Also, four kids ages 1 to 6.
Anyhow, I keep thinking that if I just learn some particular thing, I could kick the overwhelm. Perhaps I’m just not trying hard enough. I mean, I’m exhausted always. But at the same time, I keep hearing these messages that my life just isn’t that hard. That I should be able to handle this. That I have no excuse to be tired. That other people handle harder and do it with grace. So it’s probably me. There has got to be a system or a Bible study or a book or a class or something that could help me either fix my life or my self so that everything is not so freaking hard.
So I have been swinging. With reckless abandon, like some maniacal whack-a-mole player, I’ve been trying anything that pops up that I believe might help me, well, get my shit together.
I’ve bought books and ecourses on parenting and life mangement and self-care and organization and minimalism. I’ve spent hours reading, watching, listening to podcasts, learning, generally absorbing information. I’ve made my checklists. I try to fix myself like some people go on diets.
Then, one morning, I was listening to one of those things that I purchased, hoping to find a way to settle my soul. It was Emily P Freeman’s Quiet Collection, which is sort of an audio devotional with scripture and reflection. (It’s good, as all of her stuff is.) I heard these words:
We are busy and we are distracted. Mostly, we’re hungry for God and call it overwhelm. And so we’re making our lists and crossing them off and making our lists again.
We’re hungry for God and call it overwhelm.
Perhaps I’ve been looking at this all wrong.
These words resonated immediately and deeply as true. But how is that even possible? I mean, right there on my daily checklist is “DEVOTIONS” and “WRITE” (which usually means prayer journal.) I have my gratitude list and I’m seriously praying all day long. My kids don’t even think I’m weird for doing it aloud anymore. (“Jesus. I have NO IDEA what to do right now and I need HELP” is whispered and/or shouted on the regular.) There’s worship. There’s community.
If someone else was hungering for God, these are exactly the things I would recommend.
I think I managed to make an idol of the ways by which we seek God.
So this, as you might imagine, put me in a bind. Completely convicted that my overwhelm was coming from a simple need for relationship with my Maker, but the very pathways to find him were in fact the problem.
My prayers got muddled.
Jesus, I need you. But I don’t know how to seek your face without getting distracted by the means. So… I think you’re going to have to find me. I’m pretty sure you know where I am, so I’m going to just hang out. I’ll keep doing the things I should, as best I know how, but I need you to come get me, okay?
When I was smallish (tween, really), my mom would always tell me “if we get separated at the store, go to the produce department. That is where I will come and find you.” I felt like I was doing that with Jesus. “I’m just going to chill over here by the apples and lettuce and wait until He shows up.”
He showed up.
I “coincidentally” pulled the next book off my stack: Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try Hard Life. In it, Emily (yep, same one) talks extensively about the particular kind of “good” I am and why we hide behind masks of “goodness” and how and why those need to come off. Basically, how to receive grace when you’re used to striving.
Now, I am REALLY good with grace. I mean, it’s such a big deal in my life that I started writing a blog about it. I’ve been following Jesus since I was three, so I can rattle off a variety of definitions: God’s unmerited favor. When we get what we don’t deserve. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
And I believe it with all of my heart.
For me? I also believe in grace, but I should probably do all the “good” things, too. You know, all those things I listed before- Bible, prayer, worship, gratitude, community, etc. And they are good things.
But I believe they make me good.
I mean, if you asked, that’s not what I’d tell you, because I know the Sunday School answers, but I act like I believe it, which is pretty telling of what’s actually in my heart.
So here I am, back at the beginning of the gospel, again, admitting that I’m a sinner in need of grace. That my works are nothing, my worth is based on His image in me, and my goodness is really His goodness covering me. Anything good I do is simply evidence of all of that, not the reason for it.
I’m still learning things that will support a saner life, because my heart and my house could use more quiet and calm, but there’s a different focus: my root problem isn’t systems; it’s the same as everyone else’s—a need for God.
This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.