I think this whole life is a gift from God to me. Straight Christmas every day.

Just look around at beautiful sunrises or sunsets, the ocean, the mountains, beautiful people and places all around the globe. I love the swallows that float so close to the ground and swoop and make beautiful poetry with the grass. Oh, and sweet conversations with friends—they’re such a gift. Then there’s my garden, overgrown as it is, and the laughter of the kids in the backyard. Don’t even get me started on food, but especially blueberries and coffee.

The more I open my eyes, the more gifts I see. I see the Holy— God’s presence—in everything.

Even the work of life is a gift. Being able to use the mind we have, the thoughts that we can share, the ways we can be of use for others, to others. All gift. This is holy, too. I sit and take it in, the goodness of all, the inhabitation of God in the ordinary; it is beautiful and overwhelming and good.

Yet, sometimes (many, many times), I look within and see that I have a heart tied up in knots over the messes in my life: broken relationships, hurt feelings, betrayals of trust, and the ever-present imagining of the worst.

This is my own personal nuclear waste.

I carry it all inside, making me feel wrong and wonky and upside-down. It also keeps me from seeing God’s gifts, plentiful as they are.

If I’m honest, I like to dip my toe in that toxic mess that I store in my soul and say to myself; It’ll be okay if I just stir it a little, make it less nuclear waste-y. So, I do, and I get deeply burdened and heavy and dark and sad and angry.

It doesn’t ever work to stir it around. It stays toxic because I don’t have the right equipment to deal with it.

No one does.

And, here, for me, is the insane crazy part about God. He waits nearby me (Emmanuel means God with us, always) and says, “Girl, darling one, I want you to give me a gift.”

I think the gift he wants from me is my performance. My doing. The pile of accomplishments I feel I need to have for me to be enough. So, I try to give him that, but it never makes me feel like I’m enough.

God, who is ever so patient, says, “No, I don’t want your work, your effort.” (Even if it is the best work and best effort, he loves it, but it is not what he craves from me.)

He says, “Give me your steaming pile of nuclear waste.”

What?

He wants it. It doesn’t make any sense at all, but he is way smarter than me; he knows that the best gifts, the most beautiful things, only come from him. He just wants me to take my worst parts, my greatest fears and weaknesses, the knots in my heart, and wrap them up in some kind of paper with a bow, and say to him, “Here, God, this is yours. I can’t do anything with it now. I’m going to give it to you.”

I make a mental show of putting the pile, stinky and gross as it is, into an imaginary box or whatever, and I set it down at his feet. I imagine really going into a big room where I can only see the feet of God, big toes mostly, a lot of light and singing, and I set down the horrible “present” I have that makes me burdened and overwhelmed and sad and miserable.

I set it down and take one to two steps away and—I always do this, every time—I run back and grab it again. I start to worry and stew, and the big, painful emotions come back up. So, I hold it again for a while. God waits.

I see that I am not getting anywhere, and now I am covered in excrement. I go back into the big room and put it there again. Maybe this time, I get four steps away before I run back—an addict who needs a fix. I pull it to me again, and feel its familiar burden, and think, I’ve got this.

But, I don’t.

This whole process goes on and on and on. But I still believe that the God who gives me so much beauty and hope, and good things, also really wants all my junk. He wants me to give it to him. He wants this stinky present.

Sooner or later, you start to trust God enough. He won’t manage it the way you thought he should, but I’ve learned I can’t worry about what he decides to do with it. I just take the minute I am in, and say, For this minute, I will not try to fix this problem.

I keep doing that for all the minutes of the day, and as I’ve said, ad nauseam, I have to go through all the giving it up and getting it back a million and one times.

And, you know, the sparrows and the sunsets, and all that, are even sweeter because I know that in spite of the stuff that I keep carrying around, there is great good beauty and holiness still. So, I keep practicing gratefulness for both the amazing presence of God in this world and the even more stunning hope: God wants our garbage, our burdens, and he promises rest.

This is an excerpt from Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives. Click here to order.

 

Janna Northrup
Janna Northrup loves to write about heartfelt issues of soul care and self care. She has worked in ministry in various capacities for most of her adult life. She has written for various blogs and a local magazine. Currently, she is busy writing a memoir. You can follow her on Twitter @jjnorthr
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