Picking Your Life Up Off the Floor

It was the end of a long day in which frustrating events had strung together like beads on a necklace, an ugly mismatched necklace I’d only be wearing in a fashion nightmare. We were having cereal for dinner. In the midst of sternly voicing frustration over something child-related, I spilled the Life on the floor. Our favorite cereal strewn across the linoleum like a peace offering scattered on an altar.

As I knelt to pick my Life up off the floor, my two-year-old offered his version of help (which resembles hindrance more than aid). While separating the Life from the dirt and grime, meaning came marching into the mundane. And here was the deep revelation: I’d much rather be picking Life off the floor literally than figuratively. My relationships are in order. My finances are in order. My health is in order. My house is in order, more or less. If you can’t cry over spilled milk, you certainly can’t cry over spilling something dry and easy to pick up.

When life gets spilled out (jobs or health lost, relationships busted, property damaged) we can respond in two ways. Most often, we put on our work clothes and do some cleaning – spiritually, relationally, whatever. We reorder our hearts and minds. We try harder. And usually, to our dismay, things just get more complicated.

Jesus looked at a stressed-out woman who was employing these very tactics and said (lovingly, I’m sure), “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her,’” Luke 10:41-42.

Two Greek words are used to refer to Martha as worried and troubled, and bother imply emotional anxiety. Martha’s concern goes beyond the annoyance that Mary, a female, is sitting listening to Jesus instead of helping to prepare the meal. Martha is deeply upset about something. Her heart is simmering anxiously. Jesus sees into her spilled life and speaks of Mary’s choice, not to put Martha down, but to show her another way.

Mary’s humble way is an admission of need. Whatever was bothering her in life, she set it at the feet of Jesus. She listened. She ceased activity. She took advantage of the moment when Grace was present.

How do you pick your life up off the floor? Like Martha or Mary? With dependence on human effort or God’s grace?

I felt like Martha in that moment of gathering expensive name-brand cereal off my floor. I was like a frantic mother hen working to keep a grip on things, to maintain control at the end of a wearisome day. I had another choice. I could (metaphorically) sit at the feet of Jesus. I could quiet an outwardly chaotic moment with an inner submission to grace.

There is a better way than striving. And that better way has a promise attached to it. Jesus told Martha that Mary’s “good part” would not be taken from her. When we choose grace, it sticks. It doesn’t go away and no one can snatch it from us.

Advertisements

Why is there an empty baking powder container with a straw in it sitting in my fridge?…and other questions you ask when you live with small children.

Why does it smell like onion grass in my daughter’s bedroom?

Who broke my headband?

Why are my piano keys sticky?

Where is my spatula?

Who wiped all these boogies on the wall?…and who will clean them up?

If you have children, or have been around children, you know that anything is a toy. And any toy can be used for any playful purpose, aside from its intended function. A regular old Tupperware becomes “Lamby’s night-night box.” And thus, while walking through the store, my daughter exclaims, “Look at all the night-night boxes!”

Instead of a guardian angel watching over me at night, I have Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer tucked between the headboard of my bed and the wall. And sometimes, keeping company with him is Hello Kitty, Bearsies, and Ducky. We feel very safe at night with all that attention.

I wonder why we don’t retain that amazing capability for imagination. What would the world be like if we could keep hold of our childhood creativity while maturing into responsible adults?

I’m fascinated with brain development, not that I know much about it. But I do know that during late elementary years or early middle school years, a child’s brain begins to function more abstractly. I think it is during this time when lots of our creativity says, “bye bye! It’s too crammed in here for me!” Suddenly, we’re thinking about deeper issues. We’re studying why things happened in history, not just what happened. We’re beginning to internalize financial burdens or joys, sports failures or successes, how musical and artistic talents, or other abilities, affect our identities. And we realize we actually have identities. Life becomes more than, “Let’s play!” Life becomes, “Let’s think.” Or for some, “Let’s worry.”

There’s a part of me that mourns my forever bygone childhood. I yearn for that freedom when I wasn’t worried about mortgages, job security, or relationships. I was loved and I knew it. What more could a child want?

Sometimes, when I lay in bed quietly at night, I remember being little. I think of the family vacations we took, I remember learning to play basketball with my dad, practicing the piano with my mom beside me on the bench. I remember the contentment of simple silliness with my sister. And with these memories, something cries inside my heart. Time is a back-stabbing friend. You look ahead to future days, but after you’ve lived through them, you miss the past.

I don’t write these things to sound melancholic. I had a wonderful childhood which I’m trying to recreate with my children. But I do write these things to think about Christ’s words calling us to a childlike faith. This is good news, that we don’t have to set aside childhood. We may gain responsibility, which is inevitable, but Jesus gives us the excuse to be childlike.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4

A child knows his need. She is not afraid to show affection. He is not side-tracked by “important” things. She willingly accepts truth from those she trusts. Can we be these things in our relationship with the Lord? Will we allow ourselves to remain unburdened? He has promised that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Will we seek out his affection and delight? He’s given us the freedom to be innocent and full of wonder before him. Let’s not throw away that opportunity.

The Urge to Kick

Just three years ago I was doing this same thing, going up the stairs to reprimand a child who was supposed to be napping. Then, my sweet daughter. Now, my well-natured son. But instead of napping, pounding. Thunderous, wall-knocking thudding. And me, attempting to think, trying to grab a moment of prayer or relaxation.

“No kicking!” I say with my sternest, loud voice, which can be scary, I think (at least it’s guilt-provoking to me).

Fussing follows. Frustration at being made to rest. Objection to the voice of authority.

We all have an urge to kick. We want to make some noise, push our limits, reject His voice.

Jesus spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus in blinding light, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). This was a common phrase in secular and Jewish writings and it referred to an ox (or other beast of burden) resisting the guidance of a master’s sharp stick.

So the question is, are you kicking against the goads? Are you lashing out against the guidance of the Lord?

How will we handle our urge to kick, that prideful, powerful desire to resist counsel? Will we listen to the Lord’s, “No kicking!” or will we continue the foot pounding?

It’s quiet now upstairs. The initial rebellion has died down. Little legs are still. Obedience is a sweet sound.