Some days just peel back all of your attempts at good. Perfection. The illusion that you have a handle on things. Some days the amount you are "missing the boat" smacks you in the face. Some days the messiness of life rises like polluted water and it's all you can do to stretch out your prayers to God for help.
A friend, struggling with hard relationship stuff. I texted her, "Been praying for you!"
She replied, "I woke up this morning and it was the first day in a week that I could pray for myself." I know how she feels.
Sometimes prayer pours out of me in a constant flow. I love C. S. Lewis. I distinctly remember in the movie Shadowlands, that as he is facing losing his wife to cancer Lewis says, "I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God, it changes me."
I don't know if he really said it at that moment, but I think we've all had those times. Things out of our hands, out of our control. We reach out for that peace of God, beg and plead for a measure of it. Beg for health for a dear one, favor in a difficult situation, a heart to be changed.
But what about when it's my heart? Your heart? That's a change that's harder to reach out for, beg for. It feels selfish to ask and yet selfish is already what is fully embedded in my heart. It's at the root of my challenges and I frankly don't want to pray for that change! I don't want to set down my task and be patient with this child who wants my attention. I don't want to admit I am the one messing things up.
In those moments, usually alone, late at night, I do not want to pray for myself. I don't want to examine what's going on in my own heart. I don't want to see that maybe I have been the root cause or major contributor to the mess. And I can barely pray for myself.
In a recent dinner for ladies discipleship leaders, the speaker said, "If we ask women what we can pray for, they can always list the things going on in their life. They can tell what neighbor is sick, how their kids are struggling, and about work and marriage struggles. But ask them 'How can I pray for your heart?' and they respond with silence."
Christ came to heal the sick. I know that includes me. So how come I like to pretend that I'm one of the well? Why do I persist in praying for healing for body parts and sick friends, praying for my children's hearts, my husband, others challenges but examining my own impatience, unforgiving heart, or quickness to anger stops me cold?
I learned new things about one of my children recently. It brought me to tears to realize that I had missed signs that were plainly evident of a challenge they were having; Had been having for years. And I know why I missed it. I was busy. I am a great one for tasks. When I slow down, it's to collapse in bed at night. I can make a great case for myself and the task. But when I get down to brass tacks, I was just busy when I should have been aware.
And I am having trouble praying for my own heart to change in this.
One of our other kids is having a tough time. Has been. Always. Hard and scary days. And our relationship is one that is almost always at odds. I don't know if we are oil and water but I do know that I over look, pass off, play down their ups and downs. They are deep and if I go there, I will have to pull in to this child when I don't always feel like it. And I will have to examine my heart. And I know I will find I have made some of the wounds deeper in their heart.
And I am having trouble praying for my own heart to change in this.
I have prayed AROUND it. Prayed to be a better mom, prayed for patience, prayed for a loving relationship with this child.
But praying specifically for change IN my own heart? Ouch! Owning my unwillingness, owning my selfishness, my desire for peace at whatever cost.
It has been a year since I have written. Written anything. This has been a long year. Moving. Construction. Chaos. Kids who think every moves means a new family so they REACT. And they react for MONTHS and MONTHS.
And I have found I have come to the end of myself. I am tired and feel a bit like a failure. And I am angry that I'm not as great at this mom and wife and life thing as I've been telling myself that I am. This was the conversation I had with my husband through sobs the other day. I am struggling to pray for myself and fill the needs all around me and I am finding that I have poured out all I have, forgetting that I need filling first.
I think we all come to the end of ourselves sometimes. And we find ourselves lacking. All the self-help books, organizational tools, and promises to work harder never quite lead me to my own salvation. This has been marinating for a while when our pastor said he suffers from "revert-backism". The tendency to try to morally reform himself because after all, Jesus got him all the way to 40%, surely he can get the rest of the way by himself!
That really hit me between the eyes. I was trying to rescue my children, heal wounds too deep for me to fathom, force heart transformation in all of us, and pretend I was supermom all at the same time. It was all me. But inwardly the walls of my heart were dry and crumbling to dust. And I could not pray for myself.
I've said many times how I hate the phrase, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." Because it's crap!
Tell that to my friend who lost her son suddenly at 21 years old. Tell that to his younger brother that just lost his best friend.
Tell that to my friend whose husband was mildly ill one day and diagnosed with a terminal illness that took his life in a couple weeks the next.
Tell that to the parents whose child died of cancer at age 12.
Tell that to my friend who had to call the police on her own child and have him hospitalized for the 5th time this year because his early trauma has wounded him so deeply he is not always safe.
Those events absolutely DRIVE me to my creator begging for help and healing only HE can give.
But the smaller stuff. Parenting my wounded but not unsafe kids. Schooling. Laundry. Heart needs. Exhaustion. Frustration. Anger. Mess.
They seem small but they eat away and I keep thinking I can balance all these plates without Him. I need God in the BIG stuff, but I got the rest of it! I can manage my own heart because I'm doing pretty good.
I know I'm not alone in this. I know we all come to that place where we are just empty. That's where I think God is waiting for us. Reminding us that only He can truly transform our hearts.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2