Sunday, September 18, 2011

You Win.

This past weekend I attended an incredible womens conference at my church.  It was so refreshing just to sit and learn.  To be still with my God.  To remember.  I had many take-aways from the weekend.  However, my most glaring takeaway was that I somehow entered my name in a competetion with all of humanity. And I am a sore loser.  Not your typical lesson application, but in my own little weirdo world, it is. 

The speakers at our conference were super talented and super beautiful and had a super heartbreaking story about how God refined and loved on them through a super trying experience.   These incredible sisters, Holly and Heather (, lost thier husbands eleven years ago in a canoeing accident, and have spent the last decade sharing thier journey of healing, restoration, and the birth of a new song within them.  They were vulnerable.  They were witty.  They were charming.  They were so in love with thier Jesus you could literally breath it in, like an incredibly holy perfume or something.  They also had super voices that made my eyes fill with tears as they earnestly worshiped thier God.

I am embarrased to admit this, but for the sake of growth, honesty, and all that good stuff...I'll claim it.  I was super jealous.  I sing.  I am witty.  At least my mom thinks so.  Besides, I'm in love with Jesus too.   I tried to focus on thier words. To allow God to just hug on me through thier story.   But I just kept looking at these women of God and thier goodness and thier beauty and super-ishness, and my mind kept rolling around a simple phrase: you lose.  I was sizing myself up against Heather and Holly, and my mental grand jury found me lacking.  I kept coming back to it, like pushing around a loose tooth with my tongue to make sure it was still there. And it was.

Although this is something that God and I are working on, there are times when my prideful nature flares up like a nasty coldsore or something.   It is so hard for me to concede that someone is prettier,  kinder, stronger, or holier.  Ugly?  Totally.  Honest?  Absolutely.   It's like that Saturday Night Live skit Penelope, where Kristen Wiig has to one-up everyone who crosses her path.  "Oh, you are going on vacation to Hawaii?  Well I am the president of"  Except I don't say it out loud.

The reason that I'm sharing this incredibly unnattractive thought pattern is because I know that I'm not alone in this.  Or at least I hope I'm not, because after my loved ones read this they might not like me so much anymore.  Kidding.  I think.  In all seriousness, it's easy to fall into, especially in the marriage-and-kids phase of life.  Like, what's up with the put together moms, who work out, spend time with Jesus, and then have pancakes from scratch on the kitchen tables by 7am?  I want to immediately find some flaw in them to feel better about myself.  Can I get a holler please.  Anyone?

I'm sure you don't suffer from this delusional way of life.  But if you have, by chance, encountered someone who thrives on the mental one-upper, isn't it such a turn-off?  That others cannot celebrate what God is doing in your life because of the searing jealousy and the internal comparisons?  People who won't encourage you or compliment you or tell you what they've learned from your presence in thier lives?  People who think so much of you but do not take the time to tell you that because thier pride is choking them into silence?  Again, I'm sure that you have not struggled with one-uppiness, but I'm just sayin...

Maybe I'm being dramatic, but this is a point of sin in my life that I know God is calling me out of.   It does not benefit me.  It does not glorify Him.  It keeps me rooted in my seat at a womens' conference, exhausted with my mental tallies.  It keeps me so busy pleading my case to my internal grand jury, that I am missing the Point.  The Point is that my God created me, crafted me, and called me to fix my eyes on Him.  Not on my mirror.  Not on others.  He is asking me to walk away from these lies about needing to win the race of life, and towards humility.  Towards truth.  Jesus.

So, I left that conference changed.  That weekend God gave me the ability to look around at others and declare: you win.  You are prettier.  You are more kind.  You are stronger. You have more money than I do.  You dress better than I do.  You sing remarkably better than I do.   You know more about the Bible than I do.  And that's okay.  I don't need to figure out a way that I am better than you. 

