The last couple days I’ve felt overwhelmed by some of what lies ahead. From where I’m standing right now, certain things don’t seem possible. When I’m standing at the finish line of a race is not the time to ask me if I’m ready to sign up for another marathon; and I realized I felt like I was buckled over at the end of a sprint asking myself if I was ready for an ultra. Often after you’ve poured out a great bit, you need to recuperate before you can even consider attempting it again. The task ahead often isn’t as hard as it sometimes feels when you’re heavy with the weight of grief or exhaustion.
Too often I try to do for myself what I don’t have the capacity to do rather than allowing God room to do it for me. I was feeling overwhelmed by the fact that what (I think) is expected requires more of me than I am going to be able to deliver. I feel a need to defend my weakness; I feel shame that I’m not who or what I think I should be or who others want or expect me to be. I want to be what my people need me to be and it feels like failure when I’m not. But when I speak it outloud that I’m not enough, that I am overwhelmed and unequipped, when I name my inadequacies, then there is some freedom because at least we’re all on the same page rather than me pretending that I’m enough on my own.
God is enough; He alone can handle what it is coming and if I continue to place expectations on myself to be enough, to handle things a certain way, I will continue to be disappointed in myself when I fall short. I can keep trying to manage it on my own, or I can acknowledge that I am incapable of doing it on my own and be palms up with the nothing I have so God can give me what He knows I need, what only He can provide. But I’m realizing I need to move my eyes from my own empty hands to God and to all that He wants to do for me. He has an abundance of everything that I’m lacking. My resources will fall short. My energy and effort won’t sustain. But in my need, I can rely on God and be confident in His ability to do all that I’m afraid to even ask for. I want to rest in the confidence that God can provide and then take my hands off the reins and watch as He does it.
Yesterday I was sitting at a stoplight and watched as a young lady made her way across the busy road in a wheelchair. A large, jacked-up truck was waiting to turn left through the crosswalk where the young lady was struggling to get her wheelchair through the intersection. The truck crept closer and closer to the girl, to the point where I could no longer even see her from my position directly across from her. I thought what a jerk he was being as this poor girl was obviously doing her best to hurry and she was clearly not moving fast enough for the man in the truck.
Eventually she cleared enough of the lane so that the truck could squeeze through and he sped off. At the next intersection, I was a couple cars back from the truck as we stopped at the red light and I watched as two women in a minivan pulled up next to the offending truck and proceeded to berate the man with extreme anger and intensity. I could see their arms flailing as they screamed at the man, even pulling out an iPad and sticking it out the window as they yelled, I assume to show him that they had photographed or videoed his actions and were going to report him. The screaming match continued for the duration of the red light when the truck escaped and the minivan (angrily and erratically) pulled off to the side of the busy road.
I tell this story because it made me think of a matrix that our pastor has taught in small group that I find helpful.
I'm sure there is probably some fancy name for this concept but I don't remember what it is [ETA: Pastor Terry said it comes from a book by Steve Viars titled "Putting Your Past In Its Place"], but anyhow, there are four characteristics represented....guilty, innocent, responds poorly/sinfully, responds well.
I see this in my life (and the life of my children) every day. With every situation that arises, I'm either innocent or guilty and then I have a choice as to how I will respond. The women in that minivan were innocent, they hadn't done anything wrong, yet they responded poorly. The man in the truck was guilty (in my estimation) but from what I saw (I couldn't hear his words), responded well. When my children do something wrong, my response is always softer and more forgiving when they respond well (repentantly and with humility) as opposed to responding with prideful defiance and without remorse. [Not saying I'm right to respond more gently...I should be gentle despite their response, just being honest.]
I remember reading "Love and Respect" a few years ago and being struck by Emerson Eggerich's idea of "being right at the top of your voice." Basically what he was saying is that we may be right but we close down communication with the other person because we approach them with the wrong attitude; we come at them with anger, contempt, a harsh tone, cold body language, disrespect. I could easily see that in myself in my marriage. It is embarrassing how quickly I can justify my sinful response. And the irony is that we are so quick to see it in our children and call it out, "It doesn't matter if she started it, your reaction isn't justified!"
I don't have a lot of point to this other than 1) I find this matrix helpful when thinking through various situations, and 2) seeing this situation play out in front of me as I sat in my car reminded me of how often I can be the one that even when I'm "innocent", I respond poorly and the other person doesn't hear my message because I'm being right at the top of my voice.
The remarkable thing is, Jesus, while completely innocent, took on our guilt. He was sinless (can you imagine?!). And while being sinless, he voluntarily died for the sins of those who are anything short of guiltless. In light of that, I desire to choose to respond well whether I'm guilty or innocent.
The treadmills that were empty in December are now full of people with newly-made resolutions of getting fit. I find myself strangely proud of these people when I see new faces in the gym (admittedly I don't love having more people to contend with for the dumbbells or waiting to use a machine). Some of these people will have disappeared by month's end, but some will stick it out and we'll become passing acquaintances. I enjoy fitness and I love (mostly) working out. I workout to be strong, fit, and capable. I workout because I feel better (physically, mentally, emotionally) when I do. I workout so I'm in shape enough to participate in activities with my girls.
And yet this is a good time of year to remember that the importance of my physical health pales in comparison to the gravity of my spiritual health. Even more than I want to be physically fit, I desire to be spiritually fit. I want to grow strong in my faith and develop & mature in the character and attitude of God.
These are the books I read in 2015 (with an additional couple that didn't show up in goodreads). Also, two of them (Big Magic & Bossypants) I listened to on audiobook and just skimmed the books. There were three that were standouts for me....Soulkeeping, The Sacred Year, and Scary Close. They were books that had a significant impact on me and I loved them. Enjoyed most all of the rest of them, with the exception of Bossypants....wasn't a fan. You can see my ratings on my goodreads page here. I did less reading of books this year, but I spent more time in-depth in my Bible, so it was a beneficial trade.