“Never underestimate the value of a good pro’s and con’s list.”
I said this to my nephew only a few days ago. He was weighing the benefits and drawbacks of a job offer at a new company against the familiar rhythms of his current job. “Make a written list,” I told him. “Write down the pros and cons of each company and job. Getting them out of your head and onto the page will free your brain up to consider the possibilities, instead of trying to keep them all straight,” I said, pointing to his head. He promised to make a list in the morning.
A few days earlier, I was in an EMDR therapy session talking about my own pro’s and con’s list. Actually, lists would be more accurate, because I had several. I had pro and con lists about whether I should leave my job, relocate to another state, and whether to accept a job offer I had received.
But this time, the release that came with getting it all down on paper had been short-lived. Instead of decluttering my brain, the multitude of options lining those pages were short-circuiting it. To say yes to the job offer, was saying yes to them all and every positive and negative outcome that came along with them. It was a lot to consider. It could be a welcome change, but change, especially of this magnitude, can be scary and is rarely ever easy.
Knowing my love for Jesus, my therapist asked me to imagine giving my list to God. I was all for it. I figured it might be a way to remove some of the pressure I had been putting on myself. So, as I watched my therapist’s index and middle fingers swing from one side of the screen to the other, I imagined giving God my lists.
With a blank expanse as the background, I imagined a large hand extended in my direction. The palm was open before me like a blossoming flower. This big hand with its firm and well-formed flesh looked strong enough to lie in, but I didn’t. Instead, I walked over and lifted the little notebook containing my lists as the hand reached forward to receive it.
At first, I imagined the hand immediately ripping the notebook to shreds. But when I reflected on what my relationship with God had shown me about God’s character so far, I knew that it wouldn’t go down that way. So, like an artist crumpling and tossing an imperfect work, I started the exchange over in my mind.
The hand embraced my little notebook with a care that I hadn’t noticed in the last scene; its fingers gently closing around the book as though it were fragile. And with that same gentle care, the hand put the notebook aside and returned its wide and empty palm before me, beckoning my own. In the next moment, I was holding God’s hand. That scene is where my mind stayed until that EMDR round ended.
Even though this had all been in my imagination, I knew that something was happening. Even though a single word hadn’t been spoken, in every action, from my hand to God’s, an exchange was taking place. I was remembering a promise that had been made.
In offering God my lists, I was asking God to take the burden of needing to make the “right” choice off of my shoulders. In laying that notebook in that outstretched palm, I was handing over control of every outcome, both positive and negative, and asking God to give me discernment and rest.
Those lists were my concerns – the questions and worries hiding in my heart and overloading my brain. Their gentle handling in God’s hands reminded me of what I already knew but had momentarily forgotten – that my concerns matter to God. God takes me and everything in my life seriously because that’s what love does.
The hand that reached out to receive and embrace my own reminded me of another point that, lost in my anxious thoughts, I had forgotten – that I’m not in this alone. God is with me, choosing to walk through whatever comes, right by my side.
And it wouldn’t be the first time.
I was remembering that I could trust God.
I was remembering that I could let go.