Back in December 2019, I was on maternity leave taking care of my three-month-old son, and I was preparing my mind to go back to work. If you are anything like me, you probably can relate to the hours of anticipating what this new season will look like. Real thoughts I wrote down in my journal were: “How will I get out of my house in the morning with my three-year-old and baby if my husband can’t help me? How am I going to do it all? How do I know God is still calling me to be a working mom? What if I am getting all of this wrong?”
The king of all of my worries were thoughts and feelings about pumping and feeding my son. It was exhausting to think about how long I was going to breastfeed and pump and how I was going to manage it all. The weight of change haunted me, and the anxiety I felt on my shoulders steered me to obsess over every detail. Not to mention the ever-changing hormones that were pumping through my body.
I recognize now that the shame that accompanied these questions made me continue in an unhealthy spiral for weeks. Ultimately, my sweet time at home was ending, and I was struggling with fear.
During that same December, I spent a lot of time reflecting on 2019, so I could choose my “Word of the Year” for 2020. The winner was…Release. (Looking back, I am not sure there could be a better word!)
As I processed my word of the year, I wrote the following in my journal: “The pressure I create for myself and others is suffocating. I can create rhythms and routines, but I need to stop holding a death grip on them. I am ready to release my control and false sense of security.
I am releasing myself from impossible standards.
I am releasing pressure I put on my husband and my kids.
I am releasing anxiety and feelings of fear.
I am releasing my calendar and my time.
I am releasing the fear that I am not making the right decisions.
I am releasing myself from feeling like I need to meet every goal.
I am releasing myself from every ‘what if.’
I am releasing myself from complaining.
I am releasing myself from balancing it all.
I am releasing myself from chasing this false idol of ‘the perfect mom.'”
Finally, I remember writing this simple sentence that gave me so much freedom: “My motto for the year: The pressure is off. When I am intentional and obedient to God, I can’t go wrong.”
When March hit and schools closed, I couldn’t help but feel all the emotions every time I walked past my word posted on my bedroom wall. Day after day, I would read the word and the definition and ask myself specifically what I needed to release in that moment.
What Does It Mean to Release?
I know when we look at the year 2020, a lot of us may feel that we didn’t have a choice; COVID-19 forced us to release. Our lists of disappointments and sorrows are a mile long. We have released our calendar and time with our family and friends this year. You may have had to release more than that—potentially a loved one, a wedding, or a special celebration. We feel hurt, discouraged, and lonely. This leads us to comments like, “Can we move along from 2020 yet?” and, “2020 is the worst.”
In the middle of teaching in-person students and remote students, trust me when I say these comments have flowed out of my mouth many times. My list of losses are long, but as they pile up, I recognize that my fear and anger increase with them.
In addition, I have been so distracted from all the responsibilities that need to get done, that I haven’t truly processed all that has happened this year.
These Are Things I’ve Gained Through Release
My year-long process of engaging with this word has taught me a lesson or two, even amid an awful year. At the other end, I am grateful to know that the fight to release control is worth it because it means I am fighting for what is true and real instead of what I make up in my head.
It turns out that the more I release myself from impossible standards, the more I can fully be who God made me to be.
It turns out the more I release my people from being my security, the more they can be who God made them to be.
The more I release my fear and anxiety, the more moments I can be fully present.
The more I release my calendar and my time, the more space I have to ask God to meet me.
The more I release my overwhelming decisions to God, the more I can see Him moving.
I am convinced that the more we open our tightly closed fists and start resisting the lies, the more goodness and freedom will come.
I believe God wants to give you perspective and peace, too. Could it be that the thing to which you are holding on so tightly is the very thing you need to let go of?
What do you need to release from 2020?
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