God’s ear

If every act of violence—every single one—

boomed like heavy bass,

or screeched like nails on a chalkboard,

would it be less common?

But what if it IS loud—

and we’ve just grown hard of hearing it?

What if we’ve turned down the volume

till urban killings, wars in far-off nations, child abuse,

slavery, the rape of girls in other places

is merely white noise, background buzz?

Has God, too? Has He grown deaf

or simply unplugged the speakers of our pain?

Wouldn’t you—if that’s all you heard from this broken world?

Remember the crucifixion?

What a soundtrack that had!

Moaning, wailing, cries of pain and terror, sobs of grief,

shouts of anger and hatred, too.

The clamorous theme of our broken humanity.

Darkness covered it—could God not bear to watch?—

But He didn’t cover His ears!

No, He added to the noise.

Not with a whimper or a whisper—

with a loud cry!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The shout of the Son Incarnate,

victim of intentional violence,

carrier as well of the entire burden of the image-bearers

who’d spurned the image and lived the loss.

The Father heard,

listened,

responded—

with gusting winds,

rumbling skies,

a shaking earth,

and then, a final, awesome noise:

the tearing of a thick, dividing curtain.

Top to bottom, it split

With a rip that shook the universe,

Opening the way for us

to whisper our pain

Directly into God’s ear.

*I always feel like I must add a disclaimer when I attempt poetry. I’m not a poet! There are lines in here I like, but the whole lacks something (the problem with not being a poet is that you don’t know what’s lacking!). So, if there are any poets out there who read this and think, “I know what I would do!”, PLEASE feel free to tinker with it. I would love to post an updated, collaborative version.

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Working through poopy

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Em’s lettering–and Em’s photography (I think she’s amazing!)

My friend B calls it “working through poopy.” I think it’s a very accurate description. I worked through a little bit of my own poopy this morning: some jealousy, the desire to be noticed more/sought out more, some self-pity and fear and insecurity…

I’ll stop there.

After I spilled it all out in my journal, I felt better: ready to pray, ready to confess, ready to be grateful for the oh-so-much that has been gifted to me.

But God had one more step, one more gift.

I got up from the bench in the park where I’d been writing (so Chai [dog] could be outside) and noticed another woman entering the gate. She, too, had a dog. We exchanged pet names and then our own. In the chitchat that followed, we discovered we are both writers and the chitchat became conversation, with the shared language that comes with a shared vocation and shared concerns/frustrations/struggles/fears.

It was time for both of us to go, and as I walked toward the gate, I remembered, again, that we all—not just my fellow writer and I—are working through poopy. We’re all wondering about our purpose. We all want to be seen/known. We all struggle with identity. We all have very deep fears.

The second half of the St. Francis* prayer came to mind (another gift, that St. Francis!): Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

 

*Technically this poem is “attributed to St. Francis.” Here is the full text (also seen in the picture above):

“Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Looking for the image

pilsen-mural

When my niece Anna visited, we spent an afternoon hunting murals. This is a mural in progress in Pilsen.

Before we moved, we held one last yard sale in an effort to avoid extra drop-offs at the thrift store. People asked, naturally, “Where are you moving?” Our response—inner city—garnered a lot of head shaking, puzzled looks, raised eyebrows. A couple people even offered gloomy predictions. “You’ll miss this,” they said, gesturing at the trees and yard. “You’ll get tired of the noise and the people and the dirt.”

I nodded. I was sure they were right. I’m sure now they’re right. I will certainly miss, deep in my soul, the waving trees and open spaces and wooded trails that were a great part of my life in our old town.

But I’ve asked, since even before we moved, that God would open my eyes to see loveliness right here in our new neighborhood. I’ve asked him to gift my eyes to look beyond the trash and poverty and sorrow and see elements of beauty.

He’s answering this prayer, but not in the way I expected. Yes, I do notice the old, turn-of-last-century architecture in our neighborhood—somehow-still-complete stained glass, gorgeous old stonework, intricately carved wooden doors—and the neighborhood gardens and the creativity of things like truck-tires-turned-flower-planters and murals brightening abandoned buildings.

