Monday, July 21, 2014

It is In Vain (The True Side of the Story)

Praise God for birthday parties at the pool that double as cheap babysitting, nearby Starbucks with free Wifi, and a husband who suggests I bring along the computer "just in case" I don't need to stay at the party because I might be able to do some writing.


Quite honestly, I don't really know how these "real writers" do it.  It's an incredible feat just for me to carve out the time to write the occasional blog post, let alone chapters and pages that make some sort of cohesive sense.  If I think too hard about all the obstacles that stand in the way of my bucket list dream of publishing a book.....well, let's just say that I suddenly feel like I'll need something stronger than this Shaken Peach Green Tea Lemonade.  (Which is delicious, by the way.)

I owe you a lot of posts - a recap of the food of Savannah to supplement the run-down I gave you of Tybee Island, the story of how we took our kids camping for the first time, a review of the last few Stitch Fix boxes that I have sorted through and then haven't had the time to write about, my decision whether to get another tattoo or not, and finally some sort of open call for advice on how to get my four year old to quit crapping his pants.

Like I said, lots to write about.

Today I want to take full advantage of the kid-free time I've been gifted along with the Venti Iced Peach Tea that I got for free because the barista forgot to put the lemonade in it the first time and write about something that has been really important to me over the last several weeks and to give you Part Two to the topic I introduced last week.

PSALM 127.

Remember how only a few days ago I wrote about getting up earlier in the morning so I could make the best use of as much time as possible for writing, working, reading, studying, exercising?  I got sick and tired of feeling like I didn't have enough time to do ALL THE THINGS and decided to do something about it.  I set my alarm for 5:10 am and rolled out of bed with a "suck it up, Buttercup" mantra. In the efficiency department, I felt like I was killing it and I was so thankful that God had given me a way to find more time to do all the things I was committed to. 

It was great....until my body caught on to what I was doing and started to revolt.  I struggled to keep my eyes open when I drove to my second job, found myself tripping over my words because I was too tired to speak to my students during small group, and overreacting to everything because I didn't have the patience or energy to endure it. 

A couple months ago, I was wrestling with the same question I am now - How am I supposed to find the time to do all the things I need to do and still live my life in a way that is healthy and fulfilling?

Already exhausted, already burning the candle at both ends, already stretched thin, I agreed to taking on a summer job, more hours at another job, plus accepted an additional volunteer commitment at church.  I had no clue how I was going to pull it off.  I prayed and begged God for help.  I asked for more time, more energy, more endurance, more wisdom, more efficiency, more dedication.  As hard as I was working, it wasn't good enough. 

On the brink of my busiest summer ever, I sat down to blog one morning before lunch.  A notification went off on my phone from Instagram and I grabbed it to check it out.  Someone had "liked" a photo I posted on the #lampandlight Bible study hashtag and for some reason, I clicked on the hashtag and started to scroll through some of the latest photos.  My eyes were immediately drawn to a photo of Psalm 127 even though the photo only showed a couple of the verses.  I paged through my Bible until I found it.

Friends, I don't know that I've ever been smacked so hard in the face with Scripture as I was by Psalm 127.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early 
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (Psalm 127: 1-2) 

Over and over I read it, thinking about the late nights, the early mornings, the worry I felt if I had to ask off work for one day, or the fear I feel every day that I'm not working hard enough.

It was MY LIFE.  Right there on the pages of Scripture.  And God was telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I have been managing my work life and my time has all been in vain.  All of it.  Pointless.

I have often made the joke that when I am dead the epitaph on my headstone will read, "At least she worked hard."  What I desperately wanted was sleep and rest and peace and I was choosing to sacrifice it.  For what?

Just stop it.
Unless you trust me to build the house, your efforts are wasted.
You cannot do everything, be everywhere, please everyone.  Trying to is pointless.
Staying up just a little later, waking up just a little earlier is only leaving you exhausted.
Instead of trusting me to provide, you worry and fret, feeding your anxiety with fear.
Just stop.  Sleep.  Rest in me, my beloved.   
You don't need MORE.  What you need is LESS so there is room for ME.  

I wrote those two verses up on my cute little "Scripture of the Week" board that hangs on the wall in my kitchen.  Each day as I slammed my coffee, I looked at it, read it, and rushed out of the house.  That was nine weeks ago and I haven't been able to bring myself to wipe those words off the glass and change them because I honestly don't think it's sunken in to my thick skull yet.  I've memorized it, repeated it to myself while rolling silverware, underlined and marked it up in my Bible, read and re-read it over and over and over again.

Only to decide what I really need to do is to start getting up at 5:10 am so I can get more done.

*insert face-palm here*

Father, forgive me.  Forgive me for my stubbornness, my disobedience, and my pride.  I get some sort of vain pleasure in the admiration I get from people when they praise me for all I do and proclaim, "I just don't know how you do it!"  I soak up their amazement like a sponge and wear it like a merit badge.  Have mercy on me for my unwillingness to surrender to what you have made so clear to me, for my tendency to display my sin like a trophy for others to admire.  Could it be that I am simultaneously worshiping busyness as an idol and looking to others to worship me for my ability to manage it?   

How could I have let this happen?  How did I let my pride take such a strong hold on me? 

Someone once warned me that to sincerely pray the last two verses of Psalm 139 was incredibly dangerous.  I've known for months now that I was too busy, too stretched, and too tired to give what you were asking of me, but I never would have thought it had gone this far.  Thank you for your enduring patience, your steadfast love, and the forgiveness that I know I have in Christ.  It is only though Him that I can ask you to turn your face away from my sin and guide my steps forward on a path that you have determined, helping me to trust you above all else.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to rise early in the morning to be efficient with the time He has given me, but the motivation behind my "anxious toil" is where I have gone horribly wrong.  Just in the last week, this Psalm has been heavy on my heart and God has started to open a door that maybe....just maybe...could provide the opportunity for me to find some balance, toil in vain a whole lot less, and lean into my Savior a whole lot more. 

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