Sign Me Up!
Monthly Archives: October 2015
I just started reading a book called Meditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction. My house is basically a library of books like this, due to Marshall’s three-year stint at seminary, so every once in a while I’ll pick one up and start reading it.
The title of this one stuck out to me because I definitely live a life of distraction, and it definitely affects my ability to meditate on scripture. I was a distractible person before I had the world at my fingertips on my iPhone, and before I had two young children. As you can imagine, these developments have not helped.
I realized last night as I was reading that I was having a terrible time concentrating on what I was reading. My mind is so trained to constantly be looking for the next thing that I could barely keep my eyes on the page for more than a minute. And I often had to re-read whole paragraphs because I would get to the end of them and realize I hadn’t retained anything.
So here I am, reading a book about how to meditate on scripture, wondering how on earth I’m going to learn to slowly contemplate the words of the Bible when I can’t even get to the bottom of a page in this book.
The book lists all of these statistics about the world we live in today, and how busy we’ve made ourselves, and how that affects the time we have to read the word. And I completely agree. I hate being busy. I know you know those people who are always complaining about how busy they are, but they do it to themselves because really deep down they love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, I am not one of those people. Call me lazy, but I enjoy free time, and I hate having to-dos hanging over my head.
But here’s the thing, which I think I’ve mentioned before: I have two small children. Let me tell you, I would love having plenty of time to sit and meditate and pray each morning, to walk in the woods and soak in the beauty of God’s creation, to journal for hours about His word. But that’s just not reality for me right now. I can’t not be busy. It’s enough for me to get the laundry done and the trash taken out and dinner cooked and the dishes cleaned before I feed my baby one last time at 9 pm and put her to bed at ten right before I lie down and hope to fall asleep immediately so I can be ready for the next time she wakes up in the middle of the night. I’m trying to make a cleaning schedule so I can be better about keeping up with things like mopping and cleaning the bathrooms, and so far it has been a complete and utter failure. Because if I did all of those things once a week (one cleaning schedule I saw on Pinterest listed washing the walls in each room as part of the weekly schedule. WASHING THE WALLS! Who are these people???), I would never play with my children, never eat, never sit down, and probably be a very mean human.
So how am I supposed to meditate on scripture when I can’t even keep my house clean? Well, I don’t know yet, but I’m going to try. Because here’s the thing. My relationship with the Lord is much more important than the dust bunnies under my couch. I may not have enough time in the day, but somehow I make time to eat, shower (at least twice a week), brush my teeth, wash my face, check my Facebook, check my Instagram, check my email, respond to texts, make phone calls, even watch the occasional TV show. Ugh, writing that out is convicting. I’ve got to get my priorities straight. No matter what I say is the most important thing, what I do reveals what is really important to me. I’ve got to make God an actual priority in my day-to-day life, not just a theoretical one in the grand scheme of things. The devil is in the details, isn’t he?
Since the baby was born, and even before, we’ve had tons of help from the people in our lives. It’s been a hard first couple of months. Not for any particular reason, I just think the transition from one to two kids is a tough one. I would like to think I could have done it without family and so many friends around to help, but honestly I’m not sure I could have.
I’ve been thinking a lot about offering and receiving help recently, for obvious reasons. You would think it would be simple: someone needs help, you offer it, they receive it, and that’s that. But we’re human, and we’re complicated beings, so that’s not all there is to it.
The sad reality is that help often comes with strings attached. I’m sure we would all love to say that we gladly and freely offer help to people as needed, without expecting anything in return. But that’s just not the case. Whether it’s a simple thank you or a returned favor of equal value, a lot of the time we expect something back from them. This can make helping people hard, because you don’t always get what you want in return, and that can create disappointment, resentment, and rifts in relationships. And then there are times when we feel like we should help someone, but we don’t necessarily want to, and we do it anyway, which can lead to those same disappointments, resentments and rifts.
Since I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of help recently, though, I’ve been thinking more about how it affects the party on that side of the transaction. Things get even more complicated here.
It may be hard to give help sometimes, but I’ve realized that it’s even harder for me to receive help. I don’t want to need help. And usually, I can get by without much help. I’ve always been a pretty capable person, and I pride myself on that. But I’ve slowly learned over the years—especially with kids—that it’s healthy to receive help.