But I’ve been most surprised by the beauty I’m noticing in God’s masterpieces, His people, these fellow bearers of His image. I’m seeing more than the destitution of those who hang out all day at the closest L station—I’m seeing the ways they cram close under the bus shelter when it rains, waving their arms at those outside to join them. I’m taking joy in the older men playing chess at dusk at the edge of the park, just under the rumbling L train, their heads bent low in concentration. I get a thrill of excitement at every baby I see, with face fresh and innocent, at every little girl with her hair fixed just-so, at every daddy proudly walking his kids to school. I’m looking for potential and not threat in the groups of young men sitting on doorsteps or walking, strong and sure, down the streets. I’m noticing the city worker riding on the back of the trash truck, dancing in plain sight of everyone to the music coming through his headphones. I’m thankful for the watchful eye and gentle wisdom of the neighbor who’s lived in the house across the street nearly his entire life. I love that on the same street corner on a Sunday morning I saw a man dressed for church—cane, hat, polished shoes, vest, and tie! so sharp!—and an older woman dressed in cheetah pajamas, hood with cat ears pulled up around her face. They seemed comfortable in each other’s presence. I’m noticing the woman, sitting on the seat of her push walker, earnestly carrying on a conversation with the air in front of her, and rather than feeling discomfort, I’m wondering if maybe she isn’t talking with God, maybe she “sees” more than I do.

Will I miss my regular romps through the woods? Absolutely. That forest spoke to me of the beauty and grandeur and glory of God. I saw God in it. But it’s not God’s greatest handiwork.

We humans are. No matter what brokenness we carry—be it obvious or more subtle (even socially acceptable—like greed)— we are still his intricate, beloved creations who carry the image of God!

And that’s not limited to only the “beautiful ones” among us, nor to the saintly, the brilliant or the gifted. You, me, the lady in cheetah pajamas, those who hang out at the L station all day/every day, the alcoholic who regularly sleeps it off in the alley behind our house…

Made in the image of God.

I’m looking for that.

Father Heart

This past spring, when we felt certain the Lord was moving us into Chicago, one of our first steps was to explore school options for our kids. The search for the younger three didn’t last too long. We visited two schools; one of them felt like a good fit to both them and us; and that decision was confirmed when we attended their back-to-school night this past week. Yes, they will face the difficulties of making new friends and learning new systems, but we know already they will be in a nurturing environment, one in which they already feel comfortable.

This, however, has not been the scenario for our oldest child, Emily. Our first choice fell through. Then she found a magnet school she really wanted to attend. She made it past the first round of selections, but not the second. That was heartbreaking and sudden and late. We scrambled and discovered a charter school option. It wasn’t close; it didn’t have some of the classes she wanted, but we thought it would do. So she started classes there, but we found, after a week of trying to make it work, it simply was too far away.

So late Thursday night, Dave and I discussed, again, her schooling choices. We weighed pros and cons and talked through different scenarios, and then, with exhaustion sucking us into sleep, we prayed a plea of confused desperation.

The next morning I woke before the alarm. As I lay there, quiet, I received an insight into my daughter. I got a glimpse into why the less obvious, more complicated schooling choice might be the very best thing for her.

I looked over at Dave and saw he was also awake. I shared with him the insight I’d received. He nodded and told me what he’d woken up thinking about. The two insights meshed; they fit together; they formed something that was enough of an answer for us to move forward with peace.

But even greater than the answer was this: the Spirit’s whispered insights were not just a reminder of God’s great wisdom, they were even more a reminder of God’s Father heart for our girl, for our family.

In that moment of shared insights I got a glimpse of God’s great, beating heart for my girl, who is, even more and always, HIS girl. He knows her, inside and out, through and through, better than I know her, better than her dad knows her, better than she knows herself.

