Tonight was our monthly Life Group date night: an enjoyable evening of grown-up conversation where all the boys sat on one end of the table and all the girls at the other and enjoyed delicious barbecue and the best peach cobbler this side of the swollen Trinity River. I’m still pondering how that qualifies as a “date” but whatever. The food was great, and peach cobbler makes me happy.
Over brisket and potato salad, we laughed and swapped stories and generally caught up with each other’s lives in this chaotic, swirling rhythm known as “parenting”. And then this happened – one homsechooling mom’s confession of the reality of homeschooling life – paraphrased, of course:
My daughter struggles so much with math. And I realized that I had fallen into a habit of sending her off to do her work by herself while I busied myself with all the other things I had to do. This rarely ended well, as she would get frustrated and then would start the yelling and crying and hitting…and it was a mess.
So I decided to try something different, because obviously what I was doing was NOT. WORKING. For the past week or so, I’ve been intentional about sitting with her while she does her math work. I’m not teaching, I’m not coaching, I’m not correcting. I’m just sitting. Right there, beside her. To let her know she has my attention. To let her know I’m available.
But I get distracted really easily, and I’ve caught myself daydreaming while I’m right there. And suddenly, I notice she’s crumpled up into a ball of tears and I wonder WHY??? Why are you so discouraged? Why are you so frustrated? Why are you trying so hard to do this on your own? Didn’t you know I’m right here beside you? I have all the resources of my knowledge and skill to help you with your struggles. I was just waiting to give them to you! All you had to do was ask me.
It was as if God Himself had spoken those words right to my soul. I looked at my friend and said, “There’s deep spiritual truth there.”
Deep. Spiritual. Truth.
You see, I struggle with stuff, too. I struggle with insecurity and never quite feeling good enough. I struggle with my self-image and wondering if what God created is truly “beautiful.” I struggle with anger and impatience toward those I love as well as complete strangers…most of whom drive along Highway 5. I struggle with wandering thoughts and laziness and deliberate disobedience. And so I go off to fix it…to solve my problems. Because, really, after all these years of life experience, I should know better and do better.
But I can’t. I can’t fix these things. I can’t stop being insecure. I can’t look at myself in the mirror every day and honestly believe I’m beautiful. I can’t always stop those unkind and harsh words from slipping out, especially when I’m forced to drive 35 mph down Highway 5. I’m more often unsuccessful at “taking every thought captive” or working “with all my might” or saying “yes” to God when I really want to say “no.” And so I become frustrated. Discouraged. Crumpled up into a ball of tears.
And right there, next to me, sits my loving Heavenly Father. Waiting. Patiently.
If I’m still, I can hear Him say, WHY??? Why are you so discouraged? Why are you so frustrated? Why are you trying so hard to do this on your own? Didn’t you know I’m right here beside you? I have all the resources of My being and character to help you with your struggles. I was just waiting to give them to you! All you had to do was ask Me.
The Bible study I’m currently doing dives into the relationship between living in the flesh (our own strength, our own bright ideas, our own natural tendencies) and living in the Spirit (God’s strength, God’s wisdom, God’s character). As I prepared for my meeting this week, these words jumped off the page and into the scenario I had just experienced over a warm and crunchy bowl of melt-in-your-mouth-delicious peach cobbler:
Like the original humans, you will choose moment by moment whether to lean into Jesus or trust your flesh. You will decide whether or not you will live in an altar’d state. But knowing how close Jesus is – in all His power and His readiness to step in and take over every burden or situation – will change the minutes of your days. (Altar’d by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, p. 51, emphasis mine)
Dry those tears. Uncrumple yourself. And look to the One who has the answers, the strength, the victory to overcome any problem. Even fifth-grade math.