Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:1-16:24
Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
Well, I just got back from the Walk to Emmaus and boy, are my feet tired!
That was a joke someone told during joke time at the Walk, having no idea just how true is was for me as I stood on the other side of the curtain separating the kitchen from the dining room where they were telling the jokes. However, more than my aching feet is my aching soul. I feel so empty and dry right now. I’m exhausted in every possible way that someone can be exhausted. I have hurt in every possible way that someone can hurt, and honestly right now I’m done. I’ve had it. And the worst part is that it’s my kids that are taking the brunt of my frustration at the moment. I was gone all weekend long, they missed their Mommy terribly. And it’s obvious by how much they want (and need) from me now. Yet I have nothing left to give them! I gave it all to the women on the walk. I feel horribly mean and I’m terribly frustrated by it. I’ve got Mommy guilt, where I know I need to take time for myself to re-charge by allowing God to fill me up so that I can be the mom He wants me to be and the mom my kids need for me to be; yet I feel guilty for taking that time because I know they’ve missed me and want me NOW. I have spent all morning and half the afternoon on the couch between sleep and half consciousness. At one point I REALLY had to go to the bathroom but when I started thinking about everything involved in the process, getting up and walking across the room, I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort yet. I’ve been hungry, and haven’t gotten up to fix anything because it was going to be too much work. To say I’m tired really barely covers the surface of how I feel. However, “sore”, pretty much gets to the point. I’m sore in places I didn’t know could even get sore.
All morning my daughter kept asking for me to take her outside and push her in her swing and I kept telling her no until finally I couldn’t take the Mommy guilt anymore and caved to her request. I rolled off the couch onto the floor, where I collapsed in a heap from exhaustion. Moving was worse than I expected it to be. I willed myself to get to the bathroom where I could at least relieve my poor full bladder. I looked at my clothes hanging on the hook on the wall and decided, “Nope, not worth the effort of getting dressed to go outside. All the neighbors are at work right now anyway, who cares if I’m wearing bright yellow Spongebob pajama pants outside at two in the afternoon?” (I don’t even like Spongebob, they were a $5 deal that I couldn’t pass up.) I came out of the bathroom and realized that I now had to put on my shoes… the objects of torture from the weekend, the reminder of the excruciating pain I had endured for the sake of love. I cried. Seriously, I sat on the edge of the couch, looking at my gray and pink tennis shoes and wept. I fell over into the pillow at the end of the couch and sobbed into it, “Lord, do I have to go out already? I don’t want to! I don’t want to put my shoes on again. I know it won’t hurt my feet this time like it did before, but I don’t want to remember that pain so quickly. Right now I just want to sleep and forget it. I want to rest and recover, not push through it. I’m tired and I don’t want to keep going. The last time I loved it hurt so terribly, I’m afraid to love like that again. Yes it was an honor and a privilege, but it hurt! My spirit is oh so willing to go outside and play with my daughter who loves me and makes me smile, but right now my body is so weak. I’m weary. I’m tired. I don’t want to.” “You can” is all He said. It was all that was necessary. So through tear-filled eyes I wearily sat up and pulled on my shoes, I stood up and walked resolutely outside with Anna bounding like a bouncing ball behind me laughing. Ahhhhh….. the energy of youth!
Anna, of course, beat me to the swing and was shouting impatiently “Hurry up Mommy” from the across the yard and I did my best to try and keep the harshness out of my tone when I told her I was coming. It’s not her fault I’m tired and struggling to be nice right now. As I stood behind her and pushed she yelled “Higher!” and so I pushed harder, as hard as I could at the moment anyway. Next she asks if I will go jump in the trampoline with her!!! It’s one thing to stand in one spot and push a swing it’s completely altogether another thing to JUMP on a trampoline! So I made a deal with her, I would sit on the trampoline with her while she jumped. While the swing was in the dense shade of our thickly leafed crabapple tree, the trampoline is almost completely in the bright sunlight of mid-day and once on it I remembered one of the ladies at the walk telling me about how to get the stains out of my heirloom apron. “Wash it and then lay it out in the sunlight and the stains will disappear”. I lay down on the trampoline with my little angel of a girl bouncing around me and prayed that God would wash me out and make the stains of pain disappear. As I lay there she began bouncing closer and closer to my head making it bounce painfully on the trampoline, more pain, I wept again. And I began telling God “I’m sorry Lord, I can’t do it. I don’t know what it is that I can’t do I just know that I can’t.” And it was in that moment I realized that I had been going through a test, and had just reached that moment of brokenness that used to take moments to get to, then hours, now apparently days. I’m still not sure what the test was about or what lessons I was supposed to learn through it, but I do know that I have been sweetly broken by the stretching hands of my Lord and love pushing me to become all that I can be, only through Him. Through this experience He is helping me to realize that I need my own time-outs when I know I’m done. That by taking time out just for me, I am benefitting everyone around me and not just myself.
