The last few years, I’ve had themes come to mind for the upcoming year, rather than specific resolutions. The theme that keeps impressing itself on my heart for this season is being present. That idea is everywhere these days, and the things I’ve read don’t seem to do it justice. The blogs I read make being present seem this really warm and fuzzy thing, like I’ll just sit down with my hands cupped around a warm mug, inhaling the beauty in my day like the fragrance wafting up from my coffee. Frankly, right now, being present is a terrifying thought to me. All I want, all day long, is to escape. I am deeply afraid of committing myself to the present, to being present. The definition of “present” is “existing or occuring now” or “in a particular place”. Both of which scare me.
I don’t know what it is about this season that is so hard for me. I’m living the dream! I have three beautiful children, a house, a loving husband who is also my favorite person and best friend. But life is so hard, or at least feels so hard. Most days I feel like I’m scrambling to stay abreast of everything, scrambling just to keep ahold of myself in the middle of chaos. Somehow, without realizing it, I’ve disengaged. I spend my days trying to hide from my kids, from conflict, from the mess. I have completely quit childrearing because I can’t handle confronting alllll the feelings. I’m so tired of it.
I’m missing out on my life.
I’m missing out on my kids’ childhoods.
I feel betrayed by the fact that everything I’ve wanted is not making me happy, that it’s so hard, that I feel like I hate my life. What’s to hate? Why do I feel this way? All I want is to get away from all this.
And yet, in the midst of all this negative emotion, I feel called to be present. I am scared to death. I have tears in my eyes as I type.
A few thoughts, and here is where, if you don’t believe in the Christian narrative, I’ll probably alienate/lose you. Heads up.
1. I know that, as a child of God, I am clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, and that’s how God sees me. I don’t believe God judges me, because he judged Jesus for me. But I do believe that, as proverbs says, the way of the transgressor is hard. I am making my life hard inasmuch as I am choosing to walk in disobedience to what God has required of me. I keep asking Matthew why our life is so hard and, while truthfully this stage of life is just hard (three kids three and under? yeah. hard.) I really think life is harder than it needs to be right now, and I know in my heart that I am making it hard for myself. The ironic thing is, as I desperately try to escape all the hard things, I’m just making everything harder and harder.
2. I am called to be present when all I want to do is leave. This is impossible. But at the same time, it’s entirely possible by God’s spirit in me. I’m given the choice of life or death, right now, and I’ve been choosing death. That may seem melodramatic, but it’s true when you view it through the lens of scripture. In trying to escape, run away, I’ve been letting discontentment, fear, and anger sow their seeds and bear fruit in my life. That fruit is death, death in my days, in my heart, in my attitude. Here’s the thing, no matter what I’ve been choosing til now, I still have the chance to choose afresh. These verses are comforting and challenging:
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.”
Again, this may seem melodramatic, but I am perishing. I am. No more.
3. I still don’t want to be present. I still don’t want to engage my life, (this is embarrassing) to care for my children’s emotional and spiritual selves, sometimes I even resent caring for their physical selves (the endless snack requests? yeah.) but I am still called to do just that. Psalm 118 is my prayer for this time, this year. Here’s a few verses from it, but you should read the whole thing if this resonates with you in any way.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
(It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to escape by fill in the blank. May it be so!)
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
(Feeling the results of my particular bentness of heart has been severe. It is still hard, but I know that God has life in mind for me.)
THIS is the Lord‘s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
THIS is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(This is what I’m called to this year. Living this. Annnnnd, so, in the knowledge of my inability to do it, I come to this next verse.)
Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Hopefully you can’t relate, hopefully you are in a much better place than I, but if not: you’re not alone. The wages of our sinful, destructive behavior is death and perishing, but there is great, great hope for us. The Lord is on our side! That which he calls us to do, he enables us to do. Amen and amen.
Also, I’m totally still going to try to get my oldest into preschool. I’m not crazy. I’m still going to try to make my life easier in tangible ways. Amen and amen.