Saturday, February 07, 2009

Women's Bible Study, again

Now its the day before I have to share. In my mind, I have pieces of what I want to share. But when I try to put the pieces together, I'm not certain of the fit. So, I'm stream of consciousness writing right now.

My name is... and it means springtime, because I was born on the first day of spring. I'm a stay-home mom and a homeschooling mom. And I've struggled....I have to confess that I'm feeling rather outside of my comfort zone. I feel that some of my greatest gifts are working with children. So, teaching a group of children is something I'm very comfortable with. I'm also creative and I don't mind getting up on the platform on Sunday and sharing a scripture passage or giving a short dramatic reading. I can even get up and read something that I've written, though my anxiety level is very hightened when I do that. And I normally have no problem spontaneously sharing in a group of women during a Bible study or a retreat. I'm happy to kick in my opinion during a discussion. So, I'm not sure why I was wrestling so much with what I wanted to share this Sunday. I think because this seems a bit more personal than any other venue. And it seems a lot more focused on me. But beyond that, I think the reason I struggled with what I was going to share comes down to a very basic question, and its a question that I have wrestled with and revisited and wrangled with since a few months after I had quit my professional role as a teacher and a preschool curriculum director to stay home with my Sweetling, and that question is, "How do I value myself?"

Now, don't get me wrong. I know all the "right" answers to that question. And, without trying to sound like a braggart, I could probably write a poem or a piece of prose that would answer that question in a very moving, very powerful way. But the truth is, in the day to day, in the ordinary, in the mundane, I often lose sight of the answer. So while I could envision myself writing a stirring little response and I could imagine myself presenting those words on the platform and while I think I would receive many words of compliments and encouragement in the hallway after service, the absolute bare naked truth is that on any given Tuesday morning when the kitchen floor is sticky and the bathroom is icky and the laundry is still sitting in the machines and the school list from Monday hadn't quite got completed and the coupons need sorted for an afternoon grocery trip and I haven't mastered the dance that will be running at practice that evening and pots and pans from last nights dinner is still in the sink.... Well, the bare naked ugly truth is that its so easy, so very easy, to forget to look beyond the details of my unfinished circumstances, its so easy to forget that the daily checklist of trifles is not the sum total of my job description. Its so easy to lose sight of the big picture when I am too emersed in the messiness of the details.

So, where to go from here? Because I know that the picture I'm painting isn't unique to me. And sometimes, I think that lack of uniqueness, which should be an encouragement and a comfort, somehow becomes a measure of failure rather than a support. The temptation is to say, "you know, other women manage all this AND so much more." Rather than to say, "We've all been there. This too will pass. Keep your eyes on the end prize and keep running the race. You can do it."

And I don't have one magic answer. Oh yes, I know what the end prize is. But, at the risk of sounding ungrateful. At the risk of sounding sacriligious, at the risk of sounding ...I don't even know what...terrible. Let me say that sometimes knowing what the end prize is, isn't enough of a strategy to keep me legs pumping and my spirit from dispairing when I feel like I'm trying to run up a steep hill and its hard to even see the top. There was a poem that I was given and asked to use, to rewrite just a little to adapt it to some sort of drama for a women's retreat. At one point in the poem there is a new mother who is struggling and feeling completely overwhelmed. A dear older woman in the church tells her, "Oh honey, you just need to get alone with Jesus." Her response, "Yeah, right....I can't even get alone in the bathroom!"

I think as women, as Christaim women, there are many times in our lives, many times in our walks, where we feel overwhelmed. And here again, I have to throw in another quote. "I am both overwhelmed and underwhelmed." We get overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks and duties on our plates, but we are underwhelmed with the monotony, the drudgery of many of those tasks. And so we fall into this state of quiet misery. Oh we function, and we keep towing the line, and we smile at each other, but inside, we've lost our joy, and we don't know why. And we know who we are and we know whose we are and we know we're supposed to be joyful. And in those times, sometimes knowing "the right answer" ...."just keep your eyes on Jesus," isn't quite enough. We are already beating ourselves up for not having the joy we know we should. Somehow, in some sick and twisted way I don't understand, we've made being joyful a duty and a BURDEN. And words of encouragement, beautiful memory verses and scripture passages instead of being the soothing balm they are, we get stuck in this mindset where we cannot accept them because we use them to further judge ourselves rather than to heal and nenew ourselves.

I don't understand it, but I know its not just me who thinks this way. I know this bizarre malady isn't limited to myself. So, I'm hear to say, in absolute transparent honesty, while all we need is Jesus, yes..... but if the answer were always that easy, that quick of a fix, we wouldn't need to come to church multiple times a week, to be in multiple Bible studies, Berean next door wouldn't be full of shelf after shelf after shelf of books helpling us understand and get through every topic and aspect of life. There are no instant fixes. No ruby slippers that I can click together three times and be instantly transported. No, this race that we are all running is a lifelong journey. "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling," Paul tells us, because he knows that its never going to be a finished process. In fact, we aren't ever going to get there. In the end, our final transformation doesn't come from our efforts, but in "a twinkling of an eye" we will be "quickly changed." And sometimes I need to remind myself of that, when I'm being particularly hard on myself for falling short of the ideal. I need to remember that we are all works in progress, and that we aren't expected to ever reach the ultimate goal on our own...if we were, God would never have needed to send Jesus....but we are expected to keep trying. To run with perserverence the race.

So, let me come back to my original question. How do I value myself? Yes, I need to know who I am, and more importantly, I need to know whose I am. But there are times when just being able to recite these answers, like a child reciting a catechism isn't "enough".

Now, I have never run a Marathon, and I dont' ever intend to. But I know that a runner's body goes through stages during the marathon, and I know that a runner employs different strategies, both mental and physical, at different points and in response to different challenges of a race. So, what I would like to share with you now is some of the strategies I've found useful to keep away discouragement, to keep myself moving towards the goal, to keep in mind the big picture.

And, because I'm me, I'll have to share a little story with many of the things we do.

First, take a minute and write down some of the tasks that you find particularly rewarding. They can be from your career, from a hobby you do at home, from service and ministry that your involved in at church. Anything that you do that makes you feel satisfied. And now pick one or two or three and jot down what about those tasks do you find particularly fulfilling?

Now make a new list. The things that you do because you have to, but that you just dread. The ones that no one loves, the ones that you secretly, or not so secretly, wish that someone else would do or that there was some other way to get them done....but in the end, there isn't anyone but you so you suck it up and do them.

Story time. My husband is a wonderful man. He is so very very good at telling me what a good mother I am. What a good wife I am. How blessed he is to be married to me. How pleased he is that I am staying home with the children. That Sweetling and Toa of Boy are homeschool. I am surrounded by words of praise and affirmation and appreciation from my husband. I am immersed in them. And yet...

(to be continued....)

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