Originally published Thursday, 10 July 2014.
Can I please confess something to you?
I’m not the best vacationer. If vacation mean a cool drink and a beach chair and a book and no responsibilities, I am good at that. But by vacation I mean summer vacation–this time right now.
My personality does best with some guard rails on it, some beginning and ending to the day and to work. I don’t even like to write that because UGH who doesn’t love summer?? I guess it’s a partial love– a love of the long days and flip-flops and ice cream. But not a love of the wildly erratic routine, the different bedtimes, the somewhat frantic coming and going as we try to squeeze family visits and summer camps and trips to the pool into these ten little weeks, especially me with a voice in my head reminding me that the oldest is going to middle school, time is flying by fast and I’d better make the most of it before it’s all over.
You’d think I would learn by now, but that voice is not my friend. That is the voice of guilt and of fear and of anxiousness. That is the voice of performance and rules and measurements. Do it now before it’s over. Do it right. Do it like everyone else. Whatever it takes, you’d better be a great mom, great wife, great coworker, great friend. Raise your kids perfectly. Be fun. Be firm. Be faithful. Do devotions every morning and snuggles every night. Hang a chore chart so they will become diligent. Be perfect in your discipline so they will be perfect.
WAIT! Wait a second! A glitch in the system. I begin to listen to that voice, begin to nod along and believe it, and then something like this happens, a wildly irrational thought like “be perfect and they will be perfect” that jars me out of my fear-trance and then I think to myself,
WHOSE VOICE IS THIS ANYWAY?
So I listen more closely. You see, there is a presence in this world that seeks to capture you, to keep you paralyzed and trapped in yourself and in fear. He works by sounding almost true. This one is a faker, a poser. He masquerades as an angel of light. Which is the Bible’s way of saying that he’s like a smooth-talking salesman and if you aren’t careful you begin to nod along and believe what he’s selling.
When I listen to this voice, I feel like I’m turning the crank on a jack in the box, slowly winding up, expecting a terrible clown surprise at any moment. I’m jumpy. I’m edgy. I’m tense. And I’m buying what he’s selling me, this terrible torque that says BE PERFECT.
Yesterday I laid down, right in the middle of the afternoon, right outside in the middle of everything, and I shut my eyes. I shut out the dazzling sunlight and warmth and even the sound of the kids laughing and playing, so I could hear what was happening on the inside. I prayed, Help me God because I kid you not, I really need God’s intervention inside myself every single day. And in the distance, thunder sounded.
All afternoon it had thundered on and off, and we had gathered up all our outside things, preparing for a storm. We had stayed out of the water for a while. We had watched for the thunder to get louder, for the clouds to organize, for the storm to hit. It had been an hour or so and now I laid down and closed my eyes and listened to my insides and heard the thunder again.
And I don’t know how you hear from God, but for me, God speaks through the way I experience the truth of Him through the Bible, and the way He brings that to life in everyday moments. The only way I can for sure know the difference between the Deceiver and God’s leading is my reading my Bible and getting to know God through his own words.
And so this is what I imagined God saying, in the storms of my inside and the storms of the outside:
You are like this impending storm. You hear trouble in the distance and you begin to prepare for it. You are always preparing for it. You are so caught up in the potential of the next storm that you fail to live in the moment I’ve given you. Come to me because you are weary, and I can give you rest. My voice is one of rest and peace, not of tension and striving. Listening to the distant thunder of your life will make you discouraged and anxious. Be strong and courageous by choosing to live one day at a time.
I am grateful that God tells us his mercies are new every morning. So I begin today with a fresh start and I am grateful for it. Jesus said the truth will set us free. And it’s in these small summer moments that I’m reminded that I must tend to the truth every day, must let His voice rise above all the others, clinging to the truth that He’s trustworthy, that He’s in control of the sun of today and the storms of tomorrow, and my job is to stay present in the imperfection and the beauty, in the sweet, messy rhythm of summer.