On Monday, I saw a friend in the parking lot at Meijer and in the course of chatting, I started crying. There in the parking lot, with all the people doing their errands streaming past me, I couldn’t pretend I was handling it all anymore.
Now, nobody I love is dying (although people I love have cancer). My husband is still employed. I’ve even got work for which I’ll get paid. Eventually. I won’t even say the thing I was going to say, something about not missing the E.R., but that would be tempting fate, so I won’t.
But in every area of my life that is important to me — kids, marriage, writing, finances, church work — I’m overwhelmed by failure and fear. And fear of failure. Things that I thought would be manageable, became huge, looming problems that won’t untangle themselves quickly or easily. Things I thought were positive have taken their pound of flesh instead, but not surgically, more like the flesh-eating bacteria kind of thing where the wound must remain open for a long time. Issues I thought we were past…. You get the idea.
My throat on fire barely registered, because at least it was understandable.
I’ve been waking in the middle of the night, heart pounding and unable to fall back asleep, which certainly doesn’t help me deal with any of this more rationally. I’ve spent my days trying to convince myself, “These symptoms of stress are helping me. Body, thank you for preparing me to deal with these challenges,” after hearing this great TED talk on how to make stress my friend. But that never helped for long.
And I’ve prayed. Oh, how I’ve prayed. Mostly that most basic of prayers: Help. No specifics. Just, Help. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t have the imagination to see how this will get any better. Help.
On top of that I’m in the thick of the prophets in my Bible reading. All that doom and gloom and punishment and exile and “you brought this on yourselves.” Even though most books are tempered by a little bit of “on that day when the Lord thinks you’ve had enough punishment and he restores you, everything will be perfect and amazing,” it’s not exactly the most uplifting reading I could be doing.
Yesterday morning, I read this from Hezekiah 3:16-17 (NLT):
“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”
Did I sigh with relief? Did I hand over all my fears to God? Nope.
I liked the bit about rejoicing and exulting over us. How great is it that we can made God so happy that he can’t help singing?
But God’s love calming all my fears? All my fears? Even those ones that have nothing to do with my behavior but with other peoples’? How does that work? I may have even added a tweenish, “I don’t think so.” And a curmudgeonly, “Hmph.”
That same day, I had a kid home sick, which I responded to the night before (when I saw the writing on the wall) by yelling at her. Classy.
This school year has my head spinning, trying to keep track of two kids in two different schools with entirely different academic calendars. In the 7 weeks I’ve had one or both kids in school, I’ve only had one 5-day stretch with both of them gone. Truth time: I love it when my kids go back to school. After a summer of togetherness and putting aside my plans so their plans can happen, I relish the fall. We always do better when we have a little time apart. But this year, I’m still scrambling, still trying to find purchase and focus.
Instead of resenting her, I embraced the kid at home. After all, we have the same symptoms, so I knew exactly how she felt.
(My selfish “somebody give me a medal for that” side wants me to add that I managed to make breakfast and lunches and pick up kids from school and sit and cheer at a soccer game and do the dishes and give some lectures about my expectations regarding making up missing work on that same “first day of illness” that she sat on the couch and had a bath.)
I was warm and sympathetic. I scrubbed the tub for her.
Then the other child came home from school and practice. We had a good dinner all together, and then that child buckled down and got the missing work completed.
And I was flooded with love for my children. My husband was gone for bedtime, so I got to pray with both of them. By the end, I was overwhelmed with love and tenderness. To the point of tears. I’m still a little weepy about it.
This is not normal for me. I love them, yes, but I’m rarely swamped by it. They are, after all, 12 and 14. And I’m not a super-gushy mother.
Right before I went to bed, I remembered: “With his love, he will calm all your fears.”
Not one single issue was solved. But doggone it if love didn’t calm my fears. God wins again. And despite my skepticism, too.
All I’ve got to say to that is, Thank you.