We ordered Buffalo Wild Wings and sat lethargically at our dining room table together, attempting to get any ounce of productivity out of our day. It’s Summer, but for some reason, it doesn’t mean slower. I look around at the cluttered mess of our apartment’s living room, thankful that I at least wiped the counters down, and then scolded myself for not cooking, while then quickly justifying it because we have a gift card. Although the picture I posted on instagram was a nice and lovely flower with the ironic caption, “peace, be still,” I hide the dust bunched up on our floorboards and fruit flies that have run rampant; this is our real Saturday.
This dance of posting things online, attempting to be vulnerable but not gossipy, risk showing weakness but also shuddering back in fear that it will somehow disqualify me, wanting to be the furthest thing from the “hot-mess mama” or “look at me model” or then too “preachy” has sometimes left me as frozen as I feel now. Half the time, it feels like I am grasping for any affirmation to validate what I’m doing, because if that happens, then I am able to have permission for who I am. With that mentality, I am constantly second-guessing my motives, my actions, and my words. Keeping up with the mental replay of all that happens in a day to ensure I’ve not been too much, come off in a negative light, and displayed a perfect image no matter the person I may be interacting with, is exhausting. Naturally, I say sorry to most everyone I encounter for things that are ridiculous to say sorry for, even beyond the typical Midwestern amount, which is already too much.
As my husband takes his enneagram test on the couch, I read my own past results to be reminded that I get myself into trouble when I am “appropriate” rather than sincere. Ouch.
During a conversation with one of my most favorite people over very picturesque acai peanut butter bowls, we chatted about self talk that we find ourselves doing, and how unhelpful it actually is in encouraging ourselves to look outward to Christ instead of sucked inward. I shared with her that my counselor actually called what I was doing verbal abuse. It seemed extreme, but in reality, it was exactly what I had been doing and am now trying to fight against. How interesting it is that what we would hopefully never see as viable to do to someone else is something we readily do to ourselves.
After our very millennial lunch, I walked home, replaying the honesty I shared with her and feeling the pang of regret, the tragic cycle of “what if?” pumping through my veins and into my heart. We both didn’t leave with fuzzy feelings or fresh inspiration. We shared the stuff of life rather quickly, sensing the urgency of the lunch hour, and the gifts that we can offer one another by simply being present. With the berries probably still caked into my chapped lips, I thought of the wrestle that often leaves us with a limp, true vulnerability bearing gifts seemingly unappealing, full of weakness and risk, but more than plenty of opportunity for God to move beyond our clearly failing methods of being and doing. Fear is from our enemy, even though it seems that fear has been made a close friend.
The way out of the dark is through it, but it also should always involve the gift of self-forgetfulness that leaves us wholly safe in the unable-to-be-plucked-out-of-hands of Christ. There is freedom here beyond my own control and performance, found grafted on to the perfect One who has done it.
I don’t know what’s next, my false gospel saying that if I don’t have knowledge and full clarity, then I’m powerless and feel lost; this statement having almost a thread of truth in it. I won’t know what’s next, and I’ll never fully know what lies ahead. I am powerless, especially in those areas where I grasp the most. I do not measure up to my own standards, and most times, to the standards of my culture and other people. My identity so wrapped up in these idols leaves me in those spots of desperacy, ironically so in that I look to them to rescue me from what they make me feel.
Today, as laundry spins, floors vacuumed, plants watered and pruned, work on top of work done and also not yet finished, there is peace and an odd sense of hope. I remember days and nights walking down the stairs to leave for my day as I’d make contact with the words, “but God” painted on the wall for the whole family to see. As they marked my mundane then, they continue to mark my mundane now, true fighting words as I fight to believe them. A whole week of VBS behind me, the echoes of screaming kids yelling, “Jesus rescues” at first something I shrugged off, to only end on a day where I’m preaching at myself that when we feel worry, powerless, do wrong, but God.
Oh, it is well with my soul; the wrestle is hard and beautiful.