The Dangerous Task of Getting it Right
by Lindsey Brackett
Currently (because clearly I don’t have enough to do already) I am directing a stage adaptation of the Mitford series by Jan Karon. The play condenses the first several books into a walk through Father Tim Kavanaugh’s life. The beloved Episcopalian parish priest settles small-town affairs, falls in love, and struggles with matters of faith.
Though I was vaguely familiar with the stories when the community theater asked if I would direct the show, I didn’t pick up the original book and immerse myself in the quaint quirkiness of Mitford, North Carolina until recently. Within the pages of At Home in Mitford I found a story about living out everyday, true faithfulness—to God, to people, to ourselves.
And I began to really listen to the lines of dialogue being spoken out over a paint-splattered stage in a tiny community theater in a small community that’s been my safe place. Where I was comfortable and building something and becoming someone. A place I felt God had called us to be and settled our hearts.
A community whose zip code we traded recently for a bigger house and more property across the county line.
In Mitford, Father Tim knows he’s doing the Lord’s work, and he doesn’t expect God to call him out to something else.
Except, as the stories progress, that’s exactly what God does.
Father Tim: I’m trying to get it right, Cynthia. I can’t stop now.
Cynthia: But you have got it right. Timothy, listen to me…God spoke to my heart. He let me know that trying to get it right is a dangerous thing, and He does not like it. Your future belongs to God, not to you. Unlock your gate. This thing about our future must go totally out of our hands. We cannot hold onto it for another moment.
Trying to get it right is a dangerous thing.
And I’m always trying to get it right. I don’t say no. I over commit. I reach out and over and stretch until I break because I have to get this writing, this parenting, this house, this life so perfectly right.
Your future belongs to God, not to you.
And then without really thinking through all the little ripples of ramification, I let God set my family down in a place where I am hopelessly failing at getting it right.
Our new house is some kind of clash between what we’ve always had and what we’ve always wanted and what was here when we arrived.
And I just want it to be right. I want everything, exactly perfect, and I want it done yesterday. I want that neon light confirmation that a new community will open its arms, a new neighborhood will find us delightful, a new group will take in my kids.
I question how God could have picked a future for us that isn’t the safe, comfortable place we’ve always been. And how I could have let Him.
When I think back on the tears and the debates and the lists we made trying to make this decision—trying so hard to get it right—what I remember is the night I threw up my hands and told my husband I was out. I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t walk blindly down a path that didn’t have an end I could see.
And he reminded me that yes, we could. That all our plans and hopes and dreams never really belonged to us anyway. Those are gifts from God and He will get it right if we stop trying and step through the gate and let Him work.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve only stepped back with one foot right now. I’m still struggling with the need to prove nothing we’ve done was a mistake, with the need to make our life seem right for everyone else.
When it only needs to be right for One.
My hands are shaking on that gate, y’all. And pushing through may take a little more time, but I know, I believe, that on the other side is a glorious abandonment in the center of God’s will.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 11-13