On Monday morning, Martha Jane had another 1 year old friend over to play. They were cute as can be together, except when I would hold one making the other cry or attend to the other, making the first one cry. If I got too far away from them, there would be tears of panic. So, finally, I discovered that I had them on the sofa with me and I stayed as still and calm as possible, smiles emerged. I even sang some of my best preschool song solos, with hand motions, to keep them from remembering they might be sad. I sat there, not cleaning the kitchen or checking on the older kids, and it was actually a really cool confinement. In that moment, I realized nothing was falling apart for not being obsessively tended to and there was nothing I was delaying that couldn’t just as easily be done later. But I also saw how very unnatural this kind of still and present-ness was for me. I had to be forced to stay in one place and was amazed at how grateful I was for that.
It is not until the end of a week at the beach that we finally adjust to the rhythm of rest and are just beginning to really settle in and suddenly, it is time to go. We always feel like a second week would really be what we need. Similarly, when a new leader comes in or when an old leader institutes new ideas, it seems that it takes at least a second year before evaluation should be done. Perhaps another example was gleaned from hearing Francis Ford Coppola in person as he described his writing process. He said he would never, ever proof read or even re-read his writing until he’d gotten at least 100 pages down in ink. Otherwise, he said, he’d just keep re-writing the first five pages over and over. Jumping from attempt to attempt, new application to newer application, new idea to newer idea, new routine to newer routine rarely works. Like Francis Ford Coppola, I am tempted to obsessively attempt to perfect the same few pages, never making any real progress, when I refuse to slow down and settle in to the flow of the first thing.
I think somewhere deep down, I believe my salvation (not just the “getting into heaven” concept, but the true sense of rescue from strife and striving) is at the other end of my to do list, my achievement catalog or my community ties. I frantically run from thing to thing because I feel, deep down, that I’m in a cosmic grocery store game show where I have a limited amount of time to fill my cart with as much as I can. I continue to believe that satisfaction will come when my cart is full. I continue to believe that peace is just within my reach, once I get all these loose ends tied up. Proof of this is the fact that I feel anxious and irritable when each room of my house daily looks like I’ve never cleaned it, when I can’t list the tangible accomplishments of my children’s academics, when I can’t reliably return e-mails or phone calls or keep our budget straight, when I can’t provide a map of our family’s ten, five or even one year plan and so on. The irritibility and stress indicate that I have an assumption that if each of these things were accomplished, then I would feel “good” or peaceful or restful or…justified. Like the wealthy man who went away sad when Jesus challenged his heart’s allegiance, I too ultimately trust more in my accomplishments than His. I am still more dependent upon my works to validate or commend me to others rather than the person and work of Jesus alone.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 1 Cor. 1:30Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
I am still looking for peace through my own righteousness, holiness and self-redeeming acts. Because my image is so important to me, I cannot rest in His alone. Like a Christmas card I received this week where the family was not only dressed perfectly and in country club uniform, so to speak, but they were even all sitting perfectly in a perfect setting without wrinkle or even the baby smirking…I too want to be a perfect package. I want to be admired and removed from any category of inferiority. So when the reality of my days opposes this Christmas card-like packaging of my home, my reliability, my parenting or teaching, my neighboring, my friending and even my desire not to leave the house with bags under my eyes and severe signs of aging in my only 37 year old face…I am left to frantically grab for fig leaves to cover it up, yell blaming accusations for these inadequacies, deny my shortcomings or dive for cover in the calming, slowing, strong, accomplished, completing, powerful, secure, peace infusing arms and lap of Jesus.
What if rather than quitting what seems like a miserably failing attempt at homeschooling, I settle in, give it 100 pages or another week, and quit evaluating it by the eyes of others? What if rather than letting the unfinished tasks around my house determine my peace, I became able to enjoy the person in front of me until that visit was satisfactorily complete, like Mary chose wisely with Jesus? What if in contrast to my impatient, hurried self I learn to play guitar because I start to believe the music at the other end is well worth the very long time it will take me to come close to any kind of musical accomplishment there? What if my confidence in His love for and His pleasure with me because of all that He has completed and credited to me begins to override the condemning voices pointing out all that I haven’t done? What if His voice begins to become louder and truer in my heart than all others, particularly my own merciless one? How might I love others so much more lavishly from this position than one of hurried performance and perfectionist presentation?
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt. 19:21-26