How can you pour water from an empty cup? How can you squeeze soap from a dishcloth when it’s dry? You can’t! How can you love your family and serve them with your whole heart when you are so focused on your own pain and fatigue? You can’t. You will serve them in bitterness and resentment; they don’t need that, it would be better not to serve them at all. I came in from outside knowing what I needed. I needed time for me. I needed time with my Daddy, the fountain head, the place where the streams of living water find their own origin, from the throne of God Almighty, my Papa. I had been gaining my strength from Him all weekend through frequent restroom visits where I would pray and breathe and read the new book I had downloaded onto my phone right before I left. The only way that I survived the chaos and pain of the weekend was to take time for myself. And while the Enemy certainly did his best to make me feel guilty for it, I refused to let him, because I’ve learned what I need. I need alone time with my Savior and when I don’t get it then I can’t survive. Period.
However, the real test for me this weekend was surviving the test without any of my normal methods of coping with stress. I had no Bible, not even on my phone because the ap wouldn’t work! I was only allowed short breaks for the bathroom due to our overwhelming amount of work we had to do in the kitchen to cook for 60+ people, three meals a day for three days. HOWEVER, I still had the bathroom! God has taught me well how to use the bathroom. J I know that sounds funny, but it’s quite a useful tool for those in any kind of ministry or child care. I have found that when surrounded by people who need you and are under your care there are times where you just need to be alone with the Lord. Jesus Himself spent many a day surrounded by flocks of people, but at the end of a long day of ministry where did He go, somewhere quiet to pray alone. I have found that places like those are hard to find… because the people (and children) will follow you to those places rendering them useless. But the bathroom is a place where you can shut the door and those four walls are your sanctuary. Who cares if you’re actually using the toilet or not! There have been many a time where I have sought refuge in the only place I could find to be alone, a public restroom. While people, or my children may be only mere feet away from me, those four partial beige walls still separate me from the world at large like a force field shielding me from the world’s ability to suck me dry in ways I never expected. But there in the privacy of my very own bathroom stall no one can touch me. I’ve found if I’m quiet enough people don’t even know that I’m there and will even turn the lights out on me! (That was a lesson all on it’s own!) Yes, the bathroom, of all places, has become my mountain top, my sanctuary, my Mount of Olives if you will. No matter where I am or what I’m doing I know that there is always a bathroom nearby where I can escape from reality for a moment’s time and breathe in the breath of Life. Somewhere where I can steal a strengthening moment with God and dump on Him what is weighing so heavily upon my shoulders. Whether it be worries, fears, troubles, insecurities, you name it, He’s there… in the bathroom behind a closed stall door, waiting for me to come and unburden myself upon Him.
Yes my friends, love is a very interesting thing. Sometimes, to show my family how much I love them I have to deny them the thing that they want from me the most, so that I can give them the very thing that they need the most – Me. A happy, fulfilled, satisfied, content, loving me. And by writing that down I have come to realize that that is precisely what God does for us as well. At times He denies us the thing that we want the most in order to give us the very thing that we need the most – Him. Of all the things I have taken away from this weekend of service I will never forget how God was there for me… in the bathroom.
I just went onto Youtube to find a song to go with today’s devotional and before I could ever put the song I was looking for into the search box I was drawn to another song I’ve never even heard of on the side bar of “suggestions”. I clicked on the song and it is so perfect for today’s message of giving your burdens to God and finding Him in, of all places, the bathroom. So I typed the name of the song into the search box to find the lyrics because they were so beautiful and I didn’t want to miss any of them. When the results popped up one of them was a video of the artist explaining the story behind the song. Well of course I had to click on that!
Mighty Wave by Sarah Reeves
Now, stay with me here for a moment because I’m going to stretch you here a little. The imagery of this song and her dream are precisely the image of a toilet washing away our waste. Sarah’s image of an ocean wave is decidedly much more beautiful and romantic than my own, however, they are one in the same. When we are using the restroom as a place of solitude to meet with Jesus our bodies are doing the exact same thing that our souls are doing, getting rid of the things we don’t need! And when we flush we are sending them to the ocean…eventually anyway. Do you see what I’m trying to get at here though? If you see God’s arms surrounding you in an invisible force field instead of metal partial stall walls and doors. And the toilet as a basin of washing where a mighty wave comes and washes away, as far as the east is from the west, the things that were causing you pain and discomfort beforehand. Then that place can easily become a beautiful place for you to seek refuge. Like a garden retreat or the shore of an ocean. Never the less, even if in your mind it remains a mere bathroom stall and a toilet, as long as God is still there it’s all that matters. Because He is there waiting for you; waiting for you to come and set down the basket full of burdens that you have been carrying and dump them out onto His lap where He can wash them away with a mighty wave down to the ocean floor never to be seen again.