Just before the sermon, our pastor (or the scripture reader, whoever that happens to be for the week) makes a simple request.
Please rise for the reading of God's Word.
So simple. Just put your feet down and stand up. There's only one problem.
I just got him calm and content. He's been hitting the windowsill behind us, crying out with this and that, and he JUST calmed down. If I stand now, it's back to square one.
It's time to ratchet our appropriate behavior up a notch. Until now, it's been fine for Ryan to lay all over me during church. But as an 8 year old, he's getting to where he can nearly knock me out of my chair. It's time to learn to sit at least part way up.
This is such a complicated time. I want to do what is expected. To show respect and reverence for the public reading of the Word of God by standing. While I know I'm not judged here, by and large, for my need to remain seated, today it's huge.
Some days it's no big deal I'm flying on something, be it coffee or optimism or someone's encouragement, and in that moment I'm ready to try whatever. To push the envelope, to fearlessly hop up an stand there listening with the rest of you, come what may behind me.
After all, there is nothing physically keeping me from standing. Not anything other than the 90 pounds of kid leaning on me, anyway.
Other days, like today, it's not the eighty five or ninety pounds of kid I'll have to lift. It's the thousands of pounds in my chest.
On those days, I feel the battle on my heart and in my bones. I'm sore from the days' or week's battles. If I even inadvertently cause one more hit or grunt or squeal, surely the frustration dam will burst and we'll all be swimming in my shortcomings and impatience and selfishness and all the things I just can't handle.
So many times I've said, sometimes through a curtain of tears, that if I could just go through each day on auto pilot, with no strong feelings, just numb and could feel no disappointment, pain, exhaustion, shock, or a host of other things, things would be so much easier. And maybe they would be easier. Just do it, don't think. Just act on what I know, not clutter knowledge with feeling.
But that wouldn't be where parenting happens, would it?
You're not told they'll graduate from high school or college and possibly go on to be a doctor or lawyer or whatever they want. You're sitting there staring at the cute little email from Gerber or whatever with the milestones he's missed punching you in the gut. The ones he had but lost kicking you while you're down. You're left with the basics... oh, and your dreams and expectations. You'll find time to deal with those later.
There's that fire in your belly that screams "THIS IS MY CHILD!" You find it fast, and learn to temper it. Yes, temper it. Not put it out. Teach it, train it. Add knowledge and wisdom. But never, not ever, do you put it out.
It's that very flicker... even if just a spark... that rises and reminds others and yourself that this kid has a purpose. He has as much of a purpose as you do, what with your temper and selfishness and all. Maybe more. You never know. But you're bent on his having a chance to find out.
What to do with the other end, though? The time when the thousand pounds of exhaustion and frustration in your chest?
Realize the crossroads.
That's the place when my ability... or really, complete and utter lack of ability to comply with all of life's demands meet my desire to be obedient. Because honestly, I can't. I can't be right all the time. I can't be calm and caring and just right all the time. I can't even be NICE all the time. I. Just. Can't.
Not always physically. Just keep going. Do the next thing. Just do it. Yes, take a few minutes to realize how you feel. You have to. But remember that everyone hits that spot where they realize that it's impossible. If they haven't yet, they will. And in that moment, remember to hold fast to the hope we profess, for he who promised us is faithful. Even if it seems trite at first. That reminder that you just can't do it?
It's a reminder that the grace of Christ already did. And you don't have to.
What is a frustrating experience is actually a tiny example of the big picture. I can't. I try, I live, I do what I can, but in the end I need more than I have. And thanks be to God through Christ, that is okay.
So thanks be to God for that one request that nags. Thanks for the times I can comply, and for the times I can't, and what they both remind me.