Oh The Places You’ll Go With Him

Oh the places you'll go

That’s what Dr. Seuss promises in my favorite children’s book, Oh the Places You’ll Go.  Actually, despite Seuss being renowned as one of the most worshipped literary kings of all time, I could never fully appreciate his writing style as a kid.  I must have been too serious for my own good because I found his books to be a little silly, too rhyme’y and the pictures somewhat bland.  Obviously, I was either too unsophisticated to know any better or too critical (or both) because I mean, he’s Dr. Seuss after all… the man has a nationally dedicated week during the month of March named after him, for goodness sake, and educators and child development gurus sing his praises worldwide!

It wasn’t until I inadvertently happened upon this Seuss excerpt as a young adult that I had an ‘aha’ moment about the intellectual superpowers of this author.  I suddenly realized he had untapped the secret formula for a self-fulfilling life in this one liner!

You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, You can steer yourself in whatever direction you choose.

And these simple words seemed so uplifting, so encouraging, so ‘Just Do It’ like the Nike slogan of the late 80’s, so self-directed, so ‘reach for the stars’ like everything is within arms’ reach and ours for the taking; that if we are just brave enough to take the leap that we will soar.  Yes, Dr. Seuss’ message in this line is that our cup is not just half full but it overfloweth with all the world’s possibilities, and that all we need to do is use our internal compass to reach whatever destination we choose.

And there’s so many other quirky, upbeat one-liners and poetic insights that Seuss, the eternal motivator and cheerleader, weaves throughout the book encouraging his readers to discover their potential and live life to its fullest.  Yet, as I dived a little deeper into the story over the years, the greater, more impactful lesson I learned was somewhat surprising and came across as a little less than optimistic.   What I discovered through deep literary analysis (actually, I just accidentally realized it when I read the story with my son the other night) is from this next excerpt which is a lot less glorious-sounding (in fact, some might call it downright depressing) than the opening Seuss excerpt of this blog post.  But it really speaks to me about the opportunity for spiritual dependence during transitional times in our lives.  It’s a stanza that talks about the “Waiting Place” which Seuss describes as a useless space in our life’s journey:

“You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across wierdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.”

Now, I know this sounds like a pretty dreary, exhausting, confusing, lazy place to be but (STAY WITH ME NOW because I know this article is getting long already!) there’s some redemption that lies within this message.  ‘Waiting around’ does not typically convey images of productivity, nor promise good fortune or the fruits of our labor.  Waiting is just kinda ‘blah’ at best and in fact, really annoying for us Type-A personalities. For us ‘A’ folks that have people to see and places to go, waiting is not a good thing. It is extremely uncomfortable.  For those of us that are control freaks, waiting feels like Seuss describes— wierdish, confusing, break-necking and pretty darn useless at times.

But what does waiting look like ? It often looks and feels like life transitions.  We are not ‘back there’ and not quite ‘over there’ or maybe not ‘over the hump’ yet; or maybe we are miles in between where we are right now and where we want to be on a personal, professional, educational, spiritual, financial, etc. level.  Or maybe, in terms of decision making, we don’t know what to do OR rather, we do know what to do but are scared of taking action or worse, of failure.  For me, transition meant spending this past year exploring different job opportunities.  I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for 7+ years with my four children and now, after several months of soul-searching, applying and interviewing for different jobs, I am (finally) in the process of accepting an offer!  For months as I painstakingly tweaked my resume, searched job sites, made networking calls, and schooled myself on current industry practices to make myself more marketable, I thought… I’m a pretty competetive candidate so why am I getting passed up for these jobs that seem so well-matched for me?  My experience and skill set meet the qualifications, I’m getting some call-backs and initial interviews but yet nobody wants me badly enough to hire me. So frustrating, so hard.  And then doubt set in… Maybe it’s not really meant to be to re-enter the job market right now?  Maybe having a consistent schedule will upset my family life far more than benefit it?  Am I really ready to bring this other ‘ball’ called a job into my juggling act when life of circus-sized proportions keeps me so busy already?  I found myself sometimes wallowing in the What Ifs but mostly, praying with ‘expectation’ upon the Lord.

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice. 
In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
(Psalm 5:3 NIV)

Expectation doesn’t mean that we should expect that the Lord is going to give us exactly what we think we need/want.  For me, it means praying with fervor, it means asking Him to help me sift through my requests and decisions that I need to make.  It doesn’t mean to pray with a demanding heart.  It means to wait and remember that His answer may be ‘not now’, or ‘I have something different in mind for you’. It means to pray with my whole heart and not out of rote, or what the dictionary defines as mechanical or habitual repetition of something to be learned, and to be open to what God has in store for me. How many times have I been waiting in other transitional places but instead with a more ‘gimme what I want’ mindset?  And when I didn’t get that very particular outcome that I wanted, I became disheartened and a bit disillusioned with the whole God thing. Not a good feeling.

