Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your own ineptitude? I’ve been there for the past two weeks, and last night, it almost beat me.
I was throwing away a bamboo stump that had been a living plant in our home for at least the past 12 years. It represented a simpler time in our lives, a time when watering plants was part of the weekly routine, and wishes were easily satisfied. We bought the plant when my youngest, who’d just acquired a stuffed panda named Mei-Jing (what else?) asked for bamboo for Christmas, explaining quite simply, “You can’t have a panda without bamboo.”
Bamboo is like cactus, in that it takes a lot to do it in. It thrives, even when neglected. My friend tossed a dying bamboo root in her back yard a few years back and now she has a forest out there that would make any panda feel right at home. But then, I’ve killed many a cactus plant in my day. And now I’ve killed Mei-Jing’s food supply as well, because I no longer have a weekly routine.
So last night, I stared at that clump of former life and had a pity party. I told myself it represented the past few weeks, in which I’ve been racing around to accomplish “stuff,” but really, I’ve gone nowhere. Joe’s story has received two rejections from publishers; I’m having trouble finding blog time, which is one of my favorite things to do; and when my fledgling business was begging for water, I prayed for water and got a firehose. I cannot operate a firehose, so I just about drowned everything in my…ineptitude.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve become accustomed to, and accepted the reality that…well, I’m not the brightest bulb in the dirt. (See how that doesn’t work? Nevermind.) I come by this quirk honestly. Once when my dad was in a hospital waiting room, fretting over Mom as the doctors worked behind closed doors (she was ok—that’s not the story), the doctor came out and told him it would help if he got some donors. My dad made a beeline for the exit and was gone for 20 minutes. When he came back, he presented a pink box to the doctor and said, “I didn’t know if you wanted glazed or jelly filled so I got some of both.”
So, yes, I’m a bit off, but I’m generally capable. I can juggle many tasks, write a fine short story (if I do say so myself), and make kids laugh without actually falling down. That’s why, when I left my job to write full-time, I had a certain degree of justifiable confidence in my ability—until this week.
Here’s the situation: Despite the negative news (so far) for Joe’s story, my freelance business is taking off. I’d been writing one story a week for some time now. Last week, because I forgot to take my name off a list of availability, I managed to sign up for three stories at once. Naturally, I was too proud to say it’s too much. I figured, the interviews have been averaging two hours (recorded on an mp3 file), and the stories are so intriguing they practically write themselves, so I thought I was up for the challenge. HOWEVER, both interviews this week have been well over three hours. One is with a woman who speaks with a heavy Romanian accent and the other had some sort of technical glitch forcing me to fight through static to transcribe the conversation. It has taken me six hours to transcribe the first hour of each tape. The rest awaits. Ineptitude. I woke this morning dreading my work for the first time because I have so much to do and still another interview tomorrow. I’m overwhelmed. I cried in my pity party and thought, perhaps I’m not cut out for this.
Here’s where I praise God for that few moments each day that ARE routine. You see, every morning I try to spend my first 30 minutes or so studying the Bible. Lately that’s been in the form of Beth Moore’s Children of the Day study of 1st Thessalonians, in which I read about Paul’s concern for the new believers after their trials. He wrote, not to assure them they’d be okay, but to remind them that they would be hard pressed to come out unscathed. He added, “I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.”
And bam! I remembered: I’m not doing this on a whim, but because I believe it’s the Lord’s plan for me. Anything that comes against my decision to write is not of God. I know the “tempter” isn’t looking out for my best interests. What he holds out before me is not escape and relief, but surrender. When I’m wounded and angry, he’s delighted, because I’m close to giving in. (That’s one reason he attacks our loved ones, by the way—to get us where we’re vulnerable—but that’s another blog). Simply put: he plays dirty. And I know what he wants from me. Not my business. Not my stories. Not my hopes and dreams. These things mean nothing to him, except as a means to get what he really wants.
He wants my faith.
He’s not getting it.
So this morning I bought a new bamboo plant and set it in the same vase as the last one. I watered it (so that’s at least once…) and set it where I can see it. I’m not inept. I’m administratively challenged. But I have a Counselor who isn’t, and so I leave that part of this job to Him. These next few days will be challenging, and before I’m done I might be speaking with a static-y Romanian accent, but I know there’s victory coming.
Now, I’m heading back to finish my transcription; but this time, I’m armored up and ready to fight. Are you with me?
“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 1 Thessalonians 8