I strive. I am a fighter, a worker, a contender. I am all or nothing. I have to strive to rest. I am not a waiter or a worshipper. I am a Martha.
While I have wanted to resemble Moses by “serving faithfully in all of God’s house,” I have definitely not been, as he was, the meekest person on the face of the earth (Numbers 12). God came to his defense passionately, recognizing his humility and explaining that only with Moses can YHWH speak “mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles” (v. 8). My head may have been bowed many days but it has not been in reverence, wonder or thanksgiving. It has been in a spirit of resignation, complaint, and fear. My head may have been bowed but not in peace and clarity, for my hands were not lifted and open but clenched and shut.
It is hard to be humble when you feel angry. It is hard to hear God when you are not meek.
There are many ways that anger has been a part of my story. At times it comes tangled in loss. It has been indulged in the name of justice. But mostly, it is an ugly, blaming strand that I have allowed to weave into the undertones of my life much too often. Anger is a dark companion that people cling to when they are striving for innocence and answers and their way, their self-defined life. Meanwhile it saps life, leaving them (me) less resilient, more strung and thin.
It is my challenge, as I consider the goals of writing as a Kingdom person, to write partway. To write before I know the lesson, before I have the luxury of full hindsight and before I can say these are all the places we stopped on the way to the Promised Land (Numbers 33). I am in the middle of Something now that I feel compelled to share, now, but it is hard to know where to begin and I am no where near ending. It is something that relates to all parts of my life and none of them at the same time. If you’re willing, I will describe my present surroundings to you.
A few months ago I began to pray for help with a renewed sincerity and need (meekness?). I had started some disciplines that seemed to be good for my soul. I was enjoying our church plant and encouraged by several things happening in ministry and with our kids. I was too tired to fight any circumstances that didn’t suit me with the anger or stubbornness that I had exercised before. Ryan and I were a few months into marriage counseling and it was plodding along. Having not received any counseling before together, we were enjoying the time though sometimes felt our times were wandering, looking for some elusive “key” to breakthrough. Overall, things were going smoothly but I was itchy.
Perhaps I should pause to state plainly, as we have to anyone as God gives us opportunity, that marriage has not been a coasting course for us. Our own community, study, commitment, and faith have helped us progress through certain trials throughout the past 6 1/2 years without formal counseling, but there still remains two extremely different, hard-working, stubborn and extroverted people that sometimes strive in opposite directions. Why did we start counseling when we did? I couldn’t really say. But we praise God for a great therapist, rate, and the opportunity to do this now.
Going back to a few months ago, I was hungry to hear something from God. I was serving faithfully in His house, feeling positive about some directions but I was not hearing Him clearly and things were not settling well with me. Beyond all that appeared well or improving, I was feeling achy. I felt like I was waiting for something.
The next part I hate.
I started reading a book. A really popular book.
Oh horrors. So cliche. So girly. So anticlimactic since it’s been sitting on my shelf for a year. Nothing against the amazing writer who shares so vulnerably and reclaims theology and intellect as rightful territory for a mom and wife. Nothing against the lovely sister-in-law that gave it to me, nothing against the almost-millions of people that told me to read it. I just still kinda hate that a book led me to tears.
Martha has a hard time with that.
One Thousand Gifts seems to have become an icon and empire of sorts from what I can tell, but nonetheless, it has Truth and it was enough to break through as the Something I was waiting for. I rest in God’s timing and recognize His voice on the pages. I have not even finished it yet but my soul, my marriage, and my heart are healthier for it. Like the author, as a good Christian I had covered my life in broad, sloppy strokes of “thankyougod” but entertained (entertain) gnawing complaints and gloom that insist that this is simply not enough. That I deserve more than this. Whatever this is. And my only choice is to duck my head, not in thanks, but in resignation. To get through. But to get through to what?
It has been humbling to admit my fleshly default and acknowledge the confession, the hope, and the trepidation to Ryan, our counselor, and to others I walk with daily. Paramount concerns included the knowledge that nothing in my life may actually change or improve just because I choose to be satisfied and thankful in the very small things. That Ryan may be disinterested in this book with its supremely girly cover (which, full disclosure, I kinda love) and, more importantly, the movement it was stirring in me and that it would not make us closer but that I would feel more lonely. That I wouldn’t be able to taste the honey in the manna.
As I read through the first few chapters, I felt all these things very poignantly. But it didn’t matter. I was so thirsty and my soul recognized the themes in her account to be Lifewater that would give body to all the other ingredients I had striven to incorporate. It was a matter of obedience and need. It was not a matter of fixing, results, or goal.
I have baby eyes that are hard to focus and cannot see very far down the road of thanksgiving. Of resolute, specific and constant thanksgiving. I told Him “I am a tangle of held breath hope, amateur thanksgiving, beginnings of sentences. With the same aches and fears of doing this alone and it not working and being swept up in a sundance that cannot sustain in my shadows. I am both desire for divine and a sponge of the suffering down here. I am glad for movement in my being but do not know my footing or my way. I have become inarticulate and quiet…I have sat with the pages that are embossed with pain and losses and have resisted the dyeing of gratitude. I am not practiced at absorbing the hidden graces hue. I am close but I am far…”
I have been encouraged by the example of many around me who have not been such slow pupils and who are ahead of me in this climb. People like my beautiful friend from college who shares her amazing account here. Ryan and I have found new blessing in our marriage through his realizing the significance of this path and accepting my invitation to read with me. I have been able to slowly acknowledge and piece together parts of me, His image, that I have buried in times of despair or disrepair. I am realizing that this is my Bathsheba. That my adult life is not a hero story of one slain giant with one faithful throw. It is a private battle, under the covering of night. It is a war of where I will direct my eyes and how I will control the power I have. In striving and leading, working and contending, I can wander and cover. Bathsheba is the absence of thanksgiving. It is when I look down and consider what is not mine and missed the peering up, the wonder about the grace cover of a starry night and mysterious space.
And this is where I am, fellow traveler. It is a new day. I have nodded to the Lord’s loving and beautiful call the past weeks of reading and digesting and I have offered Him my question marks and asked Him where to put my bags. I am wondering how and where my disheveled home, my aging body, my burdened, over-educated mind, my melancholy heart, can be sanctuaries of the communion table–of giving thanks and breaking Body. I am asking Him to reverse calcification back to clay, to give me peace when Egypt seems so near.