I’ve also realized, through giving help and receiving it, that people enjoy helping others. I love helping people. I love giving people gifts. I love taking them meals. I love lifting a burden from someone. And I’m often a little let down when I offer help to someone and they don’t receive it.
But there are still those expectations, the ones people have when they offer help. So whenever someone offers help to me, I hesitate. My thoughts range from “what if they don’t think I’m capable on my own” to “what if I don’t return according to their expectations” to “what if they are just offering help because they think they should?”
I was told by a lot of people before the baby was born to accept the help that was offered, so for the most part I have. We barely cooked a dinner the first month after she came, which was awesome. But it also attacked my pride in my ability to handle myself, to manage my household, and to be a good mom. And it made me insecure about how all of these helpers felt about me, what they were secretly thinking inside as they brought me meals or took care of my children or cleaned my house.
I guess when it comes down to it, it is extremely humbling to receive help, especially as much help as I’ve received over the last several weeks. And it’s hard to let go of all the anxieties that come up surrounding it. You would think, and hope, that receiving help could be a purely joyful thing, but at least for me it’s not.
And then my thoughts wander to what the biblical view on all of this is, but of course I’ve gone on too long. Maybe I’ll write about that next time.
We talked last week at Bible study about depending on the word of God. And while I must say I barely paid any attention, due to the fact that I spent half the time rocking my baby and the other half feeding her, plus I was sitting in the back (also due to the baby), which I’ve realized is a death sentence for my attention span (no this sentence isn’t over yet), it did get me thinking about something I started to pray for in anticipation of the new baby.
As a mother, my children are completely dependent on me. And as a mother, as well as a Christian, it is my job to lay down my life for them, to give them everything I have, every day. As a human, that job is nearly impossible. It takes everything out of me.
Often, by the end of the day (who am I kidding, it’s every day), I’m spent. When Marshall gets home, he’s lucky to get a hello from me, let alone a hug or a kiss or a “how was your day?” Most of the time I have a list of things he can do to help me, to lighten my load. I depend so heavily on Marshall when I’m exhausted, when my children are taking everything out of me. I want him to pick up the slack. I want him to give me rest. And then, on my time, even though I’ve ignored and taken advantage of him, I want him to love me and make me feel better.
All of a sudden one day I realized that if I am going to survive being a mother to two young children, and if my marriage is going to survive it, I have to stop depending on my husband to fill me back up when I’ve given everything to my children. That’s not his job, and he’s not capable of bearing that burden.
I have to depend on God first, before leaning on anyone else. He, and only He, can fully carry my burdens. I can’t just give whatever I have inside of me to everyone else, hoping the next morning I’ll wake up with more to give. I need to go to God first, have Him fill me up, and let that overflow onto those around me. And at the end of the day, when I’m empty again, I must turn once more to Him.
25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart! (Psalm 119)
I don’t know why, but I love the first line here. “My soul clings to the dust.” I don’t know what it really means in context (cue Marshall’s theological exegesis of the passage), but all it does for me is bring this vivid image to mind of someone (me) lying on the ground, clawing at the dust, unable to rise up, hoping beyond hope that the dust that is falling through their fingers will help them. Without God, that’s all we can do.
But we don’t have to stay there, because He can give us life, according to his word.
In order NOT to be overly dependent on others, I MUST be fully and utterly dependent on Jesus. If I don’t cling to Him first, I will claw at everyone else around me until they are dragged down into the dust with me. I want to be able to give of myself, I want to die to myself every day not only to my children, but to my husband, my family, my friends, to everyone around me. And before I do that, I have to give myself to Jesus and be strengthened according to his word. He is the only one who can give me the strength I need to love them the way I am called to love them.
My husband is probably reading this thinking “Wow, coulda fooled me!” So don’t get me wrong, this is not something I have mastered, or even successfully attempted. Frankly I haven’t even been praying about it much recently, it just came back up last week. I think this is one of the hardest things for us as Christians to do, to seek God first in the day-to-day, every day. But as the psalmist tells us, this is what gives us life and what strengthens us the way nothing else will, so we have to keep at it, day after day, every day.