I was unprepared for Monday, but you know how it comes anyways.
It comes all flouncy and plops down on your planner and just rolls in all the blank space, rubbing it in and purring like that cat. That annoying cat.
I felt like a type-A mom living in a type-B house and the anxiety was flooding us all, up to our necks. It was drowning out every ounce of kindness.
And the thing is, I’m not really a type-A person. It’s just that Mondays can make me feel that way.
So I struggled to be patient and the kids struggled to be cheerful and we didn’t get breakfast until 10:30 for crying out loud. Not until 10:30, because there were so many first-things to be done.
And the only thing hunger fuels is anger.
One fifth of the people at breakfast weren’t grumpy, so that one was elected to pray for the grumpy rest-of-us.
I prayed, too, but it was jumbled up repentance and bewilderment and just mostly whining. I wanted to suddenly be prepared and peaceful, to have all my procrastination covered over, and I was just going to be grumpy until that happened.
(I’m this stellar example to my kids, you see.)
But prayer is not this magic wand we wave. The day continued to be a Monday and all my unpreparedness bore it’s ugly fruit, but God did remind me of something my husband had said over the weekend, in regards to struggle.
Struggle is part of the gift, part of the offering to God.
Struggle can seem like the thing that gets in the way of the offering. It feels like struggle is preliminary and annoying and that once we get through this struggle, then we can offer to God whatever gift we think we bring.
But like David at the threshing floor, I realized for a moment that I don’t want to give to God something that cost me nothing.
And looking at it that way changed my attitude a little. Which changes everything a lot.
I looked at the far-end goals out there, the ones we all have for our children and their futures and their relationships, and then I pulled the focus in and looked at right now.
Right now, in the struggle and the kinds of days where you just want to go to bed and start over tomorrow, this is part of the future and part of the offering.
And after David bought the threshing floor and after God had told him that his son would build the temple, not David himself, he spent his time preparing for it. He gathered and planned and instructed for his son’s future.
It was a process.
We struggle to get to the “good stuff”, but that struggle is part of the process that bears fruit. It’s part of the gift of ourselves that we give to the Lord, because in His great Grace He’s given us everything already.
I get bogged down in the daily-ness of the struggle, but looking at the process as part of the offering, and not just an obstacle on the way to an end goal, gives me hope for today.
I thought I’d be nervous.
I thought the bars and the razor wire and the concentrated mass of humanity would make my insides shake, and I thought my hands would show it and my voice would betray me.
But they didn’t, and I wasn’t.
I saw your little sisters there, all innocent and smooth-skinned with ponytails swinging and doe-eyes smiling. I saw them shocked when we cheered and greeted them with high-fives and hand shakes.
I saw them cry because they were the center of our attention.
I was shocked, too. And surprised when I saw your grandmas there in wheelchairs, or trudging slowly with toothless grin, gray hair all astray. With cloudy eyes squinting to see a familiar face or a fresh hope, they came last in line and headed for the bits of shade.
I may have cried.
Your moms were there, and your daughters and granddaughters. Your neighbors. I don’t know what age I expected them all to be, but it was the sheer range of years that affected me first.
Then I thought for a split second that there were men there, but there were not. Women with stolen identities and shaved heads, women with huge biceps and angry eyes, women trading beauty for power were there, everywhere, but I expected that.
We gathered in the yard (and I may never say go play in the yard again) and there was division, and light battled darkness because some ladies wanted to sit and listen, to follow the rules and be respectful regardless of their tattoos and girlfriends and stereotypes, and some stood out on the fringe and ignored the program. They ignored the requests from the front to please sit down, please enjoy the speakers and the music, and please listen because God has a message for you.
We wore purple as if we were royalty and they wore prison-blue, a blanket of bruised humanity all spread around in the bleaching sun.
By the end of our time there was nothing shocking anymore. A docile lady in her 60′s, with white hair and purple shirt, was surrounded by 5 or 6 girls with tattoos and shaved heads, and the smiles and conversation were as though they had just shared milk and cookies together.
Some sat in groups of 10 or 12, some were one-on-one, and God met every personality and every phobia. People with similar life experiences, similar interests, similar languages, all had a place to minister regardless of the color of their skin or hair or shirt.
Women in blue brought chairs to the tired and scorched visitors. They were concerned with our water and with the bugs in the grass and with our long trip home. They were thankful for listening ears and bolstered by messages of Hope, but this was real life to them.
“You’ll be gone tomorrow, Tresta, and I’ll still be here.”
I want to leave Hope in the places I can’t stay.
Of course the enemy was there.
