By Micha Kandal
I’ve always liked cats. And who doesn’t love kittens? I grew up with them so I am very aware of how they operate, which is on their own terms.
Being an independent 22-year-old, I decided that it was time to be a cat owner. Why not? A Facebook opportunity brought me into being an official cat owner. My good friend Kirsten was tagged in a post that was filled with 8 furry creatures. I liked the post. I asked my roommates. Two days later, I drove with Kirsten two hours north to get this new commitment.
The car ride back was great. As I befriended this orange and white animal (making sure she didn’t trap herself underneath the seats or die prematurely 25 minutes away from home), it set in. “It” being the heavy weight of this new responsibility. Knowing I am responsible for keeping this cat alive for the next 10-13 years.
I don’t think I’m ready for this.
I’ve had Margo for 5 months. She’s still alive and well, enough to eat the tape I’ve placed on the counters to keep her off of them. To say that getting her was the best possible choice I could have made wouldn’t necessarily be true. We’ve had our good moments, and there are times I’ve thought about throwing her into Kirsten’s living room and then running away…like when she eats the tape.
This story of Margo, though, mirrors my expectation versus reality.
I think that as humans, we’re so good about building up situations, scenarios, and even opportunities in our minds. I think we like to operate on the 0-100 spectrum. Our reactions range from not caring or being invested to EVERYTHING IS ABSOLUTELY THIS WAY OR ELSE. At least, this is my very natural tendency. It’s gonna be awesome, 100. And, if it’s not, we’re disappointed and all motivation is gone. I don’t care. I’m done. Back to zero.
This is a lot like my walk with Jesus.
I get so lost in my head about big life things and changes. I overthink and overanalyze. A new project. A new friendship. Any change, expected or unexpected. I build these up, more often than not, ridiculously high and unrealistic. And then it (life, the date, the conversation, the plan) doesn’t even remotely go the way I wanted. I get disappointed and frustrated and all of the other emotions in between. This emotional gamut gets aimed directly at Jesus. I play the blame game, and then I have an argument with the Creator about why he’s unfair and why my way was better. What-ifs and maybe-when’s are my favorite words to bargain with when I talk with God.
Reading these words back to myself sounds RIDICULOUS. Why am I arguing with God? Why am I expecting Him to cave and say “Oh, yeah, good call Micha.”
But I do. I doubt, twist, overthink, manipulate, and allow all of these dark things to take residence in my mind. And as long as I let them stay, they grow. I take matters into my own hands, and I complain that I can’t hold onto any of the blessings or freedoms-from-heartaches God is trying to give me. Daily.
Discovering that I do this has been so humbling. It’s a hard truth, but it’s so refreshing to know there’s a change that needs to happen and that I know the answer. This answer can often feel kind of intimidating though. Sometimes it’s easier to stand in the dark just because it’s familiar.
Putting it into practice is where the struggle lives. At the same time, I can feel Jesus pulling me nearer and nearer. I can hear him telling me more often than not, “I’m proud of you” and “You’re getting it!” God also gets my attention by speaking directly through the people in my community. So cool. So convicting.
Learning the new normal of letting go of expectation and control has been hard. It has been harder than keeping Margo off of the counters (and maybe equally as frustrating).
Learning how to choose God, to choose the life of living in an active stillness, and abiding in Him is such a big commitment. It’s intimidating and sometimes I’m fearful it won’t bring me the feeling of contentment or being made whole. Yet, this daily practice of surrendering all of my expectations has caused me to grow more in these past 3 months than I could have ever imagined. It’s still the most difficult thing I do some days.
But the complete and total peace that comes from this new thought altering lifestyle is so refreshing. My joy is becoming as real as the warmth you feel from the sun in the middle of June. It makes the freedom worth fighting for and the blessings so much greater.
My encouragement to you as an amateur cat owner and a person who gets obsessed with expectations and improbable realities is to open your hands. Literally, emotionally, spiritually. Drop the things that weigh you down, even for just 5 minutes. Ask for freedom. Declare rest. I promise that things WILL start to change. It might be the longest 5 minutes of your day, but it’ll also be the most life giving.
Take heart & take back your freedom friends. You won’t regret it.