Could vs Should?
I am writing this reflection camped out in the corner of gate C17 of O’Hare International Airport. I bought this flight a week ago. My planner in my backpack still says that I should be at work back in Lansing right now. Last Wednesday, one of my coworkers was looking to pick up more hours and asked if she could take my shift. As a nursing student working two jobs, I usually jump at the opportunity for an extra few hours to pour over my pharmacology text, but this time in a random burst of spontaneity that still baffles my extreme type A brain, I decided that I could study later and booked a flight home to surprise my family.
About two months ago, I looked at my work load for the semester and just about burst into tears. I told Jesus, “I know that these are all wonderful responsibilities that you have given me, but I cannot handle this all! I love my job; these service opportunities bring me so much joy; I want to become a nurse. If I could, I would do it all, but I can’t. So what are you asking me to give up?” His answer, a loud and clear, “Nothing.” He assured me that I was right: I couldn’t handle this on my own. But there was a far greater assurance in the words of love that He spoke to me. He could handle this semester, and He wanted to prove his love for me by carrying me through.
With a good deal of fear and as much trust as I could muster, I started my first semester of nursing school. I knew what the Lord was asking of me would require trust. I knew that I would have to be disciplined if I would be faithful to these responsibilities. And I was. This semester began really well, and I was proud of my trust in Jesus! Fast forward five weeks to the beginning of Lent: a time of discipline where we die to ourselves and the wasteful habits of our flesh. I was pretty excited because my self-discipline was a virtue that was looking pretty good for me right now. Could there be a more fitting liturgical season?
Two weeks later, I broke. I got home from class on Friday night after a long week that had been completely void of free time. Immediately, I hit the books. Just as I sat down, my wonderful roommates burst through the door full of joy and laughter. My reaction could not have been further from joy. An irritation and anger that I had not experienced since high school rose up in me. It was ugly. I knew that they hadn’t done anything wrong and probably didn’t even know I was studying, but I didn’t care. I was mad. I had spent all week slaving away over my responsibilities—why couldn’t they just give me a quiet hour to study? Consumed in selfish entitlement, I huffed off to my room.
The next morning, I sort of crept into my prayer time with my head hanging. I was so ashamed. Jesus had been so clear that he was going to get me through this semester. He had spoken beautiful words of love to me, and less than a month later, I was falling back into sins that I thought I had conquered years ago! Backwards. Why was I falling backwards? Lent is supposed to be a time of discipline that draws us closer to God! What had gone so wrong in me?
I had confused discipline with control. Living a disciplined life leads to freedom; control leads to pride. I began this semester in an honest attempt to surrender my schedule to the Lord. I know He holds all things in the palm of His hand, and I wanted to trust in Him. I knew that the work load He was asking of me this semester would require sacrifice. I knew that I would have to make decisions to give up things that I wanted to do, for things that I should do. Discipline.
However, as the impending storm clouds of midterms loomed, my mindset had changed ever so slightly. Rather than making the tough decisions by relying the Lord’s strength, I began to fear that if I didn’t make these decisions, I would fail my next exam and my grades would suffer. On the outside everything appeared the same, but without even realizing it, I had taken back control of my schedule and made it about me again. What I thought was “discipline” was really self-protection and control.
Let me never be so consumed in my responsibility that I forget my responsibility to love. True discipline frees us to love, even when we feel like we don’t have the time for it.
Praise Jesus for His mercy! Praise Jesus that He allows us to fall on our face so that we realize how far we have strayed from Him. Like the loving father that He is, He received me with open arms. As his daughter, I was created by love for love. If I am to live in this call to love, then I need to be living in freedom not control. Discipline brings freedom. Decisions for control, made out of fear, will never bring freedom and will inhibit our ability to love. Recommitting my time to Jesus gave me the freedom to spontaneously book a flight home. Do I still have plenty of homework that I could be doing? Absolutely. But I trust that the Lord will give me time for that next week, so that I can spend this time loving my family.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” -Galatians 5:1
Maggie is a self-proclaimed Midwest travel expert resulting from the dozens of hours spent on car, plane, or bus bouncing between Michigan and Minnesota over the past three years. Every trip has been an adventure and adventures make great stories. She loves meeting new people, take-out Chinese food, and wool sweaters.