And He loves her.

He loves her oh so well, so tenderly, so knowledgably.

And that understanding is the best answer of all.

 

Post script: When I opened up the Daily Office on my phone later on Friday morning—just after what I described above—I discovered the day’s hymn was “Day by Day,” one I remembered from my childhood. It was like a loving letter written just for us, but I suspect, in God’s incredible way of loving all his people, together yet so uniquely, it’s for many of us, so I’m sharing the words below.

 

“Day by Day” by Karolina Sandell-Berg

Day by day, and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,

I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,

Gives unto each day what He deems best,

Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,

With a special mercy for each hour;

All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,

He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.

The protection of His child and treasure

Is a charge that on Himself he laid;

“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,”

This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,

So to trust Thy promised, O Lord,

That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,

Offered me within Thy holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,

E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,

One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,

Till I reach the promised land.

Moving grief–and greed

I wrote this piece a week or so before we closed on our house, but Dave (husband) told me I couldn’t post it till after we were completely out of the house! 🙂 Seriously, though, despite my awful thoughts during the selling process (which you’ll read about later in this post), we do hope and pray the very best for the new owners of our old home. 

I wouldn’t normally consider greed as one of my besetting sins.

But when we decide to move, and we begin the process of selling our home…

the green-eyed nasty comes out.

I get insulted by offers that are lower than the asking price; I want to quibble (I don’t actually do it, but the impulse is there) over the inspection results; I begin to think of the homebuyers as “those people.”

Case in point: Two weeks ago, when we got an offer on the house—and it was a good one and such an answer to prayer—my first response was greedy.

Dave, very excited, got off the phone with our realtor and turned to me. “We’ve got an offer!”

He was ready to rejoice, but I wanted to know the amount. He told me.

My first words?

“That low?”

Dave wasn’t even mildly surprised. He laughed and called me out. “You get so greedy when we sell a house.”

Yes, I do.

And even though I try to fight it, it’s a constant all through the process. When the home inspection report from the city comes back, I say things like, “Shouldn’t the inspection report from when we bought the house have revealed this?” (What I’m leaving unsaid are these words: “…so the previous homeowners could have paid for the repair?”) When, during this current home-selling process, we got the request from the owners to provide two working garage door remotes, I said, only partly joking (I’m embarrassed to even admit this), “Someone told me that if an automatic garage door opener isn’t on the house listing, you can just unplug it and say it’s a manual.” Dave just stared at me after that one.

Every time this greed rises up like bile in my mind or actually vomits out my mouth, I’m appalled, and I try to figure out where it’s coming from (as if it simply can’t be a part of ME!); I pray about it; I try to talk myself out of it; I remind myself how really awful it is. After all, in this current sale, our home was on the market only two weeks—incredible!; the offer was good to begin with; when our realtor countered, the homebuyers accepted it; and their “fix-it” requests have been minimal. Knowing all this, I ask myself, “Jen, what is wrong with you?”

About a week after we sold our house, I was reading the novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (fantastic book, by the way) and I came to a line that was so good, so applicable, it made me stop and put the book down. The narrator of the book, John Ames, a pastor, is reflecting on the long, lonely years following the death of his young wife and their only child. In particular, he is remembering when, during that time of singleness, he christened his best friend’s child. He said the correct words, he blessed the child, but his inward thoughts were quite different.

“…my heart froze in me,” he wrote, “and I thought, This is not my child…”

The line that follows that statement is the one that made me set the book down.

“I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offense at the beauty of it.”

Oh.

Yes.

There is a grief in moving. I am leaving behind friends whom I love, neighbors whose stories I’ve learned, a house which has been a home, memories of Dave and I and our four children and our two international girls becoming a family…

…and there is a part of me that is flat-out jealous of the new homeowners. This right here is so good, I think, and what is ahead for us is so unknown that I’m simmer-level jealous of these people who are moving into what we are sorrowfully—though willingly—leaving behind.

