Thursday, December 5, 2013
A Firm Foundation
Occasionally, I find myself in a funk. I decide that my life is not what I want it to be, and I get all mopey and unfun. Usually it is sparked by an especially messy day around the house or cooler weather that keeps us inside far more than is healthy for our minds or just one of those days when I seem to drop everything, lose everything, forget everything. Sometimes, it seems to come out of nowhere, but every time, it makes me question myself. I start to think things like I'm too smart to spend my days wiping poo and repeating a two-year-old. Or, Every single thing I accomplish today I'll have to do again in a few hours or a few days. What is the point? Or, I can't see what any of this is doing for me. Or my favorite, I haven't done one single thing today that was just for me or that I even enjoyed.
I flop around for a while (sometimes a few days), feeling sorry for my poor, unchallenged, unfulfilled self until it occurs to me to take action. What do you want, Aleah? That's my next question, the money question. What do I want? What are all my options? Which of them will make my heart sing? What will fix me and make me feel whole and happy? What will make this funk go away and fulfill me so well that I will never feel it again?
Every time I go through this there are a few things happening. The first is that I am fixated, stuck on the "seen". I stare at the week-old dishes and the tumbleweed of dog hair and the spit-up soaked burp cloths and the muddy dog prints on my just-mopped floor. I stare at the pile of books and magazines I haven't read and the diploma in my closet and the unused exercise equipment and the unsorted, loose photographs. All I hear is "A, B, C, D" and "can you tell me how to get" and "twinkle, twinkle". All I smell is stinky trash and lingering poo and regurgitated corn-based formula and whatever random object my two-year-old wants me to smell. I'm stuck in my sensory body and I'm stuck in what I can touch, taste, smell, feel, see.
I'm also projecting my inside onto the outside. I'm pointing to the clothes I wear and saying, "These don't fit me right." And I'm pointing to my children and saying, "You drive me bonkers." And I'm pointing at my husband, saying, "You don't fulfill me." And I'm pointing at my every day, do-it-all-over-again life and saying, "You make me hate myself." But none of these things are true. I have clothes that fit. My children are people, needy little people, but that isn't a bad thing and it isn't what's really bothering me. And my husband is loving and caring and consistently seeks to bless me and wash me in the water of the Word. And a lot of the time, I go about my Sisyphean life with a whistle on my lips and a laugh and a tickle ready to engage. I'm pointing at the trappings and yelling at them like they're all wrong when what's really wrong is my heart.
I could change everything tomorrow. I could find a job, put my kids in day care or at a babysitter's, start waking up early to exercise, take a long lunch hour to read books and get my nails done, use my extra income to hire a house cleaner, buy all the Baby Einstein DVDs to teach my kids and sing to them. I'd still have to deal with the occasional poo and bed time and the dogs, but at least a lot of the problems would be fixed. I'd be all happy again and then my marriage would soar and I would love my kids more and the hills would be alive with the sound of music. Can't you see it? Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it so much better than this?
Until 2 pm rolls around and I start to ache because I haven't seen my little boy all day and I've missed out on at least ten kisses. Until I can't bear to wake up early to exercise because I hate the morning. Until I get bored with books and just want to sing along to Sesame Street. Until I fire the house cleaner because she loads my dishes wrong. Until my kids don't care about learning letters with Mommy and just want to watch TV. Until I start to hate my job and think, Man, I really had it good when I stayed at home. Why did I change everything?
This isn't a post about staying at home versus working. This isn't a post about how letting your kids watch educational DVDs is bad or having a house cleaner makes you lazy or how getting up early will make you a new person. It's not about any of those things which is exactly the point. It's not about those things. Life... Life is not about those things. It's not about what you do. It's not about what you do every single day. It's about who you are. Where you rest. Why you breathe.
At the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus paints this little picture, "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:24-27) When I want to throw in the towel, start my life over, change everything, I'm letting my house be washed away in the flood. My sandy foundation -- the one based on my feelings and my direction for my life, my master plan -- can't support the weight of life, of all my questions and desires and longings and needs. The support I long for, the foundation that can hold the weight of life, that will build something permanent in a world that is wasting away, that support is found in Christ.
