This Sunday in church, some friends read Psalm 139 as a meditation to start the service. It was a friendly reminder from the Lord that even when I feel misunderstood and unheard, he knows my thoughts even before I say them out loud.
I struggle with a child-like need to be understood, and nothing derails my day more than the inner turmoil that comes from being unable to explain myself.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be understood — especially by those close to me — but the lie I believe in the midst of it is that I have the power to win people over to my point of view if I could just make them understand.
Sometimes I can’t see that my point of view is wrong. Sometimes I can’t convince a listener that their point of view is wrong. Sometimes I can’t get anyone to listen at all. But I’m learning to say what I feel needs to be said, then release it into God’s hands.
I’m learning that, for me, the hardest part of following Jesus is being content that his unconditional love and intimate knowledge of my inner thought-life is enough.
It’s a painful, heart wrenching lesson, and each time I release the burden I feel like a child who wails in that instant her hand opens up to release the string of a balloon. She panics as it floats away, but then is mesmerized by the way it dances in the wind and floats against the blue sky.
It really is a beautiful thing to let go of a burden, if we can just open our hand and trust the wind.
Hearing Psalm 139 read out loud on Sunday felt like Jesus speaking audibly to me. I know your heart, he said. Let me heal it for you. Trust me that I can comfort you more than you realize.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord , you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
The other day I learned (from Tim Keller!) that the Greek word for anxiety – marimna – means “to be in pieces” or to have a divided mind with too many goals.
One example of its use is in the Mary and Martha story. I always hear this passage preached with the warning to not be too busy to enjoy Jesus. These sermons irritate me because I wonder: Who’s going to do All The Things if everyone’s sitting around appreciating the presence of Jesus?!
People like to focus on Mary and Martha’s behavior, but in the context of “marimna,” Jesus is addressing their hearts. It’s not about all the things Martha is doing; he’s saying she has too many priorities – her heart is divided.
If anxiousness is to have a divided heart and mind, then peace, the opposite of anxiety, is to be single-minded.
But peace doesn’t come merely in choosing one goal to chase over all the others; true peace comes when we are single-minded toward Jesus and let everything else gravitate around him.
According to the passage, Mary is single-minded toward Jesus. This doesn’t mean she neglects all the work – it just means she finds peace in Jesus, not in her to-do list.
Two years ago I wrote about this same thing in a post called, Restful Worship. Here’s an excerpt…
Whatever circumstances I find myself in – whether emotional turmoil, financial hardship, or even just a busy schedule – God will not only sustain me in the midst of it, but he will provide a season of peace.
But it’s not the sort of peace where I catch up on laundry, sleep, and 30Rock episodes, but a peace that’s intended to remind me of who God is and how he sustained me through the day (or week, or month, or however long I’ve been slogging along).
He provides an opportunity for restful worship.
This Fall I was feeling very anxious again and, quite frankly, a little cray-cray. My heart was in pieces, divided. I was worrying about all the circumstances around me, which led me to be controlling and argumentative, then despairing when I couldn’t control or argue my desires into existence.
Thankfully, my heart and mind are at peace again – single-minded toward Jesus.
How do you struggle with marimna? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
This morning I came across Paul’s No Drama Policy in the Bible. It appears in the middle of a section on marriage, singleness, and sexuality – all situations with a potential for high drama.
I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31 MSG)
Time is of the essence.
Keep it simple.
I love that Paul acknowledges how the world can thrust drama into my life, but I can also create my own drama in the “ordinary things.”
Clearly I’m not the enforcer of God’s No Drama Policy, but I definitely aspire.
Today I got up in a foul mood. I’d been awake since 3am, the kids weren’t getting out of bed in time to eat a decent breakfast, the internet was down, and it was snowing.
This meant that even though I was exhausted by 7am, I couldn’t stay home and work in my pajamas. And not only couldn’t I stay home and work in my pajamas, but it was snowing between me and the closest coffee shop.
Clearly these are irritating circumstances and not end-of-the-world events, yet I use excuses like this every day to justify my bitterness, anger, and foul moods.
So when this went down today, it didn’t take long before I grew tired of my own complaining tweets and thoughts, so I opened my Bible in hopes that it would shut down my attitude.
I read this:
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:20-24
What caught my attention was the phrase, “be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self, created in the likeness of God…”
My old self is bitter and angry whenever I don’t get my way. Or maybe I should say my “old self,” because I don’t act very much like it’s old. Unless you consider 5 minutes ago as old. Then heck yeah, that was my old self.
BUT THAT IS NOT THE WAY YOU LEARNED CHRIST!
(If Paul had a blog he’d have used all caps there).