I am, in John Ames’ words, taking offense at someone else moving into the happiness I’ve experienced here.

To be honest, I think there’s a good dose of penny-pinching, old-fashioned, straight-up greed involved as well.

So confession is in order; repentance is in order; but also in order is acceptance of the forgiveness of God.

Because it is in times like this–when I see some of the twisted nature of sin, its stem reaching deep into self-focus, its branches weaving through hurt and fear–that I remember I need absolution from Another, that there is no way I can ever pluck something like this from out of my heart.

A few days after I read the passage in Gilead, I read a section of Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz Weber, a Lutheran pastor, in which she was writing about this very thing. Forgiveness, she said, is not like a dry erase board that we are frantically trying to keep clean so God will be happy with us. Rather, it is freedom from the bondage of self, wrought for us by Christ, who is fully aware of our deep sinfulness, more aware than we ourselves are.

We need to know this truth about forgiveness, she says, and then she writes about the Maundy Thursday practice of individual absolution. In it she lays her hands on each congregant’s head and pronounces, “In obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I proclaim to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, Amen.”

Jesus—not my efforts or repentance—sets me free from my sins, so that I may, as the prayer of confession says, “delight in (his) will, and walk in (his) ways, to the glory of His name.“

Amen!

A sermon and thoughts on Generosity

Two days after my sister sent me the Matthew 6 commentary on generosity and giving that I shared in my last post, I opened up my podcast library on my phone to listen to the latest Tim Keller Sermon and found that it is titled “Blessed Are the Poor.” It so closely relates to the Matthew 6 commentary that I am blown away. Clearly this is something the Lord wants me to meditate on and pray about more–and, of course, DO! Click on the link above to listen to this sermon via Podbay. Keller doesn’t pull any punches, but he ends by drawing our attention back to grace. He reminds us that “generosity” that is based on guilt is simply religion; it’s not founded in the Gospel.

One image from the Matthew 6 commentary that I keep thinking about is the “single eye.” Here’s a quote from that section: Jesus’ illustration about the “single” (NIV good) eye and the evil eye would immediately make sense to his hearers: a “good” eye was literally a healthy eye, but figuratively also an eye that looked on others generously (Sirach 32:8). In the Greek text of the Gospels, Jesus literally calls the eye a “single” eye, which is a wordplay: the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible also uses this word for “single” to translate the Hebrew term for “perfect”-thus “single-minded” devotion to God, with one’s heart set on God alone. An “evil eye,” conversely, was a stingy, jealous or greedy eye; yet it also signifies here a bad eye (Mt 6:23), one that cannot see properly. Jesus uses the “single” eye as a transition to his next point, for the “single” eye is literally undivided, having the whole picture: thus one is not divided between two masters, as the text goes on to explain (v. 24).

mads eye

I’ve posted this picture (shot by my older daughter [the subject is my younger daughter]) before, but I felt it was very appropriate for this post.

I want the generous, single eye Jesus speaks of. I want to see more and more clearly God’s great, incredible, beautiful love for me–until my eye is filled up with Love-Light so that my view of every other person is filtered with Love. This morning I was reminded that this not only applies to those in physical or social need when I realized I was viewing an interaction with a neighbor without a bit of Love in my gaze. There was no generosity in my view of her. I was thinking of her only in relation to myself, of how she had inconvenienced me. God had to remind me that the generosity He calls us to is a way of life that impacts how we see EVERYONE!

This prayer is adapted from the Message version of Matthew 6.

Lord, help us to open our eyes wide in wonder at your amazing love. Help us to believe and trust that you love us more than we can ever understand. Fill up our eyes with the light of your love so that we don’t squint our eyes in greed and distrust but look instead with generosity on others. May we deny and abandon the self-worship we are so drawn to and worship you alone. This single worship will fill our entire lives with Light!

 

To open the heart

sunset in woods

the woods at sunset

…He knew all people… He knew what was in man [in their hearts—in the very core of their being}.

