Tomorrow, I’ll be hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Today, I’m ticking off the mile markers slogging through Iowa and Nebraska. No offense to the people who call these states home. Where would we be without farm rich regions whose crops are now shriveled up stalks mostly plowed over by their caretakers, the soil prepared for a winter rest.
The Baby, she’s munching on Goldfish crackers, nursing a tummy ache and periodically wondering aloud how I talked her into this. I’m almost always to blame for our family adventures. It’s my Enneagram 7 wing.
As one field after another whizzes past my passenger window, I’m praying for my people in the downtime. Thanking God for all of His fresh mercies and telling Him my laundry list of concerns. I’m threat forecasting with Him like a true Enneagram 6. Imagining all kinds of possible calamities and struggles that warrant His special attention and asking Him to do what He always does, hold my people in His arms, close to His heart.
I’m trying to discipline my mind to practice a life principle my friend Matt keeps reminding us of most Sundays. On the big screen, the visual of 2 concentric circles shows the inner one representing our Circle of Influence and the outer one our Circle of Concern. He assigns us to personalize the circles. Make a list of what we’re concerned about and what we can actually influence. Then, he challenges us to channel our energy, focus and resources on the stuff God’s actually given us the opportunity to impact.
It’s easy-peasy for me to transfer this principle to politics. I pray for our world, our nation, our leaders and I voted a couple of weeks ago because I consider it an act of responsible citizenship, though I approached the booth with relative detach. I know I have a vote but it’s just 1 vote and in the larger scheme of things, my 1 vote has very little sway on the results of an election. I simply can’t mold political outcomes according to my values so I don’t spend much time spinning my wheels in the bureaucratic grind anymore.
When it comes to people and relationships– real, live, personal dynamics, that’s where I wrestle with ordering my Circle of Concern and my Circle of Influence most.
I have a kid who currently lives 4875 miles away from me on another continent. I’ll be honest. She is my first thought every morning as I wake up. I speculate about what she’s doing. I check to see if a text message arrived in the night. I wonder if she’s eaten anything. If she’s safe. If she’s warm. And I start to pray, taking all my concerns to Jesus who knows exactly what her condition is at any given moment. It’s a beautiful rhythm we share, my Father and I. Somehow my thoughts get translated into prayers that only God understands.
Ideally, the word “Amen” re-focuses my attention to my husband and 3 daughters, the ones who share my roof. To start, they need clean socks and underwear. And after that, there’s chauffering and tutoring, organizing and cleaning, cooking and dishes, talking and listening, instructing and encouraging. Add to it my nieces, a handful of kindred spirits, my church fam, my very own small group of Little Women that I drink sparkling grape juice with every Wednesday night, my international buddies, my kid’s friends and a plus one too. Then there are all of those divine appointments with people and in places that only God could have scheduled. This is the stuff of my daily life. This is my circle of influence. And this is where I am learning to invest larger chunks of my physical, emotional and spiritual vigor. If I’m going to feel concerned, worried even, and let’s be honest, I am, then best to channel that energy where I can actually have impact.
And so I am increasingly embracing the day at hand, and the people God’s put in it. For the next few days, that’s primarily my Little. As she and I enjoy the jaw dropping beauty of mountain vistas, I will practice disciplining myself not to be distracted or interrupted by worry about all manner of catastrophe in the lives of my people back home and the one on the other side of the world because I can’t impact those scenarios.
I can’t protect.
I can’t help.
I can’t rescue.
And so, instead, I will tie up the laces on my hiking boots, grab my poles and drive to the trailheads where I’ll walk and talk with my Baby as we climb. Then we’ll drink gourmet hot chocolate at local coffee shops, seizing the day together, each with the one who God’s put in our circle of influence. And on this pre-Thanksgiving weekend, we’ll practice gratitude for His mercies, fresh and new, abundant for today. Generous for this year. And lavish over a whole lifetime.