’s 4:45 a.m. as I write this. I woke up at 2:30 a.m. and for the past two hours have been shifting between attempts at sleep and additions to my to-do list. Writing this blog is at least a diversion and a lot more engaging for my restless mind. If you know me personally, you know I am a night person and frequently come upon ideas somewhere in the hours after midnight. Tonight’s sleepless session has taken on another common theme of the last several months, a theme with a slightly different bend. Rather than an idea session, this wee-hours-of-the-morning sleeplessness has involved some self-talk and conversations with God about my to-do list.
When my eyes opened abruptly at 2:30, I knew I was not going back to sleep soon. Too many things flooded my mind, alongside a pervading fear I will forget something. Enter my note-taking phone app for just such an occasion. I typed my need-to-remember items in my app, hoping to relieve my mind so I could get back to sleep. I was not so fortunate.
Two hours and 24 to-do items later, my mind swirled between determination and uncertainty. My list represents several dimensions of my life and responsibilities, all of which I enjoy. My list does not represent the daily tasks of my life, such as feeding my family, doing laundry, and helping my daughter with school work. The items on my list are in addition to these daily things, and in many cases are projects requiring several hours of work.
So what’s a mind to do in a case like this? As a person who reads the Bible, I think of statements like ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” an expression of confidence for sure. I also think of statements such as, “I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I, ” expressing a helplessness I cannot fix myself. As I tossed and turned during the past hours, I would say in my mind, “I can do this.” But as my list lengthened and my stamina faded, I would admit the reality that I cannot do this.
So which is right? Should I be steering my self-talk towards the confidence of the Little Engine That Could as he chugged up that proverbial hill puffing out his infamous words, “I think I can, I think I can”? Or should my self-talk take me to a reality check, teaching me to accept my inability to accomplish it all? The hard truth is – the answer is some of both.
As a believer in Christ, I must come to terms with the fact that I will live with this tension, in some form, for the rest of my life. I will walk the invisible fine line between what I can do and what I can’t do, between confident living through Christ’s strength and my own helplessness only overcome in Christ’s strength.
Nik Wallenda’s tightrope crossing of Niagara Falls in June, 2012, was a masterful feat of mental, physical and emotional discipline. To be honest, I didn’t watch it – the tension was too great. While you and I may never walk a tightrope of such literal risk, in reality we walk a daily tightrope requiring mental and emotional stamina of a similar sort, a fine line pulled tightly between what we can and cannot do. And we need help – help from God to keep us humble in our confidence and help from God to keep us calm in our helplessness. So whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, keep walking and praying and together we will make it to the other side.