Monday, August 1, 2011

Seventy-Sixth Step - Not Counting

I'm not going to count the steps anymore, I don't think. Just know that I'm taking them. And I'm not going to count how many words this gargantuan post is. But that's not what I mean by "not counting." Last weekend I was amazed by the tremendous love God has for us. This week I am amazed (and flabbergasted, and ashamed...) at the limits of human love. I just haven't thought of it much before. I mean, if our faith only needs to be a mustard seed for God to grow it into great things, I wonder how little love we need to start with? I am realizing, when I'm lucky, the level of my love must be something akin to "good intentions" or "fondness." It just really doesn't cut it. Especially when the going gets tough. I realize much of the time I am gutting it out and gritting my teeth and having a horrible attitude while maybe appearing to "give in" or display outward obeisance. (Is that the same as obedience? It sounds sweeter, like obedience with a humble spirit) We count the cost. God doesn't.

Sooooo as my kids face a challenging sickness, I am brought exceedingly low. I can't fix it; I can't control it. I can juice veggies with garlic, and I can give them respiratory support herbs. But what matters the most is being able to hold them and be present while they are hacking. Even if there is mucus involved on a new clean shirt, which the wearing of is quite the event for me around here. A phenomenon really. We have done the doctor visits, figured out what was going on, done the antibiotics. Now it is a waiting game, us vs. sickness. But I kind of stink at this simple "Mary like" method of just being with them and accepting them even in their sickness. Even if nothing I do can make them better.

Instead of feeling tenderly compassionate, after two weeks of my kids coughing, I find myself being disgusted, like I really shouldn't have to deal with this. I think my soul took a bathroom break or something when God was handing out those natural motherly genes. It is WORK for me to stay present!! Checking out is very tempting, and patting their backs might give the outward appearance of mothering while my heart is elsewhere. I am just ready to be DONE. I know God's love is much bigger than this, and the knowledge shames me.

Since we are in full confession mode, I also have trouble getting up at night. I often take a while to fall asleep, and I avoid waking fully up after I get to sleep. Oh, and plus, I can, um, be selfish and lazy at times. So my DH has become sleep-deprived and frazzled from the baby (now two! Can I still call her THE BABY??) getting up 5x in the night. I help him maybe two of those times, but after I have gone out of "infant mode" and am not nursing, (whispered) sometimes I don't hear her. And sometimes I don't hear my 4 y.o. son. But a lot of the time I do and guiltily listen to DH getting up instead of me. It feels like I can't move, but I know that really I could, that I am nowhere near even the (wimpy) limits of human love.

Jesus. I shake my head when I think of Jesus. He had human flesh to hold him back, all the possibilities of selfish tendencies latent in his body. (My theology could be off here, but bear with me.) Fully human. Never once chose to give in to his "fully human side." I know it's possible, that he said he could have called in legions of angels to save him. But he prayed so hard to obey and take up the cup (a.k.a the cross) that his human body shed blood in the Garden, before he even got to the cross.

As a fellow human (without the divine nature part), I KNOW I ain't ever prayed like THAT.

I obviously don't know exactly what He was praying (wouldn't that be awesome, and holy, and so impossible for us to hear? Or even understand if we did hear?) Somehow he was disciplining his body and making it his slave. He was getting his flesh in line with the Holy Spirit. He was communing with His Father and asking for help, for help only the Father could give at that point. He had reached the end of his humanness, was totally broken, poured out. He had nothing to offer. He had to pour Himself out at the cross, and completely trust in His Heavenly Father.

I think the gospel writer thought that the fact that his disciples could not even pray with Him for one hour was very significant. I think so too. Because when my kids are sick, I can't even watch and pray with them for one hour. My husband pours out his life, takes off his shirt and catches with it the mucus they cough up, lays down with them in between barfing sessions (different sickness), shows such concern for the baby that he leaves her door open and stays on the 2nd floor because he's afraid he won't hear her. Yes, truly, the other night he would not watch a movie with me downstairs because he was afraid he wouldn't hear her.

Lest you think DH is overreacting, this is probably the worst sickness to ever hit our household. It is a new level of sickness we have not seen before. So, yes, he may be a little sleep-deprived and anxiety may be getting the better of him, but he is not holding back, and he is not counting the cost. (Maybe counting the number of times he got up the night before, but not counting it against the kids. And who knows if he is counting it against me, but I kind of deserve it.)

Disclaimer time: Without God's grace and the help of the Holy Spirit, these revelations are, of course, limited to this time and space as I put all this down here. It will take His working to keep hold of this respect and awe at the Christlike manner in which my husband is loving our kids. I mean, I am not a cold block of stone. I do hold them and am sympathetic during the day, but it is easier then. Like if Jesus had asked those three disciples to pray at noon instead of midnight, they probably would have done it, no problem. Sure thing, Jesus! But I need to remember this when it's 2 am and I am cozy and lazy and fleshly. NOT FLESHY, fleshly. (My fleshiness is not limited to 2 am, but it is not up for discussion here anyway.)

Despite all this, I show DH such disrespect with my attitude and words sometimes, and whine about how my needs aren't being met, and generally act like a baby when for the past two weeks he has been trying to meet the needs of our real baby. I do feel starved emotionally, but what a small price to pay when my kids are hacking their brains out. What a small hour to pray. Oh, I pray to welcome baby duty tonight. I pray to reach the limit of myself, so that my Father can fill me up. I pray to be poured out wine instead of worn out whine. Any human love I can give is wholly inadequate for the task. It has to be Him. I definitely count the cost, am fully aware of the minutes I spend trying to be patient and trying to be compassionate. But He didn't even consider it once. ("Consider him, who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you do not grow weary and lose heart." Heb. 12:3) In Luke 14:28, Jesus says to count the cost before you build something. But the point was somehow "anyone who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." We can count the cost as long as we know that it will cost us everything. Or, as Paul puts it, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (Phil. 3:7)

Bible break:

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead." (Phil. 3:8-11)

"For the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Gal. 6:8-10a) (including the ones who are right in front of your face, the chillins)

Just had time to practice what I been preachin'. Baby was up coughing, sent DH back to bed. Victory! Jesus emptied Himself (Phil. 2:7) and was obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). It does feel like a part of me died, not to minimize his death, but like the daily taking-up-the-cross-and-dying-to-self kind of death. It is different to die. Different from being worn out, or at the end of your rope. I can be weary even when I am not doing good, when I have not been faithful. What's it called when you're just weary, not necessarily weary because you've been doing good? I guess it's the kind where you won't reap a proper harvest when you're done. I guess it's the spinning-your-wheels weary, where the things you did will just burn in the fire rather than shine through as gold. I am weary now, for mostly the wrong reasons, but I would rather surrender, not threaten to take my ball and go home when I suffer, and entrust myself to the one who judges justly (1 Pet. 2:13). I am tired of striving, in every area of my life. I would rather die, be conformed to His death, so that I may share in His life (Phil. 2:10-11, summarized).

Just like I don't want to waste a trial and have to learn it again, I don't want my weariness to be for nothing. I don't want my selfishness about our family vacation/cousin's wedding getting cut shorter and possibly getting cut entirely to get in the way of what my kids need. I hope to honor my husband and trust God with it, whatever the outcome, even if it's very disappointing. I hate even saying that, because it's hard to believe I could really accept such an outcome. Jesus himself "knew what was in man," and he knows I am weak and selfish. Can He start with that awful ground, and grow love in such a wasteland? I guess we'll see. OK, she's coughing again. Better go. I won't count that this is the second time I am heading upstairs. Oops, NOW I won't count. Starting now.
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