pity parties and answered prayers

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” ~Flannery O’Connor

I felt small, and not the good kind of small. Not the kind that meant the black you wore was flattering and the muffin top was less visible. This was purely the less visible kind. The kind where you are feeling less than. This was the kind that makes your cheeks burn hot. As I walked fast and furious I recounted the slight. It made me walk faster and push back tears.

What was really a simple miscommunication made me feel left out and alone. I tried to fight the feeling and be positive. My response was “I can walk on my own, listen to some music along the way.” When I couldn’t find my earbuds, I erupted.

Not finding them wasn’t simply frustration over an item misplaced. It also signaled something deeper. I had many sets of nice earbuds, hardly used. My ensuing irrational train of thought began there. They were rarely used because I was rarely alone. There was always a child nearby in need and to luxuriously block out what was going on with music was close to unheard of. Yet this one moment (that I was trying to make the most of) I couldn’t even do that because I couldn’t find any earbuds. I couldn’t find any earbuds because one of the kids that always needed something had invariably taken them because they’d damaged or lost their own. Flustered and moving faster, I paced and let angry thoughts run wild.

No one cares that I don’t have a way to listen to my music, they don’t even care that I was left out to begin with. I’m not on the radar at all. Where have I gone wrong that I give up all I have for my kids and this is what I get?

Now that kids are in school, I am looking for a job. Employers see a resume with holes gaping of years spent not in the paying world’s work force but in that one that goes without paycheck and little other notice. I tell myself that is my calling and I did what I was supposed to do.

I recall a recent impromptu phone interview that had awkward pauses as I tried to make myself sound valuable, sound knowledgeable, sound big. I floundered. The memory recent is humiliating as my value in those eyes is directly tied to my hours in, pay earned, contacts made.

My thoughts go further to years back accepting a job as a magazine editor. I took the position with three kids at home, one school age and two others not yet. Two days into the job, I found myself explaining to the publisher I’d made a giant mistake. Those kids were my primary responsibility no matter how much I wanted to be an editor, to design pages, direct photo shoots, write stories. I needed to be there for them first.

As I walked and cried and sweated with no music to soothe. I only grew angrier.

I prayed.

God. Help. Please.

This is an ugly cycle. This is going nowhere. This is a pity party.

Please help me see You move, You answer prayers.

Before my emotions could be allayed, I was angrier even. I put aside so many things to be this mom. I can’t even say it’s a job I have done well. I have sat in dentists’ offices with the nurse explaining half a dozen cavities and died a little thinking I was too tired to help floss so many nights . I have sat across the table from a teacher telling me again that this child will not sit still and listen and there are others who deserve this spot in this class. I have had teachers send notes home that they made my child buy a lunch because what was packed did not look like enough. That’s what happens when you are all to happy to let a fourth grader pack his own lunch when time is short. It’s not like I’m a stellar mom with star students and athletes and no discipline issues. This job wasn’t done well and now all of these years of “experience” count for nothing when you want a job so someone somewhere will notice you, will deem you worthy.

God, please help me.

I think of scripture. I know the answers. I’ve known them all my life. How now does that get me out of this hideous pit? I know that I should not live by my emotions. You act on truth and let the emotions follow.

When the emotions grab hold it is so hard to shake them.

I am ready for the meat. The meat to be the gospel truth healing my heart. I am ready to see the power of God’s word remaking me. How do I break free?

I tell myself the truth. I am a child of God. He is sovereign. He sees me. These years are important, not wasted. The eyes of the world may not see success but there is so much it will never see.

I don’t want to be like this, worried about what others think. Worrying about be considered valuable and not small. I have prayed often to be more than this selfish me, to have more of Him and less of me.

I am trying to hold fast to truth. In that angry, emotional moment, I struggle so hard to hold on to it.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

My night ends with a loving husband, listening, patiently. I tell him I KNOW the answers. It just seems like a great time to feel that they are true. When does faith become sight? How do I get to the reality of the words?

I cried. A lot.

The following day I found what I always find after that kind of night, swollen puffy eyelids and under eyes, a terrific addition to my smallness.

The next day, for some unknown reason, my husband asked me to take a short business road trip with him while kids were in school. As we drove, my mind again wandered to my future, this next step with kids in school. Previously I saw it wide open, fat with optimism. I could go and be anything. Now a few weeks in and job prospects thin at best, it’s a different landscape.

I think again about feeling small. Why do I feel so small? I am putting my identity into what I do. Suddenly, gently, the Holy Spirit nudges and I recognize a prayer is being answered. How I couldn’t recognize it is instantly astounding. I have prayed time and time and time again. “More of you and less of me.”

Rarely do we like to think of answered prayer as such a painful process, or at least I don’t. In my small mind, there is a magnificent thought of only happy people in happy places with no job losses, or illnesses, or suffering. Answered prayer is healing and peace and smiles and rainbows.

I thank God as I realize yet again when I always seem to forget: This is not about me.
I am praying for Him to increase, for me to decrease AND HE IS ANSWERING MY PRAYER.

Words of CS Lewis immediately come to mind: “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

It hurts to feel small. It hurts because I am wanting it to be all about me. When I focus on me, me, and then me some more, perspective skews wild.

Donald Miller said it beautifully: “The biggest lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me.”

The anger melts. Frustrations fade as I once again find my great God faithful.

“For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” Psalm 33:4

My anger, my sadness shows a distinctive lack of trust, of gratitude. I spent years enjoying the people, the gifts He has so graciously given. Then like a spoiled child, I stomped around saying I’ve gotten no credit for this. I could have had a job where people pat me on the back, say nice things, pay me money, take notice. I deserve credit! Give me Yours!

There it is, the absolute heart of the gospel. He did.

He has given me all of His credit. There is nothing He has withheld from this spoiled child. He laid it all down and I am demanding what? Something else? His earbuds, perhaps?

There is nothing He does not notice.

He’s making a way even now. This God who made the heavens by a word, is continuing to patiently remake me. He is gently stripping away the subtle idols I have put in His rightful place. Being a mom does not overshadow being His child. Being an editor does not make me more valuable to the Creator of the universe. I don’t need a title, a bullet point on the resume, a salary to be someone. (Even now the flesh cries out, “a salary would be nice though!”) UGH.

When I was young, people would wear bracelets with PBPGINFWMY printed on them. I thought they were silly and now I think I need one. Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet.

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