When did we stop saying please? When did we give ourselves permission to be so hateful? Yes, the heat is scorching all of us straight into crankiness, and the economy is still in the crapper, and no one can figure out how to share their political opinions without being labeled something really ugly by one side or the other, and we're flying from home to work to the grocery store to church to school to home, where we're falling into bed with the promise to wake up early and do Pilates/laundry/the dishes/our quiet time still on our lips. We wake up late instead of early the next day, and we do it all over again. Our lives are slowly circling the drain of preoccupation, and as our worn and feeble fingers try to claw their way out of the cycle, we find that we've nothing left for anyone else - not even a 'thank you', and certainly not a 'please'. I'm beginning to take issue with that.
If You Can't Say Anything Nice About Anybody, Come Sit By Me
I remember a time when we would move our carts for each other in the grocery store aisle. Lately, I find myself thinking instead: "I'm tired. I am stressed. My daughter is restless, I resent having to be at the grocery store in the first place, and who really needs to inspect the cake mixes that closely, anyway? Good grief, lady, there's a bakery not fifteen feet from here - save us all the trouble and GO BUY ONE THAT'S ALREADY MADE!" You'll all be very relieved to know that I usually move my shopping cart out of the way and simply think these things as I'm walking away, having completely forgotten about whatever I was looking for in the first place.
But see, the thing is, I used to smile, say "excuse me", and move my cart up the aisle without the slightest hint of a mental tirade. It simply didn't phase me. What has happened to make my skin so prickly that I bristle at the thought of moving five feet forward to serve anything other than my own all-important purposes? Besides leading such busy lives that our reserves are more often depleted than restocked, perhaps the strain of living in these times, in this culture and with these pressures has left us feeling more battered and bruised than we stop to realize. Like injured animals, we lash out at anything that comes near us, threatening or not.
Though we're tempted to behave as though it is, the weight of the world is not actually on our shoulders. It's already been carried. Why, then, am I allowing myself to become burdened again by a yoke of slavery?
Let This Mind Be in You
I was driving home yesterday, and I was thinking about boundaries, and protecting ourselves in potentially toxic relationships, and I thought about Jesus. I thought about His close relationships with family and friends. I wondered how He handled the challenging ones. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say, "Then Jesus sat down with so-and-so to have a talk about healthy boundaries." But it does tell us how He loved. How He forgave Peter after he betrayed Him, how He went to such great lengths on the beach that morning to give Peter just as many opportunities to tell Jesus that he loved Him as he had vehemently denied knowing Him. And it hit me - He was so filled with the love of the Father that relating in a healthy way just came naturally. Maybe He didn't need to have boundaries talks. Because love covers a multitude of wrongs. He trusted His Father's protection so thoroughly that He was freed up to focus less on self-preservation and more on literally saving the world.
And I'm getting snarky about sharing a 35,000 square foot grocery store with a few people?
The Breach in My Wall
All of this tells me that two things are needed: a slower pace, and a stronger spiritual focus. This is the part of the post where I confess a greater need for both. I keep returning to the passage in Nehemiah...workmen by day, guards by night. It's not enough to either guard or rebuild. We have to do both if we don't want to be staring at the same pile of rubble in 10 years. Why is it so hard to do both?
I'm thinking of starting a study called Chosen Women of the Bible. I tentatively started it about a year ago, but I only got as far as Eve, if that tells you anything. I'd love to hear how different people approach this - what works, what hasn't worked so well, etc. - so if you have input that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear it.
If we're going to love people, we need to be whole. We might be able to phone in the housework and taking care of ourselves and even, occasionally, the job. But the life of love to which we've been called requires full-on participation. We just don't have anything to pour out if we're refusing to be filled. Oh, for grace to trust Him more.