Wednesday, June 14, 2017

To the Mom Who is Running on Empty

My back is pricked with sweat.

I toss my littlest up onto my shoulder while my eyes dart back and forth over the play structure.

Where is she?

My four-year-old has disappeared again from my sight. My oldest son? Well, I've just given up hope of being able to watch three at all times. I hear his laugh from the far corner—that'll have to do.

These days: they are the ones that tear at the very fibers of my ability. They are the ones that reveal my rusty hinges and my limitations and my anger and my affinity for cuss words. If I'm honest, it's been days now, maybe weeks, where I've felt literally carved out; scraped violently by a tool I can't name in places that I can't fill up.

And I stand with anger on my face, fear dripping down my back, and I am spent. Literally emptied out. This is not a pretty picture. I do not look joyful. I do not look approachable. And the truth is, I don't want to be either. I just want to crawl into bed and close the curtains.

And a thought comes to mind, "Be filled."

My one-year-old begins to cry. My daughter goes from adorable to angry in two seconds. My oldest informs me he needs a doughnut. Naturally.

So we stumble our way to the car, sweaty and hungry. And I stop for a moment staring at the steering wheel—the smell of stale milk and cheerios filling the air. Is this all there is God? This life of servant hood you've called me to—isn't it supposed to bring joy? How am I missing it? 

Again, "Be filled."

So when I get home I do all I know to do. Go looking for a verse that can lead me to some sort of response to this nudging. I go looking for the connections in scripture that bind joy and trial; to figure out what he's trying to say.

And I come across Luke 6.

In it, Jesus is ministering to a great crowd of folks. He has just come down from a mountain where he spent all night praying. That very next morning, he had a massive meeting with his followers to delegate his 12 disciples before heading back down the mountain to give more of himself.

Jesus was sleep deprived. And I'm sure he was hungry. It says he came down from the mountain and "stood on a level place". He didn't swing through Starbucks, or take a nap, or hide in the bathroom somewhere just to be alone; he came down from the mountain and got to level ground. Why?

So Jesus could be readily available to those who needed him.

In Western society we might call this crowd of people "takers". The type of people that we blame the empty for. These are those kind of folks who we assume are looking for something for nothing. Jesus didn't see that. He stood shoulder to shoulder with them; allowing them to reach for him, making himself like one of them. An equal. 

I always imagine Jesus' sermons being proclaimed from a Lion King-esque rock with a sunshine spotlight; his hipster hair blowing in the wind. But I'm relearning this part of his ministry.

He chose to preach in humble places that required deferring preference and applause.

And what's even more interesting to note about the character of Jesus is that right before he addresses the crowd the passage says, "he lifted up his eyes on his disciples".

So I pause.

Why did Luke, the author, even bother to include that Jesus lifted up his eyes?

You don't lift your eyes up to someone unless you are below them.

And I realize something. Jesus was in a posture I am most days. I am always bending down, crouching over my kids, putting on shoes, wiping up puke, cleaning up spills, washing kids in the tub, picking up toys, and sitting, kneeling, gathering, lifting: serving. 

Luke wants us to see Jesus' servant posture and that it is not below him to be below others. That he was most likely touching someone who was sick, healing them. Making the blind see. Making the unclean clean.

This slight directive sets the tone for the kick-in-the-teeth message he is about to drop.

And he drops it hard. 

"Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." (Luke 6:35-38 - The MSG.)

And I utter a four letter word. Sorry. It's true. It's just that good. And that hard to hear.

Even when we are at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. 

And this is coming from a Man who's spent the last 24-hours in prayer and then in discipleship and healing meetings and has been climbing up and down mountains. His busyness hasn't crippled his care for people.

Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. 

There it is. The secret. 

I'm always looking for a life of ease, but to find it I have to be easier on people. 

Simply profound. And it's an answer to an unspoken prayer that I'm too distracted by myself to ask. 

When I am empty and needing to be filled, I realize that no amount of time or bubble baths or glasses of wine can heal the gaping wound that is my heart. The Spirit is the only filling that affixes my soul to an immovable point.

My soul creaks and sputters when I focus on my self; when I encourage the empty by filling it with my own hot air. In truth, I don't want to look up like Jesus modeled, I want to be the one looking down. I have to die to this daily.

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. 

Do you trust him when he says this? 

Do I?

Because in this, Jesus is speaking directly to our empty. 

Just like he did two thousand years ago with this crowd of people, he is doing this very same thing today with us. Because it is still true.

Something I also never noticed is that when Luke writes that Jesus came down to "a level place" this is more than just a metaphor for his love. It isn't just a detail to reveal his humble character, which it undeniably does. It also holds an incredible reality.

It is actually one of the many prophesies about Jesus being God fulfilled; an echo of an answer to prayer that came from a King named David, hundreds of years prior:

"Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground." (Psalm 143:10)

And Jesus did just that; proved that he was the embodiment of God and the good Spirit teaching us what the will of the Father was from a level place; the ground zero of these people's lives. And he still does this: makes himself available. While we are still sick. Still blind. Still angry. Still fearful. Still sad. Still total messes. 

And so I ask again: Is this all there is God? This life of servant hood you've called me to, isn't it supposed to bring joy? How am I missing it?

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. 

Ah, ok. So the empty is right where I am supposed to be. Only then can I "be filled".

As always, thanks for meeting me right where I'm at.
We're in this together,

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