Stealing Our Joy

Okay, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called ‘A Gift From God’ about his provision of a holiday for us. Now we haven’t gone yet, and I was at the point where I just wanted to cancel the whole thing, I didn’t want to go any more, it was all too hard. For the last two days I have been dreading this holiday. Not the holiday itself, but the preperation and the packing. The more I thought about all the things that had to be done so we could go away, (and the list was ENORMOUS) the more I was dreading getting ready – there was so much to do and with T pretty much out of the picture for that sort of stuff (a chronic fatigue syndrome sufferer), it was all my baby to organise and make happen. And me, I’m one of those people who puts off those things that are daunting me, I go all “ostrich” (bury my head in the sand and hope it will fix itself while I’m not looking!) I don’t know why I persist in doing it, it hasn’t worked yet and at 37 I’ve had plenty of experience of it not working – you’d have thought I’d have figured it out by now!

I started going down hill on the Thursday (a pretty horrendous time “trapped” in the city due to a protest march, certainly didn’t help – perhaps I’ll put that in another post) and then I just went steadily down over the next few days. By Sunday I was depressed and everything was getting me down. I got to the point that if someone sneezed I got mad. My temper (which has got shorter with the birth of each child!) was very frayed around the edges and I was snapping, growling and snarling. I was very unpleasant to be around by Sunday afternoon. Mostly I just wanted to lay down and cry and a huge part of the problem I was having was I didn’t know why (packing for the holiday was a major stress, but it wasn’t the whole reason for feeling the way I did). I felt really flat and teary and hopeless. So much so that I really did not want to go. The only reason I kept on perservering was because I knew that this holiday was a gift from God and that the boys would be soooo disappointed. But I didn’t want this gift any more.

On Sunday I went to church with the boys leaving T at home, he was too wrecked after pushing himself too hard for a few days. I went because I knew I should, because I knew I needed to, not because I wanted to. We were running late again – trying to get it all together in a limited few hours is really tough and really stressful, plus I always try and squeeze in a few of the “jobs” that I didn’t finish yesterday before we leave! On the way there I just wanted to cry. A couple of times I almost turned the car around and headed for home. I wondered what I would say if anyone asked me if I was okay.

When we arrived the boys were painful – they didn’t listen, ran through deep puddles in runners, were loud and ill mannered. X had fallen asleep (I had so much wanted to leave him with T, but I knew from watching that T was not up to looking after X even for a short time – T had been staggering around all morning and flopping onto the couch, barely holding his eyes open and looking very pale) so anyway I put X in the pram, but by the time we got inside B had managed to wake him up again and he wouldn’t go back to sleep. I was ropeable and the boys experienced the angry mum, controlled, but really angry. I don’t think that I’ve ever been that angry with them before at church, and in front of someone else! After the struggle I’d had getting there and all I was just about to walk back out again and leave. Lucky for the kids I guess that Kidz Church started while I was still there and they could go.

During the worship I just cried and cried. I’m sure I would have cried longer, but there’s nothing like a stinky nappy to stop the tears. I was depressed and sad, but if anyone had asked me why I wouldn’t have been able to give them an answer – apart from being stressed by this “gift from God” holiday! And of course, I didn’t have any tissues with me, so the tears were just running down my face and dripping onto the floor. At least with a dirty nappy to change I was able to get some tissues too – although I didn’t cry any more after that.

The sermon was good and very encouraging, it was about finding your purpose in God and it followed on for me from a reading from the Ransomed Heart email (www.ransomedheart.com) I had read on Saturday night

I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. (Isa. 45:2–3)

God’s imagery of going before us lets us know that he desires us to go on a journey. This is not so frightening. Most of us are aware that the Christian life requires a pilgrimage of some sort. We know we are sojourners. What we have sometimes not given much thought to is what kind of a journey we are to be taking.

Not realizing it is a journey of the heart that is called for, we make a crucial mistake. We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. We know he is calling us to give up the less-wild lovers that have become so much a part of our identity, embrace our nakedness, and trust in his goodness.

