When I was a little girl, I loved sparklers. I wriggled with anticipation every 4th of July for the sun to sink low in the sky. Waiting for the pink and orange hues to fade into gray, I would watch for my father to retrieve that long, rectangular box from its hiding place. By the time the sparklers came out, I was always amped up on adrenaline and too much soda pop, and felt I would burst into flames myself. I would run around the yard with my brothers, drawing pictures in the blackness with our flaming magic sticks. I felt alive, carefree, powerful, with that sparkler in my hand, charging into the night. I also remember a feeling of let down when the last spark fizzled out – they never lasted long enough! We would zip over to my father, begging for another, and another, and another, until the box was empty. I couldn’t control how long each sparkler lasted, and I couldn’t control how long the box lasted either, since I had to share with two brothers. But I wasn’t focused on controlling my circumstances; I was focused on enjoying the moment. And that made all the difference. The disappointment I felt once the sparklers ran out, never overshadowed the joy of those magic moments…I knew the 4th of July would come around again.
As a child, I remember thinking when I became an adult, I’d be free to do whatever I pleased, including buy as many sparklers as I wanted. I’d have it made. Freedom. Of course, you know how that turned out. Once I became an adult, I had to work a lot harder at “enjoying the moment”, as worries about the past, concerns about the present, or anxieties about the future produced a daily threat to my joy in the present. Having enough sparklers were the least of my worries. When did life get so out of control?
The hard truth is that life is filled with things we can’t control. The rub is that most people try to control things they were never meant to, especially things they fear, or don’t understand. Fear is a common response to a lack of understanding, so that creates a vicious cycle. Like most people, I have experienced things that I do not fully understand, and like many others, have been a victim of circumstances beyond my control. For many years, I found myself stuck on a treadmill of anxiety, worry, and fear, trying desperately to understand some of my painful life circumstances, and when that didn’t work, I created more anxiety for myself by trying to exercise tight control of the situation. It was an exhausting and emotionally confining way to live. What happened to the freedom that was supposed to come with being a grown up? I didn’t feel free at all. I felt as if I was suffocating. I was absolutely miserable. Until I figured out how to get off the proverbial emotional treadmill.
Hope whispers, faith brings freedom.
I just stopped. I stopped trying to control what I didn’t understand. I let go of my fears, and I leaned into my faith. Well, actually I don’t lean into anything; I’m more of a dive into the deep end sort of person, so leaping into my faith would be a more accurate description. A leap of faith is just that – a leap! It requires surrender and courage. And trust! Our forefathers got it right when they chose the words, In God We Trust, to be the stamp of our monetary system. Why would we want to mess with that?! I found freedom from much of my anxiety and depression by not being chained to my own finite knowledge, but instead, choosing to trust an infinitely wise God, who knows what He is doing, even when I do not. Whether you’re more of a leaner, or a leaper, it doesn’t matter – you just need to fall, (or run!) in God’s direction; He will catch you.
Some people I meet are still under the impression that if a person chooses to have faith in God, his or her life will suddenly be perfect. Not true. Life just becomes more meaningful, and filled with hope. My life is not perfect, and there are many things I do not understand that I am still having to walk through, including an estranged relationship with my youngest son, which is extremely painful for me. However, because of my faith, I am able to experience peace, even in the midst of great emotional pain. I am even able to focus on enjoying the moment that is my life right now. And I have hope for the future, instead of fearing it. Faith and hope are strongly related; faith actually breeds hope. If you have been feeling hopeless about a situation, try putting your faith in God and see how that affects your hope supply. Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and I have faith that as I keep reaching out to my son, eventually, he will reach back. To give up, would be to give up hope, and I will never do that. Never. He is my son. Faith and hope combined, create a freedom from the despair that is called hopelessness. If you have faith, you are not without hope.
Perhaps you can relate. There are things in your life you don’t understand, and you are tired of grasping for control of them. Maybe you even feel hopeless. Do you want off your emotional treadmill? Have you figured out that there is no freedom in control? Control is just an illusion that fizzles out like a sparkler. True freedom is found through faith in God. Like the 4th of July, He will keep coming back around. And when you’re ready to fall, walk, crawl, run, skip, or leap into His arms, He will be there to catch you, and fill your heart with hope.