As you guys know, I’m a firm believer in hospitality and inviting people in. In the last year I’ve made it a priority for this blog to be a continuation of that; a place where I make room for others to share their stories. For someone else’s voice to be heard here from time to time. Today I’m honored to be sharing my space with Janna Reid.
Janna is a soul sister. A lifer. The kind of friend that you treasure and keep when you find them, because Lord knows they are rare. She is a light and a truth-teller, and her words are never wasted. Here is her story.
I have a problem with productivity. It’s my dragon. No big deal, except, big deal. These days dragons are fierce, bullying creatures that come in all shapes and sizes. Chances are, you have some of your own and you may even be, unbeknownst to your conscious wanderings, feeding them scraps from Life’s table.
You, undoubtedly, are fighting some species of Dragon and are either so exhausted from it or conditioned to it that the uphill battle feels normal. Let me explain.
You could perhaps be feeding (or fighting) the Dragon of Anxiety. It’s a small, but relentless dragon that sits on the shoulder and engages itself in everything that you are looking at or thinking about. Anxiety rarely sleeps, but is always pestering and breathing fire on the smallest of situations. It feeds on the tiniest fears and lies, taking in every little, “what if” and building it up to certain doom. Not needing much food to grow, yet always hungry, Anxiety creates a ghostly host and if not fought off immediately, will continue to consume and constrict.
The Dragon of Discontent is a breeding beast. It feeds on attention and it doesn’t require much of yours before it will breed a whole brood of Baby Discontents to run rampant. It really doesn’t need much of your energy, attention, and care to grow. At first.
You may soon grow so accustomed to this beast that it becomes normal to go out of your way to feed and care for your Discontents, and any other Discontents of your friends and family along the way. Discontent runs in herd, and the mob mentality is strong in this particular breed of dragon.
Maybe you are feeding or fighting a dragon that preys on groups of women- The Dragon of Comparison. She is one ugly and persistent beast. She picks and pecks at the victims’ dreams, obscuring their vision. The weight of Comparison causes the victims to stumble along their way, only seeing a bit of their own unkempt and dirty path, but allowing the view of other lush and green paths to be clearly seen and desired. The Dragon of Comparison spits out fire of insecurity and ineffectiveness. But the worst part of Comparison is the aftermath.
Indeed, where fires of pride sizzle out and almost extinguish, there is possibility for growth and true healing! On the scarred soil of our story we could build together on these hallowed grounds of battle; we could create a beautiful landscape of vulnerabilty with genuine communication and community. When our hearts and stories are at a broken place, we could rebuild on a shared strong foundation.
But alas, The Dragon of Comparison is swift. She swoops down and leaves her victims in a fog of smoldering, smoky jealousy. Where we could have championed each other and united in our shared landscape of trial, questioning, and eventual healing, Comparison leaves behind her a smokey haze that quickly and thoroughly envelopes her victims, turning Hope and Appreciation into Covetousness.
And then there is Productivity. The Dragon of Productivity parades around as a civil beast. She stands upright, chest out and shoulders back. She’s dressed in business attire, ironed and pressed and ready to close deals. Productivity walks the narrow line and is respected by the masses because she runs a tight ship. Descending from a long line of ancient Dragon Deceivers, she is cousin to Busyness, a niece to Broken Dreams, and the mother of Striving.
And so, my own personal dragon, Productivity, waits, stalking me all day and night. I have the choice to feed her and watch her menacingly grow, or fight her and keep her jaw from snapping away at my story.
Enter, my world. The six-year-old son, the five-year-old son, the three-year-old daughter, and the driven, business-owning husband. The sports practices, the breakfasts, the lunches, the snacks, the dinners. The laundry, the picking up, the dishes. The squabbling. The crowd control.
The teaching. Of kindness, of respect, of forgiveness, of giving, of helping, of loving always. The struggle is real. To be consistent, to be present, to be aware. To be awake. To be purposeful.
Do I feed the dragons or do I fight them?
Because of this real fight with the Dragon of Productivity, and because God made me a doer instead of a watcher, I’m drawn to verses in the bible that comfort and challenge me to rest. This “rest” thing (air quotes intentional because of the elusiveness and fairy-tale feeling that accompany rest) goes against my very nature.
Following Christ is often a very upside-down feeling; thus, I need this verse:
“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
Rest, yes please.
Quietness, I’ll take two.
Confidence, yep, need that.
Strength, every minute, yes please.
But then I got to kicking around Isaiah 30 as a whole chapter, figuring out the whole story, and I found a beautifully heartbreaking narrative-like conversation that Israel had with God- that I have with God. That you may have too.
This is us, feeding our dragons and this is God, fighting our dragons:
God: Oh my children, you are rebellious. You look EVERYWHERE else for help security but Me, your Creator and Lover.
Us: We don’t believe you. It’s too hard. You are risky, and I want safe.
God: Because of your attitude and lack of trust, you will be broken into pieces. But if you want real rest, you can return to Me.
Us: No. I like living on the edge and running with wild things.
God: You are choosing to live in fear then; but nonetheless, I will wait because I long to spend my mercy on you and cherish you. I anticipate spending time with you.
Us: (Time passes, trials happen, let-down after let-down occur; what we thought would bring happiness instead brings disappointment. We ugly cry and weep and get broken and in turn break others around us.)
God: I am Grace. I am The Answer. I will give you trials and hard things, but I will also give you people to help you through and to share this life with you. You will not be alone. I will open your eyes so you can see and hear the Truth from everything around you. I will even speak the Truth to you as you step forward and walk through the trials.
Us: I want you. I am destroying the things that I used to trust in. I will slay the Dragons, those things that I hold onto and trust in and run to that don’t have any true meaning, that cause me to stay stagnant and still my faith, that are fake and surface-level and glitter but are not real gold. How did I trust in those filthy, bloodied rags? I will fight my dragons because I want to hear You. Because I am loved and known by You.
God: Bring on the refreshing and life-giving rain! All those hard things that you did and do for the good of my people, all the love that you pour out onto the grounds of your life, I will water and make it grow so you can feast and have plenty and be satisfied in Me. I will be your blessing. I will bring My Truth and it will be like fire and destruction and punishment to some as I destroy and scatter and utterly devour the Dragons that plunder my people; but you, in response to my power and word, will sing! You will hold a song in your heart to sing through the darkest night and your heart will be longing more yet completely satisfied with Me, the Mighty One. You will belt it out when the darkness closes in, when the Day of Great Slaughter occurs, you will sing out confidently because you know Me, the God Who Is With Us.
Friends. Stop feeding the dragons. Rest. Let God fight them.
Janna E. Reid is crazy, or at least that is what everyone calls her when they find out she willingly teaches middle school English. She enjoys being surrounded by the things she loves- her books, her three little people, her wildly practical husband, music of all kinds, and God’s great Creations (nature and teenagers).