When my son was seven years old, he was trying to balance. One minute he was excitedly saying, “Look, mom, I found the spot!” Moments later, mid-wobble, he said, “Oh, wait. I lost the spot.” Of course, it was losing it I related too.
Somewhere in the zig-zag of daily life is the sweet spot where we teeter in balance between work and rest, fun and fulfilling, and, social and silence. It seems sometimes like we live in a world of extremes. We have tiny houses and McMansions, hoarders and minimalists, and fast food and the slow-food movement. There is polarization in almost every category of modern life. Perhaps it is our obsession with busyness, where this extreme has become most evident. Busyness has become a badge that says my career is at a crescendo, my family is an extracurricular expert, and my personal life is a page-turner. But are we really living a harlequin-romance novel amidst kids and career, or are we huffing and puffing from here to there, texting our spouses our agendas and their assignments, as we scurry our kids to their next activity?
The other day I was rushing my son to an orthodontist appointment when I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the car window I was squeezed between. To my dismay, I was only wearing one hoop earring. I looked like a rogue pirate without the talking parrot companion. Instead, I had a teenage boy who doesn’t speak as my counterpart. He only repeats “okay,” “I know,” and “fine,” as a series of responses. “Polly wants a cracker,” has become, “Mamas going to go crackers if she doesn’t hear a complete sentence soon!” (But that’s another conversation for another bottle of wine, as a good of friend of mine likes to say.) Read more
I never understood the advice on public speaking about imagining your audience in their underwear. Maybe it’s because I don’t multitask well but I can’t imagine talking about God’s mercy while also trying to focus on an array of undergarments. Besides, it’s just creepy. While the intent may be to make the speaker more comfortable, I can’t think of anything more uncomfortable than a room full of people wearing only bras and briefs.
I considered the absurdity of that advice while trying to identify what would make me most nervous about public speaking. I figured if I addressed any unease, I would be better prepared. I wasn’t overly concerned about a word stumble and since I fell on my face in Kindergarten, I figured I had gotten that out of the way. What I realized made me the most nervous was that I would hurry through, wish the moment away, and just get it done. The worst thing that could happen would be that I would miss my own talk by not embracing every moment with my fully clothed audience. It is a gift to speak about mercy. I wanted to be present. I wanted to experience the joy of it.
It made me realize how often in life I have shrunk from the fullness that God created. I have held back. Blended in. Been too careful. Too many times, I have listened to fear over the only one who can deliver me from it. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,” (Psalm 18:2). I’ve always had a relationship with fear. Maybe on some level, I thought if I kept it close, it would keep me safe. But fear doesn’t keep us safe, it keeps us small. It keeps us living in the shadows when God has called us into his light. By trading fear for trust in God we can live in the freedom of his truth. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety,” (Psalm 4:8). With God, we don’t need to be afraid. He is strong enough to carry us through our suffering and merciful enough to heal our hurts. Having a relationship with him doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen. It doesn’t mean that we won’t fall on our face or some creepy person won’t picture us in our underwear. It just means that with him, through him, fear is a farce of the devil’s making. We don’t need strategies and sayings to make us courageous. We simply need to trust that God has us in the right place to carry out his plan in our lives.
I am not sure how it started. I think there was a picture frame hanging on the wall that I thought was too small. In an attempt to fix it, I moved every single piece of furniture in my living room and adjacent dining room. Even though I feign weakness when there is something to lift that weighs more than three pounds, if there is furniture I want to move and no one is around to help, I become the unknown twin sister of the Incredible Hulk. Of course, it’s not pretty to turn the color of the jolly green giant but to be able to move ginormous slabs of wood around the room, one has to sacrifice vanity for vein-popping strength.
I know you aren’t sure where this is going because that’s how it is when you move furniture from wall to wall trying to see what looks best. You try one thing, decide it’s meh, flex the muscles, and drag it in a different direction. It’s really a lot like life. One little crooked sin that we tell ourselves is just a small defect becomes a catalyst for chaos. We ignore it and focus on all the righteous things about ourselves – we don’t beat our children, we call our mothers, and we return the shopping cart to that little island that is nowhere near our parked cars (most of the time). There are a lot of things we do right – that makes us good people. Since we figure sin is inevitable, we minimize our particular habit of hurting God. What’s one measly sin – usually the one we make over and over again – really going to hurt?
After purging the china cabinet, armoire, and buffet of their contents so that nothing would break when huffing and puffing furniture to different walls, the house looked like a hoarder’s delight and a husband’s horror. But, I knew it could be made tidy again and began the tedious work of putting tchotchkes in their place. That’s when I noticed a giant scratch traversing the floor from my living room to my dining room. It read like a road map of a wayward wife who watched too much HGTV. So smitten with all that I had done right in the room – the balance, scale, and symmetry I created – I ignored the scratch.