I kept finding myself in this pit of anger and impatience and bitterness and explosiveness. I felt like I was chained to my issues – imprisoned by my failures, shortcomings, and it-happened-again’s. Those songs and verses about God rescuing us from our imprisonment were not true in my life, or at least it didn’t feel that way. While I knew in my head that God rescues people and gives grace and mercy and pulls people from miry pits, I didn’t feel it.
Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in my brokenness. If you’ve ever seen a person in the process of drowning, it’s not flailing and screaming like the movies make it out to be. Rather, it’s a slow going under. A dip here. A gasp there. A shallow breath. Above, where everyone can see, it looks calm, almost unnoticeable but underneath the water is failing and thrashing and every bit of energy that person can expend to stay above the water. Inside them, are equal parts terror at what’s to come, hopeless-hopefulness that someone will come along for help, and suffocating anxiety at what is happening. That’s how I feel some days.
Never once was I under the impression that parenthood would be easy. Never once did I think I would spawn children that were perfect angels. I had been around good moms, bad moms, and even some who were slightly delusional as to their children. I worked in daycare, babysat, worked in children’s church, and even coached for a few years. I had a good understanding that kids weren’t the easiest thing in the world to handle.
Maybe my kid’s birth story should have tipped me off. This particular child did not want to come out. When this one received its eviction notice, he or she decided to tangle themselves up in the umbilical cord tight enough that there was no movement toward the outside. Even when they were being pushed out, he or she would go right back to where they started. This lead to a dramatic birth – like I said, maybe that should have been my warning. Or maybe it should have been the nerves of steel that can sit through multiple blood draws and not even care. Looking back, instead of just seeing this child as strong…I should have seen strong-willed, or even stubborn. Forget digging their heels in, this one buries his or her feet in the ground and has a seat.
God designed me to be a pretty sturdy person. Just ask my parents. I don’t cower easily. I don’t give up. I am Rocky – or at least I like to think I am – until a small human who I have been entrusted to protect and grow and teach and love, is constantly at odds with me. People told me a lot of things about parenthood, but no one explained to me the depths and the darkness of the emotions that it can cause.
It is hard to tell you my story without telling you the story of those involved, but I am going to try. Because their story is not my story to tell.
It is hard to write from a vulnerable place without coming off as sarcastic, but again, I am going to try.
It is also hard to write this because I can feel the judgement of other moms, older moms specifically, with that half-cocked smile and the least favorite cliché on their lips: “you just wait.”
*let me caution you: if that is you right now, this post is not for you. You are not in the place to receive this, so I kindly ask you to leave and come back on Monday. This is for the person who feels helpless and hopeless, who is desperately afraid to give up, but is scared to death she will do something that can’t be undone. This is the women who is having trouble believing 1 Corinthians 10:13″…[God] will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand…”
**I know I quoted that wrong… don’t worry, we will come back to that in just a few minutes.
I’ll be real with you… it is really hard to stand on that verse right now. I am coming to you with this from a place of trying to plant truth in my head. I’m trying to believe truth, because at this moment it is really hard to do that. So as you read this, please know I don’t have it all figured out. I can’t tie it up in a pretty little bow. I am in the process of trying to figure it out…all of the whys, hows, and not-agains.
Early on, as a mom, I found myself in turmoil. I was supposed to know how to handle kids. I was supposed to be controlled and mature and not feel threatened by a little kid. For goodness sakes, I was a ministry leader, a teacher of the word, and for the life of me, in my own power, I could not keep it together. I was drowning in a pit of anger and bitterness and resentment and angry outbursts directed at those I was petitioned to protect. I was failing in my responsibility to be a mom – and not even to be a good one, just a mom. I frequently found myself sobbing, “Jesus why won’t you fix me?” as I was taken under wave after angry wave. In my head, I knew there was a way out, but my heart felt abandoned by the God I served.
On one particular morning, I kept hearing songs on the radio about God being a rescuer and a chain breaker and merciful and forgiving. But I had asked for forgiveness and still felt broken and forgotten. I had begged and screamed for my prison doors to be opened and yet I still found myself in that dark place. I wanted to change. I wanted to be better. I was desperate to be that story of redemption. But I wasn’t. I still don’t feel like I am. Years of anger and raging outbursts and I found myself feeling like I was drowning. Slipping under the water with shallow breaths, while my Savior stood on the shore and just watched.
But is He just watching? Is He just standing by the wayside while I struggle? Or is He waiting for me to lean on Him to pull myself out? I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out. What you just read isn’t an isolated incident. It is a constant occurrence. At times, I feel like I am swimming, actually making progress and then some days just get too hard and I feel like I’m drowning, like that will be the day I give up and finally just let the water of life overtake me. Other days, it feels like a doggy paddle with no progress – not any worse, not any better.
Since I don’t have it figured out and I don’t yet have that nice ribbon to neatly tie it up, I have what I know to be truth and what I have faith in and what I have to logically appeal to myself to lean on. The Word of God.