What does transition look like for you right now?  Is it…Waiting for answers to health-related issues, healing, or recovery?  Transitioning from college student to working professional? Waiting for a relationship to take root or move to the next level?  Waiting to get pregnant (again or for the first time)?  Transitioning from your individual ‘self’ to your ‘married self’ or your ‘mommy self’ and worrying about what piece of your identity you are losing in the process? Waiting to get recognized for that next promotional opportunity? Transitioning from stay-at-home to working mom? Waiting for your house to sell or find your dream home? Waiting to be reunited with loved ones?

When we find ourselves in these circumstances, we often find ourselves a little lost, maybe depressed, maybe wrestling with doubt, anxiety, indecision, or financial stress brought about by all this waiting business or worse, taking it out on those we love.  I’ve been there, big time, and the pressures have made me feel so ‘stuck’, almost to the point of indecision, and its taken the toll on my relationships. Yet, it’s also in this uncomfortable space where I often find a quiet moment to recognize my inadequacy over the current situation, move away from self-reliance and that ‘gimme’ mindset and INSTEAD rely on someONE greater than myself to get me through to the other side.

I find greater peace when I remind myself that the things I can find/do/practice myself like positive self-talk, my yoga mat, Pinterest motivational quotes and the top trending lifestyle and wellness strategies (all of which I appreciate, by the way, so I’m not discounting their value) are not enough and when I turn to our Great Provider and ask for His Will to be known, the waiting place is just so much more bearable!  It takes such a burden off my shoulders to do it all and be everything to myself and others!  My hope is that you, too, find this so freeing. I’m still so thankful for the brainy brain in my head and the pedicured feet in my shoes and I am going to work and use them to handle my business (because God does not expect us to sit idly by and just assume sh*! will get done!), but I’m so grateful that I can ask the Lord to guide me through my waiting places and everyday decisions, both weighty and burdensome, or seemingly insignificant and trivial.  We can rest in the promise of Proverbs 19:21:

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

We can also take comfort in knowing we are not alone and just like Seuss tells us, ‘Everyone is just waiting’… when you think that everyone else has it so together, is always moving right along through their 5 year plan, crossing off all those bucket list items along the way, remember that these same people who seem so ‘with it’, so upwardly mobile and productive, share this same waiting space with us. Even though their circumstances may be very different, this waiting place sometimes surrounds and overwhelms all of us. BUT (ARE YOU STILL WITH ME BECAUSE I KNOW THIS ARTICLE IS LONG!), like in the great words of Disney’s High School Musical (kinda like the Seussical musical of the early 2000’s), “we’re all in this together”! We really are! Find support in like-minded community with others who are going through similar transitions whether that be moms’ groups, divorce groups, career networks if you are looking for a new job (like I was), prayer groups (because either someone desperately needs you to pray for them or you need someone to fold their hands in prayer for you)… the possibilities are endless depending upon your particular needs! 

It won’t always feel like we can steer ourselves in whatever direction we choose like the beginning of Oh the Places You’ll Go.  But rest assured, as you wait upon the Lord during transitional times, the Holy Spirit will cover you in peace and you will come out victorious!  God promises us that in Isaiah 40:31:

 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not be faint.

In this verse, God promises that the end result of waiting upon Him is renewal, strength, and action—a call to take flight and run!  How invigorating and celebratory is that!  Even Seuss hints of this good news (at least that’s how I interpret it) in this third and final book excerpt I’ll share with you:

“No!  That’s not for you! Somehow You’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.  With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!  Ready for anything under the sky.”

Bright places… now that’s what I’m talking about! Coming out on the other side where things are even better than you would have ever dreamed! Seuss, you have no idea how much this excerpt makes the Type-A personality in me breathe a great big sigh of relief!  You really do deserve a month dedicated to you after all, even though your characters still seem a bit too maniacal and overdramatic at times and the spazzy, destructive, messy, and ill-tempered Thing 1 and Thing 2, well… they just bug (just like our tantrum throwing children when they are at their worst, let’s just call a spade a spade here).

Whew! Transition is just that, right?  A temporary and in-between space that, while uneasy and seemingly never-ending, is so much more comforting knowing that the Lord is seeing us through.  He IS there and He is our compass!  Instead of ‘Just Do It’, just call upon His name.  He hears the worries and desires of your heart and he will lift you up on wings like eagles and take you to so many bright, beautiful destinations if you ask Him.  Oh the places you’ll go with Him!