As we stand at this intersection of God’s calling, we look down two highways that appear to travel in very different directions. The first highway quickly takes a turn and disappears from our view. We cannot see clearly where it leads, but there are ominous clouds in the near distance. Standing still long enough to look down this road makes us aware of an anxiety inside, an anxiety that threatens to crystallize into unhealed pain and forgotten disappointment. We check our valise and find no up-to-date road map but only the torn and smudged parchment containing the scribbled anecdotes and travelers’ warnings by a few who have traveled the way of the heart before us. They encourage us to follow them, but their rambling journals give no real answers to our queries on how to navigate the highway.

(The Sacred Romance , 127–28)  

Despite the encouraging words I was still down. And anyone who spoke to me at church that Sunday copped it too. I was a bit of a ‘wet blanket’. Our pastor is a lovely guy and every Sunday he asks how I am and how T is. That Sunday was no exception, but he wasn’t in a position to talk and I didn’t really want to either. But as I left I hoped he would come after me and pursue me, asking, really asking, what was wrong. I knew even then as I left church that I wanted him to ‘fight for me’ (John and Stasi often talk about this in ‘Captivating’, women want to be fought for, to have a strong man fight for them, protect them, stand up for them, defend them). I thought this was a bit odd and I didn’t know why I wanted him to fight for me. I most certainly did not know what I would have said if he had, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen.

Later at home it was all getting worse – I was more horrid, snapping, growling, threatening the boys with no toys etc. When I think about it now it must have been horrible to be around me. Later while I was in another room I could hear T also being exasperated and angry with K, for something that wasn’t that bad and wouldn’t normally get T so angry. I just sat there with my head in my hands and asked, “Why?” I wasn’t expecting an answer, but I got one. In my heart I heard, “You’re under attack”.

I shared this with T and the boys as we ate our meal and T prayed ‘casting out’ the devil and demons (I’m still really uncomfortable with this stuff – every time we do it I feel like an idiot, like I’m just playing a silly game and nothing’s going to change). I prayed too, despite how I felt about it, and it didn’t feel very effective or very real. About five, maybe ten minutes afte we prayed, T asked us if we felt any different. I felt good. It literally felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, like the sun had come out and melted the darkness away. T felt that way too, like the oppression had been lifted. And you know, I still had to do all that stuff to make going away possible, I mean, the dishes still had to be washed, the shopping done, the clothes washed and hung out…, but it no longer felt like an impossible mountain. Tell you about the holiday in another post.

I am happy to be able to say that T and I are listening to our hearts and we know that our journey will require much from us, it already has and is. And although this journey is great, it is hard and it’s scary and there are definately times when I just want to give up, it’s just way too hard. But for too long, I have let “life” suffocate my heart’s desires and dreams and I have been dying, slowly, for a long time I have been unsatisfied with my life, what we were doing, how we are living and there have been many times when I have just hated it. This journey that we’ve started is helping us to discover, really discover just what our purpose is in God. And we know that as we travel around the country, like nomads, God will reveal to us what our unique purpose is, individually and as a family.

We are no longer standing at the intersection of God’s calling, we have looked down two highways that appear to travel in very different directions. And although the first highway quickly takes a turn and disappears from our view and we cannot see clearly where it leads, with ominous clouds in the near distance. And despite it being the scarier of the two, we know that this is the right path, the one that is leading us into unknown territory, the unexplored frontier and unchartered waters. This is our journey; this is our adventure with our God. We don’t have a road map, we can’t even see clearly how this is going to work, how the peices are going to come together. We only have our guide who stands there ahead of us waiting, smiling, beckoning us onward just before he too disappears from view into the strange and the unfamiliar.

But this time, this time we are ready to leave behind the comfortable and the familiar. Now is the time. Now is the time to plunge into the adventure that God has been calling us to, that we have put off for so long because there was no road map. We want, we desire, we are desperate for more of God, desperate to live the life he has created us to live, desperate to be truly alive, desperate to be all he has created us to be, desperate for our kids to know him intimately, desperate to make a real difference in our world.  

We have no idea what the future holds, but we know that to continue to live safe, secure, “tidy” lives will be false to ourselves, false to our hearts, and living that kind of life has only brought us pain and despair – hope deferred makes the heart grow sick – our hearts have been sick and tired for a long time. But now, now that we have made the committment, our hearts are coming to life once more, beating fast and our eyes are sparkling again. We are trusting in our God to be with us and to guide us on this adventure, this journey. We’re stepping out in faith. Whoohoo!!!

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