It’s only the third week of the year and in some respects I feel like I’ve already fallen behind. People are posting their achievements on social media – whether it’s to do with their job, a new project, their studies, fitness, or whatever – already! Meanwhile I’m just thinking about getting started, and not sure with what first.
It has been a bit of a bumpy start. Our dear dog Roxie is sick and we don’t know how it all is going to go. My eldest had his wisdom teeth out and started the year with a week off work to recover. There have been appointments and more appointments to get everyone too and not much time for anything else. I’ve been trying to find a space to plan a little. In my last post I mentioned that I was sure 2017 would have its fair share of challenges. Well, it has started a little bit rough.
I wasn’t sure what to write about this week then found a few lines I’d written before Christmas that are still relevant…
The other week I picked up a book in a local bookstore that I wanted, but put it down as quickly as I picked it up. The reason? It’s not my normal kind of book. What if someone I knew came in and saw that I was holding a book about feeling left out and lonely? I’d just die, or go bright red and maybe pretend I was buying it for someone else. As I hovered over the display, considering, I convinced myself that I was past the need for that kind of book. Really Emma, pull your socks up and get on with it.
I like to read books about justice or theology or mission or the church, in between reading my Bible, and also some very good and some very bad fiction from the library. I like the Think blog even though some of it goes right over my head. I’ve read Undaunted and Unstoppable by Christine Caine and then struggled to read Unashamed. I like the exciting stuff, the books that talk about doing the stuff and making a difference…and I’m less keen on the inward looking stuff. I don’t want to be a navel-gazer – oh, give me strength, it makes me twitch – but maybe I’m more of one than I like to think, after all I write this blog.
Of course I can see what really stopped me buying that book now – pride – that ‘By-myself!’ attitude.
The truth is that a few weeks ago I was a mess. Exhausted. A little lost. Not sure at all what I’m supposed to be doing. Feeling alone and a bit desperate. Miserable. Even disappointed. Trying ever so hard to carry on as normal, but running on empty.
I try my best not to fall apart, because don’t I have to hold it together? (Err no, God does.) It’s a mother’s lot, isn’t it? To make sure everyone else is okay doing their stuff. My husband has the pressure of being self-employed to think about, he doesn’t need me being an emotional basket case. I don’t want to be a bother to anyone else either. My default is to pretend it’s all fine and do all of the things until eventually I don’t feel quite as bad any more. The perfectionist in me does not want to admit I can’t do everything (and do it very well). The control freak in me can’t bear the thought of letting go. I fear being left behind – and, worst of all, left out. Hello insecurity!
It’s not a great default setting.
The worst thing is that I know about grace, but forget it so often. I know it’s not about what I do that earns favour from God. It’s a foundational thing in my life. Yet here I was striving again, not only for God, but for everyone else too.
As I said, this is how I felt several weeks ago and things are a whole lot better now. While I was in that desperate place of trying to carry on when I felt terrible, a young friend came up to me in a church meeting and said, ‘I think God’s saying to you, “It’s okay to not be okay”.’ How I needed to hear that! It gave me permission somehow to admit I was not in a good place and to say, ‘Hey, can you pray for me?’ As I mentioned in my last post, I’m getting better at asking for help.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling how I did/do sometimes. We’re all broken. Whether we like it or not God cares about mending that brokenness, and it requires dealing with the internal stuff. There are definitely times when He stops us in our tracks to get things sorted. It’s so we can then go in His power. What I’m learning is to be real, to not put on a facade of having it all together when I don’t. It’s a whole lot less lonely and a whole lot less exhausting.
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9, The Message