Sometimes my brain gets so filled with uncertainties, agonizing over stuff and then on top of that just the mundane like coming home to discover the sink is full but the dishwasher is empty. Trivial, right? Who cares about the dishwasher when you’ve been listening all day to advice that does nothing more than wear you out on the subject.
Have you ever felt like you have thought about something someone said or did so much and blown said hurt so out of proportion that you just feel as if you are sinking in the murk and mire of your own quicksand?
That was me, one night this week. I met a homeless mom who has adult children who can help her but she won’t ask… she wants to make sure they think she’s okay.
How exhausting is that? That walking around pretending to be strong when your mind is questioning and doubting your very next breath?
She feels like she’s landed at our shelter and all her sorrow and worry has bubbled up to the surface. She is crying and apologizing for crying and saying she’s not sure why…but all of sudden she can’t hold back tears. So, I walk across the room from behind my desk intending to grab the tissue box; but, instead allow her eyes to greet mine and I grab,embrace her and hold her as she cries. I tell her, “you’ve found a safe place to stop the cover-up, the facade.” You didn’t know it but our shelter is for you “for such a time as this”. I tell her it’s okay because I too, know what it’s like to be on your best behavior for your children. I tell her there are days I’m just not sure I can do it anymore…this whole mama thing when so many unknowns, so many anxiously waiting to see what will happen and when. These things are circling around in my mind. I tell her I understand the strong, “I’m fine face” mamas put on ’cause I wear it too. She smiles and cries a little more. She thought she needed a temporary shelter but what she needed was to be sheltered, safely, quietly…she needed spiritual whitespace to illumine and then heal her pain.
Later, our maintenance man stopped by my office and pulled his chair up to my desk. He usually doesn’t stay long, he knows I’m busy. I’m afraid I often put off that “I’m busy, too much to do, so stressed and overwhelmed air”. But, today he pulled his chair up to my desk to tell me about his trip to Alaska to see his son. He asked about my children and we talked about what they are striving for, what I am praying they will achieve…waiting to see, trying to “trust the process”, all the while worrying about them.
He smiled and we talked about raising children who will honor God with their lives and the importance of living it in front of them. We ranted and raved a little about what other parents allow but, then somehow we began talking about salvation and recalled stories of our children coming to know the Lord.
It was a good talk. He was a good listener; smiling, nodding relating to me. He interrupted my day, providing spiritual whitespace.
Strangely, we never before talked about anything other than repairs. But, that day, he listened to my story. He leaned back in the chair, smiled and asked me, “Lisa, when did you come to know the Lord?” And, I hesitated; I paused and said “Well, you see. I grew up being afraid of God.”
So, I knew about God and knew the rules and definitely knew how hard it was for me to ever be good enough my entire childhood. I mean, what’s a chubby, freckled face girl in puberty supposed to believe when the preacher is yelling, spitting and sputtering at you that “you will go to hell!”? I knew about the cross and about Jesus and I knew I could never be perfect enough. But, I also knew I wanted to be cherished. I wanted to be loved by God. I wanted to be approved of for being me.
His reaction was unchanged and he continued to listen as if knowing there was more to come. So, I smiled and reassuringly told him about my seeking heart and the seed planted that was never watered by anything other than criticism and how in my mid-thirties I learned to believe that God loves me and I can love him back, and that’s good and unchanging.
It’s good and I’m good enough.
Later that day, my mind still swirling with anxious thoughts about my children, I felt worn out, “slap worn out” and defeated. I still couldn’t be certain I had done a good enough job of instilling godliness and faith in lives of my children. I still could not be sure they will be Christlike. I still can’t be sure they will not make mistakes, mess up, veer off.
I was exhausted and decided to go to bed early feeling all my intentional efforts to impart godly wisdom were for naught! I got quiet in the solitude of my bedroom, ceiling fan whisking shots of cool air on a humid night. Lights out, house quiet, I began to pray a prayer of inquiry.
In the quiet, at the end of the long day filled with a mixed bag of imparted wisdom, opinions, criticism, speculation and all other self-induced panics, I got quiet. I began to pray, not imploringly for God to work things out in his way and his time; but, for clarity as to why this worry had become such a burden to me. Why was I feeling a numbing sadness?
I prayed asking for clarity because this heavy worry was something I could not shake and I was out of control. “This is not my normal worry Lord, help me to see clearly.” And then, I slept.
In the quiet of morning, more birds than normal greeted my early, groggy ritual. I found my answer to my anxiety, my feeling of remorse and disconnect by remembering my talk with the maintenance man. I had been demanding, agonizing over my children’s walk, using guilt as a motivator. No wonder I felt such fear…this was a place I had been before! . I was saying to them, “I am going to have keep telling you right from wrong “cause you surely will never be good enough!” Oh, my goodness. Yes, that was it! This whole process of worry was so painful because it took me right back to the church with wooden pews and the preacher who wouldn’t let my grandma wear pants. My striving, pushing, demanding was ineffective because it was not grace and it was not love. I remembered how that felt and this was the reason for my distress, my discontent! It was condemnation and judgement all over again. I remembered.
I am reading Bonnie Gray’s, Finding SpiritualWhitespace. I have been moved to tears and moved through tears to growth, to clarity. Thank you, brave Bonnie!
Often, I wonder, how can I continue to read this? So much pain, so much sadness, so much soul-baring clarity! But, as I continue I see Bonnie approaching the reality of her sorrow and its lasting effects and I see her story of redemption… of moving past and forward…freely, joyously, unburdened. This is exactly how I felt when I allowed my mind to stop and to ask God for clarity.
Our trauma, our pain, our scary,ugly childhood things that pushed us into our corners must be revisited so we can be redeemed completely, clearly, and convincingly…for good, for God…for our children.
My days are mixed with frustrations and with interruptions…whitespace, unexpected breaks in my day that compel me to stop, to comfort, to be comforted. Theses are the interruptions that bring the pause, the reflection, the clarity and purpose.
Reading Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray has been at times astoundingly relatable even painful; yet, I have been transformed. Over the weekend, I felt refreshed…although memory and recollections have been uncomfortable…I pressed on and the clarity of processing through recall of childhood trauma is nothing short of transformational…Thank you. Again, thank you Bonnie for compelling me to revisit and be redeemed!