Occasionally in the morning before the sun comes up, I manage to dress and eat without waking anyone. Then I, with my tea in hand, flit from one idea to the next. Should I write my blessings in my journal? Should I read something in the Bible? Should I fix the lamp or scrub jam off the counter? Should I pray for something exceptional to happen today? How can I best use these precious moments?
It's as if I have been given one golden token to insert into the slot machine before the children wake up, and if I choose wisely, I may win a small allotment of peace or contentment or strength before the day starts. It's a fumbling sort of game, a desperate sort of game, perhaps even a demanding sort of game . . . unless I remember that I don't have to do that anymore. I don't have to get something quick before it's too late. I have all I need already.
The pre-lunch preparations are fraught with whining because that's when I assign one child to set the table and the other to pick up the tent that's dominating the living room. And the baby has seen his sippy cup of milk and knows that if he stands at the child-safety gate and yells, that his milk will come to him. So the whining and noise spurs me to rush. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! As soon as lunch is ready, I can let the baby in and give him his milk and stop this infernal noise!
It's like I'm the last runner of a relay race and our team is losing, and they've all gathered around the track to shout at me to hurry up because it all depends on me. If I don't get a move on, something terrible will happen. It's an exhausting sort of race, an anxious sort of race, a fearful sort of race . . . unless I remember that I don't have to do that anymore. I don't have to let their whining dictate my movements, and if they must suffer, I don't have to make it all better. Their desperation is not going to kill them or me.
After quiet time is the hour of discovery. I find one child has glued paper and clay to the underside of the craft table. The other child has taken apart his remote control car, which, I'm certain, will never be put back together again. The baby woke up from his nap with a poopy diaper and a diaper rash. And while changing him, my daughter tells me all her plans for her afternoon. First we shall paint nails. Then we will make cookies and have a tea party on our front porch and invite friends over for a swim.
It's like I'm a waitress at the little highway diner that usually serves bacon and eggs for breakfast and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and a slew of customers have just arrived and ordered filet mignon and shrimp cocktails and gluten free muffins. It's an exhausting occupation, a frightful occupation, even an impossible one . . . unless I remember that I don't have to do that anymore. I don't have to fill orders. I don't have to keep this house together. It all doesn't depend on me.
On an evening walk alone, my mind races back to where it always goes during times of quiet movement, back to the debates of the past and the working out of how I will win the next argument and how I will explain myself and how I will make the relationship work.
It's like I've been cramped in a box for so many years, that every time I have a moment to myself, I crawl right back in. This place is familiar. I'm used to this position. It's an embarrassing sort of past time, a repetitive and pathetic sort of backsliding . . . unless I remember that I don't have to do that anymore. I don't have to sugar-coat my past motives with imaginary explanations in the future. I don't have to make anyone understand and I don't have to plan speeches to make sure I don't misspeak in the future. All the arguments have already been won.
After a meeting with a friend, I run the conversations through my head and suddenly begin to worry that my friend may have taken what I said offensively. Perhaps I misread their body language. Perhaps they're actually angry. Perhaps what I said was a little harsh or motivated by my own desperation to be understood. Maybe I need to text the friend and make sure they know that I meant well, that I'm actually a nice person.
It's like I'm the clean-up crew after every party, and every party always has clean up. There's streamers hanging from the chandelier and punch on the couch and tiny bits of glass in the carpet. And there's a meeting using this room at 9 am and if I don't have it cleaned up in time, people will be terribly disappointed in me. It's a frightening sort of job, a precarious sort of job, a rather uncertain sort of job . . . unless I remember that I don't have to do that anymore. I don't have to guard my reputation or follow my actions around and make sure they were all taken the right way. The most important one already thinks well of me.
And if I can only remember in the midst of these times that I don't have to do that anymore, I can then begin to do what this freedom now allows me to do. And that is . . . everything.
"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:2-3 ESV