I have to couch this post by saying there is some amount of grieving happening in my home right now. It's okay, it's even a good and beautiful thing to be able to do that - but it is what it is: a lot of sorrow and sadness. It's within that context that I am trying to bring words to what I am expressing below.
Also, a lot of the sorrow that we are facing I have carried for a long time. I have fought for and rallied and crusaded for certain things to happen and they finally are. I'm not saying that was right to do or wrong to do. But I have done it and it has had - there is no doubt - a great impact on my body and my health. For example one thing that has suffered tremendously has been my sleep.
So, again, in that context for the last number years I have felt an emphasis inside me to prioritize about eight to ten things in my life. Simple things that I kept sensing I should make top priority in my life. Things to do with caring for my body, caring for my family and how I use my time.
But after trying to keep this relatively simple list now for quite a few years (and writing it in new and pretty ways every new year in my journals) I had come to refer to it as my screwed-up-insanely-frustrating-list-of-personal-awful-failures.
I have come to really, really not like this list.
I have chosen every choice I could. Abdicated, let go, wrestled and it's taken me all these years, but I had started to see this list as a mirror. Not of who I am (I'd like that) but of all the things I am not but long to be. The list has been a call to obedience, I know that deeply. And as I've tried and tried to do just that, it's really become much more of an exposure.
I've asked as I've prayed - almost daily - to be let off the hook. But time and again I look up from pleading my case and there is that list, right there in front of me, and a whisper, again, to pursue it.
Besides the fact that everything on this list is healthy, good for me and a gift to myself and those I love - it's also become a measuring stick by bullet points. It displays pretty finely all the important ways I don't meet up. And the fact that I value these things so deeply, only serves to do so more. It's a combination of expectations having me by the jugular, and Jesus having me by the hand. I'm forced to admit I can't and He keeps saying I can.
That, I promise you, does not feel great.
It's confusing, too! I am a pretty dedicated person. I lost over 65 post-pregnancies pounds when I set my mind to it. I know how to run double digits through pain. I have been sick for seven years unable to walk unassisted and looking at a grim future when I was in my twenties. I've survived a coma, post-partum depression and trauma - but why, really, were these ten simple things continually bringing me to my knees?
I take a lot of comfort in these words:
"What I don't understand about myself ," Paul writes, "is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. [I wonder what his list was?] So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it's predictable." (from Romans chapter seven)It seems relevant right now as everyone has been making lists and coming up with words for the new year. (Both of which are practices I actually really love.) Because I think we all have lists inside of us. Some are part longing, part obedience. Some are one or the other. But my question becomes are we just destined to wrestle with them? Why do we sometimes conquer and sometimes break? Are we simply human and that's part of the deal? Do some things just stay insurmountable? And if so, how on earth do we keep going? It's exhausting.
One of my greatest epiphanies about my list came when I heard God whisper something truly shocking to me about it. "You know," He mentioned, "this list is actually all things you want. It's your heart."
That hit home.
I have fought hard for these things. Reorganized and changed my whole life to be committed to this. But this list - more than anything else in my life - has made me feel empty and broken. It has exposed me as incapable. It reminds me I am - at my deepest level and will - personally powerless. My list, my new year's word, my goals, my plans - my very own longings - have proven over and over again, day after day, that I am weak.
- To Be Continued -