On paper, last Monday sounds like it should’ve been terrible.
I work as a process engineer. Though most days I have a fairly typical schedule, there are times where I need to be there at abnormal hours to observe something on the machine or support a product development trial. This particular Monday, I had to wake up early to see a specific event on one of our machines, and I had a trial scheduled. One of the first things I see in the morning is notification that my trial is postponed 12 hours meaning I would have to go back to work in the middle of the night and the support I anticipated having wouldn’t be on shift. Then, as I’m partway to work, I get an insulin pump alert telling me I’m low on insulin. Most days, I’m pretty good at checking to make sure I have enough insulin or writing myself a note to grab the supplies to refill it. Because my schedule was different, I forgot. I had enough insulin to get me to lunch, but I knew I’d have to go home around that time to get more. When I got to work, I found out the machine ran so well over the weekend that the event I wanted to watch already occurred. I had only been awake for about an hour and a half and was already dealing with a ton of problems.
Anyone who knows me knows I do not handle stress well, but today, I was able to stay relatively calm and trust things would work out, and they did.
Early on in my workday, I find out they’re actually going to push the trial to the next day so it can run on the day shift. This actually worked out better for me because I don’t have anything going on Tuesday nights but I had a class that Monday evening. I had been worried that the trial would be pushed a few hours which would mean missing the class. Instead, I was able to go to the class and hang out with some of the people afterwards. Though missing the event put me even further behind on my project, I was able to spend more time looking at the process as a whole so once I was able to collect the data, I had more concrete ideas about potential issues. Because I had to drive home at lunch to get more insulin, I was able to listen to the radio, and the priest who used to be at the church I attended in high school was a guest on the show. I wouldn’t have gotten to listen to it if I hadn’t forgotten my insulin.
In the past, things like this would have caused me to feel overwhelmed, and I would’ve easily missed the good things that came from the unexpected. Lately, however, I’ve been trying to start my day with a simple prayer. It’s usually a half-awake “Lord, let all things I do today be done through you and for you,” but it’s more than I have been doing most of my life. It’s unfortunate it’s taken me over 23 years to take the advice to sandwich my day with prayer, but even those 20 seconds can make a difference.
This isn’t to say that prayer and trusting God is going to make everything perfect, and that isn’t what we are promised as Christians. The reality is that we live in a broken world, and bad things happen. It’s frustrating, it’s inconvenient, it’s annoying, and it absolutely seems entirely unfair. However, we can control how we respond to these bad things that happen.
I know, I know, it sounds like that super annoying cliche phrase which seems absolutely ridiculous and unrealistic when things are falling apart. We’re going to experience bad emotions, and in the heat of the moment, we’re probably not thinking about how we can respond in a good way. As someone who does not handle stress well at all, I can attest to the fact that when things are going terribly, my immediate response 9 times out of 10 isn’t “it’ll all be ok if I just say a prayer,” and telling me to just stop and calm down doesn’t work, even if there is a tiny voice in the back of my mind telling me it will be ok.
What I’m finding, though, is that when I get in this habit of prayer and entrusting my day to God, my immediate response is shifting. I’m gradually finding that rather than trying to control my response in the moment, by working with God throughout that day, I am able to stop that sense of hopelessness from progressing beyond a fleeting thought.
I still have a lot of work to do. I still panic. I still freak out. I still get frustrated with God when bad things happen. And realistically, I recognize that a combination of human nature, and more prevalently, my struggles with anxiety and depressive episodes, may keep me from ever achieving that perfectly holy response every time I face a challenge.
What I do know is that I can get better at it with the help of God. While our call is sainthood, we’re bound to fall flat at time. However, each action we take, each change in spiritual habit, each attempt to grow closer to God brings us closer to the perfection He desires for us. Chuck Eichten said “[b]etter beats perfect because we can always get better.” Ultimately, God wants us to be perfect, but he also wants us to be with Him. Although we may not be perfect now, we can still invite God into everything we do, even if it is something as small as a 20 second prayer. Then, with His help, we’ll be able to become more perfect. With God’s help, we can become saints.