I praise God because He is releasing me of that choking pride.  I was able to look at Heather and Holly and thank them sincerely for sharing thier story and thier hearts and all of their super-ness.  I'm sure they had no idea about the battle I had won in doing that, but that's okay!  God knows.  I know.  God is continuing to show me, again and again, the very best version of myself.   Usually it's through exposing an ugly side of myself that just needs to, with his help, go away.  And I know, I deeply and inherently know, that there is a Saviour who died to declare me a winner.  How could I ever lose with a God like mine?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

-Micah 6:8

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Walking Back Through

When my mom read my previous blog, she made the comment that in a couple decades my friends and I will all be going through identity crisis again.  Once the kids have flown the coop. I immediately began daydreaming about all the things Greg and I would do once we had the resource of time to ourselves.  Somewhere in between an Italian vacation and opening an orphanage, she interrupted my thought flow by saying that that's not something for me to be worried about right now.  She gets it.  My mom knows that what I'm learning in life right now is enough.

Unfortunately for those around me,  I don't always get it.  I sometimes forget that what God is teaching me is for me.  I tend to apply my lessons to the rest of humanity at large.  If God is growing something in me, then He must have a message for me to shout loud and clear to the rest of the world. What?  Not everyone is a 30-year-old-stay-at-home-lactating-mom-of-two-who-is-trying-to-save-money-and-lose-weight?  Huh. 

The thing is that I get overwhelmingly annoyed by unsolicited advice.  We've all heard it.  Marriage is the hardest work the first year.  The seventh year. I'd give anything to be your age again.  Kids are emotionally secure if you allow them to sleep in bed with you. Kids are emotionally secure if you do not allow them to sleep in bed with you.  Private schools are superior.  You will not be able to keep your house clean when you have two children.  And, of course, the birthing stories. Love those.

There are times that call for, or beg for, our story.  There are moments when our story can bring healing to others.  I can recall many days where a loved one shared thier journey with me, and it had me looking at life and God and and myself in a new light.  I have shared parts of my story with others, knowing that God allowed me to trudge through some things for moments such as those.  I have watched friends walk through unspeakable tragedies, only to turn around and walk back through them with someone else.  That is wisdom.  That is love.

I think of my dear friend Summer.  By the time I had Madeline, she already was an experienced mom of three.  I, in all my type-A-ness, with my diaper bag packed like a red-cross station, with my 25 phone calls to the doctor a day, with my super-extended conversations about nap schedules, must have been so annoying to her.  Everything with Maddie was a huge deal.  Summer just listened to me, prayed with me, offered invaluable advice, and walked alongside me as a new mom.  She was out of that phase of newness, but still chose to double back and walk through it with me again.  She was priceless to me.  Still is.

What if we wear our lessons, experiences and wisdom as garments of praise instead of rites of passage?  What if we view them as an opportunity to turn around, and walk back through them with those who need us to?  What if we try to remember what it was like for us?  To be young and in love?  To lose our first tooth?  To have our first child?  To not have a date to prom?

I would seriously fall over if someone with adult children said, "I remember what it's like to be a young mother.  Why don't I come over and watch your kids for a couple hours, so you can do something lifegiving?" Instead I usually get a passing "Appreciate this time.  They grow so fast."  Instead of telling a college student that they are living in thier glory days, I should be inviting them over to my home for the family dinner they so desparately need.   Rather than feeling so "beyond" phases that my loved ones are walking through, I should be doubling back and walking back through with them.  Closing my mouth.  Holding thier hands.

Sometimes, when I pray, I imagine how many times God has heard similar prayers.  It's overwhelming to think about how many prayers rise to the ears of our God...prayers about love, life, and life lost.  He does not tire of hearing our stories.  There is nothing that I have walked through that God has yet to see, or that is bigger and stronger than Him.  But God doesn't pelt me with advice.  He doesn't patch up my requests with simple antidotes.  He walks back through with me.  Illuminating the way.  Allowing me to pick up the treasures He's laid for me. Watching me grow as I stumble along the way, like a proud parent.  Holding my hand.  So patient is my God. 

"Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn."
-CS Lewis