Letting Go of My Expectations, But Not of God

A pastor friend prayed for me a few weeks ago, reminding me of what Jacob said when he wrestled with God: “I’m not letting go until you bless me.”

I’ve cradled those words, sensing their meaningfulness but wondering if God would apply them more.

He did.

I’m not letting go of God while I do let go of something else.

I’m letting go of some of the expectations I’ve had of myself as an employee and a mother.

At a different season of life, I’ve been here before.

As a Ph.D. candidate working on my dissertation, I married my husband while teaching full-time in the academy. Before marriage, I had graded assignments most evenings of the week, but I found myself hard-pressed to do so as a married woman. I also knew my biological clock was ticking if we wanted to have children.

Within a few months of the wedding, it felt as if my skin split at the seams and my insides crawled underneath my desk to hide. My expectations of myself overreached what I was capable of as a wife, student, and employee. Anxiety snaked around me and swallowed me whole.

I took medicine for panic attacks, retreating to my car for twenty-minute breaks during the day so that I could breathe easily. Crowds became suffocating, and I dreaded church.

The behavior with the most symbolic weight occurred when the work day was done. After I turned off the ignition of my car, I sat for twenty minutes, staring blankly at the garage door before I dragged myself into the house. I had just been “on” all day—must I be “on” for my newlywed husband?

He became scared for me.

Healing did happen. I left my job. I got more medicine, more therapy. More time just to be. I started teaching part-time, but I lessened my prep and grading load. I got pregnant. I had babies, and I loved them and the adjunct work, but as my kids got older, I knew I was ready for more.

And here I am.

In it: a job where I encounter students on the edge of adulthood and faculty and staff who are dedicated and passionate. A family with a husband sharing a sensitive heart and two kids whose curiosity keeps me curious.

But I’ve got a job in an industry in disruption, and the disruption won’t be over anytime soon.

I’ve got a kid with a lot of challenges, and we’re with her for the long haul.

It’s all more than enough. And again I have more than enough to do.

So,

I’m telling God: “I’m not letting go until you bless me. Help me to permit myself to work or parent even when it feels—or is—mediocre.”

He’ll have to cover my work with His grace. And cover our parenting with His grace.

I’ll take peace in moments. I sit inside my car for a minute, and I admire the branches of the tree before me. Their leaves shake in the wind like confetti being tossed. I tell God “Thank you. I’m not letting go of you, but I am of so much else.” And then I go into the house.

Heather Walker Peterson

Along with being a mother to two young and remarkably different daughters, Heather Walker Peterson is a member of Redbud Writers Guild and Chair of the Department of English and Literature at University of Northwestern-Saint Paul.
Heather Walker Peterson

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