I know we've all heard it before - "The laundry will get taken care of eventually. Play with your kids now!" That sounds really good, and I tend to live my life by that mantra. But eventually your kids must have clothes to wear. And there comes a time when you can no longer just put on shoes so that your feet don't feel when the floor crumbs stick to them. So there's obviously some balance; one which I'm struggling to find! I often feel like I'm drowning in this current stage, and the Lord has been sweetly teaching me through it all. Like how to say no. And how to scale back. And how to keep a schedule so that your family doesn't get pushed to the side. And those are difficult to learn, but oh! How difficult it has been to learn how to humble myself and accept help from others.
One way in which the Lord has provided is to bring several people into my life who have been lifelines for the everyday chaos. They have broken down barriers and stepped into my life and seen the VERY real side. They've seen piles and piles of both clean and dirty laundry. They've witnessed the disorganized mess of toys and dishes and papers. They've watched me wade through all the stuff filling every inch of my floor.
And they have served.
They have given up their free evenings and come over to help me clean and organize and prepare. They have spoken words of truth (some of which sting) and words of encouragement. They have cooked us meals, not because we just had a baby but because we just have a crazy life. They've let me vent and cry my way through the shame and guilt I constantly struggle with for not being enough for my husband, my kids, my students, my co-workers, my parents, my friends, my church, or my ministries. And instead of pointing fingers and telling me how to be better, they have just "washed my feet." But unlike Peter, my pride is clinging to my soul about as stubbornly as the black gunk in our shower!
With every piece of laundry my friends fold for me; with every meal they buy and bring; with every counter they scrub, I struggle with hanging my head and not making eye contact. My inclination is that I need to somehow return the favor. But the reality is... I can't! I need their help because I can't handle it all right now in this season, so finding time to help them clean their houses in return is impossible! Cooking them dinners won't happen right now! Even having the time and energy to be a good listener to their own life struggles is a struggle for me! I cannot repay them, and I know they neither expect nor want me to anyway because this is their way of serving Jesus by serving me. But still... every thing inside of me screams that I ought to. That I ought to find a way... stay up later, take time away from other things, never get a moment of rest... so that I'm not taking advantage. Every time I get a sweet text message offering another meal, I feel a pang of guilt for continuing to accept it. I constantly hear a deadening whisper, "you ought to be able to handle all of this by yourself, and if you keep asking for help, your friends are going to resent you." But here's the issue with that...
I clearly don't understand grace.
With my own friends I'm being made aware of how "works-oriented" I am about relationships. I feel like the only way it's okay for me to accept their help is if I can somehow return it. So when I can't do that, I feel badly about myself. But oh! How far from the Gospel is that thought process!
Because Jesus did something for me that I will never, ever be able to repay. And it's more than just not having the time - I could never live a perfect life like he did, free from every sin. And I will never be capable of offering up my very own life for the sake of others in the way He did. And there is nothing I can ever do to make myself worthy of a relationship with the Lord.
But He loves me.
And it is out of that love that He came and served. And died. And conquered sin and death. And restored me to a right relationship with my Maker. And that isn't supposed to incite guilt and shame and averted eyes. He wants me to recognize my inability to love the way He does and accept it as the free gift that it is - not to be repaid!
And likewise, while we're going through this hectic season of life, I have to remember that the "America dream" of being a "self-made man" who is independent and can do it on his own despite all the odds and finds a sense of pride and integrity in being able to handle everything on his own is... totally antithetical to the Gospel. So keep the meals and scrubbing coming, my sweet friends. Because my house needs it... and the sanctification of my soul does, too.