About a year ago, I was doing the full time student, full time mom, full time wife thing. Psychology and Counseling studies by themselves can be comprehensive and repetitive, so after 3 years, an associates degree and nearing my bachelors degree, I was feeling like I had over eaten at a Thanksgiving dinner.
Enough was enough.
But much like feeling that way at Thanksgiving, sometimes we reach for the pumpkin pie assuring ourselves that it most likely won’t do any harm. It’s just dessert, after all.
I reached for one more class, assuring myself that at least I’d be a little closer when I decided to pick my degree back up… after all, it was just one more class.
I failed the class. I had over eaten my studies and my mind and will to live through that semester were just done. I spent most of it laying on the couch staring at the course work or adventuring with my kids. The class just sat there, like a half eaten piece of pumpkin pie.
Once the semester was over, I finally decided to hang the hat and my last 12 credits to rest for a while. I realized it took more courage to be honest with myself and where I was at in my life, then to continue on in a learning coma, resenting every moment.
Seasons changed, and spring was leading into summer. A similar situation started happening in my spiritual walk. I remembered feeling a similar way in high school. Over done and full on studying the Bible and reflecting on God’s word.
But I often felt guilty.
Were my parents and teachers right? Was I not studying enough of the Bible? Was I not praying enough? (But really… a Bible class everyday at school, Chapel once a week, and church twice on Sundays….)
It’s only taken a decade and some horribly guilty feelings in life to realize the answer to that question is no.
The bite of pie that made me realize it was my son.
Wyatt has been my perseverance maker(sometimes I think I was just plain going crazy). For the first few years of his life, I loved him so deeply…but he threw temper tantrums like a banchie and I often asked myself what I did wrong. But the years went on, and frustrations, patience and sweat through it all… many prayers, both angry and sad…many apologies to my family and God and we were into 2nd grade.
I had become rather chummy with each teacher up to this point. We would frequent emailing weeks to months to bounce around ideas on how to help Wyatt pay attention in school and be considerate of other people. And then…2nd grade.
You’re probably wondering what in the world 2nd grade has been like. Well, his teacher and I are like BFFL (that’s best friends for life). At one point we were emailing two times a week. I deeply considered buying the woman a coffee card and having a rolodex of “Thanks for all you do” cards…
One day a month or two into the school year after the second email that week, I just wept. I had remembered not really liking school at his age for the same exact reasons: playing and art time were way more fun. In that time I remembered what it was like to just over dose on learning. And that’s when it struck me.
Some people can sit and learn for days, months, decades even, and come clean with A’s. Then, with a yawn, a stretch, and a sip of a juice box…go back to the books. But my son and I can do about a month… and we have learned so much that we need a week or two to let everything settle in. We aren’t stupid. We aren’t un-dedicated. It’s just the way God made us. We like to serve, laugh, smile, and explore…and get a little learning in.
The weeks following were much quieter, much more understanding, much better. He still has issues at school, but we both don’t sweat it… so long as he isn’t making his teacher’s job a nightmare.
All that to say… It was a few weeks later that I noticed my lovely Bible was quite dusty. The guilt and comments returned to my head like I was 14 again. I’m a failure. But this time, I looked at my son and thought about the lesson we had just learned together.
Why have I been pressuring myself all these years to be a textbook Christian? You know… the ones that pour over the Bible and study it and retain everything and smell like forgiveness and smile like heaven? The ones that make reading the Bible and praying for 3 hours in the morning before the kids wake up is a cake walk and a part of living out the divine nature? (not exactly…but you know what I mean.)
It was enough.
I’d over eaten.
I wasn’t done following Jesus. I wasn’t done reading the Bible.I was over the lie that I had to read the Bible daily and take part in every religious opportunity in order to maintain my relationship with Jesus when I just couldn’t do it that way.
I still read the Bible. One verse at a time. One day at a time. But I do it because I absolutely love that Jesus was born, lived, and died for the purpose that I could better understand who God is. I want to think about one thing at a time. I want to intentionally think about what I am doing, the way I know I can handle it. I don’t want to do it to purge and scorn myself and somehow get there faster. I’m a slower learner. I take smaller steps. (I don’t ever remember Jesus telling Thomas to quit asking questions and just trust him already. I mean, duh! Right?)
The Bible, communion, prayer… are all great tools and reminders of the freedom we have in Jesus,but they are not the way to Jesus. And honestly, if doing any one of those things makes you resent the life and death of Jesus, it’s never a bad idea to take a break, step back, and ask yourself why you are doing it in the first place.
God never wanted a bunch of brainwashed children coming to him out of obligation…He never wanted a pouty whiner who felt the “kingdom” just “couldn’t be the same without my help”…he never wanted a resentful child who stayed because that’s what they were supposed to do.
He came as a child because He wanted us to see how vulnerable He really is.
That the God most powerful could become flesh to bridge the gap between perfection and complete destruction.
He stayed as a human so we could see that we had the same struggles.
He died when it was time because love does.
In his whole journey, Jesus took time away. Jesus took naps. Jesus pleaded with God. And when it came time, He knew it was time to lay down His life, so He did it.
Somewhere in it all, I put a corporate suit on Christianity rather than the hands of service and honesty of the human flesh. Somewhere in it all my faith, or rather, my religion told me I could never slumber, or sleep, or feel tired, or exhausted. I had to USPS the crap out of Christianity.
I can’t do it all…but I can serve.
I can laugh.
I can read a few Bible verses a week.
I can chat with God.
I can take a day off and breath.
I can have grace on others because a lot of the time…life is hard and graceless.
I can sit at the Thanksgiving feast and never feel obligated to eat more than I can handle again.
Grace happened. Freedom is right now. And love does.