I would be lying if I said this year has been an easy one, but it’s not for reasons that you might think. There have been no tragedies. No inability to pay our bills. No major health concerns of any kind. On the contrary, this year has been full of many blessings. The best one to note would be the birth of our youngest daughter, Willow.
But over the last few months I’ve felt a little dead in the water with my mast standing proudly over a perfectly windless sky.
Being overwhelmed is a state that I move in and out of frequently – yet I’ve always handled it well. In all honesty, I’m just not an idle individual. Idle makes me nervous. This time, however, my insecurities started kicking in, adding to the stress of my already busy lifestyle.
I’ve been a little angry. I’ve been in a state of having no idea what my next step was supposed to be. In addition to all of those things, my Bible studying was falling flat on its face. And my prayer life seemed to be short and sweet.
All the while, I had the audacity to think it had absolutely nothing to do with me…
So as I sat quietly during communion one Sunday a few weeks ago I pleaded with God to show me something that would make sense. Anything. Something that would help me see my way out of this pit and back onto the road I’d been traveling.
And He complied.
It was one of those moments where you flip open your Bible and your eyes literally land on a phrase that makes your jaw drop open.
Here are the Words that I read: “When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.” (Acts 27:13 NIV84)
Might not look like much to you, but this was huge for me. Huge.
It was in that exact moment that I realized what had happened. The words were internal, but they resonated inside my head at a decibel that I’m pretty certain the entire congregation could’ve heard.
“I’ve taken my eyes off of Him.”
I started crying. (Not a difficult thing to do for those of you who know me personally).
This was my answer. I was behaving just like those soldiers in route to Rome. Just when they had obtained what they thought they were after – a calm sea to travel on – they dropped their guard and sailed freely.
So there I was, gently sailing my ship along the shore of Crete, so to speak, and before I knew what hit me my complacent spirit was swept right into a storm. Right among the tossing and turning of the waves…
So I panicked. I started throwing everything overboard in an attempt to regain control of the ship. To keep it from sinking. Everything I’d learned so far about the faithfulness of God was tossed in a box somewhere as I tried to reorganize our life, reconfigure our time management, and reevaluate what I was doing in my career.
And because I was feeling inadequate I was finding a lot of excuses to find others just as inadequate. I would silently blame those closest to me for not meeting my expectations. It was just easier to keep it buried inside rather than have a simple conversation about what had me upset in the first place.
That, I now understand, causes friction. Who knew?
Well, I was certainly feeling the friction in more than one area of my life, but I wasn’t always the victim. I’m also guilty of striking the flint in preparation for building a blazing hot fire of animosity and hurt feelings.
I recently read a quote by Lysa TerKeurst that made such sense to me. Without referring to the quote directly, the general idea is that friction is sometimes needed to be the traction to move you forward.
“Some good can come of this,” I thought. “But I hate the mess that is going to follow.”
And I had no idea what to do about it because to actually sit down and hash this out with God would take time to unpack.
Then it was time to have several conversations. Hard conversations. Conversations that, in the end, made me realize that all of this had more to do with me than what I felt comfortable with.
It was time to change the expectations. I had to stop putting mine into other people and start putting them into Him. The expectations that I felt others had on me was breaking me. But it didn’t even compare to the expectations I had for them.
It’s amazing how quickly your paradigm shifts from “How dare they!” to “How dare…I”
I was so focused on the people and situations that I couldn’t control, that I was missing the things of which I did have control.
1) Taking my thoughts captive and giving them to God. Everything. Even the touchy insecurities that give birth to some of my ridiculous expectations to begin with. Those insecurities are such a driving force for the devil to wedge his way into my life.
I hear his suggestions. Then I doubt and begin to over-process the suggestion. And then, when I don’t take the time to hand it over to God I accept the lie and begin to build up negative feelings inside.
2) Giving those I care about a well deserved break. They’re human, after all. But they are also God’s masterpieces, each given gifts that don’t necessarily line up with any of the same gifts that I have. And this is ok, remember?
3) Tending to the seeds that God has already planted in my life. Spending more time having heart-felt conversations with my children and digging deeper into where they might be needing me the most. After all – they are my first ministry.
4) And most importantly, spending time with God. That seemingly innocent I-just-don’t-have-the-time-now-that-I-have-four-children excuse was enough to send me into a spiral of “Well, I can catch up with God tomorrow” until a week would go by without me so much as taking a moment to read a few scriptures. And then I would frantically play catch-up, like there was some kind of quota I needed to reach.
If you’re not already shaking your head, I certainly am. It was so easy to get to a place where I felt I was secure and good for awhile and not because I wanted to kick back and relax, but because it felt like I had no choice. This life is busy. Even when you remove all of the extras there is still a sweet spot to be had for making our particular way of life tick.
Thankfully, though, I have a husband who is an encouragement to me and helps me to see the things that aren’t important. I’d be lying if I told you I always took his more laid back advice, but little by little his example is one that I’m learning to follow.
I also have a network of friends who are amazing accountability partners. As much as I hate to say it, they show me the tough love when I need it.
Most importantly, however, I have a Savior who has not only given me the ultimate gift of salvation, but He continues to provide the love, the grace and the discipline to my life that I will receive exclusively from Him alone.
So at the end of the day, I thank God for bringing me to those living words that take the form of a compass – pointing me toward Him again. I remind myself that He’s meeting me right here. And no matter where “here” is, those mercies are new every single day.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23 NIV)