I have embarked on a journey of great magnitude and terrible difficulty.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
Okay, I decided to follow Jesus a long time ago, but I think I still am asked daily and even momentarily if I’m still in. He asks me frequently if I am still interested in following Him into the nitty gritty places in this world, and that, naturally, has to start with my own life. My own nitty gritty.
As I have mentioned here, and here, I am pretty much past the queasiness of letting Him in on all my ugly secrets, and I am becoming better at just surrendering while I still have the energy to do something positive afterward (as opposed to resisting Jesus until I’m completely exhausted). If you are not past that feeling or attitude, I recommend you read those other posts first, and then, if you still want to, read this one.
I also hope you know how fully and completely Jesus loves you. You should read this first if you have any doubts. I certainly don’t want you thinking you can win God’s love by working hard. It’s laughable to think He could love you any more than He already does.
So, the journey I have embarked on started with me deciding to go to a local Christian college for a class this semester. Then, I realized in order to do so I would need to get my act together because, in case I hadn’t noticed, I have four small children, and I am homeschooling the two that aren’t one-year-old twins. So I started doing FlyLady cleaning and life organization, and I changed homeschool curriculum, and I prayed that if I should not do this right now, I would hear that direction clearly.
I clearly understood God asking me to put it off. While simultaneously giving me a harder direction. A journey of great magnitude and terrible difficulty. What was it?
To love better. Specifically, to love at home better. Because, for reasons I don’t really know, it is exponentially more difficult to love the people we’re around every single day than to love people we only see a few times a week or month. Unfortunately for me, this means it’s harder for me to love my kids (who I am specifically tasked with loving) than to love almost anyone else in the world. Ironic, isn’t it?
Now, when I say I don’t “love” I don’t mean that I generally don’t like, care about, or wish well. That’s not how we feel about our kids. I mean the Bible’s definition of love, which is that love is: patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice at wrongdoing, rejoices with the truth, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, it never ends.
I will openly admit that the first two things on the list are enough to stop me in my tracks. I am not patient, or particularly kind. Having four little kids allows us, in America, a lot of grace in the eyes of our peers when it comes to patience, and it is an assumption that we will, as over-stressed moms, be impatient with our kids. However, in keeping with the greatness of the magnitude and terribleness of the difficulty, I have been feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit to address these two shortcomings (I assume we’ll deal with the rest later….If we ever get past the first two.) Because Jesus manages to be both incredibly gracious toward me, and yet have unbending standards, He doesn’t cut me any slack or make excuses for me. And, since it’s to Him I owe my present happiness and future life, I endeavor to do what He says.
Since my kids give me ample opportunity to practice patience, and since my sister-in-law (who knows I openly struggle with this lack of Biblical love) sent me information about a Focus on the Family 30-Day Kindness Challenge, I decided the time was right for me to do something about this problem. I listened to the radio interview.
I did so with four needy little children underfoot, while I was also doing the dishes and one of my littles was doing her school work on the laptop. It may be a good idea for you, if you decide to do anything positive, to start at a time when you are not distracted. Of course, when I started listening to the broadcast I was not distracted, but kids have a way of sensing when you least want them around- like when you’re on the phone- and they mill around like hungry cattle, shoving, lowing and whatnot. Anyway, don’t listen or read when they’re awake or around. Just a word of advice.
Because what happens when you do your best to ignore them is that they become even more restless and upset, and they have a way of making you restless and upset. And then you may find yourself, having exasperatedly sent the kids in different directions with snacks and milks, standing at the kitchen sink, crying, because you are such a crummy mom and there’s no point in trying to do these good things because you are never going to get it right every time anyway, and there’s just too much to do each day to worry about one thing more, like being kind, and WHAT IS THE POINT?!
Okay, so maybe this isn’t what you would do, but it is what I did. I’m always so calm and collected, you see.
So I stopped to breathe, and my thoughts calmed down, and in the quiet space of that moment a different, calm, accepting thought washed over my stressed out brain. ”You’re my little child.”
Since I have four of my own, and two of them are one-year-olds, I know what this means. I am God’s little toddler who still has bad balance but crawls up on the table anyway because I also have bad manners. Sometimes, when He is not looking, I grab dirt out of the potted plant (which is on the table) because I am curious about that brown stuff. And He, because He always loves me, teaches me not to go on the table and dig in the potted plant. He loves me unconditionally. That means, He is patient and kind even when I do not deserve that He should be. My performance at being patient and kind does not determine the extent of His patient kindness toward me.
I was glad to hear that God loves me so much, and I reminded myself that I don’t need to be perfect, because Jesus was for me. If I could be perfect I wouldn’t need Jesus to save me; He was perfect, I don’t have to be. But I know that letting the conversation stop there is unhelpful, since sometimes it breeds this attitude that says I don’t need to try any more. So I told God my thoughts on the matter, explaining that I still felt something needed to be said, only I don’t know what.
He then put an image of my house in my head. My house, in case you haven’t seen it, is a small 1920′s bungalow style house of diminutive size and, when we bought it, (on foreclosure) severely lacking in proper maintenance. For a bevy of reasons this house is never going to amount to much, but since we’ve owned it, Tim and I have done a LOT of work on it and it has improved significantly in it’s coziness, appearance, practicality, and state of maintenance. We’ve worked slowly to make this little, neglected house more beautiful and comfortable by painting everything from picket fence to stairwells, ripping out gross carpeting, putting in new carpeting, finishing the basement, renovating a bathroom, re-roofing and adding eaves, replacing all the windows and painting all the window trim, trimming the trees and planting more, putting in flower beds, vegetables and fruit, building a pergola over the patio, replacing the exterior doors, and generally improving wherever we saw a need and had the time and money to do the work.
And its not finished yet. There are still the bathroom and kitchen to renovate, there’s trim needed in three rooms, and there’s quarter round missing from all the rooms that have the original hardwood flooring, which ought to be refinished. The siding is stucco, and the walls have no insulation, so someday we’d like to rip all that off and insulate and re-side. We’d like to finish our laundry room and make it into a craft room too, and once that’s done, I’d like to make our current office/craft room into a small sitting room, with a big arched doorway into the dining room, and an exterior door going out into the fenced yard. We have plans for this little place, and it’s not done yet, but it’s ever so much better.
And that was the point of God’s reminder. I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to be better. I need to not get discouraged when it looks hard, and I need to keep trying because God has big plans for my life, and someday He will finish, but not today, and not this side of eternity.
Maybe it’s not a journey of great magnitude and terrible difficulty. Maybe it’s just a walk with Jesus, who shows me how I can daily become a little better.