I can focus on the piles and the dirt and the insignificance and my fickle heart. Or I can focus on the words of Jesus. "You are the salt of the earth." "You are the light of the world." "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." "Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth." "You cannot serve God and money." "Do not be anxious about your life." "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." "Judge not, that you be not judged." "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them." (Matthew 5-7) These truths anchor. These words of Jesus form a way, a path, a direction for life, these words fill in the broken places and heal wounds. These words lay down a way that weathers all of life's storms and will never wash away.
You can be salt and light and forgiving and loving and restful and God-centered and searching and golden in anything. You can be these things as a teacher. You can be these things as a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom. You can be these things as an accountant, a barista, a rocket scientist, a brain surgeon. You can be these things as an air conditioner repair man and a trash man and a nuclear physicist. You can be firm and grounded and safe from the storms wherever you are because wherever you are is not what grounds you. Where you are and how you feel and what you wear and do for a living are all secondary. The foundation of Christ is primary and necessary for fulfillment in any of these things.
Jesus never promises that if we build our house on His foundation that we will feel full and satisfied and happy. He can't fix my bad mood or my brooding moodiness. He can fix my eternity, however. This life will never fulfill me; it's just a fact. And I can spend my days brooding... Or -- I can soak in all the joy; that's a choice I can make, and while there is a better choice, and joy will bless me and the people around me far more than brooding, ultimately, it isn't what matters. What matters is the reward in heaven, the salvation of souls, Christ's fulfillment of the law, the harnessing of anger and lust and retaliation and the unleashing of truth and love and charity, the honoring of God, the preeminence of God, the rest we have in Him, the blessings He pours out on us, the grace we show one another, and ultimately, our standing before God. All these things Jesus preaches in His sermon. But just before His sandy foundation picture, He says this, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"
Look what I did, Lord! Look! Look at it all! No. No, what matters isn't my job or my feelings about it. It isn't my hopes and dreams and capability, my intelligence or organizational skills or passion for learning. It isn't where I see myself in five years or ten or how many loads of laundry I will have done in that time. It isn't your job title or your relationship status or your college diploma or your life plan. What matters is doing the will of the Father. But, Aleah, what about this gem? "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Remember how you told me I'm all broken and stuff? How do I do this one thing that matters? How do I do the will of the Father? We'll keep reading: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (Romans 3:23-24) This is the will of the Father. That instead of hanging your hat on your job and your accomplishments and listing out all your incredible abilities, instead of poking holes in your day-to-day, demolishing your importance and lamenting your life choices, instead of all that, God offers you grace. He offers you a grace that withstands the beating, crashing waves that threaten to destroy your house. He offers you a grace that washes you clean of every single time you yell and smolder inside and blame your spouse for your bad attitude. He offers you a grace that meets you in the boardroom and the bedroom and the classroom and everywhere in between. This grace was built for a life of failing and succeeding, winning and losing, feeling satisfied and feeling empty, joy and sorrow. This grace only depends on one thing: the victory of Jesus which has already been accomplished and could not depend any less on you.
I offer this up because it presents a unique opportunity. If you build your house on a foundation of grace in Christ that does not depend on your success or life plan or capability, you are free. You are free from your bad moods and your dissatisfaction and your jealousy and your pettiness. You are free from your title and your label and your job and your hobbies. You are free from who you are and how far that is from who you think you should be. You become a grace-receiving, Jesus-shining light always, in all things, in every way. Your life is important and it matters, not because of what you do, but because of who you are in Jesus. That has lasting worth. That builds treasure that isn't eaten by moths. That builds a glory to come. I may or may not fold my laundry today (or put away the laundry from last week). I might spend all my free time cleaning up toys and cooking dinner. I may not do one single thing today that is just for me. And that's okay. Not because it fixes my mood or because I'll put on my rosy glasses and be Miss Cheery Happy Mom. But because in Jesus, I am free. I'm free from my mood and my job and all the things, all the trappings, all the doings. I am free to love and give and forgive and offer a hand because I am new in Christ. I can get stuck and burrow and down and hide my head, but I'd be missing many beautiful opportunities to sprinkle salt and shine the very same grace I am shown every single day.