Even if you’ve never watched an episode of Friday Night Lights, you’re probably familiar with the chant clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. It’s the rallying cry of the football heroes before they take the field, and while I’d heard it many times, and it certainly sounded nice, I’d never given the phrase much thought until last week.
You see, last week I hit a wall – like a football team up against stronger rivals, I felt like I was being beaten down by familiar enemies named Control, Worry, and Stress. I’d been stressing about a situation in my life that I want to “figure out.” I felt like I couldn’t make sense of what was in front of me, and my heart felt both empty and clogged up with worry at the same time.
Then, all that stress found its way into my body, and I came down with a bug – both a head cold and a stomach virus. Super fun. Instead of giving myself grace and making space to rest, my first inclination was to stress and try to “fix” my way to being healthy – not the smartest approach – before my trip to Miami at the end of the week. I did ultimately stay home to rest, but my struggle was less with the state of my body and more with the state of my heart. I was downing water, sipping on ginger ale, and taking it easy at home. But I don’t think I would have improved as quickly as I did if I didn’t rest my mind and heart as well as my body.
Instead of berating myself for getting sick, I had to actively choose to trust God to take care of me. Not an easy feat for a control freak like me. So, I had to remind myself of God’s character and strength. He’s the best physician. He understands the intricate inner workings of our bodies and how the state of our minds and hearts directly impacts our bodies. So, like a sheep under his care, I let him lead me beside the still waters and make me lie down in green pastures. In the moment, being sick felt like a minor setback.
But once I yielded to God, that sickness yielded “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” that Scripture speaks about. In resting, my body and heart were both healed.
Crying Over Spilled Chia Pudding
Unfortunately, it can take me a little time to learn these deep heart lessons of trusting God and receiving grace, so God provided me with ample opportunity to put that into practice last week. My “white-knuckle” approach to life was tested over and over. Wednesday morning I spilled my chia seed pudding all over the floor. Let me tell you, that stuff is impossible to clean up. The sticky little gel-like seeds are forever lodged in my rug. But the rug and my breakfast isn’t the point of this story. The point is that when I knocked over my breakfast, my first thought, was, C’mon, Laura. Get it together. Not a very nice way to talk to myself in the morning – or ever, for that matter. I was so quick to jump to self-flagellation and grasping for a solution. But there wasn’t much I could do except let it go.
While I was able to shift gears in that moment and give myself some grace, I’ve still been struggling with letting go of control in the bigger things – especially relationships. I realized that I was speaking some scary things to myself: If things don’t work out, it will be your fault. It will be because you weren’t enough.
Thankfully, God speaks a better word.
It’s Not All Up to Me
Sitting in church last Sunday, God gently drove home a point that I really needed to hear: I’ve been anxious because I’ve been thinking it’s all about me and therefore that it’s all up to me. I’ve been putting all that weight on myself. And why? Because I’m prone to the same sin we all are: pride – focusing on myself more than God and thinking I can carry everything on my own. Sin is a weight, a burden. We feel the reality of it in our lives in our strained friendships, challenges at work, and even our broken bodies. Sin creates a reality that breaks off our connection to each other, ourselves, and ultimately God.
Sin is ultimately a “cutting off” from God. Sin is basically saying, No thanks, God. I think I know what to do here. I’m not going to consult you. I’m just going to go my own way. Sin is saying, I need to do this on my own. I need to fix this myself. I’m paying for this. I can’t accept your grace. I’m going to make myself better. It’s both thinking too highly and too lowly of ourselves. It’s the pride and the pity.
Sin is being cut off from God – from his grace, his love, his power – either by thinking we can go it alone (pride) or thinking we are alone (pity).
Why do we do this to ourselves?
I think it’s because inside us, there’s this seed of sin that wants praise and attention – we want to hear people say, Wow, look how well he’s done for himself. Or, She’s got so much going for her. We long for validation and – just like our ancestors Adam and Eve – we think we know how to experience life best. We want that fruit, that guy, that powerful position at work. But our attempts always fall short when we’re just relying on ourselves. That fruit kills us, that guy disappoints us, that power corrupts us…apart from God.
Cut Off From God
Have you ever gone after something you knew wasn’t God’s best for you, but you did it anyways because you just wanted to see what it would be like to do something on your own or because it seemed safer or more sure than waiting for God’s timing? Or, have you ever taken a good thing – a new job, a relationship, your own body – and just squeezed the life out of it because you were gripping so hard for control?
If your experiences are anything like mine, then you know the outcome: you always lose. That job starts to suck the life out of you when you’re too focused on maintaining your position. That relationship falls apart because you put unrealistic expectations on yourself and your significant other. And your body gets sick under the weight of your stress and perfectionist tendencies.
When our eyes are clouded with ourselves, when our hearts are full of self-pity or pride, we always lose.
But when we have clear eyes – open to what God has in store for us versus our man-made plans – we’re open to seeing and seizing the opportunities he sets before us.
When we have full hearts – full of trust, filled with the power of God’s spirit – then we, like the apostle Paul says, can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength we need for the present moment.
We can’t lose.
Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose
So that’s the approach I’m trying to take, and I’ve already been tested in it. At the airport on Friday, when I learned I could have gotten a direct flight that would have gotten me into Miami earlier, I tried to snag a seat on that plane. Things were looking promising, but ultimately, I ended up on my original flight. And ended up sitting on the runway for a good while due to traffic at LAX – our first stop on the journey.
But rather than worry or try to seek a solution, I sought God. I asked for his peace, and you know what? He gave it to me. He brought me exactly the grace I needed for the moment.
As I sat on the plane with clear eyes and a full heart, I was ready to see what God was doing in that moment, and I was open to the people he wanted me to meet on that flight. By God’s grace, I ended up connecting with the flight attendant and the couple sitting next to me who were en route to their honeymoon. We ended up talking about marriage and relationships and even faith. None of which would have happened if I’d gotten on an earlier flight. Perhaps more importantly, the additional time on the plane me more hours to just enjoy the quiet stillness where I could connect with God.
What about you? Are your eyes clouded with fear of the future? Is your heart drained by compulsive planning and fixing? If, like me, you want clear eyes and a full heart, the solution is blessedly simple, although the journey is long: all you have to do is ask. The author of Hebrews shares that we can “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” in order to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” And how? By “looking to Jesus.”
Ask for your eyes to be opened to the beauty of the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” Ask for your heart to be filled with more of God’s spirit. You’ll see the output in the fruit you bear – peace, joy, patience, kindness, and love. And when you do, you can’t lose.