I was drawn back to that verse from John 2 again and again last week when I was still in Scotland. I assumed it was related to the ministry we were involved in, but I also felt there was something in it for me personally—something significant for me. But I didn’t know what.

We returned to the States, and I plunged back into my normal life, which is oh, so good but can also feel oh, so scattered.

And my transition back was rough.

Our normally chaotic but happy household felt a little edgy, and I couldn’t figure out why. I felt edgy myself and walked through each day tense, just waiting for the next small trigger. I tried to “fix” it, but the grumpiness—which was largely my grumpiness—got deeper with each passing day.

Thursday morning I planned to go to my church’s women’s Gathering. I looked forward to some forced reflection time.

Margie taught on the phrase “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” focusing on the completion God works in each of our lives as well as the completion He will work in all of His creation. Following the teaching, she instructed us to get in small groups and share a gap we were trying to fill by ourselves. I looked at my group members and said, “I’m trying to make it all work right in my household. I’ve taken on the responsibility for everyone’s happiness and I’m trying to make everyone get along.”

I grimaced. “It’s not working.”

PJ and Chai

my youngest and the dog on the frozen pond

Another woman shared that she had a loved one she was unable to forgive, and the third woman in our group shared that she was struggling with shame over past sin. As we prayed for each other, the word “heart” came up again and again.

We stumble around in the dark in the cluttered mess of our hearts.

The roots of our bitterness and brokenness and shame are hidden in the depths of our hearts, and we can’t discover them.

But to You, Lord, nothing is hidden. Your light shines in our hearts, and You see all. You don’t deal only with the symptoms of our sin and brokenness; You go right to the source.

I remembered the verse from John 2, and with it another image came to my mind, of a heart locked tight, barred and shut with complex mechanisms and powerful deadbolts.

It was my heart.

It seemed strange to me that I could return from a time of focused ministry and sweet dependence on God and almost immediately shut up my heart, but it’s what I’d done. It was as if I’d said, “Lord, I needed your help for all that, but for this, my normal, ordinary life—I got it!”

Slam.

And now that I’d shut the door and shot the bolts and twirled the combination lock—and then realized I’d been very, very wrong—I couldn’t figure out how to undo it all.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…

But the opening was beyond me. I needed the Lord not only to knock but even to unlock my heart.

Come in, Lord! Come in!

No door stands in his way when we cry out.

I will come in and eat with (you),

and (you) will eat with Me.

His promises are good.

And they are sure.

Named and Naming

cross picI can still see in my mind one picture from my very first children’s Bible. There’s Adam, his back facing me, a plant strategically covering his butt. Both arms are by his sides, but one hand is lifted slightly. The pose seems to say, “I’m thinking. The right name will come to me, and it will be perfect.”

In front of Adam is a vast line of animals, stretching off into the horizon. I remember a few of them: the lion, his mane-surrounded face looking wise and calm, a giraffe just behind, its neck and head arching toward Adam, and a gazelle-like creature, poised as if standing still was an extreme effort.

I’ve always been fascinated with this story, with humans having the privilege of naming. Naming, I feel, is a small act of creating, a small act that opens the door to vast possibility.

We humans love to name—our children, our pets, our businesses, even inanimate personal belongings. We seem to think that when we name, we hold a bit of interest in that person. We feel we’ve set them on a path because names carry connotation for us. Some names are strong; others are beautiful or quirky or unique. When we name, we confer not only possibility, but a hoped-for direction or purpose.

Could this love for naming be a longing for the privilege we had pre-Fall?

We lost so much at the Fall, relationship with God paramount, so perhaps the loss of our naming privilege does not seem very big, but I wonder about that. I think it must have been fairly significant: names are a big deal in Scripture. In historical accounts, the naming of children or places is often included. God changed people’s names several times, and in each instance the name change carried weight. It signified a new direction, a new identity, and a different relationship with God.