The gospel doesn’t allow for my shitty attitude to be justified by circumstances. This is bad news for people like me who embrace an Eeyore outlook on life, but I’m praying for a more… how shall I say?… overt renewing of my mind.
A few months ago I bought a Groupon for two nights at the Earthbox Motel on San Juan Island. The islands are a favorite summer destination for us so I’m excited to visit in the off season. Earthbox boasts the only indoor pool on the island, which is really what sold me on it since we may get rained out of everything else to do on the island.
(Ruthie just asked me if we could go swimming RIGHT WHEN WE GET THERE, so this pool may be the best $150 I spent in a long time.)
My goal for this weekend is to enjoy playing with my family and to be present in the moment. I’ve noticed that my comfort and contentment tend to hinge mostly on whether my own expectations are met (peace and quiet! solitude! let me read my book!), at the expense of everyone else’s enjoyment (rrraawwwrrrrr!).
If that sounds like the description of a teenager, I accept your rebuke.
This weekend I desire to play and be silly and explore and snuggle and say Yes more than I say No. I don’t do any of that often enough, which is probably why Bryan is such a rock star in this house. He does it all with his eyes closed and standing on one foot.
For inspiration, I looked to a favorite vacation post from February 2007. If you overlook the fact I’m STILL the same control freak I was five years ago (STAY IN MY HAPPY PLACE! DON’T OVERTHINK IT!), you’ll see I had a magical time being free with my kids.
This is my hope for the weekend. Also, I’d love to find my sense of humor again.
Our trip to the San Jose area couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve spent the last couple months reorganizing and reprioritizing my focus as a mother and household manager, trying to correct the part of my brain that sometimes finds it easier to focus on the latter and see the former as a distraction. I want to be present with my children. I want to enjoy them. My goal in spending ten days apart from the household duties of cleaning, laundry, and other such necessities was to develop good habits in spending time with my children.
I believe I did well in accomplishing what I set out to do. We played hide and seek. The tickle monster attacked. We went to parks and visited attractions. We left the hotel every day. We talked. And we didn’t watch t.v. Even in the midst of being away from the comforts of home, I only used the morning PBS programs to occupy Ruthie while I showered. We kept busy, and I remained focused on them until they were sleeping.
For me the pinnacle came on Monday when we visited Santa Cruz, about an hour from our hotel. We were nearly alone on a wide open beach, running around and digging in the sand with nothing but our fingers and some empty coffee cups. I stretched myself, and offered Ruthie some freedom from my control, and I watched her revel in a world with few boundaries. The beach was so empty, so expansive, and the ocean before us was so never-ending, that my need to control every situation, every moment, every move seemed insignificant. I realized how rigid I had become, how inflexible. But that morning I was able to let my children run, and I practiced trusting them, and I patiently corrected them when they wandered too far, and I became their biggest fan once again.
It was the silence, and the time, and the space provided by this trip that allowed me to grow as a parent in this way – to remember that my job is much more than just keeping them fed and clothed, but to also disciple and teach and model, and to sometimes play with them. I developed a taste for getting out, for exploring, for inspiring my children and giving them opportunities to run and jump and play – not that it couldn’t have happened in the absence of a vacation, amidst the everyday life I live, but it seems a trip to San Jose is how God chose to get through to me.
As we left the beach in Santa Cruz my kids immediately crashed into a coma, and I listened to the Garden State soundtrack. I love it for its mix. Many soundtracks have a schizophrenic feel to it, accommodating for love scenes and fight scenes and war scenes all within the same album. But the Garden State soundtrack has a vibe, and it’s a good vibe for a quiet ride home from the beach. When the song, Let Go, by Frou Frou began playing I immediately knew it was the soundtrack for the day at least, and maybe even for my overall struggle through anger and control.
You’ll know why when you hear it.
So, the video you are about to see is more than just a video scrapbook of a fun day. I had a vision for this project the moment I heard the song. It is a stone for me to carry, like the ones Much Afraid carried. It is a rock cairn to remember the path I have taken to get where I am now. It is an alter built to God, in praise of who he is, like the ones built by my spiritual forefathers in the desert.
Every once in awhile I put this song on repeat and turn it up to eleven. I can’t speak to why the song writers feel okay, but it reminds me of the peace I find in Jesus no matter what stresses me out.
Lately I’ve been inspired by a friend who’s had to make some very tough decisions and accept new life circumstances that are out of her control. But even though she spent many years fearing and resisting this situation, she’s walking through it with grace and peace.
In Jesus, she’s okay. Even if we lose it all, as the song says.
falling down in the dirt
we are tired we are hurt
crashing cars dying stars
I can love you like you are
hit the wall have to crawl
even if we lose it all