"I am a mess." "I am a mess and I always have been." These were the words I spoke to my sister yesterday on her final day of a 10 day visit to Nicaragua this past week. The words came out of my mouth at the end of a day when my "messiness" rose to the surface like dirty, ugly, stinky pond scum. I could not hide it. It was out there for my sister and for everyone else to see and to smell and to experience. I had been angry throughout the day and had snapped at my sister, my husband, and my kids. Will's neighborhood friend stopped by and he later told Will that for the first time he had been afraid of me because of the mean look I had given him. I had driven the car wildly in my anger and had made my passengers nervous. I ordered people around. I lacked compassion, grace, and a thankful heart.
So, today I woke up with a load of guilt and several more loads of self condemnation. "What kind of Christian am I anyway? What if people only knew what kind of "missionary" I really was? How can my kids respect that kind of mother? How can Dan love me when I fail like this? What does my sister think of her older sister? I lay in bed at 5 AM this morning going over and over again how I could have responded in a more Christ-like way throughout the day; how I could have stopped to pray instead of impulsively react; how I could have loved instead of blamed. And then my faithful God drew me out of bed and led me to get my tennis shoes on and go to the school to walk around the campus and talk the whole thing over with Him as I walked. I then sat down at a table in my special little sanctuary located in the midst of a nursery of plants yet to be planted on campus. And it was then that He spoke through the devotional book "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. I opened the book to the page where my bookmark was placed the day before and read the following words:
Remember that Satan is the accuser of believers. He delights in heaping guilt feelings upon you, especially when you are enjoying My Presence. When you feel Satan's arrows of accusation, you are probably on the right track. Use your shield of faith to protect yourself from him. Talk with Me about what you are experiencing, and ask Me to show you the way forward. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to Me, and I will come near to you.
God led my heart to a place of peace this morning, reminding me that this life of being one of His disciples is not about living it perfectly and without sin. This is what those who do not walk as followers and disciples may believe a "Christian" should be, which would lead them to reject Christ because of all the hypocrisy they see in us. I was reminded again today that living as Christ's disciple - is about living life as a Follower of Christ (taking the next step with Him from moment to moment) and as a Repenter (when we fail to follow Christ from moment to moment) and as a Lover and Forgiver (when others hurt us because they have failed to follow Christ from moment to moment). And it is about learning to trust God to use the dirty, ugly, stinky pond scum mess that He enabled us to see in ourselves – the stuff that lies below the surface until something stirs it up – to remind us once again of the mess that we are and have always been. He shows us the mess not to condemn or shame or accuse us, but to remind us of our moment to moment need for a Leader, a Savior, an unconditional Lover, and an ultimate Forgiver who remembers our sin no more.
"I am a mess." "I am a mess and I always have been." When I spoke these words to my sister, they were laced with guilt and self condemnation. Today, the same words are true . . . "I am a mess." "I am a mess and I always have been." When I speak these words on this day, I speak them with the freedom of knowing that God has redeemed the mess that I was in the past, the mess that I am right now, and the mess I will be in the future as I follow Him moment to moment and step by step into refreshing mountain springs of repentance, the warm sun-soaked pastures of love, and into the deep waters of forgiveness.
You may wonder what made me so angry on this day I have just described for you. And I share the reason for my anger as a prayer request. As many of you know, our family is transitioning from being a family of 4 (kids 13 and 14) to a family of 5 with the recent (2 1/2 months ago) addition of Daniel (he is 3 ½) to our family. We know that it is normal for all of us to go through a grieving process as life is much more intense - and in many ways - much more exhausting than it was before.
Each member of our family responds either by "fighting" or "flighting" as a means of coping. Those of us who are "fighters" tend to be angry. Those of us who are "flighters" try to escape by isolating ourselves. The same thing happened with all of us when we first moved to Nicaragua. We have learned that this is a natural "survival" response to major life change. (See this link for more information about the fight or flight response: http://www.thebodysoulconnection.com/EducationCenter/fight.html -this article is written from a secular perspective but does include helpful information when it comes to understanding what "the fight or flight response" is. I smile as I read about how they recommend that the reader "find a quiet moment" - I think what they are really talking about is about taking a moment to talk with God)
And yet, we do not want to use "the fight or flight response" as an excuse for our behavior. We desire to live this time of transition in a way that is healthy and that glorifies God. We know that He has the power to "override" this fight or flight response when we depend on Him during moments of anxiety.
Prayer Request: So, we ask you to pray for God to empower us with mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual strength in our weakness and struggle right now. Pray too for a sense of overall security for Daniel as he struggles so much with being separated from me. His need to be with me all of the time leads me to a place of feeling very overwhelmed and depleted emotionally. Please pray for peace of heart for him and for God to work mightily in his life now and in the future. And also for Dan and I to have wisdom about how to manage this new life of ours in a way that promotes health and well being for our marriage, for our three kids, and for each of us individually.
Thank you so much once again for your love, your grace, your prayers, and for your appreciation of honest sharing. My prayer since we have assumed this title "missionary" is that others would see God's strength at work in our weakness. And this is why I share these stories with you – not so that we would be placed on a pedestal, but so that you may know that we walk with you; we fail alongside you; and we too are on this journey of learning each day how to walk with our God in the place that He has called us to live and to serve. I am so thankful to be among so many who walk this path with us – I am thankful for honest, following, repentant, loving, and forgiving people who we call "family" and "friends". We love you.
Peace to you, Lisa (Dan, Rebekah, Will, and Daniel) Van Zoest