Hello, friends. Thanks for returning to read “the end of my old story and the beginning of my new one.”
As I write this Faith-Full Friday, I’m reminded of how I’ve been feeling a lot lately:
Yes, friends, in case you’re not really sure, that is a rather large and super gross splatter of bird poo. (Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, at various times over the past two weeks, I have felt like the poo itself and/or the innocent passenger van window that happened to be the receiver of the poo).
Quite frankly, friends, my “new story” doesn’t include the beginning I had envisioned when I wrote the Monday Mayhem post, but it’s a beginning just the same.
I think that overall disgust fueled the anger, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness that filled my day after WWIII. I looked in the mirror and was disgusted by who looked back. What was wrong with that girl who certainly isn’t me?
How could I have been so hurtful to my husband? And, consequently, my children who witnessed the whole ordeal?
Friends, I was mean to David. Like I-only-live-because-my-cold-black-heart-beats-just-enough-to-not-send-me-to-my-grave kind of mean.
And the fight and disgust at myself just highlighted other issues that plague my home (the place I live with my family and the place God lives within me-my heart. You know, the cold, black one?). Issues like bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness for past, and even some more present, choices. (Remember Confession #2?).
In spite of the disgust with myself, or maybe even because of it, the blame-game ensued (though I was playing by myself), and I refused to give words of love, forgiveness, peace, mercy, grace. After all, how dare they come home and ruin my me-time (foot stomp here). I deserved that time! Stealing my time was the heart of the issue, yes? At least that’s what I had decided on day 1, post-WWIII. (It certainly wasn’t because I had chosen to do 0% of the overwhelming amount of work I needed to do).
I did soften enough to sleep in the same bed with David, but inside, the fire burned.
The next day God jumped in. (Did you notice that I hadn’t mentioned God on the previous day? It’s because I free-willingly unfriended Him for the day). Like He jumped in to save a drowning girl even though she decidedly went into deep waters without a life jacket and can’t so much as doggy paddle. Unfortunately, however, the loving conviction led to immersion in shame and condemnation. I wallowed in the grit and the murk, friends, like my dog Tucker used to wallow in dead animal yuck and come back inside smelling like death.
“How can you be so cold-hearted and proclaim Christ as your Savior?”
“Why are you so selfish?”
“How come you’re so stupid?”
“Why can’t you just keep your mouth shut?”
“There’s just too much wrong with you.”
“Give up now.”
And then some.
But then, a video. In fact, the most horrible video I have ever seen. I normally keep the media volume turned down on my phone so that I don’t have to hear every single video that shows up in my Facebook feed. I didn’t remember having recently turned up the volume to listen to a video, but when I decided to stop berating myself for a moment and opened my Facebook, a video immediately started to play, and the screams and cries of a child, no more than 3, penetrated my soul. This child’s “caregiver” physically abused her mercilessly. It has been a week, but even now, I can hardly type out the words, and I can’t give any more details than that. At the end of the maybe 2 minute video, I threw up.
Friends, this video cracked me in two. It broke me wide open. There is so much I could talk about, but once I overcame the initial shock, fury, anguish, and a whole list of other raw emotions, my takeaway was that I have to love fiercely, recklessly, wholeheartedly, profusely, graciously, mercifully. Friends, I have to be a better Christian, even and perhaps especially, to my family, because this world is life or death. If I am to represent Christ well, I have to give love, grace, mercy to others, just as God gives them to me. And they aren’t earned or even deserved. (“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” 2 Timothy 1:9, NIV). I have to love because He first loved me. (1 John 4:19, NIV).
Sigh….Do you see the previous sacrifice I had been making, friends? I was choosing to value my time, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness more than Jesus’s sacrifice that cleanses me in reckless love, grace, and mercy. So I was devaluing my Savior and refusing my blessings. And in this case, I was selfishly denying love to my family. The result? I was willfully choosing death.
So after day 2, post WWIII, life continued. Remember, I had resolved myself to be more loving, to be more Christian.
That “I have to be a better Christian” resolve lasted one whole day.
Friends, if you’ve experienced the end of a college semester as a student, you’ll at least relate to some of this. If you’ve experienced it as an instructor, we could probably be twinsies.
Roughly 130 papers. I’m an English instructor, and that’s the number of papers I graded between April 27 and May 7…while still wife-ing, mommy-ing, CR-ing, church-ing, ministry-ing, or at least try-ing to do all of those things. (As already implied, there are definitely some time management issues, but nonetheless…). And the paper grading doesn’t include the additional end-of-the-semester responsibilities. It truly is a mad dash to the finish line.
So as disappointing as it is to admit, without fail, both before my re-commitment to Christ and since, I freak out at the end of every semester (so basically I’ve been freaking out at least three times a year for close to 20 years now).
I plan, plan, plan how I’m going to be able to do. It. All. Laundry, cook, grade, email, pick up, drop off, go here, go there, grade, pray, Bible study, praise, worship, grade, email, laundry, cook, go here, go there, pray, drop off, pick up, praise, worship, Bible study….And then my plans crumble, crumble, crumble….
For example, when I started making dinner one night as originally planned, Caleb decided to take blue chalk and color on virtually every single piece of furniture (and the treadmill turned coat rack) in the playroom. [Note: He had to use chalk because his crayons, markers, colored pencils, paints, etc. privileges had already been revoked when he drew pictures on his bedroom walls. In fact, I thought I had locked up everything he could possibly draw (aka vandalize) with].
