Thursday, March 10, 2011

I should be unhappy!

I read this sentence in an e-mail today, written by a non-believer:
"You will never be free of worrying about your children as long as you live unless you have a mental problem, or your children are all happy with their lives.  Such is life!"

It's implied here that I'm not happy with my life, and that I'm someone who should be worried about.  And maybe even....that I have a mental problem? I've got one all right, according to the world.  My mental problem is that I'm born again.  

And why am I a person who needs to be worried about?

Because I have a husband who doesn't clothe me in silk pajamas. Because I can't afford any pajamas. Because my only vehicle is missing hubcaps, and the driver's side door handle is duct-taped on and not working. Because the slider door handle only sometimes works.  Because the keyhole is failing and we can't always start the van--though the key does turn eventually.  Because we don't pay utilities or our house payment on time part of the year--the math doesn't work out; it hasn't worked out since I quit teaching in 2005.  Because my son has neurological abnormalities, adding daily stress to life.  Because my husband is just a custodian.  Because I have four children and rarely have time to myself.  Because if the economy doesn't improve and a better job is not secured, our house will go to the bank, eventually.

The truth about my state of mind?  I am fulfilled.  My life is very, very full. There is nothing lacking.  I have joy.

What times am I not happy, though?  And is the unhappiness a general, long-term unhappiness, or is it with moments of my life?

When my to-do list is long I am overwhelmed and short-tempered and not happy, as Ann Voskamp describes below on page 102-103 of her book.

Her husband wants to take her hand and show her the beautiful harvest moon over the wheat fields.  "You will want to see this."  He knows she'll want to take a picture, but Ann wants him to leave her alone just then.  She writes:

The aping racket rises and I feel it mount and I almost yield to its vise, almost acquiesce, almost desecrate the space with words that snap.  "Can't I just see whatever it is later?"
"Right now?"  Can't he see the kids, hear the kids, feel the crush of all these kids?
It's not him.  Not his hands holding me, the whisper of his voice, his eyes inviting me now.  It's just that I'm feeling time's strangling grip, struggling to make a cathedral of the moment, to hallow it with the holy all here.  It's late and I've got an even later dinner to dish onto eight empty plates.  A half dozen children noisily, happily, ring the table with their hardly washed hands and silly jokes replete with snorts and grunts and dirty feet still needing bathing.  And I haven't served the dinner yet, haven't sliced up the loaf of bread yet, haven't put away the basil, oregano, parsley, the peelings of carrots, the skins of onions, the jars of tomatoes.  Still have to grate the cheese into circles in the soup bowls.  Still have to wash the dishes, sweep the floors, wash up kids, turn down beds, kneel for the prayers weary and long and needy.
(One Thousand Gifts, A Dare To Live More Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Morton Voskamp, 2010, page 102-103)

Ann describes perfectly the dread that overwhelms all mothers at the witching hour--not every night, but certainly on many a night.  The energy and patience needed to get them all fed, bathed, and to bed, followed by the slew of chores to set the house reasonably right for another day, is overwhelming--the emotional exhaustion equalling the physical exhaustion.

These very typical frustrating moments are the angst of my life.  I don't want to "acquiesce and desecrate the space with words that snap".  Not desecrating the space takes everything I've got.  I fail these moments more than I conquer them.  I am broken.

This kind of angst?  It isn't a general, long-term unhappiness.  I am fulfilled and live with rich purpose.  Joy spills much (just not at the witching hour).

I have moments of worry about finances and the future, yes.  I've documented them here.  When I am Word starved and take my eyes off of Him, I worry.  But far more often, I'm filled with peace.  God only has good gifts.  He is always good.  We are not starving.  We will find another place to live should the economy not recover here in time--should our house go to the bank.

My well-being, my sense of what success is, doesn't require silk pajamas or a husband with a fancy title, or even a mortgage.

Holding my tongue and giving thanks in all things--even during the witching hour--is success to me.  Success is holiness.  And I know I'll never get there.  I know.  The cross is mine to cling to--yours too--because God knew we'd never get there. Improve, yes, with the Holy Spirit's help and whispers. But never arrive.

I don't want success.  I want Christ!  I want Him to shine through my brokenness--triumphant!

But a non-believer doesn't speak this upside-down language.  I should be miserable.  I should feel like my life is a failure.  I have no money.  No place to go.  Nothing to see.  It's just me and these kids, day after day, in this house--save for parks and the library and Walmart.  Of course I need to be worried over.  My life is in shambles.

"No!  Not true!", I want to say.  But there is no understanding.  Only hostility at the very sound of these words:  "I am fulfilled."

Oh, how I want loved ones to meet us in Paradise!  So many years I've prayed.  And there is only hostility.

May God be glorified, in this, as in all things!

I pray.  I hope.  He decides.

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