I try to wake up every morning at 5:00 am. I say try, because I’m not always successful. But most of the time, my willpower wins out over my sloth.
My routine isn’t particularly pretty. I’m certainly not jumping out of my warm bed, throwing my curtain wide to greet the morning. “Groaning slog“ is how I would qualify it.
I keep my alarm in the living room, which forces me to run frantically willy-nilly to shut it off so it doesn’t wake up my kids. Because I know one thing and that’s if I have to get up early, I don’t want to share my time with any waffle-demanding children. Once I’m upright and standing in the living room, I usually figure I might as well stay up. So there’s my inspirational early-rising tip for you: Start your day in a frantic run and then meh, just stay upright.
I make coffee. I feed my obnoxious cats. I turn on my space heater. I text Sunny, my 5am wakeup buddy, and remind her to get her tuckus out of bed too. Then I usually just sit on the couch, holding my warm mug, and I pray.
I wouldn’t call my morning prayer time organized or even focused. I am not doing a Bible study. There’s no plan or list. Usually, it’s just me telling God whatever spews out of my fuzzy, half-awake head and heart, and then listening to whatever He has to say. Again, not particularly pretty or inspirational.
But one recent morning, I just sat there, feeling exhausted.
All I could muster was, “God, I’m worn out.”
It’s been kind of a hard year: Single parenting, writing some books, a job with sweet but anxious teens, a house move, sorting out therapies with a special needs kiddo, helping another child through grief… added to the usual daily laundry and errands and flat tires and cat litter scooping. I know that others are dealing with so much more than I am, but I will admit: I’m emotionally pooped. Lately, I’ve reached the evening and I feel like I’ve just been white-knuckling it through my whole day. Keep it together, Ellen. Do all the things. Do it now.
Usually, when I get to this point, I pray and ask God for strength to keep moving forward, keep plowing through. And He does. He picks me up. He breathes life back into me.
This morning, however, when I was slumped over, and starting my usual “GOD, HELP ME TO DO ALL THE THINGS” prayer, I just stopped. My heart couldn’t pray it and I couldn’t force it. Instead, I just sat there and listened.
I’ve learned to take notice when something pops into my head when I’m praying, as random and disconnected as it might seem. It almost always means something important (unless I’m just hungry for cookies. Which also happens.) So I stopped when my head was suddenly filled with a favorite song from my high school years, “Fishin’ 4 Religion” by Arrested Development. The lyrics that jumped into my head were:
The word “cope” and the word “change”
Is directly opposite, not the same
And I realized that’s what I’ve been doing for quite a while now. I’ve been just praying to cope with life.
Praying to cope is all well and good, to an extent. There are some times in our lives when it’s all we can do to tie a rope to Jesus and hold on. But I think that as a long term strategy, simply coping is not healthy or even feasible. I don’t think that God wants us to permanently stand still and just cope and cope and cope with the constant red dodgeballs that life throws at our heads. Maybe instead of coping, we should be changing… changing the game or the rules or just leaving the dodgeball court entirely. He wants us to thrive, not just survive:
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,
but of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
I thought about my “GOD, HELP ME TO DO ALL THE THINGS” type prayer. What if I’m not meant to do all the things? What if I’m just not made to cope with all the demands? I don’t know that we humans were built that way. Trying so hard and white-knuckling it and forcing ourselves to get it all done. I think we were built to rely on God to show us balance and priorities and resting in His peace.
So I sat there in my morning prayer slouch and I whispered a different prayer: “God, show me where Your priorities are, and align me with them.” I felt lighter.
Honestly, that’s what I really want anyway. I don’t want to accomplish Ellen’s big ole’ list of things. Not really. I want to live in the life and will and peace that God has for me. I want to see His things happen, not mine. And if that means being open to change in my life, then that’s what I want.