So on the Saturday after WWIII when I had planned to do some cleaning with the kids and then do some grading and was met with incessant whines overshadowing a brick wall of defiance, just something else on top of the something else that had already gone on over the course of the week, I dissolved into a puddle of hot emotions. And because I was so irate by the puddle of hot emotions (Can I not just get “it” together?), I lashed out at God.
“You’re fired,” I yelled to the ceiling. “You don’t get to run my life any-more!”
The next day I refused to go to church. BUT, the start of the day was still, surprisingly, good. That cleaning that didn’t get done on Saturday got done on Sunday. And I was cool; the pressure cooker wasn’t even on a low simmer. Yay! Peace had been restored! Everyone was cooperating! I even graded for 2 hours straight while David Lawrence watched a movie and Caleb played on his tablet next to me. Praise the Lord!
And then, after lunch, when I had planned to do another 2 hours of grading, Caleb got diarrhea, so I bathed him, but before I could put on a pull-up just in case it happened again because this could have been the start of the stomach bug that had already hit my family twice, it happened again. And in trying his little hardest to make it to the potty before it got everywhere, it got everywhere. And the tub wouldn’t drain. And David Lawrence wanted a snack while I put poopy clothes and towels and washcloths in the machine to wash. And I was sweating. And Caleb kept saying that his belly hurt. And David was at work. And umpteen thousand papers waited to be graded….
And obviously the perfect time to add to my list of things I needed to do presented itself:
I need to pray more.
I need to read my Bible more.
I need to clean more.
I need to eat better.
I need to get more rest.
I need to exercise.
I need to spend more time with my kids.
I need to spend more time with my husband.
I need to be more appreciative.
I need to be more giving.
I need to, I need to, I need to….
The reckless love? Gone. The resolve to be a better Christian? Gone. The video? Pushed aside. Yes, friends, I went right back to sacrificing life.
“God, you’re fired!”
In the moment, all I wanted was a little relief.
And then I texted a friend, “I fired God,” and the scales fell away and I could see (Saul’s Conversion, Acts 9, NIV).
How could I allow myself to be so overwhelmed that I took my eyes away from the One who could hold it all together? If I was truly surrendered to Christ, if I had truly given Him control over me, how could I then fire Him? The unmistakable answer is that I couldn’t, I can’t. Friends, the employee can’t fire the boss. I absolutely cannot fire I Am, so undeniably there is something seriously wrong here (Exodus 3:14, NIV). It begs the question, “Who is the boss of my life?”
I don’t think there’s any surprise in my saying that the boss of my life has been me, friends, and, obviously, I suck at it. I can look at my history and clearly see that I’m not the right person to be in charge of me (or anyone else actually). Those little things that add up and bring me to boiling over? Those things bring me there because I have “it” all planned out. And having it all planned out means having control over everything and everyone, including my need and ability to love more and be a better Christian.
Friends, as you know, I’ve been in recovery for a little over a year now. In that year, I have made amends with myself and God. I have worked through one of my most prominent struggles-worth. Now I feel God’s gentle push to battle that other struggle-control-because right now it is running my life and I am finding myself choosing death more than life. And I don’t ever want to lose sight of the Cross, friends, and the sacrifice, the life, it represents. (“I am the way, the truth, and the life” John 14:6, NIV).
So now I’ve added, “I need to work on my control issues” to my “Needs” list, and I’m thinking what a loser I am because it has taken me so long to “get” it? Well, that would be my trying to control again, so, nah. On the contrary, I am allowing myself to be loved, recklessly loved. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn [spiritual and emotional losses resulting from sin], for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, NIV), and although I am experiencing some mourning from the things I sacrificed because of my sin, I have crawled in the lap of my Heavenly Father and I am letting him comfort me and “ooh” and “ahh” over me. And I have stopped trying to figure it all out, to figure me all out, and I am being still and knowing… (Psalm 46:10, NIV).
Friends, sometimes He doesn’t want us to do anything except let Him love us.
He is so good. A month ago He showed me how much I am loved. He knew that I would need a little “cushion” for what He was getting ready to reveal, and for me to hang in there and not push back too hard. He knows me so well, friends.
But for now…for now I rest in His arms. My new story is just beginning, and through it all, my plan is to rest in Him.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1, NIV).
Hey, friends, remember those pictures I mentioned earlier that Caleb drew all over his walls? Take a look at this one:
That picture includes (as told to me by my precious 3 ½ year old): the 5 stones David selected before he battled Goliath; David; Goliath; Joseph; Jesus in a manger; Mary; Jesus on the Cross; and the disciples, Peter and John.
This mama might mess up bad sometimes, but she’s pointing her boys to the One who never will.
Happy Mother’s Day, friends!
Pray with me.
You are so good. Thank You for Your love that we didn’t earn and we don’t deserve. Thank You for sending Your son Jesus who sacrificed it all. I pray we rest in Your arms always, even when our journeys become difficult, even when You ask us to do things that are hard. Let us remember that we are never alone in our struggles, and that You wouldn’t ask us to do more than what You are going to see us through. May we always keep our eyes focused on You. And may we surrender it all to You, the only One who can do it all and do it all right.
In Jesus’ Name,
“See” you on Monday when Jamie continues our sacrifice series.