This past week, my husband has been out of town to be trained into a higher level mechanic. As a stay at home mom, I had to handle everything for the home, my two non-school-aged children, and cook every meal. The week leading up to this jump in responsibilities left me wavering between two thoughts:
- I am going to be fine. We have survived worse. I made it through the newborn stage, surely I can handle one week. In fact, I’ll be the best mom and handle everything perfectly, even when something unexpected happens. I’ll bond really well with my children.
- This is going to be the worst week of my life. My husband might get into a horrible accident on the way home and I will be stuck like this forever. This is probably training for something worse to come. The house will be a mess, the children un-tamed, and everything will smell horrible.
The reality is something somewhere in between, as you may have guessed. My children had good moments and bad moments. I had good moments and bad moments. I only smelled bad for a few hours when we were home alone. My spouse and best friend was missed dearly. I was not the best mom, but I did savor a few wonderful moments with my children. Nobody died.
Isn’t it awful how our minds can trick us into these vicious thoughts? We are as easily tricked by our own thoughts as we are by an optical illusion showing us how those lines are obviously different lengths. We think too highly of ourselves, or degrade ourselves entirely instead of recognizing moments of weakness or boldness to believe something better. Recently, I have found a deep need to be competitive. It pulls me towards perfectionism, a plague I find myself battling daily. I want to be seen as the best mom, the best wife, the best Christian. How sick and twisted is that?
When I do not balance myself against the truth of scripture (coming from the written word or from the mouth of a trusted friend), I begin to loosen my grip on the stability God has to offer. His truth can be hard to believe when everything in your experience or understanding is telling you to panic. When your anxiety flares up or your medication adjustment leads you down a path you never thought your mind would go. We have to cling to Christ, knowing He died for our sins so we can be forgiven and free from shame. I have allowed myself to believe the lies for too long. Yet, I still find myself falling again. Praying for God’s grace to mend my shattered mind.
A chapter hitting particularly hard and repeatedly the past month found me looking bitterly at Ephesians 4, especially verse 14.
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
I felt tossed. By life and by God, without ever wanting to give life to these words by writing them down. I knew this was the very place I needed to tell of my bitterness and anger. The last six years of my life have been hard. I have been waiting for a breakthrough without one being given. I looked for milestones like graduation to give me the fulfillment I so desired. Perhaps the seeking of validation was simply too tantalizing for me to process my actions before pursuing empty desires.
Often, the thing I thought would be “the answer” would leave me more disappointed than the last. I was chasing wind. Looking for and grabbing at reflections in the water. All the while, I was tossed like a child in the water. Trying to survive, but desperate for the hand of a grown-up. I wanted to be that grown-up for others, not the weakling myself.
Shame crept into my life, telling me stories and falsehoods about myself. I ate them up and started down a dark path indulged by hormonal shifts and new medications. In this season, I found two allies: Patience and Gratitude. The very opposite of what my body and my mind were experiencing. The opposite of grabbing at straws, hoping to find the key to a better marriage or becoming the best mom. I needed to choose to seek God boldly, in the midst of the illusions I felt and thought I knew.
Hope is difficult. I’m not sure why I ever thought it was a simple thing. Building a foundation on hope and trust (the basis of our patience and gratitude), requires hard labor and a steady goal. Plans do not help the untrained eye. So we must re-train ourselves to put gratitude and patience in our heart, to find ways to hold on to the hand of God, knowing He will never let you drown. Our maturity does not come from our own ability to withstand the waves or step out of the water. Maturity comes from trusting in God, knowing He has our best interests at heart. His path will be better, and we can stand on His truth. Bad days will come with their illusions of a better life, but the best life is one spent standing on the rock, admiring the way God can use the waves.