There were those who refused to listen , who crossed their arms and averted their eyes. There were those whose only purpose was to intimidate or separate or discourage, and they will always be there trying to mingle among the Hope-ful.
I saw you and I there, too. Because bars are real and man-made and all of us have chosen to be in or out of them, at one time or another.
And maybe still. Good girls and boys, all of us on the outside imprisoned by the bad girls and boys on the inside.
They live for justice or mercy or re-trial or letters to the governor or pardons or next week’s program or maybe a visitor.
Some live in truth and are free, walking the hardest walk.
Some live in denial and won’t cross the Nile where Egypt is purged, won’t face the Promised Land because they know about the 40 years of wandering, and their eternity started already and it ain’t pretty.
But you and I are there, believe me.
We want justice but need mercy and forget that He said there’d be trials and maybe someone will write the Govern-er for us, and we work for a pardon so we get ready for next week’s program and then we’ll visit an orphan or widow. Or prisoner.
And a run-on sentence followed by a fragment is such irony here.
A death sentence made you free and it lasts forever. Let’s not live a fragmented life or even a fragment of death.
I often wonder what all of eternity will be like.
No sorrow, no mourning, no lack of anything good and absolutely nothing marred by sin. I’m fairly certain eternity won’t involve clouds and harps.
I also wonder, though, about longing and satisfaction. The two must go together, for how do you know what satisfaction is if you don’t experience a longing, a need that must be filled? Will we hunger in heaven and have the satisfaction of being filled? Will we have desires and then see them met?
Maybe all of this life contains enough longing and unfulfilled desire to meet heaven with. All our perceived and actual needs, all the trials of life and mistakes and injustices, maybe they’re all righted in heaven and that leads to eternal satisfaction, without the need for any more longing.
Even in my dreams there is injustice I long to see righted.
So what will satisfy a soul for all eternity?
I heard Ken Wytsma speak earlier this month and he said that our folly is in trying to make God less mysterious. Trying to package Him all up tidy and make everything spiritual be logical and easily reasoned and explained, so that we don’t’ have to take any leaps of faith.
He talked about Abraham, trying to explain to Sarah where he was taking their son Isaac on the morning of the sacrifice. He concluded that Abraham came to a place we all need to come to: a place where we throw ourselves out there simply with the belief that God is good, and that’s enough for us.
God is good, and that’s enough for me.
A good God would not make an eternally-boring eternity for His children, harps and clouds and dull sweetness ad nauseam. He made this life, for heaven’s sake, and there are boring people but nothing boring about living.
Jesus is speaking in John 17, red letters bleeding before the sacrifice, pouring out desire and longing before the Father Who was leading Him to the cross. Pouring out desire to a good God and completely satisfied with His goodness, even on the eve of intense struggle. He endured for the joy set before Him.
If any struggle on earth ever was enough to satisfy a soul for eternity, this was it.
While we seek to make God less mysterious here on earth, this sphere He created and we have yet to fully understand, He continues to allow those who will to search Him out.
And He’s given us all eternity to know Him more.
This is eternal life. Spend forever, because you’ll need that long, to know Me and My son and fellowship with us and search us out. Let Me be your desire and your satisfaction. Forever.
Go ahead and start now.
The best thing about my best friends is that we don’t talk much, and we’re okay with that
That sounds harsh or sarcastic but it’s not, it’s really what I appreciate at this stage in life. I appreciate that we are friends when we have time for coffee or time for praying together or time for a weekend away. And I appreciate that in all those in between times, the months where we don’t talk and lose track of each other’s lives, in those times we are still friends.
It can be months in between. There’s no hurt feelings and no pressure. No pouting or excuse making. Because Moms know this: that friendships change over the years and the ones that are meant to last are the ones that you don’t have to work hard at, the ones that step aside for your family, pray for your family, and pick up wherever they left off.
That’s the beauty of having friends in various seasons of life.
In high school there were unspoken rules about who you could really be friends with. Artificial friendships formed because you were all thrust into the same experiences and forced to endure them together – those aren’t typically enduring or endearing relationships.
But real life? Real friends who pray in the in-betweens and who’ve endured births and deaths and diapers and empty nests along side you – those friends are the real deal.
Sharing five minutes on the writing prompt Friends (which is a ridiculously inadequate amount of time but I’m trying to follow the rules) and linking up with Lisa-Jo and others for Five Minute Friday.
If you’re still reading, let me just add that one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t have to be just like my friends in order for our friendship to be true and lasting. Comparison kills, and I never loved a friend because they were just like me. Rather, I love them because they are different from me in ways that I can appreciate and grow from.
“When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait.”