striving to be marginal




Along with his many lines from “Anchorman” (“Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”), and his “hat trick” where he puts a baseball hat on and looks like he is in his 20’s and then takes it off and looks at least 45 (poor bald guy), Peter has another “go-to” that always makes me chuckle. He will say he “strives to be marginal”. I don’t know why, but for some reason jokes about laziness and mediocrity just tickle my funny bone. I mean why not set the bar low, right? Especially when it comes to the things in life that don’t matter much, like marriage, parenting, ministry, personal hygiene. And it is a good thing that those categories are things that aren’t at all important because I feel like I have been blowing it lately in every one of them (and also a few more important categories, like matching socks).

No but really, lately I have been feeling pretty marginal in almost every thing I get my hands on. Instead of everything I touch turning to gold, it seems to just kind of turn to an ugly grey-ish color with a little bit of mildew forming on the corners. (Ugh. That reminds me I need to clean the bathroom.) I feel like all my striving and striving leads me to one place:marginal. Whenever I get like this,  I tend to react in what, for the sake of continuing the sarcasm, we will call “the best possible way”. I wallow. I bemoan, and actually audibly moan, about how awful I am and how everything around me is grey-ish and mildew-y. I have found that this makes things none percent better. So in an attempt to kinda, sorta stop wallowing, but not really get too far out of my mud pit, I look for something to latch on to. Then the twig I have lassoed myself to snaps and I slump back into the pit and wallow some more. It is really pretty and incredibly mature. You should never try it.

Last night I was escaping my family. It was, as my dad often said/says, “so loud I couldn’t hear myself think”. Since I am not quite so far below marginal to completely desert my family, (for more than maybe a couple hours), I just zipped over to Joann’s to buy some crafty things for myself and let my head compartmentalize some things without people singing “Let it go” at about 10,000 decibels above “enjoyable” and for the 10,000th time past “oh, that’s sweet”, or fighting over who was fighting over the sting from the bow and arrow toy, and someone being almost two, and someone losing their poop because there was a bruise on one bit of banana and they really wanted apples slices annnnnyyywwwaaaayyyy. As I was driving and my head was sorting things as they fell  Tetris style, a song came on the radio, just faintly enough for me to hear it over my own thoughts. It was one of my favorites, so I turned it up and temporally turned my brain volume down.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Savior's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

I have sung this song countless times. I have whispered it to myself in the noise. I have shouted it with buckled knees as I thought about my trials and my sin and my suffering. But for some reason I have never applied it to being a Mommy, ya know, the thing I spend my days (and nights) doing. I guess maybe because other things although they don’t necessarily seem more important to me, they may seem bigger. Does that make sense? “The darkness” in the song has always seemed to me to be speaking of extreme pain and suffering, or big tests and trials, not something as mundane as the dark moments of  motherhood.  But there are dark moments here. Moments where it all seems to be unraveling and the one who is supposed to be winding it back up into a nice, neat spool that makes sense and has a smiley face sticker smacked on top ,and is wrapped in a Biblical principle, is unraveling just as fast as everything else.  It is when you screw up again, yell at the kids again, model the same sinful behavior you are trying to discipline them for and don’t feel like you have a leg to stand on (or the leg you want to stand on just stepped on another Lego). Yeah, there are dark moments here in Mommy-land. Lately I have really been wallowing in that darkness. And it seems to hide His face a bit in this arena of my life.

Last night as I drove, the line “I dare not trust the sweetest frame” cut to the core of me (Baxter…that’s for you, Peter). What am I trusting in when it comes to my parenting? I try to parent with scripture. I try to shepherd their hearts.  I pray for and over them. I try to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not like I am doing this thing apart from Christ. But in my exhaustion and heaviness I realized that since Jesus says His burden is light, clearly I am not carrying His burden. I am trusting in some other frame. Am I relying more on my parenting books and blogs than on Christ…alone? Am I putting more weight into the heartfelt advice from beautiful friends that Christ…alone? Am I expecting a formula to “save” my kids? Even the “formula” that “no formula will save them”? Is the “sweetest frame” that I am relying on myself? (Now normally I would never call my frame “sweet”, but for the case of this example, and because as you can see clearly from this post both my self-esteem and personal hygiene are lacking, just humor me on that one.)

I had another thought this morning as I was vacuuming the down stairs in an attempt to drown out the noise. Yeah, I was vacuuming so it would seem quiet…or at least so it would be uniform droning. And I would rather deal with the kids waging war against the vacuum cleaner as it “attacked their house” than waging war on each other. Anyway, so I was vacuuming in the quiet. As I fend off arrows and swords and one screaming toddler with more than her fair share of snot, I was mulling over a verse that came up in my “quiet time” (ha!) this morning, a verse that our pastor spoke about a little while back: Philippians 2:12-13.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
 
The balance here seems so hard for me to grasp. I am the person who wants to be told exactly what to do and I will do it. Tell me how to achieve success. Tell me how to make you happy, God. Give me instructions on how to obey you, a formula even, and I will follow it. I am trying to get away from that tendency as I “grow up” but all to often I find myself falling back there. So, these verses about working out my salvation and God working in me, seem to contradict. Am I supposed to be working my butt off for God or am I supposed to be resting in Him allowing Him to work in me??? Tell me what to doooo!!! Our pastor explained it really well. I am going to butcher it as I try to summarize. What I took away from the explanation he gave was: God works in us to make us want to want what He wants. Then when we want what He wants, we go for it. Makes total sense, right?
 
Okay, here is a link to the first sermon in the series if my totally clear summary was somehow murky to you.
 
While I was vacuuming I was still wrestling with making sense of those verses, along with other verses about doing verses abiding etc. Those thoughts, coupled with how mediocre I have been at life lately and a desire to stop being so marginal, left me crying out for answers. Do I do? Or do I wait? Do I press on? Or do I allow God to bring about my fruit? Then where these verses have often left me feeling agitated, now I suddenly saw them as encouraging. It is a comforting thing that it is God works in me. I can’t work in myself. I wallow, remember? I am thankful that He is the frame I should cling to; He is the name I should trust in. He is the anchor that holds, even amidst the strongest, loudest (or the most mundane) storm. He compels me. He equips me. He makes me want to want what He wants. From another passage I have been reading/memorizing “He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion”. (Psalm 103:4). Sahweet. Because I want that. I need that. Isn’t love and compassion what I was backwardly trying to find in my mud pit anyway?
 
And since He is all those things I chose to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. No more wallowing in my pit. I have been given a crown. And even if the trembling is from feeble limbs not used to striving and working out their salvation, I will step forward. I will stagger and limp along the path He has for me, until He raises me up to walk or even jog (with a soft “j”…again for you, Peter). I am not sure of the balance quite yet. But God is working on me…and in me. And instead of feeling bogged down and confused by those passages, I will chose to rejoice that it is God who prunes me back, God who tends my fruit. It is God who planted the seeds to begin with. And it is for God’s glory that I have any fruit to offer at all. So, because of Him , I am lifting this “sweet frame” out of the pit and working it out. (Don’t act like you’re not impressed.) And yes, there is fear and trembling. But “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

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