So let’s take it back to 1 Corinthians 10:13. People love to quote this verse like I did above “…[God] will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand…” but go ahead and actually look it up. If you read the verses before it, you will realize it isn’t about the hardship of life, but about our desire for sinful behavior. It is about sin and idolatry and desiring something other than God, pleasing the flesh. Temptation, not trial. It doesn’t apply here. I am not seeking to be sinful. I am not desiring this outcome. I am desperately trying to get out of this place. I don’t choose to be here. So this verse is no help, because to use it to encourage someone is to use it out of context. But if you look up James 1:2-8, you will find words that do encourage us and give us truth to hang onto:
Consider it joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing
of your faith produces endurance. And leet endurance have its perfect result, so that you
may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him
ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
But, he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is liek the surf of
the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will
receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
This is a big chuck of scripture to take on, but if you really look, it gives you the circumstance (vs 2), the reason for the circumstance (vs 3), the result (vs 4), the instruction (vs 5), the expectation (vs 6), and the caution (vs 7-8). James lays it all out for us.
The Circumstance – verse 2: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials”
We are flat-out told to expect trials because James doesn’t say if you encounter trials, but when you encounter trials. We should expect to have trouble. That is one of the reasons bad stuff or tough stuff happens. If everything was good, why would we need God? If things where hunky-dory and we never came against trial or sin, what was the point of Jesus coming to earth to die on a cross? John 3:17 even says that “God sent his Son to the world to save it, not to condemn it” for its ugliness or bad behavior. He gave us Jesus as our SAVEior.
The Reason – verse 3: “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
I often refer back to exercise when it comes to difficult times in our lives. I used to be a trainer and I had to explain to clients that the reason it hurt was because we were breaking the muscle down. Literally, when you exercise, you are tearing apart the muscles fibers and it can be uncomfortable and sometimes make tasks like getting off the toilet hard. But as those muscles repair themselves over the next 24-72 hours, they come back just a little stronger than they were before. They come back tighter, ready for more. And after a few weeks of doing this, you will notice you are able to lift heavier weight, go for more reps. Your endurance has increased because you put your muscles under pressure/trial/weight, whatever you want to call it, and your God-designed body responded the way it was meant to. It became stronger. Trials in life are the same way. Our faith has to be broken down by testing; when it repairs itself as that particular trial comes to a close, it is a bit (maybe just a tiny bit) stronger than it was before. It is better able to endure the next tough thing to come along.
The Result – verse 4: “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Endurance is developed by trail, pressure, sometimes pain. Another word for endure is mature, meaning these trials or hardships, produce maturity. But to be perfect and not lacking, how in the world do we do that? That’s where the instruction comes in.
The Instruction – verse 5: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James is telling us very clearly, that perfection comes in wisdom and if we lack that wisdom, we need to ask for it. It seems so big and yet so simple at the same time! These are the moments we usually find ourselves on our knees, groveling before God to “please do something”, “please tell me how to get out of this”. The wisdom that we are given is what matures us. I can’t even imagine what would happen if I started to petition God for wisdom at the beginning of the trial, before I started drowning, rather than in between shallow breaths. How much easier would things be to get through? (Notice, I didn’t say they would be easy to get through, but easier to get through.)
The Expectation – verse 6: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”
So we ask for wisdom, but we have to have faith that God will give us that wisdom. And by life experience, we can all probably attest that doesn’t usually mean that wisdom comes easily. Wisdom is different that being smart. Being smart can be natural. Just from acquiring facts in a book, you can be labeled as smart. But to be wise, it takes time and experience. Look at our grandparents or great-grandparents. They seem to know it all. It’s because they have life and experience under their belts and those who have endured the most often have the most. But in order to attain it, they had to go through stuff first. So maybe (and again, I am speaking to myself as much, or more, than I am to you)the experience of drowning is us developing that experience that leads to that wisdom. Maybe God did hear our cry, but He can’t just give it to us. We have to earn it. Trial by fire (or water), I guess.
The Caution – verse 7-8: “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his way.”
James wraps this topic up with a caution. In verse 6, he tells us not to doubt because doubt is like flipping over on your back in the water. You might stay afloat, but you just go whatever way the sea pushes you. You have no power or ability to withstand even the smallest wave and goodness knows where you will end up, allowing yourself to be pushed around like that. In verse 7-8, he tells us that if we are that person we won’t receive our wisdom. Instead of putting our head down and fighting through the waves, swimming toward our destination, we give up. It is easier to float than to fight through, isn’t it? But if we want wisdom to get through, we have to be willing to put our head down and swim through the waves. That will allow us to better learn how to swim stronger rather than to drown.
I don’t know what you are going through. I don’t know what is making you feel like you are drowning. I know for me, after removing the emotion and anger and bitterness and taking a logical look at what we are told in scripture and at what His instruction is to us, I see this whole thing a little differently. It isn’t meant to take me down. It isn’t even meant to test me to see if I am good enough. It is life. I can choose to flip over, go under, or fight harder. I want to be wise. When I am 80, I want to sit on my front porch and tell other moms that it will be okay. That they will get through this. I want to tell them to stop drowning, stop being scared and emotional, and be more logical with the Word. Fight through it. Don’t thrash and flail, but think about it. Inflate your lungs, put your head down, close your eyes, and use your arms. You know how to swim. Now do it.
Prayer Prompt: Pray for wisdom for your next trial. You won’t know what it is, but pray along with me that God will begin to develop that wisdom in your so you don’t get to the place where you feel like you are drowning. Ask Him now so you can be one step ahead of the game. I am choosing to believe today, that this current motherhood trial is preparing me for something tougher, so that I can say “I have been through this & I know how to swim. Thank you Lord for teaching me to swim”. And head over to social media and let us know how we can pray for you ahead of, during, or after your trial.