I’ve learned that the very fact we have names is important. I’m reading a book on Genesis* right now, and in the section about the serpent/Satan in Genesis 3, the author made this statement: “What is interesting is that in all but one of these … occurrences (of the name ‘Satan’), ‘satan’ has attached to it the definite article, ‘the satan.’ This indicates ‘the satan’ is a title, not a personal name. Satan is not who he is, but what he is. He does not merit a name, and in antiquity, not to have a name was to be reduced to virtual nonexistence.” (emphasis mine)

I often tell my children Satan is not capable of creating. He can only twist toward evil what God created for good, and this quote expanded my thinking: Satan un-named himself when he turned away from the Creator, and in so doing, he separated himself from any participation in creation. In a way, he undid himself. He made himself nothing, incapable of doing anything true.

In the Fall, we, too, un-named ourselves. We spurned “beloved” and “image-bearer” and put on false names like “self-sufficient” and “independent.”

But God snatched up the true names we cast off so flippantly. God kept them safe, and through the magnificent work of Immanuel, God restores them to us. Truly named ourselves, we can once again join God in the creative work of naming others.

I’ve been pondering this idea for a long time, particularly in my context as a mother. Each day I contribute to the naming of my children. With the attitudes, actions, and words I direct toward them (and in the absence of those as well), I shape their concept of themselves. I can name them “beloved” and “valuable” and “growing.” But I can also twist their concept of their name: “You are a bother.” “You are incapable.” “You are not worth my time right now.” I can reinforce their un-naming.

This is not only true for parents. We all have people we are called to nurture in one way or another, and we can be a part of naming them as God wants them named: valuable, unique, and beloved.

We can name even the people we simply pass on the street. When we make eye contact with a person, we “say,” “I see you. I acknowledge you as a fellow human being.” That is naming.

And when we avert our eyes, what then?

In I Peter, we are told we are “chosen (to be) God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for (us)—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” **

And in this “telling,” we get to name others—with the names God has for them. He says, “I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” they’re calling you “God’s living children.” **

We name: You are Somebody. You are Beloved. You are God’s living child!

What incredible work!

*Handbook on the Pentateuch by Victor P. Hamilton, published by Baker Book House, 1982. The quote I reference is on page 43 in this edition of the book. The link in the book title takes you to its page at Christianbook.com’s site, where you can buy the 2005 edition.

**The Scripture links take you to Bible Gateway, to that Scripture in three versions (The Message, the Amplified, and the NIV) side by side. It’s awesome to look at them in this way!

The foot of the cross

green leafTears pool at the lower eyelids of this child who rarely cries. The teen years are hard and confusing. But as she talks with me this day, I sense something deeper, something beneath the frustration with herself, beneath the fears of all the mental/emotional/physical changes she is dealing with. And what I sense is very, very familiar to me.

I sense shame.

“I want you to imagine something,” I tell her.

She nods and closes her eyes.

“You are standing at the foot of the cross.”

I wait a moment and then ask, “Are you facing it or turned away from it?”

“Turned away,” she whispers.

“In your hands is your guilt, your fear, your shame. You’re not running from it any more. You’re holding it, admitting it. You don’t know what part of it is real or is your responsibility—it doesn’t matter anymore. You can stop fighting.”

Her eyes are closed, but I see her swallow.

“You need to turn around. You need to face the cross.”

An expression, almost of pain, ripples across her face.

“You can do it. It’s okay.”

I give her a minute.

“Are you facing the cross?”

She nods.

“What are you looking at?” I ask.

She doesn’t open her eyes. “At what I’m holding.”

“Look up, honey. Trust me. Trust Jesus. Just look up.”

I see her chin lift. Her face relaxes.

“Jesus is looking at you, isn’t he?”

She smiles.

“It’s not what you expected, is it?
She shakes her head.

“Sweetheart, he knows all your shame, all your fear, and he’s not shocked. He took care of all of it. Are you still holding it?”

Another nod.

“Drop it. Let go.”

Her hands, still cupped together on her lap, now pull apart.

“Jesus is not fixed to the cross anymore. We bring our burdens to it, but his work on it is finished. His arms are free.”

I don’t have to speak anymore. I watch as her hands lift.

And I know she is in his arms.

~~~~~~~~~

I tell this story with my daughter’s blessing. She wanted me to share it because we have talked about how she is not alone in her struggle with shame. We experience shame over so many different issues, but the reality of the cross sets us free. It allows us to stop our frantic and pessimistic striving, to accept our failings and know that God would/will use them for his good. We can listen to the Holy Spirit and allow ourselves and others to be on a journey rather than in a series of tests. Together, my daughter and I share this in the hope that it will help someone else today.

My friend, Aubrey Sampson, has written Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul. Aubrey writes and speaks with authenticity about this battle. If you or someone in your life wrestles with shame, please consider buying her book. The link connected to Aubrey’s name above takes you to her personal website. The link connected to the book title takes you to its purchase page on Christianbook.com’s website.

the lost and found of motherhood

I am in a sweet spot of mothering right now–and before any of you fellow moms retch and mentally call me dirty names–please know that I know that next week I may feel entirely different!

But just a few years ago I wrote this about myself (though I wrote it in third person, which tells me something about my state of mind at the time!):

Pieces of her are floating away, more each evening. She tries to reassemble herself during the quiet daytime hours, but she cannot find all the bits before the scavengers gather again.

“Mom, take me here.”

“Mom, I can’t find my shoes.”

“Mom, I need help with my math homework.”

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

It seems comical—or at least overly dramatic—this feeling she has that the more they need her, the more she shrinks, the smaller she feels. She knows there are others dealing with problems far bigger—far more REAL—than the one she wages in her mind.

Do other mothers feel this way? she wonders. Was I not meant to be one? Where is the joy I am supposed to feel at being needed? Where is the sense of calling and purpose?

Perhaps she was supposed to lose something—some strong sense of individual self-hood—at her children’s births. Maybe it should have come out with the afterbirth, and she should have examined it for its wholeness. “Yep, that’s all my self-focus. No bits and pieces left inside.” Some part of it must have escaped, and that is why she cannot serve without a vague sense of resentment.

“Do it for yourself!” she wants to scream at times, but it almost never comes out.

Instead she sometimes whispers, “I want to run away.”

But what would be left of her if she did? If she were to stop all the doing, what would be left?

Is there being without doing?

Who am I? she wonders, as her hands fold laundry and turn the steering wheel and fill the grocery cart with more food. Is my spirit supposed to be fully engaged in this? Does it have a life of its own? How do I do all this and yet remain me—or even know who I am in the doing of it?

I’m sharing that piece of vulnerable writing because I’ve had quite a few conversations in the last few weeks with moms of young ones, and several of them are not only weary, they’re feeling a little lost, too. The daily feels like forever, and they see no sign of refreshment. One mother of two preschoolers and one kindergartener teared up as we talked. The process of getting everyone out the door in the mornings was wearing on her, and she’d yelled that very morning—and then cried after she dropped her oldest off at school.

“I thought motherhood would be different,” she told me, her eyes wistful, a little wounded. “Why do I get so angry?” she asked me. “Does it get easier? Will I ever feel like the ‘me’ I used to be–or is that gone?”

Does it get easier? Will I lose some integral part of me in motherhood?

Hmm.

A friend of mine is writing a book on motherhood as a spiritual discipline, on the idea that motherhood, in itself, is a formation and practice used by God to refine us; to deepen our knowledge of ourselves; to increase our longing for Him and His presence in our day-to-day, nitty-gritty lives; to expand our awareness of His deep, boundless love for us…

So easier?

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the point.

But will we find our being, our ultimate completion, and our very soul in the Christ who draws near to us as we are reduced to crying out to Him?

Yes.

p.s. I would want to share the article titled “The Paradox of Motherhood” simply because the writing is incredible